What's in a Hit Point?

This started in a different thread, but I didn't want to derail it too badly so I moved it here.
Your hit points represent a combination of several factors. They include your physical durability and overall health, your speed and agility to avoid harm, and your overall level of energy. They also account for luck, divine favor, and other mystic factors.

In short, hit points are an abstraction. While you are at or above half your maximum hit points, you show no signs of injury. At less than half your hit points, you have acquired a few cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points or fewer strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.


The 5E description of HP is treating them as additive, in discrete chunks: luck/fatigue on top of cosmetic damage on top of actual injury.   It makes sense that you could "second wind" to restore some of the first chunk, but the second and third chunks would require magical healing or just take forever.  A lot of the issue that I've been having is when you're very low on HP, because you shouldn't be able to "shrug off" the actual damage portion, and it feels goofy to use divine blessings to make you feel slightly less tired.  This system could actually work really well if everyone had temporary hit points that you could "second wind" through and real physical hit points that you couldn't, but it might require too much bookkeeping for casual use.

I think it could solve a lot of problems if they approached HP as multiplicative: your actual structural damage capacity is spread out over your HP, and then luck/fatigue/training represents a reduction in the amount of injury caused by an attack.  It's like, a first level character has 10 HP and a tenth level character has 100 HP.  A dagger wound at 1st level causes 5 damage because it's all actual damage, but a level 10 character can use skill/luck/energy to reduce that down to a tenth of the effectiveness - a minor scratch.  Every attack that does HP damage represents an actual wound, but most wounds are minor.  (I actually borrowed this interpretation from the armor system in the old Synnibarr.  Check them out on Kickstarter.)


Of course, the problem with that model is that it becomes harder to fix a minor scratch in an accomplished hero (10 HP) than a minor scratch on a rookie (1 HP).  That's why I favor the "normally I would be dead now" model.  Every wound is equally bad for everyone, and our intrepid heroes are just better at not dying from it.  Some guy might keel over after you stick a dagger in his gut, but Brock Samson is just going to ignore that and snap your neck.  It still takes 5 points of healing to cover the wound, because it's still the same wound.  Whether it's divine luck, endurance training, or however you want to explain it, you're not dead after being shot with a dozen arrows and set on fire.  Afterward, though, you're going to need a month in a hospital or (preferably) divine magic.  This method also has the benefit that everything is exactly what it says it is: a hit is a hit, a critical hit is a really solid hit, healing is actually healing, etc.  (The first method is much harder to narrate: "He swings his axe and comes very close to hitting you before you narrowly dodge - take 8 damage.")


The metagame is not the game.
Your last statement about things being what they say they are- what would you then be calling a nonhit "hit"?  

The scaling of hit points has always been an issue to me, since it appears that at higher levels- a dagger simply cannot kill the hero- which is silly since you put the point end in him- he still dies. This of course depends on what you describe as damage.

Also with this proposed system is it possible to "get the jump on someone" and they don't get their multiplicative bonuses?  Does it allow for the hero to sneak in a sleeping wizards chamber catch him off guard, and unprepared to defend himself?  Or does the hero simply roll max damage and if thats not enough to kill him- then the wizard wakes up from the knife wound on his neck? 
Please collect and update the DND Next Community Wiki Page with your ideas and suggestions!
Take a look at my clarified ability scores And also my Houserules relevent to DNDNext
I think it is important to ask in a topic about HP: what benefit does your approach have on the game? Is it complexity to fix simulation concerns? Narrative concerns? Or do you want to implement game mechanics? 

In your post it seems you just want to redefine the abstraction of hit points to better represent the actions taking place (e.g. your example of "He swings his axe and comes very close to hitting you before you narrowly dodge - take 8 damage."). That approach is really only misunderstanding the term abstraction. If you want to represent the effects of damage it would be better to propse a wound system.
I have seen two systems that I like for solving HP so far.

1) the top half of HP is temporary (aka cut everyone's HP in half and after a short rest you gain temp HP equal to your max HP). This means that the top half of your HP represents the mental and physical fatigue you can suffer before you start taking actual wounds. Catching an opponent completely unaware would bypass this temp HP, martial healing would only grant temp HP, etc. Your actual HP would recover slowly without magical aid but with a big chunk of temp HP after every short rest you could potentially go on for 8+ fights in a row without stopping.

