Monday, March 19, 2018

Healing Through the Ages

Today we look at the legacy of natural healing rules, without the benefit of magical aid. This is an issue that has a clear and dramatic trend over different editions of D&D. Was it the right one?

Medical Research

Obviously, different bodies, and different types of injuries, heal at different rates. But consider the following as a sample of non-lethal, mid-level injuries:
So the pattern is clear: For these mid-level injuries (not even talking about third-degree burns or major head wounds, etc.), the time for healing is on the order of some weeks. If you dig into the details, this can be aggravated or lengthened if the injured member is used or stressed too early in the process.

Original D&D

HEALING WOUNDS: As noted previously, energy levels can only be regained by fresh experience, but common wounds can be healed with the passage of time (or the use of magics already explained). On the first day of complete rest no hit points will be regained, but every other day thereafter one hit point will be regained until the character is completely healed. This can take a long time. (Vol-3, p. 35)
I think previously I read this as 1 hp/day (after the first), but now that I look at it more closely, it seems that I missed the key phrase "every other day", which seems to indicate an effective ½ hp/day of complete rest? (Note that Chainmail had no rules for recovery; and in fact no campaign rules or context outside the combat encounter itself.)

Basic D&D

Each day of rest and recuperation back "home" will regenerate 1 to 3 of his hit points for the next adventure. (Holmes Basic D&D, p. 7)
We can see this same rule in the Moldvay (p. B25). However, I'm unable to find any rule for natural healing in the later Mentzer (1983) or Allston (1991) rules. Was this an editorial oversight? (The piecemeal choose-your-own-adventure organization of Mentzer's Basic Players Manual makes this seem likely.) Regarding Allston, while I can't find a rule for natural healing, other passages seem to imply that it should exist (e.g., constructs "do not heal normally; magic must be used", p. 155; and regarding nonlethal combat, "he heals them through the usual means, such as a cure light wounds spell or rest", p. 267). Can anyone find a rule for natural healing over time in these books?

Another interesting place to look in this line would be Mentzer's "War Machine" rules in the Companion set. Clashes between armies in these rules result in casualty percentages, half of which are deaths, and half of which are wounded. Regarding the wounded, Mentzer writes:
If a force retreats from the field, treat all wounded killed. If a force holds the field after the battle, those wounded troops can return to action in 1d4 months. (DM's Companion, p. 15)
Now, that 1d4 month (4-16 weeks) recovery is actually a pretty good model of our real-world medical data above (where we saw 3, 6, or 12 weeks for moderate injuries). However, it's totally out-of-sync with the current or any other edition of D&D; there is no mechanic in any published D&D which would produce recoveries for normal troops at the (realistically slow) rate shown here. So while noble in intent, this highlights just one of the many ways in which Mentzer's War Machine is essentially blind and/or in contradiction with results from the normal D&D system itself.

1st Edition AD&D

For game purposes it is absolutely necessary that the character rest in order to recuperate, i.e. any combat, spell using, or similar activity does not constitute rest, so no hit points can be regained. For each day of rest a character will regain 1 hit point, up to and including 7 days. However a character with a penalty for poor constitution must deduct weekly the penalty score from his or her days of healing, i.e., a -2 for a person means that 5 hit points healing per week is maximum, and the first two days of rest will restore no hit points. After the first week of continuous rest, characters with a bonus for high constitution add the bonus score to the number of hit points they recover due to resting, i.e., the second week of rest will restore 11 (7 + 4) hit points to a fighter character with an 18 constitution. Regardless of the number of hit points a character has, 4 weeks of continuous rest will restore any character to full strength. (DMG, p. 82)
This is something like a doubling from OD&D's "every other day... one hit point" rule. (Note that the basic D&D rule from Holmes is on the order of quadrupling.) One problem that may be obvious with these starting rules is that characters with more hit points, presumably the heartier and healthier types, take longer to heal from injuries -- for very high level characters, maybe ten times as long as a normal man. Hence, I think, the addition of the last line: no matter what one's level or hit points, healing is always complete within one month. (We may or may not consider that a fully successful adjustment.)

2nd Edition AD&D

Characters heal naturally at a rate of 1 hit point per day of rest. Rest is defined as low activity--nothing more strenuous than riding a horse or traveling from one place to another. Fighting, running in fear, lifting a heavy boulder, or any other physical activity, prevents resting, since it strains old wounds and may even reopen them.

If a character has complete bed-rest (doing nothing for an entire day), he can regain 3 hit points for the day. For each complete week of bed rest, the character can add any Constitution hit point bonus he might have to the base of 21 points (3 points per day) he regained during that week.


In both cases above, the character is assumed to be getting adequate food, water, and sleep. If these are lacking, the character does not regain any hit points that day.
Part of the transition we see here is that while OD&D demanded "complete rest" for any healing, 1st Ed. left out the word "complete", and here in 2nd Ed. the editor has taken advantage of that gap to distinguish between normal healing (1 hp/day, even on the march), and "complete bed-rest" (3 hp/day). This is now something like six times the initial healing rate we began with in OD&D. It still suffers from the healthier/longer-to-heal phenomenon (lacking the last line from 1st Ed.).

