The party I DM for has only three characters and they elected not to take a healer. This is fine with me as the DM, and they all seem to enjoy the characters they've taken. I try and hand out a few more heal potions than I normally would and with their damage dealing capability (two weapon ranger, fighter, and wizard) they handle most of my encounters fairly well.

The problem is, once one of the characters is brought below 0 hp, they are knocked unconscious and dying. It is very difficult to get them up again. The awake characters can use the Heal skill to stabilize a dying player. The dying character can get a healing surge on a death save of 20 (although I assume once you're stabilized, you stop saving). A heal check can trigger a second wind, but usually the dying character has spent his second wind already...

What options does the party have, or what house-rules could I create to allow the one player to reenter the combat if they fall early?

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    i htink you can use first aid to allow a player to spend a healing surge, but i'll have to look in the books to make sure. – DForck42 Aug 5 '11 at 13:48
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    @dpatchery Actually, if you're dying, you can spend a healing surge on a crit on the save. If you're unconscious but not dying (after a successful heal check), THEN you're out of options. – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:27
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    @Chad, I understand the sentiment. However, in a party of three one role will always go uncovered. They have a defender, a striker, and a controller. While you could argue that the leader is more important, its probably more important that each player gets to play a character they enjoy... I think as the level I will encourage them to multiclass one character to cover part of that role. – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:45
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    @DForck42 My understanding of death saves is that if you succeed, you are stable but unconscious (at 0hp), and if you crit, you can spend a healing surge and come back. Of course, three fails and you die. – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:47
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    I would say that your party would be better served through discretion and picking their battles than trying to bring with them the monthy output of the local potion shop. While I am not against MC'ing a healer it nets you 3.5 chars as neither of the characters played by the MCer will be nearly as effective as if they are playing only one. It can be done we played a campaign where we had 2 players we played a Their and a fighter/mage, We chose our battles, avoided combat when we could, and used traps and corridors to our advantage to contain the monsters. – user2015 Aug 8 '11 at 16:25
up vote 13 down vote accepted

It is a standard action to administer a healing potion to an adjacent player, even an unconscious one. This will allow the fallen PC to pop back up. Its not much worse than a heal check (also a standard that required adjacency) in that it may (or may not) cost a minor to pull the potion, but at least its a RAW option.

You can also expend a standard action to make a DC 10 heal check to allow a character to expend their second wind (they don't have to be unconscious).

My real suggestion though is to have one of your characters MC healer. Its a bit of a feat investment, but in this party it is sorely needed. It is a fairly limited solution, but if your other characters have some personal healing effects (also a must in this situation) it can be saved for such a moment when a comrade has fallen and it is inconvenient to try another solution.

  • I didn't realize this fell under RAW. I will look into that. I agree that MC Healing would probably be a good solution, until the MC healer falls. :) Not that the DM would target him... – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:31
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    Why not just have an npc cleric follow them around the dungeon healing for gold? – user2015 Aug 5 '11 at 20:41
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    @Chad, sorry, one of my players ran a guest spot and I sat in as a cleric. So we just happen to have an NPC cleric lying around. Also, it's a legitimate answer, although I probably wouldn't encourage my players to play multiple PCs. – Sam Hoice Aug 8 '11 at 15:13
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    @Sam - multiple PCs is not a bad option, our group ran with me playing a second PC for a couple of months, with few effects. one of the things I did was make my second PC fairly flat without much personality and not much story so that I didn't have to spend a lot of time RP'ing 2 characters. – wax eagle Aug 8 '11 at 15:17
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    @Chad - Sarcasm? I thought that was legitimately a great idea! – Ravn May 9 '14 at 7:21

One option is the Battle Standard of Healing.

If one PC drops unconscious and is dying, they can be brought back to 1 hit point if someone else spends a healing surge in the zone. Note that all they need to do is spend a healing surge. This could be a second wind, Healing Potion, or any other number of powers/items that let you spend one.

For rules clarity, from Healing the Dying:

When you are dying, any healing restores you to at least 1 hit point.

Become Conscious: As soon as you have a current hit point total that’s higher than 0, you become conscious and are no longer dying.

  • I really like this. I was going to give my party an item quest, and this might get to be it. – Sam Hoice Aug 17 '11 at 15:35

As for house rule, why not water tossed in face, strong scent placed under nose, or even shaking the target? This shouldn’t revive all types of unconsciousness. I wouldn’t permit someone shaking someone out of a coma.

