Recovery Dice Options (5e)

Recovery Dice Options (5e)

This supplement clocks in at 32 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s take a look!


One of my favorite components of 5e’s design would be Hit Dice, aka recovery dice – the means to keep adventuring without requiring a gazillion of healing potions.. The system requires minimal book-keeping and helps offset some of the issues previous editions had with nova-ing of characters, i.e. the burst-like expenditure of resources to blaze brightly and crush opposition, followed by resting. Now, granted, novas are not a problem in groups of experienced GMs, who’ll put the fear of attrition into the PCs, but from a design-perspective, Hit Dice are a smart move.


Now, here is the thing: As written, Hit Dice are a limited resource that otherwise doesn’t really influence the complexity of the game. This may be fine for some groups, but I know that quite a few 5e-groups out there enjoy an increase of tactical options and customizations – and this is where this pdf comes in. In a nutshell, this book is focused on providing approximately a gazillion different ways of utilizing recovery dice in ways that transcend the regaining of hit points. Hence, the SMART decision to differentiate the terminology: Hit Dice refer to the base resource; Recovery Dice is the term used when expending such dice from the pool for new effects. The resource as such and how to track the dice has been concisely depicted herein and the benefits of using them as noted as a collaborative narrative effort, emphasizing the individual’s tastes, which represents a big plus froma roleplaying perspective – whether you buckle up and grit your teeth, are assisted by an ancestor spirit or tap into some sort of primal energy – there are plentiful justifications for the effects of recovery dice and the pdf doesn’t skimp on examples.


Now here is the thing: As the astute reader undoubtedly has surmised, recovery dice represent an alternate system and are, as such, extremely cherry-pickable; no one keeps a GM from disallowing one such option to use them and allow others. As each option only takes up a relatively low amount of word-count real-estate, this pdf ends up being surprisingly dense regarding the amount of content it manages to cover in its pages.


But you’re interested in the precise effects of them, right? And here, things get interesting: While there are instances where you can expend a recovery die as a bonus action to e.g. gain advantage on a concentration roll or gain resistance t cold damage until the end of your next turn. Or you can, as a reaction to suffocating, treat Constitution as higher, gaining you precious moments to escape. The observant reader will have noticed something that’s quite obvious here: E.g. the cold resistance-granting option is called “Blessings of the North” – it isn’t a big step to e.g. grant this specific option to characters hailing from the frigid Northlands to further differentiate them from Southlanders. The Suffocation-prevention option? Now that makes sense for a character with the Sailor background, right? So yes, these options can be used to further differentiate between characters. The Diehard option lets you spend a recovery die to gain advantage on a death saving throw – and with the right of these, you can roll the recovery die to subtract the amount rolled from a critical hit. Increasing your Strength for the purposes of Athletics and jumping makes for another interesting option here.


Now, granted, not all of these are created equal: Dash as a bonus action, ignoring a condition until the start of your next turn…there are some general and very potent tricks here. After a short rest, you can expend 2 recovery dice to regain the use of an ability that would require a long rest to recharge, which can potentially lead to odd situations. In short: These are engine tweaks and as such, they deserve respect and should be allowed on a very conscious basis. This requirement of some Gm prowess becomes evident with another option, which only allows for the ignoring of a select array of conditions (as opposed to all), but for a number of rounds equal to the recovery die roll – which may or may not, GM’s call, require an action – the balancing of this one is contingent on the game as well as whether the previously mentioned one is allowed or not.


Allowing Hit Dice spent to heal to be used for comrades makes for another interesting option. As a whole, this section can radically change how the game works at your table, in a myriad of ways. This is not, however, where the pdf stops – instead, we are presented with race-specific racial recovery dice options: These follow, in general, a similar route as PFRPG’s race traits or racial paragon classes, in that they emphasize the tropes of the respective race: Elves can spend recovery dice and add the result to Dexterity (Stealth), for example. Or, if you want to go for the classic elven sniper trope, a recovery die lets you ignore the disadvantage imposed by having your target obscured – cool: Gets right that you still have to know the location and the benefits of cover etc.. Dwarves can grant themselves temporary hit points versus poison damage or temporarily ignore the poisoned condition for recovery die rounds– again, this is less impressive when using aforementioned, more high-powered general options, but for groups looking for dwarfier dwarves, this delivers. Human resolve is represented by turning failure potentially into success: When failing by 5 or less, they can spend a recovery die to add half its result to the roll, to give you just one of the potential options. Dragonborn can tap into the frightening aura of proper dragons or pimp their breath weapon, while gnomes can generate short-lived clockwork devices in a relatively fluff-centric, but fitting option.


