Welcome to Guidance! Today we’re back in the Playtest Ponderings as we talk a little bit about another topic that’s really been rocking the Playtesting world, healing. Players tend to have REALLY mixed feelings in regards to healing. Some players love it for its ability to keep comrades alive and using their actions and abilities, others think it should be relegated to Out-of-Combat only, claiming that healing is a “Waste of an action” because you’re undoing previous actions rather than bringing your team closer to victory. Personally, I think healing is a fun staple of the genre, but not everyone is going to agree with me there and that’s okay.
That being said, one thing that EVERYONE agrees on is that is seldom fun to feel like you’re forced into healing, and this happens a LOT with prepared casters like the cleric and druid, who are forced to prepare heal rather than choose to cast it whenever they want. This means that the ability to heal comes at an opportunity cost to the player, which isn’t always fun because not every player appreciates healing. (Although let me tell you, the person being healed ALWAYS appreciates it. And if they don’t, you let them die next time so my statement is correct.)
Many people agree that healing is in a bad place in PF2 right now, manly because an issue that PF1 had at its start has returned. That issue is the simple fact that you’re only good at healing if you’re a cleric.
“What?! No, Alex! Say it ain’t so!” Well, it IS so. Let me tell you why.
Case 1: Divine and Nature vs. Occult
So, let’s begin by comparing the healing capabilities of each of the spell lists. Currently the Arcane spell list doesn’t have any healing spells listed on it, so it’s basically out of the running before we even started. That leaves us divine, nature, and occult, and between these two spell lists there are two “bread and butter” healing spells: heal, which is on the divine and nature spell list, and soothe, which is on the occult spell list.
To start this off, I want to compare these spells so we can get an idea of how well occult spellcasters (currently bards and sorcerers) do at healing.
Let’s start off with a quick link to the Heal spell. With this in mind, here’s a quick breakdown on what this spell’s healing looks like.
- 1st — 1d8 (4.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 2nd — 3d8 (13.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 3rd — 5d8 (22.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 4th — 7d8 (31.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 5th — 9d8 (40.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 6th — 11d8 (49.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 7th — 13d8 (58.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 8th — 15d8 (67.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 9th — 17d8 (76.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 10th — 19d8 (85.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- Area Target
- 1st — Spellcasting Mod
- 2nd — Spellcasting Mod + 1d8 (4.5)
- 3rd — Spellcasting Mod + 2d8 (9)
- 4th — Spellcasting Mod + 3d8 (13.5)
- 5th — Spellcasting Mod + 4d8 (18)
- 6th — Spellcasting Mod + 5d8 (22.5)
- 7th — Spellcasting Mod + 6d8 (27)
- 8th — Spellcasting Mod + 7d8 (31.5)
- 9th — Spellcasting Mod + 8d8 (36)
- 10th — Spellcasting Mod + 9d8 (40.5)
Now, let’s look at the soothe spell. Or at least, that’s what I’d like to say, but apparently the Pathfinder Playtest doesn’t have this spell. Sorry! Anyway, the basic idea of soothe is that it has d6s for healing instead of d8s and gives the target a small bonus on its next saving throw attempted within 1 round, but lacks an AoE or undead damaging component. With this in mind, here’s a quick breakdown on what this spell’s healing looks like.
- 1st — 1d6 (3.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 2nd — 3d6 (10.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 3rd — 5d6 (17.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 4th — 7d6 (24.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 5th — 9d6 (31.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 6th — 11d6 (38.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 7th — 13d6 (45.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 8th — 15d6 (52.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 9th — 17d6 (69.5) + Spellcasting Mod
- 10th — 19d6 (76.5) + Spellcasting Mod
Okay, so this isn’t really a contest, right? Soothe is absolutely worse than Heal. And normally this is where you guys expect me to pull out some super cool build out of my butt where I show you all how you’re totally wrong and soothe is amazing. But I can’t do that because there are no options in this book that’ll help soothe make up for a (roughly) 25% reduction in healing AND the loss of the game’s only multi-target healing option.
Sorry bards. I know that being healers has already been part of your fantasy, but it looks like you’re gonna have to make do with something else.
