D&D 5E 5e, Heal Thyself! Is Healing Too Weak in D&D?

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
And your condescention is as annoying as it's stupid, because the system at least tells me that is a sword doing the damage or a fireball, so it helps in the description more than a stupid purely technical aura of "unending hunger", which goes to prove that you don't care about the narration, just about the technical loss of hit points. Q.E.D.
You don't seem to be able to refrain from insulting people you're talking to. This is your 6th warning for that exact thing (not counting your other warnings for other things), so asking you to stop doesn't work. Don't post again in this thread, and the next time you insult another person here will likely be the last time you do so.
 

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Voadam

Legend
I haven't used it, but I think it is misnamed. It should properly be called Second Wind if you want to evoke 4e (except that's taken by a Fighter ability), because that's the 4e mechanic it is copying.
I agree, it is unfortunate they used a different 4e healing term for this mechanic. It just leads to unnecessary confusion in discussions about D&D healing.
In 4e, a healing surge is a resource you can use to heal yourself. On a short rest (which is 5 minutes in 4e, not one hour) you can spend healing surges to recover hp. Each surge recovers 1/4 your maximum (rounded down). There is also an action called Second Wind which all PCs have as an encounter power that you can take to heal using a healing surge. Your number of healing surges varied per class, but was in the range of 6 to 10, plus your Constitution modifier (defender classes clocked in at 9-10, most other classes at 6-7).

In 5e, the rest-healing mechanic is the Hit Die. This differs in fundamental ways from the healing surge, notably in how it scales. Higher-level 5e characters have more hit dice that each heal the same amount, while higher-level 4e characters have the same number of healing surges that each heal for more. You also have significantly less rest-based healing in 5e: slightly less than 100% of your max hp, with 50% of that recovered per day, whereas 4e has 150% to 350%, all of which recovers each day.

The optional 5e Healing Surge rule lets you spend up to half your hit dice as an action, once per short rest. It also speeds up the recovery of hit dice, so it might actually approach the non-magic healing available in 4e to low-surge classes.
I never saw anyone (including myself) second wind in 4e or in 3e/PF games adopting 4e healing mechanics. The opportunity cost of the standard action was pretty high, particularly when there were common 4e healing powers that did not require that action economy sacrifice.

In 5e once I got a handle on the mechanics of fights and options I used my fighter's bonus action second wind a lot even though I had decent alternative bonus action options (an offhand attack, etc.).

For me that is the sweet spot for D&D action economy, a main efficient attack and then interesting options for my non attack action.

I am not sure if 5e's healing surges would end up as an unused/extremely rarely used option like 4e's second wind in the games I play in and run.

The full hit dice recharge would be a welcome change though so that the incentives would be more as a resource to be used as opposed to be hoarded for just in case.
 

pemerton

Legend
I think that you fail to understand the distinction between:
  • The standard D&D approach: I want a fireball, so I will invent a mechanic to explain how it works
  • The 4e approach: I want a minion that has an aura, so I invent s stupid name that will make it sound like it's fantastic.
In the end, both are mechanics, and both are narrative (although, once more, one not so much since no one has yet been able to explain how, in fiction, "unending hunger" does physical damage to creatures which are near) but they don't feel the same at all.
You've had replies from both @Manbearcat and me suggesting fiction for the aura of unending hunger: the Abyssal ghoul, whose hunger is unending, claws and bites and threatens all nearby enemies. Mechanically we represent this by taxing them a small number of hit points at the start of each of their turns. (The Abyssal Horde Ghoul is a level 26 minion. 5 hp is a very minor amount of damage to a mid-Epic tier PC.)

Also, and somewhat as per @Voadam's post, I don't really follow the difference between I want a fireball - ie a ranged AoE attack based on fire - and I want a horde of ghouls who hunger after the living, slightly wear down every nearby enemy - ie a statblock for minions that have a low-damage aura that reflects their endless hunger.

The name of the aura obviously alludes to the Abyssal Ghoul Hungerer, also minions, and found in the MM. So there is an assumption that the GM is familiar with the generally hungering character of ghouls, and can narrate the Horde Ghouls appropriately.

