Reworking Health (And other house rules for an upcoming game)


Homebrew and House Rules


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So, I've got a list of the house rules I'm planning on using in an upcoming game, which you can see here

I'd love feedback and suggestions in general, but the big thing I'm interested in is my health system, Health and Stamina. It's a revised version of wounds and vigor mixing in wound thresholds.

One thing I should mention right off the bat is that I have a spreadsheet to track the party status which auto-calculates the threshold penalties, and I'll be displaying the penalty right on top of their tokens on roll20, so keeping track of it shouldn't be a problem.

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Health and Stamina

Determining Health: Characters get health equal to their constitution score. Creatures above medium size get a size bonus to their health (Large +4, Huge +8, Gargantuan +16, Colossal +32). Size bonus health is lost first, and missing size bonus health which would be eliminated due to size reduction is converted to nonlethal damage.

Determining Stamina: Characters get stamina from hit dice, gaining max stamina at level 1, and rolling for stamina every level thereafter. If a character rolls a 1 for stamina, they may make a single reroll. Stamina damage which goes past 0 is converted to health damage.

Nonlethal Damage: Accumulates as normal in a separate stack. Characters also take nonlethal damage equal to half the health damage inflicted in a given attack rounding down. If nonlethal damage accumulated ever exceeds your current stamina by an amount equal to or greater than your constitution score, you fall unconscious. Nonlethal damage beyond max stamina + constitution is converted to stamina damage. Nonlethal damage is healed normally, even when targeting health points health points.

Health, Stamina and Nonlethal Thresholds: As characters get more tired, injured or woozy, their ability to function decreases, and thus they take a threshold penalty on all d20 rolls, as well as to AC and CMD. Characters below half stamina or health take a -1 penalty. Characters at 0 stamina or 0 or lower health take a -2 penalty instead. A character whose nonlethal damage exceeds half their maximum stamina takes a -1 penalty. Threshold penalties from low health, low stamina and nonlethal damage stack, up to the maximum of +5 (though most creatures beyond low level can’t get more than a +4 without falling unconscious)

Attacking Health Directly: One point from each sneak attack die rolled is automatically health damage. Similarly, one point of damage from any attack against a flat footed character is converted to health damage. Opponents struck by a confirmed critical hit take health damage equal to the critical multiplier of the weapon. Negative energy (or positive energy where applicable) can target health directly, inflicting one point of damage per die. Creatures with no stamina and helpless opponents may have their health attacked directly.

Low Health and Death: Characters at 0 health or less become staggered. Taking a standard or move action while staggered causes them to take 1 point of health damage and make a constitution check to avoid falling unconscious. The DC of this check is equal to 5 + the number of negative health points they currently have. Don’t forget that threshold penalties also apply!

The Chunky Salsa Rule: Anything that would reduce your body to the consistency of chunky salsa instantly kills you regardless of what the rules say. This also applies to other extreme effects, such as falling in lava or getting cut in half lengthwise. (Note: For the most part, this rule is only there to prevent metagaming holes in the rules or just doing really, really stupid things, I promise not to abuse it.)

Bleeding out: No longer a thing. Characters who are unconscious only suffer additional damage if it is caused by something such as an attack or bleed damage.

Healing Spells and Positive Energy: Healing spells can either be applied to health or stamina, not both. When healing stamina, they heal the full amount. When healing health, they restore 1 health per die, and an additional 1 for every 10 points in flat bonus. So a cure moderate wounds spell would restore 2 points of health at caster level 9 or below, and 3 points of health at caster level 10.

Rest: An 8 hour uninterrupted rest restores half your stamina and your con modifier (minimum 1) in health. A full day’s rest restores all of your stamina and twice your con modifier (minimum 2) in health. A successful heal check to provide long term adds one additional health for 8 hours rest and 2 health for a full day’s rest.

Favored Class Bonus: Goes into stamina if selected.

Fast Healing: Fast healing adds 1 stamina per round, and 1 health per minute. Creatures with fast healing higher than 1 gain their health back at a faster rate. For amounts which cannot be evenly distributed, apply the remainder first. So fast healing 2 would be 1 health every 5 rounds. Fast healing 3 would be 1 health after 4 rounds, then 3 rounds, then 3 rounds. Fast healing 4 would be 1 health after 3 rounds, then 2 rounds, then 3 rounds, then 2 rounds. And fast healing 5 would be 1 health every 2 rounds.

