5E In-Combat Healing: How and Why?

LordEntrails

Adventurer
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".
Yes, at a table with pencil and paper. With digital tools, specifically FG, it is easy to turn on re-rolls and not worry about it.

Re-roll init also has other benefits too. Esp. along the lines of limiting metagaming and enhancing the chaos of combat.
 
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.
Whack-A-Mole isn't a guaranteed return in all circumstances either. It's only guaranteed in a few very particular cases.

1) Enemies ignore downed allies and don't hit them with AOE's
AND
2) No enemies go after you would heal a downed ally before he gets his turn.

If those 2 conditions aren't met then whack-a-mole isn't guaranteed.

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.
This also assumes enemies aren't particularly vicious toward downed PC's. If they are then the PC might be dead before you can pop up the whack-a-mole.

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.
Sure. But that also applies to the downsides and not just the advantages. Suppose you use a high level heal spell in a scenario where the PC wouldn't have actually been downed if you didn't use it. What's the downside?

Likewise, suppose you didn't heal a pc before he dropped to 0. What's the potential downside.

It's not just about the potential benefits, it's also about mitigating the potential downsides.

My contention is that potential downsides of not healing as I advocate are so bad that long term it's too risky not to heal in such situations.

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.
Sure. The worst case scenario if you heal in this situation is that you've used a spell slot and restored hp that your allies don't actually need to win this fight. They still keep those HP's etc. The only real downside is you risk being in a situation later that day where you end up needing that slot and you don't have it.

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.
Spending your strongest action this combat as I advocate for would fit perfectly in this scenario. It literally would be you doing everything you can to survive this fight without thought of future combats.

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.
I agree. I just think you have to look at pros and cons both when evaluating risk. So for my tactic, which while on average there's often a tiny amount of downside, there are times it has immense upside. Compared to whack-a-mole healing which while it often has a small upside, there are times it has an immense downside.

Generally speaking when managing risk for something extremely important you want to minimize extreme downsides even if it costs a little more overall. That's the foundation the insurance industry is built upon.
 
. Suppose you use a high level heal spell in a scenario where the PC wouldn't have actually been downed if you didn't use it. What's the downside?
You no longer have that high-level slot to spontaneously cast a high-level spell that could win that encounter - or the next one, or obviate some other challenge.

The only real downside is you risk being in a situation later that day where you end up needing that slot and you don't have it.
Its a very real downside to the caster.



Generally speaking when managing risk for something extremely important you want to minimize extreme downsides even if it costs a little more overall. That's the foundation the insurance industry is built upon.
Well then, it must be Evil.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
You no longer have that high-level slot to spontaneously cast a high-level spell that could win that encounter - or the next one, or obviate some other challenge.
Yes, each time you heal 70 hp you're not dishing out whatever damage a 6th slot can produce, with all the future savings in incoming damage from that/those monsters added to the cost.

And the loss of flexibility too, just as you say.

Consider that even a double-strength Heal (the 3.5 version) is not a given spell to choose and cast, given the opportunity cost of not casting a 6th level spell.

This reminds me of another tweak to recommend (to make combat healing a larger part of the game): add back Vancian memorization rules.

If you already when the day starts must select your level 6 spell, that Heal starts to feel awfully tempting, since it just about as universally useful as spells get. Almost everything else risks not seeing use that day...
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
Yes, each time you heal 70 hp you're not dishing out whatever damage a 6th slot can produce, with all the future savings in incoming damage from that/those monsters added to the cost.

And the loss of flexibility too, just as you say.

Consider that even a double-strength Heal (the 3.5 version) is not a given spell to choose and cast, given the opportunity cost of not casting a 6th level spell.

This reminds me of another tweak to recommend (to make combat healing a larger part of the game): add back Vancian memorization rules.

If you already when the day starts must select your level 6 spell, that Heal starts to feel awfully tempting, since it just about as universally useful as spells get. Almost everything else risks not seeing use that day...
how would vancian interact with upcasting? do I have to leave the slot free to potentially upcast, say, spirit guardians? or can I have heal in there and then upcast something anyway
 
This reminds me of another tweak to recommend (to make combat healing a larger part of the game): add back Vancian memorization rules.

If you already when the day starts must select your level 6 spell, that Heal starts to feel awfully tempting, since it just about as universally useful as spells get. Almost everything else risks not seeing use that day...
...and, when you take Heal, everything else goes from a risk of not being used that day, to a certainty of not being used.

