Killing The Sacred Cow: Exchanging the Abstraction of Hit Points for New Mechanics


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This thread discusses radical alterations of the Hit Point mechanic and the overall combat system of Pathfinder.

From Ultimate Combat:
Hit points are an abstraction. When a fighter gains a level, his body does not suddenly become more resistant to damage. A sword’s strike does not suddenly do proportionately less damage. Rather, hit points suggest that the fighter has undergone more training, and while he may have improved his ability to deal with wounds to a small degree, the hit points gained at higher levels reflect less his capacity for physical punishment and more his skill at avoiding hits, his ability to dodge and twist and turn. Each loss of hit points, in this case, suggests that he is becoming progressively less nimble over the course of combat—in other words, that the decreasing hit points are a marker for his overall endurance and condition. It’s not quite as satisfying, however, to roll a critical hit and then tell a player that his opponent ducked out of the way, but that the sword’s slash made the enemy a little less lucky.

TL;DR Hit Points (and, by extension, Vigor Points) are abstractions that imply ducking and dodging and getting lucky enough to not get hit. You get more of them as you level up because you get better and ducking and dodging and being lucky. So . . . What if we had mechanics for ducking and dodging and being lucky? Would it be acceptable to do away with Hit Points?

For instance (and this is a very rough "for instance"), suppose that a character begins play with two pools of Points. For familiarity's sake, we'll say we have Vigor Points and Wound Points. He has Wound Points equal to twice his Constitution score, and Vigor Points equal to 10 + Constitution score + rolled Class HD. So far, pretty similar to Wounds and Vigor from Ultimate Combat.

In combat, if an attack roll beats a character's AC, they are hit. Damage goes straight to Wound Points. If you are using the Armor as DR mechanic, damage is reduced by armor and the remainder goes straight to Wound Points.

"But, doesn't that mean that an orc can kill a low-level character with just a few regular hits?"

Yes, it does, but that's not anything new. A fighter with Constitution 12 can only take 4 minimum damage hits from an orc's falchion, 5 if he has Toughness.

"But, doesn't it also mean that a lot of enemies can kill a high-level character with a single hit?"

YES. YES, IT DOES.

Let's get real for a minute. If a thirty-foot-long dragon bites you, you are dead. If it steps on you, you are dead. If it cuts you with its foot-long claws, you are dead. Mountain lions can kill people, sharks can kill people, medium-sized dogs can kill people. A thirty-foot-long dragon or a thirty-foot-tall giant will kill you if it hits you.

"But I'm playing a fantasy game! I want to fight dragons and giants and do crazy things that are obviously impossible in real life!"

Sweet! So do I! So let's talk about Vigor Points.

What I'm suggesting Vigor Points do, rather than being an abstract pool that soaks up damage, is that they allow characters to take defensive options during someone else's turn. Parry, Dodge, Get Lucky, whatever. They let you raise your AC so that you avoid getting hit at all. A character should plan on burning through lots of Vigor Points--much like they already expect that they will, at some point, take Hit Point damage in the current system.

"But if your Vigor Points go up as you level, won't you be able to just burn your Vigor Points all day long and never get hit?"

You would if your Vigor Points increased, but they don't. This is the part where I think most people will dig in their heels. You don't get a massive pool of 200-400 VP at 20th level. Rather than having Vigor Points increase every level, their effects improve. Spending a single Vigor Points to dodge an attack might give you +2 to AC at level 1, but +10 to AC at level 20.

"Your model doesn't have any math to show how it compares to the existing model, and it doesn't address critical hits/sneak attack/barbarians/undead/constructs/any-number-of-a-thousand-other-things."

Well, no. I'm just throwing thoughts out into the void to see what comes back. I don't have a model for those other things because I don't even know if anyone else would be interested in playing with rules like these.

So--would anyone be interested in rules with a similar concept to what I've posted?

TL;DR Would you be willing to give up the sacred cow of scaling Hit Points with your level if you had working dodge/parry mechanics to mitigate damage with instead?

What do you think?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What I'd like to know in order to understand this better is what does this system seek to change? The difference between high and lower level characters? Make them more fragile? or simply introduce more mechanics into combats so they take longer to run?

The real problem I have, is that you haven't addressed recovery and all of the other mechanics linked to hit points such as healing spells, poison, non-lethal damage, etc.


I'm afraid of change, so I'm flagging your post for offensive content.

A whole lot of work is going to have to happen to make this a thing, and not just on the system itself, but almost anything that does damage as far as I can tell.

I'm not saying it's a bad idea, but it's definitely gonna be a loooooooong testing stage. I support looking deeper into it, and hope you get a following of people willing to do actual work as opposed to people like me.

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Hm, I actually like the CRB's idea of hit points, where you literally get tougher and it takes more actual physical damage to put you down. I enjoy that level of badassery in my fantasy, where no, getting bitten by a dragon does NOT kill you, because you're just that damn tough. Perhaps I'm the minority here?


Your model will lead to any critical being absolute death.

It doesn't matter if your vigor gives you a +100 to AC. A natural 20 is still a natural 20, so the first time someone rolls one against your character, you're out a character.

Honestly, no these people aren't dead from a dog, or a mountain lion, or a shark by level 5 or so because after that they cease to be in range of anything we can describe as human.


LazarX wrote:

What I'd like to know in order to understand this better is what does this system seek to change? The difference between high and lower level characters? Make them more fragile? or simply introduce more mechanics into combats so they take longer to run?

The real problem I have, is that you haven't addressed recovery and all of the other mechanics linked to hit points such as healing spells, poison, non-lethal damage, etc.

I'm with this guy. Maybe I'm missing the advantage of making combat even longer by replacing a simple abstraction with a more complex one.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Simon Legrande wrote:
LazarX wrote:

What I'd like to know in order to understand this better is what does this system seek to change? The difference between high and lower level characters? Make them more fragile? or simply introduce more mechanics into combats so they take longer to run?

The real problem I have, is that you haven't addressed recovery and all of the other mechanics linked to hit points such as healing spells, poison, non-lethal damage, etc.

I'm with this guy. Maybe I'm missing the advantage of making combat even longer by replacing a simple abstraction with a more complex one.

