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Some thoughts of the Hit Point system


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


This thread is part rant and part suggestion. I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I guess I just wanted to give my thoughts on the issue.

My problems with the DnD hit point system is that weapons, or any kind of damage for that mater, do far less damage than they should at higher levels. The same knife that would kill a first level character will mearly wound a 10th level character and bearly scratch a 20th level character.

While I know that there are rules that try to compensate, such as the massive damage rule (if you take a certain amount of damage you must make a save against death) and increasing sneak attack damage, none of these really answer the core problem that characters can take rediculous amounts of damage before dying.

I've been told that hit points realy represent a high level characters ability to dodge and avoid damage, but this sounds more like an excuse that an explanation.

I have a friend who gives out hp by race and constitution bonus, which seems to work pretty well. I also like to use the BESM d20 idea of base defense bonus, as my brother has suggested, giving the higest bonuses to classes who relly the most on dodging like rouges and monks. This seems to work fairly well for us. This fills the gap that reduced HP tends to leave. I also prefer it because it more directly represents the fact that as characters advance, they learn to dodge and parry better, leading to a higher defense.

The one argument that I have heard to support the hp system is that DnD is a heroic fantasy game and therefore should be allowed to make some non-realistic adjustments for that sake of action. While I can see the logic behind this statement I think there are better ways that hit points to increase the cinimatic drama of high paced sword battles. (or axe battles for that matter)

If anyone has any thought on the matter(even if it is to tell me that I am an idiot ;) ), has a good way of explaining the HP system or house rules to deal with the problem, please post them.


I have a friend who really hates the hit point sytem also. In his game; you start with hit points through some configuration such as die roll plus con stat plus some other modifiers for class so you end up with between 20 and 30 something hps at first level and this is just about all the hps you will ever have. Weapons do damage kind of like in Champions whereas they do real and bruise damage like that games body and stun damage. Various armors add very little armor class; but instead add damage absorption kinda like what is suggested in the unearth arcana for armor damage resistance; only his chart has a little higher values. All and all it works out pretty well and is easy to get used to and is still fun to play and your character can do just about the same stuff but at higher levels you are not much different other than skill and equipment from lower levels; ie an attack that hits your hitpoints directly like a backstab will really hurt or possibly kill you regardless of level if you are not aware or dont have good gear. We havent played in this game in a few years so I dont remember all the details; but it seemed to work and we didnt have to listen to him gripe about the ludicrousness of hit points; which we more or less agree about but dont really care. Thought maybe you might want to do something similar and see how it works for you; I probably have his handouts sitting around somewhere.


Yeah, it IS an age old discussion.

There's a couple of places I would recommend looking at for alternatives to the current D&D system:
* The Unearthed Arcana presents... two, I think, alternatives to hit points for D&D. One is a Vitality and Wounds system (also used in the Star Wars D20 RPG), and the other is an Injury system. There's also a Reserve Point system, but that's just a bank of self healing.

* The Hypertext D20 SRD also details the Vitality and Wound system presented both in the Star Wars game as well as in the Unearthed Arcana. Vitality represents the "it's only a flesh wound" aspect. Taking Wound points represents actual injury.

I personally like Vitality and Wounds, because I think it makes for a better game of cinematic heroism and crits are much nastier under these rules for two reasons. First, instead of simply doing more damage, they go straight to Wound points and those weapons with higher crit multipliers instead have greater threat ranges. Second, crits bypass damage reduction (even on critters immune to crits).


I second the Vitality and Wound Points System - it might be just what you're looking for if you need your damage system to make more sense.

Essentially, it says that high-level heroic characters aren't actually tougher when they get run through with a sword - they're just better at not letting themselves be run through. A level 10 character dealt twelve damage from a sword swing might be better at rolling with the attack, or might move at the last second so that he only takes a minor wound, or might simply be luckier.

Something you need to remember with D&D, though, is that it's not unrealistic for a 10th level character to routinely survive a 100ft fall. It's unrealistic for a real-world person, because the real world doesn't have 10th level characters like that. The average real-world person is about equivalent to a level 1 commoner, but in D&D you play heroes who have better abilities and better survivability than most.


I suppose I always tried to look at it as the 'dodge' thing mentioned earlier, but maybe a little different, like 'luck points' or something similar. Agreed that a knife wound should be lethal at any level, but it would be a lot easier to take a person out with that knife who is less experienced in defending themselves (low lvl fighter) than somebody more battle hardened (high lvl fighter).
To me, the more the creature or opponent swings at the characters, the more it tires them out making them more succeptible to a 'killing blow.' The same holds true in boxing. Most fights that end in the first or second round are usually done by the amatuers. Boxers who have been in several fights learn to test their opponents defenses rather than swinging like a brute which in turn gives the opponent a better chance for that knockout blow.
This is my justification for hit points when the characters are 'on guard.' I don't believe defenseless characters should be able to withstand lethal blows and merely scratch off a few hit points in response and part of that responsibility lies with the DM who should make the world generally believable.
The old Iron Crown version of Rolemaster and MERP had a system that was lethal no matter what level. Unfortunately that made the DM's job difficult as each encounter had a 50/50 chance of slaying the entire party (my wizard always seemed to fall on his own sword :(). Vitality thing has been done before and is generally realistic, but resting becomes more of a problem for the party in a dungeon environment or a fast paced adventure in which the characters have limited time.
Using both systems might be what you are looking for. Using hit points on generally monsters and no-named thugs, then switching to the vitality system for more intense fights with the villain.
Good gripe, though. Many an hour have I spent arguing realism vs. game play when it comes to life or death. In the end it really comes down to what is FUN for you and your group.


