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I know that most healing does not work on constructs or undead in DnD 5e. However, for various reasons, I would like to subvert that. I was looking over feats to base such a subversion on and stumbled upon the Elemental Adept. Is the following feat likely to either break the game or be underpowered if I include it?

Healing Adept

Prerequisite: the Spellcasting feature and at least one healing spell

All of your healing spells work on constructs and undead. In addition, if you roll to see how many hit points you can heal, you may treat any 1 on a die as a 2.

If it's too weak, I am thinking it's possible to modify so that it allows Raise Dead and family to resurrect an undead either as itself or as the undead it was. If it's too strong, I was thinking of taking away the "treat any 1 on a die as a 2", and possibly forcing you to pick if it works on constructs or on undead.

I'm hoping to make it available to PCs to take, currently at level 5. I don't think any of them would logically take it, but I need my BBEG, an undead cleric, to have it, and I do not want it to not come out of left field that she can do that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I see absolutely no reason why balance would be affected by how it’s being used or why—it’s a feat, it’s available to anyone able to cast a healing spell and with a feat slot available: what does that affect? Does it cause problems? Which ones? All of these are balance concerns that any good answer should address anyway. Knowing how the DM imagines the feat will be used—much less why he wants the feat to exist—doesn’t really affect any of them, because the whole point is to consider things the DM hasn’t. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 21 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am DMing a game and my big bad is an epic level cleric/mummy lord. I want to give her the ability to heal herself. I know I can just put on her character sheet, but if I include a custom feat as an available option to begin with, then it feels like less of a gotcha moment when I reveal that she's undead (she uses Alter Self to look non undead). \$\endgroup\$ – Breaking Bioinformatics May 21 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be clear, while my first use is for the big bad, I want it to be available to PCs as well (though without telling them the why): I want it available as an option in the rules so that the players know it's part of the worldbuilding of the universe. \$\endgroup\$ – Breaking Bioinformatics May 21 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I ask for the reasons behind it and the goals of it because our meta on how to ask a good homebrew review literally covers that request. And if folks don't agree with me, that's fine. If OP think it'd help at least me, that's fine, too. If it helps others, even better! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 21 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for the update! Really appreciate the additional information :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 21 at 21:22
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Underpowered compared to Elemental Adept and generally not a desirable option

I am going to compare your feat to the Elemental Adept feat selecting fire. I choose fire because it is one of the elements to benefit most from the feat and most players would not bother with the feat if it used acid damage. I am similarly going to assume that there is at least one member of your party who is an undead or construct.

Healing is more situational than dealing fire damage

First of all there are more spells that deal fire damage than spells that heal by rolling dice. This makes Elemental Adept less situational because there are more options for applying its effects.

Second damage dealing is a more common use of an action/spell slot than healing. This is because healing is rarely useful at the start of a day because everyone starts with full hit points. Even towards the end of the day healing is only really helpful when it stops an ally from being at 0 hp. This is because harming an enemy can preserve hp by preventing that enemy from having as many attacks (dying earlier). So while damage dealing is always a helpful option healing is only situationally useful.

The healing bonus is worse than a spellcasting ASI (and is generally tiny)

Treating 1s as 2s on healing spells has a very minor increase in the effect of the spell. Below I have all of the healing spells that roll dice, the average healing increase resulting from treating 1s as 2s for the spell at its lowest level, and the level that the spell would need to be cast at to provide an average of 1 point more healing. Note that Heroes' Feast and Regenerate can already be used on undead/constructs.

