An RPG Without A Dedicated Healer

Kitsou

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I definitely wouldn't want the stereotypical 'Healer*****' in my party.

A good solution would be a character, that heals, but also does other important spells.

Or solely lifesteal.

But the best solution I've seen yet, is a combination of challenging fights but complete healing of health and mana at the end of each battle. This way you can freely use all your skills for the battle and enjoy it throughoutly, without having to worry about fights in the future, for which you otherwise would need to save mana.

The fights normally take around 1 to 2 minutes and you should be able to survive with at least half health against normal enemies. Combined with a little bit of random heal or lifesteal, this can create some interesting fights.
 
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BloodletterQ

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Looking at my concept, I think I have an idea where to go with a healing class- a balanced one that is going to be good for dealing with magic users although I suppose that would only be situational 

As a recap:

Warriors focus on damage and can tank.

Magi focus on elemental damage.

Guardians focus on reducing damage.

Rogues focus on items and are lesser DPSers.

Archers deal critical hits better and use debuffs.

The new class, the Pilgrim, focuses on countering magic and healing.

Of course you can mix and match although some combinations such as a Warrior/Magus or a Guardian/Archer may be unwise.
 

Drackomordain

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This is actually mainly dependent on what type of challenges you want to present to the player.

A dedicated healer can open up several mechanics that are not available if healing is in short supply.

Developing your encounters will tell you if you need a dedicated healer or not.
 

lithkast

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Cleric the hell out of the healer imo. Heals, buffs, debuffs, and is pretty effective at combat.

Clerics are the way to go
 

NPC

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Random thought that came to mind: what if there was a passive regeneration stat (idk 4% per turn or something), but when you went to the back line, damage is reduced, a flat amount is healed and regen is increased to 8%?

It would be a proactive way to stop the action from disappating.
 

littleyuri

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It's a good thing. One great game for instance that doesn't have this "dedicated healer", would be Suikoden I and II. Riou, the mc, could be your main damage dealer, but because of his innate runes, he could also act as a side-healer, so that all the other party members could focus on damage and/or magic protection. (Same would be said for Suiko I.)
 
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lithkast

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The problem I'd have with a passive regeneration stat is that either 1. It will be not enough healing to really help or 2. healing would get to a point that battles become a joke.  

If the enemy boss is hitting you for 4k each turn, and you have 9999 HP, you only heal 800 HP per turn.  You're still dead after 2 and a half turns in the back row.  Even if you reduce the damage to 2k (cutting it by 50% in the back row) you still only regenerate less than half the damage he is doing to you.  

HP regen is never a good solution for dedicated healing.

People miss the point here though.  Many JRPG's don't even have dedicated healers.  Most healers buff allies, debuff enemies, and support their team as a whole, while healing.  That role is a very important one.

You can have a RPG without a dedicated healer.  JRPG's and RPG's in general have been doing it for decades.
 
 

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In my game, there isn't a dedicated healer, but there is a class that can throw AOE heals after using an instant cast skill where they can change their weapons during battle. They also have elemental grenades too, but the class works like Final Fantasy X's Rikku, where the grenades require materials to be "mixed." So whenever they use a heal grenade, it costs, let's say 2 healing powder and 1 magic grenade shell. 

Point being is that you don't need a dedicated healer at all, but do offer the player the ability to mess around with skills that the game can keep a good balance. :)
 

Clangeddin

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It depends on how you balance the encounters.

In several mmorpgs dedicated healers and tanks are sought after (in group content) because of the high damage dealt by enemies combined with their high health and CC immunities (a group of dps only would not manage).

Jrpgs are usually bloated with trash fights (the random encounter system makes this even worse), full of relatively harmless monsters with low health that's why dedicated non-dpsers are usually seen as a waste.

I don't dislike dedicated characters (healers, tanks, support, cc, ecc...), but for them to shine, fights have to REQUIRE them, otherwise, the dps only route will always be superior (because it's faster). And this has to be generally true for most fights, not only to a few boss fights here and there.

If you don't want the dedicated healers (or tanks or any non-dpser in general), then going with lots of easy and short fights is probably the best design. Then you can either go with an automatic full restore (HP) when battle is over, or just make healing item (usable by everyone) relatively cheap. Personally I do not like this kind of design and I prefer dedicated roles/classes.
 
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Nivlacart

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I hate how if there's a game with a dedicated healer, it's a necessity.

But at the same time, a game without a dedicated healer is hell. I've been playing Xenoblade. It's really tough without someone who can heal.
 

