log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E The Healing Spirit Nerf=Complete Overkill

I have played a lot of Fifth Edition. An unhealthy amount, if I'm being honest. I've played and run games excessively both before and after Xanathar's, and I've seen games with excessive healing spirit conga-lining and without it. So I do understand why people didn't like healing spirit. With that said, in my opinion the nerf of healing spirit was a wild overcorrection. A "oh no, I'm drifting into the wrong lane, I'm going to jerk the steering wheel so hard I fly off a cliff" level overcorrection. I also believe a lot of the hate of healing spirit was people hopping on a bandwagon rather than actually having the spell adversely impact their game. Not all, mind, but a lot. Sometimes the community gets an idea in mind like "rangers suck" or "healing spirit is broken" and these ideas just stick, regardless of their truth or falsity.

First, I'm going to give my best steel man of the position to demonstrate I understand why people disliked healing spirit. Then I am going to explain my problems with this commonly-held position, why I think healing spirit as it was did not "break" the game, and why I think nerfing it into the ground has had an adverse impact on the game. Including, might I add, in ways that harm the very style of play that those who argue against healing spirit hold up as ideal.

Anti-Healing Spirit Steel Man: D&D is a game built upon attrition. You are supposed to fight 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day, and while none of the encounters on its own should be dangerous, the encounters should slowly wear down the resources of the party such that by the end, if they used resources unwisely, the party should regret that decision and feel worn, battered, and naughty word. Healing spirit removes this element from the intended style of play entirely. Rather than restoring health inefficiently and at great cost in spell slots (or just pushing forward while missing hp), healing spirit allows a party to fully reset hit points at the cost of a single low level slot.

Healing spirit is wildly out of sync with the rest of the healing options in the game and ensures the party will never suffer attrition due to their health bars being lowered. Even if everyone in the party loses half their health, boom, healing spirit lifts all the bars like it's World of Warcraft. Compare healing spirit to prayer of healing, which is a spell solely used for healing out of combat. It heals like ten times more, at least! Clearly healing spirit is a broken, unbalanced mess if it is so dramatically outperforming the dedicated 'out of combat' healing option. That's not to mention how badly it outperforms cure wounds, healing word, etcetera, etcetera. How could anyone not see it's broken?

My Response: Okay, that's my best effort putting forth a good approximation of the general arguments against healing spirit. If you think I got that wrong, please feel free to explain what I missed below. I'll try to break my disagreements with this general sentiment into a few key points:

1. Healing spirit did not harm the attrition of the game, it just changed it.

At level 3, when a druid first gets healing spirit (and 5 for a ranger), a level 2 slot is not a trivial expense. If your party gets messed up in a fight and you use healing spirit to fully heal everyone, that second level slot is something you will miss having. If you can, it's wiser to use hit dice as a resource before a spell slot. A short rest returns hit points and other important features. Further, most of the healing is wasted by over healing. Let's assume the party is a bit higher, level 9. At this point, sure, a level 2 slot doesn't mean a whole lot. You can use healing spirit to top everyone up and skip a short rest at a low cost. But is that a problem, at this level? By level 9 you should have enough gold to buy piles of healing potions. If you had access to healing spirit, we can also assume you have a druid or ranger, who can use yesterdays spell slots to provide goodberries to the entire party for 70hp at virtually no cost. How much damage is the party realistically taking in?

I argue that the true attrition in D&D is not hit points, it's the other resources. Spells, action surge, and other rest abilities are what will stop a party from moving forward. Those are the resources they should be careful with. Nothing about healing spirit changes the fact that in a long dungeon delve, if the wizard has used every spell slot, you are going to have a harder time at the bottom. Healing spirit just means that the wizard will start the fight with full health before doing nothing but throwing cantrips.

Also, I can't speak for everyone, but for myself: I almost never see 6-8 encounters a day. That just does not seem to me to be the norm for D&D these days.

2. Comparing healing spirit to prayer of healing is silly.

Prayer of healing is a horrible spell. It was horrible before healing spirit arrived to do the job it was supposed to do correctly, continued to be when healing spirit arrived, and still is now that healing spirit has been shanked. I won't claim I've never seen prayer of healing used, but it is extremely rare. There is almost always a better option. It's a ten minute cast, aside from the low healing it does, so it's competing pretty directly with short rests, which are just better, and does not perform its role well enough to waste a spell slot. Optimizers do not prepare this spell, and for good reason. Comparing healing spirit to prayer of healing is a bit like comparing a good damage spell (fireball) to something horrible (circle of death) and arguing that because circle of death does so badly, fireball needs to be dragged down to its level.

