Gritty and gory or heroic and safe?

I think one of the fundamental differences between 4th edition and the previous editions is that they fully used the hit point abstraction in 4th edition.

Hit Points do what the name implies: they give you a chance to avoid harmful effects. When you attack with a weapon, you have a 100% chance of avoiding the blow if you use hit points. That's the idea. This is why melee combatants end up being "I attack and roll for damage".

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that? I don't know if you guys knew this, but every sword hit is potentially deadly. So every time a fighter swings a sword, it's a potential slay living spell. So why is it that against a sword swing, you have a 100% chance of defending yourself but against a slay living spells your odds drop to 20% (3rd edition math)? Why the double standard?

This is what the 4th edition game designers realized. They had two options to fix this double standard: either implement some kind of mechanic that gives a fighter a reasonable chance of killing his opponent with each blow, either nerf casters to the ground and give your opponents a 100% chance of defending himself against spells.

The 4th edition game designers chose the later options. But that's not satisfying at all. You went from fun casters lame fighters to lame casters lame fighters and every single spell or attack deals hit point damage. Boring. So they slightly altered the hit point abstraction and decided that you can use hit points to absorb most of the harmful effect. When you aim for the head, you never chop it off but enough of the blow hits the helmet to stun your opponent for a few seconds (save ends or until end of next turn). When you aim for the leg, your opponent parries most of the blow but you still manage to hit and apply a short term slow effect. When you cast a sleep spell, your opponent manages to absorb most of the effect but it makes him dizzy for a few seconds. Etc... The effects of powers are probably more varied and colorful at a narrative level than in the previous editions but the mechanical result isn't as dramatic.

The alternative to 4th edition's system is to make every single attack potentially lethal. Every single sword swing has a chance to kill you. Every single arrow has a chance to kill you. Etc... Try to think outside the box here, there are many ways to balance such a system and it's compatible with hit points. Statistically, this will result in accidental character death from time to time but it doesn't have to be as high as 80% chance per attack as in 3rd edition. It can be very low with a whole range of in-between effects with higher probabilities. Such a system would make the game a lot deadlier but also a lot more dramatic. It means accidental PC deaths, crippling injuries, PCs forced to retreat because of unexpected events, etc...

So, what's your preference? 4th edition style? Gritty and gore for every class? Or keep the double standard because it's normal for casters to be cool and fighters to suck?
I think one of the fundamental differences between 4th edition and the previous editions is that they fully used the hit point abstraction in 4th edition.

Hit Points do what the name implies: they give you a chance to avoid harmful effects. When you attack with a weapon, you have a 100% chance of avoiding the blow if you use hit points. That's the idea. This is why melee combatants end up being "I attack and roll for damage".

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that? I don't know if you guys knew this, but every sword hit is potentially deadly. So every time a fighter swings a sword, it's a potential slay living spell. So why is it that against a sword swing, you have a 100% chance of defending yourself but against a slay living spells your odds drop to 20% (3rd edition math)? Why the double standard?

This is what the 4th edition game designers realized. They had two options to fix this double standard: either implement some kind of mechanic that gives a fighter a reasonable chance of killing his opponent with each blow, either nerf casters to the ground and give your opponents a 100% chance of defending himself against spells.

The 4th edition game designers chose the later options. But that's not satisfying at all. You went from fun casters lame fighters to lame casters lame fighters and every single spell or attack deals hit point damage. Boring. So they slightly altered the hit point abstraction and decided that you can use hit points to absorb most of the harmful effect. When you aim for the head, you never chop it off but enough of the blow hits the helmet to stun your opponent for a few seconds (save ends or until end of next turn). When you aim for the leg, your opponent parries most of the blow but you still manage to hit and apply a short term slow effect. When you cast a sleep spell, your opponent manages to absorb most of the effect but it makes him dizzy for a few seconds. Etc... The effects of powers are probably more varied and colorful at a narrative level than in the previous editions but the mechanical result isn't as dramatic.

The alternative to 4th edition's system is to make every single attack potentially lethal. Every single sword swing has a chance to kill you. Every single arrow has a chance to kill you. Etc... Try to think outside the box here, there are many ways to balance such a system and it's compatible with hit points. Statistically, this will result in accidental character death from time to time but it doesn't have to be as high as 80% chance per attack as in 3rd edition. It can be very low with a whole range of in-between effects with higher probabilities. Such a system would make the game a lot deadlier but also a lot more dramatic. It means accidental PC deaths, crippling injuries, PCs forced to retreat because of unexpected events, etc...

So, what's your preference? 4th edition style? Gritty and gore for every class? Or keep the double standard because it's normal for casters to be cool and fighters to suck?

I assume you are referring to save-or-die effects here, yes? 

It should be pointed out that when 3E changed the math of DnD, it also fundamentally changed the efficacy of these types of spells. By inflating monster hit points, it strongly incentivized casters to take save-or-die spells over spells that deal damage to hit points. Also, it is trivially easy in 3E to pump up caster DCs whereas in earlier editions your chances of a monster failing a save-or-die were actually pretty low (especially at lower levels). All of this contributed to the glut of save-or-suck we see in 3E play.

