Houserules for a grittier campaign


Homebrew and House Rules


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Hi All

I was wondering if someone had tried homebrewing a few changes into the PF2 engine regarding healing and recovery after combat? Especially I am not that big a fan of the wounds system and the 'regeneration' after combat, which is happening in my games (and in 5e etc.). Saw an old thread on Reddit but that was all I could find.

Regards


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Obviously, such a houserule changes how viable standard scenarios would be, due to people not being as close to peak condition between encounters, but here are a list of things you can look at doing.

a. Any non-magical healing makes a recipient bolstered to that type of healing again for 24 hours.

b. Magical healing that does not use up a daily resource (spell slot or x/day casting resource), the recipient is bolstered to that type of healing again for 24 hours. (presumably an alchemist's reagents would count as daily resources, thus would not be limited. Healing from magical items, as long as the item is consumed (consumable) or use of that ability has daily limits, they would not impart the bolstered condition.

c. potentially allow a critical hits to impact a target's effective max HP. Potentially track the largest critical HP damage taken, and treat it as a modifier to the effective max HP. (so if you take a critical, and later take a larger one, the number changes to the worse critical). That modifier/value goes down slower than other healing, and impacts how high you can be healed up to. It is an adaption of a rule I'd seen to make 5e a bit more gritty.

A and B, impact balance of things limiting a lot of more freely applied healing, causing people to be more likely to be able to be taken down, but impact seems like it would be relatively easy to adjust for.

C on the other hand makes being in a bad situation even more dangerous, even if you have daily healing resources still available.

As a D, you could implement a 1/2 HP 1/2 Stamina type situation, where stamina resources(point) never get affected by the Grit imparted bolstered effects. Thus allowing repeated skilled healing, and repeated focus based or otherwise unlimited healing for half of your health, but to heal the HP resources (last half) you hit a more vital pool. That adds a noticeable extra level of complexity, but would make that last half of your damage feel more important.

I wouldn't mess with healing doesn't affect stamina rule like they do in Starfinder... I think that goes too far and makes it feel unnecessarily confusing. Allowing things that can restore HP to restore HP first, and any extra past HP would apply to stamina. while less important (easier to restore, with more renewable resources) there isn't a reason to not let healing restore it. That means little nicks and what not are easy to rest and use short term abilities to get back up to full. But if you get hit bad, it requires investing long term resources to get past a certain general amount of short term healing.

Another option I had was to have the healing that doesn't use up a daily or consumable resource up, only heal untreated damage. So you can take X damage and use some ability to restore hit points, but then the rest of it becomes treated. You can't retreat already treated damage until the next day. However if you take Y more damage, all of that damage is untreated, and you could use an ability again to treat that damage.

I'll confess I have so far, primarily tried to stay with the conventional rules at the moment to try the 'standard' feel. But will confess to historically liking a bit more grittier flavor. I've been primarily playing with my children, with me as GM, and so they have been fine with rules as written so far.

With past 5e games, we played with some rules suggested to give it a bit more grittier feel. I originally felt like P2 would have the same sort of feel. I don't know if I have gotten used to it some, or if something about it makes it more natural than when I started trying 5th edition. For whatever reason it hasn't been as big an importance to houserule in. [ok, also I've done a few of the playtests to provide feedback, and as an example, you kind of have to play it as written first to give them as useful info, so that plays into it as well]

I hope something above is helpful to you or sparks an idea for you.


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Have Wounds stickier, so they stay until a night's rest (perhaps recovering as slowly as Drained).
Have poisons stickier, so Conditions from them remain after the poison's run its course.
Also have stickier mental damage, much like Horror checks or Insanity points and such. Figure out what time scale you want for those, and how they might be relieved.

Much of what Loreguard says, with the endless healing sources (mostly Medicine & Focus spells) being capped in some way probably being the most important.

As well as needing to run easier encounters (which might undermine what you're trying to do!), think about the other effects it might have on your players. If they're invested in their PCs, they're going to get more and more paranoid and combat-averse, maybe even heroism-adverse, which sure, it will be grittier, but it'll also be harder to write scenarios for.
"You have to save the princess from the dragon!"
"Hell no! Dragon's kill people, don'cha know."

