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D&D 5E Healing Word "HD" House Rule

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
So... Here's my take:

Whack-a-Mole gameplay might be the "Most Efficient" for the purposes of spending spell slots... but it's also the absolute worst for any kind of narrative structure. Unfortunately, due to the way healing works in 5e, the average healing spell only restores -about- 1 hit's worth of damage (assuming you roll well), which makes keeping characters up into a full time job for anyone who possesses healing magic.

The answer isn't to remove the whack-a-mole-ability of Healing Word. The answer is to increase the overall function of healing while greater incentivizing keeping player characters upright.

So! Healing Word and Cure Wounds provide their normal amount of healing -and- allow the target to spend hit dice based on the spell slot used as a reaction, allowing a character to gain significantly more hit points than the average attack deals.

But! Failed Death Saving Throws do not reset, and instead persist until the end of your next long rest. So letting someone go down multiple times becomes a serious risk of losing a party member before you get the -chance- to heal them on their 3rd or 4th down of the adventuring day.
 

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FireLance

Legend
If it does not work on unconscious characters, this spell is basically useless. It is already limited by slots. Do your players enjoy spending long stretches of combat unconscious ?
If it does not work on unconscious characters, the players simply need to be sure to use it before any character goes unconscious.

If players don't enjoy spending long stretches of combat unconscious, it seems to me that the DM should be running easier encounters.

A party that has no access to in-combat healing should be just as viable as a party that does. In-combat healing should be beneficial, but not a requirement. What this means is that for the majority of fights, none of the PCs should be dropping to 0 hit points. In fact, if the DM runs mostly Medium difficulty encounters, the game tells you this should be the case!

As a matter of personal taste, I think that the in-combat casting of healing word or cure wounds should only be really useful about once in every eight or more fights, so in my games, the impact of healing word only triggering the use of Hit Dice versus cure wounds providing healing without the need to use Hit Dice is really quite small. And as a 4E fan, I'm happy that the house rule brings healing word and cure wounds closer to their 4E roots/incarnation. And isn't the entire point of house rules to enable DMs to tweak the game however they want?
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
So... Here's my take:

Whack-a-Mole gameplay might be the "Most Efficient" for the purposes of spending spell slots... but it's also the absolute worst for any kind of narrative structure. Unfortunately, due to the way healing works in 5e, the average healing spell only restores -about- 1 hit's worth of damage (assuming you roll well), which makes keeping characters up into a full time job for anyone who possesses healing magic.

The answer isn't to remove the whack-a-mole-ability of Healing Word. The answer is to increase the overall function of healing while greater incentivizing keeping player characters upright.

So! Healing Word and Cure Wounds provide their normal amount of healing -and- allow the target to spend hit dice based on the spell slot used as a reaction, allowing a character to gain significantly more hit points than the average attack deals.

But! Failed Death Saving Throws do not reset, and instead persist until the end of your next long rest. So letting someone go down multiple times becomes a serious risk of losing a party member before you get the -chance- to heal them on their 3rd or 4th down of the adventuring day.
Yup, I've been thinking along those lines, too. Perhaps the right solution is to persist death saving throw fails to the next rest (or long rest, but I suspect rest would be enough). I agree about healing being too close to one hit's worth of HP. Have you played any game sessions with your proposed rule? It looks like it has potential.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Yup, I've been thinking along those lines, too. Perhaps the right solution is to persist death saving throw fails to the next rest (or long rest, but I suspect rest would be enough). I agree about healing being too close to one hit's worth of HP. Have you played any game sessions with your proposed rule? It looks like it has potential.
I haven't. Since I started work on Project Chronicle I've actually backburnered the game I was running indefinitely. But it's certainly a rule suggestion I'll be putting into the setting once I have a name for it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
If it does not work on unconscious characters, the players simply need to be sure to use it before any character goes unconscious.

Sure, but that makes it highly inefficient, even more than standard combat healing.

If players don't enjoy spending long stretches of combat unconscious, it seems to me that the DM should be running easier encounters.

The thing is that I'm happy with the game as it is, so my point is just that I don't want to start a string of modifications for no purpose. My point here is that once you start modifying something, you have to deal with consequences all down the line, I'm happy with harder encounters and easy healing, it's the spirit of the game and in particular of 5e.

A party that has no access to in-combat healing should be just as viable as a party that does. In-combat healing should be beneficial, but not a requirement. What this means is that for the majority of fights, none of the PCs should be dropping to 0 hit points. In fact, if the DM runs mostly Medium difficulty encounters, the game tells you this should be the case!

Except that doing this requires you to run a high number of encounters per day, which is not the way most people play. At our tables, we are probably even less combat-oriented than most tables, with very often no encounter, and 1 or 2, 3 at the very most for days in which we have encounters. But most tables will not have that many encounters. Forcing people to change the whole way of playing as a measure against a fairly simple spell that has its own limitations seems a bit extreme to me...

