Healing Surges in 5e, Room For Two?

Cure Minor Confusion

[image_frame style=”framed_shadow” align=”right” title=”Not today.” height=”520″ width=”277″]https://dreadgazebo.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/human-cleric.jpeg[/image_frame]Recently on Haste I got up on a soapbox about healing surges after the onslaught of discussion last week. Skip to 9:10 of this exquisite podcast so we can start this blog post off on the same page. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Back now? Okay good, let me clarify a few things here:

  • My game of thrones reference was of course, an extreme exception to the norm. I”m very aware that people can die from sneezing within the lands of Westeros.
  • I’m not for or against healing surges at this point,  and I do think they definitely change the way the entire game feels on a very fundamental level.
  • As Micah said, both ends of the spectrum sound like fun games, although very different ones.
  • I believe the abstraction of healing surges is a blessing and a curse, as with most abstraction in D&D. But the word “healing” has many implications across gamer spectrum.
  • I won’t be touching on if it is the Cleric’s job to heal, or anyone elses for that matter. I won’t jump into that bloodbath today.

Let’s Just Call Them Surges

What if it were implied that surges just in fact gave a surge of something not to be named. We’re sticking to abstraction here, right? A surge of courage, energy, bravado, luck, knowledge…you get the picture. Why not use surges identically as previously but imply that they could be many things, that they can be traded in for a burst of HP, but perhaps not always. Or perhaps these things have different options depending on your race, or class? What about race / class combos? For instance if you’re a dwarf, and a martial class you can spend a ‘surge’ to do a one-two punch of extra damage on your next swing, or shake off a condition?

I think there’s a lot that can be done with surges to extrapolate on their ‘healing’ capabilities while still allowing for a bit of simulationism that is more varied, not to mention it may drive that ‘magical healing’ visual from the heads of some very grumpy grognards.

The Beauty of Modularity

[image_frame height=”253″ width=”300″ style=”framed_shadow” align=”left” title=”Cinematics, or simulation? That is the question. I say, both!” ]https://dreadgazebo.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/4e_healing2.jpg[/image_frame] I’m sure that there are in fact far more than two options for healing when it comes to D&D Next. What I’m examining here are the two obvious choices: Healing Surges, or more traditional healing as done throughout the history of the game. Both have their strong points, both have their quirks.

The real question for me here is, can both of these things fit into the same game? I can see different modules working wonders for combat situations, xp, and a ton of other stuff. Though healing is perhaps a mechanic buried so deeply within the plinth of the game that there can be only one option without mucking everything else up entirely? I think maybe it is, and I also don’t think it’s going to be one of those things where one character has them and another doesn’t, to me this seems like an issue that will need to be determined by the DM for their game prior to character creation.

Call Me Stupid

Maybe I’m dead wrong, I’m no game designer that’s for sure. I mean,  I could see actually see the above situation being possible, but not with much ease of use in an at-the-table situation. People want streamlining, they want their games to run fast without consulting charts or busting out calculators during play. That’s one thing I think most modern game designers can agree on, is that things just aren’t what they used to be. The world itself has changed immensely from the 70’s and 80’s when D&D was in its heyday. As much as we don’t think our everyday lives full of surfing the internet and GPS’s on our phones may affect our outlook on how we spend our free time playing elf games – it does. We’ve been socially re-wired. What used to work then, doesn’t always work now.

There is much to be said for old school mentalities on D&D, and much to be appreciated. I’m not knocking it, so don’t get me wrong. You can call me a dullard if you want but I’m not too fond of the thought of remembering 2 or 3 sets of healing rules and how to adjust it all on the fly during combat for different players. Bumbling through 2d12 charts or conversion tables to properly simulate a fart in the wind isn’t my idea of fun. I don’t think I’m alone here.


  1. I’m really intrigued by the surge idea you’re outlining here. Imagine trading HP for bonuses, rather like a M:tG player trades life points for cards.

  2. I think it could be incredibly simple having some characters with surges and other without, and I think there are some easy ways to do it without messing up balance or feasibility of the classes/characters. To me it is not all that different in concept from a race having a bonus to Con or a feat granting bonus HP, it’s just another method for a character to become more “durable”.

  3. I was looking at the wounds/vitality optional rule for Pathfinder and was thinking about how that would work in 4e. In part this was because of a warlord’s healing ability. I find it hard to believe that a hero could be down and have failed two death saves and then leaps up ready to fight because somebody said “Good job mate!” (or “I did not give you permission to lie down, soldier!” as happens more often in my group)

Shoot An Arrow At It