Mechanical implications of letting players have max hit die


So recently in my game players have been trying to get more hit points (especially the wizard) because they feel scared knowing that a single crit might drop them. Normally I make them roll for HP or take half the hit die but I was considering letting them have the full hit die just so that the world is a little less scary. They're currently level 4.

What sort of changes does this make to Pathfinder? Should I also have the enemies get their full HD total? Does this change any particular feat or mechanic later on?

Pathfinder characters are very strong and will likely defeat almost all things they target. A wizards only real downside is the fact he has low hp (and really in pathfinder they gave him a d6 from d4).

If they feel worried remind them to spend that favored class bonus on hp not anything else then. If they feel worried that being hit on the head by a sword will kill them, the games done a good job.

there really isn't a problem in doing this, it doesn't change anything really

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Depends on overall optimization. If everyone just has max HD, fights just last longer. But if things are well built for DPR it begins to matter less.

I've run a game with Max HD, and played in them as well. It works pretty well, but note that it will increase the disparity between high and low HD classes more and more as you go on. A Barbarian will have ridiculously more HP than a wizard, because the difference between 12 and 6 is twice the difference between 6.5 and 3.5. I'd think of some in game reasons why fire would be more drawn to the tank, because of this.

If enemies feel like they aren't doing enough damage you can always add the vital strike feat to them. (Rolling lots of dice makes your players more nervous.)

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Well, Max HP per HD for players increases the value of larger HD. Normally the difference between a d6 and a d8 or a d8 and a d10 is just 1 HP on average. However, with maximum HP, the difference doubles. What this means is martials are less likely to die from HP damage and fights last longer. If the enemies also have maximum HP per HD then fights will last more rounds on average, meaning limited-use abilities such as Bardic Performance and Rage run out earlier in the day than before. Although spellcasters live longer with their higher HP their spells per day will likely be stretched a bit. You may find that players rely more on spells that immediately remove a threat from combat than on buffs since the one thing this doesn't change is saves.

That's my guess, anyway.

Silver Crusade

I actually enjoy max HD because as LuniasM said, it gives more value to larger hit dice, and that's something I appreciate. More HP means I throw more damaging things at them, which in turn increases the value of healing after battle, which is another side effect. Having a bigger HP total to fill up after a battle is always something to consider, but overall, I think it's a good thing to do. Really, a wizard getting half and round up is nearly getting the same benefit already, they're just losing 1 HP a level.

Half and a round up is 4 isn't it? Not 5?

Silver Crusade

Cavall wrote:
Half and a round up is 4 isn't it? Not 5?

Ugh, sorry. I forgot about the D6 hit die in Pathfinder, for some reason my mind was blanking to the D4 in 3.5, you're right.

Players die less with max HD, but they're still going to be out considerable resources to heal that big HP deficit after important fights so it's not that big of a change.

Personally, I prefer "max HD, and resurrection (etc.) is extremely rare and costly" as a GM. That way you're less likely to die, but when you do it actually matters. This seems like a fair trade-off to me, but players might not agree when they have to track down one of two people in the kingdom capable of bringing back the dead and having to pay through the nose or do a major favor to that person before they're willing to do it.

Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

my group has played with max it dice for about 5 years. It just means that the group is a little bit harder to kill. Healing is a much more limited resource however, since you are still rolling d6s or d8s for channel/cure. I also find that players never take toughness and use their favored class bonus for skill points, making for more well rounded characters.

I usually give my players max hp for levels 1-3 then make them roll as normal. It helps with the burstiness of low level combat, keeps the fighter from rolling 1's for hp early (it is not fun when the wizard has more hp than you), and has less and less impact as they level up, but is still a nice small bonus. I've had good results with this system.

I give them max at first level... after that they can choose to roll or average. If you let them have max hit die every level then enemies will need to be increased to maintain any level of fear in gaming, which also causes issues for spellcasters who will be forced to conserve spells.

If you give the enemies and the PCs max hit points you'll generate a battle of attrition causing enemies and friendlies as well to exhaust spells and either run or be useless.

Max hit points also makes healing spells difficult and costly, and resting for a month at second level just to restore your barbarian to full can be tiresome.

But go for it, see if it works.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Training rules can be used to add HP up to max.

I use max HP for both PCs and monsters since 16 sessions and 8 levels. It shifts the battles a bit from random to tactical, makes the die size of player's class more relevant (aka barbarian friendly) and prolongs the fights a bit. Note that creatures with high CON will profit less from such an upgrade, relatively seen. And blasters will have a more difficult time. Finally, I consider rolling HP unfair - it takes away control from the player, up to the point where he can't play its role well, without having done anything wrong.