Which is how the Cleric got it's Band-aid stereotype back in the day. (Nowadways, "healbot" - no trademark dilution that way.)

how would Vancian interact with upcasting? do I have to leave the slot free to potentially upcast, say, spirit guardians? or can I have heal in there and then upcast something anyway
You'd prep the up-cast spell in the higher level slot. Same opportunity cost, different dynamic.


3e essentially had Vancian Upcasting, in the form of Empower(which 5e essentially gives you free, anyway) and other metamagic feats. But, 3e also had make/buy of wands & scrolls, so you could keep a lot of lower level options, and LOT of between combat healing, separate from your slots - /and/ clerics could spontaneously cast healing spells (only) using a different prepared spell as a slot.

In prior eds, clerics were prettymuch forced to prep all healing - it was vital, it was always useful - but, they didn't have healing available at every spell level... a 5e cleric painted into the same corner could prep healing into any/every slot.
 
Last edited:

Blue

Double sized Hobbit
With any analysis I think it's helpful to define what success looks like. In 5e I success is best defined as having no PC deaths.
As you say, in-combat healing has a very different goal than out-of-comabt healing, which is usually "to heal sufficiently with the most efficient use of resources".

However, when it comes to in-combat healing, I have a different measure of success than what you propose, which by nature encompasses it* but also asks more.

(* Except at Tier 1, where insta-death is more likely.)

"Minimize actions lost due to adverse conditions such as unconsciousnesses."

So this expands healing from just HPs, and it also gives a goal for how much healing.

It also adds in an interesting, somewhat gamist, prioritization. A PC who goes soon after the cleric (soon = without foes between them) can always be stood up from zero HP to not lose an action, while one who has a lot for foes after the cleric before their next action (perhaps in the next round) needs to be kept farther from zero to make sure they don't lose an action.

The flip side is that if you don't expect to be able to deliver enough healing to keep someone up, change your focus to the next ally in your priority - that first one you will be able to more efficiently stand from zero.
 
Last edited:
However, when it comes to in-combat healing, I have a different measure of success than what you propose, which by nature encompasses it* but also asks more.

(* Except at Tier 1, where insta-death is more likely.)

"Minimize actions lost due to adverse conditions such as unconsciousnesses."

So this expands healing from just HPs, and it also gives a goal for how much healing.
In that case I think my proposed in-combat healing tactics definitely minimize actions lost due to adverse conditions such as unconsciousness.

It also adds in an interesting, somewhat gamist, prioritization. A PC who goes soon after the cleric (soon = without foes between them) can always be stood up from zero HP to not lose an action, while one who has a lot for foes after the cleric before their next action (perhaps in the next round) needs to be kept farther from zero to make sure they don't lose an action.
You assume that the ally fell just before your turn. It's also possible that he fell right after his turn was over. If that's the case all enemies going between him and you have the potential to finish him off. Unlikely perhaps but still a possibility. If he is killed before your clerics turn comes around then it's not true that he can always be stood back up and act, even provided no enemy goes between the cleric and him.
 
Last edited:
You no longer have that high-level slot to spontaneously cast a high-level spell that could win that encounter - or the next one, or obviate some other challenge.

Its a very real downside to the caster.
I think this is actually the best counterpoint. I want to analyze it a bit further. I think one part of the scenario is a bit flawed - that a cleric not reserving high level spell slots to heal allies will keep high level spell slots longer than one that reserves high level slots almost solely for healing. But back to the given scenario.

Suppose you have a cleric that casts spirit guardians in a fight. Suppose the fight would have been overcome without casting spirit guardians. Did casting spirit guardians accomplish anything? Yes. You killed enemies faster so ultimately the group has more hp and/or other resources left at the end of the fight. That's the same outcome as my healing tactics produce. Except, with spirit guardians and most offensive spells, they are most efficient via front loading. That makes it a bit easier to use them in circumstances where the party would win without expending those resources - especially when compared with healing an ally that has a risk of being downed the next turn, which also may not have any impact other than additional hp on that pc, but since you can predict with more certainity when the bad event might occur, then it's more reliable at having meaningful impact on fights than something like spirit guardians which is typically going to be used at the start of a combat.
 