Cure Wounds (1st level): 0.125 - 8th level
Healing Word (1st level): 0.25 - 4th level
Healing Spirit (2nd level): 0.167 - 7th level
Prayer of Healing (2nd level): 0.25 - 8th level
Aura of Vitality (3rd level): 0.333
Mass Healing Word (3rd level): 0.25 - 6th level
Mass Cure Wounds (5th level): 0.375 - unreachable/10th level
Heroes' Feast (6th level): 0.2
Regenerate (7th level): 0.5

All of these spells except for Healing Spirit, Aura of Vitality, and Heroes' Feast already add your spellcasting modifier so an ASI in the casters spellcasting stat would do more for healing unless the spell is cast at a higher level. The best spell for this is Healing Word cast using a spell slot above level 4. Theoretically if a player frequently used Healing Word at high levels they might prefer your feat to an ASI increase. Even after maxing out their spell casting stat it still might be worse to take your feat than take Magic Initiate and take Healing Word just so you can cast it once without a spell slot. Since Healing Word as a level 1 spell would do an average of 7.5 healing this would probably be more helpful than a miniscule bonus on all your healing spells during the day.

Elemental Adept experiences this issue to a lesser degree because damaging spells usually do not include your spellcasting modifier and so taking a feat would not sacrifice an additional point of damage (only an additional 5% chance to hit). Additionally damaging spells generally roll more dice than healing spells. Consider Fireball at its lowest level. For 8d6 treating 1s as 2s would have an average increase of 1.33, a significantly greater impact than Healing Word as a 3rd level spell with a 0.75 healing increase.

Allies can be killed or leave whereas monsters with Fire resistance are relatively common.

This will of course depend on your campaign but because players are not usually undead or constructs they will not usually have any need or desire to heal undead/constructs. You can structure your campaign to make sure they have an undead/construct ally but this requires a significant amount of DM intervention that other players may well not enjoy. You would need to give them an undead/construct buddy, make sure that the buddy stays with them enough for the feat to be useful, and either prevent that buddy from dying in combat or be prepared to replace them with a new buddy. Some parties don't particularly want to keep an NPC with them throughout the whole campaign so this might require a bit of finangling. On the other hand monsters with fire resistance are common enough that a player might often encounter one even without particular DM attention.

Some possible fixes

In a way you don't need any fix to your feat being undesirable because your players can always just not select it. If you want to make it more desirable, however, there are a couple of options I can see.

  • Increase the healing bonus. You could structure this by giving a flat +1 or +2 increase to healing rolls. Alternatively you could allow them to re-roll 1s and 2s a single time. This would make it much easier for it to provide a minor advantage over an ASI increase.

  • Give a free cast of Healing Word/Prayer of Healing once per long rest. I like this option because it allows the player to heal more often which supports the story of them being a healer. I suggest Healing Word/Prayer of Healing because they don't conflict with the player's action. This would make the feat an easy bonus that might be worth delaying maxing the spellcasting stat.

Alternatively you could look at different ways to allow your Mummy Lord to heal her minions. Life Transference could be used to heal undead minions and the Mummy Lord could be given Vampiric Touch to help her if she starts running low on health. You could also give her a goblet full of Potion of Healing that she sips from as she watches her minions fight.

Next you could just grant her the power to heal undead and communicate this to your players in game. You could have your players see her heal a construct or undead. This makes her abilities clear and could even be a clue to your players that she is special somehow.

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I think you're approaching this from the wrong angle

What you really seem to want is a custom BBEG who is an undead cleric that can heal it's minions.

Which is totally cool!!

But you don't need to create a feat so that he can do this and give access to it for your players who really aren't interested in it. If anything, it's tipping your hand to them a little early and without a narrative reason to do so.

Instead, customize your BBEG to be able to do what you want. You've got the freedom as DM to do that, and you can also seed information throughout the campaign that gives them hints to who this creature is and what they can do. Things like legendary actions, lair actions, custom spells or custom actions/abilities or even an item.

You can make it as strong or as weak as you'd like, or have it do what makes sense for how this BBEG would work. And you've got time! You've said that the PCs won't encounter this until much later, so you can begin working on what this undead cleric can do and how you want to build their story and their abilities.

