D&D 5E House rule for in combat healing and yoyo at 0 HP

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It also helps if you have more skill, allies, or planning than your opponents. But that goes beyond this thread's considerations...


Avoiding damage? What about Dodge, Disengage, Dash, and Ready actions? Other party members can take some damage too - that's why they wore armor.


I don't know. I always thought "you don't die today" was a good outcome of healing.


Is there honestly a shortage of these options?
In general to have fast low round combat that means a PC can take alot of damage in a hurry. Usually they go from perfectly fine to in the danger zone in a single round - meaning they don’t typically have time to take a defensive action before they are already in trouble.
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
In general to have fast low round combat that means a PC can take alot of damage in a hurry. Usually they go from perfectly fine to in the danger zone in a single round - meaning they don’t typically have time to take a defensive action before they are already in trouble.
Guess I'm not familiar with fast low round combat. But if any PC - any warrior even - can get into the red zone in one round, that's the time to trip the bard and run like hell.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Guess I'm not familiar with fast low round combat. But if any PC - any warrior even - can get into the red zone in one round, that's the time to trip the bard and run like hell.
  • AC is unreliable.
  • Monster focus fire (or partial focus fire) can easily double or triple the potential damage toward a player.
  • These factors lead to much variability in damage received round to round.
*Averages just don’t reveal the full context.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
So it is boring.

That is all. When sustained healing surpassing incoming damage, a lot of drama is removed from combat.

They're burning all their actions and resources on not dying?
It doesn't have to be all. We get this neat situation where if damage is below sustained healing, the damage is effectively zero - it just reduces the damage the healers do back.

When damage passes sustained healing, non-linearly the healing as a defence mechanism fails (often catastrophically).

And if healing is cheap enough, you get these fights that transition from snooze fests of no danger rapidly to TPKs as the damage output of the monsters changes by a small percentage.



That isn't going to win a fight, that is just losing slower. In order to win a fight, you need to spend those actions and resources on actually winning. (Achieving objectives, defeating opponents etc.)
That is the beauty of the temp HP idea: since temp HP doesn't stack, there is an inherent encouragement to do things other than heal. If they are taking so much damage that other party members are using their actions and burning resources just to stop them going down, then either they are either getting focused by all the opponents, took a chain of crits, or are holding the line against a superior foe - in which case it is just good party play to try to stop them from dying.
You seem to be confusing "good tactics" with "good game design". A party faced with a certain situation with certain resources doing X might be good party play, but good game design decides what kind of situations a party faces and what kind of resources they have to deal with it.

"We negate the damage threat" is great tactics, but poor drama. Because now, any damage threat below a certain threshold has no dramatic impact -- there is no risk.

If negating the damage threat is hard or impossible, now drama from damage is more continuous. Ie, with cheap fast healing of 20 HP/turn, "I took 20 damage out of my 60 HP" is a trivial problem you can deal with forever (while slots last), while "I took 40 damage" is an emergency and the PC is dead next turn regardless of what the healer does.

By level 6, level 1 slots might be "cheap", so in baseline 5e cheap healing is about 6.5 HP/round at level 5 (healing word, +4 wisdom). A life cleric dip using 2nd level healing spirit and healing word heals 15 HP/round (and has actions free beyond the first). That is a good 30% of a fighter's full HP bar at this level - already we are getting into the space where foes that don't threaten to drop a PC in a single set of attacks aren't a serious threat against PC healing.

And as I have stated, Life clerics are (in my experience) already past the point of "healing that is too good".

I think that this is what you and many others of the "Kick the player when they're down" opinion are not getting: We do not like that optimal healing is performed at 0HP. We think that the mechanics rewarding that playstyle encourage degenerate gameplay. We would like the mechanics to encourage using healing while the character is still up. We would like character concept of someone who can support the party by healing to be a viable option.
Again, optimal healing is not performed at 0 HP. A PC that is dropped to 0 HP is likely to die before any healing occurs. Only if the PCs get lucky, or the DM pulls punches, does the 0 HP PC survive to get healed.

In the extraordinary case where a PC at 0 HP gets healed before they are dead, they are likely to be one swing away from being back at 0 HP and (again) almost certainly dead before a heal can land. So they can sacrifice themselves to get in a few more swings, or disengage and run for it while hoping someone else in the party slows the enemies down.