And they might all start picking up healing, if healing's the bottleneck on their adventuring! You might have to cap it further like Restoration, so only one Heal per unit of time (day would likely be too long!)

Time pressure can substitute in many cases (though as Loreguard pointed out, not in published adventures!) in that Medicine & Focus spells take up time. With pressure, the party might have to juggle when and where to wait for healing, making it a relevant choice to their success.
"Sure, we could heal, but then the guards will assemble." Or the ritual will finish, the archenemy will escape, etc. And then it's in the player's hands, giving them a sense of agency in that they chose the arduous path rather than "this GM's houserules" forced it on them.

Oh, and talk to the players, of course. Setting their expectations is the most important factor!

Ooh, thought of another one: unreliable magic.
A lot of fantasy-horror RPGs make magic an iffy prospect.
So sure you can "try" to heal, but maybe if you crit fail both you and they take the damage instead. I'd link DCs to level of spell. Whether you want a boon attached to a crit success depends on how gritty/horrific/dour you wish to go.
In turn you'd likely have to add crit fail results for Strikes too or you'd have few casters (though having few casters is pretty gritty too).

And another possibility: Remove casting classes except via archetypes.
Medicine would still likely need hampering either in uses or time available, but making magic rarer could help. Funnily enough, this might make an Alchemist viable! :P


Thank you for both of your replies, they are really helpful.
I really like your suggestions Loreguard. I have also primarily run Pathfinder 2E with family (kids, wife and a friend) and they DON'T want to run a grittier version... But something doesn't sit right with me regarding roleplaying the aspects of combat with my adult group (for instance you get hit by a crossbow bolt (and I describe this as a GM).. but suddenly you (the PC) are only a little tried after the hit and after the 3 min of combat are over you are fine again. The adult group are used to playing CoC, White Wolf games and similar and have done some 5e.
I think 'stickier wounds' with some limitations of healing could go a long way for a somewhat more grittier feel (without turning Pathfinder into a Warhammer campaign). I like the options to medicine and would probably tailor that to being even more important than various sources of healing. So for instance magical healing can help some 'small cuts' etc. but more severe and critical wounds require medical attention or more serious magic. i looked at the stamina system and might try and modify that. That seems perhaps an easy path to take.
Anyway thank you for your suggestions.
And yes if I was importing the PF2 engine to a historical setting I would lose some things and maybe limiting spellcasting to archetypes could be a way to do. It is primarly setting a good 'session zero' explaining tone of the campaign and the 'frame/limits' of the setting I guess.


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Realism and heroics tend to result in a whole lot of time spent on making new characters.


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One thing that might help (and which I used to wrap my head around PF2's easy recovery of hit points) was to alter the narrative on hit points to be more like stamina than damage (not using the Stamina mechanics though).
So you're tired, your lucks run down, and finally (at 0 h.p.) you start taking Wounds, which are "real" damage.
PF2 already has a minimum recovery time from those of 10 minutes, which could be extended if needed.

But what about those critical hits?
Still just burning luck and one's endurance. An unfortunate side effect of this is it makes it harder to determine how well your ally's doing (or enemy for that matter).

---
Separately, some systems (including a variant of 3.X) have damage from crits hit a different pool of hit points than normal damage can only get to by draining the other hit points first. In this instance the crits wouldn't be doing more damage, they'd be doing more important damage.
What makes up this extra hit points can vary depending on how lethal you want things to be. One's Con score (total, not just the bonus!) would be one way as could one's 1st level hit points.
Hmm...I guess one could use one's Con's bonus in a slightly different way, where each crit or hit while down on h.p. does 1 damage vs. that bonus then you go do Dying at 0 there. And those could be really hard to recover.