In 4E some of these spells DO still exist but in the hands of the monsters. They are typically save ends effects and if you fail the save 2 or 3 times, then the full effect of the spell (such as a medusa's petrification) take hold. 13th Age has a similar mechanic with its "last gasp" saves, although the difference is the DC for last gasp saves is much higher (16) than a typical saving throw, so there is a good chance things aren't going to go the target's way.

I personally like a compromise between the two systems. Powerful, encounter-ending spells exist but they are only effective on targets within a hit point threshold. This allows the mage to feel powerful but still require guys like the fighter to beat down the dragon before you can use your save-or-suck against him (fyi this is also how 13A handles powerful PC spells).

By the way, one houserule I used in my 4E games was if a target took damage equal to or greater than its bloodied value from a single attack, it had to make a saving throw or fall unconscious (save ends) making it susceptible to coup de grace. This helped to obviate the hit point "safety net" to a degree.
 
I vote 4e style.  Even if the chance of a sword swing becoming a "slay living" spell is 5%, how many times is a given character going to get a sword swung at him?  Over the course of a campaign, probably hundreds.  Even if you make it a percentile dice effect with only a 1% chance of killing, the odds of a melee character making it to 10th level fall to nill even if every individual encounter he ever fights is pathetically easy.  I have no interest in playing a game where my hero of a fighter, ten levels into a campaign and still at full HP, can be dropped by a kobold with a shortbow, without warning or opportunity to avoid it.  It's realistic, sure, but it doesn't make for a heroic fantasy game.  

I'm all for challenge.  I'll even take a little more lethality than 4e gave me.  But challenge and lethality are distinct concepts, and that much lethality gets in the way of both challenge and story.  It's just not worth it to me.   I like the hit point "safety net" because it means that taking risks is a choice.  By making the risks to a full HP character higher, you reduce the marginal risk taken on by doing something heroic, and that makes the choice to take risk less heroic.  If the only way to avoid taking risks is not to play the game, their's no heroism in choosing to risk; you're going to die either way, so you may as well accomplish something while you're at it.  If you can never feel safe, you never really feel endangered either.  If even easy encounters kill PCs all the time, they never feel badass and success vs failure depends not a wit on skill and strategy and entirely on the luck of the dice.  I like my combat to be chess, not russian roulette, even if the odds are stacked in my favor.  SoD effects are not OK just because the chances of failure is reduced.
A solution is to assume completely the fact that HPs and AC are a single defensive abstraction, and keep character's body parts out of the AC/HP equation.

If you consider that when a character is hit having zero HP, the character's body is damaged, you can impose penalties and/or constitution rolls to determine wound effects, from bruise to death.
Critical hits then just could be attacks ignoring the HP pool.
Surprise attack, like sneak attack would also simply ignore HPs.

Then we have another balancing factor with casters unable to critical hit and always opposed by HPs with damaging spells.
It's also possible to turn save or die spells into "regular" attacks with higher crit range, the instant kill effect only imposed on critical hit, the non critical hit just being damage of a type related to the nature of the attack, or a reduced effect.

But if we keep the body parts into the AC/HP abstraction, there's not many solutions possible.
We have a soup called HP with pieces of meat in it, some people have more soup than others, but the same average quantity of meat. The people who have more soup are the people that are better trained to survive than others. Some monsters have far more meat in the soup, but then the proportion of soup should be the same for equal training for survival, but it's not the case.

I would keep body from the HP soup, and turn HPs into an encounter ressource that can be penalized through the number of short rests taken and the type of wounds inflicted to the body.

If you think my english is bad, just wait until you see my spanish and my italian. Defiling languages is an art.

I have toyed with a hp/wound combination.  I prefer it to abstraction but it does not stop my fun if it is just abstraction.

flexibility for the win

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A solution is to assume completely the fact that HPs and AC are a single defensive abstraction, and keep character's body parts out of the AC/HP equation.

If you consider that when a character is hit having zero HP, the character's body is damaged, you can impose penalties and/or constitution rolls to determine wound effects, from bruise to death.
Critical hits then just could be attacks ignoring the HP pool.
Surprise attack, like sneak attack would also simply ignore HPs.

Then we have another balancing factor with casters unable to critical hit and always opposed by HPs with damaging spells.
It's also possible to turn save or die spells into "regular" attacks with higher crit range, the instant kill effect only imposed on critical hit, the non critical hit just being damage of a type related to the nature of the attack, or a reduced effect.

But if we keep the body parts into the AC/HP abstraction, there's not many solutions possible.
We have a soup called HP with pieces of meat in it, some people have more soup than others, but the same average quantity of meat. The people who have more soup are the people that are better trained to survive than others. Some monsters have far more meat in the soup, but then the proportion of soup should be the same for equal training for survival, but it's not the case.