I think this is actually the best counterpoint. I want to analyze it a bit further. I think one part of the scenario is a bit flawed - that a cleric not reserving high level spell slots to heal allies will keep high level spell slots longer than one that reserves high level slots almost solely for healing.
That's a good point. If the strategy encourages holding on to high level slots longer, it may cause the caster to pass on good opportunities to use the slot very effectively early in the day, or find him, later in the day, with the slot available to take advantage of such an opportunity.

But back to the given scenario.
Suppose you have a cleric that casts spirit guardians in a fight. Suppose the fight would have been overcome without casting spirit guardians. Did casting spirit guardians accomplish anything? Yes. You killed enemies faster so ultimately the group has more hp and/or other resources left at the end of the fight. That's the same outcome as my healing tactics produce. Except, with spirit guardians and most offensive spells, they are most efficient via front loading. That makes it a bit easier to use them in circumstances where the party would win without expending those resources - especially when compared with healing an ally that has a risk of being downed the next turn, which also may not have any impact other than additional hp on that pc, but since you can predict with more certainity when the bad event might occur, then it's more reliable at having meaningful impact on fights than something like spirit guardians which is typically going to be used at the start of a combat.
OK, I follow that, but I'm not sure I buy it. It can actually be pretty hard to predict which of your party members is likely to get beaten down next. Proactive healing can run a risk of healing someone who is then not attacked for the rest of the encounter, while someone else gets beaten down. Even in 4e, when Defenders would attract attacks like a magnet, you could find yourself healing the defender proactively, only to have an enemy slip away from him long enough to down someone else. In 5e, enemies are mostly free to attack whichever of your allies they like - or you, which, once you start healing (proactively or whack-a-mole), they may figure out is a really good idea.
In contrast, the presumed efficiency of leading with a powerful offensive alternative is more clearly under your control. Though, really, /nothing/ about either scenario is completely under your control. You could cut loose with powerful offense early only to find they're paper tigers, for instance.
 

Blue

Double sized Hobbit
In that case I think my proposed in-combat healing tactics definitely minimize actions lost due to adverse conditions such as unconsciousness.
I was talking about how I rate success. As you said, that's the important part to determine to you are meeting your goal.

You assume that the ally fell just before your turn. It's also possible that he fell right after his turn was over. If that's the case all enemies going between him and you have the potential to finish him off. Unlikely perhaps but still a possibility. If he is killed before your clerics turn comes around then it's not true that he can always be stood back up and act, even provided no enemy goes between the cleric and him.
This is a place where having a different goal leads to different tactics. With most of the DMs I've played with, it is quite hard for a character to be killed in one round. Between mostly only hit with area of effect, with others havign abilities to heal as well, and with the general resilience of PCs, it's a very rare occurrence. And someone dying is 2-3 actions lost anyway, then a Revivify. Optimizing to save 2-3 actions that occur very rarely over optimizing to save 1 action regularly is a failure for my goal.

Death is rare, with resources being devoted to in-combat healing (as opposed to just standing someone up when they fall) it's even rarer, and once you hit Tier 2 the effect of death on a combat is around the impact of failing a save to other debuffs.

Heck, it could potentially even be done on the battlefield, though standing someone up to 1 HP is just asking for them to be knocked unconcious again.

Now, death has a wonderful RP impact, and Revivify has a heavy material component cost - those are very true. Personally, I learned gaming back with AD&D and spells to raised the dead would do things like chance of permanent death based on CON, and permanent CON loss. A 3rd level get-out-of-death-free spell cheapens it for me, but absent character motivations of not-wanting-to-die! as a player I'll acknowledge the tactical change it makes.

At many tables death happens rarely enough that it's better to prioritize your healing resources in order to minimize offensive actions lost (to kill the opponent quicker and reducing the chance of death) rather than spending actions overhealing to prevent it from happening.
 

Blue

Double sized Hobbit
Yes, at a table with pencil and paper. With digital tools, specifically FG, it is easy to turn on re-rolls and not worry about it.

Re-roll init also has other benefits too. Esp. along the lines of limiting metagaming and enhancing the chaos of combat.
5e is designed around each and every other person in an encounter having exactly one action between your actions. (With some epic creatures that are supposed to act as multiple creatures breaking that).

When both PCs and foes have abilities and spells that last until the start of your turn and could have no affect not because you did anything wrong, but because you rolled better on initiative, there's a big problem. One reaction suddenly can become a lot less effective. Or a lot more.

