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D&D 5E Low level healing to stay up in a kids game

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
So, one of the games I run is for my kids and niece and nephew. They have a drow rogue (scout) 4, a red dragonborn barbarian (ancients) 4, a half-elven sorcerer (wild magic) 3 / warlock (hexblade) 1, and a eladrin bard (glamour) 4. The rogue is melee focused and the sorlock often is in melee as well.

Having the character hit zero is a traumatic experience, and they attempt a lot of pre-healing to prevent that. Which, as everyone knows, is not the best in 5e. On top of that, the bard is the only healer (plus some potions) and is doing things like using 2nd level slots with Healing Word and getting roped into being a faux heal-bot. I've even "forgotten" the rules a few times and allowed casting a bard spell the same round as the bonus action healing word just to let them do something bard-like. (And the player wants to be a bard, not a heal-bot.)

I'm looking for ideas I can do to help shift and lighten the healing load. I've pointed out several times the tHP from the bard's Mantle of Inspiration to the player, but it's never seen use. The sorlock doesn't want a shield (hexblade gives proficiency) because she wants a hand free for casting - and aesthetics. She has the Shield spell, but has been using Hellish Rebuke if hit instead. The rogue does their best and has a good AC but has the lowest HP in the party. And does like to take a second d4+0) attack with an offhand dagger rather than disengage and move back. She's rather bloodthirsty. :) (The barb is just fine, just he's not the only one getting attacked.)

I've floated the idea of having a healing sidekick with them, but the players aren't up for that. I do want this to be a training game to some degree so I'm not going to load them up with lots of defensive magic items or a staff of healing (rare) at this level. Heck, even if I gave a staff of healing, it would still be a single character (and that's the bard again as the only one who can attune) dedicating their actions to using it.

I'm detuning combat encounters to some degree, but remember they are mostly calibrated not to go down which takes a lot mroe resources than popping up after going down.

Assume the players are happy with their characters, so no one is rerolling a new character and the rogue is staying primary-melee and the sorlock as occasionally melee. And that I don't want to flood them with items that change the experience.

So, what are your ideas? Out of the box or in plain sight that I've overlooked.
 

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aco175

Legend
I like items myself and gave a party of two a ring that could heal 3/day for like 1d8, but as a bonus action. It was more like free healing which helped. Other times I add healing to a magic weapon. A +0 sword is good only to hit monsters needing magic, but add 1/day it can heal out to 30ft for 2d10hp and it becomes something they will keep. I usually add another power like 1/day you can reroll an attack to aid as well.

Another thing you can do is add to their AC to prevent being hit. A floating shield is cool and keeps your hands open while making you 10% less hittable.

Some rules changes like flanking allow the PCs to hit more and kill faster. You control the monsters, so they can flank as much as you think. I mostly have skeletons and such not flank much, but soldier-types flank as often as the PCs.
 



Well ideally the Bard just learns to use their Mantle of Inspiration, as it is some pretty clutch light healing, and will get better next level when it goes up to eight points and inspiration starts refreshing on short rests. Next time they want to use Healing Word with another full spell on the action you might want to remind them that can't do that, but they can use a full spell with their Mantle of Inspiration. If they take advantage of that they will have more healing potential than most parties in most campaigns I've been involved.

But I get it, I've played with kids.

Are they taking short rests? The only real tweak to healing I've ever actually implemented was on some campaigns letting characters get all their hit dice back on long rests so that they could benefit from more short resting, but even without tweaking that, this is the basic form of healing available to everyone and they even get an extra d6 of healing when they do it because there is a Bard in the party.

You could just have them find more healing potions amongst loot and find more available in stores.

But fundamentally it sounds like they have adopted a playstyle based around what they like in the game rather than how the game is designed to opperate and you have to make a decision about how much you are going to adapt the game to their playstyle and adjust for whatever consequences that has. If they want to go for risky behavior, burn through HP, not use every healing opportunity available, and not even let an NPC healer follow them around then the game is designed for there to be an eventual reckoning in the form of death and or defeat. Obviously that is always a tricky thing to allow as DM and way more so with children, but as DM you have a lot of leeway to bring characters back from death or make defeats survivable (and heck, prison breaks can be a lot of fun).
 