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It's sufficiently niche/underpowered for standard play that I don't see anyone using it. Elemental Adept is a pretty weak feat already, but it at least has some niche appeal, for a caster who wants to focus entirely on one damage type (probably fire), and who doesn't want to have to worry about resistant creatures rendering them useless. On this one, the niche is small indeed. Characters who'd want to use this feat would have to be healers, have to have allied undead, have to care enough about those allied undead to want to be able to cast healing on them, and have to care enough about that to be willing to burn a feat for it.

Healers are a thing, sure, but most parties aren't running around with allied undead. For those that are, the standard technique is to do the necromancer thing, where you have a bunch of disposable controlled allies who walk around being bags of HP. Those aren't generally the ones that are worth spending healing magic on. Then there's the feat cost.

The problem in your case is that it's so ill-suited to a player character party that it's almost obvious that you intend it for NPCs/villains. That's especially the case because you already have a party. Presumably they're not running around with the sort of niche build that this would call for. If you're custom-building a feat for an existing campaign, if it isn't there to support some bit of significant existing fluff, and it isn't directly targeting one or more PCs, it's pretty clear that you mean it for an NPC somewhere.

My suggestion would be to try to find a way to make it something that it's at least plausible that one of your existing characters might want at some point. Beef it up enough, and in the right ways to make it worth at least considering the idea of both taking the feat and using it to heal undead. (Like, say, giving it some significant additional buff effect when healing undead.) Otherwise, it's both underpowered and overly obvious.

What will actually work for this is going to be highly dependent on the party and the world. For a generic fantasy kingdom situation, though... you're going to need to have the bulk of the feat be one thing, and the "can heal undead" be something that adds onto that. Like, say, a feat that actually makes you undead (or construct), with a bunch of benefits, that also lets your heals affect those groups. Alternately, something associated with a college, group, or ideal that gives a number of benefits, and includes "and you can heal undead" more or less as a ribbon for flavor. Finally, you might have a feat that actually gave you some sort of undead servitor that you might wish to have for other reasons, and then gave you the ability to heal them. I'm not saying that any of these would be necessarily all that easy to balance, but they might work. Anything past that would be pretty world-dependent.

Given that your world doesn't have any groups like that... perhaps consider adding one? Come up with, say, a friendly cabal of necromancers and artificers that are actively trying to normalize the use of golems and non-hostile undead in society, and workign hard on coming up with ways of making that a safe, sane thing to do. Make their ideology at least potentially sympathetic/appealing to the PCs. Add them to your gameworld. Introduce a few non-horrible spells that they might have come up with. Figure out a feat based around the benefits of their teachings, and throw "and you can heal undead/constructs" in there as a side benefit. Possibly even have them offer a quest or two to the party, with the reward being a custom-built undead servitor. Heck - the BBEG is an undead healer who clearly works within civilization and cares at least a little about her own place in society. She wouldn't want to have anythign to do with them openly lest people suspect, but perhaps she's quietly supporting them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What sort of buffs would you suggest? \$\endgroup\$ – Breaking Bioinformatics May 21 at 22:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BreakingBioinformatics that's going to be highly dependent on campaign and party. The point of it is to make a feat that the party might consider taking that also fits into the campaign world where ti also makes sense that "can heal undead" is included. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden May 21 at 22:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would buffing the healing more and emphasizing the healing buff over the undead and construct bit help? The campaign healer is a war cleric, so emphasizing the healing more could make it at least plausible she'd want to take it, and it could show up on other clerics. \$\endgroup\$ – Breaking Bioinformatics May 21 at 23:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BreakingBioinformatics Sure, that would make it more appealing to the PC in question, but you'd still need some justification for why the undead-healing thing was in there. What makes it the case that someone who wants to maximize their ability to heal humans should also learn how to heal undead? That doesn't make sense unless you toss in a bunch of backstory explaining why it makes sense. Also, I've added a bit more to the answer - hopefully you'll find it helpful. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden May 21 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have ideas on the backstory. I just need to figure out a healing buff that isn't super broken (and ideally wouldn't be redundant with life cleric's 17th level feature) \$\endgroup\$ – Breaking Bioinformatics May 21 at 23:24

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