2) all HP is physical and mental fatigue. It recovers very quickly. Any hit that causes over 25% of your max HP, any crit, or any attack that drops you below 1 HP causes a wound. Wounds recover slowly through natural healing and first aid. Martial healing can recover HP but not wounds. A player can take only a few wounds before becoming incapable of fighting.
Yeah in my campaign world a sleeping wizard will always be autokilled if the rogue gets close enough to swing.  Now I might give the wizard a penalized perception check to wake up.  I never believed in a coup de grace doing max damage.  It kills you in my book.
This is how I responed in that other thread.  I'll just leave a copy here.

You're overlooking the obvious.  The killing blow is the one that matters descriptively, and not in the "I've been dropped to unconscious land" but "I'm dead now and halfway through making a new character" kind of way.  Every bit of damage your character takes before he or she draws their last breath on this world is really superfluous and can be hand-waved however you want.  All that your HP represents to that point is sands of fate trickling away each time something comes that much closer to killing you.  Sometimes there are skills and magic that let you add more sand.  If you're really lucky someone figures out a way to let you turn the hourglass over when you run out and bring you back to life (by casting a spell to resurrect you or beating your chest and screaming at you until your heart gets moving again).

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

Fundamentally for the game design and fun of play, HP has to remain as an abstraction of many factors.  Too many game mechanics from spells to potions to attacks to combat balance all hinge on this fact.

If it bothers you that high level characters can survive high falls or other "lethal" situations, then you have a few options.

One, you can take a page from E6 house rules for 3.X.  Cap levels at a lower value (6 or 8 or whatever) and allow players to still accrue feats and other things they qualify for (but stop spell progression and class ability progression).

Two, you can add some sort of wound system to the game.  This can be using vitality points or something similar taking inspiration from pre-SAGA Star Wars, or it can be something simpler such as accruing penalties under certain circumstances that take time to heal.  The latter can borrow a page from FATE and let characters stay up after they lose hit points by accepting a penalty and regaining some hit points.

But I don't think it can really work to change what hit points are.  There would just be too much work required.
HP is just a number on a page.
Yeah in my campaign world a sleeping wizard will always be autokilled if the rogue gets close enough to swing.  Now I might give the wizard a penalized perception check to wake up.  I never believed in a coup de grace doing max damage.  It kills you in my book.

Don't you die on me, man!!! Don't...you...die on me!!!
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Hit Point is the numerical component of how many excuses you have for not being dead.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

8 letters, 9 if you count the "a"
I guess I've just always been using a wound system.  Hit Points, to me, are wounds.  Divine luck and hand waves prevent anyone from having to deal with the mechanics of a broken arm or the like.  Rule of Fun explains why you don't get massive penalties while suffering from those generic wounds.

Abstraction can only go so far, you know?  I mean, even GURPS is an abstraction, and I wouldn't want to go anywhere near that level of detail.  It's just important to me that everyone can agree with what's happening in our collective story.  It doesn't have to be realistic, or even simulate a particular genre, as long as it's internally consistent enough for everyone to figure out what's going on.

And as Emerikol stated, slicing a wizard's throat in the middle of the night means death.  The Fortitude save against death during a coup de grace (3.X rule) is mostly to prevent you from doing that to a dragon, Tarrasque, or other creature with a neck that might be too thick to slice.
The metagame is not the game.
"How far am I from being dead?"
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A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)

And as Emerikol stated, slicing a wizard's throat in the middle of the night means death.

Let's be honest here.  Killing a helpless victim outside of combat in their bedchamber really isn't even something that should be requiring an attack roll and should just be handled by the "yeah, you do it" style of game play. 

You're not in combat, you made your stealth roll, you evaded whatever magical wards are around, the wizard is out cold....and yet you still want the player to roll to hit him?  After all that you're going to make him try to avoid that 5% chance that he'll slip and stab the pillow instead?

