Some time ago we were in a final battle with a end boss for a dungeon. The fight went pretty well in our favor but when the boss hit his bloodied value, our DM described that he emitted a dark shroud into the room. Unknown to us what the shroud was we decided to continue our efforts to kill the boss. When one of my party members got low on hp I tried to heal him as the cleric of the party. Because of my paragorn path (Compassionate Healer) I was able to heal him for 12 + healing surge + 7d6 with a healing word, which turned out to be 57 hp. Because the dark shroud seemed to reverse healing so that it instead damaged the PC of my friend had to start making death savings trows. He failed the death saving throws and died because I tried to heal him.

The DM told us we could have known what the shroud was if we would have tried checking the shroud with an Arcana check.

I actually thought it was kind of funny but my friend thinks otherwise and now refuses to play with campaigns hosted by our DM.

My question: Is this a legitimate mechanic for the DM to use? If not, could it be used in another fashion or is it just outright wrong?

Details: DND4E, Party around level 13, DM makes every monster and encounter himself, first DND campaign experience for everyone in the party including the DM

  • \$\begingroup\$ Did your party begin at level 1 and progress to 13, or did you start at a higher level? That would be nice to know in terms of understanding how long you have been interacting with this DM. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 12:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is an interesting question. Would chnaging the wording of the question to something like, "Is this reversal-of-healing effect overpowered?" get it off of hold. I'd like to answer the question based on damage expressions and trap effects seen in the DMG 4e. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


You'd have to define "legitimate mechanic." But I would say no.

4th edition D&D in particular focuses on keeping a fair playing field, and a big part of this is the assumption that all characters know the purpose of all effects on them. An effect that completely negates a PC's role in the battle (in this case, healing) must be made clear to the players. I would accept something like that in my own games only if the players and their characters were immediately aware of what the shroud does.

If a PC dies, it should be due either to particularly bad rolls or due to the party getting in over their head by their own actions. A (temporary) anti-healing mechanic is fine, but the players need to be aware of it, particularly for something that strong. At level 13, a 57-point "heal" from low health could outright kill some PCs. I wouldn't recommend a reset, because what's done is done, but that effect was very much counter to the way the game is most commonly played.

In the event that he does want to continue using similar "surprise" mechanics, I would heavily suggest that he include some sort of hint at the effect. In this instance, perhaps the boss could have had some sort of healing effect, whether through allies or an item, that he clearly deactivates before rolling out the fog.

I would recommend talking to your DM about it and finding out whether this sort of thing is going to be a recurring issue. Generally, 4e suggests that players be aware of everything affecting their characters— if he doesn't like that, I'd recommend a system change.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In the spirit of "continue surprising the players but keeping things fair", I think a good idea is to allow a spellcraft roll to give the players a chance to infer what is going on, or at least give them a vague idea that something is being fudged ("you think it has something to do with healing...") \$\endgroup\$
    – Nigralbus
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 11:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nigralbus The asker mentioned the DM told the players after the encounter was over they could have figured it out with an Arcana check. I think this question is more one of group dynamics than it is about the actual scenario. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh. Indeed he has. Can't believe I missed that bit of text... \$\endgroup\$
    – Nigralbus
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:15

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