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Pathfinder 2E Discussing a new PF2 healing paradigm

CapnZapp

Legend
PF2 healing options are misaligned to the needs and expectations of the game.

What the game needs, expands and what makes combat encounters work best is: between each encounter all characters return to full hp; characters start each encounter at full hp. But healing options come across as a throw-back to the much more simulationist era of 3E or PF1, meaning time or magic resources are needed to heal up. (Most healing rules are also much too complex and filled with dice rolling and decision points, but here we'll focus on the fundamentals) But tracking this just isn't interesting or relevant - the fact remains that characters need to start the next encounter at full hp. Whether the rest takes 10 minutes or 1 hour doesn't matter, you simply do not press on until at or close to max hp.

The disparity between having a full-time combat healer (such as a spellcaster with access to the Heal spell) and not having that is enormous.

The subgame of focus points and when and where to use them and regain them basically assumes you will often take rests no longer than 30 minutes, at least if the "minigame" of "choose your 10-minute resting activity" is meant to be a meaningful choice rather than "since we need 50 minutes to rest up, I'll take all the resting activities I need".

In old D&D your total hp buffer was expected to be sufficient for many battles, where you only lose a portion each time. Deciding when and where to heal back up and when and where to retire for the day was a resource management aspect of those games. In PF2 you can't expect heroes to press on at only half hp, so any resource management framework needs to manage another resource than hit points. Partially PF2 does already offer this (through Conditions such as Drained and Fatigued).

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What would serve the game much better is much simpler and more streamlined healing options that actually are aligned with the basic goal of getting the heroes back up to full between encounters. This could also provide an opportunity to reintroduce resource management into the game, and make the presence or absence of a combat healer such as a Cleric less of a game-changer.

We'll take familiar terms from other D&D games and use them for our purposes:

§ A healing surge is 1/6th of your maximum hit point total (round up). Write down your healing surge value on your character sheet.
Every character starts with six healing surges. This maximum can be reduced to three, but no lower.
Whenever your maximum hit point total is reduced by conditions, curses etc do not recalculate your healing surge value. Instead reduce the maximum number of healing surges you can have by one per Drained condition or similar, or by one per amount of max hp reduction comparable to your healing surge value, to a minimum of three healing surges.

§ You automatically regain hit points by resting for free.
You heal an amount of damage equal to your healing surge value for every 5 minutes of uninterrupted rest. Thus you will be restored to full health in half an hour (unless forced to run, partake in combat, cast hostile spells, etc). During resting time you can perform any low-intensity exploration activity you like, such as Repair or Refocus. This does not cost you any Healing Surges.

§ Actions and activities changes as follows:
Healing Surge (1-action) [HEALING]: Spend a Healing Surge to instantly heal an amount of damage equal to your healing surge value. This action is available to all characters.

Treat Wounds [EXPLORATION, HEALING, MANIPULATE]: You spend 10 minutes attempting to restore a spent Healing Surge to a living creature (targeting yourself, if you so choose). There is no timed immunity, but a given creature cannot benefit from simultaneous Treat Wounds activities. The DC for the Medicine check is the level-based DC for the creature's level, but you may elect lower the DC by 5 by doubling the time needed for the activity.

Battle Medicine: this activity is retired and not available.

§ Once every 24 hours, you can take a period of rest (typically 8 hours), after which you regain all spent Healing Surges, and you might recover from or improve certain conditions.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
The intended impact of these rules:

  • After an encounter, everybody simply starts healing back up since that's what the game needs anyway. Very little administration is needed (no decision points, no skill checks, no dice rolls, minimal arithmetic). After a maximum of 30 minutes, everybody is ready to go - their hp totals are back to maximum, so the next encounter can take place as expected.
  • Healing back up won't require more than 30 minutes, and often less, meaning that you really do get only 1-3 choices of exploration activities. "Will you refocus three times to regain all your focus points even if that means you won't have time to repair your shield?" and similar questions regain their relevance. (You may of course elect to keep resting longer than 30 minutes, but the demands on healing no longer practically enforces this)
  • The GM can still arrange running battles or "waves" of monsters, simply by harassing the heroes multiple times within the same half hour.
  • The Battle Medicine action has suffered problems throughout the history of the game and even today its exact mechanisms are contested. In this variant, Battle Medicine is replaced by the Healing Surge action and removed from play.
  • Resource management is reintroduced, not by expecting heroes to enter new encounters at less than full hp, but by asking them: how few Healing Surges do you dare have at the start of encounters? Instead of Medicine healing hit points, hit points are replenished automatically, making that skill less overpowered/mandatory. Medicine instead replenishes Healing Surges (and through a much simplified procedure).
  • Since characters now have the capability to heal themselves (effectively everybody has twice the hit point total) hopefully a Cleric (or other "main healer") will be seen as less overpowered/mandatory too
 
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I'll just add as a point of order that you can't Refocus three times in order to get all your Focus points back. The Refocus activity can only restore Focus spent since you last Refocused or had your daily preparations. So a character with two Focus points but nothing that lets them recover both essentially has one per-encounter Focus point and one per-day Focus point.