I kind of take a patent office view of things. I have no interest in someone's idea for half an engine or a quarter of it. I want to see the engine, even if you're not ready to put it in a car yet. If you care about your idea enough, you'll do the work and present something that's at least somewhat complete. If you won't do the work until you get enough pats on the back, I'm not interested.


Jiggy wrote:
Hm, I actually like the CRB's idea of hit points, where you literally get tougher and it takes more actual physical damage to put you down. I enjoy that level of badassery in my fantasy, where no, getting bitten by a dragon does NOT kill you, because you're just that damn tough. Perhaps I'm the minority here?

I'm also in this camp, but I do enjoy having more options. Vigor points increasing AC is a good start, but they also need to apply to Reflex saves and Fortitude saves unless you want AoE blasts and poisons to be much more lethal than they currently are. You could just eliminate WP-damage poisons, but the idea is to have as many options as possible, so I'm not a fan of it.

The other problem at very high levels is that to-hit scales so well that even a +10 to AC wouldn't help much unless you had already invested heavily in defense. Perhaps at higher levels unlock the option to give yourself miss chance with vigor points or move a relatively small amount, and if it takes you out of your opponent's reach they miss?


The d20 revised edition star wars had this concept of two hit point totals... 1 for your body and actual dmaage and one based on fatigue and more abstract .... they did away with it in saga because it was a mess.... added very little and caused a pain recordkeeping wise ...

some highlights included...
crits go to lower body total bypassing abstraction HP
force powers (magic) use abstraction hit points when used.....

some other foolishness to consider....
armor makes you hard to hit? or should be DR and make oyu harder to
damage?
why cant i parry with a sword? a high level fighter can't parry
an attack?
I can make a reflex save to dodge a fireball, but not to dodge
a thrown dagge?
Why cant i try to dodge, parry and absorb with armor all at the same
time

4e tried to incorporate some of the rules of this nature from d20 modern and star wars sage but lets not kick that werehornets nest

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Instead of Vigor giving you AC, what if it gave you temporary hitpoints? But I guess it's the same as hitpoints except you have to commit an action. I agree with others that you need to ask yourself what purpose the mechanic will serve. Adding a complex mechanic for its own sake is foolishness. The entire point of hitpoints is that it's an easy way to see how much fight someone has left.

I like the interpretation that the enemy is making glancing blows on you all through the fight, wearing you down until finally succumbing to a mortal wound.


If the number of vigor points don't increase with level, it's a death sentence for higher level heroes.

Creatures to-hit increases much faster than a PCs defenses will. As well, as creatures increase in strength, they often get more attacks. More often than not, those are natural attacks that all hit at the creature's full bonus. PCs under this system would die more at a higher level than a lower.

All this does is take the frailties of first level and keep them throughout the game. It isn't fun to die to an orc critting you with a greataxe at 1st. It isn't fun if that happens at 17th either.

If you wanted this to progress with this system at all, vigor points would need to scale in number and would need to scale better in value. As well, criticals. Criticals would just suck any fun out of playing under these rules.


LazarX The point of this system would be to make things with physical bodies equally fragile across the board, (average Wound Points between levels 1 and 20 changes by about 20 points, while average Hit Points between levels 1 and 20 changes by almost 300), but also give everyone across the board options to avoid being hit. It's exchanging abstraction for granularity, and it definitely appeals more to simulationists than gamists. I think it will end up adding to combat time, but not as terribly as one might expect. Does it take longer to resolve a successful hit, or to say, "Nope, I'm dodging that one"? Testing will tell.

As for the other points you mentioned, yes. Just like any other system that alters the way Hit Points are represented (Unearthed Arcana, Ultimate Combat), I'll have to tinker with those. But I honestly don't think they'll be too terrible to change.

Jiggy I'm curious, how does that work in your head? When something whose head is nearly as large as your entire body sticks your upper torso into its mouth and bites down, how do you survive? Is it because your skin is too tough for the teeth to properly tear into you, or because you are such a Badass that you keep fighting almost unhampered in spite of the horrific physical damage you've sustained? Because, I'll be honest, I love them both, but they could both be modeled without 400 Hit Points. However, if you already like the abstraction the way it is, then yeah, this change probably wouldn't be for you.

Thomas Long 175 I vehemently refute your claim that PCs don't die because they are inhuman. PCs survive, not because they operate beyond the boundaries of human capability (though magic certainly helps on that front), but because they are heroes. My examples were to point out the frailty of the human body, and I should have included the caveat that, of course, animals pose little threat to trained human combatants in full armor and weapons. The frailty of the human body, however, remains.

As to your point about critical hits: As I mentioned earlier, every system that substantially changes Hit Points (and this wouldn't be the first) also has to substantially alter other sub-systems, including critical hits. If you're not already familiar with them, have a look at Unearthed Arcana: Vitality and Wound Points and Ultimate Combat: Wounds and Vigor. You'll notice that both of these systems change the way that critical hits are resolved, and so would this system. Perhaps it would mean that a natural 20 is no longer an automatic hit! Another sacred cow . . .

It seems to me that the general feeling is, "Come back with something more concrete and show why anyone should use it instead of the existing system and it'll be worth discussing." Which is pretty fair, and about what I expected :)

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I don't call it 'vigor'. I call it 'soak.' Its also called 'warrior's magic.'

The completely unrealistic ability to fall from 200 feet onto concrete, get up and walk away? You soaked it, got a nosebleed, got up, walked away. Just like temporary hit points, in their way.

being able to deal with pure physical damage? Health. But health can rapidly reach inhuman levels, too. You simply have more life force, more magical reinforcement of your body, more ability to resist physical damage via spiritual reinforcement of the body.

Your beginning health is your con, add to it every level. Your hit dice are your Soak. RACIAL hit dice, such as most monster have, are health.

Only class levels grant soak. Soak lets you dodge the undodgable, survive the unsurvivable, and live through catastrophe without a scratch.

Most healing spells only affect health, not soak. Soak gets restored very quickly compared to health, at the rate of BAB/hour, and fighters get their fighter level back in it after every fight.

