Healer: putting the party back together

It was a blinding spark of pain that lit up Chandra's side. The mighty drake lashed out with his greatsword, more instinct and rage than a controlled attack. The human knight sneered slowly, adjusting his footing for a final blow. And then Trac was there, his massive shield absorbing the blow, and hulking frame pushing back. He wasn't there to finish the fight, though, a furred hand reaching down and grasping the collar of Chandra's armour. Dragging the spent, wounded general out of danger.

"You should learn to dodge" The Gnoll said, with a dry, familiar tone.

It's very easy to die in Renaissance: damages are high, health-pools are small, and the wound system means that characters can be crippled into ineffectiveness long before they actually die. What's more, Renaissance also models character's mental health; as characters struggle though life-or-death situations, encounter ancient mysteries, confront alien forces, and loose long-time friends, they can suffer more than physical wounds. And healing is difficult by design; the party that wants to survive — physically and emotionally — needs to have a solid plan for healing.

Your Healer's Concept

Healing is difficult, and it takes many lifetimes to truly understand the mysteries of one race's body, let alone the many races that call the Emerald Plane home. Healers are nonetheless prized participants in any adventure, and respected in their homes and businesses. Whether the lowly medic in the commonwealth army removing his fallen comrades from the fight, or the highly-skilled commonwealth alchemist-surgeons exploring and unlocking the mysteries of life, it falls to you to stitch up your comrades when they fall, to offer aid to your allies or to innocent victims of violence, and to calm and support those who troubles threaten to overwhelm them.

There are several questions to answer when deciding on your healer's concept:

  • What kind of healer are they?
    • A formally trained doctor, with a formal education and professional practice?
    • Are they a medic in the Commonwealth military, who may be used to chaos and violence, and who may have combat skills and a military rank?
    • A local healer — a village elder trusted to patch the wounded up, despite having little or no actual training or formal education?
    • A worker of magic, who uses sleights or powers to heal the injured?
    • A priest, cleric, or elder, someone who provides care and emotional support more than they perform surgeries?
  • What kind of healing do you provide?
    • Characters can suffer both physical injury and emotional stress; which will you try to heal? Or will you attempt to heal both?
  • How do you provide healing?
    • Do you use skill, knowledge, and compassion (with Medicine and Soothe)?
    • Or do you use magic, with powers like Heal, Transfer, Regrowth, and Sacrifice.

Building a Healer

We'll break this down into three "builds":

  • Physical Healing with Medicine
  • Emotional Healing with Soothe
  • Physical Healing with Magic

If your character is great at Physical Healing with Medicine:

  • Acerbic wit and sarcastic bedside manner are optional, but always entertaining.
  • COG at least 25
  • The Medicine skill at 70, with a specialization.
    • The more ranks you have in Medicine, the happier the people you're trying to heal will be.
    • Remember that you yourself may be wounded, so the ability to still have a decent TN with a few -10 wound penalties may be vital!
  • A relevant Profession (like Doctor, Healer, Medic, or Midwife) at 50
    • The Profession is important for your character to know how to be a doctor.
    • The Profession skill can also be useful for a quick hit of money or good will; the skills of doctors are always valuable.
  • Soothe at at least 50.
    • This will help you calm panicking, frightened, or suffering patients — you can't operate on people who are panicked and fighting you.
  • Craft: Chemistry at at least 40
    • useful for brewing medicines and potions; more is better.
  • At least two appropriate knowledge skills at 50
    • Anatomy may help in understanding how bodies work
    • Diseases will help in their treatment
  • At least a Medicine skill kit and Craft: Chemistry skill kit.
    • Shops are better if you have the CP to spend.
  • Healing potions
  • Perception at 50 or higher, to assist in diagnosis.
  • Research at 50 or higher
    • Different species may have different medical requirements, and no doctor can manage an encyclopedic knowledge of every disease at all times.
  • Search at 50 or higher, to find useful ingredients and resources (like finding medicinal herbs in the wild).
  • The Bedside Manner power,
    • which allows you to use a Social skill (like Soothe!) as a related skill while binding wounds.