Damage Reduction: Attacks which inflict both health and stamina damage apply damage reduction together, subtracting from the stamina damage first.

Hit Point Trigger Effects: Effects that trigger on 0 hit points (such as disintegration) now trigger on 0 health.

Breath of Life: Heals up to 5d8 + 1/level points of damage until it brings the character back to life. As soon as the character is alive again the spell reverts to healing one point per die, as with other healing spells. When below negative constitution, apply caster level points first, then dice from highest to lowest. If the die that brings the character back from death exceeds the required amount to bring the character back to life, it also applies 1 additional point of health.

Constructs: All health, using the normal hit point rules for constructs. Suffer no threshold penalties and die at 0 as usual.

Undead: Charisma for health (representing the magic binding the undead form), stamina points from hit dice (representing the magical aura between the bindings which helps operate the actual corpse). Suffer no threshold penalties and die at 0 as usual.

Toughness: Hit points from Toughness are divided between stamina and health in a 3 to 1 ratio. It adds 1 health at levels 1,5,9,13,17, and all other hit points from the feat are stamina points instead.

Die Hard: Die hard removes the constitution check to avoid falling unconscious, and the nonlethal damage from health damage above 2.

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Let me know what you guys think.


Forgot to add a section on falling damage.

Falling Damage: Lethal falling damage affects health directly. Being able to fight for a long time will not make slamming into rocks from 200 feet up any less painful.


Are critical hits working the same as they do in D20 RAW with weapon multipliers?

Are you using Massive Damage rules?

Is Armor / AC still the same? (I converted to Armor as DR & a class defense bonus when using similar Wound / Vigor rules.)

Back in the day when wounds / vigor was first released via Star Wars D20 there was a rule that Armor acted as DR vs damage to actual health (wounds), and the class defense bonus is what kept you from getting hit (AC).

It seems like this is well balanced for mid range characters, but low level and high level seem like it may not work as well. High level characters put out so much damage they may overwhelm the available health of a character (especially when fighting multiple foes). Additionally you have the problem of your healer being able to keep up this type of damage vs having to choose which type of damage gets healed.

At the low end when looking at 2 first level warriors in opposing armies hacking at each other on the front lines. According to your rules here they would each have 10 health + stamina, so it would take several hits before one fell to the long sword blows of the other. Assuming average dice from a long sword it takes 3 hits (4 health each hit) before their 10 health foe is killed. VS RAW at they only have 1 - 8 hp each, 1 blow for max damage, and 2 at average damage / average HP. There is also a rule somewhere about mass combat and low level soldiers "falling" at 1/2 HP, thus allowing healers to recover a portion of fallen troops and put them back in action.


Are critical hits bypassing Stamina and going straight to health for full weapon damage, or just the Crit multiplier? What if the foe is out of stamina AND takes a critical hit?

Does taking health damage immediately impose some form of penalty, such as fatigue or Fort saves vs knock out, etc? Or is this only when they are at various thresholds, such as 1/2 health, etc?

Are you using Massive Damage rules? Particularly dangerous under wound systems.

Is Armor / AC still the same? (I converted to Armor as DR & a class defense bonus when using similar Wound / Vigor rules.)

Back in the day when wounds / vigor was first released via Star Wars D20 there was a rule that Armor acted as DR vs damage to actual health (wounds), and the class defense bonus is what kept you from getting hit as a form of Dodge AC.

It seems like this is well balanced for mid range characters, but low level and high level seem like it may not work as well. High level characters put out so much damage they may overwhelm the available health of a character (especially when fighting multiple foes). Additionally you have the problem of your healer being able to keep up this type of damage vs having to choose which type of damage gets healed. The fact that they have to make such a choice means that even with AoE healing (such as Channel Energy, Mass Cure Wounds,etc) they are still running 1 round behind the bad guys. An attack from the bad guys can potentially damage both health and stamina at the same time, but they have to be healed separately.

Think about it like this: If i am a fighter and I take a critical hit at levels 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 from another fighter of my same level (basically from yourself) could I survive that single hit one time or would it instantly kill me? If the answer is Insta-Death you may want to reconsider it, because there are lots of NPCs but only one you. This means that within any given dungeon vs 100 total bad guys, think about how many attack rolls you will face.