As a matter of personal taste, I think that the in-combat casting of healing word or cure wounds should only be really useful about once in every eight or more fights

As long as it's your personal taste it's probably fine for your games as long as you are the DM and your players are on the same line, but honestly I don't think that lots of people are that extreme.

Although honestly, at our tables, we are not even making that kind of statistics, what is important is that people have fun, that sometimes there are lots of healing words, other times none at all, but it's certainly not abused and we've had entire campaigns without combat healing at all...

, so in my games, the impact of healing word only triggering the use of Hit Dice versus cure wounds providing healing without the need to use Hit Dice is really quite small. And as a 4E fan, I'm happy that the house rule brings healing word and cure wounds closer to their 4E roots/incarnation. And isn't the entire point of house rules to enable DMs to tweak the game however they want?

Oh sure, I'm just explaining why these modifications would certainly not suit our DMs and actually probably not many other tables, too many consequences on playstyle down the line.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
So! Healing Word and Cure Wounds provide their normal amount of healing -and- allow the target to spend hit dice based on the spell slot used as a reaction, allowing a character to gain significantly more hit points than the average attack deals.

But! Failed Death Saving Throws do not reset, and instead persist until the end of your next long rest. So letting someone go down multiple times becomes a serious risk of losing a party member before you get the -chance- to heal them on their 3rd or 4th down of the adventuring day.
I like the idea of a player being able to opt to spend hit dice to boost the healing effect of a healing word/cure wounds spell. I think it can lead to interesting choices between long term and short term resources.

But as for failed death saves persisting, I'm not sure I'd go that far. It's pretty easy to accrue failed saves, particularly if a monster drops the PC in the middle of an attack sequence and opts to worry the character for 2 death saves right off the bat. And in big fights with boss monsters, it could potentially be a fast death spiral. I'd bet that Critical Role campaign 1 would have TPKed a couple of times under that sort of rule.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I like the idea of a player being able to opt to spend hit dice to boost the healing effect of a healing word/cure wounds spell. I think it can lead to interesting choices between long term and short term resources.

But as for failed death saves persisting, I'm not sure I'd go that far. It's pretty easy to accrue failed saves, particularly if a monster drops the PC in the middle of an attack sequence and opts to worry the character for 2 death saves right off the bat. And in big fights with boss monsters, it could potentially be a fast death spiral. I'd bet that Critical Role campaign 1 would have TPKed a couple of times under that sort of rule.
1) To be a death spiral it needs to make it easier to fall. Such as debuffs to AC or Max HP, so you get hit more often or can't defend yourself.
2) The rules are meant to be used together.
3) The intention is to both make healing more powerful and players use it more often to stop whack-a-mole gameplay through behavioral changes.

Yeah, someone on Critical Role might've died if you applied one of these two rules retroactively. Having them both at the outset, though, would've changed the way the Critters played the game to avoid that outcome.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
So... Here's my take:

Whack-a-Mole gameplay might be the "Most Efficient" for the purposes of spending spell slots... but it's also the absolute worst for any kind of narrative structure. Unfortunately, due to the way healing works in 5e, the average healing spell only restores -about- 1 hit's worth of damage (assuming you roll well), which makes keeping characters up into a full time job for anyone who possesses healing magic.
I would argue that keeping characters up is more than a full time job in 5e, unless we assume that only one hit lands each round.

If we instead assume that a character might be hit 2+ times in a round, it becomes evident that a single healer cannot possibly output the amount of healing necessary to keep an ally standing when presuming less than ideal circumstances. The counter to that is that sometimes an ally might not be hit at all, but due to RNG we cannot presume to know in any given round whether it will be the former or the latter.

Your proposed solution does admittedly address this to a degree. However, I think you might need to examine how HD are gained if you implement it. The rapid scaling of HD (1 to 20) is not ideally suited to such a change IMO. I think that, without changing HD scaling, your proposal is likely to push low level parties towards the 5MWD (with the alternative being TPK resulting from Exhaustion penalties).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Once you can upcast, Cure Wounds is much more efficient in terms of HPs restored.

But, efficiency needs to be evaluated not just in number of HPs, but in the boolean "character up/down" which is the real concern. And for that, it is almost more efficient to take X damage, have a character drop, and then heal them Y from zero to bring them up. Because healing Y (not from zero), then they take X, will still often end up a character down. Because any healing from zero will get a character back up, Healing Word seems much more efficient because of the caster action economy and range. Remember that the range may make it into a "this round" vs. "next round" which gives back a whole action to the downed character.

