D&D 5E 5E Healing Surges - Do You Use Them?

5E Healing Surges - Do You Use Them?

  • I've used them before, and I like them.

    Votes: 2 5.4%
  • I've used them before, I neither like nor dislike them.

    Votes: 3 8.1%
  • I've used them before, and I don't like them.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'm still using them, and I like them.

    Votes: 4 10.8%
  • I'm still using them, and I neither like nor dislike them.

    Votes: 1 2.7%
  • I'm still using them, and I don't like them.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I've never used them before, but I'd like to.

    Votes: 4 10.8%
  • I've never used them before, and never really given them any thought.

    Votes: 11 29.7%
  • I've never used them before, and I don't want to.

    Votes: 12 32.4%

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I know what you're thinking: "Healing Surges? In Fifth Edition!? How can that be?!"

For those who might not know, Healing Surges are an optional rule on page 266 of the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide. And as you would expect, it introduces 4E-style healing surges to the 5E system. In a nutshell, it allows characters to spend hit dice and regain hit points in the thick of combat as well as during a short rest.

Today, there's a lot of discussion about "modular design" of the 5E rules. And coincidentally, I'm right in the middle of planning a new D&D campaign! All of these optional rules and variants are currently on my radar, because I'm trying to suss out what variant rules (if any) should be "plugged in." I'm trying to give my game a different feel, without making it a completely different game. So my question for the forum is:

Have you used the rules variant for Healing Surges in 5E? Do you still use them? How do you feel about them? Choose the option that best fits your experience, and scribble down any notes or feedback that you would like to add in a comment. Thanks for your input!
 

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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Obviously, my vote is "I've never used them, and never given them any thought," and obviously that's not 100% true since I'm considering them right now. But it's the closest fit.

The reason I'm considering them is that I would like to utilize the Hit Dice mechanic of 5E a little more, and to introduce some new resource management strategies. Right now, my players are overtaxing the cleric for Healing Word, and taking too many short rests in a day (sometimes as many as 6). It's fine enough right now, but the upcoming campaign is going to be faster-paced with lots of time pressure, and that might be a problem for players who have gotten accustomed to spending a week clearing out an abandoned house.

My train of thought is like this:

Allow healing surges --> Players use Hit Dice more in combat --> Players have fewer Hit Dice overall --> Players take short rests less often​

It's a gross over-simplification, sure, but that's kind of the direction I'd like to go.
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Never used them, never thought about them.

I've made several different house rule systems over the years for the death and dying rules, but the healing rules have never bothered me to the point of trying something different.
 

For those who might not know, Healing Surges are an optional rule on page 266 of the 5E Dungeon Master's Guide. And as you would expect, it introduces 4E-style healing surges to the 5E system. In a nutshell, it allows characters to spend hit dice and regain hit points in the thick of combat as well as during a short rest.
To be clear, it does not, in any way, shape or form "introduce 4E-style healing surges to the 5E system".

What it does is something about 60 degrees off from that, which is introduce an ability loosely thematically linked to 4E-style Second Wind to 5E. That's a pretty big difference imo. They only called it "Healing Surge" because they were lacking imagination and had already re-used Second Wind as a Fighter ability.

So in 4E, once per combat, you can use Second Wind, a Standard Action which burns 1 Healing Surge (of which you have a limited number per day which doesn't increase with level), and which heals you for 1/4 of your HP and gives you a defensive buff.

In 5E, the p.266 rule is that once per short or long rest, you can use Healing Surge, which is an Action which allows you to spend up to half your Hit Dice, and just get for whatever they roll (with CON bonus of course). Interestingly it specifies that you can roll each die before deciding to roll the next. Strange but helpful. It also the bizarre and totally unnecessary rule which should have been separate but isn't that you regain all HD on a long rest, and 1/4 HD on a short rest. Why? Because apparently in this chapter of the DMG we're just going to link rules together even though modular design would be better supported by separating them!
 
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It's a good idea, but ooof. Rewriting, testing, and rebalancing all of the healing magic in the game would be a lot more work than I have time for.
It's like, literally 7 spells that would be impacted. At the outside. We were discussing it earlier. It's not a monumental project. Especially as the balance on D&D 5E healing is absolutely awful and all over the place, it's one of the areas 5E is least well-balanced on. There's no way the 5E numbers were ever "tested" in a meaningful fashion, don't kid yourself. This is the game where Goodberry exists and never got nerfed, and where that spell which was kinda OP out of combat and mediocre in it got added then nerfed from orbit with extreme prejudice, going directly from OP to "you'd have to be stupid to cast this".

