A Guide to Short Rests in 5e, Warrior Woman Resting Against the Ruins of a Building

A Beginner Player’s & GM’s Guide to D&D 5e’s Short Rest Rules

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition gives players a couple options for resting during their adventures. The shorter of the two, appropriately named Short Rests, basically give characters a brief reprieve in during the day to recover from their possible encounters.
 
What are Short Rests in 5e? What do you get from them? And, how do they work?
 
This article goes over everything beginning players and Game Masters need to know about how Short Rests work in D&D.

Let’s start by briefly looking over what Short Rests are.

What is a Short Rest in 5e?

Short Rests 5e, Ranger Resting Against a Ruined Wall

A Short Rest is essentially a brief respite in the middle of an adventuring day. It confers a few benefits to creatures who finish them and basically provide a means of restoring certain resources without resorting to a Long Rest.

Basically, a Short Rest is s brief period of time for creatures and player characters to rest in the middle of an adventuring day.

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.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 8: Adventuring

Of course, finishing a Short Rest offers mechanical benefits. They’re not just for role-playing opportunities (but you can still use them as such). So, let’s look at what you get from finishing a Short Rest in 5e.

What Do You Get from a Short Rest?

Wounded Knight Resting on a Set of Steps

Creatures can enjoy a few benefits from taking a Short Rest in 5e. The primary benefit is allowing a creature to expend hit dice to restore hit points but some spellcasting classes may also regain used spell slots. Also, many class and subclass features as well as racial traits reset after finishing a Short Rest.

Now, as a form of rest, there are mechanical benefits for taking a Short Rest. If there wasn’t, players probably wouldn’t bother with them. Even then, it’s something of a joke within the community that players just…don’t take short rests.

But, Short Rests confer a number of benefits to player characters. What’s more, they’re integral to playing certain classes optimally which we’ll get into later.

Short Rests have the ability to confer 3 benefits to creatures in 5e:

  • Healing
  • Features
  • Spell Slots

Let’s go over each of these. While they’re generally self-explanatory, they have some small details in how they work.

Short Rest Hit Dice & Healing

The primary reason for taking a Short Rest in 5e is to restore hit points. A creature does this through expending available hit dice according to their class or stat block.

Pretty much any creature in 5e can restore hit points during a Short Rest. The trick is this doesn’t happen passively; a creature needs to use hit dice.

So yes, Short Rests in 5e can heal your character, but you must expend hit dice to do so. Creatures also add their Constitution modifier for each die used to what they rolled, so a higher Constitution score means greater healing.

A character can spend one or more Hit Dice at the end of a short rest, up to the character’s maximum number of Hit Dice, which is equal to the character’s level. For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character’s Constitution modifier to it. The character regains hit points equal to the total (minimum of 0). The player can decide to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll.

Source: DnD Beyond | Basic Rules – Chapter 8: Adventuring

Basically, this means to heal during a Short Rest, a creature needs to expend hit dice. That creature rolls a number of their choice of their corresponding hit dice according to either their class or stat block, adds their Constitution modifier, and restores that many hit points. The only limit to the number of hit dice a creature may expend is their maximum.

For example, a 4th-level player character has 4 hit dice. That character may expend up to 4 hit dice (as limited by their level) during a Short Rest.

That said, a creature doesn’t need to expend their maximum number of hit dice. They may use up to their maximum and any expended don’t reset until a creature finishes a Long Rest.

So, if a 4th-level character uses 2 hit dice during a Short Rest, they’ll only have 2 to use if they take another before finishing a Long Rest.

Here’s a full example; a 5th-level Barbarian with an 18 Constitution stat (+4 modifier). Let’s say this character took the average hit point increase at each level up giving them 57 maximum (15 to start + 10 + 10 + 11 + 11, increased their Con at 4th-level), but they’ve taken some hits after a tough encounter and sit at 17 current hit points. This character has 5 hit dice which are 12-sided dice simply due to the Barbarian class. Because of the tough encounter, the party decides to take a short rest, The Barbarian uses 3 hit dice or their available 5 and rolls 11, 7, and 9 for a total of 27. The player then adds another +12 for a total of 39 and healing up to 56. Remember; you add your Constitution modifier for each hit die used, so since this character used 3 hit dice, they add +4 to each roll or simply add +12 (4 x 3) to the total. The Barbarian then has 2 remaining hit dice for the rest of the day in case the party needs to rest again.

Another thing to remember, you don’t get hit dice back on a Short Rest. Since you have to expend them to heal during a Short Rest, it wouldn’t make sense to then regain used hit dice. So, you only regain used hit dice after finishing a Long Rest (and only half of your maximum at that).