If (a) healing from zero didn't have extra efficiency built in (i.e. we had negative HPs), and (b) damage was in scale to healing, then Cure Wounds would be well balanced vs. Healing Word. However neither of those are desirable - the first leaves players bored because they are down, the second makes combat stretch and moves us back to requiring a healer role.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
If players don't enjoy spending long stretches of combat unconscious, it seems to me that the DM should be running easier encounters.
This doesn't follow in the slightest.

It is perfectly acceptable to want drag-out difficult combats with real tension and risk of death, but also not want players to sit out bored. And that's something that you should solve for at a game design level instead of making every DM fight to hit that point. For a swingy combat like D&D mechanics provide that's not even really on the table for that to be DM-only as a goal.

A party that has no access to in-combat healing should be just as viable as a party that does. In-combat healing should be beneficial, but not a requirement. What this means is that for the majority of fights, none of the PCs should be dropping to 0 hit points. In fact, if the DM runs mostly Medium difficulty encounters, the game tells you this should be the case!
I agree that in-combat healing should not be a requirement. I disagree strongly with any implication that D&D is geared towards not dropping players or that is a universal DM goal. They give different encounter difficulties besides Medium on purpose.

As a matter of personal taste, I think that the in-combat casting of healing word or cure wounds should only be really useful about once in every eight or more fights, so in my games, the impact of healing word only triggering the use of Hit Dice versus cure wounds providing healing without the need to use Hit Dice is really quite small. And as a 4E fan, I'm happy that the house rule brings healing word and cure wounds closer to their 4E roots/incarnation. And isn't the entire point of house rules to enable DMs to tweak the game however they want?
Your personal taste is valid. And the game can be played like that if the DM aims for it. That does not in the slightest make it the only valid way to play, and the game should and does support other modes of play as well.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I would argue that keeping characters up is more than a full time job in 5e, unless we assume that only one hit lands each round.

If we instead assume that a character might be hit 2+ times in a round, it becomes evident that a single healer cannot possibly output the amount of healing necessary to keep an ally standing when presuming less than ideal circumstances. The counter to that is that sometimes an ally might not be hit at all, but due to RNG we cannot presume to know in any given round whether it will be the former or the latter.

Your proposed solution does admittedly address this to a degree. However, I think you might need to examine how HD are gained if you implement it. The rapid scaling of HD (1 to 20) is not ideally suited to such a change IMO. I think that, without changing HD scaling, your proposal is likely to push low level parties towards the 5MWD (with the alternative being TPK resulting from Exhaustion penalties).
The 5 minute work day for lowbies is always going to be a thing because low level characters have incredibly limited resources. They run out of spell slots, hit dice, rages, and other abilities pretty quickly and have to take long rests to replenish and restock. Short of throwing in a Hackmaster style 20hp "Kicker" that's gonna continue to be a problem.

As far as "Exhaustion" I'm guessing you mean the persistent death saves. And yeah. That's a potential TPK issue for lowbies. Potential TPK issue for highbies, too. Anything that makes dying more likely is going to result in that issue.

The issue is: I see that as a net positive because it's meant to reinforce a different behavior from the Whack-a-Mole gameplay style. Can't have a stick or carrot situation without also having a stick on hand.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
In what way does it make them less relevant? They still heal you, which is still important. There’s just a limit to how much healing you can benefit from, which makes it much easier for the DM to balance adventuring days, since they can actually reliably predict how much HP the party has per day and can therefore properly budget it.
It is an important difference. Right now, healers have lost their role as campaign extenders, at least they are still force multipliers and day extenders. But with the change, healers start shortening days. Healing someone no longer gives them more resources, but takes them away. Coming from my 4e experience I still remember when I was healed to death, and how frustrating is to find out you cannot heal someone, because they have no surges left.


Eroded compared to when?
Compared to older editions up to the point in 3.5 where "everybody" decided wands of clw where the way to go. If you don't see the it, just notice that this excerpt that you just wrote:
The healer's problem is not healing fast enough in combat for it to be a good idea.
Healing in 5e is hard, the model of attrition is based on having tons and tons of hp and no attrition between different days. Then we have healing word. It is a complex interaction that has been explicitly made to make healers optional, but a lot of what made playing a healer fun was taken away in the process.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
Healing someone no longer gives them more resources, but takes them away. Coming from my 4e experience I still remember when I was healed to death, and how frustrating is to find out you cannot heal someone, because they have no surges left.
That doesn't make any sense. You only got "healed" to death because you had already taken that damage to begin with. If you were not "healed to death" you would have been "killed to death" anyway.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
The 5 minute work day for lowbies is always going to be a thing because low level characters have incredibly limited resources. They run out of spell slots, hit dice, rages, and other abilities pretty quickly and have to take long rests to replenish and restock. Short of throwing in a Hackmaster style 20hp "Kicker" that's gonna continue to be a problem.

As far as "Exhaustion" I'm guessing you mean the persistent death saves. And yeah. That's a potential TPK issue for lowbies. Potential TPK issue for highbies, too. Anything that makes dying more likely is going to result in that issue.

