Friday, November 30, 2012

That Whole Healing Thing

Healing is always a point of contention in my campaigns, as I do not allow Clerics to be played (in most instances, I mean if the players were Orcunraytrel characters they could be). The contention is generally only between Eric and I, with him not feeling like there is enough magical healing available in my campaign and me generally responding in an irritated fashion with, "Yes there is, just don't be idiots." Recently I was talking to that boulder crawling bastard Lance and he said that most other healers suck in comparison to the Cleric. I then listed two examples of why I thought that was silly and he said he wasn't aware of those aspects. Because I feel like it, I am going to in depth breakdown precisely how much healing is available in my campaign and how the other classes that can heal compare to the almighty Cleric. It is not my intention to write this as an "I TOLD YOU SO!" post, but instead as more of an educational post so everyone is aware of all their magical healing options.

So lets start with the Cleric first. The first aspect of the Cleric is their ability to channel energy. Good aligned Clerics can channel positive energy a few times a day and generate a 30 ft. burst of energy to heal people or harm undead. This is a pretty significant ability, as no other class duplicates it to my knowledge, at least while thinking off the top of my head. I'll be honest, divine classes are not my wheelhouse. Regardless, we're not worried about other divine classes (remember that Druids are considered an arcane class in my campaign).

Additionally, the Cleric gains access to domains, and the healing domain empowers their cure wound spells, increasing the amount they heal by 50%. This is definitely an advantage, but any spellcaster can take the Empower Spell metamagic feat, though the Cleric gains it for free and it does not increase the level of their spells. However, it is only if you have the healing domain, which is not guaranteed. Unless of course you intend on playing a healerbot.

Spells. Clerics have all the healing spells. I am just sticking with the core book of Cleric spells at this time, because. So Clerics have access to cure wound spells at spell levels 1-4. These spells restore 1d8 hit points per level of the spell plus a small amount based on the level of the Cleric. Cure critical wounds restores 4d8 +1 hit point/level (max of +20). The 5th level cure spell reverts back to cure light wounds, but it is a mass spell that can affect one target per level of the Cleric and every spell level we get another mass cure wound spell. When the Cleric gets 8th level spells, we're back to cure critical wounds, but it affects multiple subjects. Clerics also have heal as a 6th level spell, which heals 10 hit points/level and cures all diseases and mental effects. They have mass heal as a 9th level spell as well. That is the straight up hit point restoration of the nine levels of Cleric spells.

In addition to this are other utility healing spells. Clerics have remove disease as a 3rd level spell and neutralize poison as a 4th level spell, they also have delay poison as a 2nd level spell. Remove blindness/deafness and remove curse are also 3rd level spells, but I could argue that they're not healing as Eric means it when he gets argumentative about the amount of healing in the campaign world. Lesser restoration, restoration, and greater restoration are available as 2nd, 4th, and 7th level spells, respectively. They restore temporary negative levels and temporary ability drain (which I just learned is different from ability damage today) and also cure various mental afflictions and fatigue and exhaustion, they can also in some cases restore permanent level drain and ability drain.

Breath of life is a handy 5th level spell. It heals some damage and if a creature was slain 1 round or less ago, that healing can bring it to positive hit points and restore it to life. Raise dead is a 5th level spell that brings back the dead, albeit with some penalties and some restrictions on its use. Resurrection is a 7th level better version of it, and the 9th level spell true resurrection is a still better version of that. Clerics also have regenerate as a 7th level spells, it doesn't heal piles of hit points, but it does regrow limbs and if you have a campaign where dismemberment happens regularly, it is certainly useful.

Again, all this stuff is from the core book, I have no intention of weeding through every single spell available to Clerics. This is the gist of it though. Clerics do make great healers, obviously. They certainly have an arsenal of restorative abilities. They also have a lot of buffing abilities, which are handy as well. The combination of buffing and healing is a very strong one, but that isn't exactly news. Leader classes from 4e were designed around the concept. Anyway, that is the healing available to the Cleric. Let's get to the other classes.

