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In the next week I will start a new campaign where I will be the DM. The players will be totally new to the DnD World. I want to let them to freely choose the class and race which they want to play, but it seems like there will be no healer PC, just damage dealers and some kind of PC which maybe will have some healing (a Celestial patron Warlock).

I want to play with them in a relatively long campaign (I'm planning from level 1 to 20) and because of that, I really want to give them more opportunity to overcome the missing healing power.

Will it break anything if I allow the semi-healer PC to heal the maximum roll-able number with any healing skill which he/she uses in combat?

For short rest, I wouldn't allow this house rule, so I really want to know, if it would be too powerful in combat house, rule or not, and why?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/46976/… \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Feb 1 at 7:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that the fatality rate sounds unusual, but that is best discussed as a separate question or perhaps in Role-playing Games Chat (I'd be happy to help there). Kindly let's keep comments for improving the question, not partial answers :) \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Feb 1 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might be fun for you to run a healer as an NPC party member. \$\endgroup\$ – Russell Fox Feb 2 at 17:56
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It won't break the game, but you should not do it

Guaranteed healing is not fun, and the players will probably abuse this mechanic instead of finding clever ideas of avoiding damage. There are report of parties here with no healer at all, and most of these parties found other ways of neglecting damage, like using traps or crowd-control, carefully planning attacks, using diplomacy, etc.

Try playing normally first, and if your party really struggles with surviving, you can lower the CR of encounters a little, or provide them with some healing potions. A player could also go for multiclassing if the party thinks it can help, no problem with that on a long campaign!

There is a saying in software development which says "Premature optimization is the root of all evil", and I think it applies here as well. Be careful with what you give to your party, because you might not be able to take it away later.

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This answer is based on a few years' experience playing and GM'ing DnD 5e, and I will assume that you'll be able to treat "being in combat" in a loose but generally understandable sense that won't be used to invoke this rule at will.

Probably not game-breaking

Don't expect it to change much, though. While many people expect the "party healer" to be a significant role in DnD 5e – and while it somewhat is (more on that later), in-combat healing is generally speaking very weak and inefficient, and one should in the vast majority of cases concentrate on downing one's enemies faster rather than trying to undo their damage.

There are circumstances where in-combat healing is worth it, but these are generally summarizable in one sentence: is the target at 0 hit points? If so, healing them to even one hit point will restore their consciousness, avert the immediate risk of the target dying, and allow them to take actions in combat on their next turn (barring other obstacles to that). But while the difference between 0 and 1 hit points is huge, beyond that it matters fairly little. A very high level healing spell might be able to make you able to survive a few blows at a considerable opportunity cost in spell slots.

As a rule of thumb, one could say that a little healing is a lot better than no healing, but a lot of healing is little better than a little healing.

Does this rule change that? Obviously a bit, but not much. The amount of hit points healed by healing magic is generally negligible, excepting very high-level magic that comes at significant costs. For low-level healing magic, the effect won't be very noticeable, and while it might be for higher-level healing where many dice are rolled, upcasting healing will still remain a poor use of a slot in most cases.

I still wouldn't do this

As a result of this change, in-combat healing will still be a weak strategy, although of course now it's not quite as weak. But I'd argue against rewarding your players for micro-managing their healing resources (spell slots etc) for maximum impact, eg. by trying to squeeze extra healing during the final turns of combat. I would personally find that somewhat stressful, since I am somewhat prone to borderline compulsive micro-optimization, and I know many players feel the same.

In your shoes, I'd embrace the fact that in-combat healing is not very powerful in DnD 5e. Healing in combat moves the scene backwards instead of forward, it is reactive instead of proactive, it slows the action instead of accelerating it. Instead, let your "semi-healer" work their magic in emergencies and between encounters, and let your players have a few healing potions here and there if their other resources don't carry them through the day.

As a closing note, you shouldn't stress about it either way. You haven't started the game yet, and trying to pre-empt everything by fixing house rules now will not work. Try it out, see what kinds of problems you encounter, and then using the shared experience, you can hash out the necessary house rules and rulings together with your players.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ And I think the biggest issue is that it encourages the new players to think that in combat healing is more important than it is, and if a character dies might encourage someone to create a 'healer', which always makes me cringe. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 1 at 13:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ A Grave cleric healing a 0HP target heals for the max instead of rolling. It's significantly more likely to stop the target going down again from the very next hit. (This is like the "high level" heal you were talking about for that case, but without needing to spend a high-level spell slot.) Having always-max for free on all heals would make that (and IIRC a few other high-level class features for other specs) useless. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Feb 1 at 20:56
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I would not say it is game breaking per se, but it definetely favours the players, as a lot of common monsters/enemies do not have access to healing. I did allow for such a rule in a game I was running because we didn't have much healing beside Healing Word for a measly 1d4 + Spellcasting Modifier in a scenario with PCs being Level 5 and above.

