In Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, hit dice represent a character’s health and stamina. Characters have a number of hit dice determined by their class and level, and these hit dice can be spent during short rests to regain hit points. But how often can characters actually use their hit dice? Let’s take a closer look at the rules around hit dice usage.
What Are Hit Dice?
Every player character in D&D 5e has a certain number of hit dice based on their class and level. For example, a 5th level fighter would have 5d10 hit dice. These hit dice represent the fighter’s vitality and resilience in combat.
When a character gains a level, they gain an additional hit die of the type corresponding to their class. So when that fighter goes from 4th to 5th level, they gain another d10 hit die. Their hit point maximum also increases by rolling that hit die and adding their Constitution modifier.
Hit dice serve two main functions:
- Determining hit points gained on a level up
- Regaining hit points during a short rest
During a short rest, a character can spend hit dice to heal themselves. For each hit die spent, they roll it and regain hit points equal to the number rolled plus their Constitution modifier.
How Many Times Can You Use Hit Dice?
Characters can spend their hit dice to heal during a short rest. The rule on how many hit dice can be spent is found in the “Short Rest” section of the Player’s Handbook.
“A character can spend one or more Hit Dice at the end of a short rest, up to the character’s maximum number of Hit Dice, which is equal to the character’s level.”
So for example, a 5th level fighter with 5d10 hit dice can spend up to 5 hit dice during a short rest to heal.
There are a couple important notes here:
- You can spend multiple hit dice, not just one, up to your maximum
- You can’t spend more hit dice than your level (i.e. a 5th level character couldn’t spend 6)
- You don’t have to spend all your remaining hit dice during a short rest
You can spend as many as you want or need, up to your maximum number of unexpended hit dice. Any hit dice you don’t spend remain available for use during your next short rest.
Regaining Expended Hit Dice
Once hit dice are expended through healing during a short rest, when do you get them back? Hit dice are replenished after a long rest.
“A character regains all expended Hit Dice at the end of a long rest.” (PHB p.186)
So while hit dice can be spent multiple times during the adventuring day, they regenerate after a long rest. This represents the character getting a full night’s sleep to recover their strength and fortitude.
Essentially, during an adventuring “day”, you have a pool of hit dice you can spend during short rests to heal up. That pool gets topped off after a long rest.
Using Hit Dice with Hit Point Maximum
Your hit point maximum is not affected by using hit dice to heal during a short rest. You are simply spending hit dice to replenish your current hit points, not your maximum.
For example, a fighter with 50 maximum HP who is currently at 20 HP can spend hit dice during a short rest to heal. They might roll a 7 on one hit die, healing them for 10 HP with their +3 Con modifier. They are now at 30 HP, but their maximum is still 50.
The only time hit dice impact your hit point maximum is when gaining a new level. Rolling a hit die on level up adds to your maximum.
Hit Dice and Healing Spells
Using hit dice to heal during a short rest is separate from healing provided by spells, potions, or other effects. Spending hit dice does not impact or limit additional healing from magical healing like Cure Wounds.
For example, after spending 2 hit dice during a short rest, a character could still have Cure Wounds cast on them or drink a healing potion. The hit dice healing and spell healing stack.
Variant Rules for Hit Dice
The standard rules allow spending hit dice up to your maximum during a short rest, and getting them all back after a long rest. But DMs can choose to use variant rules if they want resting and healing to function differently.
Common variant rules include:
- “Slow Natural Healing” – Regain only 1 hit die after a long rest rather than all expended dice
- “Gritty Realism” – Short rests take 8 hours, long rests take 7 days
- Limiting total hit dice spent per long rest
- Requiring activities to expend hit dice, like training or medical treatment
The default rules make resting and hit dice pretty generous for characters. DMs should consider if they want more consequences for combat through stricter healing rules.
Magical Methods to Regain Hit Dice
While the normal rules only restore hit dice after a long rest, some magic items or spells can restore hit dice as well.
- Potion of Recovery – Drinking this rare potion allows you to regain up to 3 expended hit dice
- Heal Spell – Casting Heal allows you to regain 4 expended hit dice
- Heroes’ Feast Spell – Casting this 6th level spell allows affected characters to regain all expended hit dice at the end of the spell
Magic like this can shortcut the normal long rest requirement and let characters reuse hit dice multiple times in a day. But these effects are from rare, high level magic.
