Dungeons & Dragons is a game built on acts of heroism and fantastical narratives, otherworldy adventures, and acts of extreme bravery. But, it is also a game made on realism too. Even fantasy has to have logic, too. It has to follow certain rules. And these rules extend to what happens after you have exerted your last ounce of strength when you have pushed yourself to the extreme limits of your strength and constitution… as defined by those all-important d6 rolls you made on day one.
Cutting a swathe through the virgin jungle to find the Temple of the Monkey God takes a lot of effort, and carving your way through the massed ranks of the residents of a deep dungeon expanse comes at a cost. And that cost is the rest.
There are two forms of rest: Long Rest and Short Rest. And while Long Rests are the ones that offer the most physical recovery, they tend to happen during extended breaks from adventuring. Short Rests are the ones you need to rebuild your energy levels before heading into the next part of a quest, and those are the ones that affect the in-session playing experience.
What is a Short Rest 5e?
According to the basic rules in the Player’s Handbook, a Short Rest is defined as such…
A short rest is a period of downtime, at least 1 hour long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds.
Characters and creatures (the term will be used interchangeably from here on in) can enjoy several advantages when they take a Short Rest. The primary benefit is the opportunity for them to regain lost hit points by undergoing a non-exertion period, promoting healing and energy restoration. Additionally, certain spellcasting classes can recover expended spell slots, and many class features, subclass abilities, and racial traits can be reset upon completing a Short Rest.
Short Rests offer significant mechanical benefits as a form of recovery and relaxation. Without these benefits, players would likely disregard them entirely. Still, they are necessary for the harmony of the adventuring group and to keep your character fighting fit… often literally, so they should be played as an essential game feature.
They often can be used as an opportunity for other character interaction and role-playing, something that should always be encouraged. This is the time for the campfire chat, the bonding session, and, for the more nefarious and suspicious amongst the group, the chance to check out backstories and test honesty. However, it has become somewhat of a running joke within the community that players often neglect to take Short Rests.
Nevertheless, Short Rests provide three distinct advantages for player characters in 5e. These advantages are crucial in optimizing the gameplay experience for specific classes, which we will explore in more detail later.
1. Hit Dice & Healing
The primary purpose of a Short Rest in 5e is to restore hit points. To accomplish this, a creature must expend its available hit dice based on its class or stat block. Almost any creature can restore hit points during a Short Rest. However, this healing doesn’t occur automatically; the creature must actively use hit dice, as the following rule states.
During a Short Rest, a creature can spend one or more of their Hit Dice up to their maximum number of Hit Dice, which is determined by their level. After spending a Hit Die, the player rolls the die and adds the character’s Constitution modifier to the result. The creature then regains hit points equal to the total rolled (minimum of 0). The player can choose to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll.
To heal during a Short Rest, a creature needs to expend their hit dice. They roll the appropriate number of hit dice according to their class or stat block, add their Constitution modifier, and restore the corresponding number of hit points. The only limitation is the maximum number of hit dice the creature has.
For example, consider a 4th-level player character with four hit dice. During a Short Rest, they can expend up to 4 hit dice, as limited by their level.
It’s important to note that a creature doesn’t have to use all their maximum hit dice. They can use any number up to their maximum, and the expended hit dice do not reset until the creature completes a Long Rest. For instance, if our 4th-level character uses two hit dice during a Short Rest, they will only have two remaining to use if they take another Short Rest before completing a Long Rest.
2. Feature Resets
After completing a Short Rest in 5e, many characters will find that their class features and racial traits are reset. It is essential to understand when these abilities can be used again, as some describe their refreshment as “a rest,” encompassing both Short and Long Rests.
When reviewing your character’s class features, it is crucial to note when they refresh. Some features explicitly state that a character needs to finish, precisely either a Short or Long Rest, to regain their uses.
For instance, a Bard’s Bardic Inspiration ability specifies, “You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.” However, numerous other commands reset after a Short or Long Rest, such as the Fighter’s Second Wind or the Cleric’s Channel Divinity.
To ensure you are aware of when your class features reset, it is essential to thoroughly read and understand your class’s features and abilities, noting whether they refresh on a Short or Long Rest. Given how crucial such class-related features and racial abilities can be to your very survival and how much time you agonized over your character build, it would be a waste if you didn’t take advantage of their reset just by stopping on your journey, building a campfire and brewing up a pot of tea.