That said, I'd like to see some attrition, and I think the 4e model had it mostly right. The exact numbers would need some fixing, but something like this perhaps:
  • You have some amount of healing surges that each heal some fraction of your total hp.
  • When taking a rest, you can spend healing surges freely.
  • In combat (or when you're otherwise strapped for time), healing surges need to be triggered somehow. This would be various abilities that today allow for "plentiful" healing: divine font, lay on hands, battle medicine, perhaps others. These abilities should reset on a short rest and/or be abilities you can use multiple times per day.
  • Resource-intensive healing magic (such as Heal/Soothe spells cast without benefit of Divine Font) could either work like today, or allow healing surges to be triggered without being spent.
  • Divine Font would need reworking to be a "trigger healing surge" ability instead of an "extra Heal spells" ability. Remove the differentiation between Heal and Harm fonts, because Harm is mostly a trap option.
  • As a side effect, since Harm would no longer need to mirror Heal, it could be reworked into a stronger spell.
 

Teemu

Adventurer
Why not use stamina? It has a built in attrition model in resolve, like 4e healing surges, plus apparently there’s less busywork healing after a fight.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I didn't like the GMG Stamina variant - but I'll quote myself as to why:
Stamina rules is interesting but I fear just adds complexity for no net gain.
Agreed.

The introduction to the concept of Stamina Points was very generic and completely failed to acknowledge how Pathfinder 2 already by the default plays much like older games with Stamina Points! (Meaning that any group where even a single party member invest in Medicine and its feats will heal up incurred damage in a matter of minutes or hours, not days).

Plus the implementation came across as needlessly cluttery to me. Why not simply say
  • half your hit points are now stamina points
  • damage depletes stamina before hit points
  • healing increases hit points before stamina
  • you regain all lost stamina in 10 minutes

Do take a look at the official rules (GMG page 200). You will find the above does everything in four lines that Paizo needs two pages for, no cluttery resolve points or special actions or detailed calculations needed! :)

And yes, if you think "this basically means you can skip Medicine if you only take it to heal up between encounters" you're entirely correct - that shows you how redundant Stamina really is in Pathfinder 2!
Note how quickly I could whip up an alternate implementation that accomplishes the exact same results with much less rules complexity.

The healing surge idea of this thread is really based on these insights.

The reason I'm having actual surges and not just the above auto-healing is simply because I wanted there to be a resource for you to manage. :)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'll just add as a point of order that you can't Refocus three times in order to get all your Focus points back. The Refocus activity can only restore Focus spent since you last Refocused or had your daily preparations. So a character with two Focus points but nothing that lets them recover both essentially has one per-encounter Focus point and one per-day Focus point.
I have completely missed this. Thanks.

But ouch. Focus spells are already middling - each round you're casting a focus spell is a round you're not casting a better spell, and when you want to conserve spell slots, just use a cantrip. The gain vs a cantrip is not worth the loss vs a better spell.

And that evaluation was made under the assumption you could regain all your focus points between encounters!

This means focus spells really suck... (The game desperately needs a rule where spending a focus spell point also reduces the casting time by one action, so these spells and the entire focus subsystem becomes worth your while)
 
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I have completely missed this. Thanks.

But ouch. Focus spells are already middling - each round you're casting a focus spell is a round you're not casting a better spell, and when you want to conserve spell slots, just use a cantrip. The gain vs a cantrip is not worth the loss vs a better spell.

And that evaluation was made under the assumption you could regain all your focus points between encounters!

This means focus spells really suck... (The game desperately needs a rule where spending a focus spell point also reduces the casting time by one action, so these spells and the entire focus subsystem becomes worth your while)
Depends on the focus spells. I'm playing an elemental sorcerer, and I've been happy with first one Elemental Toss per encounter (one action, attack roll for 1d8/spell level – won't win any awards for flashiness, but a great filler when you have an action to spare) and now Elemental Blast (a versatile AOE dealing 2d6 less than 2d6/spell level in either a line, cone, or small burst).
 

Depends on the focus spells. I'm playing an elemental sorcerer, and I've been happy with first one Elemental Toss per encounter (one action, attack roll for 1d8/spell level – won't win any awards for flashiness, but a great filler when you have an action to spare) and now Elemental Blast (a versatile AOE dealing 2d6 less than 2d6/spell level in either a line, cone, or small burst).
That’s definitely true for the Elemental Sorcerer Focus. Of course, as an Illusionist Wizard, you can quail in terror before my ability to create four squares of difficult terrain (or larger in I use more than one action) once per encounter.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Note: I am aware the rules suggestion offered in this thread ties Healing Surges to individual characters, much like 4th Edition.

