After playing some more D&D with my friend Russell over the weekend (using the introductory dungeon from Basic D&D), what struck us is just how much time 1st level characters spend resting up to go back into the dungeon. The pace is basically: fight a monster, retreat into town to rest a week, go back in and fight another monster, rinse and repeat. When even the strongest party member (the fighter with 9 HP) can be reduced to 1 or 2 HP by a single blow, and the MU can cast 1 spell a day, not resting up completely after each battle is just asking for Total Party Kill. But even if you hand-wave getting out of the dungeon, resting, and coming back to the same room, it’s a real buzz-kill. At least in 3e, the cleric will have one or two Cure Light Wounds spells that will let the party press on, and after the first adventure the party casters can easily create several scrolls (basically a 1st level scroll costs 37.5 gp and 1 xp and takes one day to make).
To address this, I propose the following House Rules:
After any combat, you can take time to bind up the wounds of the injured, which involves cleaning them, sewing them up, applying bandages, etc. Binding a character’s wounds will restore up to 1 Hit Die (maximum roll on a die for that class including any con bonuses or penalties), not to exceed the character’s full HP. It requires 1 turn (10 minutes) per HP restored, and a First Aid Kit (cost 1 gp, bandages for 10 uses). If you don’t have a First Aid Kit, a the DM’s discretion you may improvise, but the DM may rule that it’s less effective (fewer than a full HD restored) or risks disease. You may not rebind already bound wounds to get even more HP back if you are down by more than 1 HD worth of Hit Points.
example: Forrest, a 2nd level thief with a +1 Con bonus has 7 HP. During a battle he takes 6 HP, leaving him with one. After the battle he can perform First Aid on himself and heal up 5 HP (4 for Thief HD +1 for Con), so that he’s back up to 6 HP. In a subsequent battle he takes another 2 HP, down to 4. When he binds his wounds after that battle, he can only get back the 2 he just took (putting him back at 6), not a full 5. If the DM finds it too much bookkeeping to track how many hits a character has taken in a battle (qualifying them for a full HD restored by Bind Wounds), he can wave this restriction, but if he finds the players abusing it (e.g. by seeking to take a single point of damage so they can get another HD back), he should rein them in.
If you’re using the optional Skill rules, Binding Wounds is subsumed under the Healing skill; just substitute Max Hit Die for 1d3 points healed (the penalty for a natural 20 still remains 1d3).
At any point, a spell-caster (MU, Elf, or Cleric) may spend an hour to memorize (or meditate for) a single First Level spell, even if they’ve already cast all their daily First Level spells. If they haven’t already cast a First Level Spell, then one spell is forgotten to make room for the new one. Because of the complexity of spells higher than First Level, those can only be prepared when the spell-caster is fresh after eight hours of rest.
Basically, this is just providing an alternate way of accomplishing what first level characters have to do anyway, which is start each encounter fresh. It shouldn’t unbalance higher level characters, since by the time characters reach higher levels they’ll almost always have magical means of recuperating and/or extra spells in the form of wands, scrolls, and potions. In addition, at higher levels a single HD or one more 1st level spell is hardly anything. It also helps a bit with the “oops, I memorized the wrong spell, guess we’ll turtle until tomorrow” problem; it won’t change the course of a battle, and if the characters don’t have anyplace in the dungeon safe to hole up they run the risk of additional random monster encounters, but it should keep the game moving forward.
There’s certainly a possible draw-back that a party might choose to try and rest for an hour after each battle, even if they haven’t taken any damage, just so the spell-caster can get back a spell, but since they still have to deal with random encounters and that’s not so different from what they are tempted to do anyway, I think it won’t be that bad. And I see the spell-caster’s, particularly magic-users, being more ready to cast a spell and more able to take advantage of utility spells as a plus. A low-level MU would be crazy to memorize Analyze or Read Languages as one of his two or three spells for the day, but spell-casters have much more chance to shine (and pull their weight as something other than user-of-mu-only-devices) if you don’t make it a death-sentence to take full advantage of their spell lists.