3. Spell Slot Recovery
While most spellcasting classes regain expended spell slots only after completing a Long Rest, there are a few exceptions. Players should carefully review their class’s features to determine if their chosen class can regain spell slots after a Short Rest.
Among the spellcasting classes, only a select few regain spell slots, either all or a limited amount, after finishing a Short Rest. These classes are:
The Warlock’s Pact Magic feature explicitly states that the character regains all expended spell slots after finishing either a Short or Long Rest. Given the limited number of spell slots available to Warlocks, it makes sense that they have the option to restore them during a Short Rest.
On the other hand, the Druid’s Circle of the Land subclass possesses a feature called Natural Recovery. This feature allows the Druid to regain a number of expended spell slots equal to half (rounded up) their Druid level. The recovered spell slots must be of a level the Druid can cast and cannot be 6th-level or higher.
Additionally, the player can choose how the spell slots are recovered. For example, a 5th-level Circle of the Land Druid may choose to recover up to 3 spell slots, which could be one 3rd-level slot, one 2nd-level slot, one 1st-level slot, or three 1st-level slots.
It is important to note that only the Circle of the Land subclass possesses the Natural Recovery feature. No other Druid subclass has access to it. Furthermore, this feature can only be used once per Long Rest, meaning it can only be applied to one Short Rest per day.
Wizards have a similar ability to regain expended spell slots as Druids do with Natural Recovery, but it is called Arcane Recovery. Despite the difference in name, it functions the same way. However, Arcane Recovery is a feature included in the base Wizard class and is not restricted to any specific subclass. Furthermore, Wizards gain access to this feature starting at 1st level, whereas Druids gain Natural Recovery at 2nd level.
How Long is a Short Rest in 5e?
In the standard ruleset 5e, a Short Rest typically lasts 1 hour. This duration is commonly used at most gaming tables and is the default length stated in the Player’s Handbook.
However, the Dungeon Master’s Guide introduces two rest-duration variants on page 267: Epic Heroism and Gritty Realism. The former is for those who want to give their game a natural feeling over inhuman, almost super-power energy — the latter is for those who prefer to convey the ultra-realistic sense of how challenging the world of fantasy adventuring is.
In Epic Heroism, the length of a Short Rest is reduced to 5 minutes. This variant encourages players to take Short Rests more frequently, allowing their characters to recover resources such as hit points using hit dice more often. This can effectively provide characters with greater resources throughout their adventures.
On the other hand, Gritty Realism increases the length of a Short Rest to 8 hours, essentially equivalent to a whole night’s rest. This variant heightens the level of danger in adventuring, as characters need to manage their resources effectively and cannot rush into every combat encounter that crosses their path.
It’s important to note that the longer the duration of a Short Rest, the higher the likelihood of it being interrupted. While an hour may seem like a small amount of time, an 8-hour rest presents numerous opportunities for unexpected problems or encounters to arise.
Can a Short Rest Get Interrupted?
It is possible for a Short Rest in 5e to be interrupted. If a character engages in any activity beyond the ones specified in the rules, they must start their Short Rest again once they have finished that activity.
Interestingly, the rules for interrupting a Short Rest are more stringent than those for interrupting a Long Rest. While Long Rests allow up to an hour of fighting or spellcasting, Short Rests must be limited to eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds. Any other activity risks disrupting the rest and forcing the character to start the period of non-strenuous activity over again.
How Often Can You Take A Short Rest?
In 5e, there is no specific limit on the number of Short Rests you can take. Unlike Long Rests, which have certain restrictions, Short Rests can be taken as frequently as desired within the available hours of the day.
However, there are practical limitations to consider. The number of Short Rests you can take depends on the number of hit dice your character has available (after all, if you are resting to recuperate hit points, there is no advantage after the number of rests equals your number of hit dice) and the total hours in a day. Typically, a Short Rest lasts at least 1 hour. This means that indirectly, you are limited to a maximum of 24 Short Rests per day since there are typically 24 hours in an adventuring day.
Keeping Short Rests Interesting
To make Short Rests engaging for players, Game Masters can enhance the sense of danger in the game world and occasionally interrupt rests with encounters. Maintaining a constant threat of combat keeps players alert and prepared for action.
