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Thread: Hitpoints

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Hitpoints

    Mostly inspired by the "Realistic Firearms" thread, I'm wondering what other people's perspectives are on hitpoints, hits, misses, damage, and wounds, and how to represent them in the game. If someone rolls a hit and damage, what does that reduction in hitpoints mean? How do you as a DM describe it?

    Before getting into the discussion I think a very useful resource would be a list of things that depend on hits, hitpoint damage and so on. For example, if you want to say that a hit that deals damage may actually be a near-miss which doesn't injure you but tires you slightly in dodging it, you have to reconcile that with things like contact poisons which have their effect when they deal damage because, fluff-wise, they have indeed caused a wound.

    To start:

    Hit/miss (types of AC):
    - Armor
    - Natural Armor
    - Dodge
    - Deflection
    - Sacred, etc.

    Wounds (hitpoint damage and things that modify it):
    - Hitpoints
    - Criticals
    - Sneak Attacks
    - DR
    - Fast Healing
    - Poison
    - Wounding weapons
    - Healing
    - Touch attacks and energy damage

    As people suggest additions to the list, I'll edit them in.

    My understanding of hitpoints (and I'll edit in the relevant quote when I find it) is that they are a sort of abstract "survivability". Someone could stab at you repeatedly with a 1d4 dagger at level 20, but you're not actually surviving being stabbed; you're avoiding being stabbed, right up until you're knocked into the negatives, and all the "hits" until then are actually dodged or blocked or inconsequetial nicks that serve only to wear you out.

    The problem with this is... well, many. If you're dodging then why is it a hit and not a miss due to a dodge bonus? If you're blocking then why isn't it a miss due to armor or shield or natural armor bonuses? If it's an inconsequential nick then why haven't your clothes basically been shredded long ago? Does healing magic patch up minor rips and tears in gear as well? If you're not actually wounded or nicked by an attack that deals damage, how does your cleric know how to heal you? Isn't it a bit presumptuous to ask for healing just because you're a bit out of breath, with not a mark on you?

    Please note that I'm not looking to start an acrimonious debate or drag in any vitriol about real-world weapons or the like. Essentially what I want to do is, with your help, map out the abstract system in D&D around hitpoints and work out how they can best be coherently represented in in-game terms.

    Any interest?

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    ElfMonkGuy

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    I run health two different ways:

    For characters who avoid dying based on combat skill, luck, or just general heroism, I do the scratch thing. Anything that deals damage, generated some kind of wound, but the severity of the wound is in keeping with the percentage of health it took off; I.E. a dagger wound that would go straight into a Level 1 Commoner's innards, barely grazes the shoulder of the level 20 Fighter, maybe drawing a drop of blood. (It also helps to explain how the Fighter manages to largely ignore the DC 15 contact poison, too :P)

    But for most monsters, and characters who avoid dying based on raw toughness, they take the full impact of blows and simply continue on.

    Mind that a character who can not actively defend themselves from attacks is a character who is helpless. Attacks against them should be resolved as coup de grace.

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    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    Mind that a character who can not actively defend themselves from attacks is a character who is helpless. Attacks against them should be resolved as coup de grace.
    I wouldn't say should, so much as could.
    A coup de grace is a full round action. If the attacker chose to make a standard action, or had no choice because they made a move, they'd attack normally with a +4 bonus to hit.

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Hitpoint damage means that the person has a lot of holes in them that weren't there before. The thing is, having holes in you isn't necessarily as fatal as most folks realize. Yeah, most people (level 1 commoners) stand a good chance of dying from getting a single dagger-sized hole in them, but you can also find stories of particularly heroic folks (i.e., high-level, and probably in PC classes) who survive a lot worse. When a first-level commoner is killed by hitpoint damage, he's got a couple of holes in him, but the body is mostly intact. When a 20th-level barbarian is killed by hitpoint damage, he's been reduced to a pile of hamburger, because nothing short of that would stop him from swinging his greataxe.
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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    I personally see hit points as an abstract game mechanic, whenever someone mentions "realism" and hit points I just start singing: LALALALALA loudly until they stop.
    It works great for me.