3. Healing spirit is not "broken."

It was over-tuned, yes, but not "broken." On my view for something to be "broken," it needs to trivialize difficult encounters in different contexts regularly. For example, summoning pixies and turning everyone into a t-rex is something I would classify as "broken."
If you are a level 5 party facing off against a group of ornery giants, healing spirit is not going to save you. It will ensure you have full health going into the fight, and then you'll get turned into jam and jarred for later consumption by the giants. Is the spike growth spell broken because in this same encounter, it can slow the giants down enough for you to escape, and potentially even let you kite the giants around and poke them with arrows while they shred their feet on your brambles? I would contend that it is not, it simply performs its function well. Spells have niches. Healing spirit was a very strong out of combat recovering option, and I actually agree it should have been scaled down a bit. But "a bit too strong" does not mean that the spell needed to be disemboweled.

4. Healing spirit helped prevent frustrating player retreats.

Let's assume the players are in The Temple of Nasty Things, delving away into the dungeon, and they don't have a ticking clock*. The players don't have healing spirit, or goodberries, or healing potions, or someone with aura of vitality, or any other way to recover lost hit points effectively. They get a third of the way through and wastefully spam cure wounds to top up their hp. Then they realize they're kind of spent on spell slots and decide to turn right around, leave The Temple of Nasty Things, put up a Leomund's Tiny Hut and get a nice, long nap.

I don't find that particularly satisfying as a player or as a dungeon master. You can discourage this behavior, give the players emotional stakes in the dungeon, but sometimes they are going to get tapped on resources and bail. From experience, I saw a lot of this before healing spirit was put into the game, and less of it afterwards. Healing spirit allows the party to spend a resource to keep the adventure flowing. It makes the ranger feel useful. It stops me from trying to think of things in the forest that can break into Leomund's Hut. It does this all while not actually helping the players all that much during combat itself.

*You can't always have a princess in the dungeon slowly being lowered into lava. Realistically, sometimes the players are going to have time.

5. Opportunity costs and book changes. Was this really necessary?

The designers goofed a bit and put in a spell that was more effective than they intended. It wasn't broken, but it was stronger than they thought when it was printed and caused a hostile (and, I argue, irrational) community reaction... so as an "errata" they go back and completely change the nature of the spell. There are now two versions of the spell. Errata is meant to be for clarifying wording and intent, not for nerfing spells. This is not an MMO where the nerf comes in and everyone gets it, some people who don't keep up with errata are going to walk into a session and find that one of the spells in the book they paid for has been changed. It isn't that the wording was unclear and they fixed it to make it clear, they dramatically changed the function of a spell due to community sentiment.

Now I'm not saying they shouldn't give people what they want, but one must consider that this does cause older books to have a spell that is no longer usable. Is this sort of thing something they should do? And if so, was healing spirit really the most broken spell in the game? Should they go in and do a balance patch and fix all of the things that are a bit out of whack? I'm of the opinion they should leave hard reworks like that to optional rules or a new edition. I am, for example, pleased they gave beast master rangers a pet fix. They did that without having to render previously printed, already purchased books out of date.



Conclusion

Look, I know healing spirit was a bit overtuned. I do. But considering that the base game has greatberry (life cleric+goodberry), aura of vitality, cheap healing potions, hit dice, and more, it wasn't so out of whack that it justified coming at the spell with a cleaver. I could understand them making a hard change that outright adjusts a printed rule/spell for something like a simulacrum chain, something truly game-breaking, but a more effective out of combat heal? One that is almost always going to do more than you really needed, anyway? I do not believe that it was justified, and it certainly not "errata," which is an error in print.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Yeah, back when the change first came out there was a lot of discussion about it. Most felt like Wizards overcompensated. That would have been the time to get lots of discussion. It's a bit old news now.

Though there's also thought that the change doesn't impact in-combat healing as much, and it was really it's out-of-combat overshadowing of Prayer of Healing that was the issue with Healing Spirit conga-lines being hands down the most effective. So now post-change it's the best 2nd level in-combat healing spell, and PoH is returned to the best 2nd level out-of-combat healing spell.
 

It was a massive overcorrection yes. However someone wants to summarize what wotc did, the fact that they did it puts wotc in poor standing on every other borked spell & cantrip they refuse to touch even slightly
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I agree with your conclusion (healing spirit, while overtuned, was not broken, and the errata was a massive over-correction), but not your reasoning. I think your attempted steel man ironically reveals a distaste for the attrition-based model of difficulty (further supported by your defense of healing spirit on the basis that it “prevented frustrating retreats”) while underplaying the amount by which it ouperformed other healing spells.