On the flip side I think of Indiana Jones, battered, tattered, and bruised. Yet a night of sleep on a ship and he's active at full force.
In the narrative he's still hurt, but mechanically he's operating fine.
If you talk with the players, they might play along those lines, acting as if battle's taking its toll, but denying aid because they're "fine" when they don't seem fine (yet mechanically are fine).

Then again, magic kinda ruins that (and grittiness in general). There really is this glowy goodness that mends tissue and restores life force. It may take a major retuning of magic, which is funny because a major feature of PF2 (much of this due to playtest feedback!) has been moving the other direction. Players will find a way to heal, even if it's carrying a box of elixirs.


Megistone wrote:
Realism and heroics tend to result in a whole lot of time spent on making new characters.

I agree :) But I'm also not a fan of fantasy characters being super heroes. So I try to maintain a 'semblance' of grittyness' and realism. I think the heroics actually become better the harder odds for the hero :)

Regards


Castilliano wrote:

One thing that might help (and which I used to wrap my head around PF2's easy recovery of hit points) was to alter the narrative on hit points to be more like stamina than damage (not using the Stamina mechanics though).

So you're tired, your lucks run down, and finally (at 0 h.p.) you start taking Wounds, which are "real" damage.
PF2 already has a minimum recovery time from those of 10 minutes, which could be extended if needed.

But what about those critical hits?
Still just burning luck and one's endurance. An unfortunate side effect of this is it makes it harder to determine how well your ally's doing (or enemy for that matter).

---
Separately, some systems (including a variant of 3.X) have damage from crits hit a different pool of hit points than normal damage can only get to by draining the other hit points first. In this instance the crits wouldn't be doing more damage, they'd be doing more important damage.
What makes up this extra hit points can vary depending on how lethal you want things to be. One's Con score (total, not just the bonus!) would be one way as could one's 1st level hit points.
Hmm...I guess one could use one's Con's bonus in a slightly different way, where each crit or hit while down on h.p. does 1 damage vs. that bonus then you go do Dying at 0 there. And those could be really hard to recover.

On the flip side I think of Indiana Jones, battered, tattered, and bruised. Yet a night of sleep on a ship and he's active at full force.
In the narrative he's still hurt, but mechanically he's operating fine.
If you talk with the players, they might play along those lines, acting as if battle's taking its toll, but denying aid because they're "fine" when they don't seem fine (yet mechanically are fine).

Then again, magic kinda ruins that (and grittiness in general). There really is this glowy goodness that mends tissue and restores life force. It may take a major retuning of magic, which is funny because a major feature of PF2 (much of this due to playtest feedback!) has...

Good points Castilliano.

I agree with the roleplaying 'hp as stamina works' and hp as a kind of luck might also work. But hp is an 'abstract' currency and the regeneration of pc's is bit weird for me compared to my AD&D, B/X experiences. It is the recovery of those hp's which annoys me especially without magical means it becomes even worse (and medicine has really been bumped in PF2 in that regard :) And I actually think the system in GMG regarding stamina is interesting and something I'll tinker with whilst heavily limiting the hp / side of that pool.
Regards


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In a realistic system hps can't be meat because the only way that works is if each level you gain more meat or your meat becomes more dense. Which would mean a level 20 character would weigh 20 times as much as a level 1 character.

Which probably leaves hitpoints as luck.


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I thought about something similar for a non magic setting.

What came up was essentially based on these 3 points:

Every Armor gives DR, and specific DR

Which means that every enemy hit will be reduced.
Any armor will have General DR plus a specific DR, which would be higher. For example:

Quote:

Plate: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Slashing Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Leather/Hide: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Bludgeoning Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Composite/Chain: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Piercing Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Characters will also have a portion of their HP as temporary

This is something intended to be recovered while resting ( depends the real wounds, the temporary hp threshold will be reduced ), as not fatal injuries.

Real HP will affect the character acvitivies

Which means that the more you are damaged, the worse for your performance :

For example:

Quote:

- loosing 1/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a Skill penalty

- loosing 2/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a speed penalty
- loosing 3/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a hit penalty

In adjunct to this, the temp hp cap will decrease, the more you are wounded

To make an example for a lvl 5 character:

Quote:

Character HP 8 ( ancestry ) + 50 ( class ) + 15 ( 16 const bonus ) + 5 ( toughness ) = 78 hp

1/3 of these 78 hp ( rounded up ) would be transformed into temporary HP, resulting into 52 real hp and 26 temporary hp.

