Welcome to "Eberron Under the Glass," a column that takes a look at how to handle staple themes of D&D adventure in an Eberron campaign. Whether the characters must search for a lost artifact, unearth lore in an old tome, or deal with a goblin uprising, Eberron campaigns do things a little differently. This series helps Eberron players and DMs get the right feel in the setting.
This article looks at the concept of healing in Eberron.
Few Spellcasters, Many Experts
In a typical D&D campaign, magical healing is readily available, even if it requires heading back to a town or city to get a spell the party cleric or druid is too inexperienced to cast. In Eberron, minor magic is more common while mid- to high-level magic is relatively rare because few characters have PC classes, and NPC classes are slower to achieve anything but the weakest spells. This means that anything other than the most basic healing is out of the reach of most NPCs, and PCs can have difficulties finding available spellcasters to help them out with healing magic (whether it's just a simple remove disease, or something more serious like raise dead or heal).
Even given the slight increase in the number of adepts compared to a typical D&D campaign (1% instead of 0.5%), an adept's slower spell progression means that few of them ever achieve 2nd-level spellcasting. Furthermore, most of the spells an adventurer needs from an NPC spellcaster aren't on the adept list (lesser restoration is noticeably absent, for example) or require a very high-level adept because of the slow spellcasting progression in that class. This means that except for simple healing like cure light wounds, PCs can't depend on NPC spellcasting to help them recover from adventuring afflictions. (It also means that people in Eberron may consider low-level arcane magic somewhat routine, while divine healing is still somewhat surprising.)
Fortunately, magic isn't the only solution. The Heal skill can treat immediate injury, give long-term care, deal with poison, and thwart disease. Though these take far longer than what the typical adventurer demands, they're more than sufficient to take care of the normal people of the world. After all, the regular folk of Eberron don't deal with situations where they need to recover 50 hit points in a hurry (most people have less than 20 hit points), and while the fantasy equivalents of dysentery and cholera are certainly dangerous, they're relatively safe and slow-acting compared to DC 16 mummy rot. Since the common people rarely can afford magical healing methods (a remove disease spell costs 150 gp, which is the equivalent of about five years' wages for an unskilled laborer), nonmagical methods are their only hope.
Because of these factors, most temple healers are experts rather than spellcasters, and even a 1st-level expert dedicated to healing -- 4 ranks in Heal, +2 from Self-Sufficient or +3 from Skill Focus (Heal) for a total bonus of +6 or +7 without counting ability score bonuses -- can be the difference between life or death for someone injured, poisoned, or diseased, so normal people don't dismiss the help of nonmagical healing just because it's not magic. Of course, a 1st-level PC cleric probably has a Heal skill modifier as good or better than that, so yet again NPC healers aren't much help to a typical adventurer.
Serve the Faithful First
As mentioned above, skilled spellcasters in Eberron are uncommon, and a temple with a spellcaster capable of performing serious healing magic isn't likely to hire that person out to anyone with enough gold. While in a typical D&D campaign you can trust the church of Pelor or Ilmater to provide healing (for a fee or donation) to anyone in need, in Eberron even benign churches such as the Silver Flame or the Sovereign Host aren't willing to expend their precious divine spells on nonbelievers (as Keith Baker mentioned in his Dragonshards article on religion in Eberron). Not even dirty unwashed adventurers are exempt from this; if a person can't prove that she is a believer, she is not going to get any valuable magic cast on her behalf.
Temples fortunate enough to have spellcasting priests (whether advanced adepts or crusading clerics), normally expect payment from adventurers in services rather than money (while any merchant or noble can cough up gold or simple favors, adventurers are exceptional people capable of exceptional deeds, and the churches want to take advantage of these extraordinary talents). This gives an Eberron DM an easy hook for adventures, particularly if one or more of the PCs has strong ties to a particular religion -- whether that adventurer is a cleric, druid, paladin (or even a devout member of another class).
As Keith Baker pointed out in his article, corrupt clerics are the exception to the "no paying for spellcasting" rule; such individuals are far more likely to use their god-given powers to acquire riches as long as they believe in the long run it benefits the church in some way. Such behavior may warrant expelling the corrupt cleric from the temple, and these characters make interesting cohorts or hirelings for PCs -- a ready source of healing magic, though sure to cause controversy when the PCs need to meet with uncorrupted members of that faith. Corrupt clerics-in-exile might even set up camps near known adventuring sites (such as on a road to the Mournland, a safe distance outside the mist) where they can charge high prices for their desperately needed services.
Of course, PCs can turn the general lack of spellcasting to their advantage by trading their rare gifts for other benefits. For example, after saving a town from hobgoblin raiders, the PC cleric leader can talk the locals into renovating the local temple of her faith, then promise to return once a year to use magic to heal the townsfolk. This benefits the local expert-priest (who has a better living space and a stronger focus point for religious services in town), the church (which gets an improved temple and local goodwill), and the PC (who gains fame for her generosity and pledge of support). Over time the town might grow from this attention, and when the PC decides to retire she may find a temple or even a secular position waiting for her there.
One bit of chaos in the above assumptions is House Jorasco. Unlike temples, they do provide healing services (mundane and magical) for anyone and they do it for money. Since even a 1st-level character can possess a least dragonmark, House Jorasco has a large number of magical healers at their disposal despite having no access to the gods. Jorasco's talented healers and mercantile mindset make them the points of contact for anyone needing healing, particularly those who cannot or will not associate with the local temples. It is important to note that while the "typical" healer of House Jorasco described in the Eberron Campaign Setting is a 3rd-level adept, Keith Baker offers an alternate healer (the Jorasco Apothecary) in his Dragonshards article about magewrights; the apothecary also makes potions, and in Eberron the members of House Jorasco are the best source of healing potions.
As noted in the Eberron Campaign Setting, the code of the House requires they heal any who need it as long as they can pay, which means they sometimes deal with unsavory characters. This means that the House may need the help of adventurers from time to time to sort out hostilities between groups they help (such as two prominent noble houses intent on making sure only their family survives an ongoing violent feud) or to fend off unwanted political pressure when it is undiplomatic to call upon the guild headquarters for intervention.
About the Author
Sean K Reynolds lives in Encinitas, California, and recently started his own d20 publishing company. His D&D credits include the Monster Manual, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, and Savage Species. He'd like to thank Keith Baker for his advice on this article. You can find more game material at Sean's website.