A PC at 0 HP is a dead PC - any surviving PCs who hit 0 HP are those that won a hail mary chance of survival.


Punishing the player for their character dropping down, whether through hitting their character whilst they are bleeding out, or death-spiral-inducing conditions inflicted on players who do drop to 0HP isn't a useful attitude unless you give the players more options to prevent their characters dropping to 0HP in the first place. Healing is one of those options.
The PC hit 0 HP, they already lost.

You avoid hitting 0 HP by doing stuff like "not fighting", killing foes before they kill you, healing up before continuing the adventure, etc. Short rests are great for this.

A level 6 fighter with 16 constitution has 58 HP, a second wind (per short rest) of 11.5, and HD healing 51 HP. In a single fight the fighter takes 69.5 damage to drop (nice). If they take 2 short rests, they get to take up to 58 + 51 + 11.5*3 = 143.5 damage before they drop.

The level 6 cleric who heals with cure wounds has 12 spells over a day with total levels of 21 for 142.5 HP healed. With 14 con, they also have 45 HP and 39 healing from HD, contributing 226.5 HP/day. This is already bigger than the Fighter's contribution by half-again.

Upping this to a Life cleric 1/Druid 5 who uses L 2 healing spirit 4 times, mass healing word L 3 3 times on 3 targets, and L 1 cure wounds 4 times we are talking 353.5 HP healed/day, almost 2.5x the fighter's contribution.

As I have stated, as I have observed, healing in 5e is at the edge of being too fast, and life clerics already push it over the limit. Further boosting just makes the HP of non-healers more irrelevant, and the current HP of a character just a measure of "do you die in one round? If not, not a danger".

I've seen it in 5e, 4e, 3e, OD&D, and piles of other RPGs.

Make players fear hitting 0 HP, and the yo-yo healing problem goes away. If foes that drop a PC to 0 HP are near-TPK situations, then the damage flux of monsters that DMs design encounters around is going to be lower, because you don't have to drop a PC to 0 in 1 round in order to drive drama with damage. So you get lower damage monsters for the same amount of percieved threat.

And suddenly, the heals that already exist are more substantial. If you have 60 HP and are taking 15-25 damage per round, a 10 point heal (or even a 6 point one!) doesn't stop you from dropping, but it sure slows it down.

On the other hand, if a threatening monster does 40-60 damage per round, then that 6 or 10 point heal looks a lot more pointless, and saving it for the PC dropping to 0 HP makes a lot more sense.

And there are a pile of ways to protect a PC that aren't "outheal monster damage": I mean, try dropping a sanctuary if you go after the ally and before the monster - suddenly they need to make a wisdom save to continue to focus fire on the wounded PC. The PC can ignore the sanctuary and attack, it is only a 1st level spell slot and a bonus action spent.

...

But anyhow, that is your game and your problem. Just keep an eye out for the effects of easy healing causing monster damage to have to inflate, and the resulting non-linear mess you run into. Also, keep an eye out for an extra cleric adding more durability to the team than another meatshield. Also, keep an eye out for slow combat.
 


Clint_L

Hero
Sure, like I said, you as a DM can make 0 HP have next to no consequences. Which makes yo-yo healing optimal.

This is your choice, as a DM, to not use the already existing in black and white mechanics in the game to make 0 HP a really, really bad idea for PCs to hit.

It remains amusing that a DM who has decided to make 0 HP have no consequences then goes "I hate how PCs hitting 0 HP has no consequences and heals at 0 HP are super-good, how can I give it consequences?"

In fact, it seems to me that what is actually going on is that they don't like how harsh the consequences are of hitting 0 HP, and want something between what the actual rules give as consequences and what they are currently dealing out.

And yes, as the world the DM creates is completely and utterly within the control of the DM, I include whatever in-world rationalizations the DM does for why the DM doesn't impose the already existing in-game consequences for 0 HP on PCs to be a decision taken by the DM that removes said consequences. "My guy" syndrome applies to DMs as well; it is you, the DM, making a decision.

"I don't like how my world's assumption that magical healing is nearly completely unexpected makes my monsters assume 0 HP PCs are dead (or at least eliminated from combat), hence making magical healing on 0 HP PCs more effective than I like; I want to validate the assumptions of my monsters and make 0 HP PCs be more out of combat than healing magic rules imply, but not too harsh like 'magical healing on 0 HP targets only stabalizes them', or 'magical healing doesn't work on 0 HP targets'. Instead, something like 'the creature gains a level of exhaustion' or 'the creature is slowed for 24 hours', something that punishes without real danger."