NPC Guy wrote:
The old Iron Crown version of Rolemaster and MERP had a system that was lethal no matter what level. Unfortunately that made the DM's job difficult as each encounter had a 50/50 chance of slaying the entire party (my wizard always seemed to fall on his own sword :(

I have a special place in my heart for Rolemaster, even though after playing it for years I never made it past level 6 HAHAHA :]

To the original poster: You have to view a fight as a trading of blows. Ever seen Ivanhoe? The fight at the end was decent. Trading blows off of shields, dodging, blows glancing off of armor. As others have said, this is a representation of hit points.

A fight doesnt consist of a fighter and an orc taking turns stabbing each other and making comments such as, "Ha, Ive many more pints of blood left in me!"

There is probably not a perfect system but you have to use your imagination to make it work.


Sel Carim wrote:


I've been told that hit points realy represent a high level characters ability to dodge and avoid damage, but this sounds more like an excuse that an explanation.

That excuse covers almost everything though.

The problem I keep seeing over and over again is sneak attack. People get annoyed because a "vital" area can be struck without a "vital" wound being dealt. I see sneak attack dice just as I see a high strength on a fighter. These are all just extra numbers representing their skill. A fighter hits an ogre for 10 damage with his ax. The halfling rogue sneak attacks the same ogre for another 10. Was one hit stronger then the other? No. They simply operated through different means. The fighter pounded at the creature the entire round and the rogue used pinpoint aim and timing to land a blow that was just as effective. Everything else is all in the description.

The "dodging and avoid points excuse" works. An rogue tries to drop a high lvl fighter. That backstab would have killed him, had the damage been high enough. But the damage rolls and modifyers are a measure of the rogues accuracy and skill. His skill was not better than the fighters ability to defend himself. He heard the rogue about to strike and moved just in time for the knife to miss the killshot. If his Hp is 60 and the rogue did 55, then he didn't miss by much and the fighter might have a punctured lung. He's had worse in a battle so he can keep fighting but not for very long. If the fighter has 120 Hp and the rogue did 55, then the knife didn't get in too far before he twisted out of the way. Not a big wound but it cut at some nerves, so now the fighter is a little off balance and in pain, but still in fighting shape.

The numbers are there to tell us WHAT happened. But describing the action is where you get to decide HOW it happened that way.

You are far from an idiot because there are plenty of gray areas that these rules have trouble working in. And it is very annoying. None the less I've never been happier than with this system. By all means please pursue something new, because this isn't perfect. I just don't think it's at all bad either.

If you want, it might be fun to throw in a scenario and let everyone post how their system of choice would handle it.

Scarab Sages

Being the aforementioned friend who uses the most brutal system for D&D ever devised (HP based on race 4-10 +/- Con Mod) I thought I'd weigh in.

My problem with the hitpoint system is that it's unrepresentative of what's happening in the game, which can lead to ugly narratives. Now canon D20 is a long way from being unusable, it's just a little clunky.

The weapons are perfectly scaled in damage for a first level character--a longsword in the hands of a strong and capable combatant is able to fell a person in a good blow, but not always. That's about right. A couple of good thrusts with a knife, likewise. The problem is later, when you can catch an arrow in the face, two in the chest and maybe--just maybe have to put down your beer and deal with the injury. Halfling fighters with 70 hit-points and half-orc mages with 4. Yuck.

The patches (massive damage and coup de gras) are okay--but its mostly just slapping on new mechanics to cover with bulk what could be fixed with a simple tweak instead. The Vitality thing is horrid (unless you just go with Vitality as subdual damage HP and wounds as lethal HP in which case it works great--but the Vitality system as devised is even worse than straight canon D&D).

The solution is this: hit points should represent capacity to take damage, armor class (or better put, defense) should represent the ability to avoid getting hit, and damage reduction should represent the ability to lessen the severity of injury (such as from armor). This is simple and easy to use--it reflects what's happening in the game. AC and init should get bonuses per level, perhaps based on class. Some classes might get a DR. AC bonus from armor becomes DR. Dodge can be bought multiple times at a +2 Defense each time. Hit points only go up if the character ups his Con modifier with ability increases, or if he buys the toughness feat.

It's more realistic, and hence more deadly, but this really isn't a bad thing in my experience. People falling 100 feet and living hurts story, as do people getting rent with dragon claws, catching a volley of arrows or wanderiong around in the plane of fire. It doesn't make for better stories that characters can survive this sort of thing. They shouldn't. They should die. When players face real danger and survive it they are exaltant, when they die horribly they blanch with horror.

Sweat beads when they go into battle.

This is as it should be.


Grimcleaver wrote:

The solution is this: hit points should represent capacity to take damage, armor class (or better put, defense) should represent the ability to avoid getting hit, and damage reduction should represent the ability to lessen the severity of injury (such as from armor). This is simple and easy to use--it reflects what's happening in the game. AC and init should get bonuses per level, perhaps based on class. Some classes might get a DR. AC bonus from armor becomes DR. Dodge can be bought multiple times at a +2 Defense each time. Hit points only go up if the character ups his Con modifier with ability increases, or if he buys the toughness feat.

I'm interested in hearing more about your rule system for hp. What are your class-based progressions for AC bonuses and DR in your game? It sounds interesting. Can you give me an example?

Also, how do you nerf magic damage, such as magic missile?


The best alternative to hit points I've seen is the damage saves used in Mutants and Masterminds. Even that's not perfect, but it's a damn sight better than HP, especially at equalizing fighters and wizards.