So, you have the abstract, totally magical, and the physical, which is infused magical (think of Health as akin to all the physical punishment anime characters take, and keep right on going). Soak is something you 'expend' by losing it to fight damage.

And there you roll up your hit points all into one...and give a healing bonus to martial characters. Wizards have crappy soak, but can infuse magic into their bones with a high Con score to become incredibly, magically tough. Warriors can do the same thing, but on top of that get loads of Soak (which they can train up easily!) and which comes back quickly to enable them to keep on trucking long after the casters run out of hp.

===Aelryinth

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Witch's Knight wrote:
Jiggy I'm curious, how does that work in your head? When something whose head is nearly as large as your entire body sticks your upper torso into its mouth and bites down, how do you survive? Is it because your skin is too tough for the teeth to properly tear into you, or because you are such a Badass that you keep fighting almost unhampered in spite of the horrific physical damage you've sustained? Because, I'll be honest, I love them both, but they could both be modeled without 400 Hit Points. However, if you already like the abstraction the way it is, then yeah, this change probably wouldn't be for you.

A combination of both: my muscles are so freakin' epic that it'll take more than that to put me down, and even if you do hurt me pretty bad, I'm getting good at pulling a Boromir.


Design a new game, you kids. Get off of my lawn.

My lawn is Pathfinder in this analogy. And you guys are kids because you think modding the core damage mechanic of a game developed over 5 years is a good idea; it is not a good idea. All the combat rules are working under a different set of assumptions.


Witch's Knight wrote:


Thomas Long 175 I vehemently refute your claim that PCs don't die because they are inhuman. PCs survive, not because they operate beyond the boundaries of human capability (though magic certainly helps on that front), but because they are heroes. My examples were to point out the frailty of the human body, and I should have included the caveat that, of course, animals pose little threat to trained human combatants in full armor and weapons. The frailty of the human body, however, remains.

You can refute it with facts and numbers. There have been articles and papers done on this very topic and the general consensus is that no human has ever gone beyond 5th level, and frankly not a single 5th level character is alive today.

Beyond the regular hp arguments (my barbarian falls from the sky, slams through a few buildings, and gets up and attacks), lets not forget skills. Where its possible for a high level character to cling to a flawless glass ceiling with their finger tips. Where a non magical person (fighter or rogue) could leap 30 or 40 feet with relative ease.

You may not like the concept, but there is no refutation that at the very latest, someone who has hit 10th level is far beyond anything we've ever considered "human."

As for removing another sacred cow, gonna have to say dude, you're suggesting a complex system that creates another headache for people to track, while at the same time removing a solid bit of fun from the game.

The joy of the natural 20. Because young or old, new gamer or grognard, when a 20 lands on the table people get excited. Suggesting a system where you can roll a natural 20 and its no different from a 19 with a greatsword is basically the same as suggesting a system where you can throw a spell you know should do something and GM Fiats it into nothingness.

Or do I need to paint a picture of the disappointed player's face as he realizes he finally rolls a crit with his greataxe and you decided that that he still misses.


Aelrynth While your suggestion is interesting and I appreciate your input, it's not quite what I'm looking for. It is giving me ideas, though . . .

Excaliburproxy Firstly, the d20 mechanic was developed almost fifteen years ago, and just because it's been around for a while doesn't mean it's the best way to do things. Many systems model damage and wounds in a much better fashion than d20 does. This concept may, eventually (probably, in fact), be entirely separate from the existing d20 rules, but since I'm most familiar with Pathfinder, I'm building it within Pathfinder first. Additionally, since this is the homebrew forum, telling me to stop fiddling with the system (even core aspects of the system) borders on the inane.

Thomas Long 175 On your first point, I concede. Being heroic, in a cinematic sense, usually means performing beyond the bounds of human capacity, and the D&D/PF system of skills, feats, magic, and Hit Points support that. You are absolutely right, and I retract my earlier refutation. My goal, however, is to have a mechanic that still feels heroic without also feeling silly. Your mention of falling damage is an excellent example. A hero falling thirty feet and crashing through a roof with a nosebleed? Sure. Why not? People have survived much, much worse falls (I think the current world record is over ten kilometers), though those usually involve falling into snow or something else that breaks their fall, and they have broken limbs and splintered spines afterwards. But in D&D/PF, falling isn't just survivable, it's a legitimate part of strategy. Leaping from a 100-foot cliff to continue a fight doesn't even phase most high-level characters. Lava has the same problem. 2d6 points of fire damage per round from exposure is laughable to any high-level character, even without fire resistance (which, of course, they have), and even being submerged in lava is survivable for multiple rounds. Submerged. In lava. With zero long-term effects. In my ideal game, those situations would be extreme risks, or impossible without magical assistance.

Regarding your second point: what I said was, "Maybe the natural 20 isn't an automatic hit," not, "A natural 20 should be the same as every other number on the die." The "system" that I proposed above (as I've said more than once now, including in the original post), is conceptual. It is an idea. It's obviously undeveloped. I can think of lots of great ways a natural 20 roll can be cool without an automatic hit or bonus damage. Just because that's the only way you know how to play does not mean that it's the only right way to play. Please don't put words in my mouth, and please don't resort to rudeness or sarcasm. Nobody is making you read this thread if you think that my ideas are fundamentally wrong.


I like the concept. It'd probably work better in a different RPG, but here's my contribution stolen from Next anyway:

Martial Dice.

Instead of BAB and HP, every level you get martial dice (equal to the class's hp die).

In combat, you can spend your die on stuff every turn. The basic options are adding it to attack rolls and AC, feats/class abilities unlock more options (sacrifice a total of 25 points for an extra attack kind of thing). If you have some left over, you can add them to your saves as free actions when you make them.

You recover martial dice during short rests/between combats.


Witch's Knight wrote:

This thread discusses radical alterations of the Hit Point mechanic and the overall combat system of Pathfinder.

** spoiler omitted **

TL;DR Hit Points (and, by extension, Vigor Points) are abstractions that imply ducking and dodging and getting lucky enough to not get hit. You get more of them as you level up because you get better and ducking and dodging and being lucky. So . . . What if we had mechanics for ducking and dodging and being lucky? Would it be acceptable to do away with Hit Points?