3rd Edition D&D

Natural Healing: You recover 1 hit point per character level per day of rest. For example, a 5th-level fighter recovers 5 hit points per day of rest. You may engage in light, nonstrenuous travel or activity, but any combat or spellcasting prevents you from healing that day.

If you undergo complete bed rest (doing nothing for an entire day), you recover one and one half times your character level in hit points. A 5th-level fighter recovers 7 hit points per day of bed rest.

Higher-level characters recover lost hit points faster than lower-level characters because they're tougher, and also because a given number of hit points represents a lighter wound for a higher-level character. A 5th-level fighter who has lost 10 hit points isn't seriously wounded, but a 1st-level fighter who has taken 10 points of damage is. (PHB, p. 129)
So this rule finally addresses the healthier/longer-to-heal problem, by scaling natural healing to character level. In so doing, it leaves healing at lower levels about the same (actually reduced in the case of "complete bed rest", the category being maintained from 2nd Ed), but radically increases healing at higher levels. For example, for a 6th-level character, healing is now 12 times over the OD&D baseline, or 18 times in the "complete bed rest" case.

The 3.5 rules accelerate this further:
Natural Healing: With a full night’s rest (8 hours of sleep or more), you recover 1 hit point per character level. Any significant interruption during your rest prevents you from healing that night.

If you undergo complete bed rest for an entire day and night, you recover twice your character level in hit points. (3.5 SRD)
In this revision, you don't even need a day of light work to regain hit points; it can happen in just 8 hours of time. And the "complete bed rest" is upped from ×1.5 to ×2 instead. So in this latter case it's about 24 times the healing rate seen in OD&D, for a 6th-level character.

4th Edition D&D

I don't normally go past the 3rd Edition of the game (and I've never played any such edition), but in this case the information is easily available online, and I think instructive -- it's actually a fundamental part of the 4th edition system design. Looking at a helpful blog post by MerricB on the subject:
Characters in 4E could heal themselves from a pool of healing surges – each equal to a quarter of their hit points. A typical character might have 8 of them available each day, and they were also expended by healing magic (which would provide a bonus to the healing). Whenever a character took a rest between combats, they could use healing surges to regain hit points. (Merric's Musings)
So -- in case you're not already aware of this -- in 4th Edition, characters could heal themselves effectively instantaneously, as soon as they had a minute or so breather outside of combat, for fully a quarter of their total hit points. At about 8 times a day, that's actually double their full hit points within one day, with no outside aid required; i.e., come back from a mortal injury twice every day. By my calculation for a sample 6th-level character, this represents approximately 100 times the healing rate from the OD&D basis.

5th Edition D&D

Again quoting MerricB regarding 5th edition:
Part of this idea [4th Ed. healing surges] remains in 5E, but with a couple of changes. First of all, they’re called Hit Dice, and they’re equal to the number of dice you roll to determine your hit points. Whenever you rest for an hour or more, you may expend as many Hit Dice as you like, rolling them and adding the total to your current hit points. Your constitution modifier applies to each hit die rolled.

A Short Rest is defined as being a period of 1 hour or more when you get a chance to bind wounds and generally recover. There are several abilities possessed by characters that also recharge when you take a short rest. It’s a lot longer than the time in 4E, so won’t be as frequently employed...

Long Rests and Full Healing: If you rest for eight or more hours, you get the benefit of a long rest: all your hit points are healed, and you regain half (rounded down) of your hit dice. For those who are used to AD&D, this is a major change in how the rules work. Without magic, it’d take weeks for a badly wounded fighter to get back on his feet! For those in 3E, it’s a change but they had wands of cure light wounds so it didn’t matter. For 4E players, this is less than they had, as they got all of their healing surges back! (Merric's Musings)
Note that none of this information seems to be in the free 5E basic rules release, or the SRD, so I'm taking for granted that Merric has it correct here. So, it seems like in 5th Edition, you can effectively get on the order of all your hit points back with a 1-hour rest, and then another all-your-hit-points unit back with the next 8 hours rest. That is: Similar to 4th Ed., two units of full hit points back in less than a day (although not all at once, instantly, as in 4th). So again that sounds like about 100 times the healing rate we started with in Original D&D (for a sample 6th-level character).

Conclusions

A summary of our findings are shown below (for the later editions, a 6th-level character is taken as the basis):


Note that the y-axis in the chart is on a logarithmic scale (the first time I've ever had to resort to that on this blog). This clearly highlights that the overall trend shows a surprisingly regular exponential acceleration in healing with each new edition of the game, approximately following a rule of f(x) = e^(0.72x), where f(x) is the multiplier on the OD&D baseline, and x is the sequential edition ID of the game as given above. Since e^0.72 = 2.05, this shows that, roughly speaking, the natural healing rate has regularly doubled with the release of each new edition of D&D (over the half-dozen or so editions to date).

If we go back to OD&D and look at our 6th-level fighter example, say hit points of 6 × 4.5 = 27, and a healing rate of ½ hp/day, we see that this character can regain all of their hit points in 27 × 2 = 54 days ≈ 8 weeks. That's actually a fair simulation of how long it realistically takes to heal one or two deep cuts, a halfway bad burn, or a broken bone (see the top section above). The most recent editions (4th/5th), granting something like 100 times the healing rate, or recovery from 2 mortal wounds every day, can only be considered as cartoonish. (Note that the entire analysis above pretends that we keep character hit points constant over the years; if we also take into account that PC hit points were themselves getting inflated, then the multipliers would look even more ridiculous.)

