Describing damage

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One thing I often have a problem with is giving visceral descriptions of damage from attacks/spells that both match game mechanics and feel realistic. My players are fourth level, and are currently fighting a lot of hobgoblins, who are members of a militant race that uses deadly weapons. Problems arise when:

1) One of the PCs hits a monster for damage that doesn't knock it unconcious, but should logically inflict heavy wounds imparing its ability to fight/function. For example, we've seen a hobgoblin ambush where a player fired an arrow, dropping a hobgoblin archer to 1 HP. I wanted to say that the hobgoblin was shot in the chest/armor/arm/leg/etc, but it wasn't attacked again for a few more rounds and managed to fire several more arrows - how does that make sense?

2) A monster hits with a weapon that should logically deal quite a lot of damage if it hits, but it rolls low and knocks off a small portion of PC hitpoints. Example: An unarmored wizard took an arrow for 2 damage of his 20 HP - how does being hit by an arrow of any sort only make you 1/10 unconcious?

We're playing D&D Next, and I'm still learning encounter building, so some of the combats have been a bit imbalanced (mostly in favor of the party).
Any suggestions for combat description would be much appreciated.
HP is primarily morale and endurance, not physical health. No hits are physical unless they drop you.
One thing I often have a problem with is giving visceral descriptions of damage from attacks/spells that both match game mechanics and feel realistic. My players are fourth level, and are currently fighting a lot of hobgoblins, who are members of a militant race that uses deadly weapons. Problems arise when:

1) One of the PCs hits a monster for damage that doesn't knock it unconcious, but should logically inflict heavy wounds imparing its ability to fight/function. For example, we've seen a hobgoblin ambush where a player fired an arrow, dropping a hobgoblin archer to 1 HP. I wanted to say that the hobgoblin was shot in the chest/armor/arm/leg/etc, but it wasn't attacked again for a few more rounds and managed to fire several more arrows - how does that make sense?

2) A monster hits with a weapon that should logically deal quite a lot of damage if it hits, but it rolls low and knocks off a small portion of PC hitpoints. Example: An unarmored wizard took an arrow for 2 damage of his 20 HP - how does being hit by an arrow of any sort only make you 1/10 unconcious?

We're playing D&D Next, and I'm still learning encounter building, so some of the combats have been a bit imbalanced (mostly in favor of the party).
Any suggestions for combat description would be much appreciated.

Loss of hit points only means actual physical damage when that's what makes sense, which it usually won't be. The rest of the time, its easier to think of hit points as "stress." A swing from a sword doesn't even have to connect to be very stressful, and it's plausible that one could dodge for a while, getting more stressed, more tired, running out of luck, before an actual debilitating blow is struck.

This approach isn't perfect, because the designers have never all been clear about what HP means, but it serves for most situations.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

HP is an abstraction of many things, so when a players actually lose hp they might just be losing some stamina rather than get hit by the arrow directly.  In case of the arrow if it only does 2 damage, it might just be the arrow grazed the hero, or that they ducked or dodged it and it drained them.  Alternatively you can assume that it's unrealistic like an action movie and that the heroes and monsters can take overwhelmingly large amounts of damage.  


HP is mostly a combination of luck, skill, and actual health.
One thing I often have a problem with is giving visceral descriptions of damage from attacks/spells that both match game mechanics and feel realistic. My players are fourth level, and are currently fighting a lot of hobgoblins, who are members of a militant race that uses deadly weapons. Problems arise when:

1) One of the PCs hits a monster for damage that doesn't knock it unconcious, but should logically inflict heavy wounds imparing its ability to fight/function. For example, we've seen a hobgoblin ambush where a player fired an arrow, dropping a hobgoblin archer to 1 HP. I wanted to say that the hobgoblin was shot in the chest/armor/arm/leg/etc, but it wasn't attacked again for a few more rounds and managed to fire several more arrows - how does that make sense?

2) A monster hits with a weapon that should logically deal quite a lot of damage if it hits, but it rolls low and knocks off a small portion of PC hitpoints. Example: An unarmored wizard took an arrow for 2 damage of his 20 HP - how does being hit by an arrow of any sort only make you 1/10 unconcious?

