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D&D 5E Alternate solution: Whack-a-mole healing

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I don't have a problem with Whack-a-mole healing in the games I play or run - I like keeping the players all engaged. But I understand how many don't like like it. Often a solution is to penalize a character for going down but that is trying to solve the wrong problem. Whack-a-mole healing happens because the rules reward it. Because you get more for the same healing spell - a 4 HP Healing Word won't prevent a character with 6 HPs from going down to 12 points of damage, but will stand them back up. So the solution is to create a larger reward for healing while they are still standing to incentivize that behavior instead.

Reaching back to one rule I enjoyed from 4e, the Healing Surge. We could add in the simple rule of:

When a conscious character receives healing, they may also opt to spend Hit Dice for additional healing, up to the number of dice of the healing effect. If the effect heals a static amount, it is instead 1 HD per 10 points healed.

So get hit with a 1st level Cure Wounds for d8+ability, you can spend a HD. An upcast 3rd level Healing Word for 3d4+ability could let you spend 3 HD - finally it isn't lackluster when upcast. That same slot on a Mass Healing Word could let up to six targets spend a HD for additional healing - because that spell is only d4+ability mod so it's only healing each person a bit.

And this would work for other healing. The Healer feat which works once per rest on a character. Second Wind. Healing Potions. Lay-on-hands (this and the Heal spell are why there's the second part).

This doesn't increase the total healing per day - you could be spending these during a short rest.

Now, IF you think this would lead to shortened adventuring days, you could also add in:

During a short rest, you may spend one Hit Die for free. The amount it heals can not exceed the amount of damage taken since last short rest.

This gives extra healing, but you can't take back to back short rests and get more free healing. This is a power up from baseline, so be sure to make the challenges a bit tougher, especially stand-along hazards that do damage that are supposed to be attrition.
 

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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
I like it.

I think I would go as far as to had the rules where you dont regain HP on Long Rests, but regain all your HD. So no more automatic healing; every hit point is either regained thru magic or natural healing, or a mix of both as per your rule.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Instead of penalizing PCs for allowing themselves to reach 0 (risking death), you want to buff in-combat healing to make that more attractive? IMO in-combat healing should already be attractive enough given that it keeps PCs in the fight.

As for upcasting, we made it more appealing by allowing the additional dice from upcasting to automatically be the maximum. So, a 2nd level Cure Wounds, instead of 2d8+WIS mod, is 1d8+8+WIS mod. It makes upcasting spells like Sleep more appealing as well since you have a good chance to affect more creatures.

So, no, not for me, but for groups that like healing surges it would probably work well.
 

I've played with this rule, without any change to what happens when you go to zero. It makes healing spells much more attractive to use ahead of time, since the effect lasts more than a turn. (I did one HD per 5 hp on non-dice effects, but I don't think anyone had such an ability in that game.)

I also found that the faster use of HD didn't really change the adventuring day, since you run out of them about the same time you run out of spells anyways.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
Sounds interesting, but in combat healing is very purposefully designed to not keep up with incoming damage (without spending significant resources such as a high level slot(s), magic items, etc). This is in part to prevent grindy combats that are dragged out by healing effectively doubling or tripling the amount of HP opponents have to burn through to dispose of adversaries.

Of course, it might work fine for some tables. I wonder if charging a PC a Hit Die for popping up from zero HP might be an alternative to a level of exhaustion though.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Adding HD spending to healing spells is a smart idea, it increases the efficiency of healing spells without increasing the overall amount of HP available to the party.

I still think it helps to mix in a little stick along with the carrot; the fact that hitting 0 acts as method of damage reduction (a 25 damage hit only does 5 damage if I have 5 HP) is still an important tactical consideration. I like using negative HP (with negative half max being dead); most people I play with are used to it from earlier editions, so getting buy-in is easy.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Instead of penalizing PCs for allowing themselves to reach 0 (risking death)
It's a team game, and one with a lot of randomness. It is almost never a single PC's fault they reach zero. And if it is, it's often because they are serving an altruistic role like tank and inviting the attacks so others don't take them.

As such, penalizing a single player (by having them sit idle) for either team actions or for playing altruistically is exactly wrong. While I understand that some tables find no problems in penalizing the player for this, it will never be on my table so not part of any house rule suggestion I make.

, you want to buff in-combat healing to make that more attractive? IMO in-combat healing should already be attractive enough given that it keeps PCs in the fight.