If your character is Great at Emotional Healing with Soothe:

  • COG at least 20, Int at least 20, SAV at at least 25, WIL at least 20
    • Since Soothe is SAV-linked, good SAV is obvious.
    • WIL might be surprising, but providing emotional support to someone in crisis can itself be very stressful. Your character will be brought in intimate contact with others' fears, pains, and shames, and you'll experience some measure of their emotional crisis with them.
  • The Soothe skill at at least 70.
  • A relevant Profession (like Doctor, Healer, or Priest) at 50
  • Read at at least 60.
  • Persuasion and Protocol at at least 50.
  • Other social skills if you have the points.
    • Deception can be useful — the bold truth is not always the best medicine.
    • Even Intimidate could be useful for some unusual personalities.
  • Craft: Chemistry at at least 40
    • Brews, potions, and medicines (or just a cup of tea or shot of bourbon) have long been a part of emotional support.

If your character if Great at Physical Healing with Magic:

  • COG or WIL at least 25, depending on whether you're using spells or sleights.
  • Spellcraft or Control at least 70, as appropriate to the powers you're using.
    • The powers in the "Heal tree" are sleights, so you'll need Control for those.
  • The "Heal tree" powers:
    • Heal allows you to fast-heal your own DUR.
    • Transfer transfers other's damage to you, so you can then heal it.
    • Regrowth heals your wounds.
    • Sacrifice transfers a wound from someone else to you, so you can heal it.
  • Jump and Group Jump to remove fallen allies from a fight

Playing a Healer

As a healer, your job will be to support the more adventurous members of the party when they fall afoul of combat, succumb to disease, collapse in blistering heat, break in fear, or are tormented by their demons.

After a tense fight, wounds will need to be washed and sealed to keep infection at bay, and to bring combat-focused characters back to full strength. You might also want to heal an enemy who has yielded, or an incapacitated prisoner who has information that the party requires. Anyone afflicted with poison will need antidotes to be mixed and dosed, and some will need to be brought down from the adrenaline rush with care.

Other, more sedate adventures might still involve mental stresses, psionic attacks and mind control, questionable actions the adventurers are forced to undertake, phobias and fears… all of these require a deft touch and a shoulder to rest on. Healing mental stress is difficult, but is just as important as keeping bodies knitted together in the right situation.

Unlike a combatant, infiltrator, or analyst, you can make an assassination fail after the fact, saving life is itself a unique skill that is well-respected the world over.

Should it come up, though, never forget that the power to mend and repair life, also gives intimate awareness on how to influence it. Your medical knowledge also gives you the tools needed to remove threats in unexpected, or ethically troubling manners.

Healing is Tough

It's important to understand that healing in Renaissance is difficult, time-consuming, and imperfect. Without going over the rules for healing (see Injury and Recover), you should note that binding a wound is a 10-minute Task Action that requires a Medicine check — it's not something you can do during a fight. You also only get one attempt per wound, succeed or fail — this means that getting it right the first time is important! Your fellow players may not appreciate it if you're rolling against a 50 and only bind 2 of their 5 wounds. (You can attempt surgery on a wound that you failed to bind, but surgery is a one hour task action — it's not something you can easily attempt while the party is trying to chase a slave-trader through a hurricane in a coastal swamp.)

You might wonder, "well, that's wounds; how do I heal DV?" There is no separate "heal DV" action: you get to heal some DV when you successfully bind a wound, and that's it. After that, it's natural healing.

And bear in mind, DV and Wounds are both important. DV determines when a character is disabled or dead, but wounds can radically reduce a character's effectiveness even if they're at full DUR. (This is, in fact, fairly common for charactesr with Fast Healing. Even with Fast Healing, Wounds heal slowly, and they only heal after all DV has been healed; therefore, it's not uncommon for a Shifter or Clay Man to find themselves with 0 DV, but still crippled by their 5 wounds. For this reason, binding wounds can be important even for characters with Fast Healing.)