It's perhaps also worth noting that, early in 4e's design, swarms tended to have an aura that granted a free attack (see eg the rat swarm and needlefang drake swarm in the MM), whereas later on the designers realised that it was more effective to make those swarm auras autodamage (see eg the Blackfang hyena pack in MV:TttNV). The Abyssal Horde Ghoul aura reflects a similar economy - it is is not worth using time-consuming stochastic resolution to implement what are primarily nuisance/zone-type effects rather than the core threats of an encounter. (This is similar to the economy you advocated upthread for resolution of a 5e fireball attack vs 100 orcs!)

apart from classes designed from the ground up (swordmage, warlord), 4e failed to convince because inventing a mechanic and forcing people to call that a wizard did not convince. It was mechanic BEFORE fiction, and it shows.
Huh? Vancian spells is a mechanic that people are "forced" to call a wizard. Turning the undead via a 2d6 roll (OD&D, B/X) or a d20 roll (AD&D) vs a matrix which classifies undead (roughly) by HD is a mechanic that people are "forced" to call a cleric. Resolving melee combat via a turn-based action economy with d20 rolls on a to-hit matrix is a mechanic that people are "forced" to call a fighter (Chainmail shows that even in the D&D heritage of games there are different ways it might have been done).

I had no trouble being "convinced" by 4e's class design.

And what happens when the hobbits are thrown in, or Gandalf ? You have to create different monsters to fight different PCs because they are of different levels.
Gandalf can easily be statted up as a low paragon tier invoker.

The Hobbits do not fight the Orcs at Amon Hen (they draw their swords, but the Orcs try to capture them; they fight only because Boromir arrives on the scene); are not present at Helm's Deep; and only Pippin is present at Minas Tirith and does not fight. So I don't think they necessarily factor into the equation. If you wanted them in 4e, they would probably be a type of inspiring Warlord build that confers actions and buffs rather than taking their own actions - this would also help generate the mechanical outcome of them not dying despite all the action they do see. Sam would be an adjunct to Frodo's build.

In the fiction, there are just orcs, which are the same, not instantiated for different PCs
In this sentence you seem to confuse the fiction - in which there are Orcs - and the game - in which Orcs are "instantiated" via a stat block.

5e mechanic models that easily
What you mean, I think, is that 5e uses an approach to creature statblocks that does not vary parameters of the statblock to reflect the level of the PCs. That's a technical feature of 5e. You like it. Upthread, @Eric V suggested that it doesn't work very well for horde/minion encounters.

I don't have a personal opinion, as I don't play 5e and don't intend to.
 

Staffan

Legend
I don't know 4e very well, but did you consider the "full HP after long rest" part of 5e standard healing rules? It's more like 150%, and up to 200% with a "burst"
Both games have full heal on a long rest (though 5e only recovers half your max HD, 4e recovers all of them). I was approaching things from the perspective of starting a day fresh, and seeing how much of a "reserve tank" each game provides.
 

Undrave

Hero
Starting an edition war is like throwing a punch in a prison yard: a convenient distraction.
A distraction... for an escape attempt! OH, SHOOT! Quick, somebody check Snarf's cell!
I never saw anyone (including myself) second wind in 4e or in 3e/PF games adopting 4e healing mechanics. The opportunity cost of the standard action was pretty high, particularly when there were common 4e healing powers that did not require that action economy sacrifice.
My group LOVED the 4e Dwarf, part of the reason being the fantastically generic Minor Action Second Wind.

Second Wind was also a type of dodge in that it gave out +2 to all defense for a turn. I find that part to be often forgotten.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Both games have full heal on a long rest (though 5e only recovers half your max HD, 4e recovers all of them). I was approaching things from the perspective of starting a day fresh, and seeing how much of a "reserve tank" each game provides.
The half hit fice ecovery process of hit dice is a limitation of the most tenuous technicalities. The expected encounter budgets of characters designed to pass through an ultra grindy grind-fest six to eight encounter long adventuring days ensures that spending short rest hit dice is just not needed enough to make the limitation matter until the second third or fourth incredibly over the top encounter day is squeezed in with such a tight doom clock that players csnt just take back to back long rests if needed.
 

The half hit fice ecovery process of hit dice is a limitation of the most tenuous technicalities. The expected encounter budgets of characters designed to pass through an ultra grindy grind-fest six to eight encounter long adventuring days ensures that spending short rest hit dice is just not needed enough to make the limitation matter until the second third or fourth incredibly over the top encounter day is squeezed in with such a tight doom clock that players csnt just take back to back long rests if needed.
You do not have to put a "doom clock" to insert the narrative into 6 to encounters per day. There are more than a few ways to insert them. Waves, combinations, alarms (read here, alert!) enemy patrols and so on.
 


It's low level, so by low mid+ levels a cleric can cast it as needed;
It's ranged so the cleric doesn't have to move (or not move far) to get to the target;
It doesn't heal much but it heals enough to prop up a PC to do what they need to do AND it nulls/resets any death saves;
It's a bonus action meaning the cleric can do other stuff, sure more limited stuff, but it's one of the few call backs to the 4e style heal AND do stuff cleric.
The first is a useful attribute, but irrelevant to whether the amount of healing provided is particularly effective other than as "whack-a-mole"/"pop-up" healing.

The second is, likewise, useful but not super relevant, other than for the ease of use with w-a-m/pop-up healing.