To answer your qestion wereplatapus, This is the system I have worked out, though not yet used. We were planning on possibly using it in a game my brother was going to run in the near future, we will probably put it in the campain journal section so we'll let you know how it goes.

In base attack bonus there are three seperate stacks, hereto refered to as the poor (bonus of 10 at level 20) average (bonus of 15 at level 20) and good (bonus of 20 at level 20) Each class is assigned a defense bonus using these stack, this bonus adds directly to AC.
The wizard and sorcerer class get the poor defense bonus because they really don't rely on martial skill.

The fighter, barbarian and paladin receive the average bonus because they relly on armor and toughness as much as skill to survive (The barbarian should probably get a DR bonus to represent his abilty to absorb some damage though I havn't though as to how much and when) Armor, by the way adds to DR in this system. The cleric and druid also get the average bonus because they are not front line combatants. The ranger gets the average bonus, not because this class doesn't relly on dodge ability, I just felt that giving them both the good attack bonus and defense bonus stack was a little to much for a class that is already pretty powerfull.

The rouge, monk and bard class get the good bonus because they relly on doging to survive.

With this system, fighters of equal level (assuming for the moment that they have no feats, and that their stats are all +0) will have a 50% chance of hitting each other, while a fighter 5 levels below his target will only have a 25% chance of hitting. On the flip side, a fighter 5 levels above his target will hit 75% of the time. This seems about right to me.

Anyhow, hope this helps.


Valegrim wrote:
Thought maybe you might want to do something similar and see how it works for you; I probably have his handouts sitting around somewhere.

If you would care to post them I would love to hear it!


I think that a problem that any major change to the combat system will face is that the game wasn't designed for it, and so the more you deviate from the standard system the more problems you might face. I like Wounds & Vitality because it's so similar to the standard hitpoints system, while solving some of the problems regarding realism.


Would someone please tell me the jist of Wounds and Vitality system, as I have no reference to it whatsoever, and I'm interested in hearing about the Hp in Sel Carim and Grimcleaver's system. You say Hp only goes up with a Con increase? Do Con increases continue to work the same as they do now, as far as frequency and amount that can be increased at a time? If the Con went from 15 to 16, would it just raise Hp by 1? How much Hp does one start with in this system? Other than these Con increases and feats, Hp is then static?

I assume you would not touch the monsters' Hp listings? Otherwise, it seems that they would be extremely weakened, but the players might be very rebellious knowing that it's one law for them, another for the monsters, considering one of the key points of 3.x is that monsters and players operate under the same rules (not that this is a major detractor to the system, just something to be aware of).

I'd love to see this playtested. I'm all for a more realistic, more easily interpreted system for damage and Hp, but I don't really want to affect the death rate of characters.

Dark Archive Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

There's a thread floating around somewhere here on Paizo about the wounds and vitality system that discusses the pros and cons. The system itself can be found at

http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm


Thanks!


The Hypertext D20 SRDdetails the Vitality and Wound system, if you want the specifics, Saern.

The jist is that your HP becomes "Vitality" and you get "Wounds" equal to your Con score. Vitality increases as per HP, wounds don't. Crits bypass Vitality and go straight to Wounds instead of doing extra damage, and also bypass all Damage Reduction (Crit multipliers instead become greater threat ranges). There's a few other changes as well.


I perfer WFRP combat to D&D combat, but D&D is the standard fantasy RPG, trying to get people to play WFRP is like getting people to eat escargo, or calamari.

Not that WFRP doesn't have its own bevy of issues, but thats a different story.


Saern wrote:
Would someone please tell me the jist of Wounds and Vitality system, as I have no reference to it whatsoever

I wrote a blog entry on it:

http://d20.jonnydigital.com/2006/02/vitality-and-wounds-system-in-eberron


I don't know...I don't really like the vitality/wounds hit point system. It can ruin the game. The players don't react to a fight as the same way as they would do in the normal H.P. system. Even the bulky dwarven warrior would think twice before fighting a bunch of orcs. And a keen weapon totally destroys this system. Ok, it makes it more realistic but let's what the players will do after they are all puverized after some lucky rolls. And first of all, isn't this used in the star wars roleplay game?.. That's even worse, a padawan wielding a lightsaber(2d8/19-20 X2) can slice even a master jedi if he scores a critic...The problem gets worse with pistols(3d6 20 X3)... I wish there was a better system than the regular H.P. system but not as radical as the V/W system..sigh...


Well, I've read up on the V/W system, and while it's interesting, I can't see myself adopting it.


Jonathan Drain wrote:
Saern wrote:
Would someone please tell me the jist of Wounds and Vitality system, as I have no reference to it whatsoever

I wrote a blog entry on it:

http://d20.jonnydigital.com/2006/02/vitality-and-wounds-system-in-eberron

Hey, that's a pretty cool website you got there, Jonathan.


Sel Carim wrote:
I've been told that hit points realy represent a high level characters ability to dodge and avoid damage, but this sounds more like an excuse that an explanation.

It is certainly not an excuse: that's what hit points have always been. From the original Dungeon Masters Guide: "these reflect both the actual physical ability of the character to withstand damage -- as indicated by constitution bonuses -- and a commensurate increase in such areas as skill in combat and similar life and death situations, the "sixth sense" which warns the individual of some otherwise unforeseen events, sheer luck, and the fantastic provisions of magical protections and/ore divine protection"

Sel Carim wrote:
I think there are better ways that hit points to increase the cinimatic drama of high paced sword battles. (or axe battles for that matter)

The creators of the first generation of RPGs, which were (in part) very much reactions to D&D, often thought similarly -- this discussion has gone on for 30 years. But there's no question that hit points have worked very well for a great many people for many years. I like them, and similar abstract systems, because like any half-decent DM or player I'm better at narrating the details of combat than any ruleset.

