I don't get the dislike of healing surges

NewJeffCT

First Post
ok, it seems like a lot of people dislike healing surges because you get your hit points back instantly? You've never had in-combat healing in your games when playing 1E, 2E, 3E, 3.5E or Pathfinder? Players just sucked it up until they beat the bad guys or dropped below 0? And, your only choice after a combat where you were knocked down to near 0 hit points was to rest & recover naturally at 1 hit point/night, d3 hit points/night or 1hp/level per night? There was no magical healing right after a combat?

I've been playing D&D since the late 70s with lots of players and with lots of and the players always exhausted whatever healing they had available ASAP. Once the combat was over, it was time to do as much healing as possible because you don't know if another wave is coming the next round or the next turn or the next hour.

I had a 2 1/2 year long campaign in 3.5E where I felt I wasn't doing my job as a DM at higher levels if the PC cleric, the NPC cleric ally or the PC Psion weren't casting/manifesting "Revivify" at least once or twice per combat (or more), as well as casting spells like "Heal" or the Mass Cure spells (Cure Light Wounds, Mass, Cure Moderate Wounds, Mass, etc), and eventually things like Mass Heal and Miracle. Or, how about a Quickened Revivify followed by a Heal? Go from negative hit points and dying to full (or near full for the tanks) with only a standard action and a minor action by the party cleric. And, for PCs that maybe were not quite within healing range on their turn, they sometimes had a healing potion to use.

And, the prior edition games I was involved with before made extensive use of in-combat healing, as well as healing up ASAP after combat, when available. Sure, maybe some times at very low levels in 1E, you'd have to wait a few days in game for the party cleric to re-memorize and re-cast "Cure Light Wounds" enough times. But, you didn't have a ton of hit points in the first place.

To me, it's just not a big deal that classes besides the cleric can perform healing, and can also heal in combat and after combat. I don't see that big a difference between a cleric invoking his deity to heal and a Warlord using his or her Charisma to heal somebody through inspiration, or a Shaman healing through her connections to Nature. In previous editions, other classes besides the cleric could heal (druid, ranger, paladin), just not as effectively as a cleric. I don't think it's that huge of a change to upgrade the healing of some classes to put it on par with the cleric.

Oh, and when I'm narrating a game, be it 4E or previous editions, I have always described a player as taking damage when they take damage, especially from big hits. I don't see a big difference between a 4E PC taking a hit and then getting to use a healing surge later that combat, and a 3E PC taking a hit and then being hit with healing magic from an ally.

As I stated way earlier in this thread, I don't love healing surges overall (too plentiful, I think, is my problem). However, I think it's great that it's cut way down on the 15 minute adventuring day. Instead of 1 combat per day that was standard in most previous editions, you can have 4-5-6 combats in a day.
 
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tomBitonti

Adventurer
In regards to HP and notions of "damage", there is a target here which varies by the reader:

For some folks, a single major wound, say, a knife to the gut, or a non-grazing bullet wound, is debilitating, and either immediately lethal, or lethal if not treated immediately (because of shock or blood loss).

For other folks, the model is more akin to popular fiction, especially television, where a person can be shot in the shoulder or gut, pull together, at first struggling, but in a few minutes able to carry on with only a slight inconvenience. This not limited to clearly extreme wounds (a shot to the gut), but also to blows that would in most cases be very very damaging. Falling through plate glass, or getting a full kick to the head, normally are very damaging events. Or, say, just standing within 10' of open lava would be lethal (to my understanding), not to mention contact or immersion.

In a similar vein, the potential for healing most wounds simply isn't there. You can mend a broken bone (perhaps, but what about a compound fracture)? Many injuries have permanent repercussions, that is, don't ever fully heal, and leave a lingering partial disability.

That means, right off, that one has to decide a level of "realism" for healing and damage, and have to decide how much to put in vigor (or exhaustion) as a property, and that will strongly color one's views on HP and the secondary issue of healing surges.