Hit points are for times when hit points matter (like combat).  You don't ever kill a sleeping dragon by slitting its throat.  You know why?  Because its a dragon and it will wake up and if it doesn't wake up then your DM is, quite literally, doing it wrong.

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

Here are some truisms about hit points.   Anything you discuss has to include these facts...

1.  Every single time any damage is done to a character, the skin is broken.  (Poison argument)
2.  No damage prior to that which knocks a character out or kills said character is bad enough to hinder combat ability.
3.  Healing (so far in D&D) of any sort has to be able to bring you back from unconsciousness.

Traditionally at least from what I've seen...
People describe wounds as happening, blood is flying, etc... and then just claim heroically that their character is just that tough that he can push on despite being bloodied.   This approach mirrors the language of the game.  HIT points, DAMAGE, HEALING, roll TO HIT, etc....  It is not very realistic.   It is one reason why 4e's healing system fell flat.










 
Here are some truisms about hit points.   Anything you discuss has to include these facts...

1.  Every single time any damage is done to a character, the skin is broken.  (Poison argument)
2.  No damage prior to that which knocks a character out or kills said character is bad enough to hinder combat ability.
3.  Healing (so far in D&D) of any sort has to be able to bring you back from unconsciousness.



Woah, let's not leap to conclusions...

1.  Every single time any damage is done to the character no skin is broken.  Except when it is (Poison argument).  Even then sometimes not (Contact Poisons).
2.  No damage prior to that which knocks a character out or kills said character is bad enough to hinder combat ability.  Except when it is (sometimes with Conditions).
3.  Healing (so far in D&D) of any sort has to be able to bring you back from unconsciousness.  Except when it doesn't.  (Exception doesn't exist in Next).

1.  Every single time any damage is done to a character, the skin is broken.  (Poison argument)


Also could be read:  1a.) Any time poison damage is done to a character, its necessary vector was met (broken skin, skin contact, inhaled, etc.)

Your version is needlessly broad to encompass all damage just for the sake of poison.

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.


Woah, let's not leap to conclusions...

1.  Every single time any damage is done to the character no skin is broken.  Except when it is (Poison argument).  Even then sometimes not (Contact Poisons).


Well you have unwittingly fell into the plot coupon world.  Your universe bends and twists narratively.  Mine does not.   If by applying poison to my weapon, I've suddenly changed what "to hit" means so that now it always makes contact with the target but if I don't apply poison it does not have that requirement then fine.  Thats not a game I'm looking for honestly.  I might use words like ridiculous but I realize a lot of you can swallow any plot coupon stuff without blinking.


2.  No damage prior to that which knocks a character out or kills said character is bad enough to hinder combat ability.  Except when it is (sometimes with Conditions).


I was referencing specifically the damage.  The condition is another aspect of the power.   I can do all but 1 hit point of damage and you are still functioning without penalty.


3.  Healing (so far in D&D) of any sort has to be able to bring you back from unconsciousness.  Except when it doesn't.  (Exception doesn't exist in Next).



It always reduces hit points of damage even when unconscious.


Your entire post was an attempt to make cute comeback gotchas.  I seriously doubt you don't comprehend the points I'm making.   

As for the whole idea of hit points, I think it is best that we leave them alone and let each of us describe them and understand them in our own ways.   That is the beauty of a simple number.   



As GG said in the 1e PHB most of your HP comes from skill, luck, divine favor, and magic. He also said that your typical man at arms would only have about 5 points of actual health.

Let us look at the absurd example of a warrior with 50 HP being shot at by arrows. If everyhit needs to break skin or else all HP logic falls apart we encounter s few problems. Let us say 25 arrows are fired and hit our warrior friend but damage rolls were poor that day so our warrior suffers only 49 damage. Each arrow must have only just grazed him. If this is the case though, why does it take this warrior weeks to recover from such minor scratches. The HP damage from these attacks should revover in less than a day. You cannot have such a minor scratch that follows pre 4e natural healing. That would be like an average person being clawed by a kitten a few times then needing over week to recover from it. (the scab may last a few days but it in now way contributes to how close you are to falling unconscious).

