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Is there any hard limit to how frequently a mage can use the Heal spell in Shadowrun 5 Edition, i.e. some sort of cooldown?

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No, but...

From the text box on p. 206 SR5 Core rule book:

First aid and the heal spell can only be applied once to any single set of injuries.

The same page also says you can't apply first aid after magical healing, so the optimal healing, if you have the time, would be first aid-->healing spell-->medicine (for recovery).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Does this mean you can only apply either Heal or First Aid, or is it once each? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 13 '20 at 20:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ You should also mention Drain, which might pose a limit if you have multiple patients. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Aug 13 '20 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RevenantBacon Once each, but only if you start with First Aid. \$\endgroup\$
    – Szega
    Aug 13 '20 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an SR GM, I've always described it as first aid having to come first because when magical healing applied, the wounds start closing on their own (well, magically assisted) and a medic can't really get at them anymore. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Aug 14 '20 at 1:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega Drain is a limit for all spells so I narrowed it down to what is special for Heal. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ling
    Aug 14 '20 at 5:23
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There are multiple factors that limit how frequently the Heal spell can be cast.

  1. Action economy. The number of actions you can take in a certain time span depends on your initiative. This is the first and most obvious restriction on how frequently a mage could cast Heal. With Reckless Spellcasting you could cast two Heal spells per 10 initiative.

  2. Drain. No matter how low the spell Force, the minimum drain for any spell is 2 Stun. This limits how many times you can cast Heal in the long term. You'll eventually need an hour of rest to recover from drain. You can resist this drain with your Drain Resistance pool, but every time you cast you risk some drain getting through. From "Step 6: Resist drain" (SR5 Core p. 282) :

the Drain Value is determined using the Force and the listed calculation, but can never be lower than 2.

  1. Heal can only be used once per injury. This limits the frequency at which Heal can be practically cast, at most once every time someone is injured. Once a character has received magical healing, the remaining physical damage cannot be healed magically. From the Heal spell's description (SR5 Core p.288) :

Any boxes of Physical damage your target still has after any boxes are healed magically can only be healed by time and rest.

  1. Heal must be sustained to become permanent. The duration code for Heal is P (Permanent) which requires the caster to sustain it for (Force) combat turns before the healing becomes permanent. Sustaining a spell imposes -2 dice pool penalty to all tests as long as the spell is sustained for each sustained spells. While this doesn't impose a hard limit on Heal, it does introduce diminishing returns. It takes a while for a Heal spell to become permanent, and healing becomes more difficult for each Heal spell already sustained.

SR5 Core p. 282-283 :

Permanent (P) spells don't fade or dissipate; their effect becomes a lasting, non-magical characteristic after you sustain the spell for (Force) Combat Turns.

If you sustain a spell [...] you take a -2 dice pool penalty to all tests while it is sustained. You can sustain multiple spells, but the -2 penalty is cumulative for each spell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for a wonderfully comprehensive and well-referenced answer! Also, welcome to the RPG.SE. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Dec 18 '20 at 20:13

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