We're playing D&D Next, and I'm still learning encounter building, so some of the combats have been a bit imbalanced (mostly in favor of the party).
Any suggestions for combat description would be much appreciated.



example #1: I would say something like, "Your arrow impacts the hobgoblins chest so hard that it knocks him off balance but but some miracle he retains his footing and continues to shoot back."

example #2: I would say something like, "The hobgoblin brings his down aiming for your head, but while you deftly avoid the death blowhe does manage to impact your shoulder.  Nothing serious though"

As has been said, hundreds (if not thousands) of times before, Hit Points are an abstraction.  You, as the DM, have to come up with reasonable descriptions and by extension explanations for why an arrow does do a lot of "damage" while a greatsword does not.

Think about battle scenes in action movies; it does not matter what era the movie takes place in.  Take specific attacks and hits from those scenes and use them to describe hits in game combat. 

 

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Alternatively you can assume that it's not realistic like an action movie and that the heroes and monsters can take overwhelmingly large amounts of damage.

Most action movies don't have the characters remaining at full combat capability after being wounded. A single well-placed blow from a dagger can fell them, even if they don't have a scratch on them, but that usually happens after they've endured a lot of other stress.

Speaking of which, damage outside of combat and against NPCs, is a whole different kettle of fish. The assassin doesn't have to whittle through the king's HP. If PCs fail to stop the assassin, the king is just DRT, if that's the kind of tension you want in your game.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Hit point are abstraction not simulation. Don't think about everything like a wound. It's a stress.

Also if you have problems with thinking of descriptions for these things: Ask the players to do it! 
No hits are physical unless they drop you.

That's not completely true, since a poisoned weapon would still effect you even if it didn't drop you. Although HP can at times represent being missed, more often they represent the ability to endure a hit and/or the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one.

PHB p.293: "Hit points represent more than physical endurance. They represent your character’s skill, luck, and resolve—all the factors that combine to help you stay alive in a combat situation."

From the 3.5e PHB p.145, if desired: "Hit points mean two things in the game world: the ability to take physical punishment and keep going, and the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one. For some characters, hit points may represent divine favor or inner power."

No hits are physical unless they drop you.

That's not completely true, since a poisoned weapon would still effect you even if it didn't drop you. Although HP can at times represent being missed, more often they represent the ability to endure a hit and/or the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one.

Poison weapons are an example of the designers' lack of unity on the concept of hit points, but even those can often be abstracted, especially in 4e, if one has an interest in doing so.

The idea of most hits representing physical contact really just doesn't fly in general, and I'd rather just not use poison than complicate a nicely abstract system.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Poison weapons are an example of the designers' lack of unity on the concept of hit points

There is no unity of concept for HP in D&D. The designers specifically say that they can represent a variety of things, many of which involve some physical contact.

The idea that "No hits are physical unless they drop you" is clearly not a truism, as evidenced by the bloodied condition.


Alternatively you can assume that it's not realistic like an action movie and that the heroes and monsters can take overwhelmingly large amounts of damage.

Most action movies don't have the characters remaining at full combat capability after being wounded. A single well-placed blow from a dagger can fell them, even if they don't have a scratch on them, but that usually happens after they've endured a lot of other stress.



Depends on the Action movie.  The point of citing an action movie is that they're mostly unrealistic in how they approach injury, or they take actions that should result in injury and don't.  While I'll admit the example isn't perfect, wouldn't it have been more helpful to the conversation if we just focused on what does apply?  Aren't all examples imperfect unless it is a direct comparision of the original problem?
   

Speaking of which, damage outside of combat and against NPCs, is a whole different kettle of fish. The assassin doesn't have to whittle through the king's HP. If PCs fail to stop the assassin, the king is just DRT, if that's the kind of tension you want in your game.



I agree with you here, and it's a fair point to take into consideration.
Poison weapons are an example of the designers' lack of unity on the concept of hit points

There is no unity of concept for HP in D&D. The designers specifically say that they represent a variety of things, many of which involve some physical contact.

That's not what I mean. I mean, the designers don't follow the specific statement that HP represent a variety of things. They're not unified on that point.

The idea that "No hits are physical unless they drop you" is clearly not truism, as evidenced by the bloodied condition.