Scarab Sages

Chris Wissel - WerePlatypus wrote:


I'm interested in hearing more about your rule system for hp. What are your class-based progressions for AC bonuses and DR in your game? It sounds interesting. Can you give me an example?

Also, how do you nerf magic damage, such as magic missile?

Here's the details:

HP is by race, the same starting values as for the classes but reallocated by race. Halflings and Gnomes have a base of 4, elves and half-elves get 6, humans get 8, dwarves get 10, half-orcs get 12. This way a halfling barbarian does not end up with three times as much HP to start as a half-orc mage (though the reverse, which makes much more sense, is certainly possible!)

Defense bonus goes up with level (based on a very good system in the Wheel of Time RPG):

Rogues and Rangers have the highest progression which starts at +3 and goes up every two levels.

Fighters and Paladins have the next most favorable a +2 base that goes up every two levels.

Druids and Clerics are next, with a +2 that goes up every three levels.

Arcane spellcasters (Wizards, Sorcerers, Bards) start with a +1 that goes up every three levels.

Damage Reduction is based on armor, and is a straight across reinterpretation of AC bonus read as DR. Thus a suit of full plate can absorb up to 8 points of damage a round, but only lets you add 1 of your dex points to Defense.

Magic nerfing is pretty simple. You take the base die and add the extra dice as a numerical add. A 6d6 fireball becomes a 1d6+6 fireball. Magic Missile interestingly works out about the same--each missle having a punch about like what a throwing dagger would, which works out about right for me. Healing magic is likewise adjusted.

There's the official Grimcleaver system. There are some extra bits to the Sel Carim system such as the use of energy points and defense rolls (from BESM).

I've heard that there's a counterexample rolling around about so-and-so the godlike, a 25th level fighter versus some first level guy with a rusty longsword. I couldn't find it, but for the sake of example we'll use this one to show the way the Grimcleaver system plays out:

Whiney the First Level Guy: "Blarg! Hooplah the Godlike, I will kill you to avenge my grandfather you killed" Goes to draw his grandfather's rusty longsword. Villagers clear the street.

Initiative is rolled. Whiney adds his dex and level to a d20 roll, ditto with Hooplah. Now Whiney better roll a nat 20 or he will never beat Hooplah to the strike--he's just too savvy from decades of adventuring. If he doesn't win the rest of the narrative is nasty but quick. His first strike will be at a +25 (not to mention that in the example, he had a +5 sword!) and this is followed up by another four attacks! Poor Whiney has been chummed. So let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say he gets his nat 20. Lucky Whiney. He will be able to tell that story to his grandkids--well if he lasts the round that is. He gets out his sword and stabs forward, big bulgy eyes, covered in sweat as the tip of the +5 longsword is just clearing its scabbard. He rolls to hit. Hooplah is a fighter, so his AC is 10+Dex+Class which as a fighter comes out to about 22! Better hope he gets another nat 20 or else choppa-choppa. Lets say he does! Yay! He's doing great today! He rolls damage (say a full 8) plus his strength mod (say +2) x2. That's 20 points of whammy (which probably breaks his rusty sword but no nevermind that). Hooplah has Toughness (twice!) which brings his HP total to 14. Plus no fool him, he's wearing armor. Since his sword is +5, we'll say the armor is +3 full plate. The armor eats 11 points of the 20 and 9 points carry through. Then it's Hooplah's turn. Splat-o.

Ivanho is much the same deal, guys with high DR armor whacking blows off each other, some of which transfer through into knocks and injuries, but most of which is soaked by their armor until all the 1 HP and 3HP injuries finally stack up and someone falls over ready for the final coup de gras.

It seems to play much more dramatically and make action a lot more tense. It changes some things, yeah...but I think for the better. It doesn't cause the wheels to fall off and it resolves a situation with a good mix of realism and cinematic flare instead of feeling like you're watching a videogame. Action is fast and kinetic, with high level characters being better at it because they are faster and tougher and because they have better gear. I recommend it highly, as our group has really enjoyed it.


Well, the original post about Ubak The Godlike was lost in cyberspace as I tried to post it, some kind of error. Ubak The Godlike tends to pop in discussions between me and my brother whenever insanely min-maxed characters enter the conversation, his constant foe Hewbert The Halfwit and he have battled in many systems usually with the same result... The messy end of poor Hubert. Truely, neither of these characters actually exist in any specific game, they are both just exemplars of the overpowered uber character and the helpless pud that such characters tend to kill, used as a means of testing a variety of systems. Though I am amused that they finally found their way to cyberspace :)

Anyhow, someone asked if creatures would have nerfed hp as well. I feel that they should. Everyone should operate under the same rules for the game to feel consitant. Monsters should probably have hp based on size catagory with a possible bonus from monster type and, of course, con bonus. Creatures such as golems and undead would probably have a few more that normal flesh and blood creatures, for example. Personally, I prefer to double hp each size catagory increase, with the break down going something like this

fine=2
small=4
medium=8
large=16
huge=32
gargantuan=64
colossal=128

Once again, these are just averages, with individual monsters receiving a bonus or minus depending on their type.

While I know this reduces the power level of some monsters, such as dragons, I feel that such monsters still will put up a good fight especially under the consideration that their natural armor functions as damage reduction.

