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If you fail your save against Harm, it will reduce your maximum HP for an hour or until it is cured via some kind of cure disease effect.

You unleash a virulent disease on a creature that you can see within range. ... If the target fails the saving throw, its hit point maximum is reduced for 1 hour by an amount equal to the necrotic damage it took. Any effect that removes a disease allows a creature's hit point maximum to return to normal before that time passes.

If a character has failed multiple saves against the harm spell and an ally applies some kind of disease curing effect on them (eg. lay on hands, greater restoration), will that cure all of the harm "diseases" at once or will each individual "disease" need to be cured?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have my books handy (I'm at work), but I wonder if there's any notes on Madness? A creature can have multiple madness traits at once, and both lesser and greater restoration can be used to cure madness. I don't know if it could fix both at once, but if the books say anything about the curing of madness (DMG might have it, or maybe Out of the Abyss), but that may be a good place to look, for other potential answerers. \$\endgroup\$ – Blue Caboose Dec 13 '18 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's important to note that Harm has been errata'd in a way that makes it pretty clear that it is actually a disease. In my mind, this potentially changes much of my answer because im not sure if diseases stack. A new answer will likely surface. So I would hold off on accepting mine so quickly. I will leave it the way it is for posterity. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 14 '18 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov: Just for reference, I don't think harm has ever been changed in errata. The quote in your answer is in the original version of the PHB as well. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Dec 15 '18 at 8:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast then i and or whatever source i was reading are sorely mistaken. My bad \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 16 '18 at 21:50
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You need to cure each application of Harm

First we'll start with effect stacking. The effects of multiple spells of the same name don't stack. However, as you've rightly pointed out, this doesn't matter.

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don't combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect—such as the highest bonus—from those castings applies while their durations overlap, or the most recent effect applies if the castings are equally potent and their durations overlap.

So, the most potent application of Harm will be active. Any lesser applications of HP-reducing harm will be inactive, but present. There is nothing in the rules to suggest that spell effects are overwritten, but rather they are overshadowed. So if you reduce the hit points of a creature by 30 with one casting and 20 with another the next round, the creature's hit points will be reduced by 30 for one hour. One hour later, their hit points will be reduced by 20 for 1 round, since the 2nd casting would still be present on the target.

Why not all of them at once?

The ending of Harm reads thus:

Any effect that removes a disease allows a creature's hit point maximum to return to normal before that time passes.

There are a few ways of reading this. The first is a global application of this rule and the second is a contextual application. In the first, you could argue that all health-reducing effects would be removed along with the disease. This is the wrong way of reading it. To suggest that a single disease cured removes all applications of Harm would necessitate a global application of this rule. And that is just not feasible. This spell would be wildly out of scope. It would mean that you could remove a Vampire's health reducing effects via remove disease if the target were also afflicted with Harm. Spells as a rule only describe their own effects, not global effects for other spells unless they explicitly say they do.

The second way, therefore, requires that we treat this final clause as effecting only each individual casting of Harm. In the same way that each spell gets its own damage roll and saving throw, each effect must be considered it's own individual "disease". So one cure for one application of harm.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure that applies here or at least not like that. The lack of spell overlap is meant to ensure that multiple copies of the same active spell do not get applied. The disease from harm isn't an active spell though - it can't be dispelled after all. On top of that the rule says only the strongest effect applies which would mean, if applied, that the greatest HP reducing effect would be in effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Dec 13 '18 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ You are right, multiple castings would be active, just not effective. Will revise. \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov Dec 13 '18 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ So even though harm is the same "disease", curing one instance doesn't care the others? The separator is source and not type? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 13 '18 at 21:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a third way to interpret the ending of Harm, which is that the Harm spell ends if the target is affected by an effect that removes a disease, even if that effect targets a different disease. For example, if the target is affected by both Filth Fever and Harm, and you remove the Filth Fever, the Harm effect goes away as a side effect. Under this interpretation, any disease removal would also cure all instances of Harm (but not a Vampire bite) \$\endgroup\$ – Tim C Dec 14 '18 at 3:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ "And that is just not feasible. This spell would be wildly out of scope. " What does this even mean? \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Dec 14 '18 at 7:04
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As a DM, I would rule that each instance of Harm counts a single disease (probably)

When the Harm spell says that it's removed by effects that remove diseases, it probably means to say that it is a disease with respect to those effects. The first sentence of Harm's description supports this interpretation:

You unleash a virulent disease on a creature that you can see within range.

This means that if someone is afflicted by multiple instances of Harm, they would have to be either removed one at a time by an effect like as Lay on Hands or either version of Restoration, or all at once by an effect that removes all diseases like Heal.

But if you read the rules literally, maybe not

Harm's description says the following:

Any effect that removes a disease allows a creature’s hit point maximum to return to normal

Read strictly, this means that a target who is affected by 1x Filth Fever and 10x Harm, the Harms would all end if the target Lesser Restoration cast on them to remove the Filth Fever, since they the Lesser Restoration is an effect that removes a disease, and therefore triggers that clause of the spell's effect.

Similarly, if the Lesser Restoration removed the disease from the Harm spell, that one would be removed directly while the other nine would have their removal clause triggered (leaving only the Filth Fever in place)

I strongly doubt that this is the design intent, however, since it is a counterintuitive reading of the rules, which likely would have been expressed more clearly if it were actually what they meant.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd view the word "allows" in that context to mean that any effect which is a able to remove a disease is also effective on the max HP reduction applied by harm. Not that any cure disease effect applied to the victim will automatically remove the max HP reduction of harm. \$\endgroup\$ – Allan Mills Dec 16 '18 at 21:31

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