[RPG] Does potion use as a bonus action speed up or slow down combat


I've noticed that some DMs allow healing potions to be drawn and drank as bonus actions believing that this speeds up combat.

Does allowing healing potions to be drawn/drank as bonus actions actually result in quicker combat?

Or, does this prolong combat encounters since PCs and their enemies are more resilient due to more efficient access to healing magic?

Best Answer

This question is difficult because it greatly depends on an understanding of a specific party's composition, prior healing habits, and available resources. However, some general points can still be made.

Efficient healing does not significantly speed up or slow down combat

  • Faster healing does not mean more healing

    Just because characters would be able to use healing and still have their action available does not mean that they will heal more. Generally, characters will heal only if they need to be (eg at risk of going unconscious). This change from standard action potion-drinking to bonus action potion drinking will probably not change this. If a character needs healing, they will drink a potion or get help from another character regardless of action economy.

  • Cleric, Bard, and Druid already have access to bonus action healing

    If the party already has access to healing word, then they can already do bonus action healing, and having potions as a bonus action would only offer slightly more access to the ability.

  • Healing is limited more by resource than by action economy

    Even if you make potion drinking a bonus action, the party/enemy is still going to be limited by the amount of potions they have. Unless they have an enormous amount, an efficiency gains that might be present from bonus action potions will not have a chance to have a significant effect.

    And even if more efficient potion-drinking did cause a party to heal more often, they would just run out of healing resources much more quickly.

  • Access to healing is a much bigger factor than the improved healing efficiency in combat length

    A party or BBEG with access to healing is going to be able to stay on their feet longer than a party without in general. Take away healing, and the battles probably get much shorter. Give your BBEG 20 potions of greater healing? The battle is going to take much longer regardless of the action economy of using them.

In the end, potion drinking efficiency has very little effect on combat times.

Of course, that does not mean that it is a good idea to adopt this houserule, but that is another discussion entirely.