Rerolling initiative every round messes up every one of those assumptions, invalidating the design. They could have designed differently if they were having a variable initiative, but it wouldn't have been as streamlined.

And it doesn't "even out", because creatures die. The fact that something occasionally lasts longer will have less impact because a chunk of the time the target isn't there. But when it works shorter the target usually still is. Since the party generally has a lot more features and spell then their opposition, this unbalance is generally against the party.

In order for rerolling every round not to break 5e pretty badly, you'll need to rework all things that are supposed to last a round, from reaction to spells. It won't be as streamlined, but it will support your needs.
 
[MENTION=20564]Blue[/MENTION]

Forgive me, but I need to reorder your comments to make a point

At many tables death happens rarely enough that it's better to prioritize your healing resources in order to minimize offensive actions lost (to kill the opponent quicker and reducing the chance of death) rather than spending actions overhealing to prevent it from happening.
1. Death is rare. Agreed.
2. You suggest we should minimize offensive actions lost. Why do you suggest that? To reduce chance of death.

-I partly agree. We want to reduce the chance of death.

-However, I contend that if death is so rare that healing (using my tactics) isn't worthwhile then death is also so rare that trying to minimize offensive actions lost in order to reduce chance of death isn't worthwhile. But since you agree that reducing the already small chance of death by minimizing offensive action lost is actually worthwhile then you should also agree that minimizing the small chance of death by healing (using my tactics) is also worthwhile.

This is a place where having a different goal leads to different tactics. With most of the DMs I've played with, it is quite hard for a character to be killed in one round. Between mostly only hit with area of effect, with others havign abilities to heal as well, and with the general resilience of PCs, it's a very rare occurrence. And someone dying is 2-3 actions lost anyway, then a Revivify. Optimizing to save 2-3 actions that occur very rarely over optimizing to save 1 action regularly is a failure for my goal.
So my first question is what purpose does the goal of "minimizing offensive combat actions lost" actually serve? Why should anyone want to have that goal?

Compare that to my goal of "reduce chance of death" which is self-explanatory as to why someone would want this goal.

What I believe is going on is that your actual goal is "reducing chance of death" and that "minimizing offensive combat actions lost" is simply the strategy you are using to attempt to achieve that goal. I think you are confusing your strategy with the goal that strategy is fulfilling. That's why you referred back to reducing chance of death in your last paragraph, because that's what you are achieving by following the strategy of "minimize offensive combat actions lost".

If I'm wrong then please tell me why should anyone care about the goal of "minimizing offensive combat actions lost"?
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
5e is designed around each and every other person in an encounter having exactly one action between your actions. (With some epic creatures that are supposed to act as multiple creatures breaking that).
Says you. Funny how re-roll initiative is one of the optional rules listed int he DMG.

When both PCs and foes have abilities and spells that last until the start of your turn and could have no affect not because you did anything wrong, but because you rolled better on initiative, there's a big problem. One reaction suddenly can become a lot less effective. Or a lot more.
Sure, combat is chaotic.

Rerolling initiative every round messes up every one of those assumptions, invalidating the design. They could have designed differently if they were having a variable initiative, but it wouldn't have been as streamlined.
No, no it does not mess up anything except your assumptions and expectations. It doesn't break anything in the rules themselves.

And it doesn't "even out", because creatures die. The fact that something occasionally lasts longer will have less impact because a chunk of the time the target isn't there. But when it works shorter the target usually still is. Since the party generally has a lot more features and spell then their opposition, this unbalance is generally against the party.
Umm, really? You are worried about something that might have a 1% impact over a statistically large sample? Besides, don't people usually complain around here that fights are not tough enough on the party? So IF it swings against them a tiny bit, that should be a good thing. Not something to worry about.

In order for rerolling every round not to break 5e pretty badly, you'll need to rework all things that are supposed to last a round, from reaction to spells. It won't be as streamlined, but it will support your needs.
Uh, except the game designers apparently disagree with you. You know, since its actually an optional rule. And no, it doesn't break anything. You could do what we do and use the initiative count for spell durations, but you could stick with them as you describe. The impact really isn't what you think it is.

How about you go run a couple of sessions with initiative re-roll (and a positive attitude) and see what you really think of it. Don't bother worrying about some theoreticals. Re-roll has a significant impact on the fun at our table, we really could care less about any trivial mechanical impacts it might have. (Because they truly are trivial, and our fun is not.)
 

