Turning the Gears: Non-magical Healing in Pathfinder

In many d20 systems, including 3.x D&D and the Pathfinder RPG, healing is almost entirely the realm of the magically gifted. Sure, there’s the Heal skill, but that can only heal a creature of 1 hit point per hit die of the target once per day, so you still need a holy person around if you’re going to be wandering into battle.  So I’ve decided to put together a rule for non-magical primary hit point recovery.

Purpose

Every party needs a healer, but not every gaming group has someone who wants to play a cleric (or an oracle, or even a bard, which can do some off-healing if absolutely necessary).  Alternatively, maybe you want to play in a low-magic game where spell casters aren’t on every street-corner, but healing needs to still be available.  If no one wants to play the healer there’s still the option to just fill your haversack with potions, but that gets cumbersome and is a huge wealth hit.  In lower magic games, though, this may not be an option.

Now, with that said, non-magical healing is weak in Pathfinder for a reason.  There’s only so much you can do with bandages and salves and such.  Positive energy can literally repair your body, with the heal skill it takes time.  This is important, because it means that my rules are still going to have to step outside of the realm of the totally realistic.

Mechanics

So, the first step is making sure that being able to provide consistent, reliable healing requires some level of character investment while being available at level one and not restricting a character to only healing.  I also want the ability to scale with levels, so I provide you with a new feat to start things off.

Feat:  Chirurgeon

You know how to create healing salves and can mend even severe wounds.

Prerequisites:  Heal 1 Rank

Benefit:  You can use the Heal skill to provide Battlefield Medicine and Chirurgery.

Normal:  Neither of these options are available to characters without this feat.

So this feat provides the basic investment required for someone to be the party healer.  No one has to pick a healing class, but if someone wants to do more than is normally available with the heal kill then they need a feat and to have invested some skill points.

Next I’m going to introduce two new items, one is alchemical and one is a kit.

Item: Alchemical Healing Salve

Price: 60 Gold     Weight:

When applied to a wound, this salve gives an injured creature fast healing 1 for 1d4 rounds plus 1 round for every rank in the Heal skill possessed by the creature applying the salve.  A creature may benefit from a healing salve a number of times per day equal to half of their hit dice, rounded up.

Special:  A character with the feat Self Sufficient is treated as having two extra ranks in the heal skill when using this item.

Alchemy Craft DC: 25

The Alchemical Healing Salve provides an alternative to the standard potion of cure light wounds.  It’s less effective in combat because its effect is not immediate, but in the hands of a skilled healer it can be more effective in the long term.

Chirurgeon’s Kit

Price:  50 GP Weight:  2lbs.

This collection of bandages, knives, and other tools allows a character to perform surgical operations represented through the chirurgery use of the heal skill.  It is interchangeable with the healer’s kit for purposes of the Battlefield Medicine action, but for all other heal checks expends 2 charges instead of one.  A healer’s kit may be used in place of a chirurgeon’s kit for the chirurgery action, but doing so exhausts all ten of the healer’s kit’s charges.  A chirurgeon’s kit is exhausted after 10 uses.

Special:  Because the tools are specialized, attempting chirurgery without a chirurgeon’s kit (or a full healer’s kit) imposes a -4 circumstance penalty.  This can be reduce to -2 with five charges from a healer’s kit.

Alright, so, the chirurgeon’s kit serves to put a resource cost on the more powerful part of this healing mechanic.  Clerics have spells per day, and I do not want this feat/skill combination to actually be comparable in terms of power to magical healing.  Next this brings us to the new uses for the heal skill.

New Use for the Heal Skill:  Battlefield Medicine

Action:  Full

DC:  15

Effect:  By expending a charge from a healer’s or chirurgeon’s kit, the character patches up the injuries of an ally and grants 1d4 temporary hit points to the target +1 for each rank of the heal skill that the healer possesses and stops any bleed effects the target was suffering from.  These hit points convert to normal hit points at a rate of 1 point every hour, and any healing effect converts an equal number of these temporary hit points to actual hit points as well.

A creature’s current hit point total plus temporary hit points from this effect can never total more than the creature’s maximum hit points.  If this would happen, the excess temporary hit points are lost.

If a creature has temporary hit points from this effect equal to or greater than half of their maximum hit points, they cannot benefit from this effect.

Special:  If the healer has a healing salve in hand, they may apply it as a free action while performing battlefield medicine.

*Ok, there was no elegant way to word this.  The intent of the rule is that once someone gets a number of hit points back equal to half their total, you can’t use the ability on that person anymore, but healing from a use doesn’t cut off there.  So if someone has two current hit points and eight maximum hit points, and you manage to heal them for six hit points with battlefield medicine, they get all six hit points back. If you only healed them for four, though, they would not be able to benefit from this ability again.

This ability is kind of clunky, but it effectively allows you to grant effective healing with the heal skill and no need for spellcasting.  It’s a full round action and even at the highest of levels it can only patch up 24 hit points in a go, but it’ll keep your guys up. Maybe you’re not looking for a quick patch-up, though. Maybe you want to do some REAL healing.  So I give you…

New Use for the Heal Skill: Chirurgery

Action: 30 minutes of continuous action.

DC: Target’s total damage up to 30*

This action requires a charge from a chirurgeon’s kit, or ten charges from a healer’s kit, and an amount of clear space equal to the size of the target creature.  If the action is interrupted, any effect is lost.

Chirurgery restores 1d8 hit points to the target for every rank in the heal skill possessed by the healer, or a number of hit points equal to the total heal check made for chirurgery, whichever is higher.

A target can benefit from Chirurgery once per day.

Special:  If the target is missing less than thirty hit points, then the DC for the heal check becomes equal to the damage that they have taken.  In this case, a successful roll restores the target to full hit points.

Conclusion

So this rule isn’t entirely elegant, but it’s functional.  It allows you to have a non-magic based healer that’s functional in either a party with no cleric or a game without readily available healing magic.

I was a little iffy on whether to have battlefield medicine just restore hit points or give temporary hit points.  Them being temporary hit points felt more thematically appropriate and also allowed me to set a cap on how often it could be used.

The chirurgery action was actually rather easy to put together without too much clunk in the works, but battlefield medicine took me the better part of a week to figure out.  I didn’t want it to just be flat healing, like a low-level heal spell, and I wanted it to feel like something you could reasonably do with bandages and basic medical gear.

The healing salve was meant to be a low-magic alchemical answer to the healing potion.  While its effects are outside the realm of what any actual medicine can do, I feel it was necessary to break slightly from low-magic for the sake of making the item effective.

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