View Full Version : Are HPs Worth the Realism?

Tequila Sunrise
2007-08-07, 04:16 PM
As I work on my homebrew system, I've come to an impasse. My goal in designing this system is to strike a balance between realism and simplicity (two things that d&d is hit-or-miss with) in a setting where characters can become truly heroic.

I've designed a hit point system that allows higher level characters to be heroically tough. It involves five injury categories (from Healthy to Dead); if your character is in any of the middle three categories, they loose a small amount of HP each round to represent blood loss. Every time a character goes down a category, he/she has to make a progressively higher Con check to remain conscious.

Now here's my problem: I've gone to a lot of trouble to make this HP system simple and yet lend the game a semblance of realism. But is it really worth it? When you play an rpg, does it lend to your excitement if your character could end up dying just from bloodloss? Or do questions like "why do I need a special feat/magic item to cause my enemy to bleed?" not hinder your game experience? Have you ever found a system that struck a good balance between the two? (I've played using vitality/wounds, but I felt that it took away most of the characters' heroic-ness while only lending a small amount of realism)


2007-08-07, 04:23 PM
The only system I play/DM with bleeding is an Exalted campaign I run. I completely ignore the Exalted bleeding rules for non-mortals, and they're pretty trivial to begin with (spend 1 mote reflexively=you're all better!).

Tequila Sunrise
2007-08-07, 05:56 PM
Exalted has bleeding rules? Wow. I'd expect Exalted to be even more cinematically-geared than D&D. Are the bleeding rules complicated or just so insignificant to an immortal that they're not worth tracking?

2007-08-07, 08:22 PM
I'm really fond of wound points/vitality points from Star Wars d20. The mechanic is nearly identical, but it makes the battles feel a lot more realistic. No more surviving taking a battle axe to the torso. It also feels more cinematic, to me: in movies, you don't have people constantly hitting each other with swords until one dies. You have people dueling each other, parrying and dodging everything, one of them clearly gaining the advantage, and then one cinematic stroke kills them.

I recommend the 'Leaky Vitality' variant, where if the character ever takes damage past a certain threshhold, he takes one point of wound damage. If he takes double that threshhold, two points, etc. This makes it so it's not just 'fight until you drop;' the character will probably slow down and be less effective as the fight wears on.

2007-08-08, 11:51 PM
I have to admit, I just don't worry about it in 3e.

On the other hand, in my homebrewed D&D game, I tweaked things slightly. Unless something will obviously kill a Character (such as falling into a pit a lava or something), I don't consider a Character to be wounded until they hit 0 or lower Hit Points. I don't use the count down mechanic, but I impose penalties for being wounded. That pretty much solves most of my problems

2007-08-09, 01:39 AM
I've played shadowrun, and true20, both of which have a more realistic wound system that isn't too complicated and doesn't detract from the game. What they have in common is that you can only take a limited amount of hits, and as you get more damaged you become less able to fight. Handling things like slowly taking bleeding damage over time is a hassle and isn't very fun, a -2 penalty to attack rolls, skill, and ability checks or a fatigue status effect is a much simpler way to represent damage to character, besides, bleeding to death isn't very heroic.

Tequila Sunrise
2007-08-09, 01:05 PM
Thanks for all the input and suggestions! I've decided to drop the injury categories and all related complication. Too many people would just rather not be bothered.


2007-08-09, 01:21 PM
Cyberpunk 2020 had a nice system.
Characters had BODY stat (approx = CON) which adjusted the damage you took, and you had a series of wound states, each with four points - starting at "Light" and ranging to "Mortal 10", via "Critical", "Mortal 0" etc, etc.

Every point of damage you took prompted a "Stun Save" (1d10 vs BODY stat - stats being from 1 to 10, without enhancements) to avoid falling stunned (with a Stun Save each round to get back up if you did fall over).

Each wound state after the first four points gave you penalties to act. -2 to REFLEXES, then REFLEXES and INT halved, that sort of thing.
At "Mortal 0" that Stun Save is accompanied by a Death Save, adjusted by the number of the Mortal state you're in. Once you're at Mortal 10, you can't very easily make this save.

It sounds complex, but it wasn't. You sure as heck never wanted to expose your character to attack, which made for a realistic gun battle system...

For a fantasy game, I'd recommend you use the Wounds / Vitality variant, which is described in the d20 SRD hypertext (www.d20srd.org). That'd be the best base from which to apply your bleeding and lingering damage variants - and as it's from WotC, it's been thoroughly playtested already.

2007-08-09, 04:06 PM
and as it's from WotC, it's been thoroughly playtested already.

Woahh! I'll put that into my sig. ;)