Now, beyond these recovery dice options grouped by race, the pdf also features options by class: Bards can add recovery dice to jack of all trades ability checks or fluidly get temporary access to a bard spell they don’t know, for example. Now, here is something interesting: There are options within these options. When using the barbarian’s Desperate Rage, for example, you can exchange a recovery die for a use of rage. That’s VERY strong. However, there is an option of the ability, which adds a cumulative level of exhaustion whenever you use it before taking a long rest, making it a gamble. Druids assuming the shape of a beast sans darkvision can gain it. Fighters can turn their weapon magic and, temporarily, provided you allow the optional variant, even change the weapon’s damage type: “Witness my blade, forged from the poison of your clan’s deceit!” Sorry, got carried away there. Paladins with the guardian angel option can counter an enemy’s advantage; rangers can fire lightning fast opening shots. Rogues can use the dice to e.g. improved Uncanny Dodge or Sneak Attack. Sorcerors can regain sorcery points. Limited control over wild surges, while a bit clunky in its wording, is also one of my favorites here. Warlocks can, if push comes to shove, bugger their patrons for information, duplicating a variety of spells as a ritual. Wizards can attempt to cast spells beyond their capabilities, which carries a significant risk – at least if you employ the optional restrictions, which I’d very much suggest.


Okay, all of this, on its own, would already be a massively impressive, daunting amount of tweaks to the engine to check out – but here’s the thing: The pdf’s not done. In a game where recovery dice become more important, one may very well want to tweak the system as a whole – and here, the pdf goes one step beyond the call of duty, presenting a wide variety of alternate rules: Critical hits that cost you recovery dice, making healing cost recovery dice (or the healer’s hit points!), temporary hit points, monster with recovery dice – these options are discussed in detail and have their own lethality ratings, which allows you to, at one glance, note how they will influence the game. Want a world where healing is sparse and injuries matter, but need damage-negating tools and options? Between the significant number of individual options and these general system tweaks, you can cobble that together. Want a superhero-ish game, where recovery dice also act as a kind of secondary stamina mechanic? Similarly possible. What about preventing ALL healing sans spending recovery dice? Yes, there are a lot of cool ways to play dark fantasy, horror or grittier games here – but similarly, you can make the heroes larger than life! Using the wounded condition from TPK Games’ option-book? There is a synergy option. Such tweaks may also necessitate new threats, and thus, diseases that take away recovery dice, adding their removal to undead (life drain!) or certain spells – the pdf sports some cool suggestions here, closing the supplement on a high note.



Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level. On a rules-language level, there are a few wonky wordings here, but none of them wreck the integrity of the book as a whole. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with an orange-ish background and the pdf’s artwork is solid full-color stock.


Mark Hart, with additional content by Brian Berg, Rick Cox and Nathan Sherrets, has written a gem of a book. Would I use all of these? HECK NO! Using all of them at once can be a colossal cluster-f***.At the same time, that’s not the intent of the book and I never want to miss these in 5e-games. You see, this pdf ultimately represents not a simple template – instead, you should consider it to be a grab-bag: You check it out, determine what works for you and disallow what doesn’t.


Which brings me to the ONE thing I don’t adore about this supplement: The individual recovery dice options don’t have a power-rating and some are definitely MUCH stronger than others. You can’t just hand this to your players and tell them “Choose two of them.”


So yes, using this successfully requires a GM who knows what s/he’s doing and careful, individual consideration of the options herein. They are not created equal.


Totally, absolutely worth it. I mean it. This pdf represents some of the coolest system-tweaks you can imagine. This is a thoroughly GLORIOUS customization option book that allows you to enhance the tactical dimension of 5e, modify the rules to better suit your playstyle, go gritty or heroic. Yes, it does require a bit more GM oversight than it probably should, but OH BOY is it comprehensive and massive in its massive catalogue of tricks. I absolutely adore this book and it frankly ranks as one of my favorite 5e-books to date, representing a true treasure trove of modifications. If you approach this with the right attitude, then this will enrich your games for years to come.