I think a proper anti-healing spirit steelman would not focus on attrition because many games (perhaps most games) don’t follow that model, and healing spirit still outperforms other healing spells in games that don’t use attrition-based difficulty. Furthermore, the most effective way to use healing spirit was to use it out of combat, when the spell was clearly designed to be used in combat. When a spell is considerably more effective when used in a way that is counter to design intent than it is when used as intended, something is wrong.

Now, I do think the errata was terrible. Because while it addressed the exploit, it also made the spell considerably worse when used in combat, as intended. A proper fix would have impacted the spell’s in-combat functionality little if any. My recommendation would have been to simply make it grant temporary hit points.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Healing spirit is still very very good. The key is that it triggers automatically at the start of a creature's turn; which means that if somebody gets dropped to zero, while standing in the spirit's space, they get revived on their next turn and lose no actions. Against a single large enemy with only 1-2 attacks per round*, healing spirit can make the party tank almost unkillable.

*To both drop a PC and finish them off in a single round, you need a minimum of three attacks, unless your attack can deal (PC's maximum hit points) in one hit.
 
Last edited:

cbwjm

Hero
I think healing spirit as it is now is fine, I didn't like it previously based mainly on how people used it as conga line healing after a battle, which made it significantly better than the equivalent spell prayer of healing, 10d6 vs. 2d8+modifier makes me thing it a no-brainer to reduce the healing of healing spirit. That's what I tend to look at, spells of equivalent level and their uses. If one is clearly better than other spells of similar level then it needs to be adjusted.
 

Healing spirit is still very very good. The key is that it triggers automatically at the start of a creature's turn; which means that if somebody gets dropped to zero, while standing in the spirit's space, they get revived on their next turn and lose no actions. Against a single large enemy with only 1-2 attacks per round*, healing spirit can make the party tank almost unkillable.

*To both drop a PC and finish them off in a single round, you need a minimum of three attacks, unless your attack can deal (PC's maximum hit points) in one hit.


Depends on initiative order and relies on the DM not punching you twice while down. If you're unconscious, two hits (and the swings have advantage) kill you. Full stop, you're dead.

Also, it's not a great idea to cast healing spirit in combat. It wasn't good for that even when it was over tuned, and at this point it's just a trap option. If you're a druid, you have many better options for your concentration that will keep a fight from going so far south that you need to repeatedly heal unconscious party members. Summon something. It will soak more damage than the healing spirit will heal, and also hit back and control space. Or use heat metal, which gives disadvantage and thus can prevent damage while dealing damage with no save. Or use spike growth to stop the enemies from getting to you. Healing spirit is not worth the spell slot or your concentration in a fight.
 

1. Healing spirit did not harm the attrition of the game, it just changed it.

I argue that the true attrition in D&D is not hit points, it's the other resources.
They all are. Hit Points as just as integral for resource attrition as other Long Rest abilities. Trivializing HP attrition is what happened in 4E, where you were assumed to enter every encounter at/near full HP. This is fine for certain styles of play, but if you assume resource attrition, then HP must be an included factor.

Also, I can't speak for everyone, but for myself: I almost never see 6-8 encounters a day. That just does not seem to me to be the norm for D&D these days.
This is sadly true. 5E was built around a set of assumptions on encounters per day, and this assumption doesn't match actual play for most groups. I was part of the playtest, and I never saw anything concerning this, making this pretty much entirely WotC's fault. IMO most people's problems with 5E are based around the fact that they often use about half of the expected encounters. This weakens classes that use at-will and short rest abilities (like the monk and warlock) while strengthening spellcasters, who can regularly go nova. This is a secondary issue, however, which has been rehashed endlessly.

2. Comparing healing spirit to prayer of healing is silly.
Comparing healing spirit to prayer of healing is a bit like comparing a good damage spell (fireball) to something horrible (circle of death) and arguing that because circle of death does so badly, fireball needs to be dragged down to its level.
You're not comparing Fireball to Circle of Death, you're comparing Disintegrate to Acid Arrow. With a level 2 slot, by RAW, you can heal 10d6 HP (avg 35) to well over a dozen people in a minute for a 2nd level spell. Cure Wounds gives a single person 2d8+mod HP (avg 14 with max mod). Prayer of Healing gives half a dozen people 2d8+mod HP (14 again). Aura of Vitality gives a total of 20d6 HP (avg 70) against an upcast Healing Spirit giving 20d6 to everyone. Heal gives 70 HP to a single person, while an upcast Healing Spirit gives 70d6 (avg 245) to everyone. Healing Spirit isn't what Prayer of Healing was meant to be; it's well above any existing healing in the game!

