I had an idea over the weekend that might be the answer to my healing surge dilemma. See, I like the mechanical concept, but the name leaves something to be desired; and the quantity received; method of recovery; and general utility all could use some work. They just aren’t flexible enough, I find.

While rereading a couple passages in one of the White Wolf source books, I recalled the Willpower mechanic, which might fit my purpose perfectly. To explain how though, I’ll need to outline some of my issues with Healing Surges and related problems.

Some problems:
– The name healing surge reflects healing. The problem is it’s difficult to use them in related systems without some of the ‘healing’ rubbing off on it. I’ve worked to develop more of a ‘measure of effort’ concept, but the name is still an obstacle.

– I want to remove the ability score dependency from hit points and healing surges. I can’t say I’m a fan of ‘daily resources’ when they come from a source the player has little control over. Not everyone wants that kind of responsibility.

– Continuing from the previous point, I’d like to remove class, theme, and item dependency from daily resources. No doubt they’ll come back to haunt parts of the game, but I’m of a mind they should be largely — if not entirely — voluntarily.

– Most characters have more healing surges than they need. This eliminates a lot of the tension at lower levels, and at high levels it eliminates difficulty. I’ve had to attack healing surges directly during combat and skill challenges, and that’s boring.

– I intend to drastically shorten the length of an “Extended Rest” and also the “Cooldown” between rest periods, which means characters will need even fewer healing surges than before. They’ll be able to get them back much more easily.

– I intend to create various roleplaying incentives, the primary reward of which is gaining/regaining healing surges. This suggests characters should have fewer surges to start, so they have some encouragement to exploit roleplaying for its rewards.

– There are lots of different ‘limited resource mechanics’ beyond those granted by healing surges, classes, themes, and magic items. Rituals come to mind. I’d like to unite them under one mechanic, and healing surges seem like the answer.

My solution:
Rather than receiving a varying number of healing surges based upon class and Constitution modifier, each character receives 5 healing surges at the end of an Extended Rest — one less than most classes receive before Constitution bonus.

Using an action point in combat costs a healing surge, as do any normal uses of healing surges. Action points have a problem with turning the tables a little too drastically. A character’s ability to blitz comes at the cost of later recovery.

Each character receives one healing surge after completing a milestone.

Rituals with extended casting time are performed during an extended rest (4 hours for most characters, 3 for those who ‘trance’) at the cost of the caster’s healing surge allotment for the day. They receive 1 healing surge at the end of the rest.

A short rest restores a character’s hit points to their normal maximum without the expenditure of healing surges. This in addition to recharging encounter powers, should help make it clear the contrast between short and extended rest periods.

– Action points, daily powers, and magic items use healing surges.
– Short and extended rest periods both restore maximum hit points.
– Short and extended rest periods both restore expended powers.
– A milestone (two encounters) restores one healing surge.
– Indulging one of a character’s Motive restores a healing surge.
– Longer rituals (8+ hours) are performed during an extended rest.
– Extended rest periods ‘reset’ each character’s healing surges.

There are more ramifications to these changes than I’ve listed here, but everything is engineered to encourage roleplaying and help ensure some regular passage of time — things that could certainly stand to have incentives through regular gameplay.