Rethinking hit points

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nudnic
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Rethinking hit points

Post by nudnic » Thu Sep 29, 2011 11:07 am

I know hit points are sort of a sacred cow, every player expects to roll a die at each level. That said here's a few thoughts I had on the subject.

I was reading about a Epic 6 it's sort of a house rule idea where characters do not gain hit points past 6th level. This is based on 3.5 so characters still gain feats after 6th level and skills increase. But hit points stop at 6th. basically characters do not level up past 6th, but do gain feats for experience gained post 6th.

The idea creates an interesting environment where the toughest human you will run into a 6th level. The king and his knights are 6th. The evil wizard is 6th. This makes every human, well, human.

Monsters still get their HD. So monster with 6 hit dice is about as tough as the toughest human you could meet. A monster with more hit dice is tougher. Some things are tough and should be avoided or parlayed with. You better have an army or special magical enhancement to take on that dragon. The world takes on a more dangerous tone. Encounters are not always balanced to the party level.

When a troll almost wiped your party out at 3rd level, but at tenth level trolls are defeated by the dozen makes for a less exciting world. I guess my point is that it might be possible to create a game where humans were still human.

smathis
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Re: Rethinking hit points

Post by smathis » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:08 pm

Yup. This is really a sacred cow. I know a number of us here on the forum have all suggested different alternatives for hit points and such. I've been pretty prolific with throwing ideas out there to see what sticks on the wall.

I enjoy Epic 6. In fact, it's about the only thing that would (or could) lure me into a 3e or 3.5 game. It really works as advertised and sets the bar quite well, IMO -- although there's still that annoying survivability issue at 1st level that bugs most.

But Epic 6 handles one of the two big issues with D&D hit points, IMO. It sets an upper limit that's manageable and keeps the game challenging at even the highest level. So that Troll, that Dragon or those Orcs don't become minor nuisances at high levels.

I remember one 3e edition game. I can't remember if we were 10th or 11th level. But we were somewhere around there. We were up against a red dragon. Pretty big one. We killed it in the first round. It didn't even get to use its breath weapon. That kind of stuff is lame. Makes for a funny story. But isn't so much fun to play (for me).

Where I'm at with hit points and my last serious proposition also addressed the other bugbear of D&D hit points. Survivability at the low levels. And also a minor problem related to both level drain and Constitution (Stamina) damage.

My proposal was...

At 0-level, a character gets 1d4 plus Stamina bonus hit points. But no lower than 1.

At 1st level, the character gets his Stamina score as hit points. Note, this is NOT added to the 0-level score. The 0-level score is just boosted up. In addition, some characters get a bonus of 1 or 2 points, depending on their class. When a character advances in level, they add that bonus (if there is one) to their hit points. Some might get a one time bonus at certain levels, like 1st, 5th and 10th.

Overall, though, characters would start out more survivable at 1st level and be more vulnerable at higher levels. Moreover, a level drain would just lower hit points by the class bonus (if there is one). Con damage is applied on a 1-to-1 basis, making it fairly easy to apply. No more worrying about the bonus/penalty and multiplying that by level when applying Con damage to hit points.

In practice, this would result in first level characters that would range from 7-16 or so in hit points. And those same characters would be somewhere between 12 and 36 at 10th level. Crazy right?

But here's the other part. Using a mechanic like the Injuries and Wounds in SIFRP, characters would actually have a better chance of surviving than the current DCC characters. And it would work out a lot better, IMO, because hit points could represent more of a temporary damage and could be separated from wounds and injuries -- which represent lasting damage. In short, hit points are lower overall. But there's no reason they can't replenish to full at the end of each encounter. Again, crazy.

For those unfamiliar with SIFRP, here's kinda what I'm talking about.

A character can take an Injury to soak up to half their max hit points in damage. Each Injury taken requires a day's rest to heal and gives a cumulative -1 to all rolls. The max any character can take is 3 Injuries. A character with 3 injuries would be a -3 to everything and it would take him 3 days to heal all three Injuries. Healing just one a day. But a character with 15 hit points could take 3 Injuries to soak up 21 points of damage from a single attack (or different attacks) and lower 24 points of damage to just 3.

A character can soak any number of hit points of damage by taking a Wound. A character can only have one Wound at a time. The Wound lowers all dice rolled by one die type. So rolling 1d8+2 damage becomes 1d6+2. Rolling a d20 to hit becomes a d16. The character is also affected as if he were one level of encumbrance higher than he is. It takes a week of rest and medical care to heal a wound.