I'm not saying you have to do it, I'm just point out to anyone reading this that it is, not in fact, a huge or complex or risky task. If I was running 5E atm I'd do it myself.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
To be clear, it does not, in any way, shape or form "introduce 4E-style healing surges to the 5E system"
(snip)
apparently in this chapter of the DMG we're just going to link rules together even though modular design would be better supported by separating them!
I seem to have hit a nerve. I apologize for making a reference to 4E; it won't happen again.

I'm curious if you've used the 5E variant, and what you thought of it, though.

I'm just point out to anyone reading this that it is, not in fact, a huge or complex or risky task. If I was running 5E atm I'd do it myself.
...I'll take that as a 'no.'
 
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I seem to have hit a nerve.
Really, I'm just curious if you've used the 5E variant, and what you thought of it.
By vaguely and hopefully unintentionally misleading people?

Yes. I don't appreciate it when people are mislead, even just vaguely and unintentionally. I'd like the facts to be present. Shocking I know! You didn't describe the system so they'd have to look it up to know how inaccurate what you were saying was. I have corrected this issue! :)

I considered them, but like the rest of the alternate healing rules in the DMG, I found them to be a slapdash and obviously untested approach that needlessly grouped a bunch of rules together. Also it's weird because a "Healing Surge" isn't a thing, whereas a "Second Wind" is. Why not give them a proper name? Just more slapdash-ery. HD are a bad mechanic in 5E to start with, they're a half-finished mechanic, which was clearly a nod to 5E-style healing surges, but which doesn't interact with anything (it can get stuff added to it, extremely rarely, that's it). They weirdly stack on top of other healing methods, unlike 4E healing surges. If you go without healers in 5E, HD feel insufficient, but if have strong healers, they seem over the top. This is why we were discussing spells spending HD earlier.

4E-style healing surges would probably be doable in 5E, though. Let's see:

0) Get rid of HD.

1) Each class has 6 healing surges that fully refresh on a long rest (there's little reason to vary this in the way 4E did, and 4E had too many). Definitely do not add CON bonus to this number.

2) Healing surges are worth a fixed value, let's say 1/4 of your max HP, minimum 5HP (so they're a bit more useful at low levels).

3) Once per combat you can activate Second Wind to use a Healing Surge as an Action (so it doesn't work whilst unconscious), which will cause you to regain 1/4 of your max HP. Fighters get an extra use per combat at level 2, and maybe at level 7 and 14 they get an extra Healing Surge per day.

4) If a healing spell/power that heals at least 1HP is cast/used on you, you can use a Healing Surge as a free action once per round. Obviously it still costs you.

5) Outside combat you can you can freely spend healing surges. They still heal you for 1/4 of your HP. If something added a bonus to HD healing, like Bards, add the bonus to EACH HS used.

Tadaa! There I've solved all the world's problems.
 


Staffan

Legend
1) Each class has 6 healing surges that fully refresh on a long rest (there's little reason to vary this in the way 4E did, and 4E had too many). Definitely do not add CON bonus to this number.
A thing to consider: in 4e, Con had a fairly small effect on your hit points. Your starting hit points were equal to your Constitution score (not bonus) + a fixed number depending on class (10-15, at least for the classes in the PHB), but after that Con didn't affect hit points anymore. Instead, Constitution's primary effect on toughness was its effect on the number of healing surges.

Having Con have a strong effect both on hit points and healing surges would be double-dipping and probably not good. But I could easily see a variant that got rid of Con bonus/level hp and had Con add to healing surges instead.

I'm kind of split on having the number depend on class though. They did in 4e, but 4e classes had more specific roles than 5e classes do. A 4e fighter or paladin is specifically a Defender, intended to force opponents to attack them. So they need more endurance, both in the form of hp and healing surges.
 

Having Con have a strong effect both on hit points and healing surges would be double-dipping and probably not good. But I could easily see a variant that got rid of Con bonus/level hp and had Con add to healing surges instead.
I think that would be a fundamental math alteration that would be unhelpful, esp. as it would impact monsters, so I'd avoid that. In 4E it just felt like it boosted the number of HSes from "I might hit the limit on a very bad day" to "I will definitely never hit the limit", so I don't think it had much real value either way. I think in several years of 4E I saw someone run out of HSes exactly once, and that was in a truly crazy situation the party could easily have rested earlier in.

