So, you’re starting out in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, huh?
From all the choices in classes and races, and then calculating your stats, it can be a lot to take in all at once. And, hit points seem to be a pausing point for a few new players.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a demystified guide to that?
Well, look no further because this essential guide to 5e hit points is all you need. We’ll break down:
- What Hit Dice are
- How many hit points you start with
- What your maximum is and how to find it
- How to calculate hit points at level up
- And how temporary hit points work
Let’s dive in.
What Are Hit Dice?
First things first, we’ll start with the basics.
When you create a character in 5e, their maximum hit points depends on their Hit Die. Each class uses a different die. So, each class then has varying amounts of HP.
Take a look at the table to see what hit die each class uses.
The number of hit dice you have equals your character’s level in that class. So for example, if you have an 8th level Barbarian, you have 8d12.
But, if you have a multi-classed character, you need to account for each level separately. For example, a character with four levels in Barbarian and four levels in Fighter would have 4d12 and 4d10 at their disposal.
Following so far?
This is important for two reasons:
- Your hit dice determine your characters hit points
- You can use your hit dice during short rests to restore hit points
Not only do your hit dice determine your hit points, they’re also a healing resource. So, when you take a short rest, you choose which dice and how many (up to your maximum) to roll.
How Many Hit Points Do You Start With in D&D 5e?
Your hit dice also determine how much HP your character starts with.
It’s a pretty simple formula, actually:
Maximum Die Number + Your Constitution Modifier
Here’s another table showing what the formula looks like for each class:
|Artificer||8 + Con Mod|
|Barbarian||12 + Con Mod|
|Bard||8 + Con Mod|
|Cleric||8 + Con Mod|
|Druid||8 + Con Mod|
|Fighter||10 + Con Mod|
|Monk||8 + Con Mod|
|Paladin||10 + Con Mod|
|Ranger||10 + Con Mod|
|Rogue||8 + Con Mod|
|Sorcerer||6 + Con Mod|
|Warlock||8 + Con Mod|
|Wizard||6 + Con Mod|
What does this mean?
Well, the number of hit points you start with in D&D depends on your character class. For example, a Barbarian will have more hit points than a Wizard by virtue of having the biggest hit die.
The long and short is bigger hit die equals more hit points.
What is Hit Point Maximum?
Next on the agenda is your character’s hit point maximum.
Your Hit Point Maximum is the number of hit points your character has when not damaged. As they get hit (or suffer other damaging effects), you subtract from this number to get their Current Hit Points.
Usually, it’s only important to remember your hit point maximum to gauge how close to becoming incapacitated your character is. And, to know what your cap is when healing. But, there’s one other situation that no player wants to experience: instant death.
Take a stroll with me down memory lane.
The campaign I run has a goliath Barbarian and a deep gnome Sorcerer (among others, but let’s focus on these two).
At one point, the Barbarian with her 60+ hit points took 44 points of damage from a single attack. Now, this was reduced because Rage is BS. But, the gnome grew worried. He, at his measly 22 hit points, realized the enemy they were fighting could kill him instantly.
When you take damage from a single source that equals your hit point maximum after your current HP hits 0, your character dies.
No falling unconscious. No deaths saves. Nothing. They just die.
The point of this story is your maximum hit points act as a sort of Difficulty Class that damage needs to meet.
And, if it’s met, well…
So, how do we figure out what your max is?
How is Maximum HP Calculated?
At this point, you may be thinking “how do I calculate my maximum hit points?”
Your max HP comes from the sum of the average die roll or how well you roll at level up (which we’ll get to in a second). You then add your Constitution modifier. And, bam; maximum hit points.
And, to see how that works, we need to move on to the next point: level ups.
How Do You Calculate 5e Hit Points at Level Up?
Now, how in the world do hit points work at level up?
The truth is it’s pretty easy. But, can be confusing with how much it varies from class to class.
Basically, to calculate your hit points in 5e when you level up you follow these easy steps:
- Take your class’ hit die
- Determine the average number OR roll
- Add your Constitution modifier to that number
- Add the total to your hit point maximum
Let me explain that "OR."
When you level up, per the rules, you have two options when it comes to your HP. You can take the average on the die and use that instead of rolling. Or, you can take your chances, roll your hit die, and add your Constitution mod to that.
Here’s the deal, this often comes down to a Dungeon Master’s discretion. Personally, I let my players use either, but once they commit, that’s the number they use.
Some DMs allow one reroll or they only use the average or they only roll, etc. It’s up to them.
Ask your DM how they determine hit points at level up.
BUT, here’s a little tip: if given the option, use the hit die’s average.
Statistically speaking, it’s better to use the average die roll as it’s rounded up. Let’s use the Barbarian as an example.
The average roll for a d12 is 7. So, if you were to take your chances, you’d need to roll an 8-12 to do better. That gives you a roughly 42% chance at rolling better hit points than the average. Now, granted, if you’re okay with breaking even, it’s a 50% chance.
Or, for the squishy characters, we can use the Wizard and their WHOPPING d6 hit die. The average is a 4. Okay, so still a 50% to break even…or a 33% chance of doing better.
But, are you really willing to risk a 50/50 chance on rolling worse?
Personally, I’m not. I’ll take the average, thank you.
Anyway, to help clear any confusion on the hit die averages, here’s another table (because I love tables):
What Die Do You Roll for Hit Points?
Depends on your class.
That’s the most straightforward answer. Since each class uses different hit dice and those hit dice determine your hit points, it’s going to depend on which you chose at character creation.
For an Artificer, you’ll roll 1d8. For a Barbarian, you’ll roll 1d12. And so on.
Every class levels up at the same rate given an equal distribution of experience or other method of advancement. So, you shouldn’t need to worry about that.
Just know what your class’ hit die is and you’ll be good to go.
What Are Temporary Hit Points?
Now, there’s one last thing you should know about your hit points.
Temporary hit points are hit points you gain through external (as in, not from your class’s hit die) means. Usually, you gain them through a spell. But, there are other ways such as through the Battler Master’s Rally maneuver or the Inspiring Leader feat.
To simplify things; temporary hit points are a separate pool from your maximum and current hit points. The best part about them is you take them away before your main HP. So, they act as a sort of barrier between damage and your normal HP. The catch is you can’t heal them like you normally would.
As such, the way to revive hit points is a little more roundabout.
The only way to regain temporary hit points is to re-do whatever gave you them in the first place. Even then you have to choose between them. The Player’s Basic Rules (p. 198 in the Player’s Handbook) outlines how choosing temporary hit points works:
"…if a spell grants you 12 temporary hit points when you already have 10, you can have 12 or 10, not 22."
So, you can’t stack temporary hit points.
Also, as is in the name, your temporary hit points only last as long as the ability states.
Do Temporary Hit Points Go Away?
Yes. Any temporary hits points eventually go away. There are three ways to lose your temporary hit points:
- Depleted through damage
- The spell, feat, feature used states a time on how long they last
- You finish a long rest
So, how long do temporary hit points last?
Again, it depends.
If you’re in the middle of combat, they might only last for a round or two. If there’s a time limit, they might last several minutes to an hour. Or, if you’re avoiding combat or fight at range, you could have them all day.
Make sure to check the them temporary hit points’ source (spell, feature, etc) to see how long they last.
At the end of the day calculating your hit point in D&D 5e is pretty easy. You follow these simple steps and you’re good:
- Know what your character’s hit die is
- Know what your Constitution modifier is
- Know your maximum hit points
- Know when you’re about to level up
- Know when you have temporary hit points
One final tip I have is don’t underestimate how powerful temporary hit points are. They might seem small (most of them giving you a flat number that’s usually a bit low). But, any buffer between the monsters and your character’s fleshy bits is a good thing.
I hope this helps clear up any confusion you might’ve had about hit points.
How does your table calculate hit points at level up? Do you use the average or roll? Or maybe a combination of the two? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you guys play.