"Bloodied" doesn't mean anything in and of itself. It can be described and imagined any number of ways. In the case of certain physiologies, "bloodied" must mean something other than actually suffering from a bleeding wound.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Someone states - "This approach isn't perfect, because the designers have never all been clear about what HP means, but it serves for most situations."
 
My Reply:
You use the word designer(yes wotc staff are designers), I use the word creator(I skip over view points of wotc employees cause in my opinion their views are worth little to nothing. I focus on the actual creators of D&D).

Lets put to rest this question, straight from the creator(Gary Gygax) -
“Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch until the last handful of hit points are considered–it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the luck, the magical protections.”

Note:
What I mean by -
Creator - Means the person who created d&d(d&d 1st ed, ad&d 1st ed and ad&d 2ed).
Designer -  The who made a game that was not d&d, got the rights to the d&d title and put it upon their game(wotc p&p 3rd ed. wotc p&p 3.5, wotc p&p 4th ed. p&p = pen and paper cause it isn't really d&d, just another game with the d&d title on it).
---------------

Doesn't mean I use this method for HP, I simply view HP as physical damage/blood loss(it works better for me that way and I built my combat around that view).

Check out the link - www.paperspencils.com/2012/07/01/page-by...
 



If we're talking about edtions beyond 1st through 2nd then Gary isn't the direct creator.  He would have been the inspiration for the new designers that bought the rights, and as a result they are indeed the creators of 3 edition and higher.  Those creators were never that clear on the concept of hp in "their game" that also happens to be D&D because leagally anything with D&D on it owned by the owner of the intellectual property is what it is.  Just like all Final Fantasy are Final Fantasy despite the usually glaring differences between the games.
If a DM thinks that a particular attack should take out or penalize a monster, they're welcome to do that. Players are also welcome, or should be, to take out their own characters, if they think a given attack would do that.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

shaddy, difference between your post and my post is that you state your opinion and I state fact.
A lot of posters on here seem to state their opinions as facts.

Wotc pen and paper games is your main focus here, I prefer dungeons and dragons to that.



I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I state that legally anything with the name D&D on it is in fact Dungeons and Dragons. I compared it to another entity that has vastly different games under the same intellectual property. I agree that they are different games, but regardless they are all D&D legally. This makes your position the opinion.

Additionally you also stated in your original post that 3e and higher are different games from the original version that was released. This means they were created by different people even though they borrowed concepts from earlier editions it is still a new game, and a game system that they did not re-define or outline what hp represents.

shaddy, difference between your post and my post is that you state your opinion and I state fact.
A lot of posters on here seem to state their opinions as facts.

Wotc pen and paper games is your main focus here, I prefer dungeons and dragons to that.



It is your opinion that anything not produced by TSR isn't D&D, this isn't a fact.  The fact is that the rights to the name Dungeons and Dragons are owned by WotC and they can apply the name to whatever they want to therfore making it a part of the intelectual property.
Troll vulnerability to fire is another somewhat tricky one to imagine, since the easiest assumption is that the troll is actually being hit with the weapon, and its flesh is being cauterized, so every "hit" on a troll with a flaming weapon means physical damage, right? I also think of it (when I bother to, which usually isn't during play) as the presence of fire stressing out the trolls more than non-fire damage. This translates as damage they don't regenerate, or a damper on their regeneration.

Just thought I'd add that. I'm not sure what made me think about trolls all of a sudden.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Troll vulnerability to fire is another somewhat tricky one to imagine, since the easiest assumption is that the troll is actually being hit with the weapon, and its flesh is being cauterized, so every "hit" on a troll with a flaming weapon means physical damage, right? I also think of it (when I bother to, which usually isn't during play) as the presence of fire stressing out the trolls more than non-fire damage. This translates as damage they don't regenerate, or a damper on their regeneration.

Just thought I'd add that. I'm not sure what made me think about trolls all of a sudden.



Actually that's a pretty good point for any monster with regeneration (or in earlier editions fast healing as well).  I guess in those circumstances you could describe things in a slightly more gritty fashion.  Perhaps undead, constructs, and things of that nature also could be "damaged" more in description since they can still operate fairly well despite large physical damage.
HP is primarily morale and endurance, not physical health. No hits are physical unless they drop you.