Now, if you found 4E problematic because even the Ranger and the Wizard felt compelled to step in to take the occasional hit just because their healing surges would otherwise go unused, despite how unnatural that would feel, I understand your concern. However, since these healing surges can be restored fairly quickly (through Treat Wounds), I do not foresee the same consequences. It's not that the fighter can run out of surges, so the Ranger or Wizard needs to take over tanking duties for the rest of the day.
 

In PF2 you can't expect heroes to press on at only half hp, so any resource management framework needs to manage another resource than hit points.

Then... don't press on until you're healed? Assuming of course that situation won't press on you rather than wait politely in designated encounter areas.
 



meltdownpass

Explorer
I'll just add as a point of order that you can't Refocus three times in order to get all your Focus points back. The Refocus activity can only restore Focus spent since you last Refocused or had your daily preparations. So a character with two Focus points but nothing that lets them recover both essentially has one per-encounter Focus point and one per-day Focus point.

This itself seems like a really poor and finicky rule that'd I'd encourage people to ignore. Focus spells aren't powerful enough that additional limitations are needed.

I don't agree that PCs being fully healed between every encounter is desirable. I mean people are playing PF2 because they don't want D&D 5e. Why bring in the 5e assumptions?

I don't think it has anything to do with 5e assumptions, but rather about the mechanics of PF2. My group has learned the hard way that you can't simply press onward, assuming that being at 80% HP is going to cut it. Hit points are easy to restore out of combat, so walking into a fight without full healing immediately puts you on the backfoot. Even if you're in a dungeon and the next encounter is literally opening the next door over, you should never open that door until you've spent an hour+ doing the Treat Injury minigame. Failing to do so is pretty likely to result in character death or total wipe.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
I don't agree that PCs being fully healed between every encounter is desirable.
If we're talking role-playing games in general, I kind of agree. I have no problems with games where you can keep adventuring while at half health.

I mean people are playing PF2 because they don't want D&D 5e. Why bring in the 5e assumptions?
I'm not. Put simply, the Pathfinder 2 game expects you to go into each combat at full health. Combat is calibrated with this in mind. Medicine and focus healing is provided to give heroes the ability to heal up fully between encounters. Combats are difficult enough when you start with all your hit points, and there's normally no reason to not do this.

tl;dr: It's not me pushing for fully-healed characters, it's the game.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Seems ok, it would need playtesting to find the right amount of surges per level as im not sure 6 is right.
You have 6 surges always. The number does not change as you level up. But you always heal back up fully with those six surges. If you have 60 hp a surge is 10 hp. When you level up a few times and gain another 30 hp, a surge is 15 hp.

The number 6 could have been 5 or 8. Why did I choose 6? Reasons include:
  • I wanted you to heal back up in about thirty minutes time. You can have up to three focus points, each rest activity (refocus, repairing your shield, whatever...) is ten minutes. So thirty minutes seems to be the sweet spot. Rest much longer than that, and the "choose your rest activity" minigame goes away; you can simply take all the rest activities you want. Rest for only 10 minutes, and some classes suffer for it. So I wanted a number that was evenly divisible by 30. Three surges is too coarse, too chunky. Six is just about right :)
  • since you spend one action per surge, the amount of healing should be comparable to what Battle Medicine used to give you. That is, a nice chunk of healing, useful enough that you might actually use it in combat, but not overwhelmingly much. You heal half your hp each time you spend your full three-action turn. This seemed about right. Not too slow, not too fast... :)
  • since each condition removes one surge, I needed to consider the effective maximum. As far as I can see, you almost never gain more than 4 levels of a condition. So I wanted more surges than 4, but not many more. I settled on 6 :)
 

payn

Hero
Ok, I get that. Does it feel right at every level tho? One of the things I love about the old resource attrition is that it changes as you level. Its easier to keep pressings your luck at higher levels. Or is this more like the 5E assumption of 6-8 encounters per day no matter what level expectation?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Ok, I get that. Does it feel right at every level tho? One of the things I love about the old resource attrition is that it changes as you level. Its easier to keep pressings your luck at higher levels. Or is this more like the 5E assumption of 6-8 encounters per day no matter what level expectation?
Interesting thoughts.

I totally get the "why not start heroes off with few surges and give them more later for that epic feel?" vibe. And indeed that would not be wrong. My own answer, though, is "the game is already tilting easier at higher levels; I don't my rule to reinforce this".

It's at low level you would need more surges. At higher levels you have enough gold and spell slots to manage by other means. But I can't take away a surge once I have given it out, so "the number stays the same" is what I went with. This is also the easiest design.

Regards
 


Having 6 surges that each heal 1/6th of your hit points means you get go from full health to 0 twice. Or from half to full health four times
It means that one battle where you get dropped you can fully heal and then you're tapped for healing for the day. You might get two encounters
Is that enough?

Why even have a cap on the adventuring day? Players are going to want to rest to regain spells fairly often. A cap on healing encourages a fifteen minute work day
 

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