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Healing in Dungeons & Dragons

19 March 2011 by

Now, I have no intent of this blog being any sort of diatribe against 4e, but I think the following situation would never have occurred with 4e…

The party left from Hommlet and proceeded toward the town of Nulb and the Temple of Elemental Evil. Along the way they came across the ruins of the old moat house, which had been the forward post for Nulb and the Temple. Their approach and entry into the moat house saw them defeat a set of giant frogs (luckily the halfling didn’t get swallowed), and a poisonous giant spider (luckily the tank saved versus poison AND remembered to lead the spider into the open so the whole party could engage).

Between these two encounters the party ended up low on hit points and low on magic. They ended up resting to heal in the main entry room (#5). They were summarily ambushed by the brigands which had been holed up in the northeast corner of the boat house. Though the fight was arduous, they triumphed due to good tactics and quick thinking. The party ended up loosing the healing they had gained, and were still without any offensive or healing magic.

At the end of the day (literally), they were left with one party member down, two near unconsciousness and their sole healer out of healing magic. With a large pool of hit points to recover, and only one healer, the party ended up spending three complete eight hour cycles of “cast – rest – pray” in healing the party. Full resting only allows for 2hp to be recovered each day per character (3hp if someone has Healing and Herbalism), thus the healing load is carried by the loan (gypsy) priest.

The party held up in the hallway between rooms 15 & 16. But to even feel comfortable doing that, they had to push through and clear out room 17. Though they were already battered and bruised, the party didn’t want to leave an unknown at their backs – whatever was lurking behind the double doors of room 17. While they ultimately defeated this obstacle as well, it was this final push that brought the resident tank to his knees.

In 4e characters could have used their own Healing Surges to regain hit points during battle, and the party healer could have used their own skills and spells to activate more Healing Surges after the fact. Considering each Surge provides 1/4 of a character’s hit points, a short rest and everyone is ready for action in short order.

While this may keep the play going, it’s not realistic (for as much as AD&D is realistic). The party was worn-out (in the simplest terms), with one or two characters suffering actual injuries. I would imagine it would take at least 24 hours for everyone to recover and rest from exertion. And taking a day for healing prayers to knit skin and bone back together isn’t beyond the realm of fantasy.

It also didn’t slow down play to quickly run through the cycles, and have the healer roll 1d8 for each Cure Light Wounds he could muster. However, the players did watch with baited breath as I rolled random encounters during each rest. While they luckily escaped any “wandering damage”, I feel the extended rest established a feeling of worry and of not wanting to become “sitting ducks”.

4e would have had the characters pulling a series of Second Winds like “Hulk Hogan” in the glory days of the WWF, but is it really in keeping with young heroes that are fighting tooth and nail through a hostile dungeon? I don’t think so. And I don’t think my players would have it any other way.

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3 Comments to “Healing in Dungeons & Dragons”

  1. Dear Rhynn,
    This is the usual issue with AD&D. The “problem” is actually a nice part of the feel of the game. This lends to better tactics and a group playing “together” not just in the same party. At higher levels(depending on party mix), it can become very important that the party have pre-defined battle actions. Parties that rest in a dungeon are usually going to have random encounters unless the place is a VERY inactive dungeon. What I have done in the past was to have looked at the dungeon/module as a day to day activity from the view of the residents of the area.

    Orcs do not just sit in a particular room all day waiting for a party to rush in. They have a daily process(or something similar depending on where they are from chaotic to lawful). I vary the entire dungeon based on time the party is moving in plus any activities on the Orc’s schedule.(perhaps it is a high holy day for Grummsh)(think that is the name of the Orc God). Also I vary the dungeon and lots of other stuff based on if the party leaves and returns. New tactics, new traps, differing patrols, additional scouts. Just a few ideas……

    • I like this “problem” in 2e as well. I think it makes more sense that you need for a period of time after getting your ass handed to you. I played the random encounters straight from the module, and I probably should have taken a stance more akin to yours. This scenario is also why I asked you how you handled things. I do think I provided more tension and satisfaction that what you’d get out of the module in 4e.

  2. Hopefully my previous post will help you plot and scheme. I suggest multiple plotting and scheming sessions.(either alone or with a co-DM). I talk to Tres about various ideas and theories. He does not always know which I have decided upon for which area/encounter. I am willing to discuss opportunities with you when you need an unbiased ear. Normally a cell phone call on the way home from work does the job. Also allows for additional input into the overall campaign setting. You have my cell. Call and we can discuss options and opportunities!!

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