However, it’s crucial not to discourage Short Rests altogether. If interruptions occur too frequently or the environment appears overly hazardous, players may choose to forgo taking Short Rests entirely. Perhaps, to avoid the worst dangers, when the group takes a Short Rest, one or two characters are nominated to be on guard duty and thus not benefit from the rest on that occasion.
As a player, you can contribute to making Short Rests more enjoyable by embracing role-playing and immersing yourself in your character’s actions. Consider the surroundings and engage in activities that reflect your character’s interests and personality.
Are they engrossed in a book or series of books?
What type of food is available for them to enjoy?
Do they prefer to relax by lying in the grass, taking a dip in a nearby river, or engaging in meditation or prayer?
Additionally, initiate in-character conversations with other players to establish a stronger bond among your characters and enhance your immersion in the game. By fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared experiences, you can deepen the role-playing experience and make Short Rests more meaningful.
How Does Being Unconscious Affect Short Rests?
The mechanics of being Unconscious in 5e and its impact on Short Rests are somewhat ambiguous. When a creature is Unconscious due to having 0 hit points but is stable, the rules state they regain one hit point after 1d4 hours. However, there is a debate regarding whether recovering from damage while Unconscious is equivalent to participating in a Short Rest.
One argument suggests that being Unconscious for an hour is not more demanding than a Short Rest, and there is no explicit rule stating that a character needs consciousness to use hit dice. Another viewpoint is that a creature recovering from 0 hit points is not actively “tending wounds” as specified in the rules for Short Rests. Therefore, as its body heals, it does not experience the necessary rest for a complete Short Rest.
Alternatively, a Dungeon Master might allow another character to tend to the wounds of an Unconscious creature during a Short Rest, enabling them to expend hit dice. However, since the rules do not provide a clear guideline, it ultimately falls to the discretion of the Dungeon Master at each individual table. It’s your call!
In summary, the rules concerning Unconscious creatures during Short Rests need more clarity. Dungeon Masters have the flexibility to either permit Unconscious creatures to participate in Short Rests as usual, considering it a form of “resting,” or rule that the body’s natural processes prioritize survival, preventing them from technically “finishing” a Short Rest.
Short Rest 5e FAQs
Do Short Rests remove Exhaustion in 5e?
No, completing a Short Rest in 5e does not remove any levels of Exhaustion. Simply put, Short Rests do not have any effect on reducing Exhaustion. Only a full completion of a Long Rest can remove 1 level of Exhaustion for a creature.
Can you cast spells during a Short Rest?
No, casting a spell during a Short Rest interrupts the rest, requiring the creature to start the rest again to receive its benefits. According to the rules for Short Rests, creatures are limited to activities such as eating, drinking, reading, or tending to wounds.
Casting a spell is considered more exerting than these activities. While casting a spell during a Short Rest is possible, doing so would call an end to the conditions needed to benefit from the rest, and another hour would be required to complete it.
Can you keep watch during a Short Rest?
There is some debate regarding the concept of “keeping watch” during a Short Rest. Generally, a character remains aware of their surroundings during a Short Rest as they typically do not go to sleep. Therefore, there is no specific need for someone to “keep watch,” but individuals can stay vigilant and observe their surroundings throughout the rest.
Final Thoughts on Short Rest 5e
Short Rests might seem like they are just there so that you can do a bit of bookkeeping and reset some of the skills and hit points. And while this is a practical and logical application of the rule, they are more important than that. Such breaks are also necessary for morale; taking a hiatus out of harm’s way during a long wilderness trek or finding a safe space in the dark of a basement castle to have a bite to eat and drink water (remember to stay hydrated, folks) are essential.
They can also be used by the Dungeon Master as an opportunity to enhance the role-playing and interaction within the group. Let them ask questions, reveal backstories, and have them try to out-do one another with regiments of what they say they got up to at the Battle of Kalamar or the part they played in the stealing of the King of Nandor’s treasured and magical pepper mill.
It is in these moments of relaxation that bonds may be forged, or resentments begin, relationships that may go on to shape the whole campaign world that you play in. And, after all, it is easier to explore such social threads here than in the heat of the adventure when your focus is more on trying not to get your head taken off by the Troll’s club, which is bearing down on you.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages.