The Essential Guide to 5e Hit Points, Character Sheet Hit Points

How is D&D Health Calculated?

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.
What are hit dice? How many hit points do you start with in 5e? And, how do you calculate your character’s health at level up?

This article guides new players on how to calculate their character’s health in D&D 5e from character creation to level ups.

To start, let’s go over how to calculate your character’s maximum hit points at character creation and as they level up. Afterwards, we’ll go over hit dice since they play an integral role in hit point calculation.

How to Calculate Hit Points in 5e

To calculate your character’s hit points at character creation, add the highest number of your class’s hit die with your Constitution modifier. For every level after that, you can either roll your class’s hit die and add your Con mod OR take the average from your hit die and add your Con mod depending on which method your Game Master uses.

Figuring out your character’s maximum hit points is a matter of simple addition. Using your chosen class’s hit die, you then add your Constitution modifier to calculate their health. Each class uses a specific die as their hit die, so you need to know which one to use.

The difference lies between character creation and leveling up.

1st-level characters use the maximum number on their first class’s hit die and leveling up involved either rolling or using the average.

For example, let’s say you’re making a Barbarian. Barbarians have a d12 hit die and let’s say you gave them a 16 in Constitution for a +3 modifier. At character creation (or 1st-level), your Barbarian would have 15 hit points; 12 from the highest number on their hit die and +3 for the Con mod. Once they level up, your GM may either have you roll your character’s hit die or let you take the average from it to add to their maximum hit points. For a Barbarian, this means either rolling 1d12 for the hit die or taking 7 and adding the +3 Con mod. Simply add this to your character’s hit point maximum and that’s their new health.

As you can see, hit dice are important for figuring out your character’s health in D&D 5e. So, let’s go on to break down each class’s hit die so you have an idea of what to use during character creation and level up.

What Are Hit Dice?

Bag of Multi-Colored Dice Spilling Out

A characters hit points start with their class’ hit dice. These dice dictate the starting amount of health for a character which gets modified by their constitution modifier.

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.

This table shows which hit die each class uses in 5e.

Artificer d8 (Avg. 5)
Barbarian d12 (Avg. 7)
Bard d8 (Avg. 5)
Cleric d8 (Avg. 5)
Druid d8 (Avg. 5)
Fighter d10 (Avg. 6)
Monk d8 (Avg. 5)
Paladin d10 (Avg. 6)
Ranger d10 (Avg. 6)
Rogue d8 (Avg. 5)
Sorcerer d6 (Avg. 4)
Warlock d8 (Avg. 5)
Wizard d6 (Avg. 4)

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.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. Your hit dice determine your characters hit points
  2. You can use your hit dice during short rests to restore hit points

That’s right.

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?

Stack of Polyhedral Dice

Starting at 1st-level, your character’s maximum hit points equals the highest number on their hit die plus their constitution modifier.

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

For example, a 1st-level Barbarian with a 16 in constitution (+3 modifier) starts with 15 hit points.

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

So, 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?

Character Sheet 5e Hit Point Maximum

Your Hit Point Maximum is the number of hit points your character has when not damaged. As your character gets hit (or suffers 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.

As an example, 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 of her Rage feature. 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…

Grave Stone Reading Lucky Twolegs Rocks Fell Everybody Died

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 your starting health at 1st-level and 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?

When you level up in 5e, your character gains more hit points according to their hit die and constitution modifier. Generally, you may either roll the corresponding hit die to the class you level up or take the average listed in the Player’s Handbook. You then add you constitution modifier to the roll and add that number to your character’s maximum hit points.

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:

  1. Take your class’ hit die
  2. Determine the average number OR roll
  3. Add your Constitution modifier to that number
  4. 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):

d6 4
d8 5
d10 6
d12 7

What Die Do You Roll for Hit Points?

Hand Holding Polyhedral Dice

The die you roll for hit points in 5e 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.

Constitution Modifier Increases & Decreases Effect on Hit Points

Anytime your character’s constitution modifier increases or decreases retroactively affects their maximum hit points not just moving forward.

Something I think a lot of players and Game Masters miss is constitution modifier changes affect a character’s maximum hit points as if they had that modifier from 1st-level.

Page 177 of the Player’s Handbook explicitly outlines how constitution modifier changes retroactively alter a characters hit points:

If your Constitution modifier changes, your hit point maximum changes as well, as though you had the new modifier from 1st level.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 7: Ability Scores

So, if your constitution modifier goes up by 1 at level up, you’ll not only benefit from a hit point increase from that point onward, but also for every level prior to then. Basically, you’ll also gain a hit point for every previous level.

For example, a Barbarian with a 16 (+3 modifier) in constitution increases their score to 18 at 4th-level (for a +4 modifier). At 1st-level, they’d have 15 hit points. Assuming they take the average at each level up (7 for a d12), they’d have 35 hit points before level up (15 + 10 + 10). At 4th-level, they’d gain 11 more hit points and 3 more retroactively for each previous level for a total of 49 (16 + 11 + 11 + 11) instead of 46 (15 + 10 + 10 + 11) like many other players think.

It’s a small difference, but it can add up by the time you reach higher-level play.

This even applies to non-level up constitution modifier increases. For example, a character who obtains an Amulet of Health retroactively benefits if they’re constitution was less than 19 prior to getting this magic item.

Basically, any constitution modifier increase or decrease is treated as if a character had that modifier from character creation and 1st-level.

What Are Temporary Hit Points?

Temporary hit points are hit points you gain through external (as in, not from your class’ hit die) means. Usually, you gain them through a spell. They don’t count as regular hit points but instead as a sort of buffer between damage and your character’s health. But, there are other ways such as through the Battle 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.

3 thoughts on “How is D&D Health Calculated?”

  1. I think your math is wrong on the Increasing Con section. A Barbarian has 12+Con Mod HP at one. By increasing their Con to 18, they should have 12+4, or 16, HP at level 1. They then add 7+4, or 11, HP at Level 2, and again at Level 3, so they have 16+11+11, or 38 HP at Level 3, and at Level 4, they’d add another 11, for a total of 49 HP. So your final value at Level 4 is correct, but you’re shorting them at every level prior to that.

  2. Hey thanks for this new Dm here and my players are always asking me questions that i am not 100% certain of. Your post helped me alot in understanding the average OR roll aspect of leveling up and max hit points. I think well be using the average from now on.

    1. Glad I could help!

      In my opinion, taking the average is generally the right call. Some tables also use the average as a sort of "floor" for max hit point gain at level up; rolling the hit die and using the number rolled if it’s higher than the average or sticking with the average if they roll lower. That said, this results in slightly beefier player characters and fits better for more "high-heroic" type games.

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