Thursday, April 18, 2013

Flood Gates of Healing

When I first decided to run a Warhammer 3rd Campaign, I was planning to avoid House-Rules as much as possible.

I'd run several one-shot scenarios of the game, and everything seemed to run just fine with the rules as written. Indeed, for one-shot play, the only complaint I have about the game is that it's so much stuff to haul with you to the sorts of venues where one-shot games get played (such as gaming conventions).

As I toy around with it in the context of a long-term campaign, I am finding that certain dynamics within the game rules that run just fine in one-shots have hidden problems that emerge in the longer play mode. The first one that made me speak up was the interesting exploit involving career-swapping. (The house-rule I landed on for that was to limit abandoning careers to once per character Rank.) That opened the flood gates, however, and once I decided I was willing to house-rule, a high-pressure stream of house-rule-able topics and loopholes poured over me. Time to dive in.

The first thing that's gotta be fixed is First Aid and Healing. Beyond a doubt, it's the worst part of the rulebook. The "Healing and Recuperation" section on pages 64 to 65 of the Warhammer 3rd Rules are two of the densest, most confusing rules pages I have read in my 30+ years of gaming. Those two pages are full of elements that seem contradictory and/or redundant, and the mechanics they describe have rules- and logic- holes big enough to charge a warhorse through.

WARNING: The rest of this post is just bitching about the Healing rules. I'd planned to detail my proposed house-rule to fix this broken mechanic, but the problems with it are so complicated that I used up all my time just dissecting it and grousing. I'll have to share my house-rule in another post tomorrow. If reading some nerd rage about illogical mechanics doesn't sound like your idea of fun, come back some other day.

Like many other fantasy roleplaying games, Warhammer 3rd has a hit point system (by another name) and allows for natural healing, first aid checks, and magical healing. So far, so good. But things get a little weird once you start trying to figure out just how many wounds a typical starting character can recover from in a day.

For the sake of the argument, let's assume a character with Toughness 3, who doesn't have Resilience trained. That's pretty close to average for any character that's not especially focused for combat. When they get treatment, we'll assume the healer is a bit better focused, maybe Intelligence 4 and 1 rank of either First Aid or Medicine (whichever is appropriate to the roll).

If the character gets a good night's rest, they recover wounds equal to their Toughness. Before getting out any dice, they can already recover 3 wounds per day.

They also get to roll their Toughness (and if they had Resilience trained, it would add a skill die), and they will recover 1 more wound for every Boon they get on the roll.  Assuming the default 1 Challenge die on the roll, that's on average about 0.2 additional wounds. Not much of a boost.

If the roll is successful, they may also convert one of the Critical Wounds into a Normal Wound (provided the critical's Severity rating is equal to or less than the number of successes generated). It's hard to count that towards the numerical amount of wound recovery per day, as it's sort of an apples-vs-oranges comparison. But it's gonna matter later in the Long-Term Care section, so I can't skip it.

At this point, a friendly healer could make a First Aid roll to help them recover. Each success they get on the First Aid roll adds an extra Fortune Die to the previously mentioned Resilience Check. So does 2 Boons on First Aid. For the character stats we're using, that's gonna average about 1.4 successes. So, they'll add 1 or 2 white dice to the Resilience check. 2 Die rolls have been made, and we've bumped the average healing up from 3 to about 3.5 wounds.

If the healer has Medicine trained, they can roll that. I think the rules intend for both First Aid and Medicine to be used on the same patient, but honestly they could be clearer. Since it works in the PC's favor, let's assume this doubling up is indeed what's intended. A successful Medicine check (regardless of the number of successes) adds an Expertise die to the resilience check. If you get 2 boons, that's another Expertise die. Having run the numbers, this seems to be pushing the average amount of healing up to about 3.8 wounds. The reason the jump is so small is because it's the Boons on the Resilience check that do the healing, not the (generally more numerous) Successes.  So we've made 3 rolls so far, to increase our total healing an average of less than 1 point. This is not encouraging.

From there the rules get weird. There's a section on Long-Term Care, such as granted if you convalesce at a Shallyan Hospice. This implies, but doesn't really state clearly, that such Long-Term Care can't be done by a PC. You could easily argue either way.  What are the benefits of Long-Term care? Well, they let the patient make a Resilience check, with one fewer Challenge die than the normal natural healing rate. It's unclear if this is a second Resilience roll, or if they just meant that the difficulty has been reduced of the roll described in the previous section. If it is a second roll, it's also unclear whether or not the bonus dice gained from the previous First Aid and/or Medicine checks apply to it, but since they aren't mentioned I guess I'd assume they aren't.  Instead of (or possibly in addition to?) those dice, you gain exactly 1 Expertise Die if the person providing the long-term care has Medicine Trained.

This roll (whether it's the original roll or an extra one, I still don't know) has an extra effect tacked on to it. It can heal "additional wounds" equal to the number of successes rolled, or convert a critical wound (into a normal wound) of severity equal to or less than the number of successes rolled. The later, as I already mentioned above, is already something that the roll could already do. Do they mean you can trade in the ability to convert a critical to instead recover extra wounds? Or do they really mean that you get a free bonus which is your choice of extra wound recovery or converting a critical? Also, it's unclear when you choose, if that's intended as a thing you do upon seeing the results of the roll, or if it represents two different types of treatment that must be chosen before rolling? It's really a hard paragraph to parse with confidence. So far though, we've been mainly worrying about Wound Recovery, not the conversion of Critical Wounds, so let's assume the PC in question mostly wants to recover from normal wounds. To keep from making my head hurt too much, I'm going to just assume this adds ~+2 wounds to the recovery total. In reality it's either slightly more or slightly less than 2, depending on whether or not this is an additional roll or a modification to the original Resilience check.

