I just did a quick search of the blog to see if I’d written much about healing surges before. It turns out I haven’t, which is both good and bad. Good ’cause it means I can talk about it now, bad ’cause it means I don’t have older entries to refer back to (I can still probably dig one up). Anyway, since Heroes of Shadow introduced the vampire class, I’ve wondered about healing surges.

(di — I knew I’d figure out a way to sneak in a back-reference.)

Mainly, if the vampire only gets two healing surges per day, what does that say about it? And what does that say about classes that get six? Or ten? Or twelve? Why do monsters and non-player characters only receive one healing surge per tier? And couldn’t they have come up with better a term that didn’t use the word “surge?”

I like the concept of the healing surge. What it is, in essence, is a pool of hit points that a hero can draw from throughout the course of the day, or a particular session. Like a bank account. They can only draw so much at a time (their “maximum” hit points) kind of like a debit card with a per-purchase limit.

Each healing surge is worth the equivalent of about a quarter of the character’s maximum hit points, so four surges will heal them back up to “full.” Most characters carry around an expense account that averages two-and-a-half to three “lives,” depending on whether they’re a warrior, and if they invested in Constitution.

You know one of the things that bothers me though? The relationship between healing surges and a six-hour extended rest. I like short rests — they give you back your encounter powers and let you burn healing surges to restore your hit points. But extended rests give you back all of your hit points and your healing surges, not to mention your daily powers and your action point. Something doesn’t jive here.

Time is already a pretty meaningless concept in most Dungeons & Dragons games. Most characters don’t age, and with the ability to rest at almost any time (and magic that compresses time), adventures take anywhere from a couple hours to several weeks. There’s almost no thought in a logical or realistic progression of time.

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons had a much harsher rule for hit point recovery. You got back one hit point, per level, per eight hours of rest. They’re allowed twice this amount if they rest for a full twenty-four hours. I thought it might be nice to insert a throwback to the more “hardcore” nature of the earlier editions.

Instead of automatically regaining full hit points from an extended rest, I thought perhaps a character could spend any surges they have left at the end of the day as if though taking a short rest. Once they’ve completed their extended rest, they gain new surges for the day. They can then spend any additional healing surges they need, in case they still haven’t reached their maximum hit point total.

While it might seem like minutiae, I think it’s reasonable to assume that monsters and non-player characters would set aside four of their daily allotment (“standard six”) of healing surges for the express purpose of restoring their health at the end of the day. It’s reasonable, then, to assume that creatures and non-player characters have access to at least two healing surges at any given time.