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D&D 5E Proposed Fix for Whack-a-Mole Healing

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Haven't read the rest of the thread, because the OP is missing something really important; intelligent enemies will not stop attacking once they knock a foe unconscious.

If you're fighting a foe who is aware magical healing exists (which in most D&D games, will be any sapient being), they are well aware that if someone drops to zero hp, they will likely be back on their feet soon enough.

So any foe who is moderately intelligent will conclude; keep attacking the unconscious person to ensure they're dead.

I can assure you, if you have any enemy attack a downed PC, your players will shy away from the "heal only when we're down" strategy.
 

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Haven't read the rest of the thread, because the OP is missing something really important; intelligent enemies will not stop attacking once they knock a foe unconscious.

If you're fighting a foe who is aware magical healing exists (which in most D&D games, will be any sapient being), they are well aware that if someone drops to zero hp, they will likely be back on their feet soon enough.

So any foe who is moderately intelligent will conclude; keep attacking the unconscious person to ensure they're dead.

I can assure you, if you have any enemy attack a downed PC, your players will shy away from the "heal only when we're down" strategy.&
This thread is over 4 years old but the other side of the problem with fixing this case of atrocious design in 5e is that players lack the healing & damage mitigation tools needed to use proactive healing rather than using wackamole healing's absorb shield that nullifies all damage beyond zero.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
This thread is over 4 years old but the other side of the problem with fixing this case of atrocious design in 5e is that players lack the healing & damage mitigation tools needed to use proactive healing rather than using wackamole healing's absorb shield that nullifies all damage beyond zero.

This isn't true at all. Just played a game last Friday where the cleric has an ability (I'm blanking on it's name) where everyone within five feet of him is getting temporary hit points. A party of 5 level 6 PCs were able to stomp a deva, flesh golem, and his 12 mongrelfolk minions pretty successfully on the merits of that ability alone; no one was downed once.
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
Your comment
When after the fight the players seem more HAPPYLYRELIEVED than GLORIOUSLY VICTORIOUS,m it is a surefire sign that the DM should drop this "they must win by the skin of their teeth" attitude. It's cheap. It's bad.

If you want your players to have fun, you have to make them feel extra-heroic most of the time!

I really enjoyed your comments as it is apropos to our DM's current homebrew campaign and I am eagerly awaiting to see if CCS responds to a four year old thread. 🧟‍♂️

Haven't read the rest of the thread, because the OP is missing something really important; intelligent enemies will not stop attacking once they knock a foe unconscious.

I'm not sure that is true if you look at any street brawl or gun fight recorded on YouTube and it's definitely not true of movies. You deal with the immediate threat and then move on to the next target as soon as the first threat hits the pavement.
 

This isn't true at all. Just played a game last Friday where the cleric has an ability (I'm blanking on it's name) where everyone within five feet of him is getting temporary hit points. A party of 5 level 6 PCs were able to stomp a deva, flesh golem, and his 12 mongrelfolk minions pretty successfully on the merits of that ability alone; no one was downed once.
Protector turret is an ability one artificer subclass has, 1d8+int mod. It's basically the exception & expecting an artillerist artificer to be the only remaining healer is hardly a reasonable state of "fix"
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
This isn't true at all. Just played a game last Friday where the cleric has an ability (I'm blanking on it's name) where everyone within five feet of him is getting temporary hit points. A party of 5 level 6 PCs were able to stomp a deva, flesh golem, and his 12 mongrelfolk minions pretty successfully on the merits of that ability alone; no one was downed once.

Circle of Shepherd druid's Unicorn Spirit (a second level ability) plus healing word will restore an additional hit points equal to the druid's level to anybody within 30 feet. It only takes a bonus action to set up the Unicorn Spirit and then another bonus action healing word each turn. It is soooo good.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
...
I'm not sure that is true if you look at any street brawl or gun fight recorded on YouTube and it's definitely not true of movies. You deal with the immediate threat and then move on to the next target as soon as the first threat hits the pavement.

The real world doesn't have healing word or potions. D&D world is more like Zombieland where Rule #2 (after Cardio) is Double Tap.
 