Which, as listed is the actual problem - healing is more effective after dropping, so the rules encourage that behavior.

Now, you could bring back negative HPs, to make them both equal and then rely on players not wanting to drop. But that doesn't address how anemic healing in 5e is compared to damage (compare Cure Wounds and Inflict Wounds), so it is still not fully solving the problem.

To restate: any solution that does not address both low 5e healing values and healing-from-zero as more efficient is not actually addressing the problem, it's at best a band-aid dealing with a symptom.

As for upcasting, we made it more appealing by allowing the additional dice from upcasting to automatically be the maximum. So, a 2nd level Cure Wounds, instead of 2d8+WIS mod, is 1d8+8+WIS mod. It makes upcasting spells like Sleep more appealing as well since you have a good chance to affect more creatures.

See, this is a good example of partially dealing with low 5e healing. Though doing it with damaging spells breaks the game, and lower level spells upcast needs to be less powerful than a higher level spell cast on level otherwise both spells known and multiclassing breaks, but that's a different conversation that I don't want to derail this conversation with it.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
It's a team game, and one with a lot of randomness. It is almost never a single PC's fault they reach zero. And if it is, it's often because they are serving an altruistic role like tank and inviting the attacks so others don't take them.
Yes, there is a lot of randomness, but if one PC is taking the blows, it is up to the others to help keep them going before they get close to 0 HP. If the tank doesn't yell for help, or if the others don't act to keep the tank up, they are failing as a team.

Healing doesn't need to be buffed to keep the team going. They just need to do it before the tank is in the "danger zone" of hitting 0 HP.

As such, penalizing a single player (by having them sit idle) for either team actions or for playing altruistically is exactly wrong. While I understand that some tables find no problems in penalizing the player for this, it will never be on my table so not part of any house rule suggestion I make.
How long are they really "sitting idle", though? IME, a few minutes, maybe... and that is only if the others don't get them back to positive HP to get them back into the fight. I don't see players sitting idle for long at any of my games, even when combat intensive. YMMV, as it sounds like it does.

Which, as listed is the actual problem - healing is more effective after dropping, so the rules encourage that behavior.
I disagree, respectfully. Dropping removes the PC from the action and thus reduces the effective power of the party, making the encounters even more dangerous than they should be.

Yes, without a negative HP, being at 2 HP and taking 2 or taking 30 still only puts you to 0, but either way you are out for a while, so I don't see that as an encouraged nor desirable behavior.

To restate: any solution that does not address both low 5e healing values and healing-from-zero as more efficient is not actually addressing the problem, it's at best a band-aid dealing with a symptom.
You see a problem here, but I don't. 5E has more than enough healing IME, so much so that you don't actually even need a cleric or other healer in the game to play it. Again, given that a 0 HP PC is not contributing to the combat, that is incentive enough IMO to keep the PC up if possible, despite that allowing them to go to 0 HP might be more "efficient" to taking the damage.

See, this is a good example of partially dealing with low 5e healing. Though doing it with damaging spells breaks the game, and lower level spells upcast needs to be less powerful than a higher level spell cast on level otherwise both spells known and multiclassing breaks, but that's a different conversation that I don't want to derail this conversation with it.
No, we have our upcast house-rule to make upcasting all dice-based spells more attractive, not just healing. FWIW, it doesn't break anything. If you want to begin a private conversation or a new thread on the topic, feel free. Otherwise, since we've been using the rule with great effect and appeal, I have no need to justify it.

At any rate, I don't see the need or purpose for your house-rule. Nothing wrong with it, as I said before, just not for me our needed at my tables. If you wanted such a rule, I certainly think it would work fine. :)

Otherwise, I'll bow out unless addressed. Good luck with it!
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Of course, it might work fine for some tables. I wonder if charging a PC a Hit Die for popping up from zero HP might be an alternative to a level of exhaustion though.
FWIW, this is one of our house-rules for spending HD in a way. If a single HD will keep you up, you can spend it to stay up. If it doesn't cover the damage, you still drop. 🤷‍♂️
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This definitely seems like it will make in-combat healing before characters reach 0 more appealing compared to healing unconscious characters back up. It also seems like it will make in-combat healing more appealing compared to attacking and casting offensive spells. This might make combats take longer, and put pressure on characters with healing spells to act as heal bots. But that might be an acceptable result, depending on your preferences.
 


Horwath

Hero
+1
also maybe add that healing potions are Bonus action and have same mechanics towards HD usage.
Every tier of healing potions gives ability to use one more HD with it.