3. Healing spirit is not "broken."

If you are a level 5 party facing off against a group of ornery giants, healing spirit is not going to save you. It will ensure you have full health going into the fight, and then you'll get turned into jam and jarred fully healed for later consumption by the giants.
If your argument is the DM can throw out unbalanced encounters, your argument is flawed. Healing Spirit will make sure you can survive the damage dished out by the giants, while you use other resources to win. Then you spend a 2nd level slot to start the cycle over again.

4. Healing spirit helped prevent frustrating player retreats.
*You can't always have a princess in the dungeon slowly being lowered into lava. Realistically, sometimes the players are going to have time.
Yeah, but you can have intelligent enemies that take advantage of the player's rest. In the Temple of Nasty Things, they should have improved defenses, and quite possibly be waiting outside the Tiny Hut. Congrats, you took a long rest and now have to face every enemy at once... good luck!
5. Opportunity costs and book changes. Was this really necessary?
I agree with you on this, and so did WotC. They didn't do this lightly, having addressed it with Sage Advice first. They learned from 3E and 4E how errata can disrupt the game, and only did it once they felt it necessary.

I think the only reason they did an errata was because of Adventurer's League, where the Sage Advice was irrelevant. I don't think a reprint was the best option, as a simple issued errata for AL would be sufficient.

Conclusion
I agree the change was overkill, making it much less powerful than it should be. I felt it should either have been once per round, which might have needed awkward wording, but would have kept the intent of the spell the same (also mostly balances it against Aura of Vitality). If it was to be limited to a number of uses, I would have gone with either double modifier, or modifier plus proficiency. Either of these would have kept the spell usable, while bringing back in line with the rest of the game.
 

Al'Kelhar

Adventurer
Healing spirit was a cludgy spell and also completely unnecessary. Druids simply should simply have been given access to aura of vitality (much as clerics now have been in Tasha's). I find it gobsmacking that anyone legitimately relied on it pre-errata, as it was quite clearly stupidly potent. For a party of five PCs, a single druid could heal an average of 350 hit points of damage in 1 minute by upcasting it with a 3rd level slot. That amount of healing for a 3rd level spell is just stupid - like "are the designers playing a joke on us, or did they really not think this one through" stupid. The OP may not believe so, but I'd say they're in a substantial minority.

I agree that, post-errata, it is a very underwhelming spell.

The solution is forget the spell ever existed, and if you reckon druids should heal as well as clerics (I don't), give your druids access to aura of vitality.
 

The solution is forget the spell ever existed, and if you reckon druids should heal as well as clerics (I don't), give your druids access to aura of vitality.

I mean, we already have that, so I guess in your view the problem is solved? That's an update that I agree with WotC on. Druid healing was (and honestly, mostly still is) the best, which I can see making clerics salty. Giving both Aura of Vitality brings them into line with one another.

Also, I actually agree that just pretending the spell never existed now is the best option. What annoys me isn't people saying the spell was overtuned before, it clearly was, but people saying it's balanced now. No, no it's not.
 

Iry

Hero
They ruined an important part of Healing Spirit. The spell was INDEPENDANT of spellcasting modifiers, which made it an excellent tool for character builds that do not involve a lot of Wisdom (14 or less). The new version makes the spell extremely ineffective for low wisdom builds.
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
I played in one group that used original healing spirit for a while. I played a healing cleric, but once the ranger got access to it it wasn’t long before we relied on the ranger for between combat healing!

I run a game where we don’t use any non PHB spells (iirc) with 2 of the players who play in the first game. All three of us prefer it just not exist.

Prayer of Healing got used a bit but it was agreed it was a bit weak and between combat healing could do with a boost so we reduced casting time to 1 minute and changed the dice to d12. I think I’ll now suggest we put it on bard, druid and Ranger spell lists.
 

dave2008

Legend
This is sadly true. 5E was built around a set of assumptions on encounters per day, and this assumption doesn't match actual play for most groups.
I don't think that really is the assumption though. The baseline of 6-8 encounters per day is predicated on a certain amount of difficulty per encounter (not very difficult). The real assumption, to balance long and short rest classes, is 2 short-rest per long rest. This means the real "requirement" is 3 encounters per day (with a short rest between each encounter). However, if you want to keep the same daily challenge as 6-8 encounters / day, you need to increase the per encounter challenge.

I've used the above guideline and it has worked wonderfully for our group. FYI, we average about 3+/- encounters per long rest.
 

jgsugden

Legend
If you're not seeing 6-8 encounters per day/LR - talk to your DM. See if that is something the players and DM want to try out.