Alchemists are a spellcasting hybrid class with a wide variety of abilities. Their spells are kind of tricky as they can initially only be cast on the Alchemist, you have to take a discovery that allows you to let others use your extracts (Alchemist spells). Alchemists have the four basic cure spells as 1st - 4th level extracts, but they don't gain the mass versions of them. Their spells only go up to 6th level spells. They gain lesser restoration as a 3rd level formula (what Alchemist spells are called in their written form) and restoration as a 4th level formula, no greater restoration for them. They gain remove blindness/deafness, remove curse, and remove disease as 3rd level formulas. They also have neutralize poison as a 5th level formula, and heal as a 6th level formula. Alchemists don't have any formulas that bring the dead back to life, however they have two discoveries that allow them to. The philosopher's stone and elixir of life discoveries both give the alchemist the ability to use true resurrection. The philosopher's stone is probably the better option, as you can do some other neat stuff with it. 

In addition to these base abilities the Alchemist also has an archetype known as the Chirurgeon. They are automatically able to use their cure formulas on others without having to take the discovery that normally is needed to allow extracts to be used by others. They also have an ability that adds breath of life to their formula list as a 4th level formula. These abilities replace the Alchemists normal resistances to poison.

Bards have healing spells and stuff too. They have all the basic cure spells, and also have mass versions of cure light wounds and cure moderate wounds. Their spells only go up to 6th level, so they don't get higher end stuff. Bards have remove curse as a 3rd level spell, but no remove blindness/deafness or disease. They do get neutralize poison as a 4th level spell and delay poison as a 2nd level spell. Bards get no restoration spells or bring back the dead spells. Bards do have a performance that acts as mass cure moderate wounds and also removes the fatigued, sickened, and shaken conditions.

The Songhealer Bard archetype also has some enhanced healing abilities. The first is that they can use their class level as the caster level for any spell completion or trigger devices that have healing effects, rather than the caster level of the creator of the item (which is usually the minimum level for found gear). They also gain a bardic performance that can act as the heal spell and eventually one that acts as resurrection.

While Druids can opt to gain a domain instead of an animal companion, they do not have access to the healing domain.

Druids have all the basic cure wound spells, they just get them as 1st level, 3rd level, 4th level, and 5th level spells. They also have the mass cure versions of the spells, but they gain them as 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells instead of the Cleric progression. Druids gain access to neutralize poison as a 3rd level spell, instead of a 4th level spell like the Cleric. They also have delay poison as a 2nd level spell. Druids gain remove disease just as a Cleric does. Druids only have access to lesser restoration and no other restoration spells, they gain lesser restoration as a 2nd level spell, just as the Cleric does. Druids have access to the regenerate spell, but as a 9th level spell. Druids don't gain any bring back the dead spells, but they do have reincarnate as a 4th level spell, which is of minimal use, as it brings you back in a random body and has a slew of penalties like lower end bring back the dead spells tend to. However, you can use wish or miracle to restore them from their reincarnated state to their original form. Yay...? Wow, druids get finger of death. I had no idea.

There are two feats in my campaign that add healing capabilities to the Wizard or Sorcerer. Healing Sorcery adds all the cure spells and their variants, remove disease, remove blindness/deafness, breath or life, heal, mass heal, delay poison, neutralize poison, and regenerate to the character's spell list (Wizards still need to find a scroll of spellbook with them in it to add the spells to their own spellbook). The Sorcery of Life feat adds the three restoration spells to the character's spell list, along with raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection. 

Heal Skill
The heal skill can be used to restore hit points in Pathfinder (this was not possible in 3.5, at least not in the short term). The Heal skill can be used to help on disease and poison saves, restore more hit points and ability score damage each day, and also to treat deadly wounds. Treating deadly wounds is a DC 20 Heal check that takes an hour and a healer's kit. It only restores hit points equal to the character level of the patient, plus your Wisdom modifier if you hit the 25 mark on your check. It also requires two uses of the healer's kit and there is a penalty if you don't have a healer's kit with at least two uses left. A character can only be treated this way once per day and only if the wounds were taken within the last 24 hours. This isn't exactly a cure all, but it is better than nothing I guess.

Potions are available to be bought, though they do carry the inherent risk of unreliability in magic items, and creating them depends upon the spells available to the caster. 

Monks typically do not have healing capabilities beyond their immunity to disease and poisons at higher levels, and they do have the ability to restore some of their own hit points with ki powers. However, there is a Monk archetype called Monk of the Healing Hand that does have some healing capabilities. At 7th level, this Monk type gains the ability to spend 2 ki points to restore hit points to another person as a standard action. They restore 2 hit points per level of the Monk, but they cannot restore hit points to themselves. At 11th level this type of Monk gains the ability to burn all of the ki in his ki pool (must be at least 6) to use raise dead, at 15th level this becomes resurrection (and needs at least 8 ki points). The Monk's ki points don't replenish until 24 hours have passed. At 20th level, the Monk gains the ability to basically sacrifice himself to create a 50 ft. burst of true resurrection that affects all allies. However, he essentially erases himself from existence when he does this and cannot be brought back to life, even with wish or miracle.