Feature Resets on Short Rest

Many class features and racial traits reset after finishing a Short Rest. Part of understanding when these abilities may get used again is some word it as "a rest" which means both Short and Long Rests reset them.

When reading your character’s class features, you should always make a note of when they refresh. They’ll either explicitly mention a character needs to finish a Short or Long Rest to get used again.

For example, the Bard’s Bardic Inspiration states; "You regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest."

But, many other abilities reset after either a Short or Long Rest like the Fighter’s Second Wind or the Cleric’s Channel Divinity.

Just make sure to read your class’ features thoroughly to see if they refresh on a Short or Long Rest.

Short Rest Spell Slot Recovery

Some spellcasting classes regain expended spell slots after finishing a Short Rest. However, most don’t, so players should carefully read their class’ features to see if their choice does so.

Most spellcasting classes in 5e only regain expended spell slots after finishing a Long Rest. But, a few actually do regain spent spell slots after a Short Rest. Granted, only 1 class gets all spell slots back, the others regain a limited amount.

The following classes regain spell slots, either all or a limited amount, after finishing a Short Rest:

  • Druid (2nd-level Circle of the Land only)
  • Warlock
  • Wizard

The Warlock’s Pact Magic feature explicitly rules that a character regains all spent spell slots after finishing a Short (or Long) Rest. They have so few spell slots to begin with, it makes sense that this class has the option for restoring them on a Short Rest.

That said, the Druid’s Circle of the Land subclass gets a feature called Natural Recovery. This feature restores a number of expended spell slots equal to half (rounded up) the Druid’s level, of a level which the Druid can cast, and can’t be of 6th-level or higher. Also, you get to choose how the spell slots recover. For example, a 5th-level Circle of the Land Druid may recover up to 3 spell slots which may be split up as 1 3rd-level slot, 1 2nd-level and 1 1st-level slot, or 3 1st-level slots.

Just remember; only the Circle of the Land subclass gets Natural Recovery. No other Druid subclass has it. Also, you can only do this once per Long Rest which means it only works for 1 Short Rest per day.

Wizards get basically the same thing as Natural Recovery but it’s called Arcane Recovery instead. Aside from the name, it works exactly the same way but it’s included in the base Wizard class (not restricted by subclass) and you get it at 1st-level instead of 2nd.

How Long is a Short Rest in 5e?

Warrior Woman Resting in an Empty Hallway

A Short Rest in 5e is generally 1 hour long using the default ruleset. The Dungeon Master’s Guide offers alternatives to Short Rest length in Epic Heroism and Gritty Realism, respectively shortening and lengthening the time it takes to finish a rest.

The default length for a Short Rest is 1 hour. This is the length outlined in the Player’s Handbook and it what most tables use.

That said, page 267 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide outlines 2 variants for rests; Epic Heroism and Gritty Realism.

Epic Heroism reduces the length of a Short Rest to 5 minutes. This encourages players to take them often which then means their characters effectively have more resources at their disposal as they use hit dice to heal more frequently.

Gritty Realism increases the length of a Short Rest to 8 hours, effectively a full night’s rest. This makes adventuring much more dangerous as characters need to expend resources effectively and can’t rush into every combat encounter they come across.

Now, the longer the Short Rest, the likelier it becomes to get interrupted. An hour isn’t that long, all things considered, but an 8 hour rest as plenty of opportunities to run into problems.

Can a Short Rest Get Interrupted?

Yes, a Short Rest in 5e can get interrupted. If a creature does anything more strenuous than the activities listed in the rules, they need to restart their rest after finishing that activity.

Ironically, the rules for interrupting a Short Rest are stricter than a Long Rest.

The rules for Short Rests state; "a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to wounds." Long Rests at least allow an hour of fighting or casting spells but Short Rests end with either.

How Often Can you Short Rest in D&D 5e?

Knight Sitting on Steps in a Stairway

You can take as many Short Rests as you like in 5e. The only limit is the number of hours in a day as a Short Rest is usually at least 1 hour long.

The rules for Short Rests don’t outline a limit unlike Long ones. So, a creature can take as many Short Rests as they like over the course of any given day.

Of course, you’re limited by both the number of hit dice available to your character and the amount of hours in the day. Indirectly, creatures are limited to 24 Short Rests per day since a rest takes at least 1 hour (usually) and there are only 24 hours (typically) in an adventuring day.

If you’re using a variant for rest lengths, then this limit adjusts accordingly.

How to Keep Short Rests Interesting

Woman Holding a Sword Sitting on a Throne in a Forest with a Wolf at Her Feet

Game Masters can keep Short Rests interesting by implying the danger of the world or interrupting rests every so often with encounters.

