Healing in a fantasy role-playing game has always had some issues. If the cleric can dish out magical healing, that’s great for everyone except the cleric, who’s now pigeonholed as the “healing guy,” and moreover that means that the adventuring stops when the cure spells do – both create game-play problems. On the other hand, if everyone can just heal themselves via an ill-defined ability to rally themselves past their injuries, that creates verisimilitude problems. But what never gets talked about is the idea that healing can mean more than closing lacerations and overcoming physical damage – sometimes healing can be a spiritual process of overcoming personal trauma; something not easily handled in a mechanics-laden RPG. But that’s what Liber Sodalitas: The Dream Healers sets out to do.
The book is a fairly short one – ten pages long, with a cover and a page for the OGL – but deftly presents the dream healer organization, going over their history, tenets, organization, and how to join, before showcasing a few NPCs followed by two new magic items and a prestige class. The product has full bookmarks, something laudable since most companies wouldn’t do that for a PDF this short, and has very little artwork (the character from the cover is shown again once in the interior, and there are two sidebars set on a parchment background, but that’s it), making printing easy.
The thing that captivated me most about this product was how it seemed to focus the new crunch towards a purely fluff-oriented goal. The dream healer prestige class works well from a mechanical standpoint in that it increases clerical spellcasting and has powers to enter and manipulate dreams, for example, but none of that directly translated into healing (or harming, since there’s an NPC who shows how you can have evil dream healers). There’s a sidebar at the end of the book that addresses this directly, saying how the major theme of the class is one that is best addressed from a story perspective; it’s an intriguing way to address the concept of personally facing down old fears and emotional scars without getting bogged down in mechanics.
Of course, the book isn’t entirely without a few rough spots. For example, the last paragraph of the section detailing the organization’s history is frustratingly replaced with the introductory paragraph halfway through. There was also a mechanical glitch or two, such as the dream healer prestige class having a d6 Hit Die, despite having a BAB that increases by ¾ at each level – the Pathfinder design philosophy would give it a d8.
Ultimately, I was impressed by what this book put together. It’s not often that a product is able to make the crunch viable while serving a story idea, and this PDF is impressive for how well it pulls it off. If you’d like healing to be more of a personal story of triumph over tragedy than how often a cure spell is needed, this book is what you’re in search of.