RE: Healing Surge Redux vs. “Bennies” System

Alright, this blog post is in response to a comment made by Mike back on my blog post about my 4E House Rules. It was in response to my revised Healing Surge system, which essentially added a mechanic similar to the “Bennies” system from Savage Worlds/Deadlands: Reloaded to 4E. In essence, in addition to the usual Second-Wind healings and the like, I made them available to spend for either a better critical chance, an added +1d6 to an attack or skill roll, or simply to re-roll a failure. Mike asked why not just implement a “Bennies” pool equal to the Healing Surges?

In my opinion, if one was so inclined to do that, more power to them. I think that would be awesome fun in a very high-powered, high-fantasy pulp D&D. Hell, I’d be tempted to run a VERY high speed, swashbuckling cinematic style Eberron campaign using that. But something to think about is how high powered, and un-restrictive that is. Long story short: I went with this method because I wanted the bonuses to be at a price; to be a decision the players have to make. A separate Bennie pool would be a free bonus system, which would most likely be hoarded until boss fights or spent like candy. When it’s tied to their Healing Surges, however, it’s two things to me: A tempting choice with consequences (which makes it even more dramatic to use), as well as a mechanic I can justify in narrative terms.

We’ll look at the Fighter in my party as an example, as he’s walking around with 10 Healing Surges and ridiculous hitpoints. In theory, one of his healing surges for himself could almost (if not completely) heal the Wizard if I recall. (Don’t quote me, but it’s pretty close.) Giving him a separate pool of bonuses would just make him even more ridiculous to deal with, all while keeping his precious healing surges for his Second Wind and when the Warlord triggers more effects to let him blow those surges (which usually get a charisma modifier tacked onto those, which at Paragon level is equally ridiculous).  Now, keeping those bad boys tied to his Healing Surges, he still has the disposal of “MOAR POWAH” and the capacity to push himself to some frightening results. However, it’s at a cost and a risk. Going against a nasty dragon, those Healing Surges could be the difference between victory, defeat, or being able to flee to fight another day.

My narrative justification from the system comes from how Healing Surges are portrayed in the rules. A combatant catches his second wind, able to keep on fighting a bit longer. A Warlord shouts an inspiring word to his ally, and suddenly a near fallen soldier finds the motivation to stand up and take charge. A party of adventurers are lost in the jungles, and wind up taking a few hours longer to their destination through rough terrain, causing them to arrive ready but obviously fatigued.

Once I was having a conversation with Tim Kirk from Silverlion Studios, and he made the comparison of 4E’s use of Healing Surges and Hit Points to how Lord of the Rings Online uses “Morale” instead of Health. In a sense, I like this flavor with 4th Edition. When I see Cleric’s healing their allies, 4th Edition flavor almost portrays it like the Cleric isn’t just invoking the power of the divine to do the work, but using it to assist the hero to muster up the power from within themselves. Healing Surges seem to be a measure of a character’s determination and drive; it’s derived from a stat that represents endurance, and obviously physical performance affects it if failing various Skill Challenges result in a penalty to it.

So going back to tacking on my bonuses based on the Healing Surges, it’s a system that can be justified in the role play as the character pushes him or herself to the limit. Re-rolling a failure is that last minute, quick response when you realize you screwed up and quickly correct your wrong. Tacking on to your skill based rolls, or combat attacks, is taking that moment to completely shut off the world around you, hone in on your goal and make that drive to get it right the first time. The increased critical is exerting enough force or will in the hopes of receiving the best, ultimate effect to your abilities at the risk of wearing yourself out for nothing.

5 thoughts on “RE: Healing Surge Redux vs. “Bennies” System”

  1. I did something similar. I combined Action Points and Healing Surges into Surges. In addition to using Surges to take a Second Wind or get an extra action, they are also used to fuel Daily Powers, both the character’s and their magic item’s. I also evened out how many Surges each class gets.

  2. Oz, that’s a pretty awesome idea. I would give everyone Defender-level surges if I did something like that just so they could do it more, but I’m curious to hear how many you gave them.

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