By "detuning combat encounters" do you mean making them easier? One way to do that to ensure that you don't make them too easy by accident is to have a 2nd wave of baddies waiting to join the fray. If the battle is becoming a cakewalk, introduce the 2nd wave (could be even just 1 or 2 more of the enemy). If the battle is a challenge, the 2nd wave doesn't need to show up at all. Another way is to sometimes have enemies leave the combat - perhaps its a morale thing after being wounded, or perhaps it is under the pretense of going for some backup to crush to party, or...

Another thought is to have an in-game mentor for the group who is a grizzled adventuring veteran who could give the PCs some interesting pointers in exchange for them sharing some of their battle stories. Pointers could be: focus fire, know when to retreat and live to fight another day, use buffs/debuffs strategically, seek to control the high ground, force the monsters into a bottleneck/pinch point, etc...
 

Boarbot 78

First Post
Just don’t let them hit zero? Have them fight easy stuff, and make the fight go their way when they are loosing! Personally I hate healing potions and they seem like the biggest rip-off in dnd. Are you sure all of them are opposed to the sidekick, cause I loved that idea. In the end if they are getting very upset you could always just slightly adjust damage to leave them on 1 or 2 hp, and if they don’t run then, well they just deserve to die!
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I kind of hit this in my current campaign. I made drinking a potion a bonus action, and maxed out healing potions. I justified the max healing potions as the church recognizing the good work they were doing.

If you want to justify drinking healing potions as a bonus action in-game you could also have potion hats

download (11).jpg
 

NotAYakk

Legend
1. When you magically heal you have to also roll a HD. If you are out of HD magic can only stabalize you when KO.

2. Healing potions are a bonus action to drink.

3. Cure Wounds can replace its d8s with the HD you roll (Healing Word cannot).

4. Add Lesser Healing Potions (1d4+1) for 10 gp.

This should move the responsibility of healing away from the Bard. Players csn burn their own resources to stay up (healing potions, actions), instead of relying on the bard.

And if they use up their HD, they cannot rely on the bard anymore. So there is some danger still.

Better healing potions make the HD spent more efficient.
 

FireLance

Legend
Have you considered using the Healing Surges option (DMG p. 266) and maybe the Epic Heroism option (DMG p. 267) for this game?
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Thanks for all the feedback! I realized I need to emphasize some of the points I may have been too light on.

This is explicitly a teaching game - I will not be using alternate rules, and the only "variant" are allowing multiclassing, feats, and the variant human (which no one took). Sorry, many of you had really good ideas involving those and I'm sorry I wasn't clearer about that up front. Though the "bonus action to drink a potion" is so ubiquitous that I may adopt it anyhow, thanks for reminding me of that.

As a teaching game, I don't want to load them down with magic items more than they would get in a normal game, which includes the subclass of defensive magic items to boost their AC.

I want them to get an accurate feel for how things go, so while I am lightning the XP budget for encounters a touch, I am also rolling in front of them.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!

When you say "kids" I'm thinking "under 10 years old"...so with that in mind...

I'd go with perhaps showing them, via an NPC, how other spells/methods or PC classes are there to mitigate damage. You mentioned that you told the Bard about Mantle of Inspiration, but he never uses it. Have a fellow "musician" with them when they get attacked by thugs/giant rats/corrupt guardsmen/whatever...and that Bard uses it. Children often learn best by the "tell and show" over "just tell". It's why we, as parents, are always trying to get our kids to at least TRY something first before deciding "I don't like it"...because they are so young they don't really even know what they 'like' or don't.

