Hit Dice in Dungeons & Dragons 5E can be a little tricky to understand at first. They seem pretty simple at the start but things can get complicated quickly. In fact, Hit Dice are used for a multitude of smaller actions that are all integral to playing the game. From recovering health during a rest, to increasing your maximum hit points when you level up. There are a few other times that Hit Dice used, too. But these are situations that don’t come up often.
Plenty of players also get confused about Hit Dice and the way they work. Which is understandable from a certain point of view since the mechanic isn’t talked about a lot. And since Hit Dice has a couple of distinct uses it can be tricky to remember how they work exactly. Either way, there’s plenty to talk about here. So, let’s break it all down in this Hit Dice 5E Guide.
How Do You Calculate Hit Dice in 5E?
The first thing to be aware of is that each class will have a different Hit Die. A Sorcerer and Wizard roll a d6 and an Artificer, bard, cleric, druid, monk, rogue, and warlock roll a d8. Then the Fighter, Paladin, and Ranger roll a d10, and Barbarian’s roll a d12. In a way, you could view the Hit Dice as being a hint towards the class’ resiliency. Wizards are going to be pretty frail, but Barbarians are able to shrug off most attacks with ease.
Every time a player levels up, their available hit dice will also increase. For example, at level 1 a ranger would have 1d10 of Hit Dice. And then at Level 2, they would have 2d10 to use, and so on. Hit Dice are used to restore your character’s hit points and also to increase their maximum HP pool. There are also a handful of other circumstances where Hit Dice are used, but for the most part you’ll be using them to heal your character.
Hit Dice essentially are an emergency heal for the player that can be used instead of a potion or spell. And there are plenty of circumstances where using Hit Dice to heal is better than using an item. After all, you should save those for tough fights against fierce bosses and sticky situations. You can’t use Hit Dice in a fight, so it’s a good idea to use them elsewhere when you can.
As mentioned previously, Hit Dice are primarily used to heal your character during a rest. You simply roll your Hit Dice and apply your Constitution modifier to the roll and heal your hit points for that total. And as you level up you’ll have more Hit Dice to make use of. And if you feel that your first roll didn’t heal enough HP, you can roll again for as many Hit Dice as you have. Hit Dice are consumable, though, so you’ll need to finish a long rest before you can use any you’ve spent. And even then, a long rest will only replenish half of your maximum Hit Dice. So if you’ve used all 4 Hit Dice, a long rest will only replenish 2. If you’re dividing the Hit Dice with an odd number, you should always round down instead of up.
The other time to use Hit Dice would be when levelling up. At first level you take the maximum number of your Hit Dice, add the Constitution modifier and add that total to your health. At every other level, you simply roll your Hit Dice, add the Constitution modifier, and add that number to your total health. This can either result in massive upgrades to health, or pretty minuscule improvements. But since you’re granted the maximum of your Hit Dice at first level, you shouldn’t have to play the entire campaign with under 10 hit points. An alternative rule would be to increase your hit points by using your average HP. But this specific rule is down to the DM.
Again, Hit Dice are a pretty good representation for how tough a character can be. But you can still get unlucky with how the rolls play out. For example, a Barbarian with large Hit Dice and awful luck could end up with less health than a Monk that gets great rolls. In that situation, the Barbarian could find themselves with a tougher game ahead of them. Likewise, they could also have brilliant rolls and end up with a massive health pool which lets them survive every battle with ease. It’s down to the luck of the roll, but that’s the nature of D&D at the end of the day.
Hit Dice are pretty simple when It’s broken down. They have two main uses and are very important for building and maintaining the health of your character. They’re also used to determine the hit points of other creatures. So if you’re ever fighting a Goblin and wonder why it’s slightly tougher than usual, that would be because the DM likely rolled very well for its health.
There are particular feats that use Hit Dice in pretty creative ways. Dwarven Fortitude lets a player use a Hit Dice to heal if they perform a dodge in combat. Then there’s the Durable feat which increases the minimum amount of health you can recover from Hit Dice. This number would then be twice your Constitution modifier, which makes this a far more reliable way of healing
In specific circumstances, Hit Dice can be used in conjunction with some class features. For example, a Bard can use Song of Rest at 2nd level, which allows them to spend their Hit Dice to heal other creatures during a rest. Druids can also take on different HP and Hit Dice when they use Wild Shape. These are examples of slightly different uses of Hit Dice, but they still operate within their usual function. Some DMs do stretch the rules a bit and use Hit Dice in creative ways, but this is how they function in a default game of D&D 5E.