I'd phrase it as 'no hits have to be physical unless they drop you', but yes, this.  A mechanical 'hit' is not the same as a narrative 'hit'.  So long as one fairly undertakes the reduction of hit points from the results of the diceplay, you can narrate the end result pretty much any way you desire.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
The idea that "No hits are physical unless they drop you" is clearly not truism, as evidenced by the bloodied condition.

"Bloodied" doesn't mean anything in and of itself.

It's an excellent indicator of the paradigm the writers were operating under when they chose the term. Of course it doesn't have to mean you bled a bit, but it absolutely can mean you bled a bit. This is enough to indicate that "No hits are physical unless they drop you" is not a truism (i.e. is not always true).

I'd phrase it as 'no hits have to be physical unless they drop you'

This.
“Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch...

This too
Lets put to rest this question, straight from the creator(Gary Gygax) -
“Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch until the last handful of hit points are considered–it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the luck, the magical protections.”

Do you know the source for this quote? fwiw: the 1st edition PHB p.34 (written by Gygax) stated:
"These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained. The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors."
I'd phrase it as 'no hits have to be physical unless they drop you'

This.

Even ones that "drop" you don't have to be physical. In 4e, you could roll a 20+ on a death save and regain a healing surge, or have someone trigger your second wind with a quick Heal check, or hear an Inspiring Word and thereby pull out of the death spiral, without plausibly undergoing actual repair to the "wound" that felled you. I suppose, in retrospect, you weren't "dying" at all. When it comes to PCs one might not even be able to describe the damage, without knowing how it will be recovered from.

“Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch...

This too

Right, but that really doesn't hold up. It's not worth imagining "nicks and scratches" from giants' swords and dragons' claws, just to tie the damage to the physical by that narrow thread.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Lets put to rest this question, straight from the creator(Gary Gygax) -
“Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch until the last handful of hit points are considered–it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the luck, the magical protections.”

Do you know the source for this quote? fwiw: the 1st edition PHB p.34 (written by Gygax) stated:
"These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained. The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors."



What this tells me is that at 1st and maybe 2nd level and up to say 2HD creatures, all damage is , in fact, physical toughness - if you hit you do actual damage.  However, any "mechanical" Hit Points above and beyond those first two levels worth represent a PC's or NPC's ability to deflect, absorb or otherwise evade the physical damage, but is hampered in other ways without being hindered in a game mechanics sense.

So, for the OP, that arrow that took that hobgoblin down to 1 HP, it did do physical damage just not enough to kill the creature so describe it as such.  Meanwhile that hobgoblin that hit the wizard but did very little HP worth of damage, did not do any real physical damage but scared the wizard enough that he is no longer in peak form so describe it as such.

The above quote has actually enlightened me a little.  The concept of Hit Points makes more sense (to me anyway )

 

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Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
What this tells me is that at 1st and maybe 2nd level and up to say 2HD creatures, all damage is , in fact, physical toughness - if you hit you do actual damage.  However, any "mechanical" Hit Points above and beyond those first two levels worth represent a PC's or NPC's ability to deflect, absorb or otherwise evade the physical damage, but is hampered in other ways without being hindered in a game mechanics sense.

Where do you come up with the amount of HP that equates to physical damage? Maybe only 1 HP out of a creature's total is the physical toughness.

But if you have a way that makes sense for you, great. HP make as much sense as we let them.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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It's not worth imagining "nicks and scratches" from giants' swords and dragons' claws

It is for me (in D&D), especially if a giant's or dragon's attack inflicts an effect like prone, grabbed, ongoing, etc. ymmv.

fwiw: I'm actually not fond of D&D's paradigm here. I prefer different mechanics (that are sometimes used in other RPG's). It's just that I have no way to play D&D without this being an option for describing damage.

It's not worth imagining "nicks and scratches" from giants' swords and dragons' claws

It is for me (in D&D), especially if a giant's or dragon's attack inflicts an effect like prone, grabbed, ongoing, etc. ymmv.

Someone could fall flat or trip while dodging, be boxed in by a flurry of attacks, suffer worsening stress that takes a moment to shake, etc.

fwiw: I'm actually not fond of D&D's paradigm here. I prefer different mechanics (that are sometimes used in other RPG's). It's just that I have no way to play D&D without this being an option for describing damage.