For instance (and this is a very rough "for instance"), suppose that a character begins play with two pools of Points. For familiarity's sake, we'll say we have Vigor Points and Wound Points. He has Wound Points equal to twice his Constitution score, and Vigor Points equal to 10 + Constitution score + rolled Class HD. So far, pretty similar to Wounds and Vigor from Ultimate Combat.

In combat, if an attack roll beats a character's AC, they are hit. Damage goes straight to Wound Points. If you are using the Armor as DR mechanic, damage is reduced by armor and the...

So, I totally get what you are saying. Unfortunately what you are looking for is another system, such as my all time favorite, Rolemaster.

I think too much is embedded into PF centered around silly amounts of HP, equal amounts of damage, and healing all of that in an abstracted way. I converted to PF mostly because I couldn't find RM players anymore. I've accepted the abstracted nature of HP now, but it does lack flavor. In RM anything could kill you at any time. Combat is painfully deadly chock full of delicious criticals with all sorts of injuries. I don't see how that would fit into PF...

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Re: Dragon bites:

Tis but a scratch, but played straight. If the bite does 38 damage and you only have 25hp, yeah, it got you full and did some chewing. If it did 38 damage and you have 200hp, a tooth got through the armor (or you failed to entirely dodge).


I am intrigued by this idea and want to see it more fleshed out.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The best thing I've seen to replace HP is the toughness system from Mutants and Masterminds or Urban Arcana.

Grand Lodge

Excaliburproxy wrote:

Design a new game, you kids. Get off of my lawn.

My lawn is Pathfinder in this analogy. And you guys are kids because you think modding the core damage mechanic of a game developed over 5 years is a good idea; it is not a good idea. All the combat rules are working under a different set of assumptions.

I'm sure someone said that when Pathfinder started changing the core features of D&D...

On a related note, I've been toying around with a system that totally gets rid of hit points and armor class. Instead:

* Your reflex save determines how hard you are to hit. Shield bonuses add to this save now (along with all the other logical ones: dodge, deflection, etc). The DM can either present attacks as set numbers (the way Numenera does it, which totally works in Pathfinder) or roll attacks normally.

* Your fortitude save determines how hard you are to damage. When you get hit, you make a fort save with a DC equal to the damage taken. Armor bonuses (equipment and natural) add to this save now. If you fail, you suffer a wound. Wounds are location based. Arm wounded once? Drop the item you're holding. Wounded twice? Arm disabled until healed.

I haven't worked out the rest yet, and I'd love to hear positive suggestions. (Yes, I know some of you will think this is a stupid idea. Save your breath and my time by not replying to this post.) This system sounds more complicated than using basic hit points, but it cuts down on the math (good), gets players rolling more dice (good), and feels more visceral than abstract (good). Thoughts?


Headfirst wrote:
Excaliburproxy wrote:

Design a new game, you kids. Get off of my lawn.

My lawn is Pathfinder in this analogy. And you guys are kids because you think modding the core damage mechanic of a game developed over 5 years is a good idea; it is not a good idea. All the combat rules are working under a different set of assumptions.

I'm sure someone said that when Pathfinder started changing the core features of D&D...

On a related note, I've been toying around with a system that totally gets rid of hit points and armor class. Instead:

* Your reflex save determines how hard you are to hit. Shield bonuses add to this save now (along with all the other logical ones: dodge, deflection, etc). The DM can either present attacks as set numbers (the way Numenera does it, which totally works in Pathfinder) or roll attacks normally.

* Your fortitude save determines how hard you are to damage. When you get hit, you make a fort save with a DC equal to the damage taken. Armor bonuses (equipment and natural) add to this save now. If you fail, you suffer a wound. Wounds are location based. Arm wounded once? Drop the item you're holding. Wounded twice? Arm disabled until healed.

I haven't worked out the rest yet, and I'd love to hear positive suggestions. (Yes, I know some of you will think this is a stupid idea. Save your breath and my time by not replying to this post.) This system sounds more complicated than using basic hit points, but it cuts down on the math (good), gets players rolling more dice (good), and feels more visceral than abstract (good). Thoughts?

Is there something to handle damage that logically should be spread over the whole body and not restricted to one part, such as some of the AoE spells?

Grand Lodge

JoeJ wrote:
Headfirst wrote:
Is there something to handle damage that logically should be spread over the whole body and not restricted to one part, such as some of the AoE spells?

Seems easy to add. Something where AoE effects get divided at some standard interval, the same way old school Battletech chops up bulk damage into 5 point clusters. Maybe every 10 points is a new hit location? Fireball does 24 damage to you, so that's 3 hits.


Headfirst wrote:
JoeJ wrote:
Headfirst wrote:
Is there something to handle damage that logically should be spread over the whole body and not restricted to one part, such as some of the AoE spells?
Seems easy to add. Something where AoE effects get divided at some standard interval, the same way old school Battletech chops up bulk damage into 5 point clusters. Maybe every 10 points is a new hit location? Fireball does 24 damage to you, so that's 3 hits.

Or possibly better, since at 10 DC you'll never fail a save, divide the total damage by the number of location available. That way, the low level AoEs won't be bad in terms of wounds, but high level ones can still be brutal.

More generally, I'm a little concerned that saves and damage don't scale anywhere close to the same speed. It seems that at high levels any real attack is going to be causing a wound. Or maybe with armor bonuses, they'll still never do so.

Also not sure that reflex saves will scale with attack,

It wasn't clear: Would you still track hp? Can I still take someone down by doing 5hp at a time to him, if I do it enough times? Even if he always makes the Fort save?

Grand Lodge

thejeff wrote:
It wasn't clear: Would you still track hp? Can I still take someone down by doing 5hp at a time to him, if I do it enough times? Even if he always makes the Fort save?

The whole point is to get rid of hit points. My character is not a bag of points to be whittled away. He is a living, breathing person with an injured leg and a disabled arm in need of healing!

Remember: Natural 1s always fail and natural 20s always succeed on saving throws. Also, a system like this would probably require some tinkering with weapon and spell damage values to avoid runaway curves at high levels.