There should be a reasonable distinction between unconscious and comatose. My rule would be along the lines of ‘much harder to waken during combat’ though I’d probably give a small chance based on time spent. Once, combat is over, my personable preference would be that most unconscious effects should have a realistic duration. Simple unconsciousness lasting a few minutes if no strong reason for longer.

My view being just because we have magical means of dealing with some issue doesn’t mean standard real-world solutions can never work.

Sam inspired me to consider that this sort of house rule could have its own drawbacks. If you feel the need to encourage ‘proper healing’ or group usefulness, or purchasing of potions, you could have lingering negative consequences for not using standard practice (whatever standard practices you determine). For instance, if revived by water/shaking/salts/etcetera the player could be groggy. Could be slightly more likely to miss. Could get dizzy spells or fits of vomiting.

The key for me is to have some options so that play doesn’t come to a full stop.

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    This is kinda what I was thinking. Maybe a heal check to stabilize, then another heal check to wake them on a subsequent turn? Two standard actions is a lot in a party of 3... – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 3:22
  • I think so. You don’t want to entirely remove all of the penalties. If you want to encourage magical healing you could have some lasting negative effect (slightly more likely to miss, chance of getting dizzy, vomiting, etc.). I think I’ll update my answer with this. – user179700 Aug 5 '11 at 3:25
  • Actually, my intent was that spending 2 standard actions was a pretty good penalty. :) Once they get up, the penalty is probably sufficient that they only have 1 surge worth of hp... – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:29
  • And I agree with your last statement, the main concern is that a player downed early in combat doesn't get stuck with no actions until the end. Maybe I'll let the idle player play some monsters against his friends... – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:50

Mage hand, the wild talent master feat, the unseen servant ritual, or anything else in that line should be able to administer healing potions at a distance. (will update answer when i have reak internets)

  • I guess they could just pour the heal potion on the person to grant the effect? That would probably be ok. So who spends the healing surge, the target or the actor? – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 20:30
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    @Sam the recipient would spend the healing surge. With mage hand it would be a minor to pull the potion, a move to move it to the person and another minor to administer the potion. That provided that mage hand is active and in the space of the person with the potion. – wax eagle Aug 5 '11 at 22:17

In one of your comments you mentioned an NPC cleric here and there.

Personally, I think it would be a wonderful story element to have this bumbling NPC cleric who always happens to show up at the end of battle, and whose spells just barely manage to stabilize the dying (provided they lived through the battle). How exactly he manages to get caught outside of battle (traps, encounters, falling and breaking his leg which he must mend himself, busy studying a rock he found, found a fairy and chatted with it) would make for a great recurring theme and gag plot. I know my group would fancy this kind of comic relief in our campaigns.

  • That could be pretty funny, but I'm not sure my DM chops could handle the comedy. – Sam Hoice Aug 17 '11 at 15:32

Another player can use the Heal skill to Grant Second Wind DC10 to the dying player character without taking an action, assuming they still have their Second Wind.

The point "without taking an action" is important as the dying player will have the Unconscious status, so they can't take any actions

UPDATE: see the Heal skill, p.145 of Rules Compendium, Dying status, p.231 and Unconscious, p.234

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    @SteveC what's unclear here is that the player doing this is taking a Standard to perform the heal check. It allows a "No Action" second wind for the PC that is dying. – wax eagle Apr 10 '12 at 16:58
  • And if they have used their second wind, it recharges after a short rest (5 mins). Being unconscious does not prevent a short rest from being taken. – Snowbody Apr 13 '12 at 22:10

Start giving the players healing oil or somesuch, which need not be quaffed. You can decide how long it takes to apply in order to strike a balance between utility and lack-of-absurdity (having everyone throwing oil at each other during a fight is comical but probably not what you're after). I'd suggest that to maintain the downside of not having a healer that the oil take a while to apply (~1 minute), so that they couldn't get up during the fight, but could shortly thereafter.

  • After the fight its not a problem, because they can spend their copious amounts of healing surges (assuming they get a short rest). The problem they have is that they can't spend but a couple surges in combat with no healer. – Sam Hoice Aug 5 '11 at 3:20

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