No the easier solution is to determine what constitutes a "wound" and say blood poison only affects you when you would take a wound.
Let us say 25 arrows are fired and hit our warrior friend but damage rolls were poor that day so our warrior suffers only 49 damage. Each arrow must have only just grazed him. If this is the case though, why does it take this warrior weeks to recover from such minor scratches. The HP damage from these attacks should revover in less than a day.

According to my second definition, each arrow that does 2 damage is actually only dealing 0.2 HP of actual injury (because the guy has ten times as many HP, so each one is just a scratch).  Under this setting, the healing thing makes no sense.

Definition 3 really shines here, though.  Each of those arrows was a significant strike that could have seriously hurt a typical man-at-arms.  You literally have 25 arrows sticking out of you, and you just heroic-awesome your way through the pain in order to keep on fighting.  Then it takes you a month to heal because you just had 25 arrows sticking in you.

Contrast with official definition 1: Luckily, you dodged a bunch of arrows, but then you go so tired that the next dozen arrows actually scraped you (or hit solidly to the armor, causing a bruise).  Good thing they stopped firing, or else you could have been hurt.  You should probably take a nap, so you'll be well-rested to dodge more arrows when you wake up.
That would be like an average person being clawed by a kitten a few times then needing over week to recover from it.

That a housecat could ever cause an injury is an oversight by the system.  Fortunately, nobody will ever have to deal with being clawed to death by a housecat because housecats don't work that way (motivation-wise).  Assuming it was possessed or something, though, I'd still rather be clawed to death by 50 cat scratches (either of my methods) than get so tired from evading claw attacks that eventually one scratch is enough to kill me (canon method).
No the easier solution is to determine what constitutes a "wound" and say blood poison only affects you when you would take a wound.

So you're facing a bunch of Drow, and they all fire their sleep-poison hand-crossbows for 1 damage each.  Is that a wound?  What if they only have enough sleep-poison to coat one of their darts, can you tell which one had the poison because that was the only one to draw blood?

The metagame is not the game.
What's in a Hit Point?

There's 38 years of D&D history and tradition in every hit point.

 

 

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@Saelorn: for the house cat thing I meant a real life house cat not an in game one. It makes very little sense that the cat could scratch any person enough that they would be out of commission for weeks. As for the poisoned arrows there are two simple solutions: If they don't do over X damage you evade the shot completely so no wound thus no roll to resist poison. Alternatively if you are over 1/2 HP you dodge so no wound and no roll to resist the poison.
the best way for me to represent hitpoints, it's stress (moral, fatigue, muscle stress, pain, etc...) and not actual wound,  when your hp it's depleated, you are actually struck/hit.  When your AC is hit, but it didn't made enough HP to reduce you to 0 hitpoints, it didn't actually hit you, you blocked/dodged/parrying, but the impact was strong enough to generate stress and fatigue, your arm muscles start to feel numb after parrying that attack, you are starting to feel tired after dodging it, you start to get off balance, etc... When an attack miss, you evade/dodge/block/parry that attack without enough effort to produce stress or fatigue.

The game i have seen that represent this the most, it's the assassin's creed series, when you attack a normal soldier upfront, they parry/block, but they are seen strugling to keep up with your attacks, you are actually depleating their HP, once their HP is depleated, Enzio do hit the soldier and this one dies.  i count this as a representation of D&D of hitting and reducing HP.

Then you fight other kind of soldiers, one of them dodge your normal attacks, he dodge them without any real effort, and you are not reducing his HP at all, as well as some big soldiers that parry your attacks without any kind of effort and you also don't diminish their HP...i count this as a representation of D&D of missing

Woah, let's not leap to conclusions...

1.  Every single time any damage is done to the character no skin is broken.  Except when it is (Poison argument).  Even then sometimes not (Contact Poisons).


Well you have unwittingly fell into the plot coupon world.  Your universe bends and twists narratively.  Mine does not.   If by applying poison to my weapon, I've suddenly changed what "to hit" means so that now it always makes contact with the target but if I don't apply poison it does not have that requirement then fine.  Thats not a game I'm looking for honestly.  I might use words like ridiculous but I realize a lot of you can swallow any plot coupon stuff without blinking.