Also change the awful and clumsy written durable feat:
Durable: +1 any ability
When you use your HDs, always take maximum value.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's a team game, and one with a lot of randomness. It is almost never a single PC's fault they reach zero. And if it is, it's often because they are serving an altruistic role like tank and inviting the attacks so others don't take them.
Or because the opponents are smart enough to spiral on the character they see as the greatest threat...
As such, penalizing a single player (by having them sit idle) for either team actions or for playing altruistically is exactly wrong. While I understand that some tables find no problems in penalizing the player for this, it will never be on my table so not part of any house rule suggestion I make.
Which brings about a truly bizarre risk-reward dynamic: the player who intentionally puts her character at risk to take one for the team is rewarded by having the consequences of that risk - and thus the degree of risk itself - reduced or even eliminated!
Which, as listed is the actual problem - healing is more effective after dropping, so the rules encourage that behavior.
And the best fix is to go exactly the opposite direction from just about every other suggestion thus far: make it that healing someone who's at 0 has no effect except to prevent death - i.e. you're stabilized, no more death saves required, and that's it. You're still at 0, you're still down, and basic healing ain't gonna help otherwise for x-amount of time (I suggest ten minutes). Very high level healing or curative effects might bypass this delay.

Put another way: if you go down you're staying down, giving strong encouragement to prevent yourself and-or your allies from dropping in the first place.
Now, you could bring back negative HPs, to make them both equal and then rely on players not wanting to drop. But that doesn't address how anemic healing in 5e is compared to damage (compare Cure Wounds and Inflict Wounds), so it is still not fully solving the problem.
Hmmmm...never thought of it this way before but I wonder if that's an intentional design decision: to reduce reliance on healers (or healbots) by making healing generally less effective than resting as a means of h.p. recovery.
To restate: any solution that does not address both low 5e healing values and healing-from-zero as more efficient is not actually addressing the problem, it's at best a band-aid dealing with a symptom.
Increasing the healing values just serves to make a game that's already pretty easy on its players/PCs (relative to other D&D editions) even easier. Is that the result you want?
 

Instead of penalizing PCs for allowing themselves to reach 0 (risking death), you want to buff in-combat healing to make that more attractive? IMO in-combat healing should already be attractive enough given that it keeps PCs in the fight.

As for upcasting, we made it more appealing by allowing the additional dice from upcasting to automatically be the maximum. So, a 2nd level Cure Wounds, instead of 2d8+WIS mod, is 1d8+8+WIS mod. It makes upcasting spells like Sleep more appealing as well since you have a good chance to affect more creatures.

So, no, not for me, but for groups that like healing surges it would probably work well.

Clerics have a 3rd-level spell, Beacon of Hope, which maximizes all healing done in its aura. It seems like your house rule is almost like an always-on Beacon.
 

...you can spend a HD. An upcast 3rd level Healing Word for 3d4+ability could let you spend 3 HD - finally it isn't lackluster when upcast.
I could, off the top of my head, see abuse with goodberry (as a static healing amount of 1, each berry would heal 11 damage), and life transference (XGE)(damage yourself for Xd8 amount and heal another for double that amount).

I could also see issues at higher levels (basically instant full heal for the cost of a 1st level spell in a boss battle).

Is there any issue instead using the DMG optional "healing surge" (p266)(as action spend up to 1/2 hit dice to heal; DM may allow "superheroic" feel by allowing it to be done as a bonus action, usable 1/rest)?
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . Often a solution is to penalize a character for going down but that is trying to solve the wrong problem. Whack-a-mole healing happens because the rules reward it. Because you get more for the same healing spell - a 4 HP Healing Word won't prevent a character with 6 HPs from going down to 12 points of damage, but will stand them back up. . .
Way to think outside the 5e box, but Whack-a-Mole happens because of DM decisions, not because the rules reward it. When a PC goes unconscious, that PC "drops whatever it's holding and falls prone." That's an effective half-movement penalty from the fallen PC's next turn while it stands up and grabs its weapon. The DM rewards W-A-M tactics by guiding NPCs to-
  • Not utilize their auto-crit bonus on fallen opponents
  • Not kick away or take the weapons of fallen opponents
  • Move away from fallen opponents instead of finishing them.