What I'm hearing as a criticism of healing surges (as unrealistic) seems more a statement either about hit points themselves, and that can only work (in my view) as a criticism of healing surges to the degree that healing surges amplify the underlying problem of hit points.

I'm also hearing, to a degree, complaints about how healing surges muddy the already murky description of hit points. I can agree with this, especially considering the term "healing surge", emphasis on "healing". Better, "heroic recovery" or "second wind", which are better aligned with renewed vigor, rather than the spontaneous healing of non-trivial injuries. I can definitely see a Warlord literally cussing a fellow out, loudly, to get back into a fight, as a way of providing a "heroic recover". (Although, that does run into a problem re: "Cure Wounds" from a Cleric.)

TomB
 

Ariosto

First Post
Mainly, it's just another complication -- basically functioning simply as another pile of hit points to plow through, but implemented not so simply. It prolongs what had already become (for my taste) too time consuming.
 

tomBitonti

Adventurer
Don't knock my wish fulfillment, bro ...

On the other hand, there is a certain aspect of satisfying a fantasy desire for simple actions (praying, "pulling it together", shouting at a person who seems to be drowned) to actually change the world state. That is, it is pleasant to imagine that injury can be simply overcome, with no permanence to the harm, that notions such as "healing surges" (and, to an extent, with somewhat less abstraction, also provided healing potions or extended rest) that is built into the game.

There becomes a point where the issue becomes one of conflicting fantasies: If I want to imagine that a serious injury can be overcome by sheer willpower, that may conflict with someone else who doesn't want to follow the same fantasy.

TomB
 

Mallus

Legend
And in all those 26 years no one every questioned that there might be a better way to make the description match what was actually happening?
Oh sure... but invariable the DMs, myself included, drifted back to a direct correlation between damage rolled and wound severity, regardless of the target's remaining hit points.

I think a big part of this is psychological. You roll a 17 on 3d6 and it's (relatively speaking) a big number. Probability-wise, a unlikely occurrence. So the natural tendency is to describe it as being "big", a serious injury, even though it's not really to a character with 80 HP. It's harder, or at least counter-intuitive, to base your descriptions on a PC's remaining HP total, and not on the damage dice, even though that would fit the system better. Maybe it's because dice-rolling is a physical action, it's easier to correlate with the blow landing, or a fireball exploding, whereas mental subtraction seems more passive, internal... I don't know, I don't pretend to be a psychologist :).

So we have a history of D&D combat descriptions where colossal blows from giants barely rattle a PC's bones, let alone break them, and cuts the depth of cat-scratches that kill them.

I agree with you that what you describe is a problem.
For the record, I don't think it's a problem. It's just a consequence of D&D's implementation of an ablative hit point system. Frankly, it plays fast and well and at this point, is part of D&D's charm.

And I'm 42 now.
Hey, we're the same age!

If you prefer everything be "flesh wounds"....
Let me be clear about what I mean re: flesh wounds.

D&D doesn't model specific injuries, nor impairment. So all damage done to a target could be described as flesh wounds (they don't hamper/decrease effectiveness). Up until the point the character keels over.

I'm commenting on the way D&D has two character health states: fine and dying. Injuries (HP loss) have no effect other than to make the closer, mathematically, to dead.

But, I think it is a fair question to ask, can you see how surges would be a very unwelcome addition to the game played the way I play it?
Oh sure. I'm just (still) curious why people see them as significantly different from traditional HP. Narrating the effects of surges seem trickier to me than the stuff DM's have been doing all along; describing the injuries of a PC whose lost 99 out 100 HP to a bunch of irate frost giants, or how a thief caught in a room without cover survived a flight of fireballs.
 
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Mallus

Legend
Mainly, it's just another complication -- basically functioning simply as another pile of hit points to plow through, but implemented not so simply. It prolongs what had already become (for my taste) too time consuming.
Now this a completely valid observation/criticism of 4e's healing surges.
 

Darwinism

First Post
Mainly, it's just another complication -- basically functioning simply as another pile of hit points to plow through, but implemented not so simply. It prolongs what had already become (for my taste) too time consuming.

