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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kioran's Avatar

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    Default Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Since times immemorial (okay, since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented D&D), HP were a fact of gaming, often discussed but never clearly defined. Some of the elements purportedly included were physical Toughness, Willpower, Luck, skill at staying alive, evasive reflexes or divine handwavium. For quite some while, there have been different opinions about this, but....

    With the advent of 4th Ed, it seems like those who favor "abstract HP (little physical toughness, much luck, skill and divine handwavium) have seemed to luck out - One can lose HP in spades, with all this still only manifesting as minor cuts - insignificant enough to be shaken off with little effort, or even completely thrown with not even a full nights rest. One could, perceivably, lose 45 HP without even being injured.......In fact, the rules go as far as characters not even sustaining significant damage until they are below 50%....
    These kind of HP lend themselves to cinematic play, Hollywood action movies come to mind. They also make it possible for almost all heroic classes to fight long and hard, without being dependent on magic, and solve part of the "earthshattering blow dilemma" ("Strike of perfect clarity" + Hairpin = shattered brickwall. How does a human body withstand being hit with that?). On the downside, the old "practically unharmed/dead" duality is more evident and stronger than ever, and all this "look at my unblemished face and body, the result of 67 fierce fights in the last month" ridiculousness. It also creates problems with the effect of weapons - how are they different if they don´t hit 80% of the time?


    However, 3rd Edition makes a strong case for Toughness-based HP. Classes which train their bodies, first and foremost, have more HP. Injury type poison just requires HP-loss. Same goes for wounding weapons or attacks. And finally, HP either Heal slowly or need to be restored magically (pre-ToB, that is - though I am of the firm opinion White Raven and Devoted Spirit are in large portions clearly SLAs or supernatural).

    These kind of HP create a much grittier and more brutal world. Blood, guts and violence. The protagonists would be less like John McClane and more like Max Payne, staggering on despite grievous wounds or taking names and kicking ass to their last breath. They serve verisimilitude on some way by actually having people get injured, wounded or hurt, having less of the "unharmed/dead" duality. Characters who fight get hurt, and many attacks have observable effects on both your living and unliving environment. On the downside, this puts play or characters at the mercy of the Healbot/CLW-Wand, and may lead to ridiculous carnage like in Bleach (where characters routinely lose liters of blood and get cut to ribbons). One asks how people could survive this, much less stay in the fight.

    Both have their advantages and drawbacks. There´s been and there are both "Abstractists" and "Woundists". There´s Max Payne or the Master Chief (Halo 2, not 1. Stamina System)

    Well, I am firmly in the camp of the woundists, but how about you? And why?
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    You can model it either way. The lack of penalties for being injured in D&D, IMHO, lead to the "minor cuts" abstraction, and you can model cure spells as restoring energy (/luck/fixing minor cuts, etc.) despite their name.
    Whenever you describe deadly blows in D&D, they better damn well be deadly, or (at least my) players jump on you. This is likely why we started to use the VP/WP variant, at least for a while (though extensive modification was needed in some places still... how does diehard work?)

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Hmmm... I think that even in 3.X, hp were never meant to represent physical injury - or, at least, JUST physical injury. My Fighter16/PsyWar2/Lolth-touched character for instance, has over 250 hp. That means, that if hit by someone of average strength with a greatsword (which averages at 7 dmg per hit) it would require over 30 blows to kill him.

    Try hitting someone with a greatsword 30 times - let's see how THEY fare.

    It's my understanding that hp has always represented not only physical resilience (which comes from Constitution) but also your ability to defend yourself. It's not just wounds, but also the ability to turn a deadly strike into a glancing blow.

    And since I KNOW someone is going to pull this one, lemme get it out of the way:

    "It's just a flesh wound"

    There, it's been done.
    Morituri nolumus morit - We who are about to die... don't want to

    "BUT, LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPERMAN." - Death, "Reaperman"

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Goblin

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    From what I've seen of 4th so far, it looks like it supports a combination.