I'd rather tinker with Healing Word than add more influence from 4e. Something like: Healing Word provides d4+modifier temporary hit points, which can exceed max HP.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I could, off the top of my head, see abuse with goodberry (as a static healing amount of 1, each berry would heal 11 damage), and life transference (XGE)(damage yourself for Xd8 amount and heal another for double that amount).
I think I didn't communicate it well then. For every 10 point of static healing done, you may add a HD.

So if a paladin lays on hand for 15, you can also get one HD. If they did it for 20, you could get two HD. The Heal spell is 70 HPs - you could also spend up to 7 HD (!!).

I could also see issues at higher levels (basically instant full heal for the cost of a 1st level spell in a boss battle).
I don't know of a single 1st level spell slot that does more than 1 die of healing so you can't add more than 1 HD. I think this may be part of me not communicating clearly.

Is there any issue instead using the DMG optional "healing surge" (p266)(as action spend up to 1/2 hit dice to heal; DM may allow "superheroic" feel by allowing it to be done as a bonus action, usable 1/rest)?
That works fine, but not as a incentive to make healing-while-up more attractive than healing-from-zero.
 

Gorg

Explorer
Instead of penalizing PCs for allowing themselves to reach 0 (risking death), you want to buff in-combat healing to make that more attractive? IMO in-combat healing should already be attractive enough given that it keeps PCs in the fight.

As for upcasting, we made it more appealing by allowing the additional dice from upcasting to automatically be the maximum. So, a 2nd level Cure Wounds, instead of 2d8+WIS mod, is 1d8+8+WIS mod. It makes upcasting spells like Sleep more appealing as well since you have a good chance to affect more creatures.

So, no, not for me, but for groups that like healing surges it would probably work well.
Wow, I like that idea! I may just incorporate it into my game. If for no other reason Than that my die rolls suck, and this could really help the party endurance. 6-8 encounters, my butt! We're lucky to get through 3 or 4 before someone's near death, we're out of spells/ ability uses; and all are severely depleted of health...

I have a fighter with a 20 AC, who can't NOT get hit, and takes massive damage from every fight. He, on the other hand, has a hit rate well below 50%. A mage who can barely land spell attacks, a Cleric whose enemies almost always make their saves vs his spells; and 1 is the most common number rolled for damage- by FAR.

That same cleric has a hit rate with his mace of over 75%- and more often than not, kills whatever he clobbers, lol. (who the heck is the fighter in this party, anyway??!) Last fight we got in, it was the cleric who got dropped to 0...
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Do the PCs add their Con mod to the HD rolled? I'd say yes, personally.

And would the houserule work well with the archetypes that hand out dX of healing has a bonus action a number of time equal to their level (Celestial warlock and dream druid, IIRC)? I think such an number of healing + healing surge can be hard to manage in terms of encounter building.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
Clerics have a 3rd-level spell, Beacon of Hope, which maximizes all healing done in its aura. It seems like your house rule is almost like an always-on Beacon.
No, it only maximized the dice gained from upcasting. The original dice for the spell are never adjusted.

Some examples:

Sleep (a big one IMO!) is normally 5d8, with +2d8 per level when upcast. Instead of rolling the +2d8, they are maximized to 16 points. So, you still roll 5d8, but gain +16 per level you upscale. This makes sleep a viable alternative to use at higher levels. For instance, a 3rd-level sleep spell would have about a 1 in 4 chance to put an uninjured Ogre (59 hp) to sleep. If you cast it RAW, rolling 9d8, your chance is less than 1%! :(

Fireball is 8d6 at 3rd level, with +1d6 per level when upcast. Casting it at 7th level (when you can do DBF, which starts at 12d6) would give you +4d6, or 24 maximized points, a total of 8d6+24 (avg 52). Now, yes, this is "better" the DBF's base 12d6 (avg. 42), BUT you can "hold" DBF for up to an extra 9d6, which has the potential then of 21d6 (73.5 avg--well above the 52 of an upcast Fireball).

Wow, I like that idea! I may just incorporate it into my game. If for no other reason Than that my die rolls suck, and this could really help the party endurance. 6-8 encounters, my butt! We're lucky to get through 3 or 4 before someone's near death, we're out of spells/ ability uses; and all are severely depleted of health...
LOL glad you like it and might use it, whatever the reason. :)

We have only had it in play for a few sessions, but so far it makes upcasting actually worth it, and before I know I've only seen spells upcast maybe 3 times in TWO YEARS of playing 5E!

Other groups see it more often, so I've heard, but we didn't hardy ever before. 🤷‍♂️
 

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