5E In-Combat Healing: How and Why?

(I would add that I don't think whack-a-mole is driven by any desire to optimize use of spell slots. It's actions that are being optimized here. Actions are the currency with which you buy victory, and a healing spell is an investment: Spend an action now, to earn back actions later when a teammate is up and fighting instead of down and bleeding out. If your expected return on that investment is less than the action you spent on the spell, it's a bad use of your action. Whack-a-mole is a way to guarantee a return.)
Why aren't my proposed healing tactics not a way to get a guaranteed return?
 
Which of course is my way of saying that in 5E it is a common occurrence that you're better off killing the enemies than healing your friends even as a Cleric; that the former ends up saving more of their precious hit points than the latter.

Counter-intuitive some might say. Not really I would say.
And this goes right back to my argument in the OP that hp a resource that you may can even save more of in the adventuring day via in-combat offense than in-combat healing. In fact let's assume that is true.

The argument I'm making is that the total amount of precious hit points lost in the day is actually less important than how, when and where those lost hps get distributed during the day. I'm arguing that there exists a tactic whereby you can give up very few in-combat actions during the day and you will greatly improve your chances of not losing battles even though your overall resources expended in the die may be slightly increased from said tactic.
 
That's a small part of it, but not the major portion. Even if cure wounds healed for double its current amount, you still wouldn't cast it until the target was near death. It's just more efficient that way.
It might help if you define near death. If defined as very low hp then I disagree. Not risking an ally fall to 0 in battle is a better tactic than slightly more resource efficient strategies.

The only time this might not be true is if in your campaign you are constantly having to go on despite being out of resources.
 
2) a person who falls unconscious always loses their next turn, no matter when healed. This means initiative is less relevant. Right now if I drop and the healer goes before my next turn, I’m barely inconvenienced. But if I lose my turn regardless of when I’m healed, it’s a big deal.
Same benefit as re-rolling initiative, with less complication.
 
As in other whack-a-mole threads, one common theme I see is that the solutions generally seem to work by hosing the healer's allies.

To approach it from the other side, you could:
1) Make healing more potent for the slot cost.
2) Cut and/or power-down offensive spells from the primary-healer lists, like the Cleric, Bard (and, Gygax help me, the Druid, just as it's gotten cool again after 30 years).
3) segregate healing resources from spell slots, like the Pally's Lay on Hands.
 
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Saelorn

Adventurer
I'm arguing that there exists a tactic whereby you can give up very few in-combat actions during the day and you will greatly improve your chances of not losing battles even though your overall resources expended in the die may be slightly increased from said tactic.
Theoretically, sure, but how often is the party in a position of losing a battle if they don't go all-out with their high-throughput but low-efficiency tactics? That's a pretty small window, where the party will probably lose if they're playing too conservatively, but probably win if they're more aggressive. That would be difficult to contrive, even if you were really trying.
 
Theoretically, sure, but how often is the party in a position of losing a battle if they don't go all-out with their high-throughput but low-efficiency tactics? That's a pretty small window, where the party will probably lose if they're playing too conservatively, but probably win if they're more aggressive. That would be difficult to contrive, even if you were really trying.
Comparably it is significantly more often than without using my healing tactic. (By the way it's not about probably losing. Any chance that you could lose is taken away with the healing route, whereas those small 5% chances over 30-40 encounters do tend to add up).
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Comparably it is significantly more often than without using my healing tactic. (By the way it's not about probably losing. Any chance that you could lose is taken away with the healing route, whereas those small 5% chances over 30-40 encounters do tend to add up).
Nothing is certain. Everything is just a probability.

I concede that there are some difficult fights where in-combat healing can be the difference between success and failure. For any given fight, there's a certain percent chance that you'll succeed without in-combat healing, and a greater percent chance that you'll succeed with in-combat healing.

What I'm not convinced of, is that the increased chance of success that you gain from in-combat healing is sufficient to make up for the increased risk of running out of resources over the course of a day. Aggressive healing will increase your chance of making it through the first five fights of the day, but when you start to hit your limit, that earlier aggressive healing might mean that you can't win the sixth fight. There are a lot of variables involved, but my intuition is that you're still better off by conserving resources, even if that increases your chance of failing in any single encounter.
 

