View Full Version : D&D 5e/Next Back from the Dead - Embracing the lack of healing for Undead PC race?

2018-09-16, 04:24 AM
I've been tinkering with and playtesting an undead race for D&D 5e, and one of the issues with playing as undead is that many forms of healing expressly don't work on undead (or constructs, RIP in spaghetti Mega Man). I initially tried to "fix" this with certain racial features such as a self-heal, but now I wonder if I might have been looking at this wrong. I recently bought the game Dungeons 2, in which the undead faction also has very few healing options available to them, but they are able to easily bring dead units back to life. Perhaps I should embrace the lack of healing available and instead just make them really hard to kill.

To this effect, one of my initial "fixes" was to make them auto-stabilize at 0 HP, with certain weaknesses that can be exploited to permakill the undead PC (including the most common solution to undead: fire). Since so few healing options exist for undead, dropping to 0 means you'll be down for 1d4 hours but also that you rarely need to worry about outright dying. Hmm, maybe when you wake up after 1d4 hours, you should regain more than 1 HP, say up to half your max HP (although at that point maybe I should just give them a racial regeneration ability)? Or maybe you can spend hit dice to regain HP when you wake up, as if you had just finished a short rest? Maybe it counts as a short rest? Or... a long rest? Hmm, hmm.

I mean, I could just homebrew a spell that heals undead, or give them a racial feature that makes healing spells work on them, but where's the fun in that? What are some more interesting things I could do with this?

2018-10-10, 12:21 AM
If I'm not mistaken zombies have an ability that makes them surprisingly hard to kill once you actually have them at low HP. Have you considered giving that to your player race?

2018-10-11, 07:07 AM
If I'm not mistaken zombies have an ability that makes them surprisingly hard to kil once you actually have them at low HP. Have you considered giving that to your player race?

They do indeed. (https://www.5thsrd.org/gamemaster_rules/monsters/zombie/)

2018-10-11, 07:27 AM
There are other ways you can gain more health for undead. All the temp HP work on undead, also healing from healing kits work on undead.

You could also give the undead PC a special ability like
Consume Living
When you kill a creature of at least 1/2 CR of your level, you may spending 1 minute feasting on it body. Doing so regenerates used hit dice equal to 1/2 the creatures CR (rounded up).

So, you are a level 4 PC and you kill a CR 2 creature. After the battle, you may spend 1 minute eating the creature. When you do, you regain 1 hit dice (if you have used it) that you can now use during a short rest to heal up. It's a little complicated, but it does prevent the bag of rats silliness.

It's not fast healing, but it gives you the ability to recover better than other PCs during a short rest. If you want it to be more immediate, you can also give the Undead PC the ability to use a certain amount of HD as an action to heal once per long rest.

2018-10-11, 07:45 AM
I think that the Undead Fortitude on the RAW zombies would be a decent replacement. They can't die, but they can't get healed from the brink either, so it'll be slow going, unless you're using a gritty realism variant.

Let's spin it out to a full mechanic:

UnDeath Saving Throws

Whenever an undead PCs starts their turn with 0 hit points, they are unable to stabilize, and instead must make a special saving throw, called an undeath saving throw, to determine whether you stay down. Like death saving throws, this one isnít tied to any ability score. As you're unable to either creep closer to death, as you were already dead, and unable to hang onto life, as you were not alive, the undeath saving throws represent the frustrating existential angst generated by the inability to die.

Roll a d20. If the roll is 10 or higher, you succeed. Otherwise, you fail. A success or failure has no effect by itself. On your third success, you regain 1 hit point. On your third failure, you stay unconscious for 1 hour before attempting undeath saving throws again. The successes and failures donít need to be consecutive; keep track of both until you collect three of a kind. The number of both is reset to zero when you regain any hit points.

Rolling 1 or 20:
When you make an undeath saving throw and roll a 1 on the d20, you don't take another saving throw for a number of hours equal to the number of saving throws you had failed plus 1d4. If you roll a 20 on the d20, you regain 1 hit point.

Damage at 0 Hit Points:
If you take any radiant damage or if the damage taken is from a critical hit, you suffer instant death.

2018-10-11, 08:52 AM
I'm not sure if it would be balanced, but another option is to have the undead PC gain hit points from necrotic damage rather than actually taking damage.

You could for instance give the undead PC immunity to necrotic damage and let it regain hit points equal to Ĺ the necrotic damage taken. That way inflict wounds would work similar to cure wounds if you cast it on yourself. At later levels spells like circle of death is something you can use to harm enemies around you while healing yourself.

2018-10-11, 05:50 PM
Alternatively, since you have a mortal soul in an undead body, you could adjust how healing affects you.

How about "You can be affected by healing spells as though you were not undead. Rather than gaining hitpoints from these abilities, you instead gain the same value as temporary hitpoints."

It's not AS good as normal healing, but it is still useful, and can even be better if someone charges you up before combat.