Healing & Aging (Again)

Previously I brought up the idea of aging as a potential side effect of healing magic. My original method was cumbersome (1 day of aging per HP healed) and potentially not salient enough to the player. Talysman also weighed in, and suggested that there could be a chance of years worth of aging per die of healing rather than a smaller guaranteed amount of aging. Talysman’s method avoids the need for extra rolls, but the probabilities result in aging being a bit too frequent for me.

I do think the idea of aging one year every once in a while rather than aging days for every instance of healing would work much better in terms of bookkeeping, and also be more salient to the player. I personally don’t mind an extra roll, since healing is infrequent. Based on these principles, here is a revised proposal:

Whenever a character is healed magically, there is a percentage chance to age one year equal to the number of HP so healed, minus the character’s constitution modifier. For example, if a character with 10 (average) constitution is magically healed 6 HP, there is a 6 percent chance of ageing. If a character had a +1 constitution modifier, the same healing would result in a 5 percent chance of aging.

The percentage can obviously be tuned for any specific campaign. For example, if you want the aging to be rarer, you could make it % equal to half the HP healed, or a flat 1 in 20 chance (essentially, a fumbled constitution check). I kind of like having the number of HP healed and the character’s constitution influence the result, however, and HP healed = percentage chance of aging is really easy to remember. Also, if natural healing is 1 HP per day, that means that the recover of 350+ HP is the natural “worth” of one year of aging. Healing the same number of HP magically over the same time period would result in about 3.5 times more aging, making magical healing not a good alternative for the common cases.

9 thoughts on “Healing & Aging (Again)

  1. waywardwayfarer

    Now that’s elegant. Plus, I think rolling for a chance of something bad happening is scarier to most players than just having some lesser bad thing happen outright.

    1. Brendan

      Yeah, definitely. Most everybody is intrigued by the slot machine lever.

      I think this is part of the reason why Jeff’s carousing system works so well.

  2. shortymonster

    I would stick to the percentage chance based on number of points healed. The higher level the character, the more points to be healed/could be healed/need healing, means the risk is that much greater, and needs to be thought about a lot more. Might get players to think before charging into combat when they can easily survive 20-30 points of damage and get them healed later.

  3. Keith Davies

    Another way comes to mind: every time a healing die comes up with the maximum value, the target ages (a month, a season, a year).

    cure light wounds stands a 12.5% chance of aging you a month, cure moderate wounds stands a 21.9% chance of aging you one month and a 1.6% chance of aging you two.

    A little more bookkeeping than chance per year, a lot less than counting days, no extra rolls required. I haven’t examined this method to see how fast characters age in comparison to the other methods, but it probably lands somewhere between the two.

    1. Brendan

      That’s pretty much what Talysman suggested, though changing the aging increment to months does address my major issue with Talysman’s system (that aging was too frequent). At the cost of slightly more bookkeeping though. I think it would work fine at the table, probably, in any case. Your method does have the slightly perverse side effect of making the player hoping against rolling the highest healing number, but that’s not really a problem.

    2. Keith Davies

      Ah, so it is. I hadn’t read his post yet (as should be obvious).

      The perversion of not wanting the best rolls did occur to me. I thought about making it happen on ones, but that just adds insult to injury. This, at least, you could say “you absorbed so much life energy you’re older now”… and at least they got lots of hit points out of it.

      There is precedent elsewhere. I have seen weapon fatigue rules that would cause weapon damage on the highest rolls.

      For something like this, you probably do want it to come up fairly frequently. One day per hit point healed is a bookkeeping exercise and part of the spell. Boring. A year every time you roll 5+ (which on d8 is way too often) is also almost a tax, and downright scary because you end up really old really fast. I think a month is about right and 1/diesize (do you use d6 or d8 for your healing magic?) means it comes up frequently enough to be remembered, but infrequently enough that it is expected.

      I just realized a couple of alternatives you could use.

      Every double that shows up in the roll, the character ages. Possibly that number of time units (you might want to go to weeks for this; rolling three threes would be nine time units because there are three pairs in there… and if you ace it and roll 18, you’re looking at 18 time units, ouch). On the other hand, this makes cure light wounds safe again because you can’t have doubles with only one die.

      Roll an aging die with the actual healing dice, presumably a different color. Any dice that match the aging die indicate aging has happened. This gets rid of the “best rolls are worst” perversion you mentioned, unless they get unlucky. As the previous alternative, you could have the amount of aging depend on the value of the aging die (aging die value times the number of healing dice rolling that value).

    3. Brendan

      Talysman plays OD&D, so I’m sure he would use a d6. 5+ (if I’m understanding the notation correctly) still implies a 1 in 3 chance though, which seems pretty high.


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