The issue is: I see that as a net positive because it's meant to reinforce a different behavior from the Whack-a-Mole gameplay style. Can't have a stick or carrot situation without also having a stick on hand.
Fair enough.

I recently started playing in a new campaign, starting from level 1, and I've been surprised at the number of fights our party has been able to get through even at levels 2 and 3 (level 1 was primarily exploration). The paladin goes down quite regularly, but he buys the rest of us the time to win.

Were we playing with your house rule, I expect we wouldn't try to push through like we've been doing, since we wouldn't want to risk the paladin's death as a result of the death saves he frequently accumulates protecting us.

Perhaps your experiences have been different from mine, but I haven't seen the 5MWD as a particular issue for lowbies in 5e.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Fair enough.

I recently started playing in a new campaign, starting from level 1, and I've been surprised at the number of fights our party has been able to get through even at levels 2 and 3 (level 1 was primarily exploration). The paladin goes down quite regularly, but he buys the rest of us the time to win.

Were we playing with your house rule, I expect we wouldn't try to push through like we've been doing, since we wouldn't want to risk the paladin's death as a result of the death saves he frequently accumulates protecting us.

Perhaps your experiences have been different from mine, but I haven't seen the 5MWD as a particular issue for lowbies in 5e.
Really depends on the party.

I've had players with Wizards at level 1 burn their spell slots on the first encounter and beg the party for a long rest, and I've had teams of rogues, fighters, and monks take out 3-4 encounters before looking to get a long rest (with short rests in there).

But I've also had groups where it's a split by the session. Sometimes they dump all their resources off the bat, sometimes they maintain things better, sometimes they explicitly avoid using any resources by going almost strictly skill-checks and combat-avoidance just in case they need them, only to find themselves taking a "Wasted" long rest at the end of a day of avoiding fights.
 

HammerMan

Adventurer
I would love the idea, if it was baked in...

I think a "Spend a HD+, or Heal as if you spent a HD" set of optional mechanics is a great nob to turn... however it effects other things.

I already have seen a wizard, cleric and rouge argue the fighter and warlock are "dragging OUT" the game by insisting on a short rest or two... if you have the rouge (NORMALLY THE SWING VOTE) having already run out of HD to spend, you disincentives the short rest even more...


ADD on idea... call it the "hard mode 4e package"

All character start at 1st level regardless of class with HP equal to con score, and a number of HD equal to 1+ con modifier (not rolled for extra hp just as healing) each level you would still gain 1 HD and roll (or average) a new HD anyway.

Healing word is creature can spend a HD and choose between using there con mod or caster's caster stat to modifier the roll. (level up able to add 1d4 per level after 1st level spell slot)
Cure wounds is creature heals as if it spent a HD and choose between using there con mod or caster's caster stat to modifier the roll. At level ups it is as if they spent a number of HD equal to 1+ 1/2 level of spell
Create a new 3rd level spell (Regen wounds maybe) that as an action lets you spend a HD to heal and 3d6+caster stat mod. Increasing the spell level increases those bonus dice SIZE (4th level is 3d8, 5th level is 3d10, 6th level is 3d12) can't be used above 6th level. then grants you the regeneration special trait equal to the caster stat mod for 1 minute (no concentration).

Short rests down to 15 minutes (but need access to safe area and water/wine/drink)

long rests get back ALL HD.

now you still have the ability to argue for a short rest (less time "wasted") Everyone has a few more HD, and a few more HP, and you have spells that bonus action let you spend HD, or standard action heal AS IF you spend a HD, and one that allows for a little more combat use in strange circumstances.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
That doesn't make any sense. You only got "healed" to death because you had already taken that damage to begin with. If you were not "healed to death" you would have been "killed to death" anyway.
If we had been playing any other edition, I would have been fine. There were three leaders with available healing when I went down, I just couldn't be healed anymore. In any other edition, having three healers to patch you up is good! In 4e, it is a bad, bad idea. I would have survived if two of these healers had been strikers instead.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
If we had been playing any other edition, I would have been fine. There were three leaders with available healing when I went down, I just couldn't be healed anymore. In any other edition, having three healers to patch you up is good! In 4e, it is a bad, bad idea. I would have survived if two of these healers had been strikers instead.
Three leaders...
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
If we had been playing any other edition, I would have been fine. There were three leaders with available healing when I went down, I just couldn't be healed anymore. In any other edition, having three healers to patch you up is good! In 4e, it is a bad, bad idea. I would have survived if two of these healers had been strikers instead.
I think in this case there's an element of not making the transition between modes of thinking from healing being an outside resource vs catalyzing an internal resource. But I certainly sympathize. I still pretty much detest the 4e healing surge model as the primary mode of healing.
 

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