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D&D 5E Cure Wounds needs help or Healing Word needs a nerf...


Most of my players are used to the older editions, and this is the first time I've run a cleric in 5E. To try something different, I went with Healing Word instead of Cure Wounds for my cleric. So far, only have played one session, but my experience sure makes me feel like 5E decided to beat down healing magic and real took a dislike to Cure Wounds.

For quick comparison, Healing Word heals only 1d4 + mod, but it's a bonus action and has a range of 60 feet. It's a great spell for getting fallen allies back up on their feet while still allowing the character to get an attack in (can use a cantrip attack spell or weapon). The downside is the 1d4 hp healed, and +1d4 hp/spell level when upcast means it will quickly get outstripped by Cure Wounds.

Cure Wounds takes an action, is a touch spell and heals 1d8 + mod. It's clearly designed for out-of-combat use. It requires you to be in contact with the target, takes your action and doesn't heal enough to get ahead of monster attacks.

Before I actually implement anything in my own games, I'd like to get thoughts on how the two spells are actually used in your game.

At this time, these are my thoughts for spell changes:

Cure Wounds: change Range 30 (or 15?) feet, in addition to the normal healing, the target can also choose to expend hit dice to heal up to the level of the spell (thus casting it as a 4th level spell would heal the target 4d8+mod, and the target could also use up to 4 hit dice to heal more damage). This lets it scale better to damage dealing magic and abilities, without upsetting overall daily healing too terribly much.

Healing Word: heals 1d6 / spell level + mod, 1d4 is a bit too anemic considering the bump in hit points classes got.

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DM's Guild Author
In my games, I applied the house rule that Cure Wounds heals the full 8 hit points/spell level + mod. This way, it can compete with Healing Word's versatility even during combat (and actually gets better when cast at higher levels).

You also need to be able to see the target of your Healing Word to target them.

That is not possible a lot of the time.

Darkness + Devils sight Warlocks Im looking at you.

Agreed. Also, sometimes you also want to be able to attack and heal in the same round, and that calls for healing word. When you need to do serious healing, especially for a life cleric, an upcast cure wounds really can pull ahead of healing word.

When I played a life cleric I regularly took both. Healing word was the emergency band aid from range or get them back on their feet spell. Cure wounds was the one you want to use for serious healing, particularly when using higher slots.


A bonus action spell simply lets you use a cantrip with it. Most clerics damage output with cantrips is not very good. So the gap isn't as much as one might think.

Now, on a swords or valor bard build, or with a warlock 2 dip, it can be a bigger difference (because the non-leveled-spell action has more value). Or if you are tank-dodging or the like.


4e was probably best for healing with a lot of attack plus heal someone for 1/4 of their hp plus some powers.

3e was ok, about half the classes could use a cure light wound wand for out of combat healing or to do static 1d8+1 healing in a combat pinch for a full action.

AD&D was decent, clerics got a few more 1st level CLW spells from wisdom and there was fewer hp to heal.

Basic was rough, nobody got any healing until the cleric gained second level and got their 1 CLW spell.

I'd rate 5e a little above 3e on that scale, you can pop people up from dying at range, lots of spellcasters get the core hp healing spell on their list and it is adjustable on the fly. Its debatable though, the +1/level quickly beats out +1/stat bonus on your cure wounds in most situations.

Those are two different spells for two different uses. For raw healing power, cure wounds is where to go. For healing in dangerous situations, healing word is where it's at. What's more important to you?

I've found that if you're planning on healing, having both Action and Bonus Action options is helpful quite often. more than you'd think until you've played it as few times.

But if you're convinced Cure Wounds isn't strong enough to be worthwhile (a common opinion), then I can also say form experience that adding 2d8 per spell slot does not result in anything game-breakingly powerful.


You're not the first to notice that in combat healing is not as strong as incoming damage. I would think that is intended in the design, if in combat healing was stronger, it would put more focus on healing spells and their application to maximize combat potential...leading to the "Who's going to play the cleric?" syndrome. Granted, some players prefer that style of play, and you can get fairly close if you put your resources into it.

Personally, I prefer in combat healing being a bit less effective, as it fits the fantasy narrative I enjoy a little better.

As for HW vs CLW, you may have a point there on the comparison, but I would just like to note that in most past editions, healing took an action and was touch range as well. I would advise you to wait before adjusting the healing in the game. 5e is calibrated a little differently, and more classes get healing magic, not to mention things like Second Wind & Short Rests. There's also the alternate short rest rules in the DMG, making it 5 minutes. One of the reasons that short Rests in 5e are an hour long, imho, is to make it more of a hard choice of when to rest, whereas with 5 minute rests, it's pretty much after every encounter.

If you check average healing done, CW beats HW by a meager 2 hp. This is at the cost range and a possible attack with a cantrip. If you take the random way, CW does less than HW about 37.5% of the time (rolls 1-3). It means that the CW is superior or equal at 62.5%. These are pretty good odds if you ask me. The higher you upcast, the less randomness will kick in and CW will always be better. I don't think that cure wound is in a bad spot.


Healing word could probably heal 1 hp and people would still use it due to bonus action.

Both are so anemic relative to incoming damage you don't really use them to heal. More to not die.

And that's where healing word wins.
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We have one player who absolutely believes that Healing Word is superior to Cure Wounds every time. I heartily disagree, and usually have both if available, at least until higher levels where prepared spells become stretched out.

Healing Word is obviously meant for combat healing, especially to get someone up from 0 HP. The big benefit of that use is that the roll doesn't really matter, since the target is likely going back down in another hit anyway. Upcasting HW is really inefficient, however, since you quickly get to the point of diminishing returns (your ability modifier is usually equal to or better then the roll of a die).

Cure Wounds is useful outside of combat, or even in combat when upcast. It sucks to take an entire action to heal, so you want to get the maximum use out of it. Casting it as a 3rd or 4th level spell is a good option to get the party's primary damage dealer back in the battle, or to keep the tank holding the chokepoint.


If you check average healing done, CW beats HW by a meager 2 hp. This is at the cost range and a possible attack with a cantrip. If you take the random way, CW does less than HW about 37.5% of the time (rolls 1-3). It means that the CW is superior or equal at 62.5%. These are pretty good odds if you ask me. The higher you upcast, the less randomness will kick in and CW will always be better. I don't think that cure wound is in a bad spot.
At 16 stat and a L1 slot, HW is 5.5 HP and CW is 7.5 HP, or 36% more, or 2 HP more.

A cantrip that has a 50-50 chance of landing and deals 1d8 damage is 2.25 HP of damage on average.

CW isn't less than HW 37.5% of the time. It is worse 18.75% of the time, tied 12.5% of the time, and better 68.75% of the time.

Use a L 3 slot instead of a L 1 slot, and have a stat of 18 instead of 16, and HW is 10.5 while CW is now 17.5; 67% better, or 7 points. At this point your cantrip might do 2d10 damage, or 11, and land half the time for 5.5 HP. Even if you value monster HP equal to player HP, CW comes out ahead in total HP swing often.

HW also used an action + bonus action; CW just used action. If you have other uses for your bonus action -- say, a bonus action war domain attack -- the calculus changes even more.


I think healing in 5e is overvalued. It's really bad but it's always treated as this big deal and 'OP' if it's too good and I don't get it. It doesn't make you win any faster.


If it's not powerful enough, your players won't take it, and it will be forgotten. Which is okay. But if you want ideas about how to beef it, look at the Heal spell from PF2 for some good ideas about how a cleric can put more oompf into their healing spells. It might be good for inspiration even if you don't use that game system.

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