How do I handle having a party without a Healer? I have a Healer character ready but not a player for her, and I don't know how well I could handle playing her as a GMPC when I have another character I'm already playing as a GMPC.

I'm using a combination of books and rules from Pathfinder and 3.5 where the following are used.

  • Pathfinder core rules
  • 3.5 PHB2
  • Dungeon Master's Guide
  • Tome of Battle
  • Draconomicon
  • Complete Divine
  • Complete Warrior
  • Complete Arcane
  • Races of Eberron
  • Weapons of Legacy

The party is

  • Human Duskblade/Warblade (my GMPC)

  • Sorceress/Wizard

  • Human of either Ranger/Rogue or Ranger/Fighter

  • Changeling Cleric/fighter with trickery and healing (from a pantheon of my own creation).

I want to have the main 3 but don't know how I can handle running the game for a group that is missing a PC Healer. I don't really want to explicitly have a GMPC (from advice I've read) but I am the host and the only one of us three that has read information about D&D before, so I have to be GM.

Generally, How do I handle having a character and being DM? I'm not asking how to balance them, or how to weaken them, or how to prevent me from using DM powers to help them. I'm asking how I handle playing it without forgetting something or slipping up an important detail of being a DM.

I am also now using a yogsquest 2 style perks and derps system.

each character has 5 hero dice per day that they can use to add to a roll or use one of their perks.

A Perk is a special ability action that you get 3 of at character creation, one is a once per turn ability and two are abilities you spend hero dice to use.

For example from the original. (though it's a scify thing it's an example to base it on

Simon 5000: Race: robot Class: Cleaning robot

once per turn: protocol 294A: Classified (actually activated when the captian reaches 1hp and turns him into a giant battle robot

hero dice action: hacking probe: Make a computers roll to control a piece of machinery or robotics from a distance.

hero dice action: super clean: clean 1d6 squares to a very high standard.

derp: pacifist: cannot attack.

Whilst the specific abilities can't be used in fantasy pathfinder, the concept is the same. You can use abilities specific to your character.

I'm adding this because it may mean a lot about the answers to it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please don't answer (including frame challenges) in comments. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 8:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please look at other questions in the GMPC tag. Several of them are very close to what you're asking here, and your question would benefit from details that set it apart from them more clearly. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 8:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] Should I use a GMPC to help a small party? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 23:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore Take a look at the XY Problem Focus not on your intended solution but the problem itself. Let us provide solutions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 3:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Cataru, comments are not for extended discussion. You have needed multiple multiple-comment responses on this answer, which suggests a poorly formed question. Comments are for clarification requests. If you feel like chatting with someone, invite them to Role-playing Games Chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 21:34

6 Answers 6


Answering the question as posed in your title (how to run a game for three players without a healer), you have two main options:

Offload the mentally-taxing parts of running a GMPC

I've played in three groups that didn't have a PC healer. In two of them, the DM assigned an NPC companion character to one of the players. The DM did the majority of the RP for the NPC (e.g., speaking, making out-of-combat decisions, etc), but during combat the assigned player managed the character. This works because combat tends to be the most DM-resource-intensive part of D&D/Pathfinder, and you want your attention as DM focused on that rather than on the NPC.

It sounds like this is your first time DMing, so I'll pass along a general tip: DMing is incredibly mentally taxing. Fun and exciting, yes, but exhausting. One of the many reasons GMPCs are not recommended is because, frankly, the DM already has enough on her plate and adding the responsibility of a PC just makes things more difficult for her.

That said, since you're planning to play at least one GMPC, healer or no: look for ways to offload as much of the thinky bits of playing the character as possible. Reduce the healer's stat blocks to just a healer; I can't remember what the class name is right now but there's a 3.5 healer class that literally only does healing. (Its name might actually just be "Healer".) That's the class one of the NPC companion characters used in my example above, and it made things simple because all his choices were "Who to heal and by how much", rather than tactical things like "heal vs attack vs tank vs control". This reduced the mental load on the DM, plus made it easy for one of the group's other players to take over the NPC in combat.