Mistwell

Hero
An 8th level a Life Cleric (I chose that because that happens to be the level of the Life Cleric in my game right now) can use channel divinity twice each short rest for 40 points each time, divided however they want among up to 6 targets, at range. And they could, if they wanted to, follow that with a bonus action 2nd lev Healing Word for another 13 or so hit points to someone else, and 4 hp to yourself.

That is a lot of healing in a single round. And I've seen it bring the front line fighter back multiple times (who normally, as a polearm master fighter with sentinel is dishing out two normal attacks, a bonus action attack, and a reaction attack each round, sometimes with a battle master rider damage on top of it). I've seen it bring two PCs back at once in fact, in the same round. And then all the damage those PCs dish out with all their multiple attacks should be "counted" as damage that Cleric did. Because but-for that healing, those PCs would be wasting all their actions on death saves (or, if they were not down yet, wasting their actions getting out of there or healing themselves).

Healing is like buffs. They're sometimes difficult to add up, because the benefit is "soft" in that it depends on what the ally does to see what impact it had. But it's pretty darn powerful when you do add it all up.
 
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Dausuul

Legend
Why aren't my proposed healing tactics not a way to get a guaranteed return?
They are not a guaranteed return because you can't be certain they will in fact make the difference between "teammate on the ground" and "teammate up and fighting" for at least 1 round. That is the virtue of the "whack-a-mole" strategy: If there are no enemies between you and your teammate in the initiative order, you know with 100% certainty that your healing spell will purchase at least 1 round of actions for your teammate. And if there are enemies between you, you know that, and you don't cast the spell in the first place.

However, an investment does not need guaranteed returns to be a good investment. It just requires a risk premium: The greater the uncertainty of the payoff, the bigger that payoff must be to justify the risk. Mass cure wounds cast by a Life cleric is a great example: If you do it when the entire party has taken some heavy hits, you have a good chance of purchasing 2-3 rounds' worth of actions (one for each teammate who is saved from eating dirt for a round). Or suppose the party tank has a stratospheric AC, such that they rarely get hit. In that case, a big healing spell could purchase 2-3 rounds for that one character. The results are not as certain as whack-a-mole, but the potential upside is much greater.

And if the DM is playing monsters "viciously," so that they go hard after downed PCs, the potential upside is an entire adventuring day's worth of actions (or however long it would take a slain PC to be resurrected or replaced). However, this is a case where you are spending an action this combat to buy actions in future combats, so you would only do it if you were fairly confident of winning the current fight - if you're on the ropes and facing TPK, then future combats are irrelevant, the focus must be on surviving this one.

I more or less agree with you: In-combat healing can be a useful tactic. It's just a matter of figuring out how to get the best value from it and knowing what spell to use when. That depends on your party composition, the adventure, and the DM.
 
Nothing is certain. Everything is just a probability.
Healing is pretty certain. I mean there's some dice variability but it always works etc.

I concede that there are some difficult fights where in-combat healing can be the difference between success and failure.
It's not just "hard" fights though. Any given fight the PC's can get unlucky and the enemies lucky. Having in combat healing makes long enough lucky/unlucky streaks to down/kill PC's be much more rare.

For any given fight, there's a certain percent chance that you'll succeed without in-combat healing, and a greater percent chance that you'll succeed with in-combat healing.
Yes. But I'm also talking about saving your higher level spells for healing. So for example at level 5 that means you'll tend to not cast spirit guardians. Or at least cast it less often.

What I'm not convinced of, is that the increased chance of success that you gain from in-combat healing is sufficient to make up for the increased risk of running out of resources over the course of a day.
That's fair. It is not something easily proven one way or the other.

Aggressive healing will increase your chance of making it through the first five fights of the day, but when you start to hit your limit, that earlier aggressive healing might mean that you can't win the sixth fight.
I'm not advocating for aggressive healing. I'm literally advocating that you reserve 2-4 of your higher level spell slots for healing in combat. Of course as the day progresses feel free to reserve less and less etc.