    Your Hp represets your luck and dodgy-ness mixed with cool nicks and cuts until you're bloodied, in which case you've takin a deeper, more substantial wound. next stage is 0, when you take a potentially life threatening injury and pass out.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    However, 3rd Edition makes a strong case for Toughness-based HP. Classes which train their bodies, first and foremost, have more HP. Injury type poison just requires HP-loss. Same goes for wounding weapons or attacks. And finally, HP either Heal slowly or need to be restored magically
    HP are clearly abstract, because they're abstract. They're a number. They don't track injury in any meaningful way. 3rd edition specifically states that they represent a combination of a whole bunch of factors abstracted into one scalar. Sure, if you actually get injured, you have to take HP damage to represent it. That doesn't mean you have to have been injured or injured badly every time you take HP damage. Taking "damage" is an abstract notion that can be represented however is most suitable at the time. If it's damage that puts you from low positives into negatives it's a life-threatening wound. If it puts you at -10 or below it's a mortal wound (if you were in low positives) or an outright evisceration (if you were in high positives and took a whole mess o' damage all at once). If it puts you from higher to lower positives then it's a nick, a scratch, a graze, or just a barely-dodged blow that leaves you scrambling to recover your balance.

    Essentially nothing about the way HPs are lost or gained is at all realistic or concrete, simply because injury and healing can't be adequately represented by a single value going up or down.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    (pre-ToB, that is - though I am of the firm opinion White Raven and Devoted Spirit are in large portions clearly SLAs or supernatural).
    Were there any HP-recovering maneuvers in White Raven? I thought Devoted Spirit had the monopoly.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by kamikasei View Post
    HP are clearly abstract, because they're abstract. They're a number. They don't track injury in any meaningful way. 3rd edition specifically states that they represent a combination of a whole bunch of factors abstracted into one scalar. Sure, if you actually get injured, you have to take HP damage to represent it. That doesn't mean you have to have been injured or injured badly every time you take HP damage. Taking "damage" is an abstract notion that can be represented however is most suitable at the time. If it's damage that puts you from low positives into negatives it's a life-threatening wound. If it puts you at -10 or below it's a mortal wound (if you were in low positives) or an outright evisceration (if you were in high positives and took a whole mess o' damage all at once). If it puts you from higher to lower positives then it's a nick, a scratch, a graze, or just a barely-dodged blow that leaves you scrambling to recover your balance.

    Essentially nothing about the way HPs are lost or gained is at all realistic or concrete, simply because injury and healing can't be adequately represented by a single value going up or down.
    Where does that leave injury poison or a wounding weapon? I know damage is relative, and the same 20 Damage that rends commoners apart represent only a shallow cut to the lvl 10 PC. However, any kind of HP loss means injury if wound-dependent effects of weapons apply. To go fully abstract, one would have to remove "wounding" or poison effects (which they might have done in 4th Edition) or explain with some "spirit weakening" mumbo-jumbo.

    Were there any HP-recovering maneuvers in White Raven? I thought Devoted Spirit had the monopoly.
    White Raven is another can of supernatural (+Actions or +extraordinarily large boni to checks), despite being incapable of Healing.
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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    It also creates problems with the effect of weapons - how are they different if they don´t hit 80% of the time?
    Isn't this really a comment on the users, not the weapons themselves?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    Well, I am firmly in the camp of the woundists, but how about you? And why?
    Since there is no meaningful impact from losing Hit Points on any other aspect of how a character functions and that a Fighter with 90 hit Points can lose 89 of them and then run a marathon, bake a cake or whatever with no perceivable problems derived from hit point loss, I'm going to have to say I consider Hit Points to not represent wounds of any significant sort.

    The duality that this creates between fine/incapacitated is also compounded by Healing Spells (what are they healing if the Character is not wounded?), so I tend to rationalise Hit Points as Divine Favour/Luck/Skill in the form of Positive Energy, which helps to explain why Healing Spells restore Hit Points.

    I'm okay with the idea that significant non incapacitating wounds (broken limbs, severed tendons, etc...) are not represented in D&D. The way I see it, the DM is always free to introduce them if he really wants to
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    ElfRangerGuy

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    Where does that leave injury poison or a wounding weapon? I know damage is relative, and the same 20 Damage that rends commoners apart represent only a shallow cut to the lvl 10 PC. However, any kind of HP loss means injury if wound-dependent effects of weapons apply. To go fully abstract, one would have to remove "wounding" or poison effects (which they might have done in 4th Edition) or explain with some "spirit weakening" mumbo-jumbo.
    And here we have reached the point where realism & realistic description must be balanced against gameplay. On the one hand, the designers clearly were intent to maintain the hp system that previous editions of D&D had been using. Probably due to the simplicity, and because many players just accept it without questioning every little detail of every single damage roll. Then, when they got to designing poisons and wounding weapons and combining them with the existing rules for damage reduction, they realized that the character in question should only be affected if they are actually damaged by the attack. (Which of course, makes perfect sense until you start questioning the very nature of damage.) Now clearly, they wanted to include these things in the game without completely restructuring the way hp and damage are calculated, so you arrive at the current implementation.