At the low end when looking at 2 first level warriors in opposing armies hacking at each other on the front lines. According to your rules here they would each have 10 health (average 10 Constitution) + stamina, so it would take several hits before one fell to the long sword blows of the other. Assuming average dice from a long sword it takes 3 hits (4 health each hit) before their 10 health foe is killed. VS RAW at they only have 1 - 8 hp each, 1 blow for max damage, and 2 at average damage / average HP. There is also a rule somewhere about mass combat and low level soldiers "falling" at 1/2 HP, thus allowing healers to recover a portion of fallen troops and put them back in action.

CAUTION: This system will favor (strongly) ranged martial attacks, spell casters and sneak attacks. Most sneak attacks in Wound systems do damage directly to health at the rate of 1 Wound per sneak dice, which doesn't sound like much until you count in two weapon fighting x a 10th level rogue = 15 wound in one round. NOTE that is only counting the damage from the sneak attack, and not taking into consideration Wound / Health damage from critical hits.

Flat Footed = Health damage. This will turn every character into a rogue during both the initial surprise round AND the 1st round of actual combat before their 1st action comes up. Until your actions in round 1 you are still flat footed, which is why it is best if rogues have a high initiative bonus. So you potentially have surprise + round one of full health damage. This works both ways in the event the party walks into an ambush due to Mr. Bad Guy having access to scrying / divination spells. In short, it works great for a rogue / assassin mission, but can quickly become a party killer.

Spell damage is also frequently ruled as dealing 1 wound per dice of damage (10d6 fire ball = 10 wound).

Ranged attacks are also very dangerous under this system as you can easily take out foes before they ever reach you. This works in reverse too when facing multiple archers. This of course is not much different from the standard HP / AC system under RAW, so no big change there.

Another really dangerous factor are poisons which target Con, such poisons are absolutely deadly under a wound / health system. Not that they are not normally dangerous anyway mind you, just that they are a real problem under systems like this. Imagine getting attacked by kobold archers loaded up with Con based poisons on their arrows. Every round you are getting hit by 6 -10 arrows which are all doing Con damage over time. How many neutralize poison spells do you have?

I'm not suggesting that I dislike the wound / vigor system as it is very realistic, and getting stabbed in the chest can end your fight pretty quickly. It looks really bad ass when it is happening to the other guy, but when it takes out 4 out of 5 members of your party in the first round (happened to me) suddenly your whole party is asking the question do we really want to use this?

I worked with the Wound system previously and ultimately had to drop it because of problems like these. I was actually disappointed in dropping it because I really liked the realism it promised, but the inherent problems which came with it ultimately meant it was not destined to stay long at my table.


Critical hits have to go through stamina first, but also inflict an amount of direct health damage equal to the critical multiplier.

The penalties only come in at thresholds. Remember, you don't die at 0, you still have negative health to go down into, so half health isn't the same as half dead, just wounded to the point that it's starting to slow you down.

No massive damage rules. I've been burned by them in the past, and they don't add as much in a wounds and vigor style system.

In terms of survivability, the lower level characters are much more durable, which I prefer. I'd rather it take a couple of attacks to drop a foe at low level than have the easy one shot kills that can end a character right at the beginning of the game. At higher levels they are going to start falling behind, but I'm not planning on getting too high in levels. I wouldn't be surprised if we never get to level 10, and I would be shocked if we hit level 12.

Sneak attack is going to do health damage at that 1 point per die rate. But that 1 point comes out of the stamina damage it deals, so the net damage remains unchanged. And while 15 health damage is nothing to sneeze at, it's not enough to kill a character with a constitution that's higher than 7, so there is still a round for that character to get his ass bailed out. Although, that's assuming the character had enough stamina to not have been outright killed by 15d6 sneak attack damage plus normal weapon damage from three attacks and possibly a crit or two.

Similarly, the flat foot rule doesn't make all damage health damage, it just converts the first point of weapon damage from each attack into health damage. Unless you are making a hell of a lot of very low damage attacks, this will not allow you to kill someone without first bypassing their stamina. Like sneak attack, the effects here are more about getting you to a threshold, and giving you damage that costs more to heal.