Techniques for moving towards it:

* Rolling encounters - Encounter one takes place with the orcs in the entry of the dungeon. Unless the PCs are stealthy in their assassination of these orcs, the orcs in the next room will pick up their weapons, and come to the battle starting on the third (or fourth) round. The PCs will nearly eliminate the first group of orcs before that second comes. This prevents any rest between encounters.

* Time pressures - The PCs have 8 encounters between them and the finish line, and they know that something bad will happen in 90 minutes if they do not get there.

* No place to rest - The PCs are being hunted and there is no place to rest. This can be overcome with Rope Trick or Tiny Hut, obviously, but for parties without those options, it works.

* Into the Unknown - When the PCs do not know whether they're going to lose out if they rest, they may be more hesitant to rest so often. Don't let them know that the BBEG is going to escape in 90 minutes - but when they get to the end of the dungeon they discover he escaped while they took their long rest, the next time they decide to rest you can remind them that the world moves on when they rest, like when the BBEG escaped, ....

I'm not particularly worried about Healing Spirit. But versions were/are fine.
 

werecorpse

Adventurer
I’m with Dave2008. If your adventuring day goes

encounter (s)
short rest
encounter (s)
short rest
encounter (s)
long rest

it’s working as intended. It doesn’t really matter if the “encounter (s)“ are a single combat, 3 combats or a roleplay encounter, terrain and a trap.

One or two short rests between long rests is most common for the games I play, we rarely get none or three and I can’t remember ever getting four.
 

If you're not seeing 6-8 encounters per day/LR - talk to your DM. See if that is something the players and DM want to try out.

That's not the problem. The problem is actually pretty deep. Short rests were supposed to fix the five minute adventuring day, but they haven't done that at all, and the 6-8 encounter recommendation carries it's own problems.

1. Encounter require time to play, especially if you use a battle grid. 6-8 encounters means setting up 6-8 encounters. If you're only able to play 3-5 hours a week, it's actually somewhat reasonable that you don't have time to fit in 6-8 encounters unless you're literally running 6-8 connected rooms. Yes, even if they're at half difficulty like 5e encounters are. Sure, you could use two game sessions to split one adventuring day, but my experience is that few game groups do that. Most game groups want to start a session at the end of a long rest so that they don't have to remember their character state from a week or two ago at the start of the next session.

2. Because 5e encounter difficulty is heavily lowballed, 6-8 encounters can be extremely easy, not challenging, or not interesting. In some groups, the players can feel like combat is a waste of time in a game primarily about running encounters. This means the group will just run fewer, more challenging encounters, but this has it's own problems because it eliminates one of the ways 5e tries to encourage you to short rest.

3. There is no reason to short rest. Or, rather, there is no reward for not long resting and playing through more encounters in a day. Since the game still has attrition elements like long rests not recovering all hit dice, the cost of a short rest is often not a lot lower than the cost of a long rest. Since a long rest does everything a short rest does and more, the only reason you ever really need to short rest is when you're under time pressure, which simply isn't appropriate for every adventuring day in every campaign. Worse, if your campaign has real time pressure, then you often run into situations where the players can't short rest, either!
 

Azuresun

Adventurer
If you're not seeing 6-8 encounters per day/LR - talk to your DM. See if that is something the players and DM want to try out.

Wrryyyyyyy....

The DMG does not mandate 6-8 encounters. I swear nobody ever reads that section for themselves and instead takes someone else'sword for it. Running one big encounter is a bad idea, but running 6-8 is not mandated or promoted by the rules, never has been
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I must say, I agree with @Charlaquin, the spell as originally released was somewhat broken, or at least very overtuned, in that it was vastly more effective out of combat and dwarfed other spells in a similar niche. We had tried a fix, pre-errata, that required the caster to spend a reaction to cause the Spirit to heal a creature in it's space. This seemed to curb the "conga-line" and out of combat issues, while only minimally hindering in combat usage.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I must say, I agree with @Charlaquin, the spell as originally released was somewhat broken, or at least very overtuned, in that it was vastly more effective out of combat and dwarfed other spells in a similar niche. We had tried a fix, pre-errata, that required the caster to spend a reaction to cause the Spirit to heal a creature in it's space. This seemed to curb the "conga-line" and out of combat issues, while only minimally hindering in combat usage.
If you wanted to get the same effect without eating the caster’s reaction every round, you could even just say it can only heal once per round.
 

dave2008

Legend
I'm not sure how it was "fixed," but would the solution just be to limit the duration to 30 seconds or whatever is "balanced."
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top