Feats That Interact with Hit Dice
Some feats have abilities that interact with hit dice as well. Here are some examples:
- Durable – When you roll a hit die to regain hit points, you regain the maximum amount
- Tough – You gain extra hit points when you level up based on your extra hit dice
- Inspiring Leader – You can let allies gain temporary hit points using your hit dice when you give an inspiring speech
Feats like these give characters new ways to use hit dice or get extra value out of them.
Modifying Hit Dice Through Class Features
Some class archetypes gain features that improve or modify hit dice usage:
- Fighter Battle Master – Regain one superiority die if you spend hit dice during a short rest
- Fighter Second Wind – Use a bonus action to regain hit points using a hit die once per short rest
- Monk Wholeness of Body – Regain hit points equal to 3x monk level using hit dice as an action
- Warlock Fiend – Regain hit points equal to your Charisma modifier when you spend hit dice
Features like these give extra value to hit dice expenditure or allow more frequent use. They showcase creative ways class design can interact with the hit dice healing system.
How Many Hit Dice Can Allies Share with You?
The standard rules don’t provide for any transferring or sharing of hit dice between characters. Every character has their own personal supply of hit dice to use.
However, the rules do allow for allies to provide healing through abilities like the Paladin’s Lay on Hands, a Cleric’s healing spells, a Bard’s Song of Rest, or a Chef Feat’s meal.
With DM permission, allies could potentially develop methods to transfer vitality like:
- Spending their own hit dice and funneling the healing to another character
- Sharing abilities like the Fighter’s Second Wind
- Providing magic items that grant hit dice recovery
But the core rules do not facilitate hit dice sharing. It would require homebrewing new ways for characters to sacrifice their own hit dice recovery to aid others.
Tracking Hit Dice Usage
Here are some tips for tracking hit dice expenditure over an adventuring day:
- Track remaining and expended hit dice on your character sheet. Erase or cross off hit dice as you spend them.
- Use a dice app to simulate rolling your hit dice when you spend them.
- Mark down remaining hit points after you heal with hit dice.
- Designate a player to track hit dice for the whole group.
- Use stones, coins or tokens to represent your remaining hit dice pool.
Apps and spell slot trackers can also help automate hit dice tracking. But even just clearly noting spent hit dice on your sheet goes a long way.
Recovering Hit Dice on Level Up
When you gain a new level, you recover all your expended hit dice and increase your potential pool.
For example, a 5th level fighter has 5d10 hit dice. They expend all 5 healing during an adventuring day. When they reach 6th level, they now recover all 5d10 hit dice, and gain a new 6th d10 hit die for their new level.
So remember, even if you burn through all your hit dice out in the field, gaining a level restores them all and adds a new one to your maximum.
Hit Dice in D&D Editions
Hit dice have been part of D&D for a long time, though their implementation has evolved across editions:
- OD&D – No formal hit dice system. HP gained per level varied by class.
- AD&D 1e – Introduced hit dice and HP rolls based on them. Functioned similarly to 5e but more limited uses.
- D&D 2e – Streamlined HP system with fixed HP per level instead of rolls.
- D&D 3.5e – Classes had fixed hit dice sizes, used in HP rolls and healing.
- D&D 4e – No hit dice. Characters had fixed HP gains per level.
- D&D 5e – Modern hit dice system with classes having different dice types.
5e really expanded the gameplay use of hit dice for short rest healing. While the concept has existed for a while, 5e hit dice offer more flexibility in resource management.
Using Hit Dice in Homebrew Games
The hit dice system provides a framework DMs can build on for homebrew campaigns. Some ideas include:
- Magic items that interact with hit dice, like rings that add bonus healing
- Feats or class abilities that grant extra hit dice under certain conditions
- Harvesting monster hit dice as an alternate resource
- Healing spirit rituals fueled by hit dice instead of spell slots
- Unique roles like “medic” that can grant allies bonus hit dice
Since hit dice are integral to 5e’s resource management, manipulating hit dice usage is a great way to customize game balance and rest mechanics.
Hit dice are a great innovation of D&D 5th edition, providing characters an internal resource to manage between long and short rests. Understanding how often hit dice can be spent and recovered over an adventuring day is key to making the most of this healing system.
While the standard rules are fairly straightforward, DMs have a lot of room to implement house rules and magic items that interact with hit dice recovery. As both a core class ability and healing resource, hit dice are an important element of non-magical healing and survivability.