D&D Next healing idea: the “Soldier On” rule

Mike Mearls recently confessed that the 5e design team is out of ideas for healing.

Here’s my proposal for 5e healing. I’ll call it the “Soldier On” rule.

In a short rest, you can bring your HP up to 2/3 of your max HP. Beyond that, your HP can only be raised through magic or through overnight healing. Overnight healing is old-school slow – say 1 or 2 HP per day.

Basically, the top 1/3 of your HP is physical injuries. The bottom 2/3 is energy, luck, and will. Your last 1 HP is a mortal wound. This is not too far from a wounds/vitality system except that it doesn’t require you to maintain two different HP tracks: the only rule change from First Edition is that you heal up a little after a battle.

This rule allows injured characters to soldier on indefinitely, at slightly-reduced efficiency. You can swig the warm Gatorade of partial healing anytime, but the ice-cold spring water of overnight or clerical healing are luxuries not to be squandered.

The numbers could be tweaked depending on how serious you want injury to be. You could change the Soldier On threshold to be 50% or 75%. Ask this question: “At what stage of Hit Points depletion should we stop adventuring and go home?” and set the Soldier On threshold to a tiny bit above that.


9 Responses to “D&D Next healing idea: the “Soldier On” rule”

  1. Jason says:

    There are good ideas in the optional healing rules right now. I think they should just settle on something for the core rather than leaving it, because it’s kind of a mess now.

    What I’ve found using the default rules is that Hit Dice are rarely relevant, and are only used to heal a few HPs at the end of a fight. Magical healing is usually enough to keep someone going when they’re hurt. Consequently, I don’t think my players ever really remember they have Hit Dice and are probably still confused to their purpose. I’d like to scrap them entirely and use something simple where the PCs heal a little HP when resting for an hour, rather than tracking it through a separate dice pool.

  2. paul paul says:

    My group has new players who are confused about Hit Dice. “I don’t use them when I hit?” “No, those are expertise dice.”

    The experimental suggestions don’t quite work for me either. One has an insane healing-per-hour rate that heals everyone in a few hours – more complicated but no better than 4e’s “heal fully every night”. The other is similar to mine, where you can heal up to a threshold at Bloodied, except then it has a weird thing where you can spend a 6-second action to get over the Bloodied threshold and then heal up to full in a couple of minutes. Both rules are functionally equivalent to “Wait an hour or so and you’re all at full HP”.

  3. paul paul says:

    My problem with Hit Dice is the same as my problem with Healing Surges: they don’t lead to very interesting choices. They extend the period during which you go into every battle at full HP, and then you hit a wall when you run out. “You’re fine – you’re fine – you’re fine – time to go home” is not very interesting. I’d prefer gradually rising tension as your depleted resources make things more and more difficult.

  4. Jason says:

    Yeah, the experimental rules are all mixed up. I think the per-hour one is actually meant to work alongside Hit Dice, while the Bloodied rule replaces them, but its not clear in the doc. I actually do like the per-hour rate in theory, since we have an exploration-heavy game where I actually keep track of time. But in most games, where time is irrelevant, it wouldn’t matter.

    I’m not a fan of “heal fully every night” conceptually, and I keep meaning to tweak it in my game, but in practice I haven’t wanted to fool with it; in part because it never matters because of the PC’s Hit Dice. The Hit Dice just give them a huge pool of healing, so that the only time healing ever matters is within combat.

    Ideally I’d like to preserve the ‘short rest’ and ‘long rest’ concepts, but remove anything the PCs have to keep track of (and then just forget about). The benefit of an hourly heal rate is that you don’t need separate rules for short and long rests; the PCs can just decide to rest for one hour, or eight, and heal however much. Of course, that could cause problems with spellcasters, whose daily abilities revolve around ‘long resting’ – so maybe it’s the ‘short rest’ that’s irrelevant.

  5. Kenneth says:

    My take:

    Fighters and “Hardy Folk” heal 2 hps an hour, 3 per hour if resting. Everyone else heals 1 hp an hour or 2 per hour if resting.

    Resting (sleeping, meditating, reverie, etc) _uninterrupted_ for 8 hours or more will restore 1/4 of the characters total hit points. Fighterss and “Hardy Folk” receive 1/3 of the characters total hit points. This is in addition to any normal healing.

    Critical hits (and dropping below zero) also give a character a _Critical Wound_. A critical wound represents a grievous or disabling injury. Critical wounds must be healed before any resting bonuses to healing can be gained again. Even with regular healing, a Critical wound prevents a character healing fully until it has received the proper attention, limit the character to 2/3s of his normal HPs.

    A critical wound may be removed one of two ways: Through a healing spell (each application removes one Critical Wound), or a full week (or ten-day) of uninterrupted rest per Critical Wound. Someone trained in Healing can treat the wound(s) and reduce this time by half.

  6. Michael "Gronan" Mornard says:

    “The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.”

    More and more rules is not the solution. I wonder how long it will be until this is realized.

  7. Michael A. Felton says:

    That’s somewhat similar, in principle, to how I do it for my AD&D2e game, with a series of thresholds. Long rests automatically pull you up to 1/2, long rest in a comfortable area grants a +1 each night, long rests in a city, inn, or otherwise certainly safe location pushes the thresholds up to 3/4 and a +2 each night.

    During a short rest, a character with the Heal NWP can make checks to add hp (I have a whole separate system for how to do skill checks: 6D6 by difficulty rolled under the appropriate ability score, WIS in this case… number of dice that fit under the score are number of hp healed for free.) Of course this part is relatively unnecessary with the existence of HD in 5e.

    I use an injury chart to represent wounds, because I don’t think that hp should represent anything serious enough to take into account.

    In 5e, I’ve changed how healing kits work, too. Healing Kits only have 5 charges, and what they do is guarantee full healing from your HD per charge. If you don’t have Healing Kit charges, you have to actually roll your HD.

    I use this system (minus the short rest healing) and it works great.

  8. Noah Easterly says:

    I think it’s overly complex, but I’d like to borrow at least a little from WoD’s bashing/injury damage.

    Maybe a system where, instead of having 30hp, your character has 10hp and ends each extended rest with 20 temp hp. Surges, second winds, and the like can restore some number of temp hp, but real hp can only be healed through magic or extended rest (at the slow rate).

    4E didn’t allow temp hp to stack – I’m not sure whether to keep that or not. Perhaps cap the temp hp at 2x current real hp?

  9. Jimmy says:

    Beware of complexity creep, I agree wholeheartedly with Gronan here.

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