I doubt this actually reflects anyone's full position - it is intentionally more than a bit of a straw man, so don't take it as putting words in your mouth - but this is what it looks like, and why it is amusing to me.

...

One idea I have played with is making being hit while down less harsh. This makes attacking downed targets less of a "DM is mean" and makes it more expected.

When a creature takes damage while at 0 HP, instead of an automatic failed death saving throw they make a death saving throw. On 1, they get 2 failures; on a failure, they get 1, and on a success they don't work towards being stable (but they don't interrupt becoming stable). On a 20+ they would regain 1 HP (be shocked awake by the damage), just for the drama of it.

Critial hits cause 2 death saving throws (instead of failures).

The goal here being that landing coup blows becomes a standard thing for foes to do.

You could push it a bit harder and not tell the other players how many failures have accumulated, or even not tell the PC (but the last one is cruel and removes dice rolling from an already downed PC). That makes not healing them far riskier.

By softening the harshness of "coup" attacks, we make making them more standard without being a "mean DM". And if you imagine that most NPCs/monsters have a penalty to death saving throws, doing a finishing blow againts non-heroic targets makes sense (it forces 2 checks, and within 6 seconds the creature is probably bled out on the 3rd check).
Edit: nevermind. Gonna take my own advice and employ the ignore feature. Take care.

Given that yo-yo healing is widely considered a problem in 5e, we have found that having players roll on a critical hit table if they go to 0 hps adds stakes to it, but also adds flavour to the campaign. For example, one recent story arc came out of a character losing a hand.
 
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Distracted DM

Distracted DM
Edit: nevermind. Gonna take my own advice and employ the ignore feature. Take care.

Given that yo-yo healing is widely considered a problem in 5e, we have found that having players roll on a critical hit table if they go to 0 hps adds stakes to it, but also adds flavour to the campaign. For example, one campaign recent arc came out of a character losing a hand.
I've suggested to players, but not enforced, that whenever a character goes to zero they've acquired a scar of some sort. Some players really go with it- others don't and want to keep their characters clean and beautiful. One of my players draws her characters, so her warlocks are covered in scars and I love it.
This is purely aesthetic- I've tried having limbs lost etc. in the past, and unless players make the choice themselves (self-sacrifice etc.) some of them REALLY hated losing limbs etc. in the past, even if they could later get a prosthetic.
 

So it is boring.
I would argue that using a healing spell to keep a party member alive for another round in the middle of a fight is considerably less boring than just going around killing a bunch of helpless enemies if the same spell slot was used for a CC spell instead.
Not only that, but it is also more fun in a inter-player-dynamics sense. The healing spell gives another player a chance to have their character shine rather than just yourself.

That is all. When sustained healing surpassing incoming damage, a lot of drama is removed from combat.

It doesn't have to be all. We get this neat situation where if damage is below sustained healing, the damage is effectively zero - it just reduces the damage the healers do back.

When damage passes sustained healing, non-linearly the healing as a defence mechanism fails (often catastrophically).

And if healing is cheap enough, you get these fights that transition from snooze fests of no danger rapidly to TPKs as the damage output of the monsters changes by a small percentage.
I don't think that anyone has suggested that sustainable healing be at any level capable of matching damage intake. Unless your theoretical party of clerics have a couple of Twilight :rant: clerics in there, even their healing is going to be burning spell slots and thus be unsustainable. They are going to run out of slots, and if too many of their actions and slots have been spent on healing, not enough will have been spent on winning the encounter. Or the next one, or the one after that . . .

The healing that most of this discussion has been about is healing that uses resources as well as the user's actions for that round. There has always been the assumption that no matter how effective a healing spell is, you are going to run out of them.

You seem to be confusing "good tactics" with "good game design". A party faced with a certain situation with certain resources doing X might be good party play, but good game design decides what kind of situations a party faces and what kind of resources they have to deal with it.
I would suggest that "good game design" is such that it encourages fun and evocative actions by making them "good tactics".