Use items and skills to make up the difference

The other way to handle this situation is to simply ensure that the players have sufficient Use Magic Device, minor spellcasting, and items/cash that they don't need an explicit healer. This is what we did in the third group I played in without a healer. We were a multiclassed bard/fighter (got some small heals from the bard half, plus UMD); a ranger (also some minor spellcasting, plus general toughness); and a rogue (craploads of UMD, wands, and scrolls). Our DM made sure to drop lots of healing potions and wands as treasure, and to have lots of places where we could also buy healing items. We didn't need a healer because our own minor spellcasting and UMD abilities worked just fine.

Looking at your group's breakdown, you could likely do something similar, since you've got quite a bit of spellcasting/UMD power. Just make sure, as DM, that you drop lots of healing items as treasure. The players will figure it out from there.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This helps a lot. I like the idea of putting the in-combat roles to another player. As long as they would allow. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore: Glad to help! :) \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, 2 answers helped me, and I can only pick 1 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore Yeah, that happens. :) The idea behind SE is that people with questions get answers from the community, then later others with the same question can quickly see what you, a person in the same situation as them, found most useful. If you had two good answers, adding a comment to both (as you did) helps later searchers, as well. So whether you mark this as accepted with a comment pointing to Brian's answer, or Brian's answer as accepted with a comment pointing to mine, it'll help other people in your situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – thatgirldm
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 2:58

Without custom magical item rules, have them buy a wand of lesser vigor and a wand of lesser restoration. Their first few expeditions should be to scrounge up money to buy the wands, and then they can go from there. Your gestalt rogue ... whatever should have sufficient use magic device ranks to trigger the wands without too much trouble.

With two players, the party should have 1800 gp worth of treasure by level 2. This trivially purchases the wand of lesser vigor, and then allows the party to buy restoration at a temple of their choice after the first adventure. Or, have one of their foes be wearing a Healing Belt (MiC).

Don't use a GM PC for this purpose (or any purpose, you'll have enough on your plate running the monsters). To repeat: don't be a GM PC. If you simply must play your PC, swap warblade (you're playing from tome of battle and running your first campaign? I cannot disrecommend this enough) for crusader.

With custom magical item rules, have them buy a command-word activated "stick" (flavoured appropriately for setting) of lesser vigor for 1800 gp. Then they won't have to worry about healing ever again. I would recommend starting with the wands first to see how they go: it'll give the rogue an additional thing to do. Only go with the custom magical items at first if no-one in the party has ranks in use magic device.

There really is no need for a healer with a party, as items can replace the "boring" bits. With a gestalt party, the complexity (and power level) is high enough that they can just take an item and continue "being awesome."

Resources for your players:

How each player can heal out of combat:

  • Sorcerer/Wizard: Take the feat arcane disciple (healing) at level 1, and the touch of healing at level 3.
  • Rogue/Ranger/Fighter: Buy a healing belt. Cross class invest skills into use magic device, buy a wand of lesser vigor. Or take the feat: shape:soulmeld lifebound vest and the feat poison healing at level 1, and heal via strategic alcohol consumption.
  • \$\begingroup\$ From past things I've done with him (not dnd, just in general) he doesn't like being cooped up in his choices. I don't want to create a forceful atmosphere that will make him just up and walk away from the table. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 5:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CataruMoore Two things: 1) Unless utterly abandoning spellcasting, the ranger'll have on his spell list cure light wounds, enabling using a wand of that spell, and 2) unless the healer is relying exclusively on his spells to fix PCs' problems (difficult and unlikely), he'll need resources for wands, too. The 2-person party'll probably have more "healing" available if they split their treasure 3 ways, devoting an entire share to healing, than they would if they must keep a third character alive and in level-appropriate gear. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 9:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ This and the answer below by thatgirldm are really good Ideas, and the idea of using out of combat healing with other things helps a lot too. I think I know what I'll be doing now. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 14:19

Those are some good answers above, particularly on what sort of equipment they can use to get around having no healer in the party. I have run a lot of games with no healer in the party, so it can certainly be done - they just have to rest more, hide from bad guys, and suffer with their wounds like normal people (remember, they will heal as they rest). But those other methods work well too. In some ways, having no healer can be awesome, because it means each conflict is important - you don't want to get stabbed by the goblins, because then your HP will be super low when it comes time to cut your way through the orcs! It's important though, that you give them a chance to avoid combats, and don't overwhelm them with tons of bad guys straight away. If they're low level, even just one encounter can be exciting and super dangerous - and thus, really fun. Also, healing potions, healing salves and that sort of thing are super useful. I wouldn't dole out too many - make them valuable, make them something to be husbanded carefully (that's my personal preference anyway).