Case 2: Clerics vs. Sorcerers vs. Druids
Okay, now that we’ve ruled that divine spellcasters have access to the best healing spells, let’s take a look at the classes that get divine spellcasting. We’re going to be comparing the kits of the cleric, sorcerer, and druid. Before we do this, it’s helpful to point out that in PF Playtest all three of these classes have the same base number of spell slots / spells prepared, unlike PF, and we’re going to assume that the spellcaster uses ALL of their spell slots and class feats for healing. I think that’ll help us more in looking at the role of healers, for a reason I’m going to get back to in a minute (Hint: its opportunity cost). But anyway, let’s get started.
Assuming you go all-out as a healer, cleric gets the following:
- Channel Energy: This baseline class feature gives you 3 + your Cha modifier in free heal spells that are automatically heightened to the highest-level healing spell you can cast.
- Communal Healing: When you use the Heal spell to heal an ally, this feat allows you to heal for the same amount if you used the single-target version of heal.
- Healing Hands: You spend a free action to add 1d8 to your single target heal (2d8 at 10thl evel, 3d8 at 20th level).
- Healer’s Blessing: This domain power adds 2 points of healing per die to a heal spell you cast as a free action, costing 1 spell point. This is an initial domain power, so if you picked a deity with the healing domain you got this for free. (Strangely, if you take this ability using the Expanded Domain feat, you can actually use it more because that feat gives you an extra spell point.)
- Healing Font: This ability allows you to spend 2 Spell Points to basically use channel energy for free. If you take this domain power, you have a total number of Spell Points equal to your Wisdom + 2, because taking Healing Font gives you 2 additional spell points.
- Improved Communal Healing: Now instead of keeping that healing for yourself, you give it to someone else. You effectively get to heal two targets with your super awesome single-target heal.
- Fast Channel: This 14th-level feat lets you replace one of the spellcasting actions to cast a heal spell with a reaction.
So, let’s take a moment to assess the insanity here. Assuming we’re 14th level with the healing domain, you have 6 cleric feats at 14th level. That means you could definitely take Communal Healing (2nd), Advanced Domain: Healing Font (4th), Improved Communal Healing (6th), Healing Hands (8th), anything you want (10th), and Fast Channel (14th) to have all this stuff. If you do so:
- You’ll have 3 + your Cha of your highest-level healing spells each day in addition to your regularly prepared spells.
- You’ll have your Wis + 2 spell points, which you can use to either cast 1 to 4 additional heal spells at full power or add +2 per die to your heal spell as a free action (your channel energy is heightened to 6th level, at 14th, which means you’re rolling 11d6+22+Wis (average 60.5 + Wis)
- When you heal someone, you reflect the healing onto another target within range of your spell using Improved Communal Healing (if you use the two-action version of heal, then that’s 30 feet). This means that two people are being healed for 60.5 + Wis.
- You can use a free action to add an extra 2d8 (9 damage) healing to each of your spells; if you’re using healer’s blessing, it’ll be 2d8+4 instead (13 damage).
In short, the cleric is absolutely SICK at healing at high levels. Now, let’s look at the Druid!
Assuming you go all-out as a healer, druid gets the following:
- Goodberry. You can take 10 minutes to imbue a “freshly picked” berry with magic that allows the eater to heal 1d4 Hit Points + your Wisdom. This is an average of 2.5 + your Wisdom, and you create an extra berry for each spell level you advance. This means that on average, good berry will give you more healing but requires each party member to take an action to eat the berry. In short, it has the potential to outheal healer’s blessing, but basically can’t be used in combat and forces your allies to take actions to use them.
- Healing Transformation: You add a free somatic casting action to a polymorph spell to heal the target for 1d6 hit points per level of the triggering spell. So basically, you turn every polymorph spell into a less-powerful soothe spell (see the occult list). This is cool, but you don’t get it until 10th level.
And hey! There are no other abilities that druids get to heal. So what you see in the heal spell is what you get. That two-spell slot / 2 channel energy / 4 spell point burst of healing for a total of 242 healing across four characters up to 30 feet away from you? Nope, you can’t do it. Move along.
Assuming you go all-out as a healer, sorcerer gets the following:
- Divine Evolution: You can channel energy once per day like a cleric, or you gain one additional use of channel energy if you already have that class feature.