As a Game Master, the best way to make Short Rests interesting is to keep the threat of combat present. Even better, interrupt the player characters’ Short Rests every so often. It keeps them aware and ready for action.

Now, you don’t want to discourage Short Rests. If you interrupt them too often or make an environment too seemingly hazardous, your players will stop taking them all together.

As a Player, you can help make Short Rests more fun and interesting through role-playing and playing as your character.

If they’re reading, what book or books do they have and are working through? If they’re eating, what food is available? If they’re simply relaxing, how do they go about it; are they laying in the grass, soaking in a nearby river, or meditating or praying?

Also, start in-character conversations with other player characters. Assuming everyone is on the same level, this helps establish your characters as adventuring companions and helps you become more immersed in the game.

Short Rest 5e FAQ

Viking Warrior Kneeling for a Rest

Does a Short Rest Remove Exhaustion?

No. Finishing a Short Rest in 5e does not remove levels of Exhaustion.

Plain and simple; Short Rests do nothing for removing Exhaustion. Only finishing a Long Rest removes 1 level of Exhaustion for a creature.

Can You Cast Spells During a Short Rest?

No. Casting a spell during a Short Rest interrupts it, meaning a creature needs to restart the rest to gain the benefits of finishing one.

The rules for Short Rests only allow a creature to eat, drink, read, or tend to wounds. Casting a spell is technially more strenuous than any of these, so while you can cast a spell during a Short Rest, doing so would restart the rest and you’d need to take another hour to finish it.

Can You Keep Watch During a Short Rest?

There’s some debate on what a character does "on watch". Generally, a character stays aware of their surroundings during a Short Rest as they don’t typically go to sleep. As such, no one needs to stand "on watch" but can keep an eye on their surroundings during the rest.

"Keeping watch" isn’t technically a mechanic outlined in 5e. It’s something of a legacy activity player characters do during a Long Rest.

As such, the rules are nebulous concerning keeping watch during a Short Rest. Assuming a character isn’t doing anything too strenuous, keeping watch should interrupt a Short Rest. If your character isn’t taking a nap, they can sit and relax while keeping an eye on their surroundings.

Of course, talk with your Game Master to see how they’d rule this.

Can Warforged Take a Short Rest?

Yes, Warforged can take a Short Rest.

The rules for Warforged in Eberron: Rising from the Last War don’t mention any restrictions on Short Rests. So, Warforged can still take Short Rests in 5e.

How Do Short Rests Work for Elves?

Short Rests work by the default rules for elves in 5e. The Elf racial trait, Trance, only affects Long Rests.

The rules for Elves don’t mention anything special concerning Short Rests. I think the confusion comes from their Trance trait which states an Elf character only technically needs 4 hours of "sleep" during a Long Rest, but this trait makes no mention of Short Rests or altering how they work for Elves.

How Does Being Unconscious Work for Short Rests?

Being Unconscious in 5e due to taking damage essentially means a creature can’t benefit from a Short Rest. The rules state a stabilized creature that isn’t healed regains 1 hit point after 1d4 hours. Since a Short Rest usually takes 1 hour minimum to finish, a creature won’t benefit since they wouldn’t regain 1 hit point for at least an hour.

The rules for being Unconscious during a Short Rest are a little wonky. Basically, if a creature is Unconscious due to having 0 hit points but is stable, they’ll regain 1 hit point between 1-4 hours later. There’s debate on whether recovering from damage while Unconscious differs from participating in a Short Rest.

Two arguments exist; being Unconscious for an hour isn’t more strenuous and nothing in the rules states a character needs consciousness to use hit dice OR a creature recovering from 0 hit points isn’t "tending wounds" as detailed in the rules for Short Rests and doesn’t get the appropriate rest to finish a Short Rest as their body heals.

Even then, you may allow another character to tend an Unconscious creature’s wounds during a Short Rest thus granting them the ability to expend hit dice. But, since nothing’s explicitly outlined, it’s up to the Game Master at each table.

So, the rules for Unconscious creatures during Short Rests is unclear, but GMs can either allow them to participate as normal due to their "resting" or rule their body’s natural processes put more of a focus on surviving and thus can’t technically "finish" a Short Rest.

 

Summary of Short Rests in 5e

That about covers everything you should need to know about how Short Rests work.

Short Rests are basically brief pauses during an adventuring day that usually last 1 hour but may be as short at 5 minutes or as long as 8 hours if you use variant rules. They allow a creature to restore hit points by expending hit dice and may also refresh class features, racial traits, and spell slots for certain classes.

How often does your party take Short Rests? Have you tried encouraging your players to take them? Leave a comment below to help fellow players and GMs out!

Make sure to follow Role Player’s Respite for more rules breakdowns, guides for players and Game Masters, and inspiration for your game!

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