Now, someone might argue that hit points don't represent real injuries, but this is a debauched interpretation seen in 4th+ edition, and doesn't square with earlier editions of the game. Yes, 4th/5th edition makes the assertion that lost hit points may not be any real injuries at all; possibly just temporary fatigue or windedness instead. But even if we look at the 3rd Edition text above, there is no such indication; lost hit points are always some kind of injury, even for high-level characters (possibly just a minor cut or bruise). Moreover, the fact that side-effects of attacks trigger on any successful hit -- e.g., poison triggers for saves, energy-draining attacks, etc. -- contradicts the idea that a hit or lost hit point may not be any injury.

So: What to do in our house rules for an OD&D game? We are sensitive to the problem that healthier (higher-level) characters take geometrically longer to heal with a fixed ½ hp/day rule (or any other fixed number of hit points per day). We could also say this: Another problem with this rule is that it's still unrealistically too fast for low-level creatures. For example: take a normal man of around 3 hit points; even the worst wound which takes him to near zero hit points will be healed fully in less than a week, only 6 days. If we want something resembling the 3-12 weeks healing time from our initial medical examples, then we would argue for slowing it down in these cases even more. (See also the Mentzer War Machine rules above for a similar intent.)

Let's say we want any character to recover from zero to full hit points in some number of weeks like this. There is little to do but subjectively pick the number of weeks that makes us happy: this number could be 3, or 6, or 12, or something like that. I'll suggest picking 4 weeks to be a bit generous, and also to sync up with the 1E AD&D rule for capping the healing time. Hence:

Characters heal one-quarter of their full hit points for each week of complete rest.

Let's say we round this up to the next whole number to be charitable in cases where a creature has less than 4 hit points (like half of normal men). It occurs to me that (Crom help me) this slightly echoes the increment regained from 4th Edition's "healing surges" -- although on a time increment of weeks instead of seconds. Also assume that this requires comfortable rest in bed with amenities -- as in, a hostel or inn at town.

If we compare to the OD&D rule, the major change is of course scaling our healing rate to the overall hit points of the character in question. For 1st-level characters, the healing rate has decreased (to about a quarter of the book rate). For a 3rd-level character with around 15 hit points, healing rate is about the same as the OD&D book rule (hey, 3rd-level again: links one, two). For a 6th-level character, the rate has approximately doubled (and so in line with the 1E text). You can extrapolate the rest, I'm sure. 

I think I can imagine someone complaining "that's too slow for our adventures!" but I actually don't think there's any legitimate justification for such a position. For example, MerricB writes above: "Without magic, it’d take weeks for a badly wounded fighter to get back on his feet!", but I don't see any fundamental reason why that's a bad thing -- merely non-cartoonish. We can, of course, simply hand-wave the weeks of recovery time in-game, just like we do for days or nights or whatever the camping pace is.

Moreover, this rate of time actually helps to solve a bunch of other problems we commonly encounter in the D&D game. Some examples: (1) The party retreats to rest overnight, and the DM is confronted with coming up with some reason why the depleted monsters don't immediately get overrun the next morning. (2) The party wants to camp in a room of the dungeon, as they can get most of their needed recovery back in just 8 hours if they can only hold the door shut. (3) Our campaigns and timelines routinely run on an overly-accelerated basis: whole adventure paths take only days in-game, and PCs advance from 1st to 20th level within the course of a single game year. Slowing down the recovery time (to a realistic basis) could serve to put the brakes on all of that, and generate campaign stories that better resemble what we read in fantasy literature. (Especially in conjunction with reduced clerical healing magic, and possibly seasonal effects like no-travel-in-winter, etc.)

Comments or modifications?

56 comments:

  1. Thanks for another neat analysis.

    But I don't know. I'm not sure I agree that hit points on the main represent real injuries, or, rather, that the texts are clear on that. To me they seem to be all across the map on the issue, partly depending on the context.

    Here's Gygax on p. 82 of the DMG:

    "It is quite unreasonable to assume that as a character gains levels of ability in his or her class that a corresponding gain in actual ability to sustain physical damage takes place. It is preposterous to state such an assumption, for if we are to assume that a man is killed by a sword thrust which does 4 hit points of damage, we must similarly assume that a hero could, on the average, withstand five such thrusts before being slain! Why then the increase in hit points? Because these reflect both the actual physical ability of the character to withstand damage - as indicated by constitution bonuses- and a commensurate increase in such areas as skill in combat and similar life-or-death situations, the "sixth sense" which warns the individual of some otherwise unforeseen events, sheer luck, and the fantastic provisions of magical protections and/or divine protection. Therefore, constitution affects both actual ability to withstand physical punishment hit points (physique) and the immeasurable areas which involve the sixth sense and luck (fitness)."

    Now maybe if you go from a starting point of 20 hit points to, say, 10 hit points, you could say both that your luck was running out and you have a sprained ankle (although it's unclear to me why you MUST add in the latter), but what if you go from 20 to 19 hit points? Is there an injury there? Or, in other words, is there a teeny little bruise or whatever at every step?