So far I think it was a good decision to use it.

Yeah, rolling for HP tends to disadvantage martials a bit more than other classes since HP is a more important part of their class 'power'.

You don't roll randomly to see if a wizard gets 1 or 2 free spells when they level up, or roll randomly to see if a cleric gets a new spell slot, so not sure why HP is the only random class ability.

For each hit die (d6, d8, d10, d12) You can do max HP, avg. round up (4, 5, 6, 7), max hp-2 (4, 6, 8, 10), or whatever you think works best.

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My groups for years have always done max HD for both players and bad guys. It makes the fights last longer but it is more fun and frankly easier to keep track of for both PC and DM.

Max hit die is, for the most part, the only way my group has ever played. I know several times our barbarian has been happy for the max hit die, as she tends to crit a lot and be crit back nearly as often, so every bit of HP helps. Our witch also enjoys the bit of extra HP on those times that something manages to get close to her.

One benefit to going max HP is that it's a stealth buff to the Kineticist (which could really use it, honestly). That way (assuming 18 Con to start with, because why wouldn't you) a point of burn occupies 1/12th of your HP at every level. On the other hand if you just go with average and rounding up, a point of burn will occupy 1/12th of your HP at level 1, 1/10th at level 2, 11% at level 6, etc.

One of the big problems I've seen with the Kineticist in practice is just the psychology of people's reticence to take burn for any reason except to boost their defensive talent at the start of the day. Making it so max burn just leaves you with 5*HD instead of ~2*HD would probably help here.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

As others have said, Max HP makes it tough for other classes to keep up. It is a major buff to Barbarian and a big buff to Fighter.

It makes it so that Con can not make up for a difference of one HD size. This makes it much more difficult for Magus and also hurts any other class that may want to step up into melee such as Battle Clerics, Druids, Alchemist with a mutagen focus rather than bombs, Rogue, Bard or Skald.

I hated it when one of our GMs used to do it. He has changed to Average + .5 which I like a lot better, so D8 gives 5 (4.5+.5), D10 gives 6, etc. This allows a higher Con to somewhat make up for a lower HD.

It also pushes any spell casters even further towards non-HP damage spells. Inflicting Staggered, Sickened, difficult terrain, and other modifiers become even more beneficial than normal.

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The world is supposed to be scary. Adventuring is not safe.

There are several ways this could go:

1. You give them MAX HP but they never really need it. In this case, the monsters are still the same (the GM doesn't scale up the monsters or add more monsters to the encounter, etc.) and being the same, the monsters still only do whatever damage they would have, but the PCs have more HP so they hardly ever even come close to dying. They finish most fights with half their HP. This means that they would have survived even with normal HP, so they don't really need MAX HP. If this is what happens, then the game has not changed in any way, but the PCs are always safe and the players won't have any sense of danger, no sense that there is a risk of failure and consequences for failing. That can take some of the fun out of the game, at least for players that like facing that risk.

2. You give them MAX HP and then add the danger back in to make them NEED those extra HP. This means the GM scales up the monsters (maybe they also get max HP, or more monsters, or you just pick higher CR monsters to make the fights more interesting). Now the PCs end up near death in every fight, which means the monsters are doing more damage during each fight. This has two consequences:

a) One consequence is that every fight might take longer. More rounds because there are more monsters (it takes more attacks, more rounds, to kill the monsters). This means more time fighting each encounter which slows the whole game down.

b) The second consequence is that after the fight, the PCs will need more healing. Since healing is usually a finite resource (clerics only have so many spells each day, there are only so many potions or wand charges available, etc.), it means that the PCs will consume more resources after each fight, which means they will run out of resources sooner. This means shorter adventuring days and more runs to town to buy new wands or potions. This can be disruptive to the game's flow.

Generally speaking (from a standpoint of game design theory), longer fights are considered poor design. Adding max HP equates to longer fights. There are numerous studies and white papers, etc., regarding this point of game design theory that are readily available on the web.

I'm GMing a campaign right now where we're doing this for all creatures, not just the PCs. It's been well-received thus far. We've always felt like fights in PF are a bit too brief, and this is a good way of reducing that. I do agree it makes blaster casters slightly less viable, which might be a problem. For instance, quite naturally, my alchemist player is feeling even more drawn towards debuff bombs than ones which expand his damage options that would ordinarily be the case.

My group tends to almost exclusively go for d10 and d8 HD classes, primarily the latter, and I think this system works better when there aren't too many d6s and d12s in the party. We also average the amount of healing you get from healing effects that involve rolling dice, which I think complements this system nicely.