Headfirst wrote:
thejeff wrote:
It wasn't clear: Would you still track hp? Can I still take someone down by doing 5hp at a time to him, if I do it enough times? Even if he always makes the Fort save?

The whole point is to get rid of hit points. My character is not a bag of points to be whittled away. He is a living, breathing person with an injured leg and a disabled arm in need of healing!

Remember: Natural 1s always fail and natural 20s always succeed on saving throws. Also, a system like this would probably require some tinkering with weapon and spell damage values to avoid runaway curves at high levels.

And to prevent them being useless at low levels. If I understand it correctly, a 1st level Fighter wearing a chain shirt and having a 14 con could only be hurt by attacks that do 10+ hps? Or by rolling a natural 1. (Fort base +2, +2 from Con, +4 from Chain shirt = +8 to the save). And we're up to 20 points in one shot before he's likely to be hurt.

Does armor protect against magic attacks? Cause that 10 pts/location fireball isn't going to do anything. Of course, things like Magic Missile won't do anything, even if armor doesn't help.

I have trouble visualizing combat in this system. Can you target locations?

Grand Lodge

thejeff wrote:
And to prevent them being useless at low levels. If I understand it correctly, a 1st level Fighter wearing a chain shirt and having a 14 con could only be hurt by attacks that do 10+ hps? Or by rolling a natural 1. (Fort base +2, +2 from Con, +4 from Chain shirt = +8 to the save). And we're up to 20 points in one shot before he's likely to be hurt.

Fighter gets hit by a dagger for 4 points. He makes a fort save DC 4, which he only fails on a 1. A fighter with a decent constitution wearing armor isn't going to get wounded by daggers very often.

thejeff wrote:
Does armor protect against magic attacks? Cause that 10 pts/location fireball isn't going to do anything. Of course, things like Magic Missile won't do anything, even if armor doesn't help.

It doesn't normally, so no. If a fireball affects multiple locations, the saves are still made against the total value. A 24 point fireball requires 3 saves in 3 different locations, all DC 24.

thejeff wrote:
Can you target locations?

Seems doable. Could be done with modifiers, or it could be a special combat maneuver. Maybe there's a feat that let's you do it with ranged attacks, too, or maybe that ability is rolled into precise shot. I'd have to test it to make sure.


Headfirst wrote:
thejeff wrote:
And to prevent them being useless at low levels. If I understand it correctly, a 1st level Fighter wearing a chain shirt and having a 14 con could only be hurt by attacks that do 10+ hps? Or by rolling a natural 1. (Fort base +2, +2 from Con, +4 from Chain shirt = +8 to the save). And we're up to 20 points in one shot before he's likely to be hurt.
Fighter gets hit by a dagger for 4 points. He makes a fort save DC 4, which he only fails on a 1. A fighter with a decent constitution wearing armor isn't going to get wounded by daggers very often.

Yeah, but in minimal armor he shouldn't be nigh invulnerable either. Even naked, he can pretty much ignore daggers. Absolutely can with a higher con or other save bonuses. Except for those natural ones.

Of course, in that chain shirt, he can almost ignore arrows except from Compound bows.

Headfirst wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Does armor protect against magic attacks? Cause that 10 pts/location fireball isn't going to do anything. Of course, things like Magic Missile won't do anything, even if armor doesn't help.
It doesn't normally, so no. If a fireball affects multiple locations, the saves are still made against the total value. A 24 point fireball requires 3 saves in 3 different locations, all DC 24.

So High damage AoEs will be devastating. Doing the same damage to multiple locations that a blow for the same damage would do to one. Okay.

I don't want to sound too critical, but I think this is going to take a lot of modification to a lot of things if you want it to have anything like the balance of Pathfinder.


Quote:
The best thing I've seen to replace HP is the toughness system from Mutants and Masterminds or Urban Arcana.

I actually pulled ideas from True20 (which has an injury system much like M&M and the Unearthed Arcana variant) and Hackmaster for my current model, which I've been working on here.

Basically, you still have Hit Points or Wound Points or whatever, but they're less of an abstraction. Wounds are tracked individually, they heal individually, they have different effects depending on how big of a hit they were, things like that.

Quote:

* Your reflex save determines how hard you are to hit. Shield bonuses add to this save now (along with all the other logical ones: dodge, deflection, etc). The DM can either present attacks as set numbers (the way Numenera does it, which totally works in Pathfinder) or roll attacks normally.

* Your fortitude save determines how hard you are to damage. When you get hit, you make a fort save with a DC equal to the damage taken. Armor bonuses (equipment and natural) add to this save now. If you fail, you suffer a wound. Wounds are location based. Arm wounded once? Drop the item you're holding. Wounded twice? Arm disabled until healed.

I haven't worked out the rest yet, and I'd love to hear positive suggestions. (Yes, I know some of you will think this is a stupid idea. Save your breath and my time by not replying to this post.) This system sounds more complicated than using basic hit points, but it cuts down on the math (good), gets players rolling more dice (good), and feels more visceral than abstract (good). Thoughts?

I like the things about Reflex saves and active defense, though I was using a slightly different model (still very much a WIP and not included in the link above). I'd be very curious to see how the math works out if characters were allowed to add their dodge bonuses and such to their Reflex saves! The only issue I have is that a Reflex-as-defense system doesn't model certain classes correctly, in my opinion. Rogues get that Good Reflex save progression, as do Monks, which works, but not all fighters are armored hulks, and the guys who want to be quick on their feet get pretty screwed in systems that rely on Reflex saves for defense.

I also agree with other posters that your Fort save DCs might be a bit low. Perhaps 10+damage instead? How are you handling recovery? What is the maximum amount of Wounds a person can take before they drop dead?

While your ideas differ from mine, I would be very interested to see how they work out :)

Grand Lodge

Witch's Knight wrote:
I like the things about Reflex saves and active defense, though I was using a slightly different model (still very much a WIP and not included in the link above). I'd be very curious to see how the math works out if characters were allowed to add their dodge...

