Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Aftermath! Talking with the readers (1) – What did people say about Hit Points?

'Luce sunt clariora tua consilia omnia'- 'All your advices are clearer than light'
Cicero, great orator from ancient Rome
(Summary TL;DR)

. This is the Aftermath of the comments and discussion surrounding Hit Points in D&D by the readers.

. The main points discussed were: 1,) Hit Points are more than just 'Toughness'; 2,) Hit Points do not represent wound level or actual structural damag; 3,) How to interpret and describe Hit Points in the game; 4,) . How to deal with the 'Dagger to the throat' situation; 5,) How do other systems deal with Hit Points.


One of the objectives of this blog is to talk about games, have people come, give their opinion and join others in discussion. With that said, I have to say that I was indeed surprised by how many of you engaged in discussion on the subject of Hit Points in my other post. The discussion was spread out through many groups in facebook - Tabletop Role-Playing Games, Old school TSR gamers, Old School Roleplaying, YouTube RPG Brigade, Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D 2nd Edition) and Old School Gamers – and now it is time for the 'Aftermath!', where we try to summarize what was said in all those comments:

- Main points discussed -

. Hit Points are more than just 'Toughness': This was a subject that I believe everyone agreed on. HP, just like how in D&D it is normally accepted nowadays, represent also 'magic', 'luck', 'dodge', 'stamina', 'fatigue' and other abstract ideas instead of only 'physical resistance'.

. Hit Points do not represent wound level or actual structural damage: Many have touched upon that subject, with HP being just a mechanical abstraction to make combat easy to deal with. Therefore, they do not represent how battered a combatant is – or, at least, not with great mechanical influence, like the Bloodied rule (less than 25% HP), which does not have too great of an impact despite triggering special abilities to occur. But many readers suggested different rules for modifiers regarding how many Hps you have left.

. How to interpret and describe Hit Points in the game: One of the main problems concerning HP was 'how should a GM or player narrate the effect of damage?'. What most people said was that one should see how much 'percent' of their main HP was taken by the successful attack. So, if you lose just around 1-5% (1-5 HP in 100 total), that would mean an evasion, dodge or glancing blow. 10-25% would mean a hit, although not a strong one. Something more than that would mean a very powerful hit. Also, narrating finishing blows (where you say that you kill your enemy) would only be allowed when the player (or monster) died by the attack.

. How to deal with the 'Dagger to the throat' situation: In old school D&D, there were no hard rules telling how to deal with it, and common sense should apply. In new editions, there was the rule for 'coup de grace', that could kill a combatant in one single blow. What most people agreed upon is that, if a situation proved to be lethal, either the character would die or he would have to make a saving throw (Fortitude, Poison/Death or similar) to avoid death.

. How other systems deal with Hit Points: One subject that was agreed upon was that D&D combat simulates 'heroic' and 'cinematografic' fighting; therefore, the HP did not reflect how tiring damage can be to one's body. Many different systems were quoted in order to present different ways on how to deal with HP. Two of the most quoted were Savage Worlds, another system for fantastic and action oriented combat which uses something similar to AC in D&D but, instead of Hit Points, you would have like 'Woud Levels'; and the Storyteller system, which uses a much more concise and realistic representation of Hit Points with also the Wound Leves of a character and how the level of hurt can interfere in one's action.

- Comments by the Readers -

- Reading attentively comments -
 Now, I would like to show just a few of the comments to illustrate the main topics discussed:

. Loke VP: The whole HP-as-luck thing seems to make it be a form of AC. Frankly, I'm a bit confused as how to tell it to players. "The orc misses, you lose 12 HP"”

This comment raises the question on how to narrate the outcome of damage in D&D. I replied to Loke some ways that you could do so: a) HP as luck: "Even though that was a sure hit, the blow just, by sheer luck, hit the air"; b) HP as stamina: "The blow hits you directly, but you were able to withstand it"; c) HP as evasion: "the attack was just a glancing hit, causing only a few scratches"; d) HP as magic: "The attack hits you, but causes no real damage"; e) HP as sheer toughness: "The sword gnashed through your arm, but you just laugh and continue fighting". In my games, most of the time I consider that the characters are magically empowered and HP is just supernatural density/resistance. Like in action movies (where the guy is shot multiple times and still goes on) or anime or epic heroic saga (in the same way how Achilles was able to stand strong against hundreds of soldiers during the War of Troy).

. Eric V: “Not to be glib, but it represents not being dead. It's intentionally abstract, and that's to the benefit of the game. D&D doesn't address the pain of injury, just a binary state of OK and NOT OK”

For me, this comment summarizes most of the discussion. HP is mostly that: the binary state of OK and NOT OK. Perfect definition and very direct to the point.