@DM_Blake: Surely it's not possible to claim in any kind of objective fashion that longer fights are "bad design"? I mean, my group thinks fights in this game tend to cover too few rounds and we enjoy longer fights. Does that mean we enjoy "badly designed" games?

You could just give the party members max HP and do average or rolls for people they're liable to fight. The player characters are already special in a way that GM characters aren't (since they're the only characters in the setting that have the undivided attention of a single human.) That the player characters are smarter, more powerful, better equipped, and more tactically savvy than everybody else is practically a given, so making them far hardier than most isn't really an issue from where I sit.

I would say it comes down to what you're wanting to achieve with this houseule. For instance, my group finds it's a nice way to avoid rocket-tag situations to a certain extent, and that's why we do it. If that is one's goal, then leaving the monsters with standard HP doesn't really achieve anything.

Ethereal Gears wrote:
@DM_Blake: Surely it's not possible to claim in any kind of objective fashion that longer fights are "bad design"? I mean, my group thinks fights in this game tend to cover too few rounds and we enjoy longer fights. Does that mean we enjoy "badly designed" games?

I never claimed it in an objective fashion. For example, cam you define "longer fights" objectively? Each person has to decide for himself what the deliberately vague terms like "too short" or "longer" really mean, and those definitions are nebulous.

There are always exceptions. What works at one table might not work at the next table. The "general" theory is that longer battles are poor game design. Being a "general" theory, there is plenty of room for exception, but the experts over time have arrived at the general idea that this is true and most designers work under this assumption.

Also, the general theory is that very short battles can also be poor design - I left that out of my first post because the OP wasn't discussing a house rule that would make combat shorter. As your table has discovered, it is dissatisfying when battles are too short.

The middle ground where battles are long enough to be interesting but short enough that we can finish them and get on with exploring and adventuring is the optimal target. We could argue whether Pathfinder has hit that target or not (I think at low-mid levels the fights can b just right or a bit too long, while at high level they are usually too short), but the OP's proposal of max HP will only make fights longer (in general) which, by "general" game theory is probably a bad idea for most players. Exceptions may exist (specifically where players think Pathfinder battles are too short).

One thing maxing HP on players (and enemies) does is makes combat longer and diminishes the effect of already weak damaging spells for those who like to play blaster classes, especially the power word spells the HP levels as caps. Those assume that the HP are rolled (and assume a much lower HP average since their values are still mostly from AD&D times).

The damage of blasting spells in OD&D usually did not have a cap on the # of dice they did, which was changed in later editions so that higher level damaging spells had a distinct advantage over lower level ones.

But with 3.X and beyond and the seriously significant increase in HP across the board for all classes (Rogues moved to D8 from D6, Arcanes to D6 from D4, all classes get a hd every level instead of HD capping around levels 9-11, all classes getting full HP bonus value from constitutions over 14 every level instead of stopping around levels 9-11 when the HD advance used to stop) the blaster spells never got a commensurate in crease so they became far less optimal.

Giving everything max hits just makes fights longer and less dangerous and that is less exciting. Players SHOULD be a little afraid of death in combat. That makes combats exciting and FUN.

IMO pathfinder gives more than enough HP as is. If they find they are a little scared of combat that is a GOOD thing. Not a bad thing.

I am reminded of my favorite quote from Sean K. Reynolds:

News flash: the game is already stacked so you're expected to win.

Tell them to man up. Adventuring is a dangerous job. Sometimes you die.

If you want a bit more of a middle-ground, I can think of two methods. 1) reduce the die size but give them a flat bonus. For instance, instead of 1d6 HP (average 3.5, max 6), a character might gain 2 + 1d4 (average 4.5, max 6). That way, they aren't getting straight-up max HP, but the minimum is more than just a single point. 2) roll multiple dice. For instance, instead of 1d6 HP, a character might gain 2d3 or 3d2. This give the result a central tendency and is more to avoid extremely low rolls than to push for above-average values.

Kazaan wrote:
If you want a bit more of a middle-ground, I can think of two methods. 1) reduce the die size but give them a flat bonus. For instance, instead of 1d6 HP (average 3.5, max 6), a character might gain 2 + 1d4 (average 4.5, max 6). That way, they aren't getting straight-up max HP, but the minimum is more than just a single point. 2) roll multiple dice. For instance, instead of 1d6 HP, a character might gain 2d3 or 3d2. This give the result a central tendency and is more to avoid extremely low rolls than to push for above-average values.

Could also use a roll twice, take the highest method.

