Healing without clerics/druids/templars/etc

This is in the context of 5e, but could be as valid for 2e

In Dark Sun, where water and food are costly, I would also expect healing resources and methods to be scarce.

While disregarding the obvious and simple answer of clerics/druids/templars/etc, what methods of healing would you expect for PCs?

In game terms, and in “novel” terms.

In novels - Denning & Abbey - there’s hardly any supernatural healing to be had. Magnus and Caleum could invoke elemental healing, Hamanu could use the old 2e psionic power of symmetry, and Telhami and Akashia could invoke the guardian of Quaraite.

But mostly people suffer and are stuck using mundane healing methods: herbs, roots, powders, saw-bone healers.

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I’d expect that on Athas, more people ‘step up’ and become classed NPCs. Being a cleric doesn’t require resources, just faith (and an adequate wisdom score), for example.

I disagree that healing would automatically be scarce.


Athas is post apocalyptic. The ONLY successful survivors are those that can heal or provide sustenance or photosynthesize psionically.

Especially since resources are so scarce. It only makes sense, especially since Athas creatures are supposed to be tougher than every other campaign setting out there in the D&D universe, and EVERYTHING is supposed to have psionic power. Flora and fauna.

The bloodlines that survive are the ones that can meet daily needs. I wouldn’t be surprised if creatures actually learn how to team up with those plants and animals that can psionically create edible and drinkable substances. The clutches of the thri kreen become a world wide phenomena.

Those who can heal a few minor wounds a day would succeed and if they reproduce, probably pass along the traits. Even among animals and plants, let alone PCs.

Genetic selection would see to it.


If you can’t bribe a Templar or pay a cleric for healing, psions/psionicists (depending on your Edition) with psychometabolism powers are your friend and should offer healing for similar rates as clerics (as well as being much easier to find than a cleric). In 3.X rules, most villages and larger settlements would have at least one psychic adept who might be the village healer, in the absence of a trained psion. Even a Wilder with the right powers might be a healer.

As others have said though, traditional herbal and healing knowledge would be much more important in Athas, and likely more common as those skills would literally be the difference between life and death for the common folk.


That’s… A bit of a loaded question in any D&D setting. What methods of healing do your PCs get when there are no dedicated healers around? :wink:

But digging into the topic a bit deeper - there’s a reason alchemy (and, by stretch, chemistry) originated in the desert cultures. European medicine relied largely on herb lore; the North Africa and Asia Minor, on the other hand, relied more on mineral medicine. Where your typical D&D healer is a herbalist of some sorts, I imagine Athas doctors would be alchemists.

I agree with @nijineko that healing would be more available than you’d expect. The rich and influential can afford to literally train themselves a personal doctor; a wastelander tribe would never go anywhere without a trained healer. It’s the vast masses of poor city people who are in real trouble: I don’t expect they get much healthcare aside from a midwife. Plagues probably hit the CSs on regular basis.

On that point: Do you think it’s possible that Veiled Alliance (or some other group) would sponsor some degree of health care to the masses? I know they’re anything but goody-two-shoes, but perhaps they’d do it just to keep plagues in check?


I intended on allowing these 5e rules for herbal healing and bard’s crafting poison.

Not mine, but still good stuff.

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Throwing this out there randomly, but there is a concept of fighting poison with poison in Asia… what if that was lifted and made literally true in Athas?

Bardic poison masters can concoct poisons that will destructively cure specific ills… but only those ills, and you’ll be sick for a week or more! Woe betide a misdiagnosis!

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There is a book called dreamsnake set in a post apocalyptic world that I think could fit athas really well in regards to healers.
the story follows snake, a member of an order of healers that uses genetically engineered snakes to heal all sort of ailments.
by giving her snakes certain elixirs and concoctions (hiding it inside lures), she alters the snake’s venom into a specific medicine (though the digestion of these substances cause violant spasms in the animal, requiring that it be held firmly to keep it from hurting itself or biting something or someone and waste the precious medicament).
The snake is then made to bite the patient, delivering the medicine in place of a syringe.
The protagonist had three snakes, a cobra, a rattlesnake and the alien dream snake, each has its own usages (I don’t remember what was the specific usage of the first two, other than that the cobra was used to heal a malignant tumor, but the dream snake was used to anesthetize patients).

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Something I just remembered was an old episode of the British scifi TV show Red Dwarf (‘Quarantine’, episode 5x04), where they had the concept of ‘positive viruses’, like luck, charisma, inspiration and reverse flu (which gives the infected a feeling of well-being and happiness even when they’ve had a tough time).

Taking that idea and marrying it with life-shaping, do you think there might be positive viruses, beneficial bacteria infections in the life-shaping lexicon? Or could there be places where positive diseases are abundant and counteract other diseases or promote the general health and recovery of the afflicted?

I thought of life-shaping because lets face it, that 's the sort of stuff the rhulisti would have done, but also its not a clerical thing - they can cure disease, wounds, blindness and poison with their existing canon of spells.