The third, however, is exactly what is being said. 6-9 HP is diddly-squat for a high-level character, even if they have a low HD and low positive CON, e.g. a 12th level (non-Dragon) Sorcerer with +1 Con has 7+5*11 = 62 HP. Even a maximum roll on healing word gives a grand total of 14% of your maximum HP; and God forbid you actually play a high-Con class with larger HD! If you take a single hit from many creatures, even very low-level ones, you're going to go right back down into the dirt.

The fourth is, of course, another benefit, but not really relevant to whether the healing itself is a serious amount of healing.

Healing word is a very useful spell for specific circumstances and contexts. It is valuable to have (one of several reasons why a 1-level Cleric dip is very valuable), but that doesn't mean it is a powerful healing spell. It is, in fact, the weakest proper healing spell in the game. It just has, as you've noted, enough special features that its hilariously tiny healing (1d4+mod!) is forgivable.

That doesn't make that hilariously tiny amount of healing suddenly not hilariously tiny.

As I said earlier in the thread: It is 100% correct that healing needs to be a limited resource in some sense in order to preserve tension in combat. Making it weak (as in, very small amount) but plentiful (as in, you can cast it many times a day) incentivizes tactics that many people strongly dislike, and it incentivizes those tactics specifically because it is weak healing, best used when it revives an ally that is already downed but not out. Had 5e designed its healing in such a way that it could instead be strong (as in, a comparatively large amount) but rare (as in, a limit on casts per combat), it would instead have encouraged tactical caution and taking seriously the possibility that an ally could die if allowed to hover at very low health for long.
 
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That doesn't make it not super grindy
It depends a lot on what you find grindy and how you approach fights.
How long is a round at your table? Mine with 6 players it takes about 5 minutes max. Including my "monster's " turn. And this is for the first 3 rounds or so. The less foes there are, the faster it goes with a normal fight might lasts around 20 to 25 minutes top. With four fights (around 100 minutes) it leaves us with 140 minutes of role play. A session is usually around 4 hours with some extending to 5. Some sessions see no fights at all and some are filled with fights.

A few rules
A player's turn can not go beyond 45 sec. No timer is used but if we think a player is taking too long to decide, then the character will take the dodge action.

Roll both for the hit, save and damage at the same time. Yes, it means that the player casting "sacred flame" will roll the save for me. Yes I am that lazy but it speeds things up quite fast. The only time we do not do it, is for area of effects. All single target saves are made by the players.

Monsters/foes saves in batch. A batch is all monsters/foes of the same type. 3 orogs, 6 orc archers, 1 orc shaman and an orc chieftain means that I will roll 4 saves. If a player is playing and hireling/npc he will roll one die and it will apply both the player's character and the hirelinf/henchman/npc.

This make it so that fights are very fast and intense. A player do not have the luxury to watch his phone or whatever during a combat scene as turns are very fast paced and not following might make a player take too much h time and hard his/her character simply take the dodge action. It also prevents what I call the combat blues when a fight is dragging so long as to become boring simply because one player (or more) is taking forever to to take hus/her turn.

So no, fights are not a chore or a grind. An easy fight is often resolved in less than 10 minutes.

Note:" These are averages. Some fights with a lot of foes or with strong BBEG might last a lot longer."
 


The only time I questioned 5E's healing is when post Monsters of the Multiverse decided that the wimpy kind of healing for monsters, no spell slots, is enough for that big click 1D8 energy.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
As I said earlier in the thread: It is 100% correct that healing needs to be a limited resource in some sense in order to preserve tension in combat. Making it weak (as in, very small amount) but plentiful (as in, you can cast it many times a day) incentivizes tactics that many people strongly dislike, and it incentivizes those tactics specifically because it is weak healing, best used when it revives an ally that is already downed but not out. Had 5e designed its healing in such a way that it could instead be strong (as in, a comparatively large amount) but rare (as in, a limit on casts per combat), it would instead have encouraged tactical caution and taking seriously the possibility that an ally could die if allowed to hover at very low health for long.
The way they've designed healing really feels to me like it's intended to produce certain patterns in combat.

Being 1 hit from dropping feels dramatic. Being unconscious and out of the action is frustrating (especially if you're in a group where other people aren't efficient on their turns). Healing Word as presently designed helps minimize the number of rounds a given character spends down and bleeding and unable to act, while generally still leaving them a hit from being unconscious again. Which feels tense and dramatic to the player. While the party (at least after the first few levels) may rarely feel like they could get TPK'd, individual PCs may regularly feel like they're fighting on the edge of being dropped.