    I think the early tougher healing regimes are much better from the point of view of gaming but not necessarily any more realistic. Indeed, if hot points losses only track small injuries, they're probably less so.

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    1. As a character does not take hp damage from running around, climbing, lifting portcullises or any other strenuous activity other than those which are directly related to injury to the body (battle, falling, being hit by traps, zapped by lightning, breathing in poison gas, etc), I think we can say that Gygax was handwaving away the problems of the system he'd created by attempting to hide them behind other vaguely defined concepts such as 'luck'. In truth the dice determine the role of luck in the simulation and hitpoints do represent the ability to shrug off damage. The fact that this gets more ridiculous the more levels you go up is not often considered to be a problem as the fantasy fiction that inspires power fantasy RPGs has this nigh invulnerability happening with its greatest protagonists too. Conan could effectively hold off a small army, for instance.

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    2. Pete King: I'm glad someone else shares my view that luck is contained in the dice rolls, not the HP!

      Personally I do use fatigue (since in my game, magic and some special abilities are powered by HP, and that prevents using magic to recover magic). Fatigue is recovered from a full rest, but HP loss is much slower (on the order of level/day), and is treated as non-lethal HP loss.

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    3. I agree that hp can't possibly *all* represent pure physical injury. But none of the other simulationist explanations ever feel wholly satisfactory to me either. I've finally come to consider hp as a broad-brush gaming abstraction of "the combatant's ability to stay in a fight," or even more generically of "an adventurer's ability to stay alive," whatever that may happen to entail.

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  2. Excellent assessment. I notice a problem with the 3rd ed rules: "If you undergo complete bed rest (doing nothing for an entire day), you recover one and one half times your character level in hit points. A 5th-level fighter recovers 7 hit points per day of bed rest." Their example shows that we must round DOWN the half a hitpoint (5th level would be 7.5 hp, rounded down to 7). It follows then that a character who is bed ridden and first level gains 1.5 hp, but this is then rounded down to 1hp, the same as if they do not remain in bed. In other words, no one at first level ever stays in bed from wounds because there is no recovery advantage for doing so. Obviously this is somewhat ridiculous!

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    1. Thanks for the compliment -- And great point about 3E at 1st level. I never thought of that!

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  3. In the DMG 5e, there is a optional rule for grittier games. Change the Short Rest to a day and the Long Rest to a week. This applies to anything that recorvers with rests including hit points, spells, class special abilities, etc.

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    1. Interesting, thanks for that info.

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  4. Regarding the Rules Cyclopedia, searching around it looks like you are not the only person to have looked for them. e.g. https://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=20240
    It looks like B1 and B2 also had rules for healing. I found these reference in the RC:

    Skill Descriptions p83
    Healing: This is the ability to treat wounds and diagnose illnesses among humans and demihumans. A successful skill roll allows a character to restore 1d3 hit points to a wounded character. (A related skill, Veterinary Healing, allows similar treatment of animals and monsters.)
    This skill cannot be used on a wounded character more than once for the same set of wounds. If the character receives new wounds, Healing skill can be applied against the new wounds. The skill is rolled against a set of wounds, not individually against each injury. (The term "set of wounds" usually refers to all the hit points lost by a character in a single combat situation.)
    If a healer rolls a natural 20 when using this skill, he accidentally inflicts 1d3 points of damage to the patient, and he may not treat that set of wounds again.
    Successful skill rolls allow the healer to diagnose type of illness. In addition, a roll made by 5 or more will allow the character to determine whether an illness is natural or magically induced.

    Starving and Dehydration p150
    While starving, the character cannot heal naturally, and healing spells do not restore hit points lost from starvation until the character is no longer starving.

    (An Immortal's) Manifestation Form p221
    Regenerates: The manifestation form regenerates 1 hit point per day. If hurt, the Immortal usually casts healing magic on himself.

    Weapon Bonus vs Opponent p247
    Regenerating monsters includes all creatures that regain more than 1 hit point per day by rest or other means. This includes any creature wearing a ring of regeneration.

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    1. Right, I also spotted the Healing skill, but failed to find any natural healing in lieu of that.

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    2. That's right. I think the healing skill is mostly interesting because it heals 1-3 hit points, which is identical to the Holmes rule. So I would think that natural healing would be less than that otherwise the only benefit of the skill would be the immediacy of it.

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  5. So I would like to put something out there...

    what if it was deliberately left out of the RC?

    What if the editorial stuff up are the references to natural healing that got missed?

    What if, once a PC is injured they will stay injured forever? If they can find a healer they can get 1-3hp back, and if they can find a cleric then they can get more back.

    This would make for a different campaign where Healers were very important and PCs would have to keep various clerics on their good side if they didn't have one in the party.

    This is half tounge-in-cheek, but only half!

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    1. Very realistic to be sure. A medieval Veteran who was injured in The War is unlikely to make a very good fighting-man. But if God put him back together, he would be, because of his experiences.

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  6. Jbeltman had me thinking about this in an even more severe way than I had before.

    In the Welsh Marches setting I am developing, there’s campaign season (where you fight wars or go on dungeon adventures) for at the most six months a year. And in that time, a PC might have two adventures at most. Magic healing is very sparse and geared toward normal men rather than high level guys with 50 hit points. It’s meant to be very grim. (Then politics and romance and stuff happens in the interim.)

