D&D 5E Does “Whack-A-Mole” Healing really happen in games?

Does “whack-a-mole” healing really happen?


Rune

Once A Fool
I’ve experienced a lot of 5e D&D over the years with players of varied play-styles, and at every level. I have never once seen players purposefully wait to heal someone until they drop to 0 hp, nor has dropping to 0 hp ever felt like a trivial matter.

It makes me wonder if the whole phenomenon is just a white-room scenario that doesn’t actually/usually come up in play.

Or not. My anecdotal experience is probably skewed; for the vast majority of it, I have been the DM and I don’t shy away from attacking PCs while they’re down if it makes sense in the moment (and for the creature doing the attacking). I’m pretty confident in assuming that’s not a universal approach.

My hypothesis, therefore, is that it does happen in some groups (possibly regularly) and (almost) never happens in others. I have no guess on what the ratio is.

Discuss.
 

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I said “no” for our games. For our latest group, the high level cleric would often do a mass cure wounds or such when most other PCs were low. A few simple Healing Words would be employed at times to get another PC back on their feet, but there was generally no sense of waiting until a PC went down before most combat healing was employed.
 

J-H

Hero
Yes, the sorcerer in my Castle Dracula campaign went to 0 four times in one boss fight. The party was 5th level.
To be fair, they were fighting a poison-spitting 7-headed hydra, and he was repeatedly hitting it with fire magic...so he was a priority target.

Also, they were on platforms in water (sunken ruins) so his mobility was limited.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Yeah - it happens all the time. Combat patterns often go this way for the cleric healers in games during hard or deadly encounters:

1.) I cast Spiritual Weapon and Cantrip/Attack.
2.) I cast an attack spell or a buff (bless) and use spiritual weapon.
3.) As someone is close to being down (or is down), I use healing word as a bonus action and then attack or cast a cantrip.
4.) Repeat round 3.

This is less true of a party with effective defenders, but those are fairly rare in 5E. Most defenders are easy to move around in 5E so as to attack the back ranks.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
People probably do this strategy but they probably don't realize how ineffective and inefficient it is.

You really don't want to wait until a party member goes down, especially during certain initiative circumstances.

For example, if it goes monster, fighter, cleric and the monster knocks the fighter to 0, the fighter lost his entire turn and the cleric can spend his action to cast a cantrip or make the attack action at best. This is horrible action economy and the monster can easily knock the fighter out again next turn to reduce the party's action economy further.

If its monster, cleric, fighter and the monster takes out the fighter, its much more tolerable action economy but its still a less efficient than if the cleric just healed the fighter to close-to-full so subsequent rounds aren't spent casting cantrips and healing and spent putting better pressure on the monster.
 




I play a cleric who is also the tank. I like to make sure the party has hit points before they drop because If I go down, we have no other healing. But since I’m also the tank, I have to worry less that they’ll be downed despite my crappy healing.
In another game, the cleric can stay clear of Dangerous situations and manage healing. There’s more whack a mole because he can time healing better and he isn’t often the focus of attacks

when a monster is doing 12 points of damage, it’s pointless to heal someone from 5 to 10 hit points if the monster is going to knock hit them before they act. It’s better to wait for the monster to do damage, drop your ally and then healing word the ally so they can attack the monster.
 


Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Yes. In one adventure, my group inflicted the HP Yo-Yo on a BBEG.
The guy started out by casting Insect Swarm and catching half the group in the zone, so we decided he was a high-priority target. Eventually he went down. His bodyguard fed him a Potion of Healing; he got up and ran. The Barbarian hit him with a throwing axe and he went down. Repeat bodyguard action. Meanwhile my Halfling Arcane Trickster is trying to chase down this guy - running through the bodyguard's space to the DM's consternation - but he's a Wood Elf getting into high gear and I have no daggers to throw at him. (The bodyguard caught up to me so I had to deal with that.)
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Not in my experience so far. I mean, if someone is down, getting them up or stable is priority, but waiting for them to go down to heal them seems like a terrible strategy, and that can only work if the DM eases up frequently.

EDIT to answer the actual question: Yes, I am sure it happens. But I remain confuzzled as to why it would.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Not in my experience so far. I mean, if someone is down, getting them up or stable is priority, but waiting for them to go down to heal them seems like a terrible strategy, and that can only work if the DM eases up frequently.

EDIT to answer the actual question: Yes, I am sure it happens. But I remain confuzzled as to why it would.
Agreed. Especially if the downed PC gets attacked again before the healer can heal. Instant death save fails and then dead PC

I don't wait for my car to run out of gas completely before getting more gas.
 



TheSword

Legend
Has a person been healed from 0 hp and got up and started fighting, yes.

Does this happen repeatedly, no.

Healing word is the problem. Don’t have this in the party then it’s not a problem.
 

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