If this had a power-rating for the individual options, making it slightly more user-friendly, I’d have awarded it status as a candidate for this year’s top ten – it’s that good. Even with the work that a GM has to put into this, the value of this book is obvious and significant – this is a glorious toolkit, well worth 5 stars +seal of approval. And this gets my EZG Essential tag for 5e-supplements – there are so many cool ways to tweak the engine herein, I know that, no matter the campaign, I’m bound to use some of them. Highly recommended, best 5e-book by TPK Games so far. If you know what you’re doing regarding engine tweaks, then get it now. ‘Nuff said.


You can get these GLORIOUS engine tweaks here on OBS!


(It’s also part of TPK Games’ current bundle – here’s the link to that!)


Endzeitgeist out.



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6 Responses

  1. Gozuja says:

    This is a little off the wall, but I had been gearing up to run a new Pathfinder campaign after having played 5e recently, and one of the things I was mulling on was potentially introducing Short Rest / Long Rest / Hit Dice into said Pathfinder game.

    I was curious if you had any notions on such a move yourself–and in the context of this particular supplement, if you think it might be tenable to try and use some of the cool concepts from this work in that process as well?

    Our group had traditionally used Hero Points and plenty of CLW wands to adventure around, but I was hoping to move away from the Hero Point system.

    A large part of my prep for this upcoming campaign has been anchored off of your EZG Essentials selections, so I am e.g. leaning into recovering special components from defeated monsters, hunting down particularly interesting (and dangerous) delves, etc.

    Thanks for your time!

    • Thilo Graf says:

      You’d have to design PFRPG from the ground back up and there’s a lot of potential for messed up, unprecedented interactions…BUT, just spitballing here:

      HD should be easy to integrate, but that should probably also make magical healing tougher; perhaps requiring the expenditure of HD for the healed to work? Variations would include making healing otherwise received minimized, for example. I’d honestly have to crunch the numbers, particularly re channel energy etc..

      Short/Long rest is perhaps both easier and harder – long rest is the usual 8 hours rest of PFRPG with all benefits; for short rest, I’d cobble something together from Starfinder’s 10 minute-rests. It becomes problematic will limited use abilities – which replenish when… It’s….a complex operation that requires some serious forethought. It also strongly depends on the type of campaign you’re planning to run – gritty, high-fantasy, etc.

      In some of my high fantasy campaigns, we sometimes use a “kind of HD”-y system – character level (+ Con-mod when also having a filler-feat like Endurance) HD, basically. Replenish upon long rest. That being said, this works due to me being a stingy GM who tends to make healing less universal, so be aware of that.

      To return to your inquiry: Yes, I think using options from Recovery Dice would be feasible in such a PFRPG campaign; however, at the same time, I’d advise even more caution and deliberation when implementing the respective rules. If your rules-fu is strong, it should work!

      Also: Thank you so much for your trust – happy that my EZG-Essentials tag proved to be useful for you! 😀

      • Gozuja says:

        Hmm, that is interesting to hear then. For a bit more context, it’s prepping a Gloamhold campaign + surrounding environs from first level on, using slow advancement and a few tidbits from Unchained (along with your recommended Legendary Rogue + Rogue Glory + revised Stealth rules, etc.)

        My expectation is a 6 or 7 PC party that there are decent odds won’t have a full divine caster among them, so the out-of-encounter healing for the group is liable to be smatterings of interstitial ‘cure’ spell slots from one or two characters most of the time. One of the enticing draws of the short / long rests would be, at least conceptually, to keep the group adventuring longer without luring the notion that they ‘must’ have a ‘dedicated’ healer (best defense is a good offense, etc. anyway but nevertheless.)

        Conceptually at least, I’m intending on hedging the pursuit of wealth and whatnot (also along the slow advancement vein) primarily in the form of the party having a want / need to try to hunt down various monsters for potentially valuable components and to investigate and chase after potentially promising delves and the like (ultimately culminating in setting out for Gloamhold proper.)

        It’s trickier maneuvering around a > 4 PC party to begin with though, and especially at lower levels the healing situation can tend to be pretty dire. I have a secondary test group of six who have been playing through some of the initial adventuring to help with the prep, but a harrowing encounter at first can still completely chase off a party from an adventure site for days of healing if they don’t have renewable magic healing available.