As I go through all of the core and base classes, it occurs to me that most of them falls into one of three categories:

A) Light or no armor, but a good reflex save
B) Medium or heavy armor and a poor reflex save
C) Spellcaster - no armor (or maybe light), and usually a poor reflex save, defenses buffed by spells

It seems like this works out quite well with my system, barring one or two that slip through the cracks to get screwed or over-powered by it. The druid suffers the most (limited armor selection and poor reflex save) and the ranger probably benefits the most (medium armor plus a good reflex save). The magus also ends up on the bad side of the system. As for not all fighters being armored hulks, well, in the current Pathfinder system, a fighter who chooses light armor over heavy is at the exact same disadvantage. Actually, maybe not. What if the armor check penalty was applied to reflex saves in my system? Wouldn't that achieve exactly what we all want? It's easier to hit a dude in full plate than it is to hit the same dude in just leather, but it's much harder to actually hurt him in the heavy armor.

On the fortitude save side, I'm happy with all the classes that have high fort saves, as they're the ones that are built to take a hit. In other words, no d6 hp class has a good fort save, while every d10 (and most d8) classes have good fort saves, so it aligns nicely. That being said, maybe [10 + damage taken] is a better place to start.

Witch's Knight wrote:
How are you handling recovery? What is the maximum amount of Wounds a person can take before they drop dead?

That's the thing: This system isn't designed so that you have X wounds until you drop dead. If that's what you want, why not just stick with hit points? My system is a little more realistic and visceral; it makes you think about how your character adapts to a disabled arm, a wounded head, two wounded legs, etc. So, how many wounds can you take before dropping? Two to the chest (resulting in a disabled chest) means you're bleeding to death. Commence standard Pathfinder bleeding out rules. Two wounds to the head disables it, knocking you unconscious. Two wounds to both legs disables both, so I guess that would technically "drop" you.

Recovery could be just as simple. Every day of rest, all of your wounded limbs return to normal (or maybe one, plus one per positive Con mod?). Disabled limbs require magical healing or heal skill checks. A heal skill check turns one disabled limb into a wounded limb. Cure light wounds fully heals one limb, moderate does two, serious does three, etc.

Anyway, as I've said, this is all just brainstorming. I love Pathfinder, but I'm also a huge fan of simplifying game systems as much as possible. It's always seemed clunky to me to have two measures of how hard your character is to hit (AC and Reflex save) as well as two stats that determine how tough your character is (hit points and Fort saves).


Headfirst wrote:
Excaliburproxy wrote:

Design a new game, you kids. Get off of my lawn.

My lawn is Pathfinder in this analogy. And you guys are kids because you think modding the core damage mechanic of a game developed over 5 years is a good idea; it is not a good idea. All the combat rules are working under a different set of assumptions.

I'm sure someone said that when Pathfinder started changing the core features of D&D...

Sentence 1, homie. Design a new game. Note that pathfinder wrote a whole new rules section, a whole new class section, and a whole new spell section. It is a new D20 game with just most of 3.5's mechanics.

I think there are all manner of apt abstractions from damage and/or success and failure in combat ("wound levels" like in mutants and masterminds or "victory points" like in Settlers of Catan). Those ideas need wholly new satellite systems, though. Spells and really any special effect would need to be re-conceived through the lens of this new "damage" mechanic. Retrofitting it into pathfinder will--at best--net you a game whose various mechanics do not compliment each other or--at worse--be just nonsense.

Grand Lodge

thejeff wrote:
Headfirst wrote:
It doesn't normally, so no. If a fireball affects multiple locations, the saves are still made against the total value. A 24 point fireball requires 3 saves in 3 different locations, all DC 24.
So High damage AoEs will be devastating. Doing the same damage to multiple locations that a blow for the same damage would do to one. Okay.

Fair enough. So what if regular weapon attacks and non-AoE spells did the same thing with 10 point increments, except they affected the same location?

You get hit with a greatsword for 16 damage, so you have to make two fort saves, each DC 16. If you fail both, the limb where you got hit goes from healthy right to disabled. If a storm giant hit you with his sword, you might have to make four or five saves to avoid the damage. And, of course, taking a wound to an already disabled limb severs it... Now you've got dragons who can bite arms off in one snap.


Headfirst wrote:
Witch's Knight wrote:
I like the things about Reflex saves and active defense, though I was using a slightly different model (still very much a WIP and not included in the link above). I'd be very curious to see how the math works out if characters were allowed to add their dodge...

As I go through all of the core and base classes, it occurs to me that most of them falls into one of three categories:

A) Light or no armor, but a good reflex save
B) Medium or heavy armor and a poor reflex save
C) Spellcaster - no armor (or maybe light), and usually a poor reflex save, defenses buffed by spells

It seems like this works out quite well with my system, barring one or two that slip through the cracks to get screwed or over-powered by it. The druid suffers the most (limited armor selection and poor reflex save) and the ranger probably benefits the most (medium armor plus a good reflex save). The magus also ends up on the bad side of the system. As for not all fighters being armored hulks, well, in the current Pathfinder system, a fighter who chooses light armor over heavy is at the exact same disadvantage. Actually, maybe not. What if the armor check penalty was applied to reflex saves in my system? Wouldn't that achieve exactly what we all want? It's easier to hit a dude in full plate than it is to hit the same dude in just leather, but it's much harder to actually hurt him in the heavy armor.

On the fortitude save side, I'm happy with all the classes that have high fort saves, as they're the ones that are built to take a hit. In other words, no d6 hp class has a good fort save, while every d10 (and most d8) classes have good fort saves, so it aligns nicely. That being said, maybe [10 + damage taken] is a better place to start.

Witch's Knight wrote:
How are you handling recovery? What is the maximum amount of Wounds a person can take before they drop dead?
That's the thing: This system isn't designed so that you have X wounds until you drop dead. If that's what you want, why...

And then you realize that its fairly easy for a single hit at low levels to do in the upper teens to low 20's in damage, making those fort saves upper 20's to low 30's.

Anything that makes being shanked by a d4 dagger a threat is going to make larger weapons nigh unsaveable, even at midlevels.

