by Richard Litzkow
Consider this; Pathfinder has far too much easy access to healing.
How often does the cleric, druid or bard in your party empty out their spell slots when it comes time to bunk down for the evening; knowing the come the morning they will have a full tank of healing and other effects.
How often do players really take and remember the small healing abilities given by classes like Monk, Paladin and by alternate racial traits for races like Ifrit, Oread, Sylph and Undine. I certainly know that such things are highly uncommon in the games I play.
Then there is the matter of damage; the bandit with his 1d6 + strength modifier shortsword at the belly of a player is never going to slow down the start of combat - but if healing is more scarce the players might be willing to talk a little longer if only so they can get the drop on their foe.
So what can you as a DM do? You can maximize hit points in monsters in the hopes that the party will take more damage before the monster dies, or add several additional combat encounters in a day. A combination of the both is a recipe for lethality but also for combat fatigue and over-gearing the adventurers.
So here is my pitch. Change the frequency of healing to make smaller heals more exciting. Perhaps like the old AD&D campaign setting Dark Sun your next adventure will be set in a world where healing is more scarce. Perchance the prime material world of this game is set in orbits around a rift to the negative energy plane; the rift drains the most potent sources of positive energy and healing from the game.
Caveat: There are other roleplaying game systems available that focus specifically on fantasy combat and the explosive risk/reward it is all about (Hackmaster and Riddle of Steel for example). But for those of you who love Pathfinder and are looking for some ‘Mods’ that will make your next session or campaign different here are some suggestions complete with some feats, some spells and a magic item.
Campaign Modification - Limited Healing
Modification #1 - Only Clerics with the Healing domain and Druids can restore hit points or lost body parts using spells. The former does so by their direct connection to a font of divine healing, while the latter does so by manipulating the natural state of things within living entities that cause them to heal.
Effects like Channel Energy only heals living creatures if the Cleric also has the Healing domain but otherwise damage undead as normal. Other class features like the paladin’s Lay On Hands and the monk’s Wholeness of Body still restore hit points as normal.
Remove the following spells from the generic cleric spell list unless the cleric in question has the Healing domain; all cure spells, remove disease, stabilize.
- The secondary effect of this change is that players now heal at their natural rate; 1 hit point per level for a full 8 hours rest; 2 hit points per level for each full day of rest. This makes the Long-Term care Heal check more valuable.
- The tertiary effect of this change is that a knife to the throat is more than just 1d4 + strength mod, it’s potentially a day worth of healing. Not necessarily lethal, but risky.
Modification #2 - No magic item may restore hit points. Spells and items that grant temporary hit points do so normally.
Modification #3 - Alternate use for the Heal skill
You are able to visually appraise a creatures state of health.
As a swift action you may make a DC 15 Heal check to approximate the hit-points of an ally, or a DC 15 + CR check to assess the damage of a hostile creature. The DM should inform the player of the rough percentage of health a creature has remaining, failed checks yield inaccurate information.
You are able to tend to a creatures wounds in such a way as they become less problematic.
By expending one use from a healer’s kit and 30 minutes of time, you may make a DC 15 check to treat a creatures injuries. If successful you convert 1 hit point per level of the creature into non-lethal damage of the same amount. A creature can only benefit from this treatment within 24 hours of being injured and never more than once per day.
Modification #4 - Include the Critical Hit and Critical Fumble decks into your game, they are fantastic Paizo content and a web version can be found on the D20PFSRD for those of you who use laptops or other electronic devices at the gaming table.
- Among the many different effects are such things as fingers being cut off, permanent scarring and other disfigurations. Bleed effects are relatively common which means players will be forced to stop and end the effect or risk bleeding to death. Remember that regeneration is a 7th level or higher spell depending on your class.
Modification #5 - The only way to bring the dead back to life is via raise dead, reincarnate, wish, or miracle. In the case of raise dead and reincarnate both spells should be considered 7th level spells, they retain the associated pre-requisites for casting the spell.
- Remember that in a normal game of Pathfinder as long as you’ve shared the tip of a pinkie, or a bloody chunk true resurrect will bring back your high level heroes at the cost of what doesn’t amount to a great deal of gold to someone at that level. This creates a time limit and allows for monster effects that state “Cannot be resurrected; may only be bought back from the dead using true resurrect, wish or miracle” to have some greater impact.
Below are an example of some magic items and feats that might be found in a world where easy healing is scarce.
