(Puts on my player hat)
Full disclosure – I LOVE that the 4e cleric and other healers do their healing as a minor action. In every other edition of D&D, my cleric had to choose between healing and whacking something, or casting another spell. If the fight were particularly bloody, then I pretty much sat there and heal-botted. I hated that. D&D has always tried to make healing feel as heroic as swinging a sword or disarming a trap, but it really isn’t. It’s being a nurse, which I can do in real life very easily. WoW gives the player a feeling of shooting shiny healing beams into a dude, which is satisfying in its own way, but in D&D I often feel like I’m just kissing somoene’s booboo. Sometimes healing is fun and exciting, but as an every-fight expectation it gets old. I especially hated that I had to use my whole turn for little old Cure Light Wounds. 4e has a wonderful mechanic where the ‘bread and butter’ heal is a minor action, and there were standard action options if I wanted to drop either a bigger healing bomb (i.e. Healer’s Mercy) or a heal that gives a buff (i.e. Defensive Rally). Maybe some of the minor action heal options got too good, but I’d rather play with scaled back versions of those heals than go back to the Cure Lights Wounds model.
The point is that I want healer classes to feel like healers, but also feel like adventurers. I don’t want to spend turns choosing between the two.
I recently spoke to someone about the other side of the argument, though, and they made some good points. Doesn’t healing as a minor action make clerics and whoever else more powerful? How many other classes get to do two things on their turn on a semi-regular basis? Also, in older D&D, healing was a lot rarer than it is now. By making healing a minor action, you are basically empowering groups to pound the door in and wade into combat with less fear of death. That might be good for some groups (and great for 4e players), but not everyone wants to play like that. Finally, one of the big criticisms of 4e is that the turns and the combats are too long, and lots of minor actions just added bloat to the turns.
Those were all great points, and I unfortunately didn’t think of a good reply until well after I finished talking to that guy (I hate when that happens). But I think that healing should be thought of as a class feature more than as an individual spell or power. LOTS of classes do two things at once on their turn, even in other editions. Imagine if a rogue had to give up attacking in order to apply sneak damage. Sneak damage and healing aren’t really that similar… or are they?
Maybe there’s a nice middle ground. Design small heals that can be done as minor actions, while keeping either bigger heals or heals that also provide some sort of buff as full round or standard actions. And encourage players with heals to take their turns faster! I know the game wants to recreate a retro feel, but even back then, I really, really disliked healing as a full action. Like I said above, I still want to feel like an adventurer, even when I’m healing. There’s lots that can be done to streamline the 4e heal-as-minor action mechanic without going back to the Cure Light Wounds bot. At least I hope so. Lastly, please have it be that way in the core game, from the beginning. Even at the lowest levels, healing should be a fun twist on being an adventurer in general, not just the main role. Id love to know what other people thought.
(Takes off player hat)