Grand Lodge

You know, a system like this could also help balance out the armors within each weight class. Suddenly a breastplate isn't the obvious best choice in the medium category when you've got arms and legs to worry about, too. And that chain shirt looked like a fantastic idea until the piranha chewed your legs off as you waded across the river.

It also makes the piecemeal armor system much more interesting and attractive. You want something thick and heavy protecting your vital spots (head and chest), but maybe something more flexible on your legs (chain) and even thinner on your arms (leather). Actually, if you're a jousting knight or a sword and board type of fighter, maybe your shield arm is covered in plate, while your sword arm is lighter and faster.

Hmm, it's crazy, but that would mean Pathfinder armor sets would start looking more like their real world inspirations. :)

Grand Lodge

Thomas Long 175 wrote:
And then you realize that its fairly easy for a single hit at low levels to do in the upper teens to low 20's in damage, making those fort saves upper 20's to low 30's.

As I said several times, this is just brainstorming. By no means have I thought this system all the way through. Any ideas that move this system along are more than welcome!

But to your point: Yeah, getting hit by an attack that does 20+ damage at low level is probably going to cause one or more wounds. That's good! When an orc chieftain hits you with his greataxe for 22 damage, it's going to hurt your 3rd level wizard! Hell, it's probably going to take a chink out of your 3rd level fighter, even through his chainmail, too. If my system follows the balance curve of standard Pathfinder rules, isn't that a good thing?

Thomas Long 175 wrote:
Anything that makes being shanked by a d4 dagger a threat is going to make larger weapons nigh unsaveable, even at midlevels.

True. But this achieves something else, actually. Single hits from big weapons are intended to cause wounds because their fort saves are very high. Smaller weapons are banking on victims rolling poorly on their fort saves, so they benefit from numerous attacks. Suddenly two-weapon fighting isn't an underpowered waste of feats, eh? A rogue with two daggers can be a significant threat, even without sneak attacks, and that ranger with two shortswords could end up causing just as many wounds as the one with the greatsword or longbow.


Headfirst wrote:
Thomas Long 175 wrote:
And then you realize that its fairly easy for a single hit at low levels to do in the upper teens to low 20's in damage, making those fort saves upper 20's to low 30's.

As I said several times, this is just brainstorming. By no means have I thought this system all the way through. Any ideas that move this system along are more than welcome!

But to your point: Yeah, getting hit by an attack that does 20+ damage at low level is probably going to cause one or more wounds. That's good! When an orc chieftain hits you with his greataxe for 22 damage, it's going to hurt your 3rd level wizard! Hell, it's probably going to take a chink out of your 3rd level fighter, even through his chainmail, too. If my system follows the balance curve of standard Pathfinder rules, isn't that a good thing?

Thomas Long 175 wrote:
Anything that makes being shanked by a d4 dagger a threat is going to make larger weapons nigh unsaveable, even at midlevels.
True. But this achieves something else, actually. Single hits from big weapons are intended to cause wounds because their fort saves are very high. Smaller weapons are banking on victims rolling poorly on their fort saves, so they benefit from numerous attacks. Suddenly two-weapon fighting isn't an underpowered waste of feats, eh? A rogue with two daggers can be a significant threat, even without sneak attacks, and that ranger with two shortswords could end up causing just as many wounds as the one with the greatsword or longbow.

Except it can't if he's relying on natural ones for the fort saves. You've got to damage up to a reasonable range to be worth bothering.

And if you go with the previous idea of requiring multiple wounds for high damage attacks, there's no advantage at all.

But I think that's enough speculation without actual data. what do you think of throwing together a couple of test fights, just to see if the numbers work out at all? Something simple to start with? A 1st level fighter vs a couple of goblins maybe?

I'd make up some numbers myself, but I don't quite know enough of what you're planning to set it up.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have toyed with using the Wound Pont / Vigor point model from WOTC D20 Star Wars. Namely, that there was the abstract "hit points" to get through before reducing the Con equivalent Wound points to kill someone. Confirmed criticals bypassed "hit points" and attacked the wound points directly.

In play, this made confirmed criticals very deadly even to high level PCs. Several downsides were incidents when beings had few or no "hit points" (why confirm a critical if it just did the same damage anyway?)


You have to do a lot of changes to make nonscaling HP work.

First, spells and spell like effects (including any su or ex effect that does damage based in any way on the user's hit dice) need to be at most weakly scaling like the cure/inflict line.

Second, iteratives have to go and multiple natural attacks need to be nerfed into the ground.

Third, to compensate for the loss of iteratives as a mechanism for expanding the relevant AC window you need to make attack an defense an opposed roll.

Fourth, bonus damage needs to be limited. No scaling power attack or deadly aim or arcane strike, no stackable magic or supernatural sources, no lead blades or gravity bow. No +damage from weapon training or favored enemy. No scaling smite or challenge. No increasing your charge multiplier. No bonus damage from magic weapons. No flaming weapons. No scaling strength bonuses from rage or mutagen or progressively shinier belts. No scaling sneak attack.

Basically if HP don't scale with level then everything that makes damage scale with level has to go. This would probably work best in concert with removing the magic item treadmill and the rest of the necessity for it.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

This idea would work maybe if the bonuses were based on your class. Martials tend to get better Vigor uses and progression, and it might jump bump Martials up to Caster levels of epicness.

Vigor should be used for more than defensive actions though, and the defensive actions shouldn't revolve around increasing your AC.

like "leap" which "you spend a vigor point and can make a 5 foot-step, you can use this to interrupt an ongoing attack action so long as the damage has not been rolled."

"Can't Lose" which "you spend 3 vigor points to cause a Critical attack to not count as an automatic hit."

you're crit will either kill him or make him waste a good amount of vigor points, either way a crit is still a good thing.


Witch's Knight wrote:
Would you be willing to give up the sacred cow of scaling Hit Points with your level if you had working dodge/parry mechanics to mitigate damage with instead?

No I wouldn't, because (as it was said above) damage scales too much with levels (or CR).

After a few levels, missing an active defense save or receiving a critical hit (or whatever gets to you immutable pool of health points) would immediately spell death, which becomes a bit to much binary for me.