Example: Brutus Adventurius the Fighter levels up. He rolls 2d10, one comes up 8 and the other comes up 3. Brutus Adventurius' hitpoints increase by 8 + other modifiers.

I think all instances where you roll to see how much power you gain from level to level should be eliminated from the game (particularly if you used a point buy system instead of rolling from stats.) Whether you give the fighter 6, 8, or 10 plus their con mod when they level up it's not going to make a huge difference but you really shouldn't give the fighter d10 since no other class features in the entire game are randomized on advancement.

I think if I was doing it for the players I'd want to do it for some of the enemies, but not all of them. For some of the important villains it would be nice to have them last that extra round or two in combat to tone down the rocket tag effect a bit but I imagine for wading through a gang of mooks it could just make a battle feel really drawn out and could get stale quickly if not paired with really careful encounter design.

Rather than max HD, we've been doing add your Con score to your starting hit points (temporary changes to your score don't adjust this value the way that a temporary change to your modifier does.)

It's a big boost early on that allows you to let loose and not pull as many punches as the DM, but it levels off after a few levels.

The HP retraining rules are also pretty decent here to buff up poor dice rolls.

We've also always given the option to roll or take the higher half of the average, and if you roll in the lower 25%, you get to reroll (so "average" for a d6 is 4, d8 is 5, d10 is 6, d12 is 7.)

Our group tends to go with Chaotic characters rolling and Lawful characters taking average.

Of course, enemies have more hit points as a result, too...

I can see giving PCs max HP during the first 5 levels. That is because level 1 is the most dangerous for adventurers- a single orc with a falcion could bring some characters straight from 'full health' to 'I am going to bleed out any second'. Even barbarians with average HP.

Taking the swing-yness of the first few levels is probably a good thing. Everyone just has too little HP to deal with crits.

Past level 5? Nope. You have enough HP that you should generally be able to survive a bit. And you are getting close to resurrection options. Because that is another thing with low levels- a dead PC means you either just throw out the character sheet entirely, or you erase the name and have a "long lost twin/triplet/quintuplet brother who has arrived in order to avenge his brother and put him at peace by completing his quest".

Just a little background, the party is a group of 3-5 (depending on who can make it) level 4 adventurers.

They've ran away from more fights than they've overcome. This is probably because in their second session they fought something that use all it's natural attacks as a full round action and instantly downed someone- so they hate letting anything get close to them. Pain is the best teacher etc. I've already told them at this level, there's no resurrection. :)

Thanks so much for all this feed back. I've read through the thread three or four times now and this is what I've gleaned:

- Fights last longer
- Limited abilities run out easier
- CON stat seems less important
- Blaster types will be less useful

- Martial classes outpace casters more obviously
- You can throw more enemies at them at once
- Healing to full HP can be difficult (I like the concept of not being at 100% all the time, I think being 100% all the time is too 'video gamey' for lack of a better word)
- People spend feats and skill points elsewhere

Huge pro:
- Non-HP damage spells are more useful
- Terrain becomes more applicable (I love using rich terrain maps)

"Generally speaking (from a standpoint of game design theory), longer fights are considered poor design. Adding max HP equates to longer fights. There are numerous studies and white papers, etc., regarding this point of game design theory that are readily available on the web."

Nice Tarrasque icon.

But seriously, I think that you may have a point with the idea that a fight can't be finished 'quickly'. Having low HP values asks players to really consider their actions before the fight even starts; poison the enemies food, get onto highground and pelt them with arrows, set a trap for them etc etc. This is probably better with the turbo power-gamer elite strategists groups out there that play tabletop games.


Level 10 examples:
Barbarian (14 con) + HP Favored Bonus = 150 HP
Paladin (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 130 HP
Rogue (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 110 HP
Wizard (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 90 HP

Level 4 examples:
Barbarian (14 con) + HP Favored Bonus = 60 HP
Paladin (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 52 HP
Rogue (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 44 HP
Wizard (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 36 HP

Level 1 examples:
Barbarian (14 con) + HP Favored Bonus = 15 HP
Paladin (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 13 HP
Rogue (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 11 HP
Wizard (14 con) + HP Favoured Bonus = 9 HP

Yes yes, I know, 14 con wizard? Crazy. I think the point brought up about letting them take full HP early on to remove the 'swing' is a good point, I think after level 4 they'll have to take half their hit die +1.

I'm currently in the process of starting up a new game with a fairly short run (1 year about 12x sessions of about 3 to 5 hours each).

My current intention is to go with max hp because I'm hoping my players will experiment more with a lower fear of death. Also I will tone down and back off the fighting and hopefully steer them towards more creative and interesting scenarios instead.

Whether this works or not... we will see.

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