Healing and short and long rests in your campaign


4th Edition

Sovereign Court

So I now expand the topic first discussed in the "unexpected problems thread to this topic, which begs exploration.

It seems quite clear that the hit dice healing through short rests does much to alleviate a cleric's usual duties in keeping the party in good health.

But I have heard the opinion expressed that the mechanic in question also makes it difficult for some encounter dynamics, and thus is not as well regarded by all game masters.

What are your opinions on this matter?

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When I first read the rules for this mechanic, I wasn't sure what opinion to form; my response was mostly "Oh, that's interesting..."

Since then, I've run a PbP game up through almost 3rd level, and I have to say I think I like it.

Now, I will say that—like a great many of 5E's mechanics—the healing system will burn you if you fail to look at 5E as its own system and just barge in with your existing mindsets/habits and expect the game to accommodate you.

In older editions (as I understand it), healing was measured in potions and cleric spell slots. That meant that as soon as the cleric ran out of healing spells, the day was over. By contrast, Pathfinder assumes pretty easy access to wands of CLW, making HP into a per-encounter resource rather than a daily resource.

As a result, older clerics were pressured to be healbots, since casting other spells meant a smaller HP pool for the day, and therefore getting less done. Meanwhile, PF clerics need only be ready for an emergency heal in certain combat situations, but otherwise needn't really be "healers".

In 5E, it's somewhere in between. The "daily pool of HP" certainly exists as a concept, since you only have so much healing you can do in a short rest. However, rather than requiring a healer to be part of that daily HP pool, the "healer" is a role that is optional, whose method of contribution is to extend (rather than be wholly responsible for) that HP pool.

In effect, a healer has an ability to expend resources to "modify the math" of the adventuring day as they and their party see fit.

Unlike in Pathfinder, the "healer" role truly exists as a meaningful way to contribute. Unlike in older editions, it's not a burden to shackle the cleric player with. Thus, it looks to me like 5E could support either playstyle.


How do you structure the game, either as a player or as the GM, so that short rests make sense?

In a wilderness kind of adventure, I can easily see being able to take an hour after nearly any encounter. In a dungeon setting, that's likely to run into all the usual problems of resting in the dungeon - unless the area is specifically broken up to allow safe places at a time of the GM's choosing. Retreating and coming back an hour later is pretty much guaranteed to cause problems in many scenarios, as is just sitting down for an hour.


In our game, we remove the auto heal on long rest. Players still can expend hit dice to recover HP as during short rest. This give us a more old school type of healing, requiring a bit more potions, but keeping the short rest healing forgoes the need for cleric healbot. It's not perfect, but works fine at our table.

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thejeff wrote:
How do you structure the game, either as a player or as the GM, so that short rests make sense?

In my PbP, it's been alright so far.

At first level, my PCs needed to go looking for a missing librarian whose services they required. He was expected to have been attacked by bandits near the road out of town.

Thus, the first encounter was against bandits, just off the road.

Once the bandits were defeated, there wouldn't really be any threat by the road, so they could have just chilled out there for a while if needed.

Then they went to the bandits' hideout and fought a bandit and a surprising conspirator.

Now they have the hideout they can rest in if they like, and since they're a good distance from town and all known inhabitants of the hideout have been defeated, there's no reason anyone would show up within an hour.

Then, on the way back to town with the librarian, they meet more of the conspirators (who had learned of the PCs' expedition and intended to intercept them, but were a couple of hours behind them). This was the final fight for the day.

At 2nd level, they were traveling and saw a girl being chased by goblins. First encounter was those goblins.

Then they learned that the girl had run from her village that was currently under attack, meaning the party had to choose between resting or responding to urgency. (This is where a cleric can "cheat the math" to solve that dilemma, thereby making a very relevant contribution.)

They encounter a group of goblins guarding the road outside the village. Encounter #2.

They got to the village just as the main force of goblins was driven off. Then they got to choose between resting, pursuing, preparing for a second attack, etc. They chose to rest and prepare for a second attack.

