The Ultimate Guide to Hit Points
Hit points represent life and death in most ttrpg games and DnD 5e is no different. But what exactly are hit points? What’s the difference between temporary and current?
I’ll go over each part about hit points and the different types, including how to properly use and track them during your games. After all, the worst thing that could happen is miscounting your hit points during a big boss fight!
What are Hit Points?
If you have ever played a game like Pokémon, then you are already familiar with the use of hit points (often referred to as hp). They track exactly how much damage you can take before you fall unconscious or die.
In DnD, hit points represent a combination of physical endurance and mental durability. Basically, hit points represent your will to live. And just like with anything in DnD, this will to live is affected by luck.
In general, when a creature is hit with an attack, hit points are subtracted from them, meaning they are closer to defeat. On the other hand, healing someone restores their hit points, meaning they can go on for longer.
In DnD, hit points are a game of careful balance, consideration, and sacrifice. If you play a close-combat character you will have to get close and personal to an enemy. This means you may have to sacrifice some of your hit points to deal damage of your own.
Squishy characters, however, have less hit points so they usually hang back from the fight and help from afar. Often these characters can act as healers for their beefier companions. A properly balanced party will often have both types of characters to help balance healing and damage on the field.
There are three different types of hit points, and each one has its own unique purpose.
Current, Max, and Temporary Hit Points
If you are a brand new player, you may be confused or even intimidated about the different types of hit points to track. Don’t worry, it’s a lot more simple than you think! I’ll explain each type of hit point in detail andーby your next gameーyou’ll be a professional.
Current Hit Points
Your current hit points are how many hit points you have to spare at this exact moment. If this number drops to zero, you can face death or falling unconscious. All in all, this is the most important number for you to track with your hit points.
When the party’s healer asks “How are your hit points looking?” this is the number they are referring to. If your current hit points are equal to or less than half of your maximum, then you are bloodied.
The term ‘bloodied’ is a hold over from earlier editions, specifically 4e, that is used at some tables because it is a good measure for your character’s health. For example, if your character has a maximum of 100 hit points, you are bloodied if your current hit points drop to 50 or below. Saying “I’m bloodied!” can alert your party’s healer that you need medical attention.
Max Hit Points
This is the ceiling of your current hit points. Let’s say you have 45 hit points out of a maximum of 50, and you drink a potion and recover 6 hit points. Your hit points cap out at 50, meaning you had 1 healing point wasted.
Max hit points balance the game to be more fair in combat. Enemies cannot go over their maximum and neither can you. If you could exceed your max hit points through healing, there would be nothing stopping you from robbing a shop of all their potions and chugging them!
Of course, you are not stuck at your current max hit points. At each level up, you gain more hit points based on your class. I’ll go over how to calculate this later on. For now, let’s talk about temporary hit points.
Temporary Hit Points
Temporary hit points are not true hit points, they are simply a buffer against damage, protecting your current hit points from being lowered. Think of temporary hit points like bubble wrap. There’s a certain number of bubbles you can pop until you are all out of bubbles. Once you are all out of bubbles, you start taking damage.
In fact, temporary hit points can exceed your hit point maximum, so you can be at full health and still receive temporary hit points! But there are two main caveats we have to talk about.
Because temporary hit points are not true hit points, they cannot be healed like your current hit points. Remember that temporary hit points are bubble wrap. Once you pop that bubble, you can’t unpop it.
Likewise, they cannot be added together. This means that if you already have temporary hit points, and you gain more of them, you have to choose between keeping what you have now or replacing it.
For example, if you have 10 temporary hit points now and the wizard tries to give you 7 temporary hit points, you have to pick between 10 or 7. You cannot add them together to be 17 temporary hit points.
In other words, you can choose to keep the bubble wrap you have now or replace it with newer bubble wrap which may be better or worse than your current bubble wrap. You have to be the one to make that call.
Furthermore, if you are already at zero hit points and unconscious, receiving temporary hit points doesn’t revive or stabilize you. That would be like putting bubble wrap over a wound that requires stitchesーit doesn’t stop the bleeding, it just means if an enemy tries to hit you while you are unconscious they will hurt the bubble wrap before they hurt you.
Finally, temporary hit points typically last until they are depleted or you finish a long rest, unless they were given to you with a duration. Since you can’t keep your bubble wrap, let’s calculate your hit points correctly.
Calculating Your Hit Points
The toughest question now is how do you calculate your hit points? Obviously, damage and healing can restore or take them away, but that’s with your current. In order to even calculate your current hit points, you need to know your maximum.
In general, every character has a hit dice that is determined by their class. At level 1, you have one hit die and your max hit points equal the number of sides of your hit die plus your Constitution modifier.
For example, a level 1 barbarian has a CON modifier of +2 and a 1d12 hit die. To calculate this, we just add these numbers together. 12 + 2 is 14, so the level 1 barbarian has 14 max hit points.
For every level past 1, there are a few options. First, you need to see if your DM has a house rule for hit points past level 1. Some DM’s have you take maximum health, which is where you take your max hit die each level-up and add it to your CON modifier.
Other DM’s will want you to roll your hit die, and others will ask that you take the average (which is in the Player’s Handbook under your Class Features). However, I’ll go over the more traditional method which involves rolling your hit die.
Each level-up, you get one more hit die to roll. You roll your hit die and then you add that number to your CON modifier and the result is what you then add to your max hit points.
For example, our level 2 barbarian rolls a 2 on their 1d12, so we add that 2 to their +2 CON modifier. That’s a total of 4. Now, we add that 4 to our current max hit points and our total increases to 18.
The math can get a little confusing, but this is why it is very important to talk to your DM about how they want to handle hit points at the table. They’ll help you figure out how to handle their rules so you can get your proper hit point maximum calculated. As always, communication is key!
There you have it! This guide to hit points has covered the different types, how they are used, and how to calculate them. Be sure to talk to your DM about their rules and see where it differs from the official stuff.
If you are ready to start building your new character, confident in your hit point abilities, why not grab some brand new dice for them? Happy calculating!