The Vitalist is a psionic healer. They gain natural healing as a 1st level power (restores 3 hit points per power point spent). They have delay poison and resist toxin as 2nd level powers, along with body adjustment (which heals 1d12 hit points, plus 1d12 per additional 2 power points spent). Body purification is a 3rd level power that restores ability point damage. Mend body is a 3rd level power that is a more powerful version of body adjustment. They have psionic revivify (functions as raise dead, but only within 1 round of death) and restore extremity (psionic regenerate) as 5th level powers. Cleanse spirit is a 6th level power that restores ability drain and level drain and heal injuries is a psionic version of heal that can be augmented to act as a mass version. True metabolism is an 8th level power that gives you regeneration 10. The Mender Vitalist is able to use psionic revivify a number or rounds following the death of a character equal to his Wisdom modifier, and he also gains a 20th level ability that allows him to completely restore a character to good health as a full round action. 

Ok, one of the issues with psionic powers is that the restorative ones generally only target the manifester. You can sneak around this with the affinity field power (which affects everyone in the field with every effect that affects anyone, which is tricky to use), but it is a 9th level power. However, the Vitalist has something called a collective and the Vitalist can control any healing of any type that occurs in the collective and redirect it to anyone in it. So he can spam biofeedback or natural healing and redirect it to the Fighter getting smashed by giants. The Vitalist also gains the ability to use the Heal skill on his collective at range to stabilize dying people or treat poison and such. The Vitalist also has the ability at 3rd level to drain hit points from targets with a touch and transfer them to the collective, he eventually can drain health this way at range.

Additionally, any psionic character that can manifest empathic transfer (the Egoist Psion variant, the Vitalist, and the Psychic Warrior) can transfer wounds and disease and such to themselves and then use their psionic powers that can target only themselves to heal injury and afflictions.

Witches are a straight up full arcane caster, they even get a familiar. They're a very versatile one though due to their hexes. We'll stick to the healing related hexes for this exercise though. In a fashion similar to the Druid, the Witch has access to all the basic cure spells, but as 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th level spells. They do also gain the mass versions, but as 6th - 9th level spells. They have remove blindness/deafness, remove curse, and remove disease as 3rd level spells, and neutralize poison as a 4th level spell. Delay poison makes an appearance once again as a 2nd level spell. They gain heal and regenerate as 7th level spells and like the Druid, they have access to the reincarnate spell. However, they gain raise dead as a 6th level spell and resurrection as an 8th level spell.

In my mind, Witches look pretty good as a healer. Especially considering they can lay down a lightning bolt or two as well. One thing to note, Witches have something called a patron, patrons are kind of mysterious force that grants the Witch some power. It is kind of a Cleric/deity style relationship but more sinister. The Witch doesn't necessarily understand that he has entered into the service of this power and it may not hold the same goals and motivations that the Witch does. Regardless, there are several varieties of patron, and one of them has the focus of healing. Having this patron adds all the restoration spells to the Witch's spell list, the mass version of cure critical wounds, and true resurrection.

Witches also have an ability called a hex. Hexes are magical abilities that the Witch can use and they gain about eleven total over the 20 levels of the class. Some are benign and others are more sinister, we'll focus on the benign ones. The healing hex allows the witch to cure light wounds as a standard action using the Witch's caster level, but a creature can only be healed this way once per day. At 5th level this hex upgrades to cure moderate wounds. The major healing hex is just cure serious wounds that upgrades to cure critical wounds at 15th level. The life giver hex allows the witch to use resurrection once a day.

Ok, this isn't a healing feature per say, but the Witch has this hex called forced reincarnation where her target makes a Will save or dies, and then is reincarnated as if reincarnate was cast on them.

So there is some healing. Six classes capable of varying degrees of healing with the Witch, Alchemist, and Vitalist hitting all the appropriate notes that the Cleric does. In addition, the two feats listed above make any Wizard or Sorcerer a completely competent healer. The flaw with the arcane classes is that unlike the Cleric and Vitalist who just get whatever spells they want, the arcane classes have to add it to their spellbook or forumula book or whatever before they can cast it, so there is a bit of extra work on their end.