I'm also not convinced that the approach of wait till allies can be killed the next round then heal them with a big heal approach actually uses any more spell resources than any other cleric. They just tend to use their resources for more damaging or more control type spells.

There are a lot of variables involved, but my intuition is that you're still better off by conserving resources, even if that increases your chance of failing in any single encounter.
My intuition is that players have a great deal of latitude when it comes to deciding to rest. If they have to few resources they rest. If not they continue on.

I'm also not convinced that the party in general gets anywhere near expending all their resources in any adventuring day. That is, at the end of most adventuring days:

1. Most of the party is near full hp.
2. At least half the party still have a moderate amount of their daily class based resources. (rage, spell slots etc)
3. Most party members still have a few of their resources remaining

I think the major danger of using abilities to aggressively is finding fights extremely easy, not losing a lot of hp due to aggressively using your abilities and then overestimating your capabilities without full resources because of the ease of those fights where you very aggressively used abilities. Interestingly enough, if the party is being aggressive with their resources then my proposed cleric strategy would actually make the cleric more conservative with his. Them burning their resources faster causes fewer opportunities to employ my proposed healing tactics (at least till their resources start to dry up).
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
(Keep in mind this about a large 1 action in combat heal vs trying to cast low level healing spells every round (I agree those aren't worthwhile)
I've found that at higher levels, even an 70 hp Heal isn't all that.

Yes, my players have used it for good effect in combat - they cast it on the party Barbarian, which effectively doubles the healing (because a raging barbarian takes half damage).

But this also points to how in-combat healing has been nerfed in 5E.

In 3.0 Heal healed ALL damage. In 3.5 Heal healed 150 damage.

In 5E Heal heals 70 damage.

(Not coincidentally my players only found 5E Heal worthwhile when they could effectively cast it as an 140 hp Heal...)

A good first remedy if one likes in-combat healing, where one party member focuses on keeping her allies alive (and buffed, and not debuffed) would be to double the effects of any healing spell.

In order to not simply prolong combat (by allowing a party to punch above their weight-class now that their hit points will last much longer), I would advise reducing the hit points of heroes. Not only does this keep the heroes grounded (to their level), meaning combats aren't prolonged, this also encourages them to bring an active healer on their adventures.

I wouldn't go so far as to halve hit points. Maybe have everybody lose a step on their hit dice, except fighters and barbarians (d4 Wizards and d8 Rangers)

I would not reduce the out-of-combat healing capabilities of heroes offered by the game, by the way. Doing so would only force the healer to keep his healing in reserve for that purpose, and in this thread we want him to spend it during combat.
 
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CapnZapp

Hero
I proposed a particular tactic to in-combat healing. Why is it that you think that tactic won't provide the results I'm claiming it will?
I have definitely not challenged you on your strategies or refuted them.

Please read what I wrote, instead of focusing on what I don't write.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Isn't rerolling initiative the less complicated option?
It means a lot of rerolls and shifting all of the players and monsters, either on cards or in your head. Way more complicated every round as opposed to just "hey your down, remember you lose your next turn no matter what".
 

CapnZapp

Hero
And if the DM is playing monsters "viciously," so that they go hard after downed PCs,
Unfortunately I believe 5E forces me the DM to act that way.

Yes, I think it is "vicious" and I don't like it.

But it's the only way to not make whack-a-mole a winning tactic because of the huge savings in damage/hit points it entails.

Of course, a better solution would be for the game to NOT force the DM to be "vicious".

I don't *want* my monsters to go after fallen heroes! I think it only breeds resentment, and fouls the mood across the table.

So I introduced a rule where you count hp down to -10 (instead of stopping at 0). This instantly removed the main attraction of whack-a-mole.

Which in turn allows me to not have my monsters look very stupid for leaving fallen heroes be. Now they can focus on the ones still standing, which is how the game should have been from the start!
 

CapnZapp

Hero
It means a lot of rerolls and shifting all of the players and monsters, either on cards or in your head. Way more complicated every round as opposed to just "hey your down, remember you lose your next turn no matter what".
Ah.

I thought you were talking about rerolling initiative just for the downed character, as opposed to slapping all those penalties onto him or her...
 

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