Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "Healing Items"

            Several months ago, I wrote a substantive blog on the topic of Healing in Dungeons and Dragons and other fantasy games.  At the time the whipping boy was “Skyrim” and the golden boy was “Bloodborne”.
            Since that time, I have not only written 40 more blogs on the topic of Dungeons and Dragons but have taken time to play Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition and have decided to implement so of my mad ideas for Healing as a mechanic into the game.

Healing in 5e
            The base game of fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons has healing spells, some healing abilities, and healing potions.  For the most part though, especially at low levels, healing will come from relaxing.
            I kind of like this, 5e striped out a lot of the fluff from 3e and while I still think that healing surges from 4e were an unfairly maligned mechanic (and since they were only kept around in 5e as a small but useful ability for the Fighter I think they could have been used more) what 5e has is a good starting point (something I think many players and GG’s would agree with me on).
            Thing is, I want and play a game that has a slightly different tone than what 5e sold thru their thinner mechanics.  5e wants things to be a little more dangerous (maybe that is just me).  Monsters can deal a lot of damage and rest seems more necessary.  It is a slower game than I thought it would be, at least in the context of the world itself.

"Hang in there, Barbara.  I've got you.  I know this might be a bad time to tell you 'I told you so' about the sexy armor that does nothing to protect your midriff.... Uh... But, I told you so."
            It takes a good bit of time to heal back up to full and head out again.  This is mostly fine after level 3 as it allows me to send hordes of minions, but some Challenge level 6 monsters have more than 100 hit points and AC or Resistances that make them tougher still.  Facing them at less than full can be a deadly situation because even 2 good hits can put a player out of the action and situations like that tend to snowball from there.
            Even if a group is well equipped otherwise, a lack of hit points is the stopping point.  Having more healing is useful in this sense if for no other reason that it allows more challenging individual situations while not slowing the game down with a, “Okay guys, let’s go back to the surface, have a beer and sandwich, take some naps, take some dumps, and then get ourselves ready to come back down here tomorrow”.
            I went looking around for ideas as to how to add more healing to the game without unbalancing it.  I present these ideas to you, my readers in hopes that you can try them out and see how they fit in your world.  No pressure, even if you just want to eyeball these ideas and voice an opinion do so.

Affordable Healing
            This first idea was discussed back in that overlong blog about Healing, but I want to call back to it here.  In the game “Bloodborne” the primary healing item is the Blood Vial, an injectable healing potion that gives back a set percentage of the player’s total life, this allows them to remain consistently useful even as the player advances in level.
            The Blood Vial is a constant fixture in the game, numerous enemies drop them, they can be bought, and most importantly they are quick to use.  Taking a Blood Vial and jamming it into your leg takes all of a half second to restore health.  These items are cheap and fast, ideal for the fast gameplay of “Bloodborne” and a good starting point for speeding up the gameplay of Dungeons and Dragons.

"No surprise that most Yharnamites are heavy users of blood."
            Let’s adapt this concept.  I want my Healing Injections to be available consistently and cheaply.  I’ll start by looking at the typical healing potion which is 50gp.  In Dungeons and Dragons, a Healing potion costs more than a peasant will make in a year.  Sure, healthcare is expensive in real life, but maybe we don’t need that bit of reality seeping into the game.  I’m gonna make it cheaper.  A lot cheaper.
            In my game, Healing Injections are 5gp.  They still heal 2d4+2 hit points, but they only cost 1/10th what a potion does.  The obvious issue with this is, what is to stop my players from buying 100 Healing Injections and using them forever?  Simple, like all medicine my potions have a use-by date.
            After 1 week, the Healing Injection goes inert.  In “Bloodborne” the game limits players to only carrying 20 Vials at a time, but that mechanic doesn’t exist in DnD.  In a world with bags of holding the limit on how many easy to access healing items available has to be found another way.
            So, the only way to keep players from having unlimited healing is to make the healing go bad.  1 week gives the players enough time to get to a dungeon and use what they bought fighting monsters, but is not so much time that they will encounter enough monsters to justify buying a massive stockpile.