2.  No damage prior to that which knocks a character out or kills said character is bad enough to hinder combat ability.  Except when it is (sometimes with Conditions).


I was referencing specifically the damage.  The condition is another aspect of the power.   I can do all but 1 hit point of damage and you are still functioning without penalty.


3.  Healing (so far in D&D) of any sort has to be able to bring you back from unconsciousness.  Except when it doesn't.  (Exception doesn't exist in Next).



It always reduces hit points of damage even when unconscious.


Your entire post was an attempt to make cute comeback gotchas.  I seriously doubt you don't comprehend the points I'm making.   

As for the whole idea of hit points, I think it is best that we leave them alone and let each of us describe them and understand them in our own ways.   That is the beauty of a simple number.  



You grossly misunderstand the point of my post.  I'm not being facetious and invoking plot coupons.  I'm saying that a "hit point" is an inconsistent and variable thing.  That characters can take damage and even die without losing blood is so obvious that it need barely be mentioned.  On the other hand, some times taking damage means losing some blood.  A hit can reduce effectiveness when there are conditions inflicted as part of the damage.  I can't recall if this happens ever in 2nd or 1st edition, but it definitely happens in 3E+.  Healing likewise comes in many forms and dying can be a bit of a vague thing.  Heck, some healing explicitly only stabilizes people.  It's effects are just as vague and variable as hit points themselves.

It's extremely vague, general, and not suited for use as a precise guage of physical damage of any form.  If you want to do this, it's best to add some additional system like vitality points, imho.
@Drachasor
The great thing about abstract hit points is that we all can think our own thing.  The issue I had with surges was that they forced you to think one way and one way only.  I think hit points have always been "modular" so I think we just stick with what we've had.

 
@Drachasor
The great thing about abstract hit points is that we all can think our own thing.  The issue I had with surges was that they forced you to think one way and one way only.  I think hit points have always been "modular" so I think we just stick with what we've had.



Well, any hit point system largely forces you to think of them as mostly superficial, which is why the injuries don't impact one's ability to do anything.  At least mostly superficial until the last one, perhaps.  I mean, you can't really say they allow you to think of damage as having any nastly bleeding involved, since that can kill you without treatment.

I think surges only seem strange if you narrate the details of wounds as not largely superficial.  Then you have to explain why they go away.  But if you narrate them that way, then I think you get into a number of difficulties anyhow.

But what I said about vagueness in my previous post is certainly true.  That's in the rules and it is a consequences of all the kinds of things that can cause and heal damage, even outside of 4th edition.  I don't see how this point is remotely arguable.

Like I said, if you want to worry about more nitty-gritty details, then it is best to add another layer of something beyond hit points to deal with real damage.  Lots of ways to do that and they'll give more satisfactory results.
Simply removing the overnight heal-all and putting in some long term healing works for me.

That and using the hit die type for the recipient of healing instead of a d8 helps a bit too.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Simply removing the overnight heal-all and putting in some long term healing works for me. That and using the hit die type for the recipient of healing instead of a d8 helps a bit too.

Not to pick on you, specifically, but that just flips the problem around.  From 'hps can only represent minor wounds' to 'hps can only represent serious wounds.'  

Hit points represent a creatures ability to stay in the fight.  Minor wounds, exhaustion, demoralization, unconsciousness, serious wounds and death can all take you out of a fight, so hps are at least the gateway to modeling /all/ of those, and closing off any of them could be a problem.

IMHO, one solution might be to have one hp & healing system that covers just the idea of staying in or getting back into the fight, durring the course of the fight.  That's the basics the game needs.  The default could be encounter-based, so, no surges, no healing times, just hps, damage, and in-combat healing.  Between encounters you re-set.  Death may not even enter into it.  That's /very/ basic, but it's just a core starting place.

From there, you could add specific options:  like death occuring at 0, -10, -CON, -level+CON bonus, or -bloodied; or healing being complete between encounters, overnight, or between stories, or limitted by surges which are re-gained on one of those scales.   Or, you could add whole modules that bring greater detail or grittiness, like a system for inflicting, taking and healing impairing and life-threatening wounds; again, with detail options like healing such wounds over time or via medieval surgery (good luck with that) or via ritual or consumable magic.  