On another note, I like the use of energy points (or action dice), especially in a low hit point system, because I feel that they represent well that intangible extra reserve that experienced characters have to draw on.

While these changes do change the feel of someparts of the game, I would encourrage people to give them a try as they have so far enhanced the gameplay for me and my group.

Scarab Sages

Sel Carim wrote:


fine=2
small=4
medium=8
large=16
huge=32
gargantuan=64
colossal=128

I love this! It makes a great backbone for figuring out the approximate HP of creatures by mass. It even works retroactively (elves being on the light side of medium, half-orcs and dwarves on the heavy side).

Generally I have found that the Monster Manual entries work fine if you just lowball everything--assume all hit dice roll ones. Granted there's a lot of creatures with extra beef to account for the inflated hitpoints of higher level characters--and while up until now I had no good way of dealing with this, I think the above system is a mighty fine start.

P.S.
...y'know, the more I apply my first method to the actual MM the more I think it just doesn't work. Orcs would have 1 hit point. Minotaurs would have 18. Umber Hulks would have 40. I guess this goes to show how arbitrary the whole HP thing has always been. I plan on prompty keifing Sel Carim's formula which just makes oodles more sense. Orcs=13, Minotaurs=16, Umber Hulks=25--much nicer!


Hey, I was browsing this board, you know, just reading up on the subject, and I thought of an idea.

I was looking at the issue from somewhat of the other side than you all have been viewing it, and my idea's a little out there, so bear with me.

What if, as they grow in power, a characters damage increases?

Now, for those of you that contend that a commoner should still be able to kill a tenth level were-bear dwarven barbarian with your average kitchen knife, then this won't work so well.

However, using a system like this would show the difference between your average joe swinging a stick and a highly trained warrior with a longsword.

Now, I've never actually constructed a system like this; the idea just sort of popped into my head. But you could say that higher "damage-dealing" classes (such as fighter, barbarian, rogue, and ranger) would get class bonuses on damage as well as attack.

If your contention is that hit points represent a characters ability to dodge, then this would show these classes ability to not only hit, but to hit hard.

There are problems with this system, and I might be an idiot for mentioning it even, but what do you all think?


namfoodle wrote:


What if, as they grow in power, a characters damage increases?

Belive it or not, I have actually heard of a system like this before. In BESM (yah, there I go mentioning BESM again...) there is an attribute you can buy called massive damage, attributes in the BESM system are somewhat like feats. You can buy the attribute several times and each time your damage goes up by a certain number. Can't remember off the top of my head what the number is and I don't have my book with me right now, but I would like to hear if anyone has tried it before and what effect it had on the game.

By the way, here's something that explains hit points in an new way. The idea is that the barrier between humanity and diety is very thin in the DnD cosmology and that as humans acheive excelence they become less like men and more like divine entities themselves. As they undergo this slow apoptheosis they become able to acheive feats out of the reach of ordinary men, and while they can not acheive the status of Gods, they can become something more than what they were. An old saying about Babe Ruth comes to mind "less than a God, but more than a man" Thus explaining why high level characters can take blows that would stagger an ordinary man and do the many other extrodanary things they do. It's a strange twist on the DnD cosmology, but perhaps with some work it could be spun into something interesting.

Scarab Sages

Sel Carim wrote:
As they undergo this slow apoptheosis they become able to acheive feats out of the reach of ordinary men, and while they can not acheive the status of Gods, they can become something more than what they were. An old saying about Babe Ruth comes to mind "less than a God, but more than a man" Thus explaining why high level characters can take blows that would stagger an ordinary man and do the many other extrodanary things they do. It's a strange twist on the DnD cosmology, but perhaps with some work it could be spun into something interesting.

I don't mind the idea of a mechanic to bridge the gap between mortal and god, in fact there's a lot of games where most of the fun is being this bigger than life superhero type. I would say however that if something like this were to be introduced into D&D I would much prefer it to be as a template or a prestige class--or some other campaign specific mechanic. I'd hate to think that EVERY character in every D&D game is supposed to be some sort of quasi-deity. I like to think of the heroes as people, however heroic they be.


Faraer wrote:


The creators of the first generation of RPGs, which were (in part) very much reactions to D&D, often thought similarly -- this discussion has gone on for 30 years. But there's no question that hit points have worked very well for a great many people for many years. I like them, and similar abstract systems, because like any half-decent DM or player I'm better at narrating the details of combat than any ruleset.

Not to be contrarian, but how many people have actually tried a realistic high mortality rate rpg? I've been gaming for a good 20 years, and all the stories of high adventure usually come from non D&D games, Original L5R, original deadlands, traveller, WFRP. Ironically the stories come across a table where D&D is played.


I can see a system working where fighters get more damage, and if I was making my own RPG that's what I'd do. However, to simply throw that into D&D third edition as it stands, I think it would jiggle too much with the balance of the game.

Even with the game's system of hits, it's still a simplified abstraction. I might strike your armour, your shield, you might parry, I might miss entirely, I might mean to swing but not be skilled enough to find an opening; all these are just termed a simple miss. Even when I successfully hit, the number of hitpoints you have determines whether or not it "actually" hit you or just tired you out a little.

We can make it more complex, but it will probably either increase time (making combat less exciting than it should be) or upset the game balance, or both. For example, two-handed fighters deal more damage than the wizard at low level, but that's okay because the wizard's spells can ignore armour and have other effects. Wizards deal more damage at high level (and can use instant kills), but that's okay because the fighter can take a ton of damage and can strike consistently three or four times per round, and his ability to deal that damage never runs out.