    So to sum up, you can just say that in the case of attacks that deal a special condition on a successful "injury", that any attack that deals hp damage results in, at minimum, a scratch rather than a "near miss". Are ya happy now?!
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I don't think a low damage roll is ever a miss. It is a hit. There is, however, a very big difference between a superficial graze (which would still allow the poison to seep through) and a open gash.

    Wounding is the same. Both characters take damage at the same rate, though a high-hp character, may it be through great fortitude or sheer force of will, is capable of keeping focus and remain standing or effective despite the blood loss (in fact, Wounding ONLY makes sense if you abstract hp).
    Morituri nolumus morit - We who are about to die... don't want to

    "BUT, LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPERMAN." - Death, "Reaperman"

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I'd also like to add my opinion here, on the subject of "What the HELL are cure X spells?" On that subject I prefer taking an approach similar to that seen in the Circle of Magic novels (Great series, BTW. How many times do you get to see a mage as a protagonist? And how many times is that mage a squishy wizard that can't use his powers?). There, there are two kinds of "healing" spells, as far as the books go. The first ones do not heal, per se. Rather, they recover fortitude and make the recipient feel stronger. Those are the cure X wounds spells. And then, there's a much more powerful spell, which requires that the caster transfers part of his health to a recipient, that REALLY heals people. That one is a Heal spell.

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kioran View Post
    Where does that leave injury poison or a wounding weapon? I know damage is relative, and the same 20 Damage that rends commoners apart represent only a shallow cut to the lvl 10 PC. However, any kind of HP loss means injury if wound-dependent effects of weapons apply. To go fully abstract, one would have to remove "wounding" or poison effects (which they might have done in 4th Edition) or explain with some "spirit weakening" mumbo-jumbo.
    KillianHawkeye has more or less made my response. An injury poison which has to deal HP damage to take effect will constrain you to describe any damage dealt with it as "a nick, a scratch, or a graze" rather than a near miss. That's all. The same goes for wounding weapons, pretty much. If for some reason a given effect specifically says that it has to cause a real, physical injury, or is rationalized as working thus (eg: that feat that lets you prick yourself and use your blood as a material component), then it has to be described as causing injury, but that injury doesn't have to be in any way significant or have any impact on your hardiness.

    Please understand that I'm not suggesting HP and damage are some purely abstract thing in the game like Life Points in YuGiOh or something. They are abstract in the metagame: a single quantity that does not necessarily represent the same thing at all times in character. Taking damage in the game absolutely can be described as suffering an injury. It just doesn't always have to be, and pretty much never has to be described as suffering serious injury, and it's probably best to avoid doing so because having characters repeatedly being seriously injured and healed back up is harder to suspend disbelief for that characters repeatedly avoiding serious injury by the skin of their teeth and coming away cut and bruised but still ready to fight.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Azerian Kelimon View Post
    (Great series, BTW. How many times do you get to see a mage as a protagonist? And how many times is that mage a squishy wizard that can't use his powers?).
    The first Discworld books. YAY for Rincewind
    Morituri nolumus morit - We who are about to die... don't want to

    "BUT, LORD, WHAT CAN THE HARVEST HOPE FOR, IF NOT FOR THE CARE OF THE REAPERMAN." - Death, "Reaperman"

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Yes. Silly me. Never forget the greatest companion of the luggage!

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Well, you could simply apply a special effect based on individual weapons. So, if you (for example) roll the max on damage for a weapon, it sticks some sort of penalty on the target... like crippled limb or sucking chest wound. That way you still use the same HP pool, but there are additional afflictions and descriptors applied.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I think the 3.0 system represents well the HP as actually how much wounds you can take.

    For example, LOTR's first movie, when Boromir starts eating arrows, he still stands and fights, cleaving the orcs as easily as before, untill finnally he falls, unable to deliver a single more blow.

    Then there is that Uruk-Hai leader, wich probably had more HP than the other Uruk-Hais, and thus gets an arm choped off, a dagger in his leg, a blade trough his chest and still keeps fighting hard.

    This is my vision of D&D heros. The barbarian gets his guts pulled out, his skull is fractured while his flesh is burning and he roars "You really think that is gonna stop me?", because he's used to take his body to the limits.