Laurefindel wrote:
Witch's Knight wrote:
Would you be willing to give up the sacred cow of scaling Hit Points with your level if you had working dodge/parry mechanics to mitigate damage with instead?

No I wouldn't, because (as it was said above) damage scales too much with levels (or CR).

After a few levels, missing an active defense save or receiving a critical hit (or whatever gets to you immutable pool of health points) would immediately spell death, which becomes a bit to much binary for me.

It's certainly doable in rpgs, but it's hard to make work with a system that's designed for hps to scale with damage.

I don't think you can have damage scale as it does in PF without having hp scale the same way.

It doesn't make sense. The mechanisms developed together. Damage goes up so spectacularly because hp go so high. Hp go so high because damage goes up so much.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Hit points are 'warrior's magic'.

You expend hit points to avoid debilitating injury. Note that if you go negative and are still conscious, you have massive penalties in only being able to take a partial action.

Think of hit points as those fields around the Shinigami when the big AoE hits them, keeping the damage from them. They're blowing hit points to avoid physical harm. Some with high DR let some damage through, getting bloodied but not actually taking any damage.

Hit points gained from class levels you should treat as neo-magical ability, and suddenly it all makes sense.

You can add realism, but what you're really doing is slowing down the game.

==Aelyrinth


Aelryinth wrote:
You can add realism, but what you're really doing is slowing down the game.

Just because you don't value associated mechanics doesn't mean people who do are wrong.


Atarlost wrote:
Aelryinth wrote:
You can add realism, but what you're really doing is slowing down the game.
Just because you don't value associated mechanics doesn't mean people who do are wrong.

There are plenty of systems that handle wounds/health completely differently than D&D/PF. It might be better to look into one of them, than to juryrig something onto a system built with very different assumptions/design goals.

Grand Lodge

Disclaimer: I love Pathfinder. It's massively better than 3.5. But there's still room for improvement.

The only parts of Pathfinder I don't like are the hold-out features from earlier editions of D&D that clutter up the system with redundancy. For example:

Strength and Constitution could really be rolled into the same attribute. Think about it this way: How many realistic characters can you think of that have a 7 in one and an 18 in the other? 99% of the time, that character wouldn't make much sense and, despite any esoteric, anecdotal examples, you know I'm right. The same could easily be said for Intelligence and Wisdom. Really, this game would function just fine (assuming the other rules were simplified to accommodate four attributes) with only Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma.

Next, you've got overlapping stats that cover how tough your character is: your hit points and fortitude save. Hit points determine how much punishment you can take. Except when someone hits you with a wicked monk punch, then it's a fort save. Then you've got two stats that tell how good your character is at avoiding attacks: armor class and reflex save. Guy shoots an arrow at you? Armor class! Guy shoots a magical spell at you? Reflex save! Are those different attack types? Yeah. Am I doing the same thing (dodging, relying on armor, etc) to avoid each? Yep. Sometimes, when your character is confronted with a mental challenge, you get a will save. Other times you get an opposed sense motive roll. Yet other times, your defense consists of a calculation involving your level and wisdom modifier. It's inconsistent, confusing, and redundant.

Finally, we dive into skills, where Pathfinder suffers from almost all the mistakes 3.0 made (keep in mind, 3.0 was light-years better than 2nd Edition in the skill department, but we've still got light-years left to go). Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft are basically the exact same thing. Also, you have to dig pretty deep to find the differences between survival, knowledge (nature), and knowledge (geography). Which one do you use to figure out which way is north while you're in the woods? I know it's technically one of them, but you could make some pretty compelling arguments for any of the three. Then there's perception, which is so absolutely mandatory for every single character build that it shouldn't even be a skill at all; it should just be a core feature that every character has by default, like initiative. Can you imagine if initiative was a skill? How would you feel playing a class that didn't get it as a class skill? Before you stand up for the system, remember that Pathfinder already opened this bag of worms by smashing 3.5's listen, search, and spot into perception. Balance, jump, and tumble became acrobatics. The "thief" skills got an overhaul, too. My argument is that they could have gone further.

Man, I really needed to rant. Sorry everyone. I guess I'm just the kind of person who likes to distill game design down to its most essential parts, trimming out everything that's inefficient, unnecessary, or needlessly math-intensive. Imagine how popular this hobby would be if potential players didn't have to scale "Mount Charts and Algebra" to get to the fun stuff at the top?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

There was actually a game where they gave illustrations of high/low str/con mixes.

High Str low con would be a big fat man, who is very strong, but has no endurance to speak of.

Low Str high con would be a marathon runner...not strong, skinny as hell, but extremely fit and able to keep going forever.

As for high in one and not the other...any witch or wizard build, ever. A finesse wielder can get away with a low str.

Now, high Str low con? Not likely to happen, because melees need HP like everyone else...moreso, in fact.

And I speak from experience about adding realism to the system. It's nice and has flavor, but when you have to refer to charts to track location hits, the game slows down. And heaven knows, fights don't take long in PF.

==Aelryinth


Aelryinth wrote:

Hit points are 'warrior's magic'.

You expend hit points to avoid debilitating injury.

==Aelyrinth

Yeah, that's how I like to look at hp myself.

In my case, it doesn't have to be magical, but hit points are definitely spent rather than lost. Hit point is what you spend in exchange of not being severely wounded (and therefore you don't suffer penalties regardless you have 100 hp left or 1 hp left).

For me, hit points are like playing an old school arcade game driving a car and dodging incoming traffic. There's a part of skill, there's a part of luck, there's a part having a solid car, there's a part of knowing how much coins you still have in your pocket and there's a part of knowing that you're having a good stretch so far but your luck won't hold forever.

The good part about d20/D&D/Pathfinder is that hit points can be visualized/interpreted the way you want because the fluff is just darn abstract.

The bad part about d20/D&D/Pathfinder is that hit points are fluffed back into injuries because healing is just darn specific.

I'm not sure if I liked 4E way of regaining hit points by being yelled at, or losing them be splitting your focus on your enemies, but they at least fully embraced the abstract nature of hit points and I wish Pathfinder was going a step further than 3.5 in that regard.

'fidnel

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