"He's beyond my healing ability..."
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  1. #1
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    "He's beyond my healing ability..."

    Ive come across this situation several times across multiple editions and variants of D&D: The PCs come across a dying NPC give their final words, an important element for telling the story being the NPC's death, and the party healer says "I cast heal on the guy. Now let's get all the details from him."

    If the DM says the NPC is too close to death to heal, the healer PC feels crimped because nowhere in the rules does it say "you can't heal NPCs" or "a creature at death's door cannot be healed."

    If the DM lets the healer revive the NPC, the DM will need to quickly adapt and either reveal more than intended so soon or come up with a way to convincingly string the PCs on further with this NPC's information. Thing is, once you do this that basically precludes any future scenario where the PCs can be present at the time of an NPC's death (well, maybe expect old age) - they'll just let the healer do their thing.

    How do you handle this kind of situation in your games?

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    Spellbinder (Lvl 16)

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    I never do it. Unfortunately, this is an example of where the D&D hit point system (and the ubiquitous and dominant healing magic that comes with it) are just anti-dramatic. I wish I could have characters dying but still conscious for a variety of purposes.

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    I houserule that when you would 'die,' you might instead stick around in an unhealable state, long enough to mutter some last words.

    So in 3e, you're at -10 or less, you might still be alive, but healing magic can't help.

    In 4e, you're at negative bloodied? Well, no healing surges or clerical magic for you, but you've got time to say, "Rosebud."

  4. #4
    BLACKLEAF, NO!!! The party finds a dead body -- they can always speak with dead.

    Actually, if I've set up a situation that poorly, I deserve what I get when the NPC gets healed. If I want a minimal amount of information revealed, the PCs either find just a note, or they find the guy that found the dying NPC before he died, and thus get the message second-hand.

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    If the party wants to burn healing powers on an NPC, I let 'em. If he was that close to death, he may not be all that helpful, though.

  6. #6
    I've used mechanics for it off and on, but it has only been worth it when the mechanics for healing already supported that. For example, we had a house ruled version of Fantasy Hero where there was only so much healing an indvidual could absorb at a given time, no matter what the healer was doing. (It was a bit like D&D 4E healing surges in some ways.) So if you found a guy that was out of healing, he was out, and that was that.

    In 4E, you could do the same thing, but I'm sure someone in the group would have a power or item that let someone else provide the surge. Whether they'd be willing to use this for an NPC or not is another question.

    I once wrote a time-sensitive AD&D 1E adventure that played on this trope by having many "almost dying" NPCs, each with a bit of useful information. After awhile, using those spells or potions didn't look so hot.

    But mainly, what I've done is handwave some variant of the "will to live" thing. Much like some games resurrection rules, if you've lost the will to live, the magic won't work. The players seem to accept that well enough, and it also handily explains why even in a town of charitable, frequent healing, people are always dying.

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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Yeah, it's clumsy and often doesn't work without gimping character abilities. You might make it work with lower-level PCs by having the NPC be poisoned and in the last throes of taking a lethal bout of Con damage. That way he can gasp his last and then die. He has taken no hp damage, so he can't be healed, and low-level characters are unlikely to have a neutralise poison handy. Either way, though, it's a bit ham-fisted. It's a cliche in TV and movies, never mind gaming with all its get out of jail free cards .

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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dannyalcatraz View Post
    If the party wants to burn healing powers on an NPC, I let 'em. If he was that close to death, he may not be all that helpful, though.
    Yeah, but if he's at -8 and he suddenly drops to -9 during his speech and someone comes forward and cures him even for 10 points to bring him up to one, he's basically completely healthy, albeit at such a low hit point even a Kobold can knock him back unconscious. There is no penalty besides the Kobold for wandering around or talking at 1hp.

    I've thought about doing as the OP suggests, but then I always come back to that same problem. If he's living long enough to pass on that information, he's living long enough to be cured. And if he dies, well, speak with dead! Or, worst case scenario, depending on the level, cough up 5k and he's back to life!

  9. #9
    I typically use other messages from beyond the grave -- a fixated ghost, a Magic Mouth, a sentence scrawled in the dust, a familiar who is rapidly devolving, a dead corpse that the group decides to cast Speak with Dead, etc.

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    I could be remembering wrong, but I thought only PCs have the exception that let them go to negative HP, while NPCs (including monsters) are dead at 0 ? In which case their final words can be taken as a free action when getting they hit 0, presuming they aren't trying to state the u.s. constitution or something equally lengthy as their final parting words...

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