Interesting... I will say this. I generally play with a very stable group of players, ones who have played RPGs forever, generally know D&D inside out, and whom I know are all mostly on the same page. I haven't fielded a question like that in a long time, at least not in a literal sense. Generally everyone knows the rules, their hit points, etc, so it would be much more informal, the healer player would simply inquire about the state of whichever character(s) was/were of concern and get a mechanical answer "Oh, I've got -3 hit points, if I can spend a surge I'll be fine, but I've failed a death save." etc. The healer might then say "well, he's lying on the ground bleeding, I'll hit him with a CLW!" etc.First, let me preface this by saying I'm not going to argue either side for hit points, because that's pointless and I've made the huge majority of my Wisdom checks on EN World over the past 6+ months. But I had a question for you on how you'd handle something. This isn't a gotcha, but I'm curious what you'd do with it.
Maybe it's just my players, but I've had many healers (magical or otherwise) that inspect wounds (or ask for judgments of them) before healing. Say two PCs are down; which one looked like the worse wound? Was one stabbed multiple times, and the other knocked down with a club? Before I know if I need to use a spell slot on this guy, how bad is his wound? Like, is he bleeding to death, or does he just need to rest and walk it off?
These are questions I've gotten from players since they started playing and learning the rules. They eventually slowed with these questions as they learned the rules (and that "down" meant "bleeding to death" with nearly no exceptions), narrowing the possible narrative options. However, once I created my own RPG, I added mechanics that might down people for a variety of reasons (I added a "hit chart", people can go unconscious from taking too much damage while in armor, etc.), and the questions returned (since my mechanics allowed a broader selection of narratives to play out mechanically).
With that in mind, how would you reply to a player's questioning in D&D (not my RPG)? Like, if they said they wanted to inspect the wound, were trained in Heal, and got a high roll. Depending on the severity and specifications, they'll decide whether or not to use the spell (slot / power). This player is a new player (so asking questions like this is natural for him), but he's smart (and gets saving resources if possible) and a good RPer (his god would only approve of him healing this downed person in a fringe sense; say it's an enemy that he might need to heal).
Just curious how you'd handle that kind of thing (since the large majority of players have engaged in it). Thanks in advance
Well, I'd first of all make sure to convey the mechanics of the situation if there's any uncertainty about that in anyone's mind. The player is then free to narrate things as he sees fit pretty much. He could say "Oh, the fighter is down and bleeding, but when I wake him up and whisper some words of encouragement in his ear he gathers his internal reserves and staggers to his feet, determined not to be defeated" in which case the character is still bearing the signs of his ordeal, but clearly -regardless of any previous narration- he's not spurting blood out of arteries, etc. However, he IS now down an HS (or in my homebrew sysem a vitality point), so his physical condition IS lessened, he's just no longer about to collapse and stop fighting.
If the player was a cleric and wanted to use a Healing Word, well, then no doubt he would -presumably- narrate that as knitting back together some flesh and bone, and then the character again gets up and continues. As I said before, its the heat of battle, so its extremely unlikely that anyone has the time to do a real diagnosis or even observe every single shot that people take. A round in 4e is only 6 seconds long after all, its not like you can do any meaningful triage in 6 seconds. Maybe in AD&D's 1 minute round you could perhaps accomplish SOME useful first aid, but not much.
Truthfully I've never (at least in my memory, things from the 70's get a bit hazy) run into a situation where a player was disturbed by the interaction of mechanics and narrative, at least not in that way. I've had players remark that 4e powers often both gave them a lot of narrative power, AND could require some cleverness to make sense of, or back in the day a few complaints about the realism level of various AD&D class features and such. I do recall the ancient debates about what hit points 'meant', but we all simply agreed they were a game construct and not very closely tied to reality, even back then. I really am playing with a lot of the same people nowadays too, so I don't claim to have much of a representative sample of D&Ders, though I've played with a fair number of different groups over the years.