Circle of Shepherd druid's Unicorn Spirit (a second level ability) plus healing word will restore an additional hit points equal to the druid's level to anybody within 30 feet. It only takes a bonus action to set up the Unicorn Spirit and then another bonus action healing word each turn. It is soooo good.
Once per long rest for one minute with no way of moving itof course runs into trouble unless defending against the zerg horde.
 


Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I'm not sure that is true if you look at any street brawl or gun fight recorded on YouTube and it's definitely not true of movies. You deal with the immediate threat and then move on to the next target as soon as the first threat hits the pavement.

How many gun fights have you seen where folks have health potions or magical healing? If people could heal people near-instantly, folks would definitely be more keen on ensuring their enemy is dead.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Protector turret is an ability one artificer subclass has, 1d8+int mod. It's basically the exception & expecting an artillerist artificer to be the only remaining healer is hardly a reasonable state of "fix"

Like I said, the guy was a cleric. I really can't remember what it was called, but it was granting temporary hit points, about 12 per round. That combined with a healing word, and we were doing pretty well.
 


Rabulias

Hero
Like I said, the guy was a cleric. I really can't remember what it was called, but it was granting temporary hit points, about 12 per round. That combined with a healing word, and we were doing pretty well.
Sounds like a Twilight domain Cleric using their Twilight Sanctuary Channel Divinity ability.
 

Rabulias

Hero
Something popped into my head but I have not had time to think it through very much. If an overnight Long Rest heals all your hit points, then they goes to the argument they are more "mental durability, the will to live, and luck" than "physical durability" (quotes from PHB). I don't want to wade into the "what are HP" debate, just showing what led to this thought.

So if you can recover from a hard day of fighting with just a good night's rest, what happens if you have a close brush with death (getting to 0 HP and making Death Saves) during that day? So I was thinking if you are brought down to zero hit points, in your next Long Rest you do not recover any hit points or recover any hit dice. You can be magically healed, and you can spend hit dice, but that first rest is really just recovering from the ordeal. You can't just "sleep it off."

Is this too great or too small of a consequence? It might be a pain to keep track of as it removed from the point in time. Maybe it's a new condition? Maybe you have to make a saving throw or a check to start having normal Long Rests again? I will think on this more.
 

Whack a mole is indeed annoying, but forcing the DM to deliberately finish downed PCs is even worse.

Best solution: instant death at 0 HP.
No appeal.

IMHO that is a bit extreme.

My campaign fixed the whack a mole thing with a couple house rules:

Any Crit: +1 rank of Severe Injury.
Downed to 0: +1 rank of Severe Injury.
Both stack so downed on a Crit = a Rank 2 severe Injury.
Possible to get 3 Ranks in one shot with rare special items or monsters that have an "great wounding" power. Like say a Vorpal Sword (but not on every strike!) or some high demons or undead.

Save vs CON DC 10 vs the Severe Injury (a variant of Lingering Injuries and my system is much less severe - see below). Success = -1 rank suffered. Crit Success aka Natural 20 = -2 rank suffered. Crit Failure aka Natural 1 = +1 rank suffered.

This dice for the Severe Injury Hit Location:
1631610512892.png

Severe Injury Ranks go from
1 (for a non negligible penalty)
2 (severe penalty)
3 (crippling: can't use that part at ALL anymore)
4 (completely lost that part, handicapped for good... or dead if it's head or torso... Do you want to roll a new PC?).
With a simple 12-entries "SEVERE INJURY TABLE"

Plus, any downed PC get Incapacitated status until the end of the next short rest.

Finally I let stabilized PCs at 0 HP remain conscious if the player wishes. They can't talk loudly, perceive only things near them (15 feet), and can't take any real action except a single Action called "Last Ditch Heroic Effort" (max 1/Long Rest), which involve a CON Save just to succeed doing it, and then they take 1 damage and start dying again. I've found that this allows downed players to still feel as if they are still part of the action, instead of just watching the others play for what can sometimes be over an hour (for long fights asnd a Pc downed early on).