        • Thilo Graf says:

          Okay, in a Gloamhold campaign, I can see HD working. It’s pretty gritty, so yeah. If you don’t have a cleric (and won’t get one), I suggest the following, from the top of my head (sans checking numbers):

          HD equal to twice class level + Con-mod for each character; Weak feats like Toughness/Endurance/what makes sense can grant a bonus HD.

          Later, higher HD classes with tons of hit points will need HD-healing improvements to avoid ridiculously long healing periods, but to start off, that should work!

          As a caveat: Introduction of a cleric later on will utterly skew the numbers – particularly a good channel-specialist will be very potent. When going for gritty rules like this, I suggest eliminating channel’s healing capabilities. A good idea to limit AoE-healing would be to scavenge the Priest of the Old Ways from Legendary Games’ Ancient Curses as a non-AoE-healer. CLW wands should simply be not available – or, in an interesting twist, you could make them double the benefits of HD expended. 🙂

          Since the pursuit of wealth is the theme: For campaigns focusing on that, I tend to use a house-rule: In order to level, you have to spend 1/3 of the new level’s XP in gold while celebrating; This means that super potent treasures à la Conan/Sword &Sorcery get sold and put into further hooks, rather than just making magic items matter. Minor problem there, obviously, is that the players end up trying to scavenge everything, so please beware if you don’t like that.

          • Gozuja says:

            Thanks for this, I hadn’t expected the route of actually increasing the potency of short rests and the like, but that’s pretty interesting! Re: scavenging, I can say that the group has a 30+ year D&D player in it who is very very meticulous about squeezing every copper out of environs and famously enjoys the button: “Whatever is not nailed down is mine. What I can pry loose is not nailed down.”

            I picked up the recovery dice options supplement and have started going through it seeing what might be a good fit with such a setup–I’m also incorporating some other elements such as Pathfinder Unchained’s Stamina & Combat Tricks + The Unchained Fighter (also from your recommendations, fancy that!) so I can see a lot of potential. Traditionally when we’ve used Hero Points, they’ve almost always just sat unused as ‘get out of death free’ cards / burned for the ‘act immediately out of turn’ ability and I’m hoping to find a more suitable replacement system for this campaign.

            I’ve still got a couple of weeks before the ‘main table’ starts spooling up for the campaign while I run the playtest group through and build things up in the prep phase; one of the things I had been working to aggregate was a combination of your recommendation for Creature Components + the Deadly Gardens series of natural items blended with an assortment of alchemical / herbalism entries from e.g. Krazy Kragnar’s Alchemical Surplus Shop.

            I wanted there to be a nicely broad and deep pool of potential unconventional resources and tools for the party to chase after, but my biggest concern I’ve been grappling with is the potential for the party to simply turn around and try to turn it all into currency sight unseen. That can be mitigated in part by virtue of which NPCs might actually -want- to buy such things from the party, but I found the prices in Creature Component’s formulae to be potentially very troublesome (e.g. Bone Dust, which you can technically scavenge from any animated skeletal creature, is valued around 200 gp–so a party could conceivably go raid a mausoleum full of undead and make out like bandits.)

            This is all starting to wander afield of just recovery dice admittedly, but I blame having bought print copies of a slew of the EZG Essentials series supplements as catalyst!

          • Thilo Graf says:

            Okay, in such a case, I’d suggest not going the scavenging route.

            To balance the selling-aspect: Remember that, RAW, settlements in PFRPG have hard gp/trading caps! That makes selling costly magic (and buying it), rather problematic and acts as a nice way for the GM to balance this aspect of the game. It also makes NPCs with private funds matter MUCH more. (E.g. the wealthy family of creepy aristocrats atop that hill…yeah, they may be creepy as all hell…but they have gold…and their poor subjects in town don’t…)

            Regarding bone dust: That assumes the PCs can find a friendly necromancer/shady character to sell bone dust at full price to; in most societies, that component would probably be contraband. Alternatively, make only skeletal warrior/crypt thing/etc. dust potent enough.

            Curious, btw.: In my current campaign, players have used hero points exactly ONCE to cheat death. Know why? You get to cheat death in my game – you’re guaranteed to survive the encounter. However, you are permanently crippled! Roll what you lose! Ears, eyes, nose, fingers, arms, legs…and no, magic can’t regenerate the lost limb/body part. That makes the instances matter MUCH more.

            I’m really happy you’re having a blast with the books I recommended, btw.! I only recommend what I’m using myself, so yeah. 🙂

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