  1. I think after reading this, Clerics in my mind are still the strongest healing class ... or at least most dedicated in Pathfinder to healing. I think in this game setting (pathfinder), healing doesn't fit quite right with the other classes you listed. It makes sense that a Witch or Alchemist make healing salves or have some rudimentary healing powers ... but the Cleric is the iconic class that embodies healing from a pre-4e perspective (see what I did there). And really until 3e, there were no other alternatives for healing classes.

    It does make sense from a lower fantasty/steampunk setting that Hekinoe takes place in to have the players be more self sufficient and learn to find for themselves.

    1. I agree that prior to 3.5, Cleric was the only option. Druids had access to the Healing sphere in 2nd Edition, but they didn't have access to the Necromancy sphere so they couldn't really do anything beyond cure wound spells. I'm sure we could find a kit somewhere that found a way around that, but I've no interest in looking.

      I guess it comes down to personal preference, I'd much rather have a Witch, Alchemist, or Vitalist backing my party up than a Cleric. They can heal regardless of alignment and don't have duties to some magical sky daddy. The Witch can lay down pain like a Wizard and has their weird preparation based versatility (they can only prep X number of spells but they can know all spells), the Alchemist (assuming he has the infusion discovery) can do some pretty good buffing as well. Plus, bombs. The Vitalist's abilities are rather impressive when you look at them. As long as he has power points and is within 100 feet of his collective, he can heal them, and he has all the psionic versions of all the Cleric healing spells.

      I think healing fits super well with the Vitalist. Psionic classes have always been able to heal themselves and transfer wounds from others to themselves. The Vitalist just does it better and with more control. Folklore and fiction are full of creepy bat shit crazy witches and warlocks hiding in the woods healing and harming with their creepy scary powers, so I think there is a pretty good precedent for the Witch to heal. The Alchemist makes magic potions and uses them to do stuff like heal and live forever and whatnot. His healing capabilities are much weaker than a Cleric or Witch's, but that's what you get for being a versatile hybrid class that makes bombs and has an alternate personality.

      Eric just makes statements like "there's no way to come back from the dead" or "there isn't enough healing available" from a position of ignorance. He hasn't researched anything. This is an educational post that hopefully makes him understand the wealth of healing and coming back to life available to any character on Hekinoe.

    2. OK, for starters I know next to nothing about psionic classes, which is a glaringly huge hole in my Pathfinder knowledge. Oh well to that one, I guess.

      Second, I may have made statements like that way... way in the past, we are talking two campaigns ago when we were low level and before Xien was a clone. Not that we are on Orcenrutrel or whatever, magic works fine and we can hire witches or whoever to heal us if need be.

      I really don't like it when I invest time in a character and they die. It seems like sort of a waste to me to make a character and have them be permanently dead, although that is part of what makes the game exciting.

      I never really looked at the Witch before besides a sideways glance, I will have to do that. To me, the Alchemist is an awesome and great class that is very fun to play. That Monk is neat, however, meh. I just don't care for it. Druid? I tried playing that, yet again, not what I really wanted. Bards fall into the same category as the Witch, I don't know them enough.

      It may boil down to what I wanted to play. I would have been an Alchemist again, but that would have been... What, three times in a row?

      I love the fact that you added those Feats for the Arcane classes, mostly because it never made sense to me that someone who can manipulate the forces and energies of the Universe, using it to rip a hole in time and space to teleport somewhere but wouldn't and couldn't heal a paper cut.

      I really enjoy my character right now and his healing abilities. I may be rolling some spellcraft checks to see if I can make those Cure spells touch attacks and focus on Karl becoming a sort of physician. Not sure.

      So, in a nutshell, I know there is healing available, and at one point you said to me, "There is little healing available, I hate Clerics. Alchemist may be one of your only choices." This was way back, before the Revenge of the Clones saga. That is cool though, makes it a bit more of a challenge that walking up to a church and asking for the sky-dad's follower to heal you for a donation. It seems fitting in a Steampunk setting.

  2. Like I said, educational post, not I told you so. Now you know things.

    Cure wound spells are touch spells, they're not attacks though, unless you're using positive energy to harm undead.

    1. We talked about that on the phone for a few minutes, but I want to make the cure spells ranged touch attacks, my mistake. I will look at the rules for making new spells or modifying them.