If you're viewing them as another pile of HP to plow through you're viewing them from the perspective of a DM that wants to kill or incapacitate the party and sees that as the only way to give them a sense of threat. That's a sign of being not so great of a DM. I've found that simply making players expend more resources than they thought they would is a better tactic for that sense of urgency; not saying, "Oh no, I have more trouble asserting my dominance," but, "Yep, now they have to make greater risks if they want things to go their way because they spent more resources than they thought."

This is the same in 2E and 3E; it's just smoother. Saying, "And then the party spent eighteen hours fully healing," isn't conductive to the type of storytelling that D&D has been since 2E AD&D. It's not fantasy Vietnam anymore, where the slightest flesh wound leaves you incapacitated for days. It's heroic adventuring in the manner of the greats in mythology with one huge exception in that there's not one big bad ultrahero; it's a party of heroes. That's why 4E has done what it's done. It's about the entire group getting to feel like heroes, not just some of them and not just all of them if it's agreed to not choose the horribly imbalanced caster options present in 2E and 3E.

If you want fantasy Vietnam, which is attractive in some cases, just play OD&D. If you want high fantasy, play 4E.
 

The Shaman

First Post
I don't visit that other board anymore, so I can't provide that link. But a poster that goes by "Old Geezer" mentioned it more than once.
Old Geezer is Mike Mornard; he was a player in Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign, Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign, and Professor Barker's Tékumel campaign - some impressive gaming bona fides.

Here's one of Mr Morland Mornard's posts on rpg.net.
Old Geezer said:
Robin Hood (the 1939 version with Errol Flynn). Gary always said that the final fight between Robin and the Sherrif was what he had in mind when he designed the D&D combat system.
And here's another
Old Geezer said:
Also, about HP systems:

Gary Gygax always described the D&D hit point system as being derived from Errol Flynn's "Robin Hood", the final fight between Robin and the Sheriff. They roam around the castle swording* madly at each other but not taking any real hits, and then at the very end Robin kills the Sheriff.

Hit Points were specifically created to give that sort of a fight, and to make sure a lucky critical hit didn't end the movie fifteen minutes too soon.

Because back in the old time swashbuckler movies, the bad guy WAS OK right up until he was killed.

Now, that sort of combat may not be to everyone's taste, but that design was a feature, not a bug.
And another.
Old Geezer said:
Gary's entire aim with the D&D combat system was to emulate the fight at the end of the Errol Flynn "Robin Hood" movie where the two main characters have this long protracted sword fight with neither one taking any noticeable damage until the fatal blow is struck.

That's why there is no "critical hit" or "instant kill" rule; that might end the fight short.

A combat between two 15th level fighters SHOULD take 15 times longer (or so) than a fight between two first level types.
And one more
Old Geezer said:
Any of those movies could have happened in Gary's Greyhawk, and all the pre-1973 ones were definitely part of what influenced Gary. His explanation of hit points always used the final duel between Basil Rathbone and Errol Flynn in "Robin Hood" as an example of two blokes swording* away like mad at each other and leaking hit points the entire time.
(Emphasis added - TS)

There are more, but I think you get the idea.
 
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Imaro

Legend
Now this a completely valid observation/criticism of 4e's healing surges.

Whew, that was close... we almost didn't get a valid (through Mallus's approval process) observation or criticism of 4e's healing surges... Glad to know at least one of us can have our thoughts on healing surges validated by you... :hmm:
 

Mallus

Legend
Whew, that was close... we almost didn't get a valid (through Mallus's approval process) observation or criticism of 4e's healing surges... Glad to know at least one of us can have our thoughts on healing surges validated by you... :hmm:
You're welcome :)!
 

Imaro

Legend
If you're viewing them as another pile of HP to plow through you're viewing them from the perspective of a DM that wants to kill or incapacitate the party and sees that as the only way to give them a sense of threat. That's a sign of being not so great of a DM. I've found that simply making players expend more resources than they thought they would is a better tactic for that sense of urgency; not saying, "Oh no, I have more trouble asserting my dominance," but, "Yep, now they have to make greater risks if they want things to go their way because they spent more resources than they thought."