I once ran a campaign where the characters advanced in everthing except hitpoints. They advanced in spell level, skills, saving throws, armor class, and at that time ThAC0. This way, even at 20th level, a single arrow could kill, but the characters skill and equipment got better to prevent them from getting hit in the first place.. The trick was keeping the adventure interesting while not using creatures above CR3 (or the equivalent level, I ran this back under 1st ed)

The campaign was primarily one of warfare against goblin armies. The action could be very cinimagraphic as the heroes with their good AC, magical equipment waded into a troop of goblins. Or the magic wielders blasted holes in goblin formations with high level spells. But when one of the few Trolls appeared, even the highest level characters panicked. A lot of the adventure was special forces missions to ambush supplies, ruin alliances, and kill leaders. All the while, none of the characters had over 10 Hp. Multi classing was a given, because you never knew whether stealth or magic or a strong sword arm would win the day, and it was best to have all three.

I found that as long as the foes could also fall to one blow, that the players didn't feel under powered, and by mixing up the missions, they didn't mind that their foes were mainly goblinoids.

In 3ed, one would have to figure out the ex for higher level parties with the lower HP, but there are plenty of awesome 1st-3rd level adventures that could be used to chalange the party.

Hp seem pretty much there as a responce to higher level monsters who also have higher Hp. Stick with low HP creatures, and there are plenty of good ones out there, and good story lines, and players may find that they like the realism that can come from low Hp, but it also helps to have backup characters, or the ability ot rais dead to keep the adventure going.

ASEO out


Another option is making the character gain a negative level for every X Hp that they lose. This would simulate the pain and weakness incured from their wounds...however if you use something like this for the PCs, you should also use it for their foes. It could be like every X% of their Hp or X#.

It always bothered me that a fighter with 100 Hp fought just the same whether he had all 100, or only 1.

ASEO out


ASEO wrote:

It always bothered me that a fighter with 100 Hp fought just the same whether he had all 100, or only 1.

ASEO out

Another thing I like about the Vitality and Wounds system mentioned: Anyone that takes a hit to their Wounds is automatically fatigued.

Except for Warforged, because their immune to fatigue.


Pisces74 wrote:
how many people have actually tried a realistic high mortality rate rpg?

It was actually my experience with such games that first inspired me to mod the D20 system. I have played quite a bit of L5R and several homebrew settings that used the white-wolf system. Both systems are fairly lethal as far as damage is concerned. Despite this I have enjoyed long lasting characters from both systems. I think I could go as far as to say that my group has acrued a fair amount of glory stories from such systems (if I do say so myself ;)

In all fairness though, games with realistics HP rules don't always result in high levels of character death, it's just defense skill, armor and character savvy that keep people alive instead of hp.

Scarab Sages

ASEO wrote:
Another option is making the character gain a negative level for every X Hp that they lose. This would simulate the pain and weakness incured from their wounds...however if you use something like this for the PCs, you should also use it for their foes. It could be like every X% of their Hp or X#.

I was actually kicking around an idea very similar to this--really mostly because the idea that level damage comes from death energy attacks has always struck me as a lame way to let DMs zork a character who's too high level. We were batting the idea around one day as to what level loss could represent we were thinking possibly fatigue. The character is tired or injured, he's not thinking straight, and suddenly when it comes time for him to remember that lesson that his master taught him about how to use secret class ability X, he can't get it to work. He's not attacking as fast, or as accurately. It seems like these are all symptoms of fatigue. Not sure how I'll use it yet, but I like the premise.


Negative levels are fatigue, physical and mental weakness, and just sheer bad luck. They are everything that could be bad happening at once. Trying to find an exact deffinition or representation in reality isn't going to work. D&D gets arbitrary about things on an infuriating scale. Why do soem cold affects deal Dex damage, but not others? Why can some freeze water in their written description, but not others? Why does a caster usign shcoking grasp get a bonus to attack against foes wearing metal, but those same foes don't take a penalty on saves versus other electricity effects? Why doesn't fire leave burns that continue to hamper the character? Why does nagative energy cause fear in some cases, ability damage in other, and level drain in still more?

It's all arbitrary. I personally would like to see a bit more continuity between them, such as "All spells with the electricity descriptor confer a +2 bonus on touch attack rolls if the foe is clad in metal, or -2 on a metal-clad foe's save against the effect." And maybe, "Any spell with the cold descriptor carries with it an additional DC 15 Fortitide save, or the subject takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls due to numbness." That would probably unbalance the game, but I'd like to see that little extra dynamism sot hat energy descriptors apply to more than just types of resistance.

And the thought that after loosing X% of HP (and that's almost what it has to be to make any sense) a creature takes Y penalties (which stack) appeals to me. More details!

Scarab Sages

Saern wrote:


It's all arbitrary. I personally would like to see a bit more continuity between them, such as "All spells with the electricity descriptor confer a +2 bonus on touch attack rolls if the foe is clad in metal, or -2 on a metal-clad foe's save against the effect." And maybe, "Any spell with the cold descriptor carries with it an additional DC 15 Fortitide save, or the subject takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls due to numbness." That would probably unbalance the game, but I'd like to see that little extra dynamism sot hat energy descriptors apply to more than just types of resistance.

And the thought that after loosing X% of HP (and that's almost what it has to be to make any sense) a creature takes Y penalties (which stack) appeals to me. More details!

I'm really in the same camp. Y'know I could care less about game balance if everything felt internally consistant and made solid sense. There's too many amorphous game mechanics propped up in the places where they're saggy with yet more amorphous game mechanics.