Your body closes wounds swiftly leaving behind impressive scarring.
Prerequisite(s): Mutagen or Rage class feature.
Benefit(s): While under the effect of your Mutagen or Rage class feature you may make a DC 12 + bleed damage constitution check at the start of each round as a free action to end a bleed effect on you. If successful the bleed effect ends and you take no damage for that round, on a failure you take damage as normal but may try again next round.
Special: You gain a +2 circumstance bonus on Intimidate checks.
Normal: A DC 15 Heal check as a standard action, or receiving healing ends a bleed effect.
Ring of The Stalwart Soul
Price 8,000 gp; Slot ring; CL 8th; Weight 0 lbs.; Aura weak necromancy
Made of hardened glass this ring faintly pulses with power when its effect is activated.
When the wearer of the ring gains temporary hit points from any source; such as a class ability (like barbarian rage) or spell (like false life, or aid) they gain an additional amount of temporary hit points equal to their total class level plus constitution modifier.
Cost 4,000 gp; Feats Forge Ring, Endurance ; Spells false life or aid.
You are able to stabilize the dying and stop bleeding with great alacrity.
Prerequisite(s): Dexterity 12+, Self-Sufficient.
Benefit(s): It is a swift action to apply first aid or when making a DC 15 Heal check to end the bleed effect upon yourself or others. You still provoke an attack of opportunity.
Special: You may attempt to reattach a severed appendage limited to fingers, toes, and lower limbs provided that the wound is not older than 10 minutes and the body part is in good condition. This action takes 1 hour and you must make a DC 25 Heal check to successfully reattach the appendage and the target must make a Fortitude save DC 20 for the process to be successful. If either check fails the operation is imperfect and body part is useless. If the target has Fast Healing both you and your target get a +4 bonus on your checks.
Normal: Applying first aid or making a Heal check to end a bleed effect is usually a standard action that provoke an attack of opportunity. You cannot normally reattach severed body parts.
School necromancy [disease]; Level druid 3
Casting Time 1 round
Components V, S, M (a wart or fleshy growth)
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Target one creature
Duration 1 minute/level
Saving Throw Fortitude negates; Spell Resistance no
Unrestrained growths cover the target’s body.
You inflict discomforting, painful growths on the target creature that cause it’s feet and hands to swell. The target takes a -4 penalty to any Dexterity or Strength based skill or attribute check. The target also moves at half speed and is unable to hold any items in it’s hands for the duration of the spell. If the target is unable to remove held items (such as locked gauntlets) or restrictive footwear it takes 1d4 bludgeoning damage each round until it is able to do so.
Nourish the Land
School evocation [good or evil]; Level druid 5
Casting Time 24 hours
Components V, S, M (a battlefield where major bloodshed occurs not more than 1 week ago, plus 1,000 gp per level of the spell to be tied to the area)
Target 100-ft. radius emanating from the touched point
Saving Throw see text; Spell Resistance see text
Blood and bones return to the land, sustaining and strengthening it. Those druids with benevolent intent weave boons into the area, while cruel druids etch pernicious banes into the region to plague travellers.
Nourish the land makes a former battlefield a place of wild power. This has three major effects.
First, the DC to resist any spell cast by a druid standing within the effect gains a +4 sacred bonus. Spell Resistance does not apply to this effect.
Second, creatures resting within the area of effect double their rate of natural healing; this does not affect creatures with fast healing or regeneration. Spell Resistance does not apply to this effect.
Finally, you may choose to fix a single spell effect to the area. The spell effect lasts for 1 year and functions throughout the entire site, regardless of its normal duration and area of effect. You may designate whether the effect applies to all creatures, creatures that share your faith or alignment, or creatures that adhere to another faith or alignment. At the end of the year, the chosen effect lapses, but it can be renewed or replaced by casting nourish the land again and only paying the 1,000 gp per level of the spell to be tied to the area.
Spell effects that may be tied to a nourished area include; ash storm, barkskin, blend, call animal, campfire wall, caustic blood, dream feast, faerie fire, feast of ashes, frostbite, frost fall, gentle breeze, goodberry, heat/chill metal, heightened awareness, moonstruck, remove sickness, rusting grasp, shifting sands.
Saving throws and Spell Resistance might apply to these spells’ effects (See the individual spell descriptions for details.)
An area can only receive one nourish the land spell (and it’s associated spell effect) at a time.