This is the same in 2E and 3E; it's just smoother. Saying, "And then the party spent eighteen hours fully healing," isn't conductive to the type of storytelling that D&D has been since 2E AD&D. It's not fantasy Vietnam anymore, where the slightest flesh wound leaves you incapacitated for days. It's heroic adventuring in the manner of the greats in mythology with one huge exception in that there's not one big bad ultrahero; it's a party of heroes. That's why 4E has done what it's done. It's about the entire group getting to feel like heroes, not just some of them and not just all of them if it's agreed to not choose the horribly imbalanced caster options present in 2E and 3E.

If you want fantasy Vietnam, which is attractive in some cases, just play OD&D. If you want high fantasy, play 4E.

You do realize that for some the combat of 4e resembles fantasy grindfest as opposed to fantasy vietnam or a high fantasy battle out of literaure and movies... there's a ton of threads about it on here as well as various other gaming forums. Just saying.

Also, what does the imbalance of casters have to do with this discussion?
 

Hassassin

First Post
Sorry for skipping about half the thread so I may be repeating someone else.

If healing surges worked like adrenaline I think I would be fine with them. However, the only general use of them that approximates that is the second wind. The main use is often after combat, when you should be coming down from the adrenaline "high" and if anything *losing* HP.

So if we really had "adrenaline surges" those should grant temporary HP.
 

GSHamster

Adventurer
ok, it seems like a lot of people dislike healing surges because you get your hit points back instantly? You've never had in-combat healing in your games when playing 1E, 2E, 3E, 3.5E or Pathfinder? Players just sucked it up until they beat the bad guys or dropped below 0? And, your only choice after a combat where you were knocked down to near 0 hit points was to rest & recover naturally at 1 hit point/night, d3 hit points/night or 1hp/level per night? There was no magical healing right after a combat?

I think the general feeling is that *magic* healing is okay, because magic gets to break the rules, and pretty much do whatever it wants.

Healing surges are non-magical (especially via Second Wind or the warlord class), and thus have to obey the rules, or make some sort of narrative sense.

In some respects, it's a variant on the high-level fighter vs wizard argument. 4E introduced non-magical healing that worked exactly like magical healing. Some people are able to stretch the abstractness of hit points to cover the new case. Other people relied on the fact that previous healing was magical to handwave how people recovered from significant wounds.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
There are more, but I think you get the idea.

Yes. In this case, I'm happy to have remembered it wrong. Your correct cite is a bigger supporter of my point than my vague, incorrect allusion was. :D

The scene at the end of Robin and Marion is very similar in its D&D application, though not nearly as dynamic. Two old guys at the end of their careers, in a field, wearing heavy armor, smacking each other with big swords, isn't going to match dashing around a castle. But the pacing is certainly the same.
 
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Crazy Jerome

First Post
So if we really had "adrenaline surges" those should grant temporary HP.

If you didn't mind complicating things a bit more, and liked the extra, critical decision it interjected, and wanted that kind of distinction: Then making all non-magical surge grants into temporary hit points wouldn't be a bad way to house rule.

Now, taking that second wind in combat is not something you would ever do routinely. If you can stagger through to the end of the fight, you can make that surge count for more across the scope of the day. But if you don't take it now, you might not make it through the fight.

If you want all that, but you still want some surge spending during down time to keep the party moving, then tie the temporary/permanent hit points from surges to heal checks. Fail the check, the surge is only temporary hit points. The heal skill is a bit weak anyway. This would make it very important.
 

The Shaman

First Post
In this case, I'm happy to have remembered it wrong. Your correct cite is a bigger supporter of my point than my vague, incorrect allusion was. :D
Glad I could help. ;)
So if we really had "adrenaline surges" those should grant temporary HP.
That's a really interesting notion, actually.

Combat drug in original, "classic" Traveller increases your character Strength and Endurance each by two; these are also used as the character's hit points, along with Dexterity. Once the drug wears off, however, the extra points are lost AND the character takes 1D6 wounds.

