changes for clerics in 5e

Now that we’re sure about 5e, the dark mutterings from Mearls and Cook’s Design and Development columns seem more fraught with meaning.

Here are some interesting passages from Mike Mearls’s The Problem of Clerics:

The party needs healing, only the cleric can provide it, therefore someone must play a character they might otherwise prefer to avoid. The simplest, though perhaps most difficult, solution is to make healing no longer mandatory.

… Such a change would require a substantial examination of almost every facet of the game. Something like 4E’s second wind starts to point in a direction you could go, but you’d also have to look at monster damage, character attacks and spells, and the structure of a typical adventure. …The key to this change lies in making healing optional, so that players can embrace whatever role or class they like best.

That’s pretty much the same as what Rodney Thompson said later:

I don’t think ‘requiring someone to be a healer’ is a sacred cow, but having healers in the game is. I wouldn’t want to see D&D do away with healing, but I don’t think there’s anything keeping us from exploring a version of D&D where players can simply play anything they want, ignoring concepts like role and function when putting together their party. To do so, we would need to take a serious look at the way player resources are allocated in D&D, and make some adjustments to the assumptions behind the design of everything from adventures to encounters to monsters.

From this, it seems to me that the D&D guys already have an idea for making healing optional, and “something like 4E’s second wind starts to point in a direction you could go.”

Possible solutions that fit this bill:
a) everyone gets all the second winds they want: if you want to spend your turn healing, you lose a turn (thus, healing has an opportunity cost). Clerics heal other characters, so they don’t provide extra hit points: they manage the opportunity costs.
b) D&D finally separates wound points and barely-avoiding-calamity points into two separate pools. Maybe clerics are required to heal wound points, but everyone can recharge their own luck points.

It’s interesting that both Mike’s and Rodney’s quotes talk about reexamining (and changing) fundamental assumptions about D&D. It sounds like the designers have their hands on a New Idea. That doesn’t sound like the Old Editions Simulator that some of the other 5e PR is promising.

The other possibility is that the designers are just wrong about having a fix for healing, the way the 4e designers were wrong about solving the five-minute workday.

17 Responses to “changes for clerics in 5e”

  1. Crose87420 says:

    …and someone has to bite the bullet and be the frontline fighter, and the rogue to disarm traps, and someone has to be able to cast spells…I think the cleric is safe unless they’re re-examining every norm associated with a D&D party.

  2. Mandramas says:

    We never played with clerics since 2nd Edition. Your solution was introduced since 0D&D: it is called “healing potions”.

  3. Laura says:

    Crose: I think the difference is that often nobody WANTS to be the cleric. It’s fine and dandy to ‘require’ a balance of high damage-doers (who may also have a number of other incidental skills such as lockpicking or lifting heavy portcullises or whatever hijinks you want to get up to with mage hand). The cleric is both relatively unfun and more specifically necessary, since if you have a number of high damage-doers it doesn’t really matter how they do their damage (particular monster resistances notwithstanding).

    Healing potions don’t really do it, since you need two minor actions to take out & drink a healing potion, where clerics and buffy paladins & warlords can release healing surges without requiring a key damage player to waste any of his actions. But nobody wants to be the guy whose time is worth wasting.

  4. Rory Rory says:

    Also healing potions cost money and don’t usually end up healing as much as a leader’s heal would. For example, a healing potion at level 1 heals 10 HP and a cleric’s healing word heals their Healing Surge (5-8)+1d6(3.5)+5=13.5-16.5. And of course, the time you need healing most is when you are unconscious. It’s a STANDARD action to feed someone a healing potion.

    So, yeah, healing potions are handy, but the 2-3 cheap heals a leader brings to the party every encounter are REALLY nice. While a group can scrape by without a leader, I’d say they are the most essential party member (with as many strikers as you can pack into the group being a close second).

  5. Old Guy says:

    There are certainly a lot of people who hate running any sort of healer. On the other hand, there are a lot of people who love running a healer. If they were completely removed from the game (or had the healing role shifted further away from them), a lot of folks would be upset.

    Also, a fair number of people who don’t like 4e, list healing surges as one of the main things they don’t like. If 5e intends to bring the groups together, those concerns need to be addressed as well.

    Given that, I think what is needed is a modification to the healing classes that allow them to retain their healing abilities while also having other abilities that make them fun to play.

    Healing potions are an excellent supplement, and should always be used. But, as said earlier, there are times when they don’t suffice.

  6. I disagree with Rodney Thompson I kind of do think that healers are a sacred cow of D&D. I think you just need to expand the healers beyond the Cleric.

    I know healing surges aren’t the most popular addition of 4e, but I think that the leader classes are one of the things the edition really added to the game as a whole. First, they were more fun to play – healing as a minor action meant that you could still participate actively without having to ‘waste’ your turn. Second, I found that lots of players who always hated Clerics were more than willing to play Warlords and Bards. Some people just don’t like the archetype of Cleric but still want to play a healer.

    Or, you could separate out healing abilities from Clerics and give every class a healing option if they want to take it as a class ability – Fighters use some kind of battlefield first aid, Wizards use white magic, Rogues concoct some kind of alchemical salve, etc.

  7. Mandramas says:

    If you are creating a new game, you don’t need to think about healing potions on 4th terms. Potions don’t heal enough? Simply do a new subset of better potions. Or create new healing devices. Or do a feat that heals as part of an action. Frankly, any intelligent DM can think a thousand ways to solve the lack of a healer.

