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What’s the difference between a short rest and a long rest?

In Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition, short rests and long rests are important game mechanics that allow characters to recover their strength and abilities during adventures. Understanding the differences between short and long rests is key to managing resources and ensuring your party is ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

What is a Short Rest?

A short rest is a period of downtime that is at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds. A short rest usually happens when the party stops to catch their breath, tend to injuries, or plan their next move after a battle or other encounter.

During a short rest, a character can spend one or more Hit Dice to regain hit points. The character rolls the Hit Die (or Dice), adds their Constitution modifier, and regains that many hit points. A character’s level determines the number of Hit Dice they have. For example, a 5th level fighter would have 5d10 Hit Dice.

In addition, some classes have abilities that recharge on a short rest:

  • Warlocks regain their expended spell slots
  • Fighters regain their Action Surge ability
  • Wizards regain some expended Arcane Recovery slots

And many characters will benefit from using various short rest-dependent features of their classes, like a wizard ritually casting spells or a monk using Ki points to heal.

What is a Long Rest?

A long rest is a period of extended downtime that is at least 8 hours long. A long rest usually happens when characters sleep overnight or otherwise settle in for an extended period of light activity.

During a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. In addition, the character regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character’s total number of them. For example, if a character has 10 Hit Dice, they can regain up to 5 expended Hit Dice upon finishing a long rest.

A long rest also restores many spent resources and abilities:

  • Spellcasters regain all expended spell slots
  • Fighters regain all expended uses of Second Wind
  • Monks regain all expended Ki points
  • All classes regain all expended uses of class features that recharge on a long rest

Short Rest vs. Long Rest

The main differences between short and long rests are:

Short Rest Long Rest
1 hour 8 hours
Spend Hit Dice to heal Regain all lost HP
Regain some expended abilities and spells Regain all expended abilities and spells
Regain up to half of spent Hit Dice Regain all spent Hit Dice

In summary:

  • Short rests take 1 hour and provide limited healing and recovery
  • Long rests take 8 hours and provide full healing and recovery

When to Take Short and Long Rests

The timing and frequency of short and long rests is an important tactical consideration.

Short rests should be taken relatively often, whenever the party has a moment to catch their breath. Taking short rests allows characters, especially fighters, monks and warlocks, to recover some of their resources and keep going.

Long rests should be taken when characters have depleted their resources after multiple encounters or challenges. Taking a long rest before characters are drained will make things too easy. But taking one when completely depleted will leave characters vulnerable.

In general, parties will likely take multiple short rests between long rests, depending on the number of encounters between long rests. The DMG (p. 84) recommends 6-8 medium to hard encounters per long rest as guidance.

Interrupting Rests

If a rest is interrupted by combat or strenuous activity, the rest fails.

  • A short rest is interrupted if the party spends more than 1 hour doing strenuous activity. The party gains no benefit from that short rest attempt.
  • A long rest is interrupted if the party spends more than 1 hour doing strenuous activity. The party gains no benefit from that long rest attempt.

After an interrupted rest, the party must start the rest over again if they wish to gain its benefits.

Rest Variants in D&D 5e

The DMG provides some optional rest variants that DMs can use to tweak the balance between short and long rests:

Gritty Realism

This makes long rests take 7 days and short rests take 8 hours. This extends the adventuring day significantly and makes short rests occur less frequently. Useful for more realistic or survival-focused games where rests are less readily available.

Epic Heroism

This makes long rests take only 4 hours and short rests take only 10 minutes. This condenses the adventuring day and allows for many short rests between long rests. Useful for action-packed games focused on many encounters between long rests.


Understanding the differences between short and long rests is critical for managing resources, planning encounters, and keeping your party strong. Use short rests often to recharge without leaving the party vulnerable for too long. Take long rests when resources are nearly depleted to fully recharge. And consider how changing rest length can impact game balance and party capabilities.

With the right balance of short and long rests, you can ensure your party is ready for the adventures and challenges that lie ahead!

Many IFs with Deep EQ:

While the core rules provide a baseline, every DM should consider if modifying rest lengths could improve the flow and fun at their table. The gritty realism makes resource management more challenging, but also encourages creative solutions between long rests. Epic heroism provides faster recharges for highly tactical cinematic games. There’s no objectively “right” rest system – it all depends on the style of game you want to run!

The timing of rests also impacts difficulty and realism. Resting immediately after 1 fight will leave the party overpowered. Resting only when nearly dead risks a death spiral. A mix of encounters between long rests with occasional interruptions works well for many. But debating rest timing is part of the fun strategy of D&D. Just be ready to adapt if your rests are too frequent or infrequent for engagement.

Beyond rests, class resources also impact balance. Casters with few slots encourage more rests. Short rest abilities like a Fighter’s Second Wind factor in too. A DM should consider party makeup when deciding rest length, not just personal preference. An Epic Heroism game with few short rest abilities won’t work as well. There are many dials to turn, just stay flexible and keep talking with your players!

In the end, do what’s best for your table’s fun. If you think adjusting rest length could improve engagement and challenge, test it out. Just be transparent so players can plan. Rests are a tool DMs can tweak, not an immutable law. Keep an open mind and you may just find the right rest rhythm for your campaign.