"We negate the damage threat" is great tactics, but poor drama. Because now, any damage threat below a certain threshold has no dramatic impact -- there is no risk.
That has always been good tactics, and has always been much easier to achieve in D&D using spells for things other than healing.
The reason that we're trying to make healing good tactics is because it is better drama than stabbing helpless foes, or walling them off and walking away, or having your conjured mob fight them instead of yourself.

If negating the damage threat is hard or impossible, now drama from damage is more continuous. Ie, with cheap fast healing of 20 HP/turn, "I took 20 damage out of my 60 HP" is a trivial problem you can deal with forever (while slots last), while "I took 40 damage" is an emergency and the PC is dead next turn regardless of what the healer does.
I think that you are arguing against an extreme position that no one is actually taking here. Slots do not last forever, and so no one is suggesting that healers are likely to try to keep their allies topped off at full HP, unless an encounter is so murderous that that would be the only way of keeping them alive.
If you have a spell slot that heals 20HP, using it on a PC who took 20 damage out of their remaining 30HP would probably be worth giving up your action for, but it is still preventing you from doing something else cool, like trying to remove one of the opponents dealing that damage to your ally.

By level 6, level 1 slots might be "cheap", so in baseline 5e cheap healing is about 6.5 HP/round at level 5 (healing word, +4 wisdom). A life cleric dip using 2nd level healing spirit and healing word heals 15 HP/round (and has actions free beyond the first). That is a good 30% of a fighter's full HP bar at this level - already we are getting into the space where foes that don't threaten to drop a PC in a single set of attacks aren't a serious threat against PC healing.
. . .
You're taking a position that requires a very specific multiclass and subclass combination for your point to be valid?
Unless your view is that all parties will have a Druid/Life cleric combo character in them, I would suggest using a more representative example.
And as I have stated, Life clerics are (in my experience) already past the point of "healing that is too good".
If a Life Cleric is able to negate the damage of the threats your party is encountering through in-combat healing, I do not thinks you should be throwing assertions that other group's DMs are "pulling punches".

A Cure Wounds spell of the same level as the fireballs that a party will be casting and receiving at 5th level will be undoing 3d8+4 damage. The extra +5 hp healed by a Life Cleric still isn't going to undo that fireball damage.


Again, optimal healing is not performed at 0 HP. A PC that is dropped to 0 HP is likely to die before any healing occurs. Only if the PCs get lucky, or the DM pulls punches, does the 0 HP PC survive to get healed.

In the extraordinary case where a PC at 0 HP gets healed before they are dead, they are likely to be one swing away from being back at 0 HP and (again) almost certainly dead before a heal can land. So they can sacrifice themselves to get in a few more swings, or disengage and run for it while hoping someone else in the party slows the enemies down.
I do not think that running and hoping that another player's character dies instead of yours is not a good way to foster good party dynamics. Or friendships.

A PC at 0 HP is a dead PC - any surviving PCs who hit 0 HP are those that won a hail mary chance of survival.

The PC hit 0 HP, they already lost.
Unconscious for 1d6x10 minutes after reaching 0 hp.

Edit: nevermind. Gonna take my own advice and employ the ignore feature. Take care.

Given that yo-yo healing is widely considered a problem in 5e, we have found that having players roll on a critical hit table if they go to 0 hps adds stakes to it, but also adds flavour to the campaign. For example, one recent story arc came out of a character losing a hand.
If you're walking with someone and they fall over, it has never occurred that kicking them while they are trying to get up "To encourage them not to fall over again" might be good practice.
 

We just don't have this yoyo problem, or see it as one. Couple of reasons;
1) Most enemies are smart. If the party waits to heal when they drop to 0, foes start to attack those who are at zero to keep them down. Which means now the party is risking character death.
2) We don't agree about it being better action economy to wait. Cure Wounds still takes an action.
3) We use random initiative each round, so you can't plan ahead as reliably.
4) We use lingering Wounds from the DMG.

These practices are all much easily run than the OPs house rules, and they have other benefits as well.
 

Clint_L

Hero
If you're walking with someone and they fall over, it has never occurred that kicking them while they are trying to get up "To encourage them not to fall over again" might be good practice.
I think this is being offered as some sort of sarcastic criticism of a house rule that we quite enjoy? But I’m not sure exactly what you are getting at and don’t want to misrepresent your point. Can you state it in plain language?
 

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