I like your idea of nailing down the specific effects of different genres of attack and laying them out clearly. I can't claim to say what everything should look like when it's all done, but I would love the standard to be clarity and consistancy rather than game balance or excessive devotion to sacred cows of the past. Frankly I'll take a game where what's going on mechanically feels like what's happening in the game, a system that plays out with dramatic realism--like you'd get in a book or a movie. That's really what I care about, and inconsistancies like you're talking about really just kill the feeling of reality a game should try to maintain.


You know what, I'm going to do that: compile a table of different kinds of effects done by varying attack forms. I'll try to maintain balance, but will it be perfectly in synch with everything? Not likely, but neither are the options in the real, organic world, and everything being too cookie-cutter perfect relative to everything else just feels contrived.

I like the thought that electricity effects bestow a bonus (+2) on attack rolls utilizing them (except for shock and shocking bust weapons), or a -2 penalty on the save against them, both provided the subject is wearing metal armor.

Cold should either deal Dex damage, or probably better, just a -2 on attacks due to the numbness it leaves, for, let's say, 1d4 rounds?

What abot fire? And acid? Sonic; a chance to deafen is pretty obvious here, but many spells already include this. So what to do? And what about force?

Should I try to find a bonus effect for every descriptor, or should I only do those that feel natural, such as those described above? How would energy resistance play into this?


Sel Carim wrote:

My problems with the DnD hit point system is that weapons, or any kind of damage for that mater, do far less damage than they should at higher levels. The same knife that would kill a first level character will mearly wound a 10th level character and bearly scratch a 20th level character.

(snip)

If anyone has any thought on the matter(even if it is to tell me that I am an idiot ;) ), has a good way of explaining the HP system or house rules to deal with the problem, please post them.

I like the GURPS system for handling hit points and combat in general. (I haven't played for a few years, so any GURPS players please correct me if I forget something.) In GURPS, hit points are determined by your health score(like constitution) modified by race and certain feats. So, hit points tend to be in the same range whether you're a mage-type(there are no classes, per se) or a warrior-type. Now, you don't earn experience points or levels, you earn character points which can then be used to buy higher stats, better skills, more spells(which are like skills in GURPS), additional feats, or traded for gold to buy more stuff. Experienced characters will have more character points to spend and could thus have more hit points, but not anything like the variation you see in D&D. So how do characters survive without all those hit points? Well, in combat there are attack rolls and defense rolls. If your opponent rolls a potentially successful attack against you, you then roll to defend, either by dodging, parrying with a weapon or blocking with a shield. If you defend successfully, the attack fails. If you fail to defend, the attack connects and you may take damage. First, there is damage reduction (like Barbarians in D&D), which can reduce or even negate any damage(if you're lucky). Damage reduction comes from armor and certain feats like toughness. Damage that gets through is finally modified by strength, magic(if any) and possibly weapon type(bludgeoning - no mod, slashing - damage x1.5, or piercing - damage x2). Lastly, any damage you do take has a temporary shock effect, smaller or larger depending on the amount of damage, hindering your attacks and defenses until you shake it off the next round. So even a small wound has some effect, and several small wounds can really add up. Unlike D&D, hit points represent only how much physical damage you can take. Other factors like experience and skill come into play through active defenses. Combat, IMHO, seems more realistic in this system because defending is as active as attacking, and because of the way hit points are handled, even a great warrior could go down from a couple of really lucky hits. No one, therefore, takes combat lightly. It is life or death, afterall.

The Exchange

I just need to say something, in my experience with martial arts I have taken hits that would have broken ribs, knocked out, and otherwise devastated a normal person. I was in peak physical condition (6-7% body fat) and trained to absorb or roll with the blows. I have been attacked with a knife on 2 separate occasions and taken minor cuts due to my quickened reflexes. My first karate instructor kicked me in my ribs so hard that I went through the wall of the dojo and landed in a pile of videos from the rental store next to us. I went back through the wall and continued to "spar" without hesitation. I was being taught that "guys shouldn't get their ear pierced" by my Sa Bum Nim at the time.
My point is, its only hard to believe the way hitpoints work if you have never had to deal with a well trained combatant or were one at one point. I find the system works well. Now the way armor works is another story...

FH

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Dedicated Voter 2015

Fake Healer wrote:

I just need to say something, in my experience with martial arts I have taken hits that would have broken ribs, knocked out, and otherwise devastated a normal person. I was in peak physical condition (6-7% body fat) and trained to absorb or roll with the blows. I have been attacked with a knife on 2 separate occasions and taken minor cuts due to my quickened reflexes. My first karate instructor kicked me in my ribs so hard that I went through the wall of the dojo and landed in a pile of videos from the rental store next to us. I went back through the wall and continued to "spar" without hesitation. I was being taught that "guys shouldn't get their ear pierced" by my Sa Bum Nim at the time.

My point is, its only hard to believe the way hitpoints work if you have never had to deal with a well trained combatant or were one at one point. I find the system works well. Now the way armor works is another story...

FH

That’s exactly how I see it (right down to my small gripe about armor).

As for Gurps being more realistic I can't say that I agree. I've played Gurps (and enjoyed myself) and I've found that while the system is more detailed and complex it isn't necessarily more realistic. The Hit Point system streamlines combat incorporating some active defenses, stamina, and actual injury all into a single mechanic.