For older kids (re: 10 or older), maybe a mix of the Tell and the Show and Tell methods. I learned B/X when I was 10, and added AD&D 1e when I was 11 (as did my friends, who were my age or 1 year younger...I've always been the 'old greybeard' of the group!), so I know "kids can handle the complexity"...but they do have to try doing new stuff.

I wouldn't try and "change the game baseline for healing expectations", because that's going to harm their "gaming expectations" in the long run... in my humble opinion. Better to do a slight 'house rule modification' at worst, but best would be to show them effective healing methods or methods of avoiding damage in the first place.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
Let them find magic items which are triggered when the wearer hits 0 hit points. The wearer instead stays conscious but misses the turn stunned but they can spend hit dice in that turn to heal themselves.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Well, if you want to run it strictly by the rules (do people actually play D&D that way? :p ) I'd reinforce that dropping to 0 is not the end of the world.

I mean, I'd have other suggestions for minor tweaks, but a lot of decisions have been made. I rule that a rogue thief can use a healer's kit as a bonus action. My wife's PC does this and in some fights she's the main healer.

But maybe they just have to learn via the school of hard knocks. You can make suggestions and give hints but you can lead a horse to water but if he refuses to drink he dies of thirst.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Perhaps let them use HD to self-heal as a bonus action or half their movement (basically, giving them second winds at cost of their HD in combat). Healing potions then restore HD, instead of direct healing.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I've pointed out several times the tHP from the bard's Mantle of Inspiration to the player, but it's never seen use.
You might want to examine why it isn’t seeing use. Is the player simply forgetting they have it? Regularly using their bonus actions for something else? Overvaluing Bardic Inspiration or undervaluing Mantle of Inspiration? Is it possible they don’t fully grasp temporary hit points and are avoiding the ability because they’re not sure when/how they should use it? These might be things to consider.

Of course, even if you convince the bard’s player to use Mantle of Inspiration more often, it doesn’t really fix the underlying problem that the players are too reluctant to let their characters go down and pressuring their one player with healing to act as a heal bot instead of getting to do cool bard things. Have you tried “popping open the hood” so to speak? Explaining that, mathematically, spending a turn of combat healing actually puts them behind in the damage race unless that healing brings an unconscious character back into the fight?

An alternative angle might be to sit down with the players and talk about the problem with them directly. Tell them you’ve noticed [bard’s player] seems a little frustrated with having to heal everyone else and not getting a chance to do other things they’d like to do. Suggest that maybe the other players invest in some healing abilities, like the Healer feat, the Chef feat, or even a level in a class with healing spells, so that they can spread out healing duty among the whole party instead of forcing it all onto one player.
 

Iry

Hero
Change Cure Wounds:
  • Duration: 8 Hours.
  • A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier immediately upon reaching 0 HP within the duration of this spell. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.
Much less stress for children if they have an insurance policy so paranoia healing isn't an issue. But it still requires tactical thinking, because it commits the spell slot to a single person.
 
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My 4 cents:
  1. Give them a sidekick healer. With a group of kids, I would make it an animal that can somehow magically heal. If a real care-bear is too cuddly, then make it look meaner. And give it enough HP to take a hit, and level it up (at least its HP) with the party. Maybe a mean looking parrot with a peg leg that sits on the sorlock's shoulder and screams healing words? Or a St. Bernard dog with a cask around its neck that contains a (greater) healing potion?
  2. Make sure that the sorlock and/or bard learn how to make healing potions, and make them realize that the ingredients are easy to come by. With nearly unlimited supply of (regular) healing potions, drinking potions is only a problem of action-economy, not availability
  3. A magic item that can heal
  4. A magic items that can cast the Aid spell (but on 4 creatures instead of 3).
 


Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
One other option - use the optional rules from Tasha's and change subclass. For example the sorcerer could become a divine soul instead of wild mage. You can always justify it as wild magic. Or the rogue switches to thief and does the magic bandage thing (which does require the healer feat).

Of course I never want to force someone to play a support PC if they don't want to, it's just another option.
 

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