Lowell

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Dedicated healers are bad when they're done wrong. Not every game needs one and at the same time, certain games require them. For example, Etrian Odyssey games tend to have both Dedicated and Off-Healers to support the party due to it's structure allowing you to mix and match your classes as you see fit. While it's not necessary to have a dedicated healer, not having any form of healing is a pretty foolish move.

On a side note, a Dedicated Healer is as bad as you make them as you design their skills. They don't necessary have to only be able to heal, but at the same time they shouldn't be striking nearly as hard as your main attackers as this could easily throw off balance. You also need to think outside the box when making them with things such as what kind of healing they provide such as physical/magical, and what kind of support skills their class would allow.
 

Wavelength

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Something that's been mulling in my mind as this topic keeps getting new responses... healing in turn-based RPGs generally makes them less interesting.  If enemies use it, it makes the fight longer without presenting threat (in and of itself) to the player.  If players use it, it often allows for the reversal of any and all mistakes in combat, and indirectly makes the fight longer as well (because to have any perception of "challenge", the bosses are boosted to fifty times the player's HP to force the player to use those heals).  If healing skills are not overpowered (to the point where a dedicated healer is nearly necessary and healing ruins the balance of combat), then most players won't want to use healing (or defensive buffs) because they can complete the combat quicker - and just as easily - without their use.

So I feel like part of the question becomes "How do we make healing itself interesting and rewarding in a turn-based RPG?"  Choosing "Heal 3" and selecting a target is not that interesting in and of itself.  In Action RPGs (or other actiony games like MOBAs) the concept can work because there's the threat of the healer being targeted by enemies and a very real skill involved (on the part of the healer and her party) in keeping the healer safe while she does her thing - and you can even make it more interesting by adding range limitations to those heals.  In Turn-Based RPGs this often gets lost in translation, and even with a "Threat" system that puts healing at the top of threat generators, I feel like the tactics would still be pretty straightforward.

I've long been a fan of conditional or situational heals for non-dedicated healers (it feels rewarding to activate since some players think of HP as a "score" as we discussed in the "What does HP mean to you?" topic), which allow for the design of tighter gameplay mechanisms since (if well-designed) we don't need to plan around the player simply negating their mistakes with reliable healing several times during the course of the battle.  But for a dedicated healer - whose primary advantage in combat is being able to heal allies who have other advantages - how is she ever going to be both balanced and interesting?  How is she going to feel rewarding in combat, while not being overpowered or more "necessary" than her allies, and not cause combat to simply take twice as long (and feel half as dangerous) once she's in the party?

The best solution I can think of is to reverse the other utility that we usually find in a dedicated healer - give her very high offensive capability in addition to the heals, but make her one of the squishiest characters in the game, with poor defensive stats and possibly maluses on her heals that make her even easier to target or KO.  The battle would largely revolve around keeping her (and her specifically) alive while you blast enemies, but would do so in an exciting and relatively quick way, and would create a real player choice where you could remove her from the party in favor of another combat role and still win the game's tougher battles (and in addition she'd feel just as good as anyone else in easy battles where healing isn't needed).  This is still probably an incomplete solution, though, since it's adding other mechanics around the character to make her more interesting but it still doesn't make healing itself into something that feels great.

Ideas?
 

ash55

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Going to echo what others have said. I like Healers and I think the trinity in RPGs is very important to give each character a unique identity, but it's easy to screw up a dedicated healer's design. Making it so their most useful ability is a boring Cure spell is not very interesting. I would say make the character Support primarily, and Healer secondary.

I like things that make you seriously consider how to play your Healer.

So one simple mechanic is Stance switching. This might be a good choice and reflect the story if your Healer is two twin characters, a two-headed creature, a Taoist religious type [like Zenyatta from Overwatch] or has severe mood swings. In an offensive stance, all of your party receives a buff to their attacking abilities, and while in a harmony stance, your party receives increased healing / defence.

From there you could have further mechanics. Offence stance may for example (lock out your heavy heals and) make minor heals restore MP rather than drain MP. So the stance system now becomes a form of resource management too, and you have to get the timing and order of your spells correct in order to do maximum Healing. The longer you're in your defensive stance, the stronger your heals become, or the longer you're in offensive stance, the stronger your MP regeneration becomes, so you have to weigh up the gains and losses when deciding to switch.

I think these sorts of systems can really make a Healer have a ton of depth and make them an integral and fun part of the team.
 
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KoldBlood

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I'm not sure about making healing itself interesting. It feels to me like one of those mechanics similar to a slip damage state, there's not too much going on "under-the-hood" so to speak. It's more of a strategy/challenge mechanic for the player to use/overcome. A similar view can be placed on Healing Potions. They, at their most basic level, allow any character to use the healing skill of the healer without MP (sometimes to a limited quantity) but the way it works is no different from the skill itself, yet no one complains that drinking a potion is boring (even though it pretty much is).