So you could have a rule where a character's physical attributes and/or hit points increase with adrenaline, and if the character loses more points than the base score in combat, then the character collapses when the adrenaline rush wears off.
 

Pentius

First Post
Are you trying to show people the "error" of their preferences? Trying to prove something... or what? I'm genuinely curious about this.

I took some time and thought about this, too, but I got a different answer than DEFCON1. I don't care about people seeing the error of their preferences. A preference simply is. You like it, or you don't. But I do want people to realize that it is just a preference. It isn't that surges are any less realistic than the healing that came before, or that they're any less fantasy genre appropriate or more wahoo. They don't make the game less of an rpg and more of a video game. It isn't that they drag combat out any longer than previous editions' in-combat healing. It's a preference.

Finally, let me flip that question(which I think is fair, given that I answered it first): Do you who dislike surges think that your posts on the subject will make we who like them see the error of our own preferences?
 

Imaro

Legend
Finally, let me flip that question(which I think is fair, given that I answered it first): Do you who dislike surges think that your posts on the subject will make we who like them see the error of our own preferences?

Uhm... no. We didn't start a thread called "Hey, I don't understand why you guys like healing surges..."

I'm not making any pretense about trying to understand why you guys like them, I can accept that you do for your own reasons (the logic of which makes no difference to me)...but that's as far as it goes. What I don't get is why people who like them come rushing into a thread asking why others don't, to defend and try to get them to see the error of their ways.... I thought the purpose was to get the reasons and try to understand them. Instead we get people even resorting to old edition war arguments about casters and fighters that have nothing to do with the topic as they try to defend 4e.
 

NewJeffCT

First Post
I think the general feeling is that *magic* healing is okay, because magic gets to break the rules, and pretty much do whatever it wants.

Healing surges are non-magical (especially via Second Wind or the warlord class), and thus have to obey the rules, or make some sort of narrative sense.

In some respects, it's a variant on the high-level fighter vs wizard argument. 4E introduced non-magical healing that worked exactly like magical healing. Some people are able to stretch the abstractness of hit points to cover the new case. Other people relied on the fact that previous healing was magical to handwave how people recovered from significant wounds.

ah, so invoking a mythical deity to heal your allies can be handwaved, but summoning a spirit of nature like a shaman, using your mind to heal somebody like an ardent, or arcane magic like a bard, or a martial power like a warlord cannot? (the definition says they are not magic in the traditional sense, but some martial powers stand well beyond the capabilities of ordinary mortals, which sounds like magic anyhow.)

If 3E introduced sorcerers and charisma based arcane magic instead of book learned arcane magic, I don't see it as that big of a jump to have other classes that can heal as effectively as a cleric. Remember, bards, psions, druids, rangers and paladins (and others, I'm sure) could heal in previous editions as well - my 3.5E campaign had several psionic revivifies (an in combat Raise Dead if cast within a round of death...)
 

ah, so invoking a mythical deity to heal your allies can be handwaved, but summoning a spirit of nature like a shaman, using your mind to heal somebody like an ardent, or arcane magic like a bard, or a martial power like a warlord cannot? (the definition says they are not magic in the traditional sense, but some martial powers stand well beyond the capabilities of ordinary mortals, which sounds like magic anyhow.)

If 3E introduced sorcerers and charisma based arcane magic instead of book learned arcane magic, I don't see it as that big of a jump to have other classes that can heal as effectively as a cleric. Remember, bards, psions, druids, rangers and paladins (and others, I'm sure) could heal in previous editions as well - my 3.5E campaign had several psionic revivifies (an in combat Raise Dead if cast within a round of death...)

I think it is a magic versus mundane concern. If the source of healing is at all supernatural it makes sense in a way. If it is mundane but really seems more like magic that is where tge disconnect arises. Healing surges are described as mundane but don't seem mundane to me. And i think if you extend that kind of self heal power to all classes the flavor turns (at least for me) to something more like anime. This is just how it comes off to me; i can see how others would feel the same.
 

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