Posted by : David Guyll February 18, 2013

"Our goal has been to remove cleric as a necessary element of adventuring. Does that approach make sense given our modular design?"

Yes. Absolutely yes. 

Not everyone likes playing a cleric, and not very group likes feeling like that they have to have one. I always felt that this was especially true in 3rd Edition, where the only two classes with easy access to healing magic were the cleric and favored soul, but then fell that I was lucky in that one of my players was pretty much always willing to play one.

Some people claim that you do not technically need a cleric, that potions and wands of cure light wounds, along with a healthy mass of ranks in Use Magic Device, are a suitable workaround, but I have to wonder where they are getting all of the money to pay for this: a minimum level wand of cure light wounds costs 750 gp, which according to the wealth-by-level guidelines in Dungeon Master's Guide, eats up three-quarters of a characters expected gains for 1st-level.

While each use also requires that you make a skill check, your run-of-the-mill rogue making a Use Magic Device check with a Charisma of 12 has a 75% chance of making it, and an 85% chance after the first use. The major downside is that if you roll a natural 1, you cannot use it again for 24 hours (which can put a major damper in your adventuring schedule). Potions are exempt from a skill check, but cost 50 gp a pop, which is just over three times what a wand-charge costs, and cap out at 3rd-level spells.

All of these are reasons that I love 4th Edition so much: you do not need a cleric (or really any leader/healing character at all), or have to carefully budget your adventuring allowance on specific items. Everyone is pretty much free to build the character they want, pick the powers they want, buy the items that they want, and the game gets along just fine. Another thing is that I loved how 4th Edition provided a variety of perfectly valid healing classes (such as the oh-so popular warlord), each with their own feel and style, so that even if you preferred leaders there was more than just two fairly similar choices.

I think 4th Edition had the right of it by not requiring certain abilities of certain classes to heal, but instead having certain classes enhance existing healing resources, as well as giving you the option for additional healing on the side. This not only avoids the issue of the party having to stop because the cleric ran out of healing magic, or the issue of needing a cleric at all, but also the issue of clerics worshiping trickster or knowledge gods but still having access to healing magic.

Another issue is how clerics and healing will play with alternate hit point/healing modules. If a cleric can magically heal wounds, does it downplay or even negate the impact of prolonged injuries? How much harder is it in a game with slower natural healing and no cleric at all?

What I would do is to design the game with the assumption that no one is playing the cleric or has access to specific items. The Hit Dice mechanic is a good start, but might be too limited as you only get one per day at 1st-level (though we did pretty well in my roomie's Skyrim playtest campaign). I actually liked the second experimental rule, where you gradually regain hit points up to your cap unless you are bloodied, in which case you only fill up halfway. I think it reinforced an early idea about how the first half of your hit points is mostly minor nicks and scratches (if any), while the second half was more noteworthy wounds.

Dragon Age had a mechanic where a healing kit restored a random amount of hit points, but you could only do it once per fight. Actually...it might have just been a thing where you rolled your healing amount after each fight automatically. Anyway, maybe allow healing kits to restore a small amount of hit points, which you can increase by spending Hit Dice on top of it?

Of course, I might be misreading the whole thing. Maybe Mearls is just saying that they want to make cleric-esque healing the standard, as in magical and/or on a per-day basis. In that case I still contest that it creates issues of pacing and necessity, but at the least might mean that we will see a variety of viable healing classes (such as, again, warlord). I mean, when the only really viable healer option is cleric, saying that people "rolled with it" in the past is not exactly a helpful observation.

{ 3 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. No, no, the 3e trick is to get your fighter (who is actually an overpowered warrior cleric~) to craft the wand at half price, and use it to patch everyone up between combats. 50 charges for 375gp isn't bad at all, and the whole party should be chipping in for it. The xp cost is either negligible or a benefit, because if you want to craft stuff then hanging a level below the party is the way to go.

    God, I hated 3e, but I played a lot of it for a few years. Healing surges and warlords own.

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  2. Don't forget non-hit-point healing! We had 3.5 group that was going on fine. We had a druid using the alternate shapeshifter rules and he had healing spells so we think we're doing fine. Get a couple of levels under our belt and a bad guy casts blindness on another PC. Failed save, permanently blind. No problem we'll just pause and heve the druid cast cure blindness tomorrow. Check the spell lists and whoops, druids can't do this.

    A favored soul couldn't do it either, unless they had taken that as one of their spells. Even if they do, what happens when it's a curse? poison? attribute damage? level drain? Unless you choose the right spells or your DM builds the bad guys around your capabilities you can't cover everything. Same argument goes for wands/scrolls/potions.

    Therefore you need a cleric in 3.x. I still like it, and I like Pathfinder as well. But this part is a problem.

    P.S. our good characters ended up breaking into the home of a neutral cleric and threatening him into helping us. A low moment for our team.

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  3. Pathfinder suffers from the same issue (it is 3.75 after all). I am currently playing with a group that if no one makes a cleric, the first to die has to.

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