Sunday, July 10, 2022

Building Bhakashal - Healing

One of the goals with Bhakashal was to make PCs heroes, not super-heroes. When the game is deadly, when there are real risks to be taken, that’s when it is the most exciting, the most immersive, and when the rewards of success are the sweetest.

HP bloat in 1e AD&D is a thing. In part this is due to the fact that many DMs “spike” HP, or inflate them, in order to make the game more survivable.

Not Bhakashal. Instead, the game is made deadlier in several ways.

First off, Bhakashal lowers HD for some classes and raises it for others, but the overall effect is that PC HD, on average, are lower. Monster and animal HD however, stay the same, so comparatively, PCs are less powerful than they are in 1e. 

Secondly, PCs can “spend” HP to alter rolls, they don’t have to of course, but the temptation is there, and in actual play the result is that PCs dip into their HP supply periodically to change misses into hits, failed saves into successful ones, etc. That means that, on average, PCs will have fewer HP during play.

Thirdly, healing is different in Bhakashal. Having run a substantial number of AD&D games over the years it became clear to me very early that clerical healing was an issue with respect to HP and survivability. Most parties had at least one cleric, and due to the clerical spell bonuses (related to wisdom) it was common for clerics to have a LOT of healing spells. Depending on chargen method, PC clerics could have exceptional wisdom scores. Say a 5th level cleric with a 15 wisdom, she would be able to cast up to 5 Cure Light Wounds spells per day. Add healing potions and the potential for more than one cleric in the party, and things get silly.

The other thing that makes AD&D too “superhero” for Bhakashal is the speed of healing. A character can be reduced to a single HP and get healed then they are fighting fit again. That always made the process too easy. If you are almost killed you shouldn’t be running around at full steam right after being healed. 

I mused about this situation for a while before stumbling upon a solution, oddly enough while watching an old Star Trek episode, The Empath. In this episode an empath can heal people who have been hurt, but by doing so she temporarily takes on the damage to herself, then it slowly (but faster than naturally) heals. This idea, of taking on the damage to yourself then having it heal after that, is both evocative and dangerous. It makes “battlefield healing” a very risky affair. Anything in the game that takes time creates risk, and requires the PCs to balance risk and reward. Balancing risk and reward is one of the joys of D&D, as it requires skill and good judgment, and it creates tension.

Bhakashal changes the rules for healing in the following ways:


In Combat

Anyone reduced to less than 0 HP loses 1 HP per round until they reach negative [CON bonus + HD] in HP, then they die. For example, a mercenary, with a d8 for HD and a 12 CON (CON bonus +1) would bleed out until they reach -9 HP. Binding wounds and stabilizing the victim will stop HP loss

Natural Healing

  1. Target’s who take damage but are NOT reduced to less than 0 HP naturally regain HP at a rate of 1+CON bonus per day of rest, if the victim cannot rest, then it is only 1 hp per day. They retain their exhaustion penalty* until they hit 1/2 their total HP. If the optional exhaustion penalty is not used, they suffer a -1 on rolls until healed above half.

  2. Targets reduced below 0 HP then healed back above 0 heal at the rate of 1+CON bonus after 1 week of rest, then 1+ CON bonus per day of rest thereafter. A victim healed back from below 0 who does not rest heals 1 hp after the first week and 1 hp per day afterwards. All victims healed from below 0 HP retain their exhaustion penalty* until they are healed to 1/2 their total HP. If the optional exhaustion penalty is not used, they take a -2 penalty until they reach 1/2 their total HP. 

  3. Healing Aids

    1. Various healing herbs exist in the marshes, each heals 1 hp per day

    2. Jinxes prepare a salve made from various monstrous plants in the marshes that heals 1-3 hp

    3. Justiciars can heal 2 hp per level per day, when this is done the Justiciar loses that amount of HP for 1 turn.

    4. A Seer’s Cure Light Wounds spell drains HP from the Seer equal to the number of HP healed, these HP return after 1 turn

    5. A Cure Serious Wounds spell drains HP from the Seer equal to the number of HP healed, these HP return after 2 turns

    6. A Cure Critical Wounds spell drains HP from the Seer equal to the number of HP healed, these HP return after 3 turns

    7. Note that if the Seer drops below 0 HP due to healing, she is unconscious and revives in 2-4 rounds, regaining 1hp per round thereafter, until back to the total she had before casting. If she drops below her negative [CON bonus + HD] in HP, she dies.

    8. A Heal spell heals all but 1-4 HP of damage to a target, but drains the Seer of all but the same amount of hp for 3 turns. It will heal disease and blindness/deafness, but at the cost of leaving the seer to suffer the effects of the disease or blindness/deafness for 3 turns

    9. Healing Pools: Each Noble House has access to a healing pool that is run by a representative from a Temple. Each pool is connected to the Bhakashal Blossom through an elaborate root system that passes under the city. In order to use the pools one must bond with the Blossom first. This is done via a ceremony carried out by Beastials from the Bhakashal coven. All of the Lords and Warlocks of the various Noble Houses have bonded with the blossom and may be healed in the pools.  Healing from the pools works without the Seer supervising the process losing any temporary HP. Other than complete disintegration, the healing pools will heal any damage to a target, with the length of time proportional to the damage done. For minor wounds a few rounds, for major wounds (above 0 HP but below half) an hour, for lost limbs a day, for death a week. 

*A. Exhaustion/Attrition

In addition to combat criticals and weapon criticals, in Bhakashal combat quickly wears you out and causes penalties. Bhakashal uses the following procedure:

  1. Take a set of face cards from each suit of a standard card deck and give one to each player

  2. Note every PC/NPC/Monsters half hit point total. 

  3. On the first blow that takes the target below half hit points but not below 0, give the target a Jack and they now take a 1 point penalty on hits, damage, saving throws, initiative and AC. 

  4. On the second blow give the target a Queen and they now take a 2 point penalty on hits, damage, saving throws and AC. 

  5. On the third blow give the target a King and they now take a 3 point penalty on hits, damage, saving throws and AC.

  6. On the fourth blow give the target an Ace and they now take a 4 point penalty on hits, damage, saving throws and AC

The net effect of these rules at the table is that battlefield healing is much less common, and regular natural healing is a bit better than AD&D. Healing potions become much more valuable, as well as any magic items that heal, as they don’t deduct HP, even temporarily, from the healer. Also, the negative penalties associated with being below 1/2 of your total HP make taking damage a risky affair, as there are actual impacts on performance based on being wounded. 

The net effect of these changes is to make combat into something that, for some at least, it hasn’t been for a long time: very deadly.  

1 comment:

  1. One rule I've been toying with in a system that I'm semi-working on is:

    If a monster/character is magically healed, they can not be magically healed again until the time required for natural healing has passed. They will not heal naturally during this time either.

    This makes magical healing a "loan" against future healing.


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