An option, sure, but I can't agree that it works well for most attacks. Though, like I've said, I don't bother putting fiction to the effects of attacks most of the time anyway. I've thought about it, come to a satisfying arrangement for how to think about it, and I only need to delve back into it if someone here is having trouble with HP being too "unrealistic."

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I'm of the opinion that some hits have to be "hits."  For instance, the Thorn Whip druid power has a pull 2 effect, and that doesn't make a lot of sense as a near-miss or as a stressing attack, at least not in a way that seems credible for the number of times I see it in any given combat.  Thorn whip is also nice in that the kind of damage it does isn't likely to be the kind that is unbelievable for a monster to continue with combat.

As for the giant's sword and dragon's claw example, I agree with centauri that someone could trip and fall while dodging, etc, but it's not particularly heroic to be tripping all the time when you're facing down the BBEG.  It's just as likely that the claws themselves didn't connect, but there was concussive force that knocked the character prone.  A giant's sword could have a similar effect without cutting through armor -- or if we're dealing with a cloth-armored wizard, the giant could even use his sword to snag the wizard's robes and hurl him to the ground.

I don't want to give the impression that I run every hit as a "hit," I don't, and most of the time the damage is narrated as wearing down one's opponent.  At the same time, I don't buy into the dogma that no attack connects until the last death save is failed.  An arrow that fails to puncture your chainmail skirt is still going to hurt, just as one that wizzes by your head may distract you enough so that the rogue's next attack is the one that puts dagger to gullet.
I'm of the opinion that some hits have to be "hits."  For instance, the Thorn Whip druid power has a pull 2 effect, and that doesn't make a lot of sense as a near-miss or as a stressing attack, at least not in a way that seems credible for the number of times I see it in any given combat.

I would tend to agree, if every hit pulls the target 2. When the target can't be or isn't pulled that far, the attack can be described much more freely.

As for the giant's sword and dragon's claw example, I agree with centauri that someone could trip and fall while dodging, etc, but it's not particularly heroic to be tripping all the time when you're facing down the BBEG.

No, but diving out of the way, or hitting the deck can be. Besides which, it's not necessary to take prone any more literally than any other condition. It's just a set of effects. It would work almost as well to describe the target as cowering from dragon fear until they take a move action to steady themselves. The only aspect of prone this might not jibe with is the +2 defense bonus from ranged attacks, but that only matters if someone targets the prone character with a ranged attack.

At the same time, I don't buy into the dogma that no attack connects until the last death save is failed.  An arrow that fails to puncture your chainmail skirt is still going to hurt, just as one that wizzes by your head may distract you enough so that the rogue's next attack is the one that puts dagger to gullet.

Sure. My point is just that one basically never has to narrate attacks as hitting, especially since DMs have control over the kinds of attacks they throw at the PCs.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

What this tells me is that at 1st and maybe 2nd level and up to say 2HD creatures, all damage is , in fact, physical toughness - if you hit you do actual damage.  However, any "mechanical" Hit Points above and beyond those first two levels worth represent a PC's or NPC's ability to deflect, absorb or otherwise evade the physical damage, but is hampered in other ways without being hindered in a game mechanics sense.

Where do you come up with the amount of HP that equates to physical damage? Maybe only 1 HP out of a creature's total is the physical toughness.

But if you have a way that makes sense for you, great. HP make as much sense as we let them.





It's an estimate, based on the statement.  that estimate will vary from DM to DM.  who cares?

My point was that with that statement in mind, each group can abstract HP however they feel is "right".

 

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Are you really "entitled to your opinion"?
RedSiegfried wrote:
The cool thing is, you don't even NEED a reason to say yes.  Just stop looking for a reason to say no.
What this tells me is that at 1st and maybe 2nd level and up to say 2HD creatures, all damage is , in fact, physical toughness - if you hit you do actual damage.  However, any "mechanical" Hit Points above and beyond those first two levels worth represent a PC's or NPC's ability to deflect, absorb or otherwise evade the physical damage, but is hampered in other ways without being hindered in a game mechanics sense.

Where do you come up with the amount of HP that equates to physical damage? Maybe only 1 HP out of a creature's total is the physical toughness.

But if you have a way that makes sense for you, great. HP make as much sense as we let them.