If all else fails, your party may be forced to simply stop, rest and recover, using the rules for long-term care. This isn't always a bad idea; while some adventures are paced to take hours or days, others may be paced out over weeks or months. If the adventure already has time budgeted for over-land travel, crafting, or letting plots percolate, allowing the wounded several days to rest and recouperate may wise. (At times like this, healing potions can be very valuable.)

Magic Only Helps a Little

Can magic help? A little, certainly, but magic doesn't trivialize healing — by design. Magical healing takes two forms: the "Heal tree" powers and two healing potions.

Healing potions mainly accelerate natural healing. the minor Healing Potion doubles your natural healing from 1 DV/day to 2 DV/day. While very useful for a character undergoing long-term care, this obviously will not return a wounded character to the fight in the short-term. The more expensive Moderate healing potion ups the rate to 1 DV/hour, and heals 1 wound in 12 hours. If the party has a day or two to recoup, this can be exceptionally useful — but it's also not going to get a character back in the fight quickly.

The "Heal tree" powers can be, well, powerful, but they also have stark disadvantages.

Perhaps the most obvious is that they involve transferring DV and wounds from the victim to the character using the powers; this can be a stressfull experience for the healer. It also involves the healer suffering wound penalties from transferred wounds until they're healed. (This does not necessarily prevent the Heal sleights from working, since they don't require checks to channel; however, it is something to be aware of, in case something interrupts the healing process before you're finished.)

Also, remember that Fast Healing heals wounds slowly — and even the Regrowth power takes an hour per wound.

This means that there's actually something of a trade-off between using the Heal slights and binding wounds. Binding only takes ten minutes per wound, but it may not completely heal all DV, and it can fail. Using all four of the Heal sleights will heal the target's DV fairly quickly, and there are no checks to fail — so, given time, if you aren't interrupted, it will guaranteeably succeed. And, usefully, the wounds aren't bound, but rather are healed completely. However, the Heal sleights take much longer to heal wounds, and they involve the healer being inflicted with greivous injury during the process.

Emotional Healing is also important

Besides physical wounds, characters can also succumb to stress and trauma. These are perhaps even more difficult to heal than DV and wounds; the Soothe skill can be used to provide emotional support, but this only heals either 3 or 1 SV per hour-long Task Action. (While this might seem slow, the natural rate of healing for Stress is 1 SV/day.)

The Down-time sleight allows you to heal 1d10÷3 SV with a four-hour Task Action, and also provides you with several other useful benefits; however, there is no sleight analogous to "Transfer" that would allow you to absorb someone else stress. So, there isn't a magical alternative to the "Heal tree sleights" to allow you to heal SV.

Types of Healer

One thing to know for all three Healer builds: healing is difficult and time-consuming. In many cases, you won't even be able to completely heal someone: time and natural healing may be required.

Using Medicine

If you're using Medicine, you'll often be attempting to bind wounds after combat; see Injury and Healing. Binding a wound is time-consuming: it has a base time-frame of 10 minutes, and it requires you to have supplies like bandaging, or a needle and thread, all clean (i.e. at least a Medicine skill-kit).

It's vitally important to note that you can only attempt to bind a wound once: if you fail, the player will simply have to suffer that wound until they heal naturally. For that reason, it's important to make your best effort to bind a wound: making a test at a 50 or 60 may not seem so bad at first, but the character you're healing may not appreciate being stuck with half their wounds. You should get the best target you can: take your time, get assists, use (for example) the Bedside Manner class to claim related skills, and scrounge around for any other boost you can find — because you won't get a second chance.

After you've attempted to bind an injured character's wounds, there's not much more you can do, besides provide long-term care and keep a patient dosed with healing potions. (Note that healing potions merely speed natural healing; they are not a short-term healing mechanism.)

Using Soothe

Using Magic

Using magic for physical healing might seem to be powerful by comparison, but it's not without cost. Heal and Transfer are powerful, since they don't require a test, and can heal a character of all DV in about a minute—Heal will heal you of about 20 DV in a minute, and Transfer will heal another character of about 40 DV in a minute (by transferring that DV to you). But note that Heal and Transfer don't heal wounds, only damage—and that they heal that damage by transferring it to you and allowing you to fast heal it away, a process which might be stressful for you!