Blue

Double sized Hobbit
[MENTION=20564]Blue[/MENTION]

Forgive me, but I need to reorder your comments to make a point

1. Death is rare. Agreed.
2. You suggest we should minimize offensive actions lost. Why do you suggest that? To reduce chance of death.

-I partly agree. We want to reduce the chance of death.

-However, I contend that if death is so rare that healing (using my tactics) isn't worthwhile then death is also so rare that trying to minimize offensive actions lost in order to reduce chance of death isn't worthwhile. But since you agree that reducing the already small chance of death by minimizing offensive action lost is actually worthwhile then you should also agree that minimizing the small chance of death by healing (using my tactics) is also worthwhile.



So my first question is what purpose does the goal of "minimizing offensive combat actions lost" actually serve? Why should anyone want to have that goal?

Compare that to my goal of "reduce chance of death" which is self-explanatory as to why someone would want this goal.

What I believe is going on is that your actual goal is "reducing chance of death" and that "minimizing offensive combat actions lost" is simply the strategy you are using to attempt to achieve that goal. I think you are confusing your strategy with the goal that strategy is fulfilling. That's why you referred back to reducing chance of death in your last paragraph, because that's what you are achieving by following the strategy of "minimize offensive combat actions lost".

If I'm wrong then please tell me why should anyone care about the goal of "minimizing offensive combat actions lost"?
All is good, you're very respectful in our discussion.

Okay, let's try it like this.

Death is just another condition, curable during or after combat once a party can cast Revivify. Just like a Dispel Magic (another 3rd level spell) might end some other condition. It's best to avoid, but doesn't need to be focused around unless the costly material components are a problem. As it is, it either requires a very large single hit, or it requires three failed death saves (time and/pr additional damage done once down).

The exception of that is a chicken-and-the-egg issue - you need to make sure that your last (usually only) character that can revivify doesn't die.

But outside that caveat, what is the point of in-combat healing? Well conditions, especially unconsciousness, can cost actions. Lose every character's action and you've lost the battle. So the goal of in-combat healing needs to be to reduce that loss. Death, frankly, doesn't reduce actions any more than unconsciousness does.

So both of our goals are to use reasonably sized heals to keep people up and fighting. It's just a different priority on who to heal. For example, a character that goes after the cleric without any foes between them can be stood up if they fall in a very efficient manner without loss of action. So I would prioritize healing another character, perhaps one that you would not because they aren't as close to dropping. Or possibly the healer themself.
 
Last edited:
All is good, you're very respectful in our discussion.

Okay, let's try it like this.

Death is just another condition, curable during or after combat once a party can cast Revivify. Just like a Dispel Magic (another 3rd level spell) might end some other condition. It's best to avoid, but doesn't need to be focused around unless the costly material components are a problem. As it is, it either requires a very large single hit, or it requires three failed death saves (time and/pr additional damage done once down).

The exception of that is a chicken-and-the-egg issue - you need to make sure that your last (usually only) character that can revivify doesn't die.

But outside that caveat, what is the point of in-combat healing? Well conditions, especially unconsciousness, can cost actions. Lose every character's action and you've lost the battle. So the goal of in-combat healing needs to be to reduce that loss. Death, frankly, doesn't reduce actions any more than unconsciousness does.
I see, essentially you are not worried about individual PC death because it's easily overcome, but you are worried about a total party kill scenario. So that's the actual goal that your minimize lost actions strategy is trying to accomplish. I understand now.

So both of our goals are to use reasonably sized heals to keep people up and fighting.
Well now that we have been able to identify your actual goal I agree.

It's just a different priority on who to heal. For example, a character that goes after the cleric without any foes between them can be stood up if they fall in a very efficient manner without loss of action. So I would prioritize healing another character, perhaps one that you would not because they aren't as close to dropping. Or possibly the healer themself.
If I had to choose between two targets that need healed right now then I like your tactic. It's solid.

But getting down to it, it's going to be particularly rare using my strategy to have 2 PC's that need healed on the same turn. So how does your strategy play out in the situation where only 1 PC needs healed. I presume your tactic is still to let them drop if the turn order falls in your favor.

