Magical Healing Alternatives

The purpose of this post is to offer an alternative healing scheme for one type of gaming style: where resource management is a part of the game and players shouldn’t blow everything they have on the first round of every combat. It’s intended to remove reliance on a healer class without removing that class. I’m sure there are lots of other alternatives I didn’t think of!

Alt 1: Healing = Mutation
Any magical healing you receive is a % chance of mutation, checked immediately after getting the HP back (use the whole healing amount, not just the HP you recovered). If you fail the mutation roll, you lose 1 HP permanently from your maximum because the wound didn’t heal right (bones in the wrong places, organs mangled and not fixed correctly, scar tissue everywhere, tendons shifted over, etc). Attempts to fix these problems with magic only make things worse, and nonmagical medicine is just terrible and has zero chance of success.
Consequences: People spend a lot of time resting up and don’t want healing except in true emergency. Maybe this just exacerbates the 15-minute adventuring day since they run away and sleep for a week between fights. 15-minute adventuring month?
Who does this: Nobody?

Alt 2: You Can Be Healed Only Once Daily
Any person can receive magical healing only once per day. Further magical healing has no effect.
Consequences: Doesn’t affect the 15-min adventuring day and might exacerbate it as above.
Who does this: Nobody?

Alt 3: You Recover Fast Nonmagically
Hit Points represent luck and skill, and you get them back after a 2 turn rest or something. This makes each combat a separate challenge and you must manage resources within a fight, but after the fight you get your resources back.
Consequences: Removes expedition-level resource management, encourages LONG dungeon stays across multiple sessions.
Who does this: Some D&D bloggers I’ve heard talking about it.

Alt 4: Healing Surge / Liquid Courage
Some number of times per day, everyone can heal himself for a lot of damage.
Consequences: Doesn’t make sense (you can’t shit GP using an Income Surge just because you REALLY WANT money), doesn’t affect 15-min adventuring day because players will just burn through surges like any resource.
Who does this: 4E, some CRPGs

Alt 5: You Can Buy Healing Potions
You can always buy healing potions but you’re spending money to heal yourself.
Consequences: Money becomes exchangeable for time (if you rested). Unless there are big penalties for resting for long periods (wandering monsters, lack of food / water / fuel, etc) some parties might prefer to do the 15-min adv day rather than use their potions between fights.
Who does this: Diablo, most CRPGs and JRPGs, some D&D bloggers talk about it, some adventures with pregen PCs.

Alt 6: Checkpoint Healing
At specific times you heal up automatically. Maybe at level up, or going down a dungeon level, or between “scenes”. This is a little like Alt 3 but the player has much less control over when it happens (you have to fulfill some condition, not just “we rest for 2 turns”). Maybe the party hse a big skull lantern and when they kill 10 HD worth of monsters it heals the PCs for 1d6 HP or something.
Consequences: Might encourage exploration / “pushing”, whether physically in a dungeon or situationally in getting to the next scene / objective. Feels pretty artificial.
Who does this: Several CRPGs. I’ve heard the inverse done in some D&D games for leveling up: you have to rest and heal first.

I think the question to ask is “why are you getting injured all the time?” Why do you blow all your spells immediately? Why are you spending all your resources frivolously? The 15-minute adventuring day is a symptom of poor playing, poor DMing, or both. The game isn’t structured for players to Alpha-Strike every round (no, not even 4E is like that). If the players want to play like that, I’m sure there are plenty of game systems where you get all your resources back every combat round. If that’s the game you want, the above healing alternates address a problem you would rather just ignore.

Healing essentially performs two tasks: it’s a resource to manage to extend the expedition, and it draws out fights. The more healing is available, the less you need to rest and recover resources. If the healing is usable in a fight, it will draw the fights out really long. If the healing is not usable in a fight, it won’t affect individual fights but it will affect the length of the expedition.

Remember that what’s good for the PCs is good for the monsters!

I would like to see short fights, expeditions lasting about one game session each, and recovery of resources between expeditions. If I knew how to achieve that flawlessly I’d be doing it :/

2 Responses to “Magical Healing Alternatives”

  1. Irolldice Says:

    Thank you. Very thought provoking. I hadn’t given a lot of thought to how I wanted to handle things, but as a first step I think I might impose a penalty to healing done in combat.

    And, in old editions I think I’ll allow the purchase of potions, but before the GP for XP is calculated.

  2. 1d30 Says:

    You could use long casting times for healing spells. Long casting times and prohibition on other actions and movement while casting, plus if you’re struck you lose the spell, helps to reduce the power of spellcasters. In this sense 3E D&D really beefed up casters in that most spells have no casting time and so can be interrupted only if someone is standing next to you when you cast, and also being hit doesn’t cancel your casting automatically since you can roll Concentration and/or have a feat that lets you ignore it.

    I wouldn’t put the casting time of healing spells over 1 turn, though, since post-fight healing starts to offer more chances for random encounters. One segment per spell level isn’t long enough because they’ll just be used in the fight.

    Sounds like 1 round per spell level would work, so even a decent-level Cleric would have to spend a turn burning off a few Cure Lights and a Cure Serious.

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