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The more I think about it, the more I realise every city-state is bound to have a Templar ‘healthcare’ bureau. The nominal mission would be to prevent outbreaks, but… Knowing how Templars work, this would definitely be twisted 180 degrees.

This is a great idea for good-aligned bards: Making a living by brewing poisons for doctors who use it as homeopathic medicine. Also extremely risky, since the bard would take a fall if something went wrong.

This very much so, too. I always imagined Athas is very big on ‘traditional genetic engineering’ (cross-breeding, etc.). It doesn’t even have to be snakes - just imagine doctors practising ‘scorpion-craft’ and ‘spider-craft’.

I mean, positive bacterial flora is a thing, as is vaccination. I don’t see why Athasians wouldn’t do the same thing, just without understanding the science behind it? :wink:

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As someone on the autism spectrum, and the apparent link to the gut biome, I agree there can be good as well as bad bacterial flora. I’m talking about an actual positive bacteria that infects but heals, not just bacteria we learn to live with or use for constructive uses.

It’s the same thing with positive viruses. A IRL vaccine isn’t a ‘good virus’, its usually a deactivated ‘bad virus’ that the body can adapt to. Retroviruses would be something different altogether if used to alter a genetic structure.

I don’t know how practical either option is in Athas, it was just the momentary remembrance of one of my favourite RD episodes (Warning, side effects may involve wearing army boots, pigtails and gingham dresses. Glove puppets called Mr Flibble may also appear on hands).

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Red Dwarf is great. I read the novels too. Hilarious.

GELF type creatures may have been created by the lifeshapers also. Perhaps ‘the Rebirth’ happened well before seas dried up.

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Redking, I just had a terrible thought…what if Athas is Rimmerworld and the Rhulisti were actually Rimmer’s clones? :scream:

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I was just listening to the crimson legion on audiobook at work the other night. There’s a scene where Rikus’ gladiators are discussing him. One of the female gladiators says in answer to the fact that Neeva won’t have sex with Rikus that she’d be willing to have sex with him if he’d use his necromancy magic to regrow her lost arm. Now given just how freaked out the gladiators are by unfamiliar magic in general and necromancy in particular the fact she’d be willing to have sex with a necromancer to regrow a limb tells me she really doesn’t have any other options available to her.

If we use this small example to be average for the world I would assume that magical healing from cleric and templars is generally out of the reach of most people. Be it too expensive or just so rare no one considers it. I think its just a brutal world where if you’re injured and aren’t tough enough to survive with your own natural healing process to probably suffer and die.

Herb lore or alchemy makes some sense to counteract some poisons and venoms but other than that I imagine most healing is just “try not move. Here’s plenty of water. Let me reset that bone. Don’t worry dude, chicks dig scars. If you’re not dead by morning we’ll bring you more water.”

An important point of order, and one of the major problems with D&D, is that hp does not equal health. So hp recovery is probably common, but recovery from sickness, poison, or wounds much harder.

Also that there appear to be no rules for lost limbs. RAW you can’t lose limbs, outside of a vorporal blade and a few odd psionic or magic or grafting effects. Despite equipment and powers that can restore or replace such.

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You make a good point Nijineko. The HP system is supposed to represent an abstract level of “damage” be it fatigue, injury, loss of vitality or what have you. I tend to describe horrific wounds during my games but just gloss over the healing aspect natural or otherwise. Perhaps I should consider going back to that system I borrowed from starwars 3e. Where HP represented vitality and the ability to turn a hit into a near miss or an extremely minor scratch. Then once you vitality is exhausted you take real damage as injuries which will kill you and directly damages your constitution score.

One of the things I liked from 4e was the inclusion of a martial healer - basically yelled at their companions to pick themselves up off the floor and stop being so soft.

Give HP in d&d really is an abstraction, it works as well as any other form of healing.

Warlords were great.

How’d you like the pronunciation of Agis?

For five novels he keeps saying Haggis. Shi-ite.

It makes sense the way they pronounce it. I always called him Aegis but since there is no E in his name Ah-ghiss makes a lot of sense. Others that I was mispronouncing: I always said Reekus instead of Rye-kus, Sasha instead of Sak-Ha and Boris instead of Boreese.

M&M introduced a fourth save “Toughness” and a condition track such replaced HP. So that’s an option.

I also thought of borrowing from Palladium and separating combat endurance from health. I like the idea of Vitality in addition to HP, criticals and bleeding and wounding effects go against Vitality, while combat “damage” (another poorly named effect which sadly reinforces the HP is health fallacy) goes against HP (originally called hits, which iirc is referencing old wargaming terminology). This lens itself to two condition tracks: a combat endurance one for HP depletion, and a physical impairment track for vitality.

Throw in critical failure and fumble tables and combat could be revamped nicely. Rolemaster is a great source of ideas for criticals and fumbles.

Make this stuff optional, however, so that groups can pick and choose