So you will presumably be casting a cantrip for 2d8 damage (none on a miss / successful save). There's about a 1 in a quadrillion chance that your small cantrip amount of damage on the turn I chose to heal is going to prevent a TPK and another 1 in a quadrillion chance that it would prevent a TPK that my heal wouldn't also have prevented.

As [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] has pointed out, the big savings is potentially saving the higher level slot for later. That's a discussion I can get aboard, But your current argument that healing in combat is going to lead to more TPK's than not - because of lost actions isn't very compelling. IMO. If using a large slot in combat for healing leads to more TPK's to any meaningful degree then it's going to be because you didn't use the higher level slot on a spell that would have prevented the TPK.

Scenario 1: You may have saved saved your high level slot for healing, used the slot in the fight for healing and still ended up in a TPK situation whereas some small unknown percentage of the time using a different spell earlier in the fight may have prevented the TPK

Scenario 2: You may have used your high level slot for healing in an earlier fight that had no chance of resulting in a TPK. While the additional hp will cause a small advantage in the next few fights there's still the case where you have a TPK later in the day that if you had saved the slot and not healed that you could use it on something that would have prevented the TPK.

Then there's also similar scenarios where using the healing spell ended up preventing the TPK but using some other spell caused it. I'm not sure we can adequately assess which of these kinds of scenarios is more likely to occur.
 

Ashrym

Adventurer
Reserving a high level slot is great general advice. Not necessarily with the expectation for healing, but with the expectation it's being reserved for one of those "oh crap" moments that can happen. Reserving potential for when it's really needed is specific to healers but if it's available a solid in combat heal can be important.

Having it doesn't mean it's going to be used for in-combat healing, however. Out-of-combat healing options still tend to be more cost effective and using the same slots to mitigate damage generally saves more hit points in damage than the spell would have healed. Casting a healing spell in combat that could have been taken after the combat also nets a lost action for the caster so it only improves the combat actions if the healing gives the healed target more actions that would have been lost than the one the cleric does lose.

Let's face it. A 1st level spell the prevents attacks like Tasha's Hideous Laughter or Command or Entangle in a 1st level slot is going to prevent more damage from an Ogre than Cure Wounds in a 1st or 2nd level (until +4 bonus) slot even if it prevents only a single attack. Mass action denial is even more effective than healing using the same spell slots. Or go with defensive spells like Sactuary or Protection from Elements.

Given a choice in combat, I'm always going to go for what's effective, efficient, or necessary at the time and balancing that out with resource management over time. I find healing in combat something that may be required at times but it's a lower priority than preventing damage in the first place, which is where I see the best use for the actions and spell slots in combat.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
Reserving a high level slot is great general advice. Not necessarily with the expectation for healing, but with the expectation it's being reserved for one of those "oh crap" moments that can happen. Reserving potential for when it's really needed is specific to healers but if it's available a solid in combat heal can be important.

Having it doesn't mean it's going to be used for in-combat healing, however. Out-of-combat healing options still tend to be more cost effective and using the same slots to mitigate damage generally saves more hit points in damage than the spell would have healed. Casting a healing spell in combat that could have been taken after the combat also nets a lost action for the caster so it only improves the combat actions if the healing gives the healed target more actions that would have been lost than the one the cleric does lose.

Let's face it. A 1st level spell the prevents attacks like Tasha's Hideous Laughter or Command or Entangle in a 1st level slot is going to prevent more damage from an Ogre than Cure Wounds in a 1st or 2nd level (until +4 bonus) slot even if it prevents only a single attack. Mass action denial is even more effective than healing using the same spell slots. Or go with defensive spells like Sactuary or Protection from Elements.

Given a choice in combat, I'm always going to go for what's effective, efficient, or necessary at the time and balancing that out with resource management over time. I find healing in combat something that may be required at times but it's a lower priority than preventing damage in the first place, which is where I see the best use for the actions and spell slots in combat.
While I agree with this, it it useful to add that this in no way means in-combat healing is bad or wrong in any way.

All it means is that the designers have deliberately toned down the feature to the point of practically removing it.

Restore healing power to 3E levels and the quoted analysis will change.

PS This procedure is not hard at all. Just double the hit point gain from any healing spell and you are back to d20 levels, and you will find the usefulness of casting a Cure Wounds spell during combat greatly increased!
 
