View Full Version : (3.5) Deadly combat

2010-10-19, 05:17 PM
Ok. So here's two issues I have with dnd combat

1) Hit points just go up and up, and characters quickly become superhuman Hit points just go up and up, to the point where attacks from basic weapons (without modifiers) are insignificant. I don't care if you the greatest warrior the world has ever seen, someone hitting you with a greataxe is going to REALLY hurt. And even someone sticking you with a longsword should still slow you down quite a bit.
2)The difficulty of dungeons is generally determined by the amount of healing magic you have (whether from potions or a cleric.) If you have enough magic to heal up after every encounter, you'll bounce back from near-death and be completely fine. If you can't heal up, even simple encounters can kill you.

To solve these two problems, I want to propose some changes to the combat system that will make combat faster, more realistic, and higher-stakes. These changes will also reduce dependence on healing magic, and will make non combat oriented classes more viable. As a final note, these changes are designed for level 1-5 characters; higher levels than that would probably not work.
Here's the changes:
1) At level 1, all characters have their max HP according to their hit dice. For instance, a wizard has 4 hp and a paladin has 10.
2) At each level beyond that, characters gain 1 hp for d4 and d6 hit dice, 2 hp for d8 and d10 hit dice, and 3 hp for d12 hit dice. In addition, they gain an extra HP for each point of constitution bonus they have (but see rule 3) So a level 3 wizard with no constitution bonus would have 6 HP.
3) Attribute bonuses are halved. So if you have a constitution of 14, you will only gain 1 hp each level up. If you have a strength of 18, you will only gain a +2 to attack.

The result of rules 1-3 is that everyone is a lot more fragile and a lot less superhuman. No more 20 strength half-orcs tearing through the battlefield while bards plink away pointlessly with heir rapiers.

4) If you are wielding a one-handed weapon, 1/2 of your BAB is now added to your AC. This represents your skill at parrying and blocking. If you are wielding a light one handed weapon (or any weapon that allows combat finesse), you get your full BAB added to your AC. If you are wielding a 2 handed weapon, you don't get your BAB added to your AC (since parrying with a massive two handed weapon is harder, and to balance the extra damage you're getting.)

The effect of rule 4 is that you now have to make a tradeoff between attack and defense. In general, the more damaging your weapon, the more AC you sacrifice.

5) If the party is able to rest for 15 minutes, everybody regains full hit points. This includes characters who were at negative hit points (although not characters who are fully dead.) If a character was at negative hit points, they regain full hit points BUT they receive an injury
6) For each injury the character receives, they gain a -2 to their total HP, and a -2 modifier to every d20 roll that they make.
7) A full night's rest will heal the character of all injuries
8) Injuries are cumulative, so if you become injured 3 times, you will have a -6 to your total HP, and a -6 to every d20 roll you make
9) If the penalty from your injuries is greater than your total HP, you fall into a coma and are unconscious until you can rest for a full night. (So if you have 5 HP and 3 injuries, you will have -6 to your HP and will be unconscious)

The point of the injury rules is to get away from the need to cart around a cleric or a bunch of healing magic, while still letting the party be penalized for falling unconscious in battle. It's based of Dragon Age's system for handling combat.


The end result of this is that the party will have much fewer hit points, and will do less damage because of their lower attribute points. It means that a thug with a dagger becomes a threat, and that a 1st level bard can kill a higher level fighter if he lands a few lucky hits. That means that each point of damage becomes more significant, and each combat become more significant. It also means that party members can bounce back from damage without relying on clerics or potions.

2010-10-19, 05:25 PM
As far as I can see, what you achieved is making shields even more useless, non casters, non UMD classes even worse, whole thing way more deadly in a way that can only harm players, and isn't really making anything more interesting....

Forgetting that 3.5 is highly abstract, and really, treating those HP so literally, won't give anything good...

So in short I don't like it, other will probably show with some math at some point.

That's not probably kind of thought you were looking for, but well, that's how I see it.

2010-10-19, 05:36 PM
Some of these seem to contradict one or more of the goals.