Currently, they've completed encounter #3 (the second goblin attack), have expended most of their HD, and the cleric is (I think) all out of spell slots. They're currently deciding whether to bed down for the night (it's already evening) or try to do some relevant exploration.

So! No true "dungeon crawls" yet, but as long as I'm conscious of the healing/rest paradigm when planning encounters, it's been pretty doable so far.


My total exposure to 5E has been four sessions of Adventurer's League Expeditions (similar in scope to PFS Scenarios) but I have been surprised by how little we have needed to rest.

In the four sessions I believe we have taken a TOTAL of two short rests and one long rest (the long rest was primarily taken to cure some exhaustion one of the players picked up). Each of those sessions usually involved 3 or 4 combat encounters.

I should mention that our party is often divine caster heavy, though. We have jokingly started to refer to our group as the "Holy Rollers" because we often have two clerics and two paladins.

I'm just getting back into playing tabletop RPG's after a VERY long absence (last played regularly in the early 90's) and still tend to think of clerics as "healbots" so I am playing a cleric of the Life domain but I am considering switching my domain (you are allowed to do that in AL through 4th level, btw) to something more offensive oriented as the clerical healing just doesn't seem to be as necessary. The old-school grognard in me balks at the idea that clerics aren't "necessary" for healing anymore but I think I am slowly getting used to the new dynamic.


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Jiggy wrote:
Currently, they've completed encounter #3 (the second goblin attack), have expended most of their HD, and the cleric is (I think) all out of spell slots....

Yep, though I've got one use of the preserve life channel divinity left.

That's one feature that's bugged me a little - preserve life is a little too finicky for 5E, in my opinion - cure 5xlevel hit points, distributed amongst anyone as you like, provided each target is below half hit points and don't get raised above that limit. I don't see any great gain, flavor wise, in making that limitation and it leads to a bit of necessary bookkeeping, instead of just divvying out some hit points.


I like the hit-dice healing mechanics. I find it represents well how a character can find its second (or third, of forth) wind.

I also like how it can translate into D&D the cinematic trope where the hero(es) is beaten down, defeated or forced to surrender, then something happens and the hero is suddenly rejuvenated.

What I'm a little annoyed with is how easy it is for characters to recover all of their resources, and the lack of a wounded condition that would complicate natural healing. The DMG offers a few solution, but it quickly goes too far in what I call the "attrition game".

Thankfully, 5e is super flexible and houserule-friendly. The Solution to remove the auto-heal on long rests is interesting (or half it). An abstract "wounded" condition wouldn't be that hard to implement either.

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Steve Geddes wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Currently, they've completed encounter #3 (the second goblin attack), have expended most of their HD, and the cleric is (I think) all out of spell slots....

Yep, though I've got one use of the preserve life channel divinity left.

That's one feature that's bugged me a little - preserve life is a little too finicky for 5E, in my opinion - cure 5xlevel hit points, distributed amongst anyone as you like, provided each target is below half hit points and don't get raised above that limit. I don't see any great gain, flavor wise, in making that limitation and it leads to a bit of necessary bookkeeping, instead of just divvying out some hit points.

EXACTLY!!!! I play a cleric of Life in a conversion to Rise of the Rune Lord. We're often fighting multiple giants, and those giant great clubs do 3d8+6 damage. Sometimes waiting to be under half your hit point maximum before being able to benefit from Preserve Life means you end up needing to benefit from Spare the Dying next round...

Preserve Life is probably the most finicky rule set in all of 5th Edition. I wish they just let it be 1d6 per 2 levels like PF channel energy. Nice and easy, just like sneak attack. :-P

Sovereign Court

It would appear that the opinion favors players as it benefits the play style of clerics not wanting to be healing dispensers. Encounter dynamics built into the rest system are baked into the game, so I personally see no issue with it. I'd be curious to hear from other dissenters whom are unhappy with the rest rules.


The wizard convinging the rest of the party to go for long rests so often is a bigger problem.

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