The character is equipping a Chainmail, getting 3 DR against Slashing/Bludgeoning damage and 7 DR against piercing damage.

The character will then suffer some penalties, depends his real hp:

52/52 = no penalties
39/52 = -1 skill checks ( Skills and saves ) [3/4 temp hp]
26/52 = -2 Skill checks ( Skills and saves ) -5 feed speed penalty [2/4 temp hp]
13/52 = -3 Skill checks ( Skills and saves ) -10 feed speed penalty and - 1 hit chance [1/4 temp hp]

As for the resting phase, I am not sure.

But I'd like give it some flat HP ( double the character level per night, for example ) + some extra if treatments were given.


siegfriedliner wrote:

In a realistic system hps can't be meat because the only way that works is if each level you gain more meat or your meat becomes more dense. Which would mean a level 20 character would weigh 20 times as much as a level 1 character.

Which probably leaves hitpoints as luck.

I agree. The hp bloat in higher levels isn't really something you can roleplay as 'meat'.

Regards


HumbleGamer wrote:

I thought about something similar for a non magic setting.

What came up was essentially based on these 3 points:

Every Armor gives DR, and specific DR

Which means that every enemy hit will be reduced.
Any armor will have General DR plus a specific DR, which would be higher. For example:

Quote:

Plate: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Slashing Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Leather/Hide: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Bludgeoning Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Composite/Chain: general DR = 1+ Half the character level. Piercing Resistance = 5 + Half the character level

Characters will also have a portion of their HP as temporary

This is something intended to be recovered while resting ( depends the real wounds, the temporary hp threshold will be reduced ), as not fatal injuries.

Real HP will affect the character acvitivies

Which means that the more you are damaged, the worse for your performance :

For example:

Quote:

- loosing 1/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a Skill penalty

- loosing 2/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a speed penalty
- loosing 3/4 ( rounded down ) real hp will result into a hit penalty

In adjunct to this, the temp hp cap will decrease, the more you are wounded

To make an example for a lvl 5 character:

Quote:

Character HP 8 ( ancestry ) + 50 ( class ) + 15 ( 16 const bonus ) + 5 ( toughness ) = 78 hp

1/3 of these 78 hp ( rounded up ) would be transformed into temporary HP, resulting into 52 real hp and 26 temporary hp.

The character is equipping a Chainmail, getting 3 DR against Slashing/Bludgeoning damage and 7 DR against piercing damage.

The character will then suffer some penalties, depends his real hp:

52/52 = no penalties
39/52 = -1 skill checks ( Skills and saves ) [3/4 temp hp]
26/52 = -2 Skill checks ( Skills and saves ) -5 feed speed penalty [2/4 temp hp]
13/52 = -3 Skill checks ( Skills and saves ) -10 feed

...

Interesting system. I am definitely a fan of doing something more to armor besides the abstract notion of AC (especially since PF2 have started with the shield block as reaction introducing more granularity to that system). In non-magic or limited magic settings armor is really 'magical' and the way it can stop harm is quite incredible (love the youtube channel Tod's workshop, which really examines damage and armor and medieval weapons). Not fun fighting knights with sticks. Not sure how the above works on top of or in conjunction with armor specialization in PF2. But it would be easy to invoke a condition depending on the state of your real hp.

regards


Drfoucault wrote:

Interesting system. I am definitely a fan of doing something more to armor besides the abstract notion of AC (especially since PF2 have started with the shield block as reaction introducing more granularity to that system). In non-magic or limited magic settings armor is really 'magical' and the way it can stop harm is quite incredible (love the youtube channel Tod's workshop, which really examines damage and armor and medieval weapons). Not fun fighting knights with sticks. Not sure how the above works on top of or in conjunction with armor specialization in PF2. But it would be easy to invoke a condition depending on the state of your real hp.

regards

Oh, I meant not to include any armor specialization.

