Monday, November 17, 2014

The "No Free Healing" Recovery Model for 5e D&D

My original article Controlling Rest Cycles had it wrong, at least as far as the rules were written...I think I read what I "wanted" the rules to be, but after the last session I played which included a three day journey, where a early nighttime encounter with a group of five Stirges did a significant amount of damage to the 2nd level party.

The character most wounded asked if their was enough time to get an extended rest, to which I replied that they would simply have to rest a bit into there morning, and get a late start but they would be able to get one, so long as they had no other encounters during the night and they slept in.  Well, the rest of the night was indeed uneventful and they choose to sleep in to get the extended rest.

I then stated that everyone gained half their hit dice for the extended rest, but no hit points were returned.  The wounded player challenged me, and I simply stated that, if everyone one is fully healed after every nights sleep, then it makes "traveling" pointless, it goes back to all the issues that I'd had with 4E's resting model.  The player agreed with me, but showed me the Extended Rest as it was written, and I'd realized that I read what I wanted to see when I read this section before.  I did award everyone their Extended Rest, this time...but I'd think up something for next session.

After "thinking" about it I think my previous article is very close to how I'm going to play recovery in the future.  I've read nearly all the Facebook entries on a recent post to one of the groups I frequent on this subject and think it's comical how non-constructive most of the 100+ responses are.  These break down into a few basic types, most are simply the "no-value" I agree that they could have just used the "Like" option, or the "no-value" negative flame/trolling response as with most of these posts.  Others still seems to infer 5e is a Pen and Paper version of World or Warcraft.

Some were good, but the ones that I really want to address are simply the ones that "mock" trying to add realism to an fantasy game with potions and magical healing.  As described in my Controlling Rest Cycles article, I really don't see a down side to making the rest cycle more realistic.  Even the "No Free Healing" model allows for a hero to go from nearly bleeding out death one day to completely healed in a few days, but less than a week for sure, even with the assumption of no magical healing or potions being used.

To me, this model is the Win-Win version, as DMs that don't want to worry about things can simply grant a few more potions of healing, or simply increase the travel distance of areas that the heroes seek to a few extra days, and everyone will be healed within the guidelines of the rules, however for those that want the journey to mean something or create a more dangerous world, damage or lack of hit dice can linger from day to day, and if they party wants to recover then it's a deliberate decision for them to seek out a place that they can "hide out" a few days to emerge at full strength again.

The current recover model in the PHB simply doesn't allow DM's to have damage linger from day to day without them inventing ways to prevent an extended rest from occurring.  I just prefer the players to accept the fact that they do not "auto heal" every night.

So in order to actually have a journey mean something, I'm currently going with the model where after a full nights rest the party only gets half their hit dice back, as described in my previous article, and even this is not guaranteed.  As I've added a 2d6 to the resting routine while the party is on a Journey.  This primarily add flavor text to the reasoning behind not getting full Extended Rest.  These are rolled individually for each character that is resting.

Nights Rest Quality Table (d12)
3 or less = Horrible Night, no hit dice recovered
4 to 6 = Rough night (-1 hit dice recovered)
7 to 10 = Moderate night (no modifier on hit dice recovered)
11+ = Good night (+1 to the number of hit dice recovered)

Adjustment to results
-1: Wearing Light Armor
-2: Wearing Medium Armor
-3: Wearing Heavy Armor
-1: Cumulative penalty for each failed Death Save from previous day.
+1: Consuming and extra days ration while resting
+1: Being attended to by another for at least half the rest.
Special: Weather/Environment can add +2 to -2 on to this roll.

I'm additionally working on a more formal version of "Hard Core Mode, 5e Style", which I think provides the appropriate adaptations to the 5e hit points, death and dying and recovery to play a 5e game that is more gritty and deadly.  This is nearly complete, but I need to test some things out with my personal group before I publish the article, so probably a month or two, unless I go with a more alpha-version of the idea.

The idea behind the Hard-Core mode is more for campaigns that seek the Darksun campaign style, but there's no reason why it can't be applied to a Forgotten Realms / Greyhawk style of campaign.  This model goes a little beyond the simple removing of the "auto-heal" after an extended rest, and does significantly alter one core aspect of the game, specifically hit points.  So, I can see the reluctance of "patching" the game so earlier after its been released, but at the same time to me this drastic patch is required to achieve the type of campaign that I see Darksun being, as the ability to be nearly dead one day and to become essentially fully healed after a nap and a meal seem to undermine the "harsh environment" ideals that the world is attempting to portray.


  1. I am doing an experimental roll20 game tonight with my online group. I think I am going to give this one a try.


    1. I'm about to begin a campaign using my Hard Core rules (", it will be the first official campaign run with them outside of the testing sessions...The players are excited about the additional hit points a few other things, so we'll see how deadly they think it is when we get started in about a week.