Healing

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I'm new to 4e (never played 3.5 either) and am having trouble with the healing rules.  Can someone explain them to me?

I see that you get a number of healing surges, but I think I read that you can only use one per fight?  Are the rest used in between fights? 
there is no limit to the number of healing surges you can spend per fight.  You can spend up to the maximum number of healing surges you have or that you currently have.  If you use a power to spend a healing surge and have none to spend, you instead gain 1 hit point.

You have a power called Second Wind which you can only use once per encounter, maybe that's what you were thinking of ?  It allows you to spend a healing surge and gain a bonus to all defenses.  Everyone has this power.  The only other way to spend a healing surge is to use a power to do so, you can't just use one.  You have to use a power or utility to spend them.  An example of a power that let's you spend a healing surge other than Second Wind is the power Healing Word from the Cleric.  The target gets to spend a healing surge and gains additional hit points as a bonus.

You can use healing surges between encounters as well without limit.  Of course if you're full hp, there's not much point to spending a healing surge.

If you are new to 4E, I strongly recommend you read the player's handbook as that will answer all the basic questions you might have.  It's a very important resource that you should use.
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You're right that the ability to just a spend a healing surge for your "second wind" can only be used once per encounter.

However there are other abilities that allow you or your allies to regain hits, this almost always relies upon allowing you to spend a healing surge.

Leaders especially have abilities that let characters spend their healing surges. e.gm Clerics have the Iconic healing word, that lets you spend a healing surge to restore a number of HP equal to your surge value (normally quarter your hitpoints) and an extra 1D6 at first level.

And yes, you can spend as many healing surges as you have during short rests.
there is no limit to the number of healing surges you can spend per fight.  You can spend up to the maximum number of healing surges you have or that you currently have.  If you use a power to spend a healing surge and have none to spend, you instead gain 1 hit point.

You have a power called Second Wind which you can only use once per encounter, maybe that's what you were thinking of ?  It allows you to spend a healing surge and gain a bonus to all defenses.  Everyone has this power.  The only other way to spend a healing surge is to use a power to do so, you can't just use one.  You have to use a power or utility to spend them.  An example of a power that let's you spend a healing surge other than Second Wind is the power Healing Word from the Cleric.  The target gets to spend a healing surge and gains additional hit points as a bonus.

You can use healing surges between encounters as well without limit.  Of course if you're full hp, there's not much point to spending a healing surge.

If you are new to 4E, I strongly recommend you read the player's handbook as that will answer all the basic questions you might have.  It's a very important resource that you should use.


Is a healing surge a power in itself?  Or do you have to use first aid or something to use a healing surge?
A healing surge is not a power itself. You can freely use your Second Wind once per encounter without making any kind of skill check or using any kind of power. You can also spend healing surges outside of combat without making any kind of skill check or using any kind of power. Outside of those two scenarios, you must use a power that allows you to spend a healing surge, or an ally must use a power that allows you to spend a healing surge.

There is no limit to how many healing surges you can spend outside of combat. If an ally facilitates a Healing Surge use via a power, then the limit of how many you can use is written into that power. But you or an ally may use any number of powers that allow HS use in a single encounter.
Subject, of course, to the limitations on the usage of those powers.

Your healing surges are effectively a cap to how much health you can ever have between long rests.  They represent the sum total of your resources.

Think of it like Die Hard - each time John McClane encounters some badguys, he has an encounter - during some of them, he gets fairly badly beaten, and gives up an opportunity to hurt a bad guy in exchange for shaking off some immediate hurt, clearing his head etc - that's spending second wind.  Between fights, he bandages his bare feeat, or soothes his aches and pains, that's spending surges in a short rest.  By the end of the film, he's basically out of everything, and gets carted away in a vehicle, because he's out of healing surges.

Healing in 4e is designed to be cinematic, dramatic, and provide ample opportunities for it to both swing fights, and for it to be a way to corral the potential for infinitely long days due to endless wands of cure light wounds from older editions.
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Here's an attempt at a to the point summary of healing in 4e.  I don't know which books you have, but assuming you have the Player's Handbook (PHB) or Rules Compendium (RC), I suggest reading:

Healing Surges: PHB 293 / RC 258
Healing in Combat: PHB 293 / RC 257
Healing the Dying: PHB 295 / RC 261
Temporary Hit Points: PHB 293 / RC 258

Healing Surges = Personal reserve of recovery ability you get per day.  When you are able to spend a healing surge it recovers 1/4th of your HP (rounded down).  These can be used freely at the end of a Short Rest.  During an encounter, you can only use them when a power or other ability says you can use them.

Short Rest = Takes 5 minutes. No limit to how many you can take per day or in a row.  Recover all Encounter powers.  If you spend Encounter powers during the rest, you need to take a 2nd rest to recover them. At the of the short rest, you can spend as many healing surges as you want, without requiring any other power to recover them.
   You usually get to take a Short Rest after every encounter.

Second Wind = A special combat action which allows you to spend a healing surge. Limited to once per encounter. Usually takes a Standard Action, but other abilities may make it take less (ex: Dwarven Resilience).  Also grants +2 to all defenses until the end of your next turn.  Some feats and class features may trigger when you use Second Wind
    You can also make a DC 10 Heal Check as a Standard Action to allow an ally to use their Second Wind if they haven't yet used it this encounter.  They do not get the defensive bonus in this case.

Extended Rest = Takes at least 6 hours of non-strenuous activity.  After one ends, you must wait 12 hours to take another one.   Recover all HP (no surges required).  Recover all spent Healing Surges.  Recover uses of all powers.  This generally requires a safe place to camp, or that you're back in town or something.

Other times you may spend a healing surge:
1) You or an ally uses a power that says "The target may spend a healing surge". These powers typically grant bonus healing to the target (ex: Cleric's Healing Word), or may grant bonus healing to a secondary target (Ex: Shaman's Healing Spirit) 

2) There are also additional powers which may allow you to spend a healing surge on yourself, such as the Fighter's Comeback Strike level 1 daily power, which allows you to spend a healing surge if you hit the target.

3) Some magic items may allow you to spend a healing surge.  Note that some of these may not give the full effect.  For example, Healing Potions are a healing method of last resort, because low level healing potions require spending a surge, but always return 10 HP, no matter what your surge value normally is.

Special Rules:
1) If spending a healing surge would put you above your maximum HP, those extra HP are simply lost unless the healing power or another ability you have states otherwise.
2) If a creature has 0 or less HP (it's dying) and is healed, first restore it to 0 HP, and then add the healing results.
3) Temporary HP are not healed and are separate from normal HP.  When you have temporary HP, they are removed before normal HP whenever you take damage.  If you have temporary HP and an effect gives you more temporary HP, do NOT add them together as they are not cumulative - you keep whichever number is higher.
Thanks for the help!  Very good info, and the die hard explenation was cool.
Just realized I forgot to add one more clarification for you in my summary above.
 
 There are some powers that also grant healing "as if spent a healing surge". 
An example of this is the Cleric power Cure Light Wounds
  Effect: The target regains hit points as if it had spent a healing surge.

In this case it does exactly what it says.  The target regains hp as if it had used a healing surge, but it doesn't actually use a healing surge.  Nearly every power that has an effect like this is a Daily power.