    The wizard, on the other hand, gets a direct hit in the head and is screaming for mercy, because he's not used to physicial punishment.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I use Luck, predominantly, from 1-10, then start mixing actual wounds in more often afterwards. But in my games, People at level 10 are getting to the point where they're getting to be detached from humanity's limits. And have buckets upon buckets of blood.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    The nosebleeds should be scary for an epic guy.

    Another good base to model a system of how HP works is the assault to the thieves' guild in Salvatore's The Halfling's gem.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oslecamo View Post
    Then there is that Uruk-Hai leader, wich probably had more HP than the other Uruk-Hais, and thus gets an arm choped off, a dagger in his leg, a blade trough his chest and still keeps fighting hard.
    He gets stabbed in the leg, pulls it out, and keeps going. That's HP. He gets his arm chopped off and stabbed through the chest as one move. That's dyin' fancy. He does not keep fighting hard once he loses the arm, he just doesn't act as if he feels the pain. I would characterize the fight from the loss of the limb onward as Aragorn reducing him to negatives and then finishing him off, or just killing him outright with an elaborate description.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Or Deathless frenzy. But "LOTR DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOODNIGHT!".

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    If you reduce this to it's limits you could have a level 1 just staring out human mage with 7 hp and 8 str. He has no armour, he is attacked by his clone with a knife, this guy will have to bury it to the hilt (ie get max damage at least 3 times to render him unconcious, at 10th level about 25 times at 20th maybe 50 maybe more, it is going to have to be an abstraction in the main part.
    However as has been already stated, wounding and poisoned weapons demand that flesh contact is made, so then it must be wounds right.

    What we are experiancing here is wave-particle duality as written, HP's only works as both at the same time the dagger diffraction grating and the photoelectric effect of poison.
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    That felt like reading Timecube again, but with less of a feeling I was facing Cthulhu.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charity View Post
    What we are experiancing here is wave-particle duality as written, HP's only works as both at the same time the dagger diffraction grating and the photoelectric effect of poison.
    I've been awake far too long. This made sense.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutee View Post
    I use Luck, predominantly, from 1-10, then start mixing actual wounds in more often afterwards. But in my games, People at level 10 are getting to the point where they're getting to be detached from humanity's limits. And have buckets upon buckets of blood.
    You did notice a barbarian under lv10 can go swim into lava whitout magical protection for a few seconds and come out alive, didn't you?

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oslecamo View Post
    You did notice a barbarian under lv10 can go swim into lava whitout magical protection for a few seconds and come out alive, didn't you?
    Yeah, but my players won't go swimming in lava, so it's a moot point for my game.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    And you can always go "Hey, it's like putting your hand above a fire. You don't feel the first few moments!"

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I always thought the DMG explained HP quite well.

    It describes HP as representing two things - ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one (abstract) and sheer toughness (wounding). So when your 12th-level Barbarian has taken 100 damage but is still up, it's partly because he's good at rolling with blows, sliding aside, and dodging just enough so that a hit that should have decapitated him leaves him with only a shallow slash instead.

    But it's also because he's just that hard. He really is capable of taking a hit from a greatsword and shrugging it off, because high-level D&D characters are superhumanly tough and can survive things that would be instantly fatal for any normal human being. And they need to be, given the kinds of things they go up against.

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    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and the final book in the series, Risen, is out as of December 2021. For updates, check my blog!

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    I always used HP in the abstract sense.
    I've been thinking some variations, like adding a wounding system, besides the HP, not replacing it. I played a game where you have a given ammount of HP that rarely changes, except for Constitution, and as you "level" up, you gain "Hero Points" that are like D&D's temporary Hit Points mechanic. While you still have Hero Points, your actual Hit Points remain untouched, and Hero Points can be easily regained, while Hit Points take from days to months to heal. That's how I'm treating my current D&D game. I already explained it to my players, and they think it'll be an interesting mechanic.
    I'll be waiting to see how it works in 4E.

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutee View Post
    Yeah, but my players won't go swimming in lava, so it's a moot point for my game.
    What?!?! How do they train their Swim skill during Winter then?
    Morituri nolumus morit - We who are about to die... don't want to

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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by Oslecamo View Post
    You did notice a barbarian under lv10 can go swim into lava whitout magical protection for a few seconds and come out alive, didn't you?
    There's really only one answer to that: Lava Rules - Fire and Brimstone!
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    Default Re: Abstract HP - or Max Payne?

    Quote Originally Posted by JBento View Post
    What?!?! How do they train their Swim skill during Winter then?
    An obligatory hot springs scene.

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