Today’s post is a bit of a different one. This one failed to garner much traction on r/DnDBehindTheScreen, though I chalk that up mostly to when it was submitted (I live in New Zealand, so hitting peak times for posting on Reddit can be difficult).
This post concerns a concept that I developed several campaigns ago; Hire-a-Healer. It will stand as both an outline of the concept as well as a repository of character ideas to use for the concept.
An Out-Of-Character Background
The origin of this concept came from something many campaigns inevitably experience. A character that had been in the party was now no longer in the party. In my specific case this was due to a player leaving the country, but it can also obviously be caused by character death or retirement. In this particular case, the character was a cleric, and without them the party had no easy access to powerful healing and resurrection magic. They were around 7th level at this time, and were starting to take on some major threats, so losing their access to resurrection especially was a major issue.
A Disclaimer of Roles
I want to get out of the way here that I do not believe in ‘roles’ in DnD like ‘Tank’, ‘Support’, ‘DPS’, etc. Obviously different classes are going to be slightly more suited to carrying out certain tasks such as healing, or debuffing enemies, or absorbing enemy blows, and so on. Still, the idea of ‘party roles’ does not truly apply in DnD 5e.
That being said, having no access to healing magic or resurrection magic leaves a gaping hole in a DnD party, and that’s a problem that this particular party needed to fix.
The party was gearing up for a delve, having been asked to clear out the old Brathmir Forgeworks so that it could resume operation after centuries of dormancy. The party, having agreed to this task, were sat in a tavern discussing the issue of now having now healer after their cleric moved on to greener pastures. They had the great idea of asking around to see if anyone in the town knew of someone with the sort of skills they were looking for. Lo and behold, the innkeeper new just such a person, a somewhat haughty and stern Aasimar by the name of Josiah. Known for his no-nonsense attitude, Josiah was always willing to lend his prolific healing abilities to anyone able to pay for them.
So the party met with Josiah, and after a tense negotiation wherein Josiah’s disdain for the Fallen Aasimar in the party was made extensively clear they agreed to take him on with a daily retainer, plus extra per resurrection.
Mechanically, Josiah is a Warlock with a Celestial patron. He carries a number of revivify-capable diamonds on him at all times, but requires reimbursement for any that he has to use. In combat he rolls initiative as normal, and on his turn he acts essentially as a healbot. If someone is down, he uses some amount of his healing magic to get them back up. If someone is dead, he either pops Revivify or Gentle Repose on them to make sure he can keep them alive. If neither of those is the case, he stays out of harm’s way.
He is also an actual character. I made a point of building him as someone with whom the party could have interesting interactions. By playing him off the Fallen Aasimar in the party there was an interesting source of tension, but one the party had to put up with as, again, they desperately needed access to healing magic. I treated Josiah the same way I would treat any recurring NPC in terms of his characterisation. He just also happened to bring useful in-combat abilities to the table.
If you’re going to essentially make what is a temporary DMPC, make them an interesting addition to the party. Obviously you’re not trying to put the spotlight on you, so instead make them someone who can help put the spotlight on the player characters, bringing new opportunities for interesting roleplay.
And remember, the first sentence of that last paragraph is key. This character is temporary. They are with the party until this particular task is complete, at which point the party will pay up and part ways with Josiah.
Josiah won’t leave this county, so once the party moves on that’s it. If they need a healer again, they’re going to have to find someone else…
So let’s say your party never gets another character with high-level healing and resurrection. There’s always the old trick of having a temple in town that offers resurrections for a price, but sometimes that doesn’t cut it (especially if the party is at the point where combat involves dying and getting brought back possibly more than once). Here are some of the healers you can populate your world with, who the party can track down anytime they’re looking for such a person.
Josiah Luthwaite – Protector Aasimar, Celestial Warlock (Level range: 5-9)
– Josiah has been doing this for a long time, probably longer than your party has even been together for. He probably seems aloof, but to him he’s being a consummate professional. Staying detached is key in this line of work. Yeah, you think you’re the best band of plucky heroes to ever walk the land, but he’s been hired by dozens of parties like you, and he’s seen his fair share not last a year.
Louella Grovine – Forest Gnome, Circle of Dreams Druid (Level range: 9+)
– Louella has been tending to much of the lands in these parts for centuries, and is always willing to lend a hand to good-hearted adventurers sorely in need of help. Quick with a healing balm, and able to bring out a Resurrection spell if things go south, Louella tends to adventurers the same way she tends to all living creatures: with tenderness and patience.
Magz With the Healin’ Spellz – Half-Orc, Divine Soul Sorcerer (Level range: 3-7)
– Everyone in deez parts knows Magz, he’s da one with da healin’ spellz. Magz lives in an orc tribe a little ways north of here, but deyz friendly onez, ‘specially if you can beat one of ‘em in a fight. And boy does Magz love a good fight, coz that’s when he gets to use his healin’ spellz. Magz don’t need much in the ways of pay, but he’s probably not gonna be interested if he doesn’t think he’ll get a good story out of helpin’ ya.
Healbot Sigma (Siggy) – Warforged, Fighter (Level range: 1-3)
– An old relic from the war, Healbot Sigma, or Siggy as their unit captain apparently used to call them, is an automated battlefield surgeon. With their excellent defences, Siggy has no issue staying in the middle of the action. They can’t do any magic, but with a number of healer’s kits on hand (and the ‘Healer’ feat) they have no issue patching up adventurers. Someone must have taught them some apothecarial skills at some point too, since they always seems to have a couple of healing potions on them. They tend to charge for those though. Who even knows what that thing spends its money on…
Cardinal Mays – Human, Life Domain Cleric (Level range: 7-13)
– The Temple of the Dawn in Greybanner offers resurrections to those with coin, but if you’re *really* loaded then the cardinal who does the resurrections is willing to take up private work. Strictly speaking this is a donation to the temple, but we’ve all seen the state it’s in. If all that money was really going to the temple the masonry wouldn’t be in such a state. Still, who’s going to call him out on it? He heals the sick and injured for free, and there’s not many churches willing to do that these days.
Octavia LeMare – Half-Elf, Oath of Redemption Paladin (Level range: 1-3, 9+)
– Octavia has a… reputation. For most of her life she rolled with the Upland Freebooters, and when she ascended to captaincy of her own vessel she became dangerous and cruel. Her crimes are well-documented and if you’re not already familiar with them you’re welcome to check the city records (or just ask any of the gossiping locals). She was taken down, of course, and after serving her hundred-year sentence has chosen to continue her penance by swearing a sacred oath. She will serve anyone if she believes it will mean her doing some good in this world before she passes on.
The List Goes On
If you’re willing to dip in to homebrew and UA content there’s even more possibilities (I would personally recommend the Sawbones Rogue by Irish Bandit, and a modified Theurge Wizard can also work wonders).
The next time your players are sitting there rolling up characters and they all realise no-one has any healing skills, rather than have them feel pressured to change what they’re playing you can instead introduce this. At all levels of play, all around the world, there are people with just the skills the party needs willing to lend out their services. After all, they aren’t the only adventuring party out there, and plenty of those ones don’t have a healer either…