I’ve got a bit of a rant with the latest Legends and Lore up on WotC’s site about saving throws, but I’m going to stew on that a bit. However a portion of the article throws out the idea of tagging effects based on hit point status. It’s something that could work, but I wonder if healing surges might be more appropriate as a gauge of relative fitness. And the failure of mentioning them makes me wonder if healing surges might make the cut for DnDNext. If not, that is sort of a shame.
I love healing surges, something I’ve gushed about before. They offer a way to rethink about what hit points represent. They also reinforce the idea that HP loss can mean more than just physical damage drawing blood.
From just healing potential, I can see curbing the number of healing surges characters have. The more defender types can be brought to death’s door twice before having to worry if a healer is available, and that isn’t even counting the bonus healing from leader powers. So trimming the total number by 2-3 surges likely could give some fights a bit more threat. I’d even go to say that first fight or two in an adventure is primarily there to whittle away healing surges and give more threat to later fights by drying up those potential healing resources.
However I’d offer an alternative to trimming down the number of healing surges by expanding their effects. They offer a unique form of currency for game resources. I would approach healing surges more as the PC’s will, endurance, vitality, and desire to push on against adverse conditions. In that light, the role of healing surges might be expanded to other enhance other abilities besides just granting HP.
They could be used to supplement attacks. Rather than encounter powers, allow a PC to double their damage spending a healing surge. It could be possible to allow particular feats to expand the area of effect for spells, or improve healing output, all at the cost of a healing surge. The player is drawing on reserves to give that certain attack or spell their all. Most importantly, there is a hard limit to what they can possibly do each day before they have to rest and recharge. It also gives PCs an interesting choice, do they burn through healing surges to enhance abilities? Or do they try to keep some in reserve for restoring lost HP?
Another great characteristic about healing surges is that it gives more flexibility to the DM when dealing damage, and also for rewards. Think instead of having a level drain effect, healing surges are drained (and if healing surges have a role with abilities and powers this could definitely hinder the player).
I’d be lax in failing to mention Fourthcore too.Those folks have worked in some particularly nasty monster powers targeting healing surges for PCs, rather than simply docking chunks of HP. Having a kill encounter power that will drain a specified number of healing surges (and if the PC doesn’t they die outright) can be particularly vicious.
I hope healing surges are in DnDNext. They provide a lot of flexibility for the DM when considering ways to damage players over just whittling down HP. They could also provide a unique game resource if the functionality of surges expand beyond just granting HP. It’s a neat idea from 4E that could definitely be tweaked, but hopefully won’t be eliminated in the next edition.