It's an estimate, based on the statement.  that estimate will vary from DM to DM.  who cares?

My point was that with that statement in mind, each group can abstract HP however they feel is "right".



Heck, each PLAYER can abstract HP however they want.  I have one PC in my group who hasn't gotten a mark on him, narratively, in six levels.  He invariable dodges, parries, blocks, or otherwise evades (he loves slicing arrows out of the air) the attacks narratively, though he still ticks of HP as the mechanics dictate.  Someone else does the 'hit is a hit' and may be the most heavily scarred barbarian on the face of the planet.

Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
@Centauri, I didn't think you were espousing the dogma that all hits are near-misses until the final death save.  I hadn't thought about a reading of the prone condition like you mentioned, and I think I'm going to steal it for an upcoming encounter against some cowardly goblins.
Compiled references, if desired:

AD&D 1e PHB p.34: "These hit points represent how much damage (actual or potential) the character can withstand before being killed. A certain amount of these hit points represent the actual physical punishment which can be sustained. The remainder, a significant portion of hit points at higher levels, stands for skill, luck, and/or magical factors."

AD&D 1e DMG p.61: "Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical–a mere nick or scratch until the last handful of hit points are considered–it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the luck, the magical protections."

D&D 3.5e PHB p.145: "Hit points mean two things in the game world: the ability to take physical punishment and keep going, and the ability to turn a serious blow into a less serious one. For some characters, hit points may represent divine favor or inner power."

D&D 4e PHB p.293: "Hit points represent more than physical endurance. They represent your character’s skill, luck, and resolve—all the factors that combine to help you stay alive in a combat situation."

Compiled references, if desired:

Thanks. Nothing from 2E?

There was an article that outlined the HP philosophy for D&D Next and as far as I could tell it was promptly forgotten about or ignored by everyone involved in the design.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Nothing from 2E?

I don't have the 2e books.

There was an article that outlined the HP philosophy for D&D Next

Here
Show

In D&D Next, hit points and Hit Dice are an abstraction that we use to model more than just a character's physical durability. In fact, we have three elements that tie into a character's hit points and Hit Dice.



  • Physical capacity for punishment, which is measured through a combination of size, bulk, and durability. An elephant or a hill giant has plenty of hit points due to raw physical endurance and bulk. Big creatures can take a lot of punishment.

  • Energy and experience, which is measured by a creature's ability to turn a direct hit into a glancing blow and ignore minor aches and pains. Frederika, the 10th-level dwarf fighter, can turn even a giant's crushing strike into a near miss. She might take 30 points of damage from the hit, but in terms of physical injury she might not have more than a light bruise. The same attack against Samwell, the 1st-level halfling fighter, turns him into a dead, bloody mess. Poor Samwell lacks the training and experience to avoid the worst of the attack.

  • Luck and cosmic significance, which is the simple truth that in a world of high magic, gods, and planar powers, some creatures are consigned by fate to take on a great task. The sword blow that slays the common soldier is a glancing strike against the hero destined to stand at the center of important events. A white dragon ambushes the wizard Mordenkainen and unleashes a ferocious attack. The wizard avoids death by stepping aside at just the right moment. He might suffer a few cuts, but through luck, coincidence, or fate, he stepped to the side just as the dragon was about to attack.



Here's a brief overview that gives you an idea of what happens when a creature takes damage.


A creature with more than half its maximum hit points has nothing more than the superficial signs of injury. There might be a few tears in its armor or clothes, or it could have a dent in its shield, and it has not yet suffered any serious physical harm beyond a scrape, light cut, or bruise. Anyone looking at the creature likely doesn't notice that it has been involved in a fight.


A creature with less than half its maximum hit points has suffered a few noticeable cuts or bruises. A casual inspection or quick look reveals that the creature has taken a few hits, so it is noticeably injured.


A creature that is reduced to 0 or fewer hit points has suffered a direct hit—enough to knock it unconscious. The attack that dropped it caused a serious injury that might crack bones and cause heavy, ongoing bleeding.


Consider the example of a giant spider attacking a 1st-level fighter who has 10 hit points. The spider's first attack deals 3 damage, and the fighter must make a Constitution saving throw against its poison. The bite barely broke the fighter's skin, but just barely. The mark from the bite will clear up in a day or so. The fighter has a scratch that most people would overlook.


