According to the new 4th Edition rules, all heroes have what are called “healing surges”. These healing surges have what seem to be two functions:
1. You can spend a healing surge as a standard action to heal yourself up to 1/4 of your hit-points through an action called a “second wind”. So, essentially, any character can sacrifice one standard action in an encounter to self-heal. You can also use healing surges when resting between encounters (one can’t help but think of pausing to ‘mana up’ in WoW between pulls)
2. Healing abilities, such as those of the Cleric or the Paladin, also cause you to expend your healing surges.
There are a few problems with these healing surges. The first problem is that to use them you have to sacrifice a standard action. When initiative comes around to you and its your turn to act, this is sort of an anticlimactic way to use your action. Damage seems to be set to a higher standard in 4th Ed, meaning you might end up taking more damage during that round of getting a second wind than you can reasonably heal, especially at lower levels.
The second problem is that there are way too many of them. In the Quick Start rules that WotC has put out to promote 4th Ed, I think the Fighter has 12 healing surges. This amount is so high that it doesn’t serve as a meaningful limit anymore. Also, if the fight has, say, 32 hit-points, that means that he can heal 8 hit-points 12 times a day – meaning he can heal 96 hit points, or three times his maximum hit points. In other words, without any outside help, he can theoretically absorb 128 hit-points of damage. And this Quick Start sample Fighter is, I believe, level 1 or 2. He can’t exceed his maximum at any one time, but that gives this Fighter an absurd capacity to absorb abuse – such that it would be a lot harder to come up with meaningful challenges. Certainly, nothing that would reasonably tax resources like that.
The third problem is that healing is already limited in other ways. Healing powers seem to have a limited number of uses per day, maybe one, or maybe linked to an attribute bonus. The point is that you have two limitations on healing functioning at the same time, overlapping each other, and rendering each other redundant.
There are a lot of things I like about 4th Edition, but healing surges aren’t one of them. When I run this game at my table, I’m pretty sure my first house rule will be that healing surges go out the window.