  8. Laura says:

    I like Victor’s idea – just as every class has its own way to do damage, it would be fun if every class had its own way to heal! In fact, because healing is so much like damage, there are just as many different-feeling ways to do it (e.g. the equivalent of the sword and shield guy could have a regen thing that heals a small number of hit points every round, the high-damage high-risk striker-type healer could have a good chance of healing a huge number of HP but with a chance to fail, etc.)

  9. Mandramas says:

    In fact, you can play without healing at all. You will see that the players start to avoid unnecesary risks and take a lot of effort to avoid a hit. The game will be still fun, if you have good players.

  10. paul paul says:

    In this post I’m not as much interested in as what Wizards SHOULD do as what they WILL do.

    Victor’s suggestion strikes me as likely: each class could have a healing mechanism. I’d be happy to play my beloved 4e warlord Borth Van Allen as a fighter with some battlefield first aid.

    It also seems possible, based on all this stuff about healing not being necessary, that wizards will make some unimaginable change to HP. I just don’t see how that rhetoric goes with their desire to appease those who thought that 4e “didn’t feel like D&D”.

  11. Haco says:

    Mmm second winds….no clerics needed….we play role playing or we want play mmorpg, the clerics are necesary but they can do healing herbs like in MERP or Heal skill can sure 1D6 or more but cleric IS necesary because is an important piece of the adventurer’s party. We don’t need more 4th Ed no one has a real role in the party all made all it was not good and it is the big one problem of this edition.

  12. We’ve played with clerics, we’ve played without them. Some folks like ’em, some hate ’em. I doubt that will ever change.

    In our current Pathfinder Second Darkness campaign, we have one cleric who’s only able to join us every third game, but that’s ok — the guys relish the challenge of playing without a cleric, and adjust their tactics accordingly. Clerics make the headlong rush into combat a legitimate tactic; playing without one means paying closer attention to the specifics of the situation and coming up with ways to avoid taking boatloads of damage.

    Second wind worked well in our Star Wars: Saga Edition game — while we had Jedi who could provide healing, most of the time the heroes were on their own, healing-wise. Granted, Saga characters have more hit points than D&D D&D, but weapons dealt more damage. It was a decent balance that lead to pitched, tense fights, but we rarely lost characters unless thermal detonators were involved. :)

    I wouldn’t want each class to have its own unique healing ability — I like the second wind mechanic, but allowing fighters, rogues, etc. to have their own abilities (I pick a lock! Heal 10 points!) would undermine the role of the cleric IMHO.

    Personally I like how the game plays when you don’t have some “essential” class — e.g. what happens when there’s no cleric? Or no wizard? Or no rogue? It forces people to find alternative solutions to the problems at hand, something more than “i pick the lock” or “I cast read magic”.

  13. Michael (Gronan) Mornard says:

    Nobody wants to play the cleric? Huh?

    OD&D style, clerics fight ALMOST as well as fighters, can wear plate armor, heal and turn undead making you EVERYBODY’s best friend, have the easiest XP advancement chart, AND reach name level at 8th instead of 9th or 11th level.

  14. paul paul says:

    I’m never interested in playing clerics, but I love paladins. I don’t know why. They’re both heavily armed and armored fighting men who love the gods and cast clerical spells. What’s the distinction in my mind? Do I hate maces?

  15. John says:

    My brother played D&D before me. His favourite class was the Cleric because you could fight, wear plate armour and use a shield and you got to cast spells, including the best spell Word of Recall (get out of jail free or escape a tpk).

    I played my Clerics the same way. A Magic User would not necessarily memorize spells that only benefited the party, they would also memorize spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt, so why should the Cleric be any different? IF we memorized any healing spells then they would basically be for our own use. Any party healing would be done when the party is in a safe place and the Cleric could study only healing spells.

    As a Cleric I am interested primarily in smiting the infidels. If someone asked me for healing my reaction would be to heal yourself. Remeber it is your character and you have no obligation to anyone else. If they don’t have healing they shouldn’t have gotten injured in the first place!

  16. Rob Reno says:

    Well, playing Clerics can be fun, especially with options like 2E “Deity’s Favored Weapon”; nothing like a Cleric with a battle Axe. My thought toward non-cleric healing is similar to one I’ve seen floating around the net. As Hit Points are an abstract term, especially when you have more & more of them, I would advocate for something I’ll call “After Battle Recovery”, LOL just a working title.

    The way it could work, after a combat is over, you can choose to ‘Recover’ 1d12 HP +1 per Character Level. Add a d12 every 4 Character Levels (so 2d12+5 at LV 5, 3d12+9 at LV 9, etc). But reduce the type of dice used for each subsequent combat. After the next combat you only get d10s… 3rd combat, d8, etc. By the 5th combat, you’re down to 4-sided dice and not regaining much at all, even at higher levels. Then you would have to camp and rest to reset your “Recovery” cycle (& it would make sense that you get some healing for resting, of course, say 1HP/LV + CON bonus).

    Adventuring parties that had a Cleric among them would fare better, be able to get healed DURING a battle and wouldn’t have to camp as often. AND maybe a Cleric could augment your “After Battle Recovery” by adding an extra die 3 times/day + WIS modifier. Just my 2CP. WotC, feel free to use this idea, heheh.

  17. Rob Reno says:

    Another benefit: getting to use d12s & those other oft neglected dice!!

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