Pathfinder 2E Healing as a Playstyle in Pathfinder 2e

The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
One thing I've been catching myself thinking about lately is how well Pathfinder 2e handles healing as a playstyle, for one thing its very useful to have someone actively on it dedicated to it (or for multiple someone's to pick up smaller forms of it) for taking on encounters on the upper end of the scale. But for another, if you're the sort of player that doesn't mind playing a healer conceptually, the actual action of playing it is fun. Heals can feel big and impactful, you can enhance them with feats, and subclasses often have their own tweaks, like the Angelic Halo Focus Spell, and there are heals tucked away in Archetypes too that are worth taking.

I currently have three distinct healers/partial healers in our Pirate West Marches, none of whom are clerics

The Invoker - My Flexible prep Witch Elyessa has a few big slots that I can flex into and out of healing with and currently has the Occult tradition (Spinner of Threads is a very useful familiar benefit for a healer) but I find myself using Life Boost and Spirit's Absolution to supplement those slots, especially since Soothe leaves me with one action and the occult list is less friendly to AOE healing than the Divine List is.

The Medic Monk - Daisetsu, my Bo-Staff Toting Vanara Monk, uses the Medic Archetype for healing, and it has interesting ramifications for action economy, I can often get both my attacks in via flurry, and then still move and battle medicine someone. Alternatively I can use Doctor's Visitation to move and Battle Medicine someone, and then do something else-- that'll be really relevant to let me perform a two action Ki Blast in addition to the move and battle medicine.

Protective Tree Frog - Nolder my Grippli/Tripkee Ardande Kineticist spams Protective Tree via Timber Sentinel as often as possible while popping elemental blast, or yeeting Fresh produce into people's hands, the damage reduction while not strictly healing, plays much the same role in making big boss hits palatable and later I'll be able to heal more directly-- I should also be set up to use the Living Bonfire impulse, then spend most of my time on protective tree and healing while popping solitary third action elemental blasts with the burning logs.

These are some really varied builds, that all let me do other things, rely on different stats, and let me experience very different healing techniques.
 
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The-Magic-Sword

Small Ball Archmage
Are you talking in combat healing, out of combat healing, or both?
Both, Medic Dedication uses Treat Wounds but benefits Battle Medicine somewhat as well, Elyessa can life boost someone every 10 minutes so in a lot of situations she can just full heal the party, while Nolder's healing just all works out of combat too. I'm thinking primarily of the in combat minigame of healing, but I do like the 'logistics' side of out of combat healing and making sure the party has it.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Both, Medic Dedication uses Treat Wounds but benefits Battle Medicine somewhat as well, Elyessa can life boost someone every 10 minutes so in a lot of situations she can just full heal the party, while Nolder's healing just all works out of combat too. I'm thinking primarily of the in combat minigame of healing, but I do like the 'logistics' side of out of combat healing and making sure the party has it.
I dont really care for the out of combat mini game of healing. I feel like PF2 is an encounters game in disguise. So, im a more interested in combat features I guess.
 


Bouncing off this, I do wish there were more spells with Heal and Harm's design and more spells that take one action. The variable usage of actions is a great demonstration of the advantages of the three actions per turn system, both by allowing you to create powerful effects, increase tactical strategies by giving players the chance to make risky choices that can pay off, and by making people engaged by making them ask:

  • Do I only Heal myself with the one action and then try to hit these enemies with an AoE?
  • Do I risk potentially reviving or healing enemies by using a three action Heal, because we desperately need it?*
  • Should I use it now, even if this combat ends earlier, just to end it?

I think the fact that Harm heals undead or creatures with void healing is great design as well. With the right party, a Cleric who takes the Harm font is not just a caster who can afford to take a lot more utility than normal and rely on Harm to deal damage, but also one that can heal up certain members of the team, and, in most circumstances, avoid healing enemies.

* I do like that Pathfinder 2e empowers GMs to decide whether a creature either dies or is destroyed on reaching zero HP or gains Dying and has to roll to recover. I use this a lot to give my PCs a chance to save enemy NPCs (as my PCs generally don't want to kill people), and it opens up a design space where Healing in an AoE can cause problems if it brings up an enemy. It leads to some fascinating calculations.
 

Staffan

Legend
Bouncing off this, I do wish there were more spells with Heal and Harm's design and more spells that take one action. The variable usage of actions is a great demonstration of the advantages of the three actions per turn system, both by allowing you to create powerful effects, increase tactical strategies by giving players the chance to make risky choices that can pay off, and by making people engaged by making them ask:

  • Do I only Heal myself with the one action and then try to hit these enemies with an AoE?
  • Do I risk potentially reviving or healing enemies by using a three action Heal, because we desperately need it?*
  • Should I use it now, even if this combat ends earlier, just to end it?
I agree that variable action spells are cool and the game could use more of them. I think they're using them sparingly because of the risks of analysis paralysis, but they have experimented a little with using them on more offensive spells (notably horizon thunder sphere which uses 2 or 3 actions or 2 whole rounds).

I think in the case of heal specifically, the difference between 1 and 2 actions is a little too big: not only do you get a range increase, you also get almost triple the healing (12.5 per rank instead of 4.5 per rank). This was, I believe, a thing they changed post-playtest and didn't have time to playtest in its new form – in the playtest version it was 1d8 healing regardless of the number of actions, but this lead to clerics dumping all their heals into three one-action heals for maximum effort and then they were out of juice. I think the 2-action heal is about where it's supposed to be, but the 1-action heal is a little weak.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Thinking more on it, I would skip HP out of combat restoration becasue It just feels like a chore, but focus on aliment recovery. Poison, illness, disease, etc... I think that would a more interesting shift.
 

Staffan

Legend
Thinking more on it, I would skip HP out of combat restoration becasue It just feels like a chore
Yeah, Treat Wounds is a lot of busywork. If I run Pathfinder 2 again, I think I will do one of two things:
  1. Use the Stamina rules from the GMG. Basically, it splits hp into hp and stamina, and allows for full recovery of all stamina by resting for 10 minutes and spending a resolve point (of which you have a number equal to your main stat).
  2. Remove rolling from Treat Wounds. If you're Trained in Medicine, you can restore 2d8 hp with 10 minutes of treatment. If you're better than that, you restore more. This would only affect Treat Wounds, not things like Battle Medicine – the goal is to get rid of rolling a dozen skill checks without any real consequence for failure.
 

I think Treat Wounds work best if combats are being strung together or the players have control over the pace of combat to a certain degree, and there is tension over whether or not they would be healed before the next battle.
 

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