Ah, and Death Saves, it's an increasing d6 instead, +1 each round. Then when First Aid arrives, or a healing spell is cast, the savior action is spent then the downed player rolls that number of Death Saves in one go, ahnd if he he still alive THEN the savior's action is resolved otherwise the healing just fails. This avoids the metagaming that "Oh Bob has been down 2 rounds already but we still don't really need to go help him right away because he already succeeded his first 2 Death Saves so he's probably going to be ok!"

Also, my Death Saves are d20 + Proficiency Bonus = way easier to survive!, especially at higher levels (I've had a rage quit by a player highly invested in his PC that evenntyally died). Some high level monsters can apply some (small) penalties to Death Saves, though. Lava or Acid pools can be more than deadly enough already. Plus, healing a Severe Injury goes beyond just slappping some healing and rest on it. Say a Rank 1 arm injury = disadvantage to attacks with that arm / can't use a shield with that arm. That sucks but at least you ain't dead and it will eventualy heal (albeit maybe not before the end of the current adventure chapter).

That gives a VERY strong incentive for players to avoid getting downed as much as possible.
 

Nefermandias

Adventurer
IMHO that is a bit extreme.

My campaign fixed the whack a mole thing with a couple house rules:

Any Crit: +1 rank of Severe Injury.
Downed to 0: +1 rank of Severe Injury.
Both stack so downed on a Crit = a Rank 2 severe Injury.
Possible to get 3 Ranks in one shot with rare special items or monsters that have an "great wounding" power. Like say a Vorpal Sword (but not on every strike!) or some high demons or undead.

Save vs CON DC 10 vs the Severe Injury (a variant of Lingering Injuries and my system is much less severe - see below). Success = -1 rank suffered. Crit Success aka Natural 20 = -2 rank suffered. Crit Failure aka Natural 1 = +1 rank suffered.

This dice for the Severe Injury Hit Location:
View attachment 143772
Severe Injury Ranks go from
1 (for a non negligible penalty)
2 (severe penalty)
3 (crippling: can't use that part at ALL anymore)
4 (completely lost that part, handicapped for good... or dead if it's head or torso... Do you want to roll a new PC?).
With a simple 12-entries "SEVERE INJURY TABLE"

Plus, any downed PC get Incapacitated status until the end of the next short rest.

Finally I let stabilized PCs at 0 HP remain conscious if the player wishes. They can't talk loudly, perceive only things near them (15 feet), and can't take any real action except a single Action called "Last Ditch Heroic Effort" (max 1/Long Rest), which involve a CON Save just to succeed doing it, and then they take 1 damage and start dying again. I've found that this allows downed players to still feel as if they are still part of the action, instead of just watching the others play for what can sometimes be over an hour (for long fights asnd a Pc downed early on).

Ah, and Death Saves, it's an increasing d6 instead, +1 each round. Then when First Aid arrives, or a healing spell is cast, the savior action is spent then the downed player rolls that number of Death Saves in one go, ahnd if he he still alive THEN the savior's action is resolved otherwise the healing just fails. This avoids the metagaming that "Oh Bob has been down 2 rounds already but we still don't really need to go help him right away because he already succeeded his first 2 Death Saves so he's probably going to be ok!"

Also, my Death Saves are d20 + Proficiency Bonus = way easier to survive!, especially at higher levels (I've had a rage quit by a player highly invested in his PC that evenntyally died). Some high level monsters can apply some (small) penalties to Death Saves, though. Lava or Acid pools can be more than deadly enough already. Plus, healing a Severe Injury goes beyond just slappping some healing and rest on it. Say a Rank 1 arm injury = disadvantage to attacks with that arm / can't use a shield with that arm. That sucks but at least you ain't dead and it will eventualy heal (albeit maybe not before the end of the current adventure chapter).

That gives a VERY strong incentive for players to avoid getting downed as much as possible.
Too complicated IMHO.
I'd really kill for some official options to dramatically increase lethality without adding too much complexity.
 

Maybe if they're going down so often you had to give it a name either the monsters are hitting to hard or the PCs don't have enough HP.