The next bite reduces the fighter to 3 hit points and requires another saving throw. This bite causes a noticeable injury since the fighter now has less than half of his or her hit points. The fighter will wake up the next morning with a scab over the bite, and it might take another couple of days for the injury to disappear. A good rest erases most of the real physical effects of the injury. Anyone looking at the fighter would immediately notice the nasty-looking bite wound.


If the spider drops the fighter, it lands a deadly attack. The wound is vicious and ugly. It bleeds freely, and only prompt attention or sheer luck can save the fighter. If mundane bandages are all the fighter's companions have on hand, it will take a couple of days for the fighter to return to action. At this point, there's a chance that the fighter will have a lasting scar, and he or she needs magic to get back into the fight in the short term.

Nothing from 2E?

I don't have the 2e books.

There was an article that outlined the HP philosophy for D&D Next

Here

Right. Thanks. I guess it wasn't in that article, but somewhere they talk about how mundane healing should be slow. Why should that be, in this or any other edition with slow mundane healing, if at least 2/3rds of what hit points are (and probably more) have nothing to do with physical damage? How does one bandage one's "cosmic signficance"?

What I think the game really needs to acknowledge is that not only can a character be down to almost no HP and still be plausibly unscathed, but that a character can be at full HP and look like a mess. Indiana Jones takes beating, gets dragged under a truck, gets shot; those wounds haven't healed by the time he wakes up the next morning, but he's basically ready for a full day of adventuring, including somehow riding a Nazi submarine for hundreds of miles.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

they talk about how mundane healing should be slow. Why should that be, in this or any other edition with slow mundane healing, if at least 2/3rds of what hit points are (and probably more) have nothing to do with physical damage?

Dunno, but it's fairly consistent, implying more physical damage to me (except in 4e). Or maybe not, considering just how long it can realistically take for even minor wounds to heal.

D&D (original brown book, volume 3) p.35: "common wounds can be healed with the passage of time (or the use of magics already explained). On the first day of complete rest no hit points will be regained, but every other day thereafter one hit point will be regained until the character is completely healed. This can take a long time."

AD&D 1e PHB p.105: "There are numerous ways to restore lost hit points. The most mundane is by resting and allowing time to do the job. For each day of rest, 1 hit point of damage is restored. After 30 game days have passed, hit points accrue at the rate of 5 per day thereafter."

AD&D 1e DMG p.82: "it is absolutely necessary that the character rest in order to recuperate, i.e. any combat, spell using, or similar activity does not constitute rest, so no hit points can be regained. For each day of rest a character will regain 1 hit point"

D&D 3.5e PHB p.146: "With a full night’s rest (8 hours of sleep or more), you recover 1 hit point per character level."


1) One of the PCs hits a monster for damage that doesn't knock it unconcious, but should logically inflict heavy wounds imparing its ability to fight/function. For example, we've seen a hobgoblin ambush where a player fired an arrow, dropping a hobgoblin archer to 1 HP. I wanted to say that the hobgoblin was shot in the chest/armor/arm/leg/etc, but it wasn't attacked again for a few more rounds and managed to fire several more arrows - how does that make sense?

Personally if a player lands a big hit that leaves a monster with 1-2hp, I just go ahead and drop the monster.  Speeds up the fight and makes the player feel cool.
Dunno, but it's fairly consistent, implying more physical damage to me (except in 4e). Or maybe not, considering just how long it can realistically take for even minor wounds to heal.

I just don't see why someone's "luck" or "combat abilty" takes so long to come back. And it's not like the healing time corresponds to any particular kind of injury. There are probably plenty of wounds that could take a person out, and even put them at risk of death, but that are relatively quickly recovered from.

And of course it was ridiculous that the healing rate didn't take someone's total into account, but hopefully that's a thing of the past.

Personally if a player lands a big hit that leaves a monster with 1-2hp, I just go ahead and drop the monster.  Speeds up the fight and makes the player feel cool.

A very good point.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

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The slow healing is one of the reasons that I really like the 4e healing surge mechanic.  Any real wounds can be dressed, one has time to steel their mental resolve, etc. before moving forward.  
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