Spell damage... functions as usual, no bypassing stamina. Magic is powerful enough as it is. The exception is positive and negative energy, which function identically but moving points in opposite direction. You can harm health and stamina using the same rules as healing them.

As for poisons, we're using unchained poison rules, which actually do away with the ability score damage. So getting plugged full of poisoned arrows isn't really different in this system than it would be the base system. Although this does make me realize that I never ruled on how the poison damage to HP works. I'll have to think about that one.

Thanks for your input. I will definitely have to keep an eye on the balance as the game goes on.


Cool glad to help. As I mentioned, I really enjoyed similar systems myself but found it to be rather deadly. Our party healer was really being put to the test with every combat, fearful that she was going to watch 1/2 of them die and not be able to stop it.

I didn't notice a difference in Unchained on how poisons worked, I'll have to go back over that one. Thanks for pointing it out.

Low end survivability is where I thought you might be going with this. Honestly while some may cry "unrealistic" if you watch any movie or documentary about medieval large scale combat it is easy to see that it would typically take a couple of shots to bring down an opponent. A rule that I ran across in one of the mass combat rules (God only knows which one) was once the combatant was at 1/2 health they would pass out from their wounds, but any healer (not just a divine channeler) could revive 30 - 50% of them after the battle. In mass combat under these rules I'd simply rule that any critical hit or fumble was fatal.

Why the emphasis on mass combat? Because it is geared to characters level 1 - 3 and becomes a good acid test for how any given rule will work against "normal" people. Such as if a fireball goes off in the local tavern, most of the people there are 1 - 3 level commoners (who would simply be blown to smithereens) and not filled with 10th level adventurers who could reasonably survive such an attack.

Not unlike yourself, my campaigns also ended around mid level and even my high level NPC's are rarely more than level 12, outside of the occasional "pope" of the temple, "archmage" of a particular school of magic, "high druid", or perhaps an ancient dragon.

Question for you: I must have missed it, but at what point are you "dead"? Looking at your original point I didn't see where you specifically stated this one. You stated that once all health was gone the required healing, etc but not the point at which your priest / surgeon / medic would look at you and state "Yep, this one is gone."

Thanks for the conversation. Pleasant comparing notes with you.


If your interested feel free to take a look at my Obsidian Portal page. The combat section might be of particular interest for you as I too went down a similar rat hole on how to balance the Path Finder system, although i took an admittedly different direction with it.

NOTE: my system took a long time to flesh out as everything from how armor worked, to spells, to damage and healing had to be considered. So if you are just looking at combat section for example please keep in mind this ruleset was designed to be used as a group in order to maintain balance. Feel free to use anything you like, but I can't speak to how balanced it will be on a "plug in" basis.

https://lazlo-cos-pathfinder.obsidianportal.com/wikis/main-page


Yeah, I originally forgot to write in that characters who reach their negative constitution score die. I added it to the rules in the google doc, but can't edit old posts here.

Also, I tend to handle level distribution differently than most other people. For the most part, I level the world with the party, though not on a 1 to 1 basis. And this tends to overlap nicely with the way the party goes from a bunch of nobodies to important people. So at level 2 they're facing a drunk guard who only has a job because of nepotism, at level 5 they are running from a handpicked team lead by the captain of the guard, and at level 8 they are targeted by the duke's personal assassin.
I'll make exceptions where they make sense though. A young farmboy isn't going to be at level 10, but his dad, who works hard from dawn to dusk every day and fought off beasts and bandits alike to carve out a home on the frontier? He might be up there somewhere. And as I said, it's not 1 to 1, so if the party is at level 7, one of them might get singled out by a group of 5th level footpads in a back alley.
And the great thing is, the party still gets a sense of progression, because the higher the level the greater the power gap between commoner and PC. It's just that you can't *completely* ignore the seemingly average person, and nor should you get so cocky that that you only care about the elite few who are within striking distance of your level. You are not a demigod, only a man of increasing skill and experience.
This does of course require a bit more consideration with spellcasters, since higher level spells can be a game changer. But they are also far less common, so it doesn't actually come up very much. I actually really like having dabblers in magic, like a commoner 4/wizard 1, or an expert 4/alchemist 1. People who can do a few basic things for their community, but don't fundamentally change life for the people around them.

