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What happens to an injured PC's current hp when they level up?


5th Edition (And Beyond)


Let's say I have a 1st level PC with 8 maximum hit points, but due to a recent battle with goblins, has 4 current hit points.

Now let's say he levels up. He rolls and adds his Con modifier, adding 6 to his maximum hit points for a total of 14. But what happens to his current hp?

A) Leveling up restores his hp, effectively giving him 14/14 hit points.

B) Leveling up grants him 6 hp, so he is at 10/14 hp.

C) Leveling up only affects his maximum hp, not his current, so he is still at 4/14.

Which is it? Anything in the rulebooks?

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Hm, my groups have always done ad hoc leveling, so it always happens during rests. I suppose if you were tracking exp and got it immediately, you could level up mid-combat. I think (B) makes the most sense.


We do C. The PHB and the DMG has nothing on this as far as I can find.

I've played in a group that only allowed leveling after/between sessions, that's also an option. D, let's call it.
I've tried to adopt it for the group I run.

It didn't fly with the more mechanically inclined players, but I think all the build-talk scared away the more non-gaming beginners. I dunno. It's just something I got in my head, that that was the reason they left. The more veteran "nerdy" players stayed.

For me, when the action of the session is halted and we have two players at the table discussing the details of the build, their favorite combos etc and we have two players who haven't gotten comfortable with the rules yet, who are running on pregens... but, I have the DM's perspective on this only. It is fun, for some players, to switch to level up mode. The same personality style who would halt a Magic: the Gathering session to build a new deck right then and there at the table.

It became a point of contention for us and one that we never really settled. If my group gets going again (on a long hiatus since we finished Curse of Strahd fall 2016), I don't know what approach we'll take on this. It'll depend on the make-up of the new group, I guess.


I count the injuries on the PC, so if he has received 10 damage points he still has 10 damage points, only that he now has more remaining HP because he has gained them when he leveled up.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Sage advice would imply B if that's of interest/use.

We only level up on a long rest, which makes it a moot point.(I think one could raise a similar query wrt spell slots if you use levelling-on-the-run).

Silver Crusade

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Yeah, we've always gone with B in all the games I've played.

The Exchange

We do B or A!


Steve Geddes wrote:

Sage advice would imply B if that's of interest/use.

We only level up on a long rest, which makes it a moot point.(I think one could raise a similar query wrt spell slots if you use levelling-on-the-run).

Thanks for the link, makes me consider switching to B.


I try to schedule level ups during a rest/between sessions in my games, so it rarely comes up, but when it does I do B. (In fact I just had to do this with my group because they're determined to push on instead of going back to town to rest.)

A. Seems a little odd/video-gamish to me (I expect the level-up to include an audio cue and animation of their healthbar going back to full) but that's more personal preference than anything.

C. Also seems strange because it would mean the PC becomes effectively more wounded than they were before they leveled up.


Thanks everyone!

The reason this became important to me is I recently started GMing a play-by-post game of The Lost Mine of Phandelver.

When playing PBP, if you have to wait until a long rest after earning enough XP to level up, that can be days or weeks in real life before you get the reward you earned. I little disheartening for players.

I've decided to go with B. Thanks for all that good logic and especially that Sage Advice tweet.


Kalshane wrote:
C. Also seems strange because it would mean the PC becomes effectively more wounded than they were before they leveled up.

I guess that's one way to see it; for me it (at the time) made the most sense because they were no closer to dying. Whereas with B, they "gain" some extra HP. It's like leveling up becomes a healing spell which felt weird.

Of course, it can be rationalized by things like "They're at a higher level now, they're more experienced and thus tougher, can survive more easily". And that's fine. B also does make sense, now that we've talked about it on here. I want to go with D or some sort of variant where it takes some effort to level, like downtime or training or even just a rest. But, it depends on the campaign.


2097 wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:

Sage advice would imply B if that's of interest/use.

We only level up on a long rest, which makes it a moot point.(I think one could raise a similar query wrt spell slots if you use levelling-on-the-run).

Thanks for the link, makes me consider switching to B.

Out of interest, what do you do with spell slots in the case of levelling "on the spot"?

If I'm a 4th level wizard with only one 1st level spell slots remaining and go up to fifth level, how many of each do I have now?


For a wizard it doesn't matter. For a sorcerer, though, I would say add to the ones they have left.

I also count dmg taken.


It does matter in 5e where spell slots and spells memorised are different.

We only level up on a long rest and use milestones so it's easy to track.

However if I ever did let them level up on the slot they would gain the difference between the current and previous level as extra slots. The extra spell to memorise wouldn't benefit until they rest in any case though.


2097 wrote:
Kalshane wrote:
C. Also seems strange because it would mean the PC becomes effectively more wounded than they were before they leveled up.

I guess that's one way to see it; for me it (at the time) made the most sense because they were no closer to dying. Whereas with B, they "gain" some extra HP. It's like leveling up becomes a healing spell which felt weird.

Of course, it can be rationalized by things like "They're at a higher level now, they're more experienced and thus tougher, can survive more easily". And that's fine. B also does make sense, now that we've talked about it on here. I want to go with D or some sort of variant where it takes some effort to level, like downtime or training or even just a rest. But, it depends on the campaign.

It's not really healing, since they're still missing just as many HPs as before.

I mean, I guess if you wanted to make it super accurate you could divide their previous hit point total by their previous max and then mutliply their new max by that amount to get their current total, so their effective percentage of health remains the same, but that seems needlessly fiddly.

Steve Geddes wrote:

Out of interest, what do you do with spell slots in the case of levelling "on the spot"?