That said, I think it's not so much about making healing interesting as it is about making the character who is burdened with the healing skill (I say "burdened" because as we've discussed this character is usually unable to contribute to the party in any other way as they stay on permanent healing duty) more interesting to play.

My take on a healer is as more of a "jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none". To begin with healing skills are not her only forte (in fact, my healer has the biggest most varied set of skills in the game, don't worry skills in my game are grouped together in categories). In truth, I look at her as less of a "Healer" and more of a "Support Unit", her strength and defense are a middle ground between the main physical and magical damage dealers. This means that while she can't output or take the most physical or magical damage she can definitely throw and take blows along with the rest of the team, shortening battles to a degree and causing her to be mostly neutral in terms of damage type effectiveness against her. Furthermore, she is the only one with access to the light magics in the game making her a powerful attacker against dark/undead enemies. She, of course, has access to the healing abilities that (depending on the equipment you give her) are not much more powerful than the standard potion. She has access to a wide array of buffs that can be applied both in and out of battle and also persist after battle (for the remaining turns). The offense buffs are enough to boost her power to match the physical/magical effectiveness with the others in the party. Defensive buffs can allow her to take a break from healing and focus on attack and support or bring her inline with the others. Her physical skill set contains skills like a multi-hitting attack that when used against defense weak enemies can potentially cause more damage than the physical damage dealer's attacks. A defense piercing stab that can make quick work of defense heavy enemies. A special guard technique that can negate almost all damage and stops status effects, and many more. This isn't even getting into the whole equipment thing I've got going that can change how effectively she performs each role.

The point is, I've tried to give the player a lot good options both offensively and defensively that make her use in battle more than just: heal, heal, heal, heal, heal, heal... During play testing (granted this might be a little biased as I haven't got the chance to let others test it yet) I've caught myself thinking "do I really need to heal now or should I use X skill and try to wipe them out?"

I think the trick is to make the character his/herself more interesting to play. Just because they have access to a healing ability doesn't mean that it should be the only thing they can do the entire battle. With the amount of good/useful skills I've provided to her its becomes hard for the player to want to just heal all the time and sometimes it's not the most optimal choice to win the battle.
 
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jonthefox

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Re: Wavelength's post, this is something I struggle with too, and not just about healing, but magic in general.  I think offensive spells and healing both "feel good" in the sense that you're zapping enemies or you are recovering the hp of your party member who has taken a bad beating, and both of these generally feel good to the player in the immediate sense of killing the enemies and keeping your party out of danger.  The problem with these, I find, is in the more long-term sense...it feels abusive (not to mention cliche) to be able to just press "heal3" whenever things go bad, or even to just press "fire3" and win the encounter in a single turn.   Essentially, I think it falls under the umbrella of the issue of magic being overpowered.  One way to mitigate this is through cost, and I do think this is important, but I don't know if cost alone is enough -- you don't want to reduce it too much, because it's not fun if the player has to be really stingy with their skills.  

Here's an idea I've been considering...whenever anyone casts a spell, their defense is heavily debuffed for 1 turn.  I'll justify it in my game world because you have to concentrate really hard to "channel" the spell or whatever, which means you're not paying attention to the giant axe that's whirling in your direction, etc..

I feel like this could present some interesting choices.  One of your chars just got pummeled pretty bad, so you want to heal him - but doing so is going to leave you vulnerable.  If the really hard-hitting enemy happens to target you or use his most powerful ability on you that turn, it's going to mess you up bad.  Maybe you know the enemy's attack pattern so you decide to wait til the following turn to heal the person, so you cast a defense buff on him instead hoping he'll survive til the following turn.  Point is, it opens up new possibilities and choices, rather than just the "he's weak, so the optimal move is heal, otherwise cast fire, rinse repeat."  

What do other people think?
 
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hadecynn

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I'm designing three different types of healing mechanics/classes in my game, let me share one of them here. Do note that there are a 4 things about my overall battle system that must be taken into account, here's the first 3:

1. All HP/MP is restored after each encounter, so resource management issues only exist within each encounter independently.

2. "Healing Items" (in the sense of Potions, Ether, Elixirs, Phoenix Downs, etc.) do not exist.

3. Non-healers (the DPS and Tanks) might have a skill or two for healing themselves that might last them through ordinary encounters, but you need at least one of the three types of healers in your party for boss fights (specifically, all boss fights are designed with a 4-member party composition of at least 1 tank, 1 healer, 1 DPS, and the last one being whichever you want to double-up on based on your play style preference)

Having said that, my setup would put me squarely in the face of this "how do we make the dedicated healer interesting" problem. 

