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I've often been frustrated when an ally becomes unconscious and nobody has or is willing to spare a spell slot to revive them, which means the party has to wait 1-4 hours to continue, so I designed this spell. The casting time could be changed to anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes; the goal is to make it unusable mid-battle.

Revive Ally

Evocation cantrip

Casting Time: 5 minutes
Components: V, S
Range: Touch
Description: One ally who is unconscious and has 0 hit points and who you are touching for the duration regains one hit point.

Presumably, this would be on the cleric spell list; it might also be on a bard's or druid's.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If someone can improve the spacing on the spell, please do. \$\endgroup\$
    – User 23415
    Nov 13, 2022 at 17:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did that for you, and moved the targeting into the description (as it in the actual rule books is not a separate line item, that is just done on D&D Beyond. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 13, 2022 at 17:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd give it a 1 action casting time, the ritual tag, and make it level 1. "CLEAR!" But I suppose the "you can cast any ritual on the entire list" makes that boring. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Nov 14, 2022 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jasen You should post that as an actual answer to the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Nov 15, 2022 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ yeah, but it's not actually answering what was asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasen
    Nov 15, 2022 at 19:43

6 Answers 6

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This is OK

I think this achieves what you are looking for well. The casting time will block this from being abused in combat. Out of combat, the healing amount is minimal and would be achieved by waiting for some time, too. It also does not allow for unlimited healing, which is normally the death sentence for healing cantrips, because it works only to bring you from 0 to 1, so is limited in how often you can usefully repeat it.

The only risk I see is in combination with some other ability which allows you to sacrifice hp to gain something. I would probably make the casting time 10 minutes instead of 5 minutes, in line with ritual spellcasting, to layer on a bit more security buffer against something like that. To be honest, I don't know of many such effects in the game currently; I actually cannot think of a single one right now, but better be safe than sorry.

You might want to change it from just "ally" to creature, so you can also use it on captured enemies you want to interrogate.

There may be useful alternatives that make this less necessary. For example, a paladin could lay on hands for just on point, or if you had a druid that cast goodberry for the day, you could use a single berry to restore one hit point. That will depend on the DM allowing it, but as you can also administer a healing potion to an unconscious comrade, most DMs I know have no problem with that. Considering you can do this effect 10 times with a first level spell like goodberry, sacrificing a cantrip slot for it seems to be a fair enough cost offset.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to heal an unconscious creature without spending spell slots is the Healer feat plus a Healing Kit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 13, 2022 at 18:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another way to limit abuse would be to limit this to once per rest per target, similar to the Healer feat's 2nd feature. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2022 at 1:45
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This is weak

There's very little difference between waiting five minutes and waiting 1d4 hours. Either of these requires getting the group to agree to stop adventuring and wait -- it's just the number you say to your DM.

Actually, after you spend the five minutes, you're going to have to spend at least an hour doing a short rest anyway. (Surely you weren't planning to revive someone with one hit point and then expect them to go adventuring with you?) So you're looking at a difference between waiting one hour (plus a few minutes) and waiting 1d4+1 hours.

And then, even after your short rest, apparently at least some of your spellcasters are out of spell slots, so you probably want to make camp and do a long rest. Even if your spellcasters are willing to keep going, the person you healed is going to have to spend all their hit dice to get close to full strength, and they can only do that once per two days.

A caster that spends a cantrip slot on this is squandering the ability to get something that would have been useful.

If you really wanted to take this for yourself, I guess you could. But you shouldn't pressure other characters to spend a cantrip pick on something this bad.

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What is the tradeoff?

Discussions of balancing new homebrew content are regularly confusing their goals. When introducing new content, you should consider what effect it has on content that already exists, and gameplay that will arise from its inclusion.

One big aspect of that is whether or not it dominates over an additional choice already in the game. For example, recovering from the unconscious status associated with being at 0 HP and stable requires that a character:

  • Receive healing from a potion, spell, or other direct source.
  • Use at least one Hit Dice during a Short Rest of at least 1 hour in length.
  • Regain 1 hit point after being stable for 1d4 hours.

This Revive Ally spell seems to be competing with Short Rest what it brings to the table.

Short Rest:

  • Requires 1 hour of time.
  • Requires a player resource (at least one Hit Die)

Revive Ally:

  • Requires 5 minutes of time.
  • Occupies a Class Feature (cantrip selection).
  • Has no resource requirement.

So what Revive Ally equates to in terms of its tradeoff is that in exchange for one choice Cantrip on one of the characters, you are allowing that player to spend 5 minutes to elevate Stable characters to 1 HP, even if they are out of Hit Dice.

I would argue that this is a passable tradeoff. The Stable character won't get healed up enough to withstand any amount of damage and remain conscious, but in exchange they don't need to wait a full hour of game time before they're able to take action.

In my games, if players have been taken down and the party is short on resources to spend on bringing everyone back up, then the party is expected to be more cautious and careful with their unconscious friends until they have time to recover. Players are expected to act in their best interests, to keep themselves healthy and avoid brash decisions that would put them or their friends in unneeded jeopardy. If the game you want to run has no need for this element of tension to be present, then there is no issue.

What is this solving? (What is the real problem?)