I want to propose some changes to the combat system that will make combat faster, more realistic, and higher-stakes.
The Acceptable
1 and 2 lower hit points, that isn't an issue. In doing so, they increase the value of defensive measures at a low level.

3 reduces damage overall, but it also makes characters easier to hit, via dex bonus. Armor thus becomes more important, which works out nicely. It also depowers spell casters a bit, though not much.

6 is fine as injury modeling.

Goal Violating
4 works off faulty assumptions, while it works for higher stakes, having little tiny weapons more effective defensively is questionable. A dagger will not block better than a sword, and most two handed weapons are very fast. Realism is broken.

5 isn't realistic at all, getting hit by weapons hurts you a bunch, but a quick rest and you are back on your feet? No.

7 is also absurd, realistically a shot should be able to take you out of commission for more than a day.

8 adds tracking of more stuff, which slows down the game a bit.

9 is yet another rule to remember, though not a major one.

Overall, this works, if you sacrifice realism it works fairly decently, though only at lower optimization levels, and not for very long. That said, your fundamental problems with D&D are pretty big. Iron Heroes might be more your taste, or if you are willing to make a more major change, GURPS. Then there is the option to abandon hitpoints completely and use an in depth wound system.

2010-10-19, 06:16 PM
Check out the vitality and wound points system (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm). As I understand it, it means every combat carries risk because crits and some other things go straight to wound points which you don't get many of. I have never used this system.

2010-10-19, 09:09 PM
Why are you treating HP as a literal gauge of wounds? That's not what its supposed to represent...:smallconfused:

edit: I'm not disagreeing with you (I agree DnD combat is terribly slow and often HP damage doesn't quite matter enough) but HP was never MEANT to be expressed as PHYSICAL DAMAGE TO THE BODY.

I think starting from that point will only create inconsistencies.

2010-10-20, 10:22 AM
as said above, HP are not like a video game "damage gauge" , IMO it is a reflection of the vitality of the character. a high level character have more HP than a low-level one because it reflect his experience at fighting.

for exemple, a 20th level fighter suffer a hit by a longsword dealing 4 points of damage; for him it is almost nothing more than a mosquito bite. that reflect the fact that he was experienced enough to avoid some part of the damage he should normally suffer (visually , he may move his chest enough to avoid be hit at his heart,etc...)

a 1st level wizard , dont have this experience; he may even die from that hit.

(sorry for my syntax, im french so i dont master perfectly the English language ^^)

2010-10-20, 01:12 PM
JKTrickster and Umbrapolaris are right.

Hit Points aren't meant to be a linear representation how much physical damage a body can take. Instead, Hit Points are a composite of a whole bunch of abstract concepts that, in the end, are meant to represent how tough the character is.

And why worry about making this one facet of a fantasy game more realistic? We are talking about a game where players can throw fireballs around and conjure monsters from thin air.

2010-10-20, 01:27 PM
Check out the vitality and wound points system (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/adventuring/vitalityAndWoundPoints.htm). As I understand it, it means every combat carries risk because crits and some other things go straight to wound points which you don't get many of. I have never used this system.
I have used it, and I like it, lots.

It's a simultaneously grittier and more heroic system than D&D's standard, and doesn't require too much tweaking.

2010-10-20, 01:33 PM
It seems like, if you want combat to be more deadly...It'd just work if you stayed at lower levels, where it is. At lower levels, you don't have as many, aside from magic, superhuman things going on as you do at higher levels.

As an aside, I do think that HP represents sheer toughness-at higher levels, you're just that awesome that an arrow to the face hardly fazes you. This is also supported by, say, falling damage. I'm not seeing how your experience in combat is going to help much when you fall from 200 ft.

The rules also seem to contradict your statement of wanting to make combat more deadly/realistic...but then allowing everyone to heal back to full with no consequences unless they were almost dead.

2010-10-20, 01:35 PM
Personally, when I DM, I just hit my players harder as the game progresses. In fact, I've actually *added* to their survivability with a Hero Points rule that effectively gives them another pool of hit points, which they can substitute to negate partly or fully any damage.