Reserving a high level slot is great general advice. Not necessarily with the expectation for healing, but with the expectation it's being reserved for one of those "oh crap" moments that can happen. Reserving potential for when it's really needed is specific to healers but if it's available a solid in combat heal can be important.
Agreed

Having it doesn't mean it's going to be used for in-combat healing, however. Out-of-combat healing options still tend to be more cost effective and using the same slots to mitigate damage generally saves more hit points in damage than the spell would have healed. Casting a healing spell in combat that could have been taken after the combat also nets a lost action for the caster so it only improves the combat actions if the healing gives the healed target more actions that would have been lost than the one the cleric does lose.
This is only part of the picture. Out of combat healing also competes against short rest hit die healing. So while, you may could heal more overall with an out of combat healing spell, that healing could likely have been accomplished without spending a single spell slot. If that's the case then using spell slots for out of combat healing is inefficient.

Now in situations where hit die healing is unavailable then it can make sense to spend a lower level slot on something like prayer of healing, but the general rule should be that out of combat healing spells are the exception, not the rule.

Let's face it. A 1st level spell the prevents attacks like Tasha's Hideous Laughter or Command or Entangle in a 1st level slot is going to prevent more damage from an Ogre than Cure Wounds in a 1st or 2nd level (until +4 bonus) slot even if it prevents only a single attack. Mass action denial is even more effective than healing using the same spell slots. Or go with defensive spells like Sactuary or Protection from Elements.
The downside is that action denial concentration spells must be cast at the start of the fight before knowing just how the fight is going. So let's look at the ogre example. Let's say his target is the 18 AC fighter with 20 hp. With his 6 attack he has a 55% chance to do 2d8+4 damage.

Tasha's has an amazingly high chance of success 70%
Entangle has an amazingly low chance of success 40%

I'm going to split the difference down the middle to estimate the average control spell will have 55% chance of success.

Now we have a lot of cases to consider:

Case 1: The depuff works every turn in the encounter leaving the ogre action less
Chance of occurrence: 17%
Chance ogre would have missed all attacks anyways 9%
Chance ogre would have hit with 1 attack 33%
Chance ogre would have hit with 2 attacks 41%
Chance ogre would have hit with 3 attacks 17%

1.66 healing spells used vs 1 control spell used
-----------------------------------------------------------
Case 2: The bebuff works every turn but the last leaving the ogre with a single action

This case results in an average of 1.66 heal spells being used to the 1 controllers spell
Chance of occurrence: =14%
Chance Ogre hits on the single attack 55%

Chance ogre would have missed all attacks anyways 9%
Chance ogre would have hit with 1 attack 33%
Chance ogre would have hit with 2 attacks 41%
Chance ogre would have hit with 3 attacks 17%

The debuffer in this case will use a healing spell when the ally is hit (this way I can compare apples to apples - number of spells used for the same result)

This would be 1.66 heal spells to the 1.55 debuffer spell

------------------------------------------------------------------

Case 3: The bebuff works only on the first turn leaving the ogre 2 actions
Chance of occurrence 25%
Chance Ogre hits with exactly 1 of his remaining attacks = 49.5%
Chance Ogre hits with both of his remaining attacks = 30.25%

Using the same logic of healing when the ogre hits.
1.66 healing spells used vs 2.1 control spells used

------------------------------------------------------------------

Case 4: The bebuff misses entirely
Chance of occurrence 45%

1.66 heal spells vs 2.6 control spells used



Weighting the averages
1.66 average heal spells used vs 2.08 average control spells used (for same effect).

(Not accounting for the extra cantrip attack the healer always gets on the first turn since no one needs healed then, or the extra cantrip attacks the controller gets when the enemy is debuffed and but would have otherwise hit - all in all I think those number of cantrip attacks for each pc will be pretty similar).

Amazingly, an average debuff spell at low levels isn't actually better than just healing your all back after being hit.

Given a choice in combat, I'm always going to go for what's effective, efficient, or necessary at the time and balancing that out with resource management over time. I find healing in combat something that may be required at times but it's a lower priority than preventing damage in the first place, which is where I see the best use for the actions and spell slots in combat.
So you are going to start healing in combat now instead of debuffing?
 
Last edited:

Ashrym

Adventurer
So you are going to start healing in combat now instead of debuffing?

Lol, no. I am going to continue activel making decisions based on the the encounters my characters and party are in. Preventing damage and action denial have been the best use of spell slots in the current system, ime.
 

Advertisement

Top