The other thing you're mentioning is how to run a GMPC at the same time as the rest of the game. To be honest, my personal method of doing that is to not be too specific, too careful, with that GMPC. This is not something that everyone does, but it definitely enables me to keep the game flowing, to make it less mentally taxing. You can sort of bluff your way through some of the finer technical points - even make a single roll, against the roll of the NPCs the GMPC is fighting. If the GMPC rolls well, then it's a really good effect (kills the orc, charges through heroically, etc.). If the GMPC rolls badly... ouch. The other thing is that at lower levels the GMPC is not going to be overly complex, so you could just keep him/her pretty simple, and that would free you up a bit. But yeah, if you're super concentrating on every little ability, every bonus, every item and hex of movement... then you're being a pc AND a GM... and that's tough. Remember also, that if you ever end up in a big battle, you don't want that dragging, becoming slow and mechanical. That's where single-rolls can really free you up. Roll for one side, versus the others side, with a bonus assigned to each. It's a more fluid method, less crunchy - and maybe you won't know exactly how many HP each orc has lost... but that's kind of irrelevant in a battle that involves people the pc's aren't actually fighting directly - you just need it to flow. Hope that helps!

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    \$\begingroup\$ We have very similar experiences, I too have ran a couple without a healer and it certainly can be done. Also, welcome to rpg! \$\endgroup\$
    – DanceSC
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 11:28

May I suggest scrapping the idea of a GMPC Healer. I do not advise GMPC's for many reasons, primarily rail-roading, and it makes things harder on the GM. If a party absolutely needs a healer, promote role playing by having them hire an NPC healer to accompany them on their quests and have them request the heals / make the checks for that NPC. You save them the time by rolling up the character, but you do not make any of the decisions for that character. Instead treat the campaign like it is being ran by only 3 people, and let the players request and inquire about the healers available spells.

As a DM this is nice because I would not have to worry about controlling the npc or influencing the PCs through the NPC. As a player this is nice because now I feel like the other two PCs and myself are in control of the game and actually managing a party. It also introduces me to how casters / healers work at a much easier pace.


The best way to deal with a party not having a healer character is to make your adventures so that the party does not need to have a healer. Make adventures that are not about lots of fights after which the PCs need to restore their hit points. Set up encounters that allow the players to overcome their opposition without exposing themselves to harm. If they do fight, make the combat relatively easy. The first or second fight will be childs play, but after a while they have to be more and more careful as their ability to shrug off injuries goes down.

The easiest way to heal any wounds is with simple healing potions. But unlike cleric spells these cost money. Which again isn't a bad thing, as it encourages the players to do more thinking, planing, and tactics. To make that work however, you need to set up situations for the players that allow them to take alternative routes to their destination. Let them sneak around very dangerous enemies or create terrains that allow them to deal a lot of damage with ranged weapons and spells before the enemies can reach them to fight back.


A ranger can use a wand of cure light wounds, even if the ranger can't cast any spells yet. (citation) Cure light wounds isn't quite as efficient as lesser vigor but it's still very efficient and will heal your party back to full hit points after many combats. You don't need any Use Magic Device rolls, either.

Rather than GMPC, I recommend that you create a healer character and assign one of the players to control it as a "sidekick". Or you could just let one player control two characters.

If the above options aren't viable for some reason, I recommend just telling the players that you're healing them to full after each combat. D&D 4E does essentially that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried the option suggested in the final paragraph? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 6:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've played/run in a number of game systems where post-combat healing was essentially free. The most obvious example is D&D Fourth Edition (provided you don't do so many combats you run out of healing surges; my groups very seldom had that happen.) It never caused a problem. I've added a sentence to that final paragraph clarifying. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 16:22

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