So if we're going to emulate 4E we might as well improve upon its flaws, imo. CON in 5E is perhaps OP because of HP are so heavily impacted by it, and impacted in a flat way (+2 CON mod on someone with 1d6 HP is huge increase in HP/level, for example), but I think we just have to work around that. I mean, if there's one stat in D&D that could stand to be deleted though, it's CON - it doesn't impact any skills, isn't a primary attribute for any class, and basically only exists for the purposes of saving throws/concentration checks, and boosting your HP into the sky, both of which could be handled differently and likely with a superior overall outcome, but that's a whole other separate thread which I think we've had before.

Class-wise, It think the much higher HP values on "tank-y" classes already address the issue, because HSes provide a flat 1/4 of your HP. So if you have a Barbarian with 120 HP, they get 30 HP per HS spent, whereas the Sorcerer with 60 HP only gets 15 HP per HS spent. I don't believing giving the Barbarian more is helpful unless you also give him a mechanism that encourages him to spend them, but at that point we're talking about a wider redesign (hence my suggesting it solely for Fighters as part of them being able to use Second Wind more often).

I'd also suggest that for simplicity's sake monsters not be able use HSes in combat and give them 3/day instead of 6/day for the very rare occasions they get out of combat.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Hm. I guess Healing Surges are about as popular as I had feared. ~sigh

If you're one of the two people who are still using this variant, I'd like to hear from you. I'm interested to know how it has impacted your game.
 

braro

Explorer
Hm. I guess Healing Surges are about as popular as I had feared. ~sigh

If you're one of the two people who are still using this variant, I'd like to hear from you. I'm interested to know how it has impacted your game.
It generally hasn't impacted it that much for me. My players tend to choose racing the enemy down rather then backing up and healing a lot of times. But if they are in a defensive position, like behind cover, they can rally more. So it tends to keep them a bit more mobile and looking for places to safely hide out - like behind a wall - to force the enemy to move closer to close around. This can get used a lot when there are large fights and reinforcements are coming. They can healing surge to get ready for wave 2.

It's really more of a safety net, or a removal of healing potions (same action slot, so).

It also tends to mean that after combat, they can heal up without the full short rest period. Which is fine by me - we also tend to use the shorter short rest rules (being about 5 minutes).
 

Staffan

Legend
I mean, if there's one stat in D&D that could stand to be deleted though, it's CON - it doesn't impact any skills, isn't a primary attribute for any class, and basically only exists for the purposes of saving throws/concentration checks, and boosting your HP into the sky, both of which could be handled differently and likely with a superior overall outcome, but that's a whole other separate thread which I think we've had before.
Perhaps. I am kind of fond of Genesys'/Star Wars' stat spread: Brawn, Agility, Intellect, Cunning, Willpower, Presence. Brawn incorporates pretty much anything that has to do with both Strength and Constitution, and Cunning, Willpower, and Presence combined fill in the stuff that's mostly covered by Wis and Cha in D&D. For example, Coerce is Will, Deceit is Cunning, and Charm is Presence.

That, or go the Troubleshooters path of removing ability scores and treating them just like any other skill. But that would probably be a step too far for D&D...
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I ended up not using them. I thought they might be a nice way to extend the time between short rests on a typical adventure, but my group wasn't interested. (One actually growled at the mere mention.) Ah well. At least they are willing to give the Renown rules a shot, so I'm counting my blessings.
 

I've used a variation - spend HD as an action or any time you receive healing magic - up to 1 HD per die of healing.

In practice it changes the pace of play, but doesn't really improve it, so we didn't carry it forward. If I really wanted a more tactical 5e experience I might reconsider it, but frankly if I want a more tactical experience I'd rather just play PF2 or 4e.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
In 4E it just felt like it boosted the number of HSes from "I might hit the limit on a very bad day" to "I will definitely never hit the limit", so I don't think it had much real value either way. I think in several years of 4E I saw someone run out of HSes exactly once, and that was in a truly crazy situation the party could easily have rested earlier in.
To quote a great film: "Perfect. Then that's the way it shall be."
 


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