So now we've made either 3 or 4 rolls depending on how you interpret it, and are healing on average 5.8 wounds instead of the 3 we would have healed automatically if we'd just said screw it and not rolled at all. As specific one of those rolls contributed over twice the healing of the rest of them.

We're not done, but at least the confusing parts are almost over. Everything from here on out is easy to understand, though it seems to be lacking any breaks to keep it from running over the cliff.

Now we head into the "Immediate Care" section. The previous rolls were all predicated on getting a full night's rest and/or long-term care, and thus could each only be done once per day. Immediate Care can be done once per Act or Scene. Acts are a strange unit of time in Warhammer 3rd. Any given fight scene will consist of 1 to 3 Acts. There's no specific limit to how many Scenes or Acts can happen in a day (or session). How many times you can perform Immediate Care in a day is going to vary significantly depending on the pacing of your game, but it's probably safe to assume that it is a minimum of three times per day (given that it could be as many as 3 times in a single fight).

Immediate Care is a First Aid check, and every Success recovers a wound. With the stats we've been using, that's around 1.3 wounds per check.  There's more to it than that, as you can also use Immediate Care to temporarily suppress Critical Wounds (a reduced version of the daily checks to convert them). A bad roll on Immediate Care can generate stress and fatigue, but those are most irrelevant unless it's in the middle of a fight. Given that it's called Immediate Care, you might think it has to be performed immediately after the injury, but actually, per the rules as written, nothing stops you from using it hours or days after the initial injury. Also, nothing but your GM stops you from spamming the test repeatedly. It's pretty stupid.

So, we're now looking at 6 to 7 (or more) rolls, to heal on average 10 (or more) wounds. As the healer levels up, the output of the rolls will go up, so eventually you'll reach a point where you don't need nearly as many rolls before it stops being relevant.

There's also an Action you can buy, called Splints & Bandages. It's an action that pretty much completely overlaps with the Immediate Care rules. Instead of normal recharge tokens, it only recharges at the end end of an Act or Encounter. It's affects are almost identical to Immediate Care, except it recovers 2 more wounds than Immediate Care would if you manage to roll 3 or more successes. It's so similar, it seems redundant. As written, though, it's one more healing opportunity per Act, and generates on average about 1.7 wounds recovered at the skill levels we're examining.

Our running tally is up to 7 or more rolls, and heals over 12 wounds per day on average?  In case you were wondering, 12 wounds just happens to be the maximum amount of damage that the 3-toughness human character in question can survive. That's some pretty impressive healing (full recovery in a day), but boy does it take a lot of die-rolling. Any options for healing beyond this are starting to look redundant.

And that's just natural healing and first aid. We haven't even talked about magic yet. There are a number of spells or blessing actions that have the ability to recover 1 or more wounds. Unlike D&D, Warhammer spell casters don't have any "per day" spell limits. Wait a few turns (or take a Channel Power action) and you'll have all the power you need to cast your spell infinitely. Like immediate care, nothing in the rules stop you from having infinite healing out of the weakest first-level healing spell. If the GM has read the Tome of Adventure thoroughly, there's actually something to reign this in a bit. Turns in Warhammer aren't just seconds long, they're however long the narrative needs them to be. So a clever GM could use turn length and recharge rate to limit healing spell spam.... but if you do so, then magic healing is actually more restricted than First Aid. *sigh*

So basically, if you've got time to waste, and the GM doesn't mind you spam-rolling all your healing methods, you can recover far more hit points in a day then you are likely to have. At this point, I'd almost be happier with a rule that says "If anyone in the party has any healing method, all PCs are assumed to start every encounter fully healed." It would at least save us a half dozen die rolls per PC per day. When I say "any healing method", I should clarify that "at least 1 character with an Intelligence of 4 or 5, healing skills optionally" would certainly qualify. Immediate Care is the most broken part of the healing rules, and anyone can do it since First Aid can be used by an untrained character.

Oops, I forgot to mention the Healing Draughts! These are mundane medicines that can be purchased all over the Empire. Though mundane, they work quickly and are effectively a Magical Healing Potion. You're limited to drinking only 1 per day, but they instantly heal an average of 1.33 wounds when you do. They're also really expensive, at least compared to the spell and first-aid based healing methods that cost nothing more than an action. Healing Draughts may see use in a fight when your healer is busy helping someone else, but consuming them between battles is just wasting money if anyone in the party has First Aid or a healing spell. Of course, if your situation is dire enough to consider breaking out a Healing Draught instead of attacking or waiting till the fight is over, then you'll probably be needing a lot more than 1.33 points of healing. It's a little silly.

I think the sanest thing to do is throw out all the existing healing rules. Sometime soon I'll post the streamlined, stripped-down, and most importantly limited-by-logic version of them that I plan to use in my campaign.

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