"Think we have enough?"
"Not like there is anything else to spend our money on."
            The idea that the players could buy more than they end up using exists, but since they are so cheap it is seen as an okay risk of loss.  In this system, you could buy 10 Healing Injections for 50gp, use 2, end up with the other 8 expiring, and still effectively come out ahead because normally 1 potion would cost 50gp.  For all intents and purposes they got a free potion out of the arrangement.  But, smart players will not want to waste money and a penny pincher player-accountant will be making sure to save up and not let them go to waste.
            This may sound insane, but the players will almost certainly end up spending more money on healing in this situation than they otherwise would and THAT IS GOOD.  Money is not real in the context of DnD, you can give the players infinite money and they will not have anything to spend it on, at least nothing of use, and it does have a bad habit of piling up.
            Making it so the players are throwing money away on something that is guaranteed to be useful means they will.  You will not end up with monetary inflation in game.  I bring this up because I saw a video a while back on the concept in “World of Warcraft” and still find it interesting.

Fast Healing vs Slow and Steady Healing
            Currently in my game I am favoring a faster sort of healing.  Right now, using a Healing Injection requires an action, but I am thinking about making it part of a move action to further speed the game up (and to make it more like how it is used in “Bloodborne”).  Keeping people who have taken hits in the fight dealing damage and adding to the win.
            HOWEVER, there are always other ways to change healing in 5e to work with other play styles that want things to be a little faster than the current system, but not so fast as to remove challenge.  Maybe you don’t want healing to be so instantaneously helpful to the players.  For this I look to “Dark Souls 2”.

Here is a link to an 80 minute video talking about the mechanics of "Dark Souls 2".
There is a large section on Life Gems.
            Life Gems are a healing item that is fast to deploy, as fast as Blood Vials, but the healing they provide is a slower trickle.  They were provided as a supplement to the slow-to-use but far more effective Estus Flask that is iconic to the “Dark Souls” series.  Life Gems are broken and heal you slowly over a longer period of time, it is possible to use one while only mildly damaged, take additional damage from a fresh hit, and continue to heal back up while dodging around.  Using a Life Gem can serve as a preemptive defense against attack.
            To adapt Life Gems for 5e you might allow your players to break a Healing Gem and roll healing, but only allow them to regain 1 hit point each round, and only allow one Life Gem to work on a player at a time.  In this instance, you might want to tie how potent they are to the character’s level so that they are not completely useless at higher levels.
            For example, let’s say Drailin the Elf is level 8, he has taken 15 points of damage, but has 35 more hit points.  As he is not in fear of death immediately, he decides as part of his move action to crack a Healing Gem and over the next 8 rounds (a number of rounds equal to his level) he will get back 1 hit point on each of his turns for a total gain of 8.
            Drailin will still be vulnerable from having been hit, but is recovering and will continue to recover as the fight progresses.  Life Gems could also be made more powerful, but more expensive.  Instead of 1 hit point a round, maybe 1d4 hit points each round.  Roughly the same hit points regained overall, not too slow, but not all at once.
I would have posted an image of a Life Gem, but they look SUPER Unimpressive.
This is an Estus Flask, a massively recognizable thing from the series.
Possible Limitations and Other Healing
            It is easy to say, you can only use 1 Healing Injection or Life Gem each day.  You might say that a short rest is necessary before using another.  That a body can only metabolize so much of their magical healing juice.  You know, you have to rest a bit at a bonfire?  Is that a reference anyone will get?  I feel like I am being too obvious.
            You could tie those limitations to other things too.  Much larger healing items, akin to a Full Restore in “Pokemon”; things that remove temporary status effects like Stunned, Confused, or Poisoned; or potions that can remove ability score damage.
            Perhaps providing cures to conditions that should require rest and TLC is making the game too easy.  I don’t know.  I like the idea that the players can hit more than just a half dozen dungeon rooms before being totally spent.
            Going back to the Healing Injections having an expiration date, you could do something else.  There are other ways around having the things last forever or quickly becoming completely inert.  For instance, if you are using the Taint/Corruption/Sanity rules found in many horror campaigns, having a typical Healing Injection carry no Corrupting effects but an older Healing Injection run the risk of making the player more monstrous gives a tactical dimension to longer campaigns.  The characters might be put into a situation in which they have to sacrifice some of their humanity to stay alive, or refuse to make such a sacrifice.  That is classic drama.
I wonder why "corruption" is the first thing I think about as a restriction.
Was there some theme of corruption in "Bloodborne"?
I can't remember.
Some Example Items

Healing Injection- 5gp
Used an action this heals 2d4+2 hit points.
After 1 week of ownership the Injection loses its magical healing properties.

