One of the Specialties available in D&D Next is the Healer. Now, a Specialty is a pre-packaged path of feats, and these feats primarily deal in expanding or improving a character’s combat functionality. This might be an improvement on your class’s existing functions, such as a wizard that takes the Magic-User Specialty to gain more minor spells and a familiar, or it might be a way of dabbling in another class’s functionality, such as a rogue taking that same Specialty. In the long term of gameplay, I suspect that most characters will choose to improve their existing class functionality rather than dabble in another archetype’s functions. Having the option on the table is very cool, at absolute worst.
Anyway, many of the Specialties released in playtest documents so far modify melee combat. A few modify spellcasting other than healing (Acolyte, Magic-User, Necromancer). Only the Healer modifies healing functions in any way. Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with the support for an archetype being incomplete at this stage of playtesting. I am simply dissatisfied with the Healer Specialty, just as I am about to begin what I hope will be a long-term campaign, for two reasons.
Its first-level ability opens up something that could be mistaken for a crafting system. This does one thing very right (crafting time is reduced to a span of time that doesn’t disrupt the flow of play) and one thing not so well (it’s a vending machine, not a crafting system). On the latter, I have the very basics of an idea for a crafting system that might be workable, but it still needs a lot of work. I do like the fact that starting play with this ability adds a bit to your starting gear.
The third-level ability is the other problem: all healing effects that the Healer creates, distributes, or causes others to receive during short rests are maximized. This is a problem for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s so good that it feels like a non-choice. I haven’t done enough math on this, but depending on whether the healing effect has a flat bonus attached to the dice or not, I think it’s anywhere from about a 40-70% increase. Nothing else offered to a cleric is anywhere near as good as this, and I just about feel like a cleric would be selfish not to take it. At the same time, it’s boring – just as magic missile as a minor spell and a rogue’s Skill Mastery are boring. It isn’t like the die roll adds much tension, but we’ve been thoroughly programmed to find dice resolution interesting – even when it’s just working out the variable to determine how many healing spells it takes to fix up the fighter. The other problem with this ability is the fact that it’s granted at third level. Once you’ve taken die rolls for healing effects out of the game, what else do you do to improve that specialty? I would hope that later improvements (which I am assuming fall around 6th level, 9th level, and so on) were not as powerful as this one, but I’m not really even sure what else you give the Healer after this point.
My version of putting my money where my mouth is on this one is to propose a few alternatives. For my Aurikesh campaign, I’ve worked up three new healing-friendly Specialties that can still easily be applied to other classes.
The basics of the alchemist’s art resemble a kind of fantastic chemistry, creating fluids that explode in fire, deadly poisons, and a wide variety of other effects. In time, however, alchemists explore the deeper mysteries of their art: transmutation of the material world as a path toward the refinement of the self. The powers of Quintessence are not to be trifled with.
In Aurikesh, the great majority of alchemists are kagandi, and most kagandi have at least a passing familiarity with alchemical principles, if not practical mastery of them. It is widely understood that a human with extensive training can attain the same gifts with alchemy that a kagandi possesses naturally.
Level 1: Alchemical Apprenticeship
The first step of the Great Work is to learn the tricks of the trade that have made alchemy famous.
Prerequisite: Intelligence or Wisdom of 11 or higher
Benefit: You can create alchemical items, in accordance with the alchemy system that I will eventually write up. It includes acids, alchemist’s fire, antitoxins, blade poisons, healing potions, healer’s kits, and so on.
Level 3: First Touch of Quintessence
The second step in the Great Work is to awaken one’s mind to the power of Quintessence, strengthening all other branches of alchemical practice.
Benefit: When rolling any effect die to use an alchemical item – damage, healing, randomized duration, and so on – the character treats all rolls of 1 or 2 as if a 3 had been rolled instead.
Bloodletters swear an oath to a god or other cosmic entity of battle, suffering, or glory. Some of these deities are benevolent, while others are… not, but the bloodletter’s power permits them and their allies to keep fighting even in the most desperate situations. Only when the bloodletter clearly fulfills the deity’s dictates does she gain her healing potential.
In Aurikesh, the powers most likely to reward such an oath are Talend, Sioctana, some angels, and the High Lords of the Fey (making this Specialty particularly fitting for a warlock).
Level 1: Blood of My Enemies
Through glorious victory (or through inflicting terrible suffering), your deity grants you power.
Prerequisite: Wisdom or Constitution of 11 or higher
Benefit: You gain one additional first-level spell slot per day. This spell slot can only hold healing word or cure light wounds, and you may only fill the slot with one of those spells after you have reduced an enemy below 1 hit point, or after you have scored a critical hit with an attack.
Level 3: Blood of My Heart
The gods love courage in the face of defeat, just as death loves a hero.
Benefit: You gain one additional second-level spell slot per day. This spell slot can only hold healing word or cure moderate wounds, and you may only fill this slot with one of those spells after you have done one of the following:
- reduced an enemy below 1 hit point
- scored a critical hit with an attack
- you or an ally within 30 feet have been reduced below 1 hit point by an enemy’s attack
- you or an ally within 30 feet suffers a critical hit from an enemy’s attack
Having studied the healing arts, you know how to ease a patient’s suffering, stanch blood loss, stitch wounds closed, and (at more advanced levels of study) rebalance the humors. You do not necessarily know the secrets of alchemy that create healing potions or healer’s kits, but you use those tools more effectively than those unskilled in their use.
While many physickers have not been blessed with the ability to channel divine power, the physicker’s training improves the efficiency of even clerical healing magic. Many organizations, from standing armies to adventuring companies and noble entourages, seek out the services of trained physickers.
As a physicker, you gain the following feats at the given levels.
Level 1: Battlefield Medicine
You have learned techniques to get your allies back to their feet quickly.
Prerequisite: Intelligence or Wisdom of 11 or higher
Benefit: Once per day, you may administer healing to an ally at 0 or fewer hit points. This nonmagical effect is in every other way like a cure light wounds spell, including its touch-range.
Level 3: Favored by the God of Medicine
Whether through superior training or a true divine blessing, you demonstrate greater efficiency with every form of healing.
Benefit: When you heal a target with Battlefield Medicine, a spell, or a healer’s kit, the damage die for that effect increases by one step: from d4 to d6, d6 to d8, d8 to d10, d10 to d12, and d12 to 2d6.
Comments on all of these are welcome, and all of them are subject to change in response to future playtest packets. I’m looking forward to the one coming out by the end of this month (from what Mearls has said); we should get our first look at arcane traditions for wizards.