Your character is the party’s healer, and combat has just concluded. Your allies – a Barbarian, a Ranger, and a Sorcerer – have each taken 20 points of damage on the path to victory. As the divine spellcaster you have a limited number of Cure spells…how do you decide who needs healing most urgently, and who needs the lion’s share of the healing you have to give ?
First off – it’s unrealistic for characters to say, “I’m down 20”. Hit Points, and the amount of damage taken, are not character-knowledge. Besides that, for three characters (or their Players) to say they each need the same amount of healing creates a false equivalency. What is a routine arrow-wound for a Fighter might well be a near-death experience for a Wizard.
This is a problem I posed to the DM and our game group, between Sessions 37 and 38. A healer, such as my Bard, AT’s Druidbarian, or KD’s Druid, is asked to help a wounded party, but we have no real sense of who is in most dire need.
We can talk in real numbers, but that breaks the Player/character-knowledge divide. So we have a group discussion/negotiation where “the squeakiest wheel gets the most oil”. And then, healing is unevenly or inefficiently distributed…either to characters not really all that wounded compared to others, or to front-liners who took the most damage yet still have the most health left in reserve.
As a solution, I proposed adopting a modified “Wounds” scale as found in the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) RPG system:
We would not impose penalties to skill checks, attack rolls, or any other in-game mechanics as in the L5R system. Instead, we would borrow L5R’s five categories of woundedness – Nicked, Grazed, Hurt, Injured, and Crippled. Each would represent 20% of a character’s total Hit Points. During or after a fight, Players would use this relative scale of injury to express his or her character’s status.
Let’s go back to our example at the start. Assume the Barbarian, Ranger, and Sorcerer are all Level 10 characters and have their maximum possible hit-points each level (including CON bonuses) :
The Barbarian, at 100 HP, is Nicked. She’s still pretty healthy and her player brushes off the damage as “hardly worth mentioning”.
The Ranger, at 60 HP, is Grazed. He’s a bit worse off than the Barbarian and probably should get those axe wounds looked at by a Cleric.
The Sorcerer, at 20 HP, is decidedly Hurt. He won’t survive another encounter like this, without medical attention first.
You, the healer, now have a clear indication of who to treat first, without talking specific numbers. And with the benefit of objective triage, to remove suggestion of favoritism or the tough decision of which ally gets your last Cure spell of the day. You roll up the healing dispensed and tell the Player that number. How their characters’ health improves…
“After that potion you gave me, I’m only slightly Grazed”
“I’m not Hurt any more, just a tad Nicked”
“I was Crippled but now, Mein Healer – I can walk !”
…tells you whether to help him/her again, or move on to the “next worst-off” character.
For EG’s campaign, our players have updated their character sheets to include these injury categories and we’ll see how this improves game-play.