    How long can you stretch out injuries? What kind of side effects could be serious, but still not crippling?

    Maybe a guy can heal 1/10th of his full hit point total in a month. Maybe to heal that last 1/10th or 2/10ths, you have to make a save vs death or else lose them until such time as you can get magic healing.

    Maybe you always have to roll on a cripple table for a random permanent injury, but with a chance to avoid one?

    On the other hand, I would probably make guys the equivalent of 3rd level to start so they can go to war and not die immediately.

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    1. Right, this has a lot of echoes of what I'm doing these days.

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  7. Hard to say, there are so many factors to take in here.

    So with your proposed system our level 10 fighter (on the cusp of being "More than mortal" maybe about 60-65 HP?. Gets back about 15 HP after a week.
    So compared to his rank and file troops, after a week he is able to go take on a handful of goblins, while they will have to sit back until the month is out.

    The main concern I see is a week is a long time for a "non specific" moderate injury. By that I mean, so I rest for 6 days but on day 7 we got to move out, I get nothing at all? Could 1/10 HP per day work? Low levels still have to wait, but high levels could take a stand after a few days. Also days just seems like a better unit to work with if you can find math that works.

    For perspective, in my games, I run more in an action movie approach. HP loss are minor injuries (cuts, bruises, and other "action hero" type injuries) Serious injuries, broken bones, lacerations, etc. happen at 0hp. So characters (and monsters) can generally be back to full after a nights rest. So I am coming at this from a different "genre" than you.

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    1. Quick Edit: To clarify, I like where this is going, I would like it even more if we can make it work on a scale of days instead of weeks (in part because so many other abilities and mechanics work on the day/good nights sleep scale)

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  8. Here's my house rule.

    SUMMARY
    Rest Period...Set Minimum Hit Points To…
    1 Turn = 1 HP + CON modifier + 1 if a fighter per HD (minimum of one)
    First Day of Total Rest = 2 HP + CON modifier + 1 if a fighter per HD (minimum of one), or restore 1 HP
    Each Week of Rest = 1 HP per HD + CON modifier + 1 if a Fighter

    All rest durations are doubled under field conditions (i.e. in the dungeon, camping instead of at town, etc) for humans or normal animals, reverse that for monsters.

    The effect of this plays out as follows... In a nutshell, it creates a curve where the characters can rapidly get up to 50-75% HP but the last little bit takes weeks to "top off." It also allows high CON fighters in particular to get back in the fight much more quickly whereas others take quite weeks, which I'm fine with.

    Vignette One: Fighter with High CON
    1) A hero with 22 HP (4 HD fighter with +1 CON modifier) is reduced to 1 HP after a hard fight. He takes two turns in the dungeon to bandage their wounds and immediately reset HP to 12 (1+1 CON+1 FTR per each of the 4 HD).
    This allows critically injured characters to get back on their feet and perhaps try at an escape. It also rewards high CON and gives fighters staying power.

    2) Our Hero escapes to the surface and spends two days in camp resting. HP are regained up to 16 (2+1 CON+1 FTR per each of the 4 HD).
    Again, fighters with high CON bounce back quickly regardless of level. This fighter is at 70%. A 4HD cleric with no CON bonus (14 nominal HP) would only be at 8 HP / 14 (57%).

    3) Finally, the hero withdraws to town. Each week of rest the hero gains 6 HP (4 + 1 CON + 1 FTR).
    It will take the fighter a whole week in town to finish healing. In the wilderness this would take twice as long.

    Vignette Two: Thief with Average CON
    1) A 4 HD Thief with average CON (nominally 14 HP) is wounded down to 1 HP in the dungeon after a brush with a trap. After two turns of rest, they reset their HP to 4.
    2) After escaping the dungeon, the thief rests for two days in camp. This resets HP to 8.
    3) Finally, the thief returns to town. Each week they restore 2 HP. It will take three weeks to be back at 100%.

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  9. 5e rules for long and short rests, and healing are on page 88 of the SRD. Healing is a bit too fast in 5e.

    I now think of hit points as a battery. Avoiding physical harm drains the battery until there is nothing left, and no way to avoid harm. That's when the blood flows. This works well with the 5e notion that resting allows for rapid recovery of hits. The PC is simply recharging his batteries. The short rest hit point recovery-- I think of a boxer between rounds.

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  10. OD&D's healing rules have been somewhat debated over the years, mostly because of the ambiguity in "every other day". Is it every other as in every second day, or is it saying "you don't heal on day 1 of resting, but do on all subsequent days"?

    Personally I lean towards the latter, since that squares up with the 1E PHB (p.105-106):
    "There are numerous ways to restore lost hit points. The most mundane is by resting and allowing time to do the job. For each day of rest, 1 hit point of damage is restored. After 30 game days have passed, hit points accrue at the rate of 5 per day thereafter."

    In any cae, it's worth remembering that the Normal Man in most of these systems has 2-4 hit points or thereabouts, and hence will recover from any injury in a week or so (at most 17 days in 1E with -9hp, at most 11 days in OD&D with the slow model or 6 days with the fast.)

    Come think of it, at level 1 the 3E rules are pretty much identical to the earlier editions, with the caveat that characters probably have more hit points (bigger hit dice+max HP at first level+faster CON scaling+more generous statgen).

