Sunday, 18 January 2009

Healing in an evil campaign

Running a campaign where the party is evil throws up all sorts of problems, many of which are ethical. Evil isn't just diametrically opposed to good, its also extremely destructive. As a DM this is very hard to deal with and design a campaign for such that the characters do not destroy everything in the campaign and its also a challenge to set things up so that the players do not desire to wreck everything in the first place. Evil for its own sake is no good; it needs a purpose. See my previous post about running an evil campaign.

Evil also presents a challenge to the players too. Evil clerics may only cast the reverse of their spells that are reversible. So they are denied the use of all healing spells as a consequence and must instead use the spells which cause harm to their opponents. Bless and light are also not granted to them, they may only curse and create areas of darkness, putrify food and drink not purify it and so on.

Not being able to get instant access to healing causes lots of problems for my gaming group. They run from combats which they think may cause them issues and even flee in the middle of combat (well, fighting withdrawals to more tactically advantageous areas or get most of the party out of the dungeon while the highest level character holds the enemy off - this one happened with a fight against lizard folk in a cave). Its quite surprising for me when I know they can win the encounter but they're not so sure and so try and avoid it.

No healing means they have to return to town and pay the local temple, or get some rest, to recharge their hitpoints. In my game, rest recovers 2 hitpoints per day. It's purposefully slow to reflect that injuries do not heal over night. This means the party does tend to rest for a few days after a heavy encounter that has damaged the party (we have eight characters in the party). The party also stocks up on healing potions in towns, although these are quite hard to find in shops, there's an alchemist in one of the villagers who sells them and the thief can tap the black market and his contacts to get hold of them (an ability he gets at third level as a house rule).

There are some more mundane items that the players can use to help with the healing process too. I allow them to buy and apply bandages to a wound. A bandage can be applied after a battle to a wounded character and will recover one hitpoint, applying multiple bandages per battle has no effect. Bandages cost two gold pieces each. There's also a soothing ointment they can pick up from a shop in one of the villages (Oilly Olly's - he sells oil, acid, oil that burns for longer and such things) which they can apply to their injuries before rest to regain one extra hitpoint during the night.

Healing will always be an issue for an evil party but these extra items help alleviate the problem a little without taking away this weakness so feel free to use them in your own campaigns if you wish. Evil parties are supposed to have these problems but giving players some extra options is something they will like.


anonynos said...

Wait... what? Evil clerics can't cast heals? Since when? I mean... they can't swap them out on the fly to cast them, they have to memorize them, but I'm fairly sure they can still do that... or is that a house rule of some sort?

As a rule not allowing healing to evil clerics is really an unneeded complication. Their are some evil gods that would probably go for that, sure... certain overly evil/self-destructive ones. But for the most part, intelligent evil will want it's minions to succeed. And that means allowing them to get heals now and then.

You can even have things like bless and such. Sure it's an evil blessing "The dark-ones favor" or what not, but mechanically there's no reason that evil gods couldn't help out their priests.

If you covered all this previously sorry, I just sorta poke around the blog ring so I've not seen your previous posts... feel free to point me that way...

Brunomac said...

I ran a pretty successful "evils" campaign back in the 90's. The characters ranged from an anti-paladin, a female anti-druid with horns and cloven feet, and a death worshipping assassin who committed some pretty bad atrocities. I was shocked at what people who normally ran fairly heroic and noble characters would have their evil characters do. Big fun, but I was disturbed by it here and there. Even female players can come up with some nasty hell to inflict.

I just let evil characters have heals if they want. Not getting heals might makes sense if you are a cleric for a chaotic demon that is really nasty, like Demogorgon or Orcus. But would a God or Godling not be at a severe disadvantage if their minions had no access to heals like the goody two shoes do? OK, I had the anti-paladin only be able to lay-on hands for damage, but a priest I'll let any priest of any god have access to healing.

Funny thing is, the evil cleric of that group never chose to have a healing spell. I guess I just let the player come up with his own equalizer on this one.

I'd like to hear more on your evils campaign, King. I'm getting inspired to make it the next campaign after the current one...

The Recursion King said...

I too had this reaction initially when I read about it. We play using Labyrinth Lords, lots of house rules and in the spirit of the original D&D game.

OD&D states "Those Clerical spells underlined on the table for Cleric Spells have a reverse effect, all others functioning as noted." The list of underlined spells includes all curative magic, as well as things like light and bless.

We play by this rule which also means that good clerics cannot curse, cast darkness and cause light wounds, for instance. Its truer to the original idea of what an evil cleric is, and as the cleric serves the Malevolent Malice, a kind of insidious evil entity that is the root of all things bad, it really makes sense in the campaign. Its also cool in that it makes a very definite difference in being good to evil, for the cleric. Your evil cleric touches you and your flesh sears... eek.

I like the idea that your player actually decided to do this of his own accord. He's really playing to his alignment there.

I'll try and blog some more about the evil campaigns soon, thanks for the comments guys; as with all things D&D there's no 'right' or 'wrong' way to run it really, we often try out something for a single session and see how it goes - if it works we keep it.

anonynos said...

Ahh, I see. Sorry, it's been so long since I've played pre-3e (and I've never played any of the games that are based on similar rule sets) it didn't even occur to me that that rule would be in there. Well, then yeah... that complicates things. Unfortunately I've not really dealt with the situation so, I'll wish you luck since I have nothing constructive to add...

The Recursion King said...

No problem, here's the bit in Labyrinth Lords which is relevant to the evil cleric...

"A cleric can use either form of a spell without having to pray for the different versions separately, but the Labyrinth Lord may limit
this to some degree if a reversed spell is against the beliefs of
the cleric's god."

So it's not really completely clear cut and playing by these rules means its going to depend on how restrictive the god is and of course, the DM in question. We normally try out variant rules for a single session and if they stick then we adopt them; this was one that made sense to try it and has added some flavour to evil aligned clerics by keeping it.

Another knock on effect of this is that the game becomes a bit less combat focused (the amount of times Mike suggests to flee or get away, well, its definitely once per session!).