Self-Healing in 13th Age

D&D 4E caused a lot of controversy with its self-healing rules. Thirteenth Age has its own self-healing rules. Here’s my take on the topic.

My first self-healing rules were in 1992, in Over the Edge. It’s a modern-day RPG with no built-in healer class, so the characters needed to be able to heal up some on their own. My rule was that after every fight you’d get back half the damage you took in that fight. The rule reflected both real life and fiction, in which people who get beat up in a fight can  bounce back without magic.

Unlike Over the Edge, D&D 3E didn’t need self-healing. Instead, it had amped-up cleric healing. Spontaneous healing and wands of cure light wounds meant there was always plenty of healing available. But in 2002, when I wrote Omega World, player-characters again needed some self-healing capability. The characters were postapocalyptic mutants, and there were no healing spells. I thought about re-using the Over the Edge “half-damage” rules, but I instead came up with a mathematically similar system, called reserves. With reserves, you have a number of self-healing points equal to your hit points, and you can use them up on a one-to-one basis to heal hit points. Since Omega World was under the OGL, Mike Mearls picked up reserves in his Iron Heroes book, published by Monte Cook. Self-healing was later a major new feature of D&D 4E. I’m happy to include our own version of hit-point-recovery in 13th Age. PCs in 13th Age are heroes, the very sort of people who can pick themselves up after getting beaten down, with or without magic.

One virtue of self-healing is that it takes a load off the cleric. The traditional d20 cleric is inherently too powerful because it provides the party’s ability to heal up. In 3E, a party of four clerics kicks ass in a way that no other single-class party can. The spontaneous healing rules gave clerics more options, but they also made an already powerful class even more powerful. In 13th Age, clerics still heal their allies, but the PCs are in some sense responsible for most of their own hit point recovery. Recovery rules distribute the party’s ability to heal up among the party members, rather than concentrating it in one class’s portfolio. The party isn’t dependent on a cleric, and the cleric is free from the task for measuring out the party’s healing.


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