    It might also be worth mentioning the other problem with the hp/day model: not only do higher-level characters take longer to recover, but Tim the 1d4/level Enchanter will also heal faster than Conan the 1d12/level Barbarian. Characters with high constitution also heal slower than those with low.
    Much like a lot of things when it comes to hit points, it's probably best to just take Mystery Science Theater 3000 to heart: "it's just a game, I should really just relax."

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    1. Thanks for the PHB reference, I totally never found that! Personally, that looks like more evidence that the healing rate was being constantly accelerated over various piblications (i.e., post 30 days PHB: 5 hp/day, DMG: fully healed... so a bump from OD&D ½/day to AD&D 1/day would be consistent).

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  11. All of these systems assume clerics exist.

    I've removed clerics following your lead but that also means that healing potions are more readily available in OED than in other editions.

    When abundant healing potions are included into the healing matrix I think our characters are healing more than 1hp/per day but I'm unsure of the math!

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    1. For reference, in OD&D a 6th-level Cleric is healing 2x1d6+1 + 1x2d6+2 hit points per day. If they are alone in the party that's 4d6+4 (with them having 5d6 hit points), but if they have to spread it out they can only heal three people a day. Extrapolated into infinity it's 18hp/day, however, and spread across the normal-for-the-time 8-person party that's +2.25hp/day.

      As for potions, Potions of Healing are just 4% of the potions table (in turn 25% of all magic items, although type D/F/H guarantee a potion if magic).
      However, once found a name-level character can make one a week for either 250gp (for a Wizard) or 375gp (employing an Alchemist).
      Each alchemist, then, gives +0.64hp/day.
      Actually, I suppose that a magic-user might not even need to find it in the first place. Alchemists definitely need a sample, however.

      OED does not to my knowledge make potions more common on the tables, but allows Potions of Healing for sale at 1000sp/jug of 6 -- or 167sp per. Being able to purchase them outright makes them much more plentiful, however, and for the price of the Alchemist above you'd get 6.75 doses or roughly +1.08hp/day. That's 1.7x the amount in default OD&D, although it doesn't quite make up for the lack of Clerics. (It probably doesn't need to, however.)

      In any case this puts name-level OD&D PCs at 4.45hp/day (the Patriarch gets an extra Cure Serious Wounds), level 6 OD&D PCs at 3.25hp/day, and OED PCs of any level (but sufficient wealth) at 2.08hp/day.


      Looking at it this way stops working when you move it into WotC systems, of course: while 4E stays mostly the same since almost everything is limited by Healing Surges, in 5E a Potion of Healing costs 50gp and heals 2d4+2 (7hp) and in 3.5e the Wand of Lesser Vigor is 1.36gp/hp (750gp for 50 charges of 11hp healing). Natural healing, and even Clerical healing, is completely outweighed by cheap consumable magic items.

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    2. Zeb Cook adressed the possibility of a world without clerical healing : it was in CB1 - Conan Unchained! (1984) for 1st Ed. AD&D.

      "HEALING
      Howard normally depicted the Hyborian deities in his stories as cold and aloof. No one turned to them except in times of greatest need. Crom, the god of Conan's tribe, was a grim and harsh deity. None called on him for aid, as he sent doom and death more often than he helped his followers. Because of this, clerics as they appear in the AD&D rules are almost non-existent. There is very little magical healing of any type, yet Conan heals and recovers from ferocious battles quickly. Some unknown property of the world—the air, the water, a beneficial bacteria—allows beings to heal at very quick rates.
      Instead of the normal rates of healing given in the AD&D rules,
      characters in the Hyborian World heal 1 hit point per day regardless of rest. In addition, characters who rest a day heal hit points equal to half their Constitution score. All fractions are rounded down. If there are no clerics in the party, allow the characters to use the Healing rule. If there are clerics, player characters heal normally, but allow NPCs of the Hyborian World to heal according to the Healing rule. Explain to players that the NPC, being native to this world, is affected by its healing properties, whereas the player characters as outsiders
      are not."

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    3. That's interesting about Zeb Cook's alternate rule in CB1; I'd never read that before.

      I did just start a campaign cycle with OED rules, healing potions priced at 200 sp per dose. There was a little bit of sticker shock in the first session, and no one bought one. I'm assuming there'll be more reliance (and thus emphasis) on natural healing, and hence me wanting to "dial this in" satisfactorily... we'll see.

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  12. The problem with "realistically slow healing" (which may or may not be relevant for your game) is not that it's too slow for adventures. It's that not all player characters are damaged uniformly. When the fighter loses 30HP and is bedridden for a month or whatever, the rest of the party are still fresh. And they want to go on an adventure!
    With fast healing, the whole party spends a day healing and goes on. With slow healing, either healthy characters do nothing for a few weeks, or wounded characters miss some of the action.

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    1. That's a good point for some parties who want to go - go - go. But recall that one part of the game that a lot of people miss out on are the down time activities like shopping, creating, town politics and romance. Those things don't require hit points or strenuous exertion.

      If all else fails, fast forward the calendar to the start of the next adventure.

