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

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


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.


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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.


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.


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.


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.

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