Healing Injection, Greater- 20gp
Used as an action this item heals 3d4+ (your level) hit points.
After 1 week of ownership the Injection loses some potency and becomes a typical Healing Injection (which will lose all healing properties after 1 week).

Healing Gem- 2gp
Used as part of a move action crushing this gem allows the user to begin healing 1 hit point each round for a number of rounds equal to the user’s level.  Healing gems do not expire.

Healing Gem, Healing- 8gp
Used as part of a move action crushing this gem allows the user to begin healing 1d4 hit point each round for a number of rounds equal to the user’s level.  Healing gems do not expire.

"Makes your muscles rigid!  All of them!  Wink!"
"Did you just yell 'wink'?"
Atlas’ Brand Muscle Cream- 20gp
This requires a short rest to apply and take effect.  The cream removes 1d4 points of ability score damage to each of Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution.  It can only be used once each day.

Mr. Mental’s Mind Tonic- 20p
This requires a short rest to ingest and take effect.  The tonic removes 1d4 points of ability score damage to each of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.  It can only be used once each day.

Hippocrates’ Handy Medicine Bag- Wondrous Item, Rare
This satchel is able to hold 3 cubic feet or 30lbs of material.
Up to 8 Healing Injections can be kept in small holders within the bag, akin to the slots of a bandolier.  Healing Injections kept in these holders within the satchel do not degrade in quality after 1 week but instead last a full month without losing their potency.
Three times each day the bag can be used as a Healer’s kit to stabilize a dying person.  One of these uses can be expended to remove the Stunned, Confused, or Poisoned status from someone suffering such a condition.
Medicine such as Mind Tonic or Muscle Cream kept in the Satchel restores 1d4+2 points of ability score damage rather than the usual 1d4.
            Placing an object in the Satchel follows the normal rules for interacting with objects. Retrieving an item from the Satchel requires you to use an action. When you reach into the haversack for a specific item, the item is always magically on top.
            If the Satchel is overloaded, or if a sharp object pierces it or tears it, the Satchel ruptures and is destroyed. If the Satchel is destroyed, its contents are lost forever, although an artifact always turns up again somewhere. If the haversack is turned inside out, its contents spill forth, unharmed, and the haversack must be put right before it can be used again. If a breathing creature is placed within the haversack, the creature can survive for up to 10 minutes, after which time it begins to suffocate.
            Placing the Satchel inside an extradimensional space created by a Bag of Holding, Portable Hole, or similar item instantly destroys both items and opens a gate to the Astral Plane. The gate originates where the one item was placed inside the other. Any creature within 10 feet of the gate is sucked through it and deposited in a random location on the Astral Plane. The gate then closes. The gate is one-way only and can’t be reopened.
There are a lot of magic bags in this game.  What is one more?
Feel Better Faster
            Looking back over how long this blog got, and spitting in the face of my stated goal of making my entries about DnD shorter and easier to read, I think I should have broken this into two entries.  If you have any topics you would like me to talk about feel free to post a comment.  Please post a comment if you end up using any of these and would like to give feedback on how well they work or suggestions on pricing these things.
            These are just some ideas I have been kicking around and I haven’t done a full-on RULES blog for Dungeons and Dragons in a while so I thought I would take a swing.  If you would like to read more of my Dungeons and Dragons entry here is one on how Orcs behave in my game world, here is one on Cursed Items in the game and Fantasy as a whole, and here is one on Evil Fantasy Races.  If you want to look over a complete list of the 30 entries I did in July, you can just click here.
            If you would like to read more of my writing about other things, here is a self-reflective blog I did for the 10-year anniversary of me taking the GRE, here is one about my thoughts on Diversity in my life and the events in Charlottesville, and here is me complaining about issues I have with how leaders are written in fiction.

            Thanks for your time, and have fun.

            If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter (click that link to follow me), Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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