Anyway, I'll have to give your page a look. I've still got time before the campaign starts, and I am always interested in new ways to tweak and improve the game. Thanks


Oh and I ruled that poison damage to hp from the unchained rules does stamina damage, and if stamina reaches 0, does nonlethal damage.


WARNING: Thread tangent on demographics vs leveled world experience.

Spoiler:

Instead of leveling the world with my PC's, the direction I went was rather opposite. I set the fact that the world is fairly static (with a few exceptions) in that there were definite tiers of power in the world around them. This way the players not only hear about "power progression" but they can actually see it.

For example: in the real world we have a kid who has just entered the military (Commoner L. 1), after training he advances into the infantry (Warrior L 3). A bit later still goes into Special Forces (Fighter L 5). After that perhaps goes into some sort of high end mercenary work or government service (Fighter L 8+).

Same thing with education: High school drop out -> High school graduate -> College AS -> BS -> Masters -> PHD

The list could go on. By comparing our progression to others can we truly see that yes indeed the same character that grew up in a given village is now a true bad ass at 6th level vs the same level 1 - 3 commoners he has known all his life. Perhaps many now respect him, perhaps others feel he was simply a privileged jerk who had opportunities they did not, where as they are stuck in their dead-end rut of a life with no hope of change. ETC etc...

I actually go into quite a break down on some of these factors on my site under the link "the campaign demographics" on the main wiki page.

While I'm touching on demographics (one of my favorite subjects) allow me to make a suggestion. Break down your "big numbers" before the campaign starts. What I mean is consider how many people in your campaign are adventures. In my campaign that number was only 5 - 6% of the total population, which then leaves 94% for commoners, aristocrats, experts and warriors. About 85% are commoners, which leaves about 10% for Warriors, Experts and Aristocrats.

As these numbers start to take shape it allows you the opportunity to begin to get a feel for just how many people are really at what level of society. Following which you can ask the same questions like, "How many level 10 characters are there?" and "Just how powerful IS a level 10 PC classed character?"

As these demographics take shape it gives you a far better sense of where you fall within the societal "pecking order". Do you walk into town and suddenly have every cute girl starts chasing after you in the hopes of landing the most eligible / wealthy bachelor in town? Does the local Lord realize your back and immediately what your help with a problem, or your report on how the last problem turned out? Does the local thieves guild want to recruit you? Or want you dead? Or do you in fact run the guild?

While I completely understand you desire to level the world with your characters, it is actually a lot less work to assume that the world didn't level with them. That way once "Bob the farmer" has been written, you don't have to constantly re-write him and can spend that time fleshing out other NPC's. Bob the farmer will always be there and may comment on the fact that the PC has done really well for themselves, he may be a bit jealous that they were so successful.

As for your concern about how to keep your PC's in line and not being a dick towards the towns folk, the same way we do in the real world. What is to stop an MMA fighter from beating up folks at the local fast food joint? The cops show up (a couple of level 4 warriors), then a truck load of SWAT show up (6 - 8 NPC's that are level 4 - 6 in PC classes), followed by government agents that are level 8 - 10).

Like everything else, PC's are either part of the answer (IE they get called to deal with the MMA fighter, aka monk with an attitude) or they are themselves the ones causing the problem.

If they are the former they will sooner or later be recognized as "lords" and be granted great respect in their community. Fighters are asked to run the local warriors guild and train armies, elite warriors, and so on. Mages are asked to train new mages, create powerful items for the king, etc. If they are the part of the problem however they will be feared as tyrants and usurpers to the rightful rulers of the area.

I had a player of mine that I had to make the point about being part of the problem on three different occasions (he was being really disruptive). The first time he got his ass kicked by the local sheriff / constable. The second time he was beaten and jailed until the party offered to go on a quest for the town in reconciliation for his crimes. The third time I gave him the choice of having the character killed and re-rolling a new one at a -1 level penalty or simply finding a new group to play in. The guy who replaced him was very pleasant. :)


Just a small update. We've had a chance to test out the system briefly and it's working nicely. The biggest issue we had was not having appropriate character sheets. So I modified the character sheets we've been using to allow for health and stamina as well as background skills. Here it is if anyone is interested

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