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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by Fenix_of_Doom View Post
    I personally see hit points as an abstract game mechanic, whenever someone mentions "realism" and hit points I just start singing: LALALALALA loudly until they stop.
    It works great for me.
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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by Indon View Post
    For characters who avoid dying based on combat skill, luck, or just general heroism, I do the scratch thing. Anything that deals damage, generated some kind of wound, but the severity of the wound is in keeping with the percentage of health it took off; I.E. a dagger wound that would go straight into a Level 1 Commoner's innards, barely grazes the shoulder of the level 20 Fighter, maybe drawing a drop of blood. (It also helps to explain how the Fighter manages to largely ignore the DC 15 contact poison, too :P)
    So the two fighters swinging at eachother with massive greatswords are somehow just nicking eachother almost all the time?

    I go with hp being an increase in the toughness and resilence of your skin, bones and internal organs.

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    There is another possible model you could use for hitpoints. There are a variety of wounds a human body can take that won't kill you... for a few minutes. Since combats are so short, you can have the damage dealt be in terms of collapsed lungs, skewered muscles, and broken bones. It's just after the 18-24 seconds of combat are over, the heal skill or cure spells must be used immediately.

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    I tend to use a style similar to the OotS method, where you're taking some serious cuts as you get hit, but you're still capable of standing and fighting. I tend to describe people as not feeling too good, but still being able to fight since as higher-level characters, they just ARE that good.

    Something I will also do is describe a blow that would have killed them and describe how they managed to turn it aside or partially dodge to make it not kill them, but still do some damage.
    Last edited by Behold_the_Void; 2008-01-18 at 11:47 PM.


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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    The way I'm doing it in the system I'm designing from the ground up, hit points represent actual health, and do not increase with experience. Gaining actual body mass, either through exercising or becoming fat, are the only ways to gain hit points (and getting fat has other stat penalties).

    Instead, increased defensive comabt skills both decrease your chances of being hit, and decrease the amount of damage you take when you are hit. Armor does nothing to affect your chances of being hit, but it does decrease damage if you are hit.

    Sneak attacks, attacking a prone foe, etc., decrease defense skills to effectively zero for that attack, thus greatly increasing both your chance to hit, and the damage dealt.

    It's a pretty elegant system. Hinges around the combined attack and damage roll. You try to roll under a percent, and if you hit, the percent you roll is the percent of base damage (for the weapon) that you do. For tabletop, you round up to the nearest 10% to simplify the math. So if you have a low chance to hit, you also do low damage.

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by GoC View Post
    So the two fighters swinging at eachother with massive greatswords are somehow just nicking eachother almost all the time?

    I go with hp being an increase in the toughness and resilence of your skin, bones and internal organs.
    I'd go with the former, actually. Due to their better skill, they manage to decrease the effectiveness of the hit by pivoting so that it grazes them, parrying it (if a little too late), etc. I find it easier to visualize that way than an increase in actual tissue resilience (which would be what Natural Armor increases do). I'd say it makes sense this way, because as you gain experience you find ways to postpone your bloody and painful death.

    Critical hits would be blows that are swung well and connect well (hence the confirmation roll), that really tear into your opponent and severely hamper his survivability.

    Sneak attacks are very much like critical hits, but they rely more on your opponent's inability to defend himself and not your lucky, well-placed swings.
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2008-01-19 at 02:30 AM.


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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Read some Conan books, since Conan basically follows the HP system (he keeps getting more and more cuts, and bruises, and gashes, and arrows sticking out of him, ect ect ect, without ever losing his combat ability) it's rife with good ways of describing hp damage. Basically, here is the formula

    % of body covered in blood(own) >= % of hp lost. A fighter with 100 hp who takes 1 damage might just have a tiny cut on their cheek, enough to have a few droplets of blood which makes the fighter look more menacing. The same fighter with 95 damage is covered in blood, deep cuts covering his body, leaving a trail of gore behind him, but still he fights on, too badass to fall to anything but a fatal wound.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross View Post
    I'd go with the former, actually. Due to their better skill, they manage to decrease the effectiveness of the hit by pivoting so that it grazes them, parrying it (if a little too late), etc. I find it easier to visualize that way than an increase in actual tissue resilience (which would be what Natural Armor increases do).
    I always thought natural armor was things like plates of bone or scales that made it harder to hit vital spots?

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Quote Originally Posted by GoC View Post
    I always thought natural armor was things like plates of bone or scales that made it harder to hit vital spots?
    Those things would be natural armor, but there are lots of creatures with natural armor which lack such features. Apes, eagles, wolves.. nothing scaly or plated about them.