Also, if you allow for all healing to heal its maximum potential, that rule should also apply to enemies. That opens a can of worms because the players would "waste" additional resources such as spell slots, ki points etc. only to have to fight longer because the enemy can also heal themselves consistently.

With all that being said, giving new players a sort of "life insurance" by dropping more potions and allowing those potions to consistently heal them still seems a good idea for new players, particularly if their knowledge of RPGs comes from video games, where character death is often just a slight inconvenience, whereas in DnD a character death can be a pretty big deal unless you have access to Revivify or other resurrection spells (unlikely in Tier 1 games).

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First of all: in my experience, unless you truly are a nasty DM, the risk of dying in D&D 5E is almost negligible. There might be other issue with encounter balancing if you expect them to die so much, but this is not the place to discuss that. In any case, aside from agreeing with almost every other answer that you received (for instance this and this), I wanted to add an extra suggestion:


Tl;dr: I propose to adapt the Recoveries from 13th Age to 5E, which in some sense are similar to enhancing the power of the standard Hit Dice in order to allow them to cure more and to be used in combat as well.

If you are really afraid of killing your players to easily, you can borrow the Recovery mechanics from 13th Age, which allows the game to run almost as smoothly even without any healing character. References from that game are available here, specifically at the section on Rally and Recoveries

Recoveries

In short, the idea is to introduce a pool of points (a fixed amount, let's say 8, more on this later) which we call Recoveries. Each Recovery point allows a character to heal themself by 1/4 of their hit point maximum. The Recoveries can be spent in two ways:

  • In combat, one can spend one recovery as a standard action. You can use in this way only oncr per battle, though.
  • Out of combat, a character can spend any amount of recovery to heal as a short rest.

Interaction with the rest of the edition

Depending on how much you want to tinker the system, a lot of features can interact with these mechanics, for instance:

  • Healing potions can heal you of one Recovery instead of giving you a "free healing". This way potions scale up in an automatic way, but as is they are not different than using a Recovery alone. So instead they can provide an extra benefit: remove also a condition, heal an extra amount or require another action to be used (i. e. a bonus action) or that they can be used on other character (thus allowing to cure someone who is at 0 hp).
  • The Fighter ability second wind can spend a recovery instead of a "free healing", but it can be used as a bonus action. Moreover, to compensate losing the free healing, the Fighter might gain an extra recovery and/or become able of using two per combat.
  • Similar things might be implemented for spells and such, I think you get the idea.
  • Of course these mechanics should replace the mechanics of the hit dices for out of combat healing.

How many Recoveries?

In 13th Age each adventuring "day" lasts a fixed number of encounters: all the mathematics of the game is rigorously balanced to fight in 4 encounters between each long rest. This allows you to compute almost exactly the number of Recoveries needed to maintain the equilibrium.

In 5E the number of encounter is not fixed: the suggested one is between 6 and 8, depending on the challenge. When I prepare my campaigns, I try to hover toward the lower end of this range (4-6) in order to allow myself to increase the challenge. In any case, I would say that around 2 Recoveries for each encounter can allow you to get a you a rough idea. But There is a caveat on this reasoning: damage dealt by monsters in 5E is really tuned down! The vast majority of the enemies in the game are more of the tanky type. Given this, I would give each character around 1.5 Recoveries per encounter, thus if you plan on doing 6 encounter per day, around 9 Recoveries should suffice.

Moreover, another caveat is how much you want the Recoveries to interact with the other forms of healing: if Rrcoveries are the only means by which one can cure oneself, maybe you can increase that number or or lower it in the opposite case.

Edit: As @medix2 commented, there is something similar in the Dungeon Master guide, called Healing Surge, that you can find discussed here. Personally, I don't like that variant too much but only because it is somewhat verbose in game: you start rolling, you decide if you want to roll another one, then you have to keep track of how many you spent and how many you got back and so on. The 13th Age rule that I showed is very straightforward: you have one pool, it replenishes in only one way (long rest) and every time you use it the same thing happens.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 13th Age seems heavily based on 4th edition D&D, which uses mostly the same mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Feb 2 at 12:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, 5e has an optional Healing Surges rule discussed here which I feel could be incorporated into this answer quite well \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Feb 2 at 12:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik from 13th Age core rolebook introduction: "Critics complained that 3E weighed the game down with rules for everything [...]. 13th Age is a rules-light, free-form, gridless way to play a story-oriented campaign. 3E took the game forward in terms of player options and universal mechanics, and we have followed suit. Critics compared 4E to a board game or miniatures game that distanced itself from its roots. 13th Age is about story-oriented campaigns not minis, and it revisits its roots with its setting and rules. 4E took the game forward in terms of balance and game play, and so do we." \$\endgroup\$ – jschiavon Feb 2 at 14:35

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