I just took the 3 categories they split DR into ( apart from the chain I guess, which was meant to lower the critical damage ) and turned them into the passive stuff I posted.

I forgot to say a word about shields and shield block.
They would be revised not to make them extremely powerful ( mandatory ), but I am not sure how yet.


Here is something I'll try out next session (based upon some of your thoughts). It might be expanded but at the moment I'm curious to see how this works out.
The group has a dedicated Saranrae healer (war priest and medicine feats etc.). The group is 6th level at the moment.

1. I use the stamina point system giving them a stamina / luck pool and a hp / meat pool (same as GMG). Also using resolve point and the various feats there. We use free archetype so the feat tax shouldn't be too heavy.

2. Critical hits are split and dealt to both stamina/luck pool and health pool. (Thought about them going directly to hp meat-pool but that is probably too much). It will be very dangerous going up against a vastly superior opponent either a boss or a skilled combatant critting a lot. You don't just get tired fighting superior opponents but can die very easily without teamwork and careful planning. Thought about stamina pool of 0 meaning unconscious (like a boxer), but restorable with magic, potions etc.)

3. The healer can decide to heal stamina or hp. But she will probably focus on hp.

4. Treat wounds is actually treat wounds :) and can heal the injured (meat hp pool) once pr. day (still unsure how to swing this.. might be gimping the ability too much). Battlemedic is similarly retained. You heal one wound pr. day. With critical succes or extended care more wounds can be healed (still a bit unsure here).

Any thoughts or suggestions?

regards


Is treat wound be considered something like battle medicine in terms of "immunity" or is it going to share regardless the character who use it?

I mean, battle medicine gives the character a combat heal which can be used once per day on every character, but you can be the target of different battle medicine ( resulting in, medicin skill provided, 4 battle medicine per day given a party of 4 players ).

Also, could you explain the difference between healing stamina or hp?


HumbleGamer wrote:

Is treat wound be considered something like battle medicine in terms of "immunity" or is it going to share regardless the character who use it?

I mean, battle medicine gives the character a combat heal which can be used once per day on every character, but you can be the target of different battle medicine ( resulting in, medicin skill provided, 4 battle medicine per day given a party of 4 players ).

Also, could you explain the difference between healing stamina or hp?

Just discussed it with one of the players (the goblin wizard he thought it sounded ok..but deadly)

I think I will let treat wounds be 'once' per day (maybe if multiple encounters occur it can be applied after all encounter..patching up the wounds. Succes is treating 1 wound. Critical succes 2 (maybe more) I don't want treat wounds to erase all wounds. Treat wounds will not be on the same 'treat clock' as battle medicine retaining the incredible power of battle medicine in combat(but only once pr day). When we get used to this system I might use penalties as your meat hp drops as you suggested

We talked a bit about the healing stamina or healing hp.

1. We will retain all the healing options to heal stamina from the GMG (Steel your resolve, Take a breather etc). Getting your stamina pool back after combat should be easy.
2. When crits are halved damaging both stamina pool and health pool you retain the DR (if you have it) for both pools. ((Crits are going to be much more dangerous and this could help a little bit again encouraging good teamwork, knowledge about the bosses /monster etc).
3. When the cleric heals (using healing font) she can basically choose how to allocate her hp, but will probably mend wounds instead of supplying stamina. Other sources of healing I am a bit unsure should heal stamina.
4. When you reach 0 stam points you are unconscious but can use a resolve point to get back up on your feet (same rules as the stabilize usage for resolve points).

Hope this is a little bit more clear? The above system will make it better for me to roleplay as a gm in combat I think knowing when the hit landed makes the target tired, jumps a little away from the blow etc. or when the hit is hitting flesh
Regards


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Extremely clear, thanks.

Please post some feedback after have tried that way.
I won't probably be starting mine until next year.


I will :) Won't start a boss encounter or something similar before I have tried this on severe encounters and the like.
Regards

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