When a character is dropped to zero hit points, they're dead.

May sound a bit convoluted. But it's really very simple. And it's the basics of what I'll be putting in my supplement for DCC. I've pitched it to Joseph a couple of times but he doesn't see hit points as an issue with DCC. Lethality is more of an issue. But I don't think the ability for this subsystem to lower lethality with the full encounter heal-up and the Injuries and Wounds has been considered. I'm not sure how Injuries/Wounds work in a game with Cleric healbots. What I'm working on doesn't have magical healing. At least not the "Lay on Hands" type. So it works well for me. Maybe not so much for traditional D&D.

nudnic
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Re: Rethinking hit points

Post by nudnic » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:31 pm

There was an alternative hit point system in one of the Arduin books, not sure if you'll remember these they were by a guy named Dave Hargrave back in the late 70s early 80s. Basically every character got a majority of their hit points at first level then they got one point a level after that. The base hit points were calculated based on constitution and character class.

I like the sound of Song of Fire and Ice RPG.

I think the goal of making powerful monsters powerful at all levels is a good one and makes for better games.

smathis
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Re: Rethinking hit points

Post by smathis » Thu Sep 29, 2011 1:40 pm

nudnic wrote:There was an alternative hit point system in one of the Arduin books, not sure if you'll remember these they were by a guy named Dave Hargrave back in the late 70s early 80s. Basically every character got a majority of their hit points at first level then they got one point a level after that. The base hit points were calculated based on constitution and character class.

I like the sound of Song of Fire and Ice RPG.

I think the goal of making powerful monsters powerful at all levels is a good one and makes for better games.
I'm familiar with Arduin but haven't had the chance, luck or whatnot to get a copy. I like the idea of getting the majority of hit points at first level and the remainder after that. That addresses the problems at each end of the hit point spectrum.

The thing that Wounds/Injuries bring is that much needed division between temporary fatigue, bruises and scratches and lasting wounds that take days/weeks to heal. It also mitigates the binary nature of getting hurt in D&D -- where you're fine up until the point that you're dead.

I have no idea how it would work in traditional D&D. My supplement doesn't have Clerics. So there's a real likelihood that the system just wouldn't fly at all.

But thanks for the kind words. I could see people using my DCC supp out of genre as a sort of seriously low-magic fantasy game.

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finarvyn
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Re: Rethinking hit points

Post by finarvyn » Fri Sep 30, 2011 7:35 am

Fundamentally, I like the idea of hit points. Something about the way I can track damage with them seems more simple than some alternatives (such as fatigue). Some ideas without being judgemental either way:

1. If you go back to Chainmail (1971) their concept of hit points and hit dice were pretty much blurred together. A typical man could take one hit, which was a lot simpler than rolling one die for HD and another die for damage. A hero could take four hits. Sometimes I play this way, but my players seem to enjoy the extra level of randomness in those additional die rolls.

2. The "Epic 6" concept is a neat one since it limits hit points earlier. (I first saw this done in SimonW's Go Fer Yer Gun for C&C, but SimonW did it at 4th level if I recall correctly...) It has a nice effect of keeping high-level characters more mortal, although when I do OD&D with all d6-HD I find that usually HP totals aren't so high even when limited at 9th-10th level.

3. Hackmaster and other games like that use a HP "kicker" to give low-level characters more HP. This clearly has the opposite effect to E6, but is an intersting option. I suppose one could use a kicker and then chop off HP progression after a couple of levels. That way low level characters might not die so fast, but high level characters might not be so safe.

4. One could never improve HP. Games like Metamorphosis Alpha have no HP advancement rules. They typically give more HP early on and stay there. Kind of similar in some ways to #3 above.

I'm sure there are many others I'm not aware of or haven't mentioned.
Marv / Finarvyn
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DCC RPG playtester 2011, DCC Lankhmar trivia contest winner 2015; OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
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"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
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jmucchiello
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Re: Rethinking hit points

Post by jmucchiello » Fri Sep 30, 2011 2:08 pm

Have you tried vitality and wound points?

Here's a basic summary, read the link for the full 3.X Ed details. It's basically a combination of normal hit points and get a bunch of HP at first level then never go up. Vitality recovers very quickly but if it goes to 0, you start losing wound points. Wound points recover very slowly and when they reach 0 you are disabled and potentially dying. Normally WP is equal to raw CON and vitality is the old hit points. All attacks reduce vitality. All critical hits do not reduce vitality, they reduce Wound Points (there's no extra damage on a crit).

It is only one more number to track and when that number moves, you feel the character's pain.

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