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    2. I particularly agree with Scott's last point above. I'm assuming that the time will be mostly hand-waved away for players, and it mostly makes a difference for campaign calendaring, and maybe monster replenishing purposes. Say: Better justification for more interesting changes on the next foray.

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  13. I've been happy with letting hit points mostly stand for level-adjusted defense capability, corresponding to level-adjusted attack capability ("skill in combat" in the Gygax quote helpfully supplied by Oakes) and so also governed by Hit Dice, just a different function of them. Magic-users have less of that than fighters.

    In other words: hit points represent the ability to stave off the killing blow, with a side of physical toughness (Constitution bonuses) and woo that allows other perilous events to burn it off. An attack that triggers a poison save has caused at least a small wound *if* the poison takes effect. Energy drain attacks can be, literally and figuratively, close brushes with death which reduce current and (in a way that can only be countered by experience therapy) future defensive capability. Etc etc.

    In my AD&D campaign natural healing scales with level (in retrospect this is inspired by 3e which I've only ever read), and grievous wounding is patched over to a system like the one on p. 82 of the DMG: forced bed rest for going below 1hp.

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  14. Very interesting. I use a houserule that uses a mechanic similar to 5e in addition to a wound mechanic. Basically hp represent the ability of a character to transform a hit that would cause an injury into a hit that only causes a scratch or small bruise(nothing that affects the performance of the character). At 0hp or with a critical hit the character receives a wound which incapacitates them and takes at least a month to heal.

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  15. My comments on the subject are too long to post here; however, I would like to say: ugh, Mentzer! How could you leave out something so important?

    [just spent the last couple hours scouring my copies of BECMI...well, the BE anyway...and could find nothing except in the very first narrative section. After your character's fight with the snake (in which the character takes damage), there's a note that says 'you'll be fine after a few days rest.' Jeez]

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    1. [the exact quote, from page 4, is:

      "The damage your fighter has taken can be healed with a few days rest."

      Handwaving natural healing. That's one way to go, I suppose...]

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    2. THANK YOU for making a comprehensive search for that! Gives me confidence that I wasn't being boneheaded and missed something obvious. Nice quote, too, much appreciated!

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    3. You’re welcome! And rest assured, I don’t think anyone considers you a “bonehead.”
      ; )

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  16. If HP are not meat points, then I am entirely happy with them refreshing in a reasonably short period, and feel they should refresh at a rate proportional to the maximum, so that higher level PCs or tougher classes don't take longer to recover from what are explicitly lesser injuries. 1/2 max per day with normal rest seems reasonable, giving some lingering hangover from a heavy day.

    On the other hand, I do want the chance of a long recovery, and I think that going into negative HP is the place to handle that (since that's where you cease being able to function normally). Gygax allowed his PCs to go to -(level+1) HP before death, so how about that and natural recovery of 1 HP per week (perhaps with a ST) until all wounds have healed. This way a sword wound that takes you to -3 will take roughly 6 weeks to heal, assuming you survive it.

    Given that damage is often delivered by a d6, that means a range of about 0 to 5 negative HP, and so roughly 1-10 weeks recovery. Sounds about right?

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  17. I will reproduce what I commented in JB's blog...

    "Most humans have 1d6(3.5 avg) hit points and take at least 3-4 weeks to recover from most injuries. So for the sake os simplicity, I would rule that a character can recover its level in Hit Points per week of rest.
    With this rule, average characters recovers to 100% roughly in 4 weeks... More weeks if they have have more HP or less weeks if the have less HP."

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    1. Wow, that's incredibly so nifty, I'm inclined to immediately make the my new house rule.

      Doing a few math checks, the one thing that would bother me is people with high CON getting their healing delayed because of the increase in hit points. So I'd want to make it level + Con bonus weekly (nod to Gygax's DMG where he also applies the Con modifier weekly). Examples on hand say most wizards would heal in 3 weeks, top fighters 5-6 weeks. I'm going to sleep on whether that rule is simpler or not.

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    2. Yeah, I've added this to my house rules now (with CON modifier). Thank you for the observation!

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    3. If you're doing it per week, how do you make it work for people resting deep in a dungeon? Divide by 7 and add the remainder on the 7th day? It seems like it's going to make dungeon crawling a lot more complicated (and it affirms HP as meat points, which opens a new can of worms).

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    4. They can't/they die. Even outside of the healing rule, one of the Top 5 things I tell new players is, "Must return to town at end of session, else lost." This also makes it easier to rationalize change-of-players between game sessions, and a whole bunch of other timekeeping issues. So this highlights/harmonizes with that.

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    5. Dealing with it in a smaller scale is not worth. If you can't recover 1 HP in a day because you recover 1 HP/week, what you will gain in 1 day then?

      Additionaly, HP recovring rest is not a rest in the most general sense. It is rest like when you recover from a disease or a surgery. You don't recover from flu in one day, you need a whole week.

      With this in mind, HP recovering rest happens only in friendly (maybe neutral) enviroments. Dungeons are hostile like a war trench, you don't rest in a trench. Wilderness depends... Lothlórien is ok to if you are friendly with elves but Mirkwood is not ok as Shadows taint everything there.

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    6. @Delta... Before I forget, Barbarians in AD&D have a bonus to their natural healing but I don't know exactly how it works (not a fan of AD&D). So if you use a class with higher HP, you can grant them a bonus to natural healing so they can keep up with the ~25% HP per week.