 

 

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Which is where it was until 4e.

Look at all previous non magic healing and it is fairly apparent.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Which is where it was until 4e. Look at all previous non magic healing and it is fairly apparent.

What was?  Oh, 'hps represent only serious wounds?'  No, not really.  AD&D was pretty explicit, for instance, in higher-hp characters taking very minor wounds from hp damage that would kill a lower-level ones.  Hps represented both back in the day, the line was just fuzzy, and there were some major inconsistencies.  Like the inability of Cure "Light" Wounds to heal a 20-hp 'scratch' on a 100-hp character, contrasted with it's ability to heal a mortally-wounded 4-hp character to full hit points.

 

 

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Heh yeah the magical healing wasn't consistent with the natural healing. However it did define all damage taken as Wounds specifically.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

2e describes how greater HP turn direct hits into glancing blows but also states when you apply damage this is a wound.

And healing 1 HP per day or 3 with total bedrest and 0 if you fight all play to the wounds are actual physical damage.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

2e describes how greater HP turn direct hits into glancing blows but also states when you apply damage this is a wound.

I've seen quotes saying that taking damage doesn't always result in a physical wound, if you have one saying it /always/ does, by all means, reference it.   


And healing 1 HP per day or 3 with total bedrest and 0 if you fight all play to the wounds are actual physical damage.

Not at all, hp loss as exhaustion, muscle strain or even stress (to the point of PTSD, perhaps - that can take a long time to recover from) could also be explanations.  The AD&D 1e DMG even called out hps, specifically, as being factors of things like luck and divine favor - having your divine favor restored at higher rates if you're resting vs doing the Gods' work is maybe a little whacked, but I never claimed that AD&D wasn't more than a little self-contradictory.

 

 

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Tony I would like to see those references.

I will get my 2e out in a bit here and give you the quote on wounds.

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Tony I would like to see those references.

IIRC, you have, in other threads that have gone off on this tangent.

The stuff I recall was on p82 of the AD&D DMG.  It's three paragraphs of Gygaxian prose, but some of the relevant bits:

"It is quite unreasonable to assume that as a character gains levels of ability in his or her class that a corresonding gain in actual ability to sustain physical damage takes place."

"Why then the increase in hit points?  Because these reflect both the actual physical ability of the character to withstand damage - as indicated by constintuion bonuses - and a commensurate increse in such areas as skill in combat... [snip some rambling]... sheer luck, and the fantastic provisions of magical protections and/or divine protection. "

(I knew divine favor was in there somewhere, not bad for something I last read in the 80s.)

"[stuff about Rasputin]...perhaps as many as 23 hit point could constitute the physcial makeup of a character.  The balance of accrued hit points are those which fall into the non-physical areas already detailed."

Now there is stuff about 'wounds' being reduced to mere scratches, scrapes and bruises.  If you want to consider such things still 'wounds,' I suppose you can.

Another section (ironically, on the preceding page, it asks you to 'recall' the explanation of hps) discusses poison saves:

"The so called damage is the expenditure of favor from deities, luck, skill, and perahps a scratch, and thus the saving throw.  If that mere scratch managed to be venomous, then DEATH.  If no such wound was delievered, then NO DAMAGE FROM THE POISON."

All-caps original, rememer this was the 70s, it wasn't internet-shouting yet.  ;)  

Italic emphasis added.


 

 

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Hit Point is amount of damage your character can take before dying. 

There I said, it. Mystery solved, no show over here. Close thead, game over.

You can say it's amount of blood, morale, endurance, etc, but the truth is that it's represent the amount of damage your characater can take before dying.  That why they call it a roleplaying game. 

I'm certain it's quite a challenge to find a system that on one side is easy to understand and makes for quick gameplay, and on the other side is realistic enough not to become silly...