. Mel T: “I worked at a bar many years a go one night one of the bouncers got his throat slashed with a broken bottle,he came to work the next day. just cause you got cut does not make it critical”

Folks, that's is real life being just like D&D. Deal with it, ha! But in all seriousness, I love this comment and it goes to tell how strange life can be sometimes, even stranger than fiction. Amazing.

. Melanie M.:“One of my DMs use movies as a comparison. Any hit that does not put you in your bleed is "but a scratch". Its that last hit with the sword that finally managed to find a kidney. So at 1 hp out of 70 you're out of breath, covered in little nicks everywhere and feeling battered. But you are not going to be falling apart until a stiff breeze of 2 dmg hits you. And falling on your butt unconscious after winning a fight is the diehard feat catching up with you (re: fighting in neg hps)

One of the many comments regarding how to handle HP in the world game. I found it very good.

. Vaughan C.: “The abstracting of skill in defense and other factors such as fatigue into Hit Points works reasonably well until you reach the healing issue. Why does it take so long for a skilled combatant to recover his ability to defend himself and his energy levels? Far longer than a beginning fighter. Plus why is the magical recovery of such potential called "Cure X Wounds" and use the same spell to recover as does the actual knitting together of damaged flesh?”

This very good comment raises the interesting point of 'how to interpret the healing issue' in D&D. That is enough for a whole new topic, and I will save it for another post. However, I would like to say, in regards to the 'paradox of fighters healing less', I would say that the 'Heal speals' would also heal the 'magic and luck aura' that surrounds a character. Therefore, it would need more 'magical energy' to heal someone like a warrior, with much more HP than a mage, for example.

. Dennis B. L.: “I find it easier if you dont view hit points as points of damage but rather combat fatigue/stress/expertise. When you run out that´s when the potential killing blow will come. Yes it doesn´t make sense in some situations but then IMO hit points only make sense if they dont increase dramatically as in D20.The bloodied rule (under 25% hit points) is strange to me as that´s when you start to hurt but no penalties”

A comment regarding the no mechanical effect regarding loss of HP in the game.

. Steve O.:  “There is a danger that called shots and vorpal swords can ruin a game. I think that if there is a possibility that someone can chop off your hand, there should also be a spell that "unchops" your hand. And do you really want to open the door to throat slashing? With these realistic concepts in a fantasy game, you are risking ruining the mechanics of the game (although I applaud some of the "fixes" listed above). By opening this door, you are opening a Pandora”

Yes, trying to equilibrate realism with fantasy is a very hard task, indeed. And I have to say, I love Pandora's legend. One day I must talk about her here in the blog.

. Nathan F.: “ I agree 100% with your read. This conceit is at work I think in Stephen Donaldson's Mordant's Need. In fact one character (who is clearly a fairly high level fighter) does a cliff-jump pursuit much as you describe. It's not explicit, but I thought of it immediately when you described your bandit pursuit scenario, and the leaper is Castellan Lebbick (a character who reminds me very much of Javert, from Les Miserables). Lemme see if I can dig up an excerpt. Pretty sure it's book 2 (it's a two book series)”

I was extremely surprised that my example of the 'warrior jumping off a cliff' had happened in a literary source. Very interesting!

. Jeff S.:  “There are systems where parts of the body are assigned individual points, or a good hit can kill regardless of hit points. Rolemaster comes to mind, also Cyberpunk. In RuneQuest you never gain hit points - you just get harder to hit. It's more realistic as even a simple trap can kill you outright, but you may go through a lot of characters. In Palladium, both you and your armor have hit points. I recall Gary Gygax writing about the hit point system, but I can't recall where. He described hit points as part physical and partly an expression of a character's luck or skill in avoiding damage. So what seems like a massive hit can actually be seen as a loss of luck. Some systems use Edge points to simulate luck, but Gary rolled it all up into hit points and left it simple. Wasn't it he who said that the big secret of D&D was that nobody actually needed any rules?”

That is a very good quote to remember from Gary Gigax, with his thoughts in regard to HP.


And that's it, folks. This is the Aftermath of our discussions surrounding HP, and I hope we continue having more like this. I would also like to ask you all to also discussing here in the blog, so we could have all talking happening in one place instead of having it scattered through many different groups. There were very good arguments said by different people in different places, and it would be awesome if they could all share their thoughts together.

Next time, I would like to talk about another interesting topic, although not much debated, surrounding D&D: Initiative and Declaration of Intents and Actions.

Until then,


No comments:

Post a Comment