I am trying to run an adventure for a 4 player group with one strongly optimised cleric. The thing is that his healing capabilities + optimalisation level of the whole group in general make most encounters too easy/I find it very hard to come up with some solution that would pose a challenge to the party without being unreasonably hard.

Therefore, are there any monsters that would have negative auras/healing debufs that would make healing of the group less efficient?

What would be a good way to go for creating ballanced encounters that would challenge the group? I don't want to make the cleric primary target all the time but I am afraid of killing the group with too strong monsters.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ If you are indeed asking about 4th edition, look for things that can affect Healing surges. Without healing surges, individuals have no wellsprings of vigor to draw from. A cleric or bard give means to access healing surges to heal but without them, they are bound to powers that heal without using healing surges which is decidedly more limited. \$\endgroup\$
    – TechImp
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 22:35
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @TechImp This sounds like a great answer - it should be in an answer, not a comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 23:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Speaking as someone currently playing in a game with a healing-optimized cleric (the player started out trying to prove a point that he could make a character incapable of damage, but he has since decided that he's proved himself and begun retraining things and picking up attack powers), I can say that simply optimizing heals is insufficient. Heals are a reactive defense, and are often not as effective as proactive defenses such as buffing allies or debuffing enemies. The cleric's Moment of Glory (resist 5 all) and Iron to Glass (up to -10 melee damage) are examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not exactly what you're asking for, but maybe helpful with making encounters harder. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/15591/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Kolotos
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


Healing Requires Healing Surges

As TechImp pointed out in a comment, most healing requires healing surges. Regardless of how great your cleric's healing word might be, it doesn't do anything if the target has no surges.

Surges are only regained when the party takes an extended rest, so the first thing you can do is make extended rests more rare. Throw them into the next encounter, or have things interrupt their extended rest if they don't take the effort to find a safe spot.

Losing a healing surge can be a penalty for all kinds of things, although for story reasons it should generally be something tiring or painful. Some published elements that drain healing surges include monster abilities, diseases, traps, skill challenges, and martial practice component costs. Examples:


A Bog Hag (Monster Vault) has an aura - Unwholesome Presence - that says "When an enemy within the aura spends a healing surge to regain hit points, that enemy regains only half the normal hit points".

A Black Pudding (Monster Vault) has an attack called Melt. It's effect says "The target takes 2d6 + 14 acid damage and loses a healing surge. It takes 10 extra acid damage if it has no healing surges".

A Rakshasa Archer (Monster Vault) has an attack called "Ghost Arrow". It's effect says "3d10 + 18 necrotic damage, and the target cannot spend healing surges (Save ends)".


When a player is bitten by a Scurrying Wererat (Monster Vault), they may contract Wererat Filth Fever. The first two stages of this disease each drain a healing surge, and the third stage drains all healing surges.

The disease Blinding Sickness (Dungeon Master Guide) has an initial effect of "The target loses one healing surge that it cannot regain until cured".


On page 73 of the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 there is a trap (hazard, actually) called Life Eater Haze. It's a gas. Players that start their turn in the gas suffer an attack with this hit effect: "1d10 + 6 poison damage, and ongoing 10 necrotic damage (Save ends). First Failed Saving Throw: The ongoing damage increases to 15 necrotic. Second Failed Saving Throw: The target loses a healing surge."

Skill Challenge

In the Dungeon Master Guide, on page 76 there is an example Endurance check. The penalty for failing the check is losing a healing surge.

Martial Practices

Almost every martial practice in Martial Power 2 requires a healing surge to use it. This isn't something you can do to the players though, they'd have to learn and use the practice themselves. Still, you could always suggest they learn some, not mentioning why...

It's the DM's Job to Balance the Game

If draining healing surges doesn't seem like the right way to go, or if it isn't sufficiently effective, remember that you are the one balancing the game. If they're not hurt enough, have them fight more damaging enemies, or simply more enemies.

A few days ago the party of four 5th level characters in the game I run took out 4000xp worth of enemies in one fight. It took about two hours, they came in waves, and they had some NPC help, but they were clean out of everything but at-will powers by the end of it, and had only healing potions left to heal themselves. They discussed running away more then once, but had nowhere to go and no time to rest. They definitely felt pretty heroic when the pile of nearly 30 werewolf corpses convinced the reinforcements to turn around and run away.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Some creatures can circumvent health entirely, too. For example, Nerull's Shade has a recharge power move action which teleports from a square adjacent to a living creature to a square adjacent to a different living creature, and then the second creature makes a death saving throw. Even if you're at full health, three failed death saving throws means you're dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Brian S
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 15:08

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