I do agree that there's an unfortunate effect that players tend to take for granted that they'll be able to save someone. I think this "comfort factor" can be comforted by DM tactics; for example, throwing the occasional hit in on a downed PC will ramp up the danger and make the other PCs at least consider protecting the downed folks, even if they can't immediately heal them. But it does feel a little kludgy and run the risk of players feeling like the DM is fighting dirty. You have to manage expectations a bit to make it feel "fair" and realistic rather than like an antagonistic move. There's also the factor that the fixed initiative order limits how much a healer (or anyone else, for that matter) can choose to play cautious and deliberately intercede between enemy turns and those of Dying PCs. The randomness of initiative restricts some options, here.
 
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As I said earlier in the thread: It is 100% correct that healing needs to be a limited resource in some sense in order to preserve tension in combat. Making it weak (as in, very small amount) but plentiful (as in, you can cast it many times a day) incentivizes tactics that many people strongly dislike, and it incentivizes those tactics specifically because it is weak healing, best used when it revives an ally that is already downed but not out. Had 5e designed its healing in such a way that it could instead be strong (as in, a comparatively large amount) but rare (as in, a limit on casts per combat), it would instead have encouraged tactical caution and taking seriously the possibility that an ally could die if allowed to hover at very low health for long.
So, what are some of the consequences of strong but rare healing?

1st alternative: healing comes from spell slots
You could beef up the power of healing spells. This would make healing strong, but wouldn’t make it rare, as clerics get the same number of spells slots as wizards (barring Arcane Recovery). You could adjust this by reducing cleric spell slots, at a cost of greater complexity (and of course, complaints from players, such as me, who tend to prefer clerics as primary casters rather than hybrids).

This does have a secondary effect though: the stronger you make healing, the more of an opportunity cost there is to (i) not have a cleric in the adventuring party; or (ii) have a cleric who does not focus on healing spells. This is also an issue for players (or parties) that don’t like healbot clerics.

2nd alternative: You take the strong rare healing out of spell slots.
This is what was done with the Life Cleric, whose Channel Divinity provides strong healing, once per short rest (twice starting at level 6). Should this be extended to other clerics? Personally, my feeling is that the need is met by the Life Cleric, with other clerics free to specialize in non-healing roles if they want.
 

So, what are some of the consequences of strong but rare healing?

1st alternative: healing comes from spell slots
You could beef up the power of healing spells. This would make healing strong, but wouldn’t make it rare, as clerics get the same number of spells slots as wizards (barring Arcane Recovery). You could adjust this by reducing cleric spell slots, at a cost of greater complexity (and of course, complaints from players, such as me, who tend to prefer clerics as primary casters rather than hybrids).

This does have a secondary effect though: the stronger you make healing, the more of an opportunity cost there is to (i) not have a cleric in the adventuring party; or (ii) have a cleric who does not focus on healing spells. This is also an issue for players (or parties) that don’t like healbot clerics.

2nd alternative: You take the strong rare healing out of spell slots.
This is what was done with the Life Cleric, whose Channel Divinity provides strong healing, once per short rest (twice starting at level 6). Should this be extended to other clerics? Personally, my feeling is that the need is met by the Life Cleric, with other clerics free to specialize in non-healing roles if they want.
Well, to be honest, I'm not sure there IS a way to fix the problems with the system as it exists. As you say, just beefing up healing doesn't actually fix the problem, because low level slots become plentiful at high level and high level spells are inaccessible (at low level) or a bit too precious (at most higher levels). 5e has the variant rules for treating hit dice like healing surges, but HD are still individually small (1dX plus Con mod doesn't ever quite match total HP, and each individual HD becomes less and less of your total, rather than staying very close to 1/4th), and that does nothing to limit the opportunity to heal, which was a critical factor in 4e healing (Leaders could not heal more than a couple times per combat unless they invested in further healing powers...which were themselves either encounters or, more often, dailies.) Adding in hard limits to how frequently a character can be healed in a single combat now, even with a "revised edition"-style update on the horizon, will likely draw just as much ire as, or possibly more than, keeping WAM/pop-up healing. And strangling the supply of healing even further will simply exacerbate the narrowness of the space between "the party is unkillable!" and "welp, that's an accidental TPK," especially in the earliest levels where 5e is incredibly deadly. It'll also even further cement the "no support characters, don't go for teamwork, think of your own contribution first" gameplay that doesn't seem to be what most critics of WAM/pop-up healing want to see.

Of course, this just mostly leaves me bitter that I had tried to speak up about issues like this during the playtest and got soundly ignored or accused of being a hater (in other places, I wasn't much active in ENW at the time).
 



James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I sometimes like to think that Vicious Mockery is a magical version of the Total Perspective Vortex. The psychic damage isn't just the sick burn, but literally being able to see how others see you.
I think being forced to realize that you are not the center of the universe would do more than a few d4's of psychic damage.
 

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