Conceptually, this particular healer is a magic-based DPS/Healer rolled into one. Her offensive skills are tuned to be at the same level as the DPSs' offensive skills, which means that for the normal encounters that don't require healing, she is an extra fully-legitimate DPS you have in the party (output higher than the Tanks, actually). Given that MP is recovered after every battle, you are encouraged (and expected) to be using all her offensive skills to the fullest extent to help kill things faster without worrying about the need to conserve MP. I made this design choice because one of the primary reasons that dedicated healers are "boring" and seen as a liability in traditional RPGs is that, not only might they not have offensive/support skills, but that even if they do, players usually shy way from using them because players aren't usually given enough information about a dungeon's length or the boss fights' difficulties to be able to actually plan out and manage resources effectively.

Having taken care of the normal encounters, let's talk about how the healer actually functions in boss encounters. Mechanically, this healer class is all about resource management. To start, all her spells have %-based MP costs. Next, this might sound counter-intuitive, but healing spells costs much MORE than offensive spells. In fact, the equivalent of a Cure 1 (Single-target heal) costs 30% of Max MP, whereas the default, go-to attack spell costs 3% of Max MP. This is where one of the mechanics come in: every time the healer uses an offensive spell, she gains the state "Dissipated Aether", the effect of which is "Reduces MP costs of all spells by 50% for the next 3 turns". With this setup, I'm giving players a certain amount of freedom in terms of how much they want to balance their offensive capabilities, defensive capabilities, and resource. The other half of the equation necessary to make this whole thing work, the resource regeneration aspect, works as follows.

The Healer has two instant-cast skills, the first, "Convert", will turn 30% of her Max HP into 30% of max MP, and has a cooldown of 7 turns. The second, "Aether Stream", also an instant-cast with a cooldown of 7 turns, will immediately recover 5% of Max MP, and then place an MP-regeneration state that recovers 15% of Max MP at the end of each turn for 3 turns. Note that these numbers are deliberate. "Convert" can act as a panic button if the player find themselves completely out of MP for an unmitigated (no Dissipated Aether cost cut) Cure and needs one right away. On the other hand, "Aether Stream" guarantees that, even at 0 MP to start, the player can use the 3% MP offensive spell during the turn they pop the cooldown, and then have enough MP for the next three turns (overlapping with "Dissipated Aether"), to allow three casts of cost-mitigated Cure 1. The fact that both of these instant skills have 7 turns for their cooldowns means that with some good planning, it is entirely possible to keep her MP up as the player juggles between offense and defense. To borrow from MMO-terminology, the player needs to think about skill rotations when playing this healer.

Of course, if the equivalent of Cure 1 already costs 30% Max MP, you can imagine that Party Cure and Revive costs even more, and they do. Party Cure costs 45%, and Revive costs a whooping 60% (Deaths are not easily recoverable). You can quickly see that the methods for MP regeneration mentioned above won't be able to keep up with even just one or two uses of these higher-level healing skills. This is also deliberate. The healer has a toggle skill that, when activated, will cut the power of her offensive spells by 75%, but give her a permanent 20% MP regeneration as long as the toggle is on. If we consider for her to be in DPS-mode in normal encounters, in DPS/Hybrid mode with the above mentioned juggling, then this is her full Healing mode. The toggle also has a cooldown to force players to "commit" into this low-DPS mode for a few turns.

This is where the 4th thing about my overall battle system that I mentioned earlier comes into play:

4. Most major boss encounters have enrage timers, for the non-MMO-raiders, this means that the boss will unconditionally wipe the party and cause the player to lose after X amount of time/turns.

Of course, the number of turns is lenient enough to allow for a lot of variability in player skill, level, equipment, etc. but its there to basically force players to be conscious of their overall damage output and discourage the stalling (boring) strategies.

All in all, very broadly speaking, these are the things I have done to avert the problems of having a dedicated healer which you could think about and develop your own mechanics around:

1. Make offensive output from the Healer meaningful and significant (with the use of enrage timers)

2. Instead of only trading offense for healing, make resource management a third part of the equation to add a new dimension (literally) of depth to gameplay (With interplay between the different skills, instant casts, and toggle)

3. Give players room to learn, fine-tune, and master the subtleties that the freedom this system allows (its not just an on/off decision. For beginners, turning the toggle on is definitely the safest/easiest way to play in terms of healing, but as they get more experience with the system, they will start learning to not rely on the toggle and understand how to manage their MP and cooldowns; as a result, their healer's damage output goes up, and the difficulty will scale to demand more and more of it)

Thanks for reading!
 
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Riyuist

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Shamans can heal and curse at the same time.

It's totally up to you which skill would you focus more on :)
 

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