The 'problem' (such as it is) seems to come from players not wanting their characters to die, so I don't think 'kill them more often' or 'make them easier to kill more often' are actually solving what you think they're solving.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Whack a mole is indeed annoying, but forcing the DM to deliberately finish downed PCs is even worse.

Best solution: instant death at 0 HP.
No appeal.

See, what I'm saying is you set expectations once. If you have any fight where an enemy is willing to attack a downed PC one time, that's two death saves. You don't even need to attack again, as that moves a downed PC as potentially one round away from death.

And as someone who has done this, my players are now way less likely to risk having a PC go down. So you really only have to do this one time to scare PCs away from whack-a-mole healing.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I think that whack-a-mole is somewhat overstated. It's often a bad idea (such as if the unconscious character would lose a turn). That said, I'm not suggesting it's a non-issue.

I agree with those that have said that it's partially because healing, in most cases, is not competitive with damage. Both in terms of the damage that monsters can dish out, as well as the opportunity cost of casting a healing spell instead of a spell that deals (or enables others to deal) damage.

I've considered adding a spell for healers that grants temporary hp to an ally as a means of addressing this. Probably something along the lines of 10/spell level + spellcasting modifier. Meaning it could legitimately negate one or more hits against many opponents. I've even considered giving it for free to healers, so that it isn't a tax on their spells prepared.

On the DMs side, I agree that putting the fear of death into them can certainly mitigate this to a degree as well. While this can certainly include making attacks against unconscious opponents, you don't have to necessarily go to such lengths if you don't want to. Simply have enemies drag away unconscious characters. IME, the players often respond to this as if the enemy were executing the PC. Alternately, enemies such as goblins might grab some treasure off the unconscious character's body and flee. The threat of losing a treasured item is a fate worse than death to some players. Obviously, not all of these are pertinent to every encounter, but if you get creative you can keep your players on their toes even when these are off the table, as long as they don't know that.

Overall, I think the best way to discourage whack-a-mole is a carrot and stick approach. The thing I don't like about most house rules addressing whack-a-mole is that they're all stick. Obviously, if you're group is fine with it, it's fine, but I find it a bit heavy handed.
 

Like I said, the guy was a cleric. I really can't remember what it was called, but it was granting temporary hit points, about 12 per round. That combined with a healing word, and we were doing pretty well.

I think that whack-a-mole is somewhat overstated. It's often a bad idea (such as if the unconscious character would lose a turn). That said, I'm not suggesting it's a non-issue.

I agree with those that have said that it's partially because healing, in most cases, is not competitive with damage. Both in terms of the damage that monsters can dish out, as well as the opportunity cost of casting a healing spell instead of a spell that deals (or enables others to deal) damage.

I've considered adding a spell for healers that grants temporary hp to an ally as a means of addressing this. Probably something along the lines of 10/spell level + spellcasting modifier. Meaning it could legitimately negate one or more hits against many opponents. I've even considered giving it for free to healers, so that it isn't a tax on their spells prepared.

On the DMs side, I agree that putting the fear of death into them can certainly mitigate this to a degree as well. While this can certainly include making attacks against unconscious opponents, you don't have to necessarily go to such lengths if you don't want to. Simply have enemies drag away unconscious characters. IME, the players often respond to this as if the enemy were executing the PC. Alternately, enemies such as goblins might grab some treasure off the unconscious character's body and flee. The threat of losing a treasured item is a fate worse than death to some players. Obviously, not all of these are pertinent to every encounter, but if you get creative you can keep your players on their toes even when these are off the table, as long as they don't know that.

Overall, I think the best way to discourage whack-a-mole is a carrot and stick approach. The thing I don't like about most house rules addressing whack-a-mole is that they're all stick. Obviously, if you're group is fine with it, it's fine, but I find it a bit heavy handed.
5e leaves GMs with very few avenues they can employ as a carrot. Nearly any change to problems like this one start with a need for "ok nerf this list f things like this" before you can even consider a carrot that's still below the munchkinized levels they started with in RAW & plain reading.
 

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