If I'm a 4th level wizard with only one 1st level spell slots remaining and go up to fifth level, how many of each do I have now?

I told my spellcasters they gained new slots and cantrips (if any), but new prepared spells would have to wait until they rested.

So your now 5th level wizard would have 1 1st and 2 3rd level slots available. (But no 3rd level spells prepared) But I don't think there's anything official on how to handle it.

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I just DM such brutal battles that when the PCs get enough XP to level up, they need to take a long rest anyways.

EDIT:

I just put six level 4 PCs against a cleric 6/wizard 6 behtu (demon monkey from Kobold Press's Tome of Beasts. That's 20 HD.

And yes, they leveled up after that fight.

The PCs did force me to run a DMPC (a giant white ape with pike, javelins, and shield, and some defensive magic), too, so they deserved it. I hate running DMPCs, but my character sheet for the monster had too much short hand to just hand him off to a player, and too many alterations to just run him out of the ToB.


I always roll with option B in my games, when you level you get an amount of hit points and there's nothing I've found in the rulebook that says you have to wait for a long rest to get them.

On Spell Slots I agree with the opinions already given you get the extra slots straight away but you have to wait for a rest to prepare more spells.


Kalshane wrote:
It's not really healing, since they're still missing just as many HPs as before.

They gain hitpoints. They're more hitpoints away from death or serious injury. I guess it depends on if you're counting "down" from full health or counting "up" from death.


2097 wrote:
Kalshane wrote:
It's not really healing, since they're still missing just as many HPs as before.
They gain hitpoints. They're more hitpoints away from death or serious injury. I guess it depends on if you're counting "down" from full health or counting "up" from death.

Look at this way: if they were at full hp when they leveled, would they continue to be at full HP or would only their max hps go up? If the latter case, leveling up effectively causes them to become "injured" (which can then be healed).

I think it's more consistent to just up both current and max hps on level up, whether they're at full hp or not.


Kalshane wrote:
Look at this way: if they were at full hp when they leveled, would they continue to be at full HP or would only their max hps go up?

Yes, that's what makes sense to me, that only the max HP goes up. But, as noted upthread, Mearls said otherwise & I trust him.

Kalshane wrote:
If the latter case, leveling up effectively causes them to become "injured" (which can then be healed).

I guess it's because I don't see HP loss as physical harm, more like a clock of destiny. How far away you are from physical harm (making death saves & rolling on the lingering injuries table).


I say option B. HP is plot armor and your experience gives more plot armor than you had before, so it all increases the same amount.

If I had to insist on C, it would be to keep the ratio - 4/8 turns to 7/14 which is sort of a C.5 iteration.

Either way, my players only level between sessions and at a rest. So if they have not rested yet, then they have to prepare to level quickly at the table through their preparation.

2097 wrote:
I guess it's because I don't see HP loss as physical harm, more like a clock of destiny. How far away you are from physical harm (making death saves & rolling on the lingering injuries table).

I see it the same way and have the opposite opinion. To me 4/8 turning to 4/14 only makes sense as "meat points" where you only benefit from the "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" after healing. If I take HP as an abstraction of many intangibles, then it makes more sens to me to gain that abstract benefit immediately. Sort of the fate's smiling on you as you grow I guess.


2097 wrote:
Kalshane wrote:
Look at this way: if they were at full hp when they leveled, would they continue to be at full HP or would only their max hps go up?

Yes, that's what makes sense to me, that only the max HP goes up. But, as noted upthread, Mearls said otherwise & I trust him.

Kalshane wrote:
If the latter case, leveling up effectively causes them to become "injured" (which can then be healed).
I guess it's because I don't see HP loss as physical harm, more like a clock of destiny. How far away you are from physical harm (making death saves & rolling on the lingering injuries table).

How did you handle leveling up in previous editions where a long rest didn't full heal you? (when you either got 1hp per night or your level in hp per night, depending on edition.) Were the PCs just below max for a few days after they leveled up if the cleric didn't heal them?


hiiamtom wrote:
I see it the same way and have the opposite opinion. To me 4/8 turning to 4/14 only makes sense as "meat points" where you only benefit from the "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" after healing. If I take HP as an abstraction of many intangibles, then it makes more sens to me to gain that abstract benefit immediately. Sort of the fate's smiling on you as you grow I guess.

I can definitely get behind that. Great take.

Kalshane wrote:
How did you handle leveling up in previous editions where a long rest didn't full heal you? (when you either got 1hp per night or your level in hp per night, depending on edition.) Were the PCs just below max for a few days after they leveled up if the cleric didn't heal them?

I wasn't the DM until the 5e Starter Set came out (though I had ran other games, like Everway, Fudge, Gumshoe, Fate).

But I was playing in two long Labyrinth Lord campaigns (alternating weeks) where we only gain one HP per night. But we leveled up so extremely rarely. We went to a cleric service in the town to get our new maxes. And the DM kept track of experience and after each session would count it out and say "OK you get so-and-so XP from gold and monsters, and you get so-and-so gold". So we could only level up between sessions. When I started running my own game when 5e came out, I started handing out the XP immediately. Keeping keep of treasure and XP was the very first thing I outsourced to the players.

And so it happened that the players would stop everything in a tense moment and start humming and hawing and selecting spells and get a bunch of HP in the middle of the dungeon and I thought it sucked. So as a compromise we settled on "OK, your max go up but not your current (i.e. option "C" here) and <em>definitely</em> don't whip out the PHB and start working on your build." In low-level 5e you level up way more often than Labyrinth Lord too. So this issue has been more at the forefront.

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