Regrowth and Sacrifice allow you to heal a wound of yours, and to transfer other's wounds to yourself. Transferring a wound with sacrifice may only take a minute, but healing your new wound with Regrowth requires an hour. And, even more than transferring damage, transferring wounds is likely to be stressful.

Using these powers can require careful planning, and it can be more time-consuming than they might at first appear if you don't want to cripple, traumatize, or incapacitate yourself in the process.

Don't we have better options for magical healing? Not really! Healing is meant to be difficult, and magic isn't intended to be a way for a character to step around that limitation.

Healers and Other Characters

Playing the healer can be an amazingly selfless role, even if your medical knowledge is what the success or failure of the adventure hinges upon. Regardless of your other skills, many people will be programmed to believe that healing is simply 'your job'.

Combatants will rely on you as a crutch, more ablative styles of fighter needing stitching up after almost every fight. And occasionally in the middle of a fight, should they bite off more than they can chew. Similarly, if an Infiltration goes poorly, the infiltrator will likely need some medical attention, should they get away

Being an 'academic' of sorts will help you provide some backup to the Analyst character, while knowledge of medicinal compounds and plants are sure to give you something in common with Survivalists.

As much as Combatants rely on you, Survivalists and provisioners will be your own weakness. Providing you with the items you need to keep your medical kit stocked to the brim, and in turn keeping your allies wounds' mended and minds from being clouded with stress.

Combining Healing with Other Roles

The different healer builds combine fairly well with each other. Soothe can be useful to a doctor, and the Heal sleight can be valuable for a doctor to have so that the party's healer has some ability to quickly and effectively restore themselves.

Healers can also make excellent Analysts, with the overlapping importance of COG and INT, and Research and Knowledge skills being useful to both — and Doctors are likely to be beneficiaries of a formal education, of course. This can work both ways, with Analysts making excellent healers, as well, if their interests run in the right direction.

Having been in Combat can be an excellent reason to learn medicine, and more protectively-minded combatants can make for effective healers; this makes particular sense for someone who's served as a medic in the Commonwealth military, or for someone who's been a soldier, mercenery, or explorer and had to learn to patch their fellows up. (And, we should note, there is precident for the concept in fiction; a certain Welsh monk springs to mind.) Besides, anatomy can just as easily tell you where to strike an enemy, as it can tell you what needs to be stitched and sealed. However, one practical difficulty with combining combat and healing as roles is that you are likely to be the one who is wounded and requires healing (and thus, you will likely have to deal with wound penalties).

Infiltrators, with their reliance on perception, can easily spot signs of injury, and many cultures place well-intentioned taboo on harming physicians of any stripe. These can potentially work in such a combination's benefit.

Socialites combine very effectively with emotional healers who use Soothe, for perhaps obvious reasons — their skills overlap heavily. But medicine-based physical healers can also combine well with socialites and provisioners. The importance of bedside manner, confidence and a winning charm in medicine cannot be overstated. And good doctors are often rich, as they have very valuable skills and no shortage of work. And Craft: Alchemy is a powerful skill both for a Healer and a crafting-based Provisioner.

Aceh's Bedside Manner

"Ah ata-ata-ata-ata" Aceh mused as she considered the limp form before her, the green-grey skin split by Goblin hand cannon in four places, blowing fist-sized holes through the strong-willed but foolish orc.

"You go and you charge a ship full of goblins with hand cannons, and you get dragged back to me, leaving a lovely red streak up the beach…" Her words teased the semi-conscious ears, the half-hearted admonishment encouraging Kiegar to slowly stir as Aceh's dextrous paws carefully extracted what was left of the bullets. "You are lucky you have the best healer this side of foam-and-cloud."

She rattled on, words almost too fast to decipher as Keigar registered the ping… ping… ping of bullet fragments dropped in a dish to Aceh's side. "Ata-ata-ata-ata… You lie down, make full recovery." She smiled, baring Gremlin teeth.