    This sort of thing is one of the points I was thinking of, though. Where is the line drawn between "natural armor" due to innate toughness, and damage reduction?

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    A wizard stabed with a dagger often takes it in the gut. Not healthy.

    The fighter? He 'gets stabbed' but wards off the blows with his arms, grabs the blade before it gets him, etc..

    Just use your imagination. If it's a powerful blow, then let it do massive damage, otherwise just say the arrow grazed your thigh or whatnot and let em bleed some.

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    I treat Hit Points as an abstraction, I don't consider anyone to be significantly wounded until all Hit Points are gone. After all, they ain't Health Points.
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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by AslanCross View Post
    I'd go with the former, actually. Due to their better skill, they manage to decrease the effectiveness of the hit by pivoting so that it grazes them, parrying it (if a little too late), etc. I find it easier to visualize that way than an increase in actual tissue resilience (which would be what Natural Armor increases do). I'd say it makes sense this way, because as you gain experience you find ways to postpone your bloody and painful death.

    Critical hits would be blows that are swung well and connect well (hence the confirmation roll), that really tear into your opponent and severely hamper his survivability.

    Sneak attacks are very much like critical hits, but they rely more on your opponent's inability to defend himself and not your lucky, well-placed swings.
    This is also consistent with Hit Die. The Fighter has d10 becuase he's in a position where that's a constant situation. He learns how to minimize the injuries as a product of his primary abilities. The Barbarian has an ever bigger die because his fighting style actually makes him easier to hit, so making sure it hits as indirectly as possible is a big deal.

    Meanwhile, the Wizard does have to put up with this sort of thing, and gets a smaller hit die because it's not as second nature to them.

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Hit Dice in the DnD world are a fairly interesting abstraction.

    Natural Armor and Damage Reduction provide spectacular ways of resisting damage, but extra hit dice represent more experience rolling with blows and lessening their impact. They still hurt, but it takes more to knock you out.

    And you think, "but why do non-melee characters get more hit dice? they don't fight people..." But the Dnd world is constantly on a war footing. There is always another goblin tribe coming to steal your stuff, which is why weapons are worth several times the raw iron to make them. EVERYONE learns how to dodge blows. It's a fact of life, really.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyMolo View Post
    Hit Dice in the DnD world are a fairly interesting abstraction.

    Natural Armor and Damage Reduction provide spectacular ways of resisting damage, but extra hit dice represent more experience rolling with blows and lessening their impact. They still hurt, but it takes more to knock you out.

    And you think, "but why do non-melee characters get more hit dice? they don't fight people..." But the Dnd world is constantly on a war footing. There is always another goblin tribe coming to steal your stuff, which is why weapons are worth several times the raw iron to make them. EVERYONE learns how to dodge blows. It's a fact of life, really.
    Right. But Wizards get a d4 because, while they learn to dodge and absorb blows, it's not as pressing of a need as it is for a Fighter or a Ranger or a Barbarian.

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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    Quote Originally Posted by GoC View Post
    I always thought natural armor was things like plates of bone or scales that made it harder to hit vital spots?
    As Kamikasei mentioned earlier. While bone plates and tough scales are included in natural armor, tough hide and extra muscle mass is enough to count as natural armor. (Hence why some templates add natural armor without even giving you an exoskeleton. See Half-Celestial). Most giants also have natural armor just for being really big and having lots of muscle (or flab). It's harder to strike deep enough to wound them significantly.


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    Default Re: Hitpoints

    I have them represent the character's ability to fight at maximum capacity. This might mean actual wounds or exhaustion, or even a sagging morale; what's chosen depends on the situation (with actual wounds as a general rule occuring in the low/negative end of the hit point spectrum). It doesn't make sense for a character to sustain dozens of stab wounds (even minor ones) and continue to fight without a problem, but it does make sense that a character could become tired out (fewer HP) from parrying those blows, finally leading to them sustaining injury that is debilitating (negative HP). When a cleric heals the fighter, it's less of actual wounds being bound up, and more of energy and spirit making the fighter feel less combat-weary. When a crusader deals a healing strike, he's not healing his friends' wounds so much as lifting their spirits through his example. Side note: this may mesh better when melee PCs have the Diehard feat (which most melee PCs take in my campaigns, for whatever reason).

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