What makes HP seem flawed is the way damage is commonly described during play. If a player rolls a hit then the DM describes a hit if the roll is a miss the DM describes a miss. This ends up with heroes who have become walking pincushions with dozens of arrows (and sometimes spears or swords) sticking out of them. When we play, it sometimes falls back to that, but I try to talk about rolling with a particularly grisly blow minimizing its effect or a fighter straining with his foe across a locked blade in a close parry, telling the player that it took 10hp of strain to force his opponents blade away from his head.

Like I said, I don’t do this with every attack but my players understand how I interpret Hit Points we use this to season combat descriptions as frequently as possible without slowing combat too much.


Sel Carim wrote:

My problems with the DnD hit point system is that weapons, or any kind of damage for that mater, do far less damage than they should at higher levels. The same knife that would kill a first level character will mearly wound a 10th level character and bearly scratch a 20th level character.

(snip)

If anyone has any thought on the matter(even if it is to tell me that I am an idiot ;) ), has a good way of explaining the HP system or house rules to deal with the problem, please post them.

I like the GURPS system for handling hit points and combat in general. (I haven't played for a few years, so any GURPS players please correct me if I forget something.) In GURPS, hit points are determined by your health score(like constitution) modified by race and certain feats. So, hit points don't vary nearly as much as they do using levels and hit dice as in D&D. Actually, you don't earn experience points or levels, you earn character points which can then be used to buy higher stats, better skills(almost everything in GURPS is done as a skill), more spells, additional feats, or traded for gold to buy more stuff. Experienced characters will have more character points to spend and could thus have more hit points, but not anything like the variation you see in D&D. So how do characters survive without all those hit points? Well, in combat there are attack rolls and defense rolls. If your opponent rolls a potentially successful attack against you, you then roll to defend, either by dodging, parrying with a weapon or blocking with a shield. If you defend successfully, the attack fails. If you fail to defend, the attack connects and you may take damage. First, there is damage reduction (like Barbarians in D&D), which can reduce or even negate any damage(if you're lucky). Damage reduction comes from armor and certain feats like toughness. Better armor absorbs better blows. So what about damage that does get through? Damage that gets through is modified by weapon type(bludgeoning - no mod, slashing - damage x1.5, or piercing - damage x2). So, for example, although a dagger doesn't pack as much punch as a mace, it can be just as deadly against unarmored opponents with that damage multiplier. Lastly, any damage you do take has a temporary shock effect, smaller or larger depending on the amount of damage, hindering your attacks and defenses until you shake it off the next round. So even a small wound has a small effect, and several small wounds in the same round can really add up. Unlike D&D, hit points represent only how much physical damage your body can take. Other factors like experience and skill come into play through active defenses. Combat, IMHO, seems more realistic in this system because defending is as active as attacking, and because of the way hit points are handled, even a great warrior could go down from a couple of really lucky hits. No one, therefore takes combat or their opponents lightly. It is life or death, afterall ;)


Fake Healer has a good point. If you're a commoner, a sword stab might kill you. If you're an exceptional fighter, the same sword stab will translate to less actual injury. You can only block, dodge and roll with hits so much, though.

Another good example is the episode of Fullmetal Alchemist where Ed fights a sword-wielding suit of armour. Initially, Ed successfully blocks several hits or takes only minor cuts, but each hit tires him out a little bit more, reducing his ability to keep defending hits. The final slashes deal significant injuries, to the point where at the end of the fight he's perhaps one or two hits away from being killed.

Scarab Sages

Geez! Kicked through a freaking wall? Holy crap that's awesome!

I dunno. I guess I can't really speak from any great reservoir of personal fighting experience. Never been in a fight (well not a fair one anyway) and so I have no real credibility. That someone with training can take a weapon hit and stay functional doesn't seem too unbelievable--I just can't imagine that a weapon will NEVER deal a serious blow to a trained combatant. Likewise I can see a character taking much more punching and kicking and be fine, than they can spear thrusts or clobberings with a mace (which I hear can be particularly ugly).

Granted, even in the high grit rules, a regular human character with max Constitution and Toughness off both feats will start with a fat 18 hit points. I could see a guy with 18 hit points maybe going through a wall and still being okay. Heck that's what like three good hits with a sword he could take before going down. On the other hand a guy with, what 80 hit points? I could see him getting run over by a Mack truck and being okay. There's something about that that just ain't right.

And yeah...one way or another, the armor rules need help.


I liked the Damage/Wound points system from Alternity. There were 4 kinds of damage stun/wound/kill/fatigue and every category had some points derived from constitution. On one side there was the overflow, so after enough stun damage you got wound damage and so on. On the other side, different weapons started from different positions making already wound or kill damage.


I have to admit that I'm not so much a fan of Grimcleaver's system, since it sacrifices the status quo in the name of realism. In truth, the current system is a big abstraction which sacrifices realism in favour of straightforwardness.

If it's troubling that a high level person should be able to take a lethal injury ten times over and survive, then players should remember that damage does not translate into injury on a linear scale. Rather, the more hit points you have left, the less actual injury you take from any given amount of "damage"; hit points do not necessarily represent the ability to take more injury, but to take more damage.


I got into this discussion a while back in a thread I started on Coup de Grace attaks. Lord Stewpndous posted with the suggestion I check out Kenneth Hood's "Grim and Gritty Combat Rules". I have to say I was suitably impressed and I think all you folks looking for a more palitable Hit Point and Armor Class system would be interested too.

Here's one link: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?cPath=330&products_id=5022&

Lord Stewpndous suggested this link: http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&rls=GGLG,G GLG:2005 -41,GGLG:en&q=Grim%2Dn%2DGritty+Hit+Point+and+Combat+Rules

Enjoy,
C.

I'm sure there are others.

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