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    7. @G.B. Veras: My current campaign is an Underdark crawl using Veins of the Earth, so coming out to rest is really not an option. Also I run for the same people each week, so while there's the chance of people not making it, I can generally cope with someone not being there.

      But like I said, HP aren't meat points, so it doesn't make sense to treat them as such. I'd rather deal with serious injuries via negative HP or Con damage or something, and make those take a long time to recover, rather than HP where a loss of half has no impact on your ability to act, so shouldn't really represent a broken limb (it's more just feeling a bit tired and bruised).

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    8. I have read some o VotE but not played it yet. IIRC the Veins are huge that it may take days to go from one place to another. So I think it should be treated like wilderness: some places are safe to rest, some are not. Finding a safe place to rest is a reward by itself.

      Here is a fast ruling if players decide to rest in the middle of Veins:
      Random Enconter: 1d6, on 1 it happens.
      If the resting is perturbed somehow (the random encounter was not peaceful), the party will need more 1d6 days to rest (the encounter happened in the 1d6-th day, so more 1d6 days...).

      What do you think?

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    9. Couple comments.

      G.B. Veras: The suggested rule in the post above (1/4 hp per week) was indeed my attempt at handling different hit points per level by class. With the current switch to level-per-week, I did consider how bad it is to be out-of-synch like that, I'm thinking it's not worth the effort to do anything fancier. Fighters will be spending more time recuperating, by a little bit, and that seems in flavor.

      spaceLem: For Underdark adventuring, sure, I'd have to modify things a little. Personally I'd establish some "safe haven" that's equivalent to home base. But not in any random cave the PCs just cleared of monsters.

      On the issue of what hit points represent, i.e., "HP aren't meat points", we'll simply have to disagree. I can agree with "HP aren't _entirely_ meat points", but for me, every hit is a cut and a bleeding injury (small or large, size scales by max hp). "Cure wounds" spells are really, actually curing wounds. I think that's in flavor with _most_ of the writing that Gygax did early on, e.g.:

      "Consider a character who is a 10th level fighter... Each hit scored upon the character does only a small amount of actual physical harm... having sustained 40 or 50 hit points of damage [out of 95], our lordly fighter will be covered with a number of nicks, scratches, cuts and bruises.." (DMG, p. 82)

      That said, I must confess that I've been rattled lately to see how many 1E-type gamers disagree with this interpretation. Perhaps most.

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    10. Delta: I'll confess that I began, and spent a long time, interpreting HP as purely meat points (where the severity of a wound was relative to what fraction of max damage was lost) and resisting the Errol Flynn vs Basil Rathbone fight that Gygax initially intended them to be. But the first time I played AD&D at a con and my 8th level fighter only recovered 1 measly HP from resting... I was amazed to say the least! Really in hindsight, my interpretation of what HP were was inconsistent with how I felt they should recover.

      It was much later that I finally accepted Mike Mornard's comment that "HP are the best way of modelling HP". I now really don't mind how they're interpreted, I can understand and appreciate what you're attempting to model, and I think you're right, it does that quite well.

      I think I just prefer a much quicker recovery time, because the types of games I play in and run don't really bother much with downtime.

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    11. Thanks for the thoughtful observation!

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  18. For some extra variation in healing times, I might add a week of recovery time per critical hit sustained during the adventure before hp can be recovered.

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  19. Like the world of the elementary particles, hit points work. Just don’t examine them too closely, or they stop making sense.

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  20. My personal experience with injury, fatigue and exhaustion suggests that it should be possible to regain some hit points by engaging in normal (non-taxing or non-strenuous) activities throughout the day. In other words, you can regain Xhp for every Y days of normal activity.

    Otherwise, I think the analysis is brilliant. Considering adopting something similar for my game.

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  21. Rewrite of the rule from U&WA p. 35:
    On every second day of rest one hit point per hit die will be regained until the character is completely healed.

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    1. Interesting, although still a bit fast compared to my tastes/research (i.e., heal fully on average in 8 days). G.B. Veras kind of won me with his idea above.

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    2. Yep, thanks for pointing that out. Think I'll do the same.

      For every week of rest one hit point per hit die will be regained until the character is completely healed.

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    3. I am doing that in my 3-session old campaign and it's feeling right. About as much time passing for healing as out-of-game between sessions. There's one fight with a Con penalty that takes extra long to heal.

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  22. It should be noted that 4e caps almost all healing costs healing surges.
    The gallons of healing potions characters drank in OD&D-AD&D isn't a thing since healing pots eat surges. likewise 3e characters use wands of CLW(750gp for 50d8+50 hp.)

    3e really cemented hitpoints as a per encounter resource rather than a per adventure resource. Which healing surges are a reaction to(Max hp every encounter, but you need some kind of limit to how far you can go.).

    And personally when it comes to 4e, Our group just instinctively ruled "Extended Rest" as "Take downtime". As you said healing times still get glossed over, and as you implied they work well to pace the world.

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    1. Wands of cure light wounds in 3E were a pretty bad idea (good example of over-generalizing the system steamrolling over desired thematics). If I recall back when we played 3E we didn't give those out (think I had a quest for a staff of healing when something like that became desirable).

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