While Hit Dice seem pretty cut and dry at this point, there are definitely a few gray areas that can make things a bit tricky. And there are undoubtedly a few suggestions that players will have to stretch the uses of Hit Dice. So in this section we’ll answer a few questions that you may still have for Hit Dice in D&D 5E, as well as go over a few aspects again to make sure you know what to do.
Unfortunately yes, there is a maximum number of Hit Dice. In fairness, it makes sense since nobody should have the power of about 40 Hit Dice when walking into a dungeon. And the reason for a maximum number is actually pretty simple. The maximum level in D&D 5E is 20, and since you gain one Hit Dice per level, you can get a maximum of 20. Which is still quite a lot of Hit Dice and more than enough to keep your health topped up late in the game. Still, it should be used as a backup form of healing during quiet moments to save potions and spells.
Can you spend Hit Dice while Unconscious?
If your character has been knocked unconscious and is currently running low on HP, it may be a good idea to roll some Hit Dice and recover some health, right? Well unfortunately you cannot do that. If you think about it this makes a lot of sense, too. Your character is unconscious after all, and they can’t exactly tend to their wounds or spend time getting better in that state. You also can’t use Hit Dice to try and get your character to wake up. If you’re unconscious there’s not much you can do until you wake up.
If you’re in the situation where you’re unconscious and need health urgently, then you could always have another player or ally try and give you a potion. This would require a full action to do, but doing it would likely save your character from any imminent danger. Of course, you’d need a nice group of friends to do that so make sure you stay on their good side for the game.
As previously mentioned, the number of Hit Dice you have is dependent on your level. At first level, you’ll only have one Hit Dice to work with. Then, as you level up, you’ll gain one more Hit Dice per level. So at level 2 you’ll have 2 Hit Dice, at level 3 you’ll have 3 Hit Dice and so on. And again, you can have a maximum of 20 Hit Dice since the level cap in D&D 5E is level 20.
If you’ve got a multiclass, then the way Hit Dice works for you is going to be a bit different. Essentially, you can gain Hit Dice for each of your classes, and the amount you’ll have will be dependent on the levels of each class. For example, let’s say you’re a level 4 Wizard and a level 2 cleric. In total, you would have 4d6 and 2d8 of Hit Dice to work with. Or let’s say you’re a level 8 Monk and a level 2 Barbarian. Then, you’d have 8d8 and 2d12 to use up for your Hit Dice.
Just like the act of Multiclassing itself, having a range of different Hit Die to use can be very useful in certain situations. If you just want to heal a small bit of health, you can just use the smaller Hit Die. And if you’ve got a big chunk of health missing, you can try and use the bigger Hit Die to replenish some of it. By that same logic, you could also be at a disadvantage if you decide to Multiclass into one that has smaller Hit Dice. Since you’re technically trading superior Hit Dice for more inferior ones. But that’s the trade off when it comes to Multiclasses, you need to weigh the benefits before you decide to go all in.
Using Hit Dice in combat can be done through a few certain circumstances. Like we mentioned previously, Dwarven Fortitude lets you use Hit Dice to heal as you perform a dodge. But this is an extremely specific ability and there aren’t many that use Hit Dice similarly.
But the real question here is whether you can use Hit Dice to heal in combat like you would any other time. And the answer here is technically a yes. If you want to take a short rest during combat, you’re more than able to do so. Your character simply sits down and takes a load off while the rest of the party deals with the danger. But the problem is that a short rest takes one hour to complete. And since each round in combat only lasts for about six seconds, the battle would need to last hundreds of rounds in order for you to complete the short rest. If that situation somehow comes up, and your character isn’t interrupted in that time, then a short rest can be completed. However, if the battle ends too soon or your character is attacked, then the short rest will not work.
So really, the answer here is no. You can’t realistically use Hit Dice to heal in combat like you would usually. But the beauty of Dungeons & Dragons is that anything is possible.
That was our guide to Hit Dice in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. All in all, Hit Dice are pretty simple to understand, but there are quite a few rules to understand regarding them. As long as you play things by the book, you should be fine. Just remember to use Hit Dice to heal yourself when possible, so you don’t end up wasting a good potion or spell slot. A lot of players forget that they have Hit Dice to use, so remember that it’s always an option during a short rest.