I think hit points mostly work OK as an abstraction that covers both wounds, luck, divine intervention, training and so on, but there are some areas where hit points (in my view) just don't explaing things satisfactorily. My main problems with hit points have mostly been mentioned in this thread, I think, but I'll still list them here:



  • Falling off a 150 foot cliff, jumping into lava etc. should kill a normal character (without magical protection) no matter if he is 1st or 20th level.

  • Getting an arrow through the head, being split almost in half by a hit from an axe and being exposed to similar major sources of damage should kill both a 1st level and 20th level character.

  • As it is now, Cure Light Wounds could bring a 1st level character back from the brink of death, whereas it would have little effect on a 20th level character with minor wounds.


I'm sure there are many ways to deal with this, but my preferred system would be some kind of combined system that uses both Hit Points and Vitality Points:


Hit Points: This represets the ability of a character to avoid damage from attacks that bypass armor/dexterity based dodging. It would still be some kind of dodge, but it would be more of a very near miss/glancing blow type. This would be based on the hit dice that the character gets each level, and I would still keep the constitution modifier since an attack that drains hit points is physically draining even though it does no actual damage. When hit points reach zero, all subsequent damage would be applied to Vitality. I can see Hit Points regenerating relatively quickly during short and long rests. Maybe some new divine spells ("Reinvigorate" or something like that) could be used for restoring Hit Points (i.e. removing accumulated fatigue).


Vitality Points: The Vitality Points possessed by a character could be the same as the character's constitution score. Vitality Points would be lost in an attack if all hit points are drained, in case of a critical hit, or in cases where you have no possibility to avoid physical damage (like the aforementioned falling of a cliff or jumping into lava). Poison and disease should also affect Vitality Points in some way. Lost Vitality Points should take a long time to be restored by mundane means. Cure ***** Wounds spells (which would need to be modified quite a bit) would cure only Vitality Points, not Hit Points - and now, a light wound would actually be a light wound, no matter what level you are. Critical hits would probably also need to be dialed down a bit, so that not every critical hit would mean instant death. Also, I guess quite a few spells would need to be modified and/or removed. The current rules for dying could still be kept with some modifications.


All in all, this system would make a lot more sense to me, and I don't think it should make things a whole lot more complicated. My description of the system is vague on purpose, as quite a bit of research and play testing would be needed to balance it properly.


The only disadvantage with this system that springs to mind immediately is that low level monsters would be much tougher (as you would need to defeat both their Hit Points and their Vitality Points to take them out) - but then again, that would also apply to low-level characters, so maybe it's not that much of a problem after all.


It might also be desireable to have rules (either core or optional) regarding how the performance of the characters would be degraded when they take Vitality Point damage, but that's another story.

What's in a Hit Point?

There's 38 years of D&D history and tradition in every hit point.


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@Tony
When you say serious wound, I'm thinking a blade that slid into your body and not you got your arm chopped off.

I find it interesting that we can have super heroic characters that are practically magical and yet claiming a character can push on through injury is too much.

I called any wound that you could in theory if you were the hero of a tv show keep fighting on with as a minor wound.  Doesn't mean it can't kill you eventually or that you are not bleeding.   Now I didn't consider every wound you received as even that bad of course.  I did imagine that some wounds were just gashes or minor cuts etc...  I never really bought into the morale concept much.  

I think with magical healing not being super uncommon you can have a game that uses just hit points and that many people consider as physical.  Because if you don't have magic it takes days to recover.

This is why though the current healing system is built to be plug and play.  There will be grittier options and far less gritty options.  So we can all be happy.  But leaving the mechanic as a simple hit point total permits all these other systems to interact however the designers choose.



 
Hit Point is amount of damage your character can take before dying.

This only shifts the question.  What is damage?

We know that it's caused by blunt trauma, or sharp blades, or being consumed by a fiery explosion, among other things.
We know that too much of it causes you to die.
We know that, under mundane circumstances, it can take anywhere from a day to a month to fix (depending on edition) .
The metagame is not the game.
Hit Points: the amount of plot armor your character has to avoid being incapacitated.

Damage: How effective your attacks are at removing enemies plot armor.

Hit: whether an attack is effective enough to remove some of the targets plot armor.