On the surface, the purpose behind this cantrip is a reaction to a common occurrence where a party member is down but stable and the other party members are unable to, or are refusing to, use resources to bring the downed member up.

While this cantrip would be a mechanism by which characters can reliably bring a party member up from 0 without a recurring resource cost, this seems to be hiding a different problem.

After a nearly fatal combat has taken part, the party doesn't have time to spend on a Short Rest. It's very likely that many parts of a campaign may be more time critical than others, and a Short Rest is not always available at the drop of a hat. However, the party seems unprepared for this time pressure in one way or another. The pacing of the campaign may be a bit too fast for the party, the plot driving players to expend most of their resources before the day's end, emptying their strategic reserves. An alternative solution is to tone down combat encounters to reduce party resource expenditure or increasing the rate of rewards that include Healing Potions.

Alternatively, it could be that narrative focus is spent on this time when some players are incapacitated. Maybe the party has just acquired an artifact of some sort and the conscious party members wants to engage with it immediately. This is an opportunity to draw with broader strokes, so to speak. Allow the party to take a short rest, during which the downed players will definitely be recovering, but loosen the flow of time in a way that allows the downed players to act during the rest as they recover.

"Hey..." Abraham gruelingly rights himself up and sits against the dungeon wall, barely holding onto life. "Let me see those inscriptions..."

Should you add this to your game?

Ultimately, this is on you to decide. Balance is meaningless in the face of a DM wanting to include or exclude content. What matters more is that you understand what these new rogue elements are going to introduce to the activity.

Even perfectly balanced content might serve no better purpose being added to the game. If no one uses it because the tradeoff it introduces doesn't give enough of a benefit over existing options, or it's not otherwise appetizing to players, a perfectly fair homebrew spell or class may as well not even be added.

I hope I've provided helpful insight into the problem you're trying to solve with this cantrip, and I hope this answer helps you decide if you're going to add it to your game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure an unconscious creature can take a short rest? See here. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 13, 2022 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The community seems to agree that yes they can, despite the accepted answer on that post being in conflict and being contradicted by Jeremy Crawford (whose advice was once considered official). The 1d4 rule takes place in cases when a short rest would not heal the wounded due to lack of Hit Dice. \$\endgroup\$
    – Axoren
    Nov 14, 2022 at 6:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ My point was that you just state the ruling as though it were a simple matter of fact, when it isn’t. Sure, the answer that agrees with you there scored higher. But the answer that says you can’t rest while unconscious is at +55/-21, meaning this is far from “community consensus”. It’s just not as straightforward as your answer here assumes it is. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 14, 2022 at 6:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ i've never played at a table where downed PCs could complete a short rest and wake up, it's always been the 1d4 h + short rest afterwards if they want to heal, i always thought that was the norm. I do allow that as a DM but all my players were initially surprised and saw this as extremely generous so i wouldn't say that "the community seems to agree that they can" \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Nov 14, 2022 at 14:46
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It's the most unbalanced spell I have ever seen

In assessing balance, there is a simple first question: is this so bad no one would ever take it?

Yes. Yes. 1,000 times yes. This spell takes so much and gives so little.

First, I'll address the non-problem this is trying to solve: "nobody has or is willing to spare a spell slot to revive them, ... the party has to wait 1-4 hours to continue". Who cares? 1-4 hours takes exactly as long as it takes the DM to say "OK, 1-4 hours later." If that time passing matters in the game and bad stuff will happen, then if nobody has a spell slot then bad stuff will happen. If they do have a spell slot they won't be unwilling to use it.

In any event, a character with 1 hp is only marginally more effective than a character with 0 hp - 1 hit and we're back where we were. That character is going to need further healing if the party is heading into harm's way so you might as well start with that healing.

As to costs. Healing is cheap: spell slots come back after a long rest and healing potions cost 50gp (or a person with a Herbalism Kit and proficiency in it can make them for free). Cantrips are expensive: a single-class character only gets a maximum of 5 (apart from racial and feat cantrips) - this one isn't worth taking.

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Going to break from the crowd here - why even make a spell if there is no downside and you want to just give them a post-combat revive? Why not just add a homebrew rule that allies return to 1 hit point after combat has ended?

If time is this important in your campaign/setting I can't imagine this is even going to be an issue once your party discovers potions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a downside. Every class has a limited number of cantrips known. By taking this on, you are giving up on another cantrip. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 15, 2022 at 5:09
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While strong enough to be worth taking in some party compositions, I think this cantrip is a bit weak due to the number and diversity of abilities that can provide small amounts of healing. It basically stops being useful as soon as your party gets e.g. a paladin who has lay on hands.

To make this ability more unique as a utility without blowing the balance out of the water, I'd recommend imparting some sort of defensive buff gained from beginning the cast during combat. Clerics already have access to Spare the Dying to make an unconscious creature stable (which they would presumably do before starting this cast), but stability doesn't stop the target from failing death saves if they take more damage. Adding text like "while casting, the target takes only one automatically failed death saving throw from critical hits" would give the cleric a reason to dramatically rush to their side, shielding them from being two-tapped by a melee attacker. This is a balanced tradeoff for losing the cleric's actions in the battle, and makes the ability more flavorful.

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