- Blood Magic: If you have persistant bleed (which the feat lets you inflict onto yourself as an Interact action), you can give allies a small number of temporary hit points when you target them with spells. This is nifty, but not enough to be considered useful. (It’s 1d6 + the spell’s level.)
And hey! That’s it. Sorcerers have roughly the same healing burst potential as druids, save they can cast their big-gun heal one additional time per day.
The Cleric Archetype
Multiclassing is handled via archetypes now, so let’s take a look at the cleric archetype to see if it could help our sorcerer or druid.
- No Channel Energy: This archetype doesn’t give you channel energy. (So what was the point of the divine evolution call out? Unnecessary future proofing?)
- Several More Cleric Spell Slots: You could invest a lot of feats in order to get a few extra spell slots that you could use to cast heal.
- Domain: You could take healer’s blessing and healing font, the later of which might actually be useful for a sorcerer or a druid. You would get to add 3 more spell points to your sorcerer / druid spell point pool and be able to throw out spell points to heal people.
Overall, this still can’t match the cleric’s tricks or do anything comparatively cooler / burstier.
Overall, I personally think that healing as it pertains to the cleric is in a good place mechanically. If you want to be a healer, you can REALLY push the numbers and build for it. It’s cool, fun, entertaining, and exciting. But no other class can do that, which is a major problem. The cleric can literally heal 4 times as well as every other class by end game, and I don’t think the answer is nerf the cleric. Let’s talk “Why”.
Assuming you’re Level 4, the average character is going to have roughly (15 * 8) + (14 * Con) for Hit Points. Assuming the average player has at least an 18 because of that sick magic item that sets your Con to an 18 that has an item level of 14th, that’s 176 Hit Points at 14th level. (The 15th “8” in my calculations is a stand-in for ancestry Hit Points.) Considering the average group has four characters, that’s a total of 704 Hit Points. If you’re a cleric, using ALL of your magic to heal and in a single round you’re healing for about 70 Hit Points per highest-ranking healing spell, and you have a total of 3 spell slots + 7 channel energies, that means you have a hard cap of 10 “best level” channel energies you can call on. Even assuming you “double heal” with Improved Communal Healing, you’re hitting two people for 70 Hit Points an action (assuming you’re clustered together), for a total of 140 healing per action, with 3 actions per spell. That’s a total of 30 actions, or 5,400 healing per adventure.
Which SOUNDS like a lot, but then you have to remember that we need to divide that healing amongst four people for 1,350 Healing per person assuming you’re as perfectly balanced as Thanos, which means you can be brought from “empty” to “full” a total of 7 times per day, assuming your healing is absolutely flawless and everyone takes damage in perfect, predictable ways.
And that SEEMS pretty good, pretty reasonable. But if you’re a druid, you get 3 castings of heal that cannot be split between targets, so you’re stuck with roughly 210 points healed for the entire day. If you’re a sorcerer, you get 280, and now you’re starting to see where the issue with healing is, right?
The problem is not that healing is bad. The problem is that healing efficiency is 100% wrapped up in the cleric class, and that efficiency build needs about three to four specific cleric feats to work. Healing doesn’t work unless you hyper specialize in it, and that’s where the problem is.
It’s really tempting to sit here and rattle off solutions that the PDT could try to work on this problem, but they didn’t ask for that. Actually, in the Playtesting document they specifically asked us NOT to give them solutions, so I won’t. Not this time, anyway. 😛 That being said, I think that this is a solvable issue that requires healing be properly acknowledged as a thing that people need (and sometimes want) to do, but generally don’t want to have to build their entire character around. The life of a healer is not glamorous, but it is an important part of any fantasy RPG.
Well, that’s my thoughts on PF Playtest healing for now. I’ve shared my thoughts, now I want to hear yours! Tell me what you think about Resonance, both on the armchair and in playtest games, in the comments below. I haven’t decided what Playtest Pondering I’m going to do next week, so if there’s something you want me to chat about / research, please drop a link on our Discord server or leave a comment on this page. I want to make sure that my articles are targeted to things that the community is talking about so we can make the next iteration of Pathfinder as awesome as we can! Until next time, I’m signing off. Bye!
Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.