I would keep body from the HP soup, and turn HPs into an encounter ressource that can be penalized through the number of short rests taken and the type of wounds inflicted to the body.

Now THAT'S an interesting idea: you regain your max hp with a short rest, but each time you do so your hp total goes down (presumably until a long rest or magically restored). Hmmm....
A solution is to assume completely the fact that HPs and AC are a single defensive abstraction, and keep character's body parts out of the AC/HP equation.

If you consider that when a character is hit having zero HP, the character's body is damaged, you can impose penalties and/or constitution rolls to determine wound effects, from bruise to death.
Critical hits then just could be attacks ignoring the HP pool.
Surprise attack, like sneak attack would also simply ignore HPs.

Then we have another balancing factor with casters unable to critical hit and always opposed by HPs with damaging spells.
It's also possible to turn save or die spells into "regular" attacks with higher crit range, the instant kill effect only imposed on critical hit, the non critical hit just being damage of a type related to the nature of the attack, or a reduced effect.

But if we keep the body parts into the AC/HP abstraction, there's not many solutions possible.
We have a soup called HP with pieces of meat in it, some people have more soup than others, but the same average quantity of meat. The people who have more soup are the people that are better trained to survive than others. Some monsters have far more meat in the soup, but then the proportion of soup should be the same for equal training for survival, but it's not the case.

I would keep body from the HP soup, and turn HPs into an encounter ressource that can be penalized through the number of short rests taken and the type of wounds inflicted to the body.

Now THAT'S an interesting idea: you regain your max hp with a short rest, but each time you do so your hp total goes down (presumably until a long rest or magically restored). Hmmm....



Or, alternatively, character's HP have "steps" (a bit like bloodied, but but more than one value) at ...say, each third. Between encounters, you regain hit points up to the previous step.
(ex: you have 60 max HP, you have steps at 20 and 40. You end a fight at 48 hp, you go back to 60. You end a fight at 32, you go back to 40)
Non-healed HP represent actual wounds that will require either magic or complete bed rest to recover.

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The whole point of HP as an encounter resource is that your max HP never goes down (barring the odd status effect designed to be an exception to that rule).  Steps and HP penalties based on the number of short rests you've taken would defeat that point, doing very little over a limited healing system besides add complexity.
The whole point of HP as an encounter resource is that your max HP never goes down (barring the odd status effect designed to be an exception to that rule).  Steps and HP penalties based on the number of short rests you've taken would defeat that point, doing very little over a limited healing system besides add complexity.

Yeah, honestly I prefer surges/recoveries/hit dice myself but the idea IS interesting.

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that?




Hit Points are an abstraction. It doesn't mean this abstraction encompasses each and every harm that may come the character's way.

The reason why every sword blow isn't necessarily lethal in D&D is because the Hit Point abstraction assumes your character is activelly trying to avoid blows in combat. The "hit" with "damage" represents cuts, bruises, exhaustion, etc, until your capacity to keep fighting (hit points) fail and a serious blow is delivered, potentially killing the character.

Save-or-screwed spells don't fit in that abstraction (can be save or die, petrify, hold, or anything). They have a wholly different concept in how their effects apply. A magical force is unleashed upon the target which is intangible, which can't be physically avoided, but only the target's raw willpower or body endurance can shake off. It's because of this interpretation/abstraction (a different one from that of attacks and hit points) that save-or-screwed effects tend to required a Fortitue or Will save, and not Reflex. Damaging spells which work like external attacks (fireball, etc) tend to fall into the hit point abstraction and allow a save for half or no damage. And if they hit they work with the hit point abstraction like other attacks.

It's that same line of thought, also, that allows for the Coup-de-Grace move. If the target is completelly helpless, unable to react at all to your dagger or sword blow, you can just slit his throat, and Hit Points play no part in that.

Of course we could change save-or-screwed spells to work with hit points. It just would need a different interpretation/abstraction. But my point above is only to show that the current interpretation of save-or-screwed does make sense in it's own general concept. There's nothing "faulty" in why hit points don't play a part in those spells.

I do think, however, that turning everything into hit point damage would make the game utterly boring!
Diversification in how things work in combat is good.



That said, 3ed did allow for some pretty nasty DCs to save against. Not that much, perhaps, if you stuck to the core books only, but add random suplements with overpowered prestiges, feats, and such, and it could get way out of hands. That didn't happen in 2ed, though. There was a certain unmentioned balance in 2ed rules where: the more powerful spells became with your leveling, the better your target's saves became. A slay living spell is much more powerful than a hold person, but a target on level with a slay living was much more likely to save than a 3rd level NPC being targeted by a hold person.




Here's an idea:
(not sure if it's even a good one, it just came to me so I decided to share it)

We could have save-or-die spells work like that. Let's take something like Phantasmal Killer.
The target has to make a Will/Wisdom save to avoid the effect. If he fails his Wisdom ability score is drained of 3d6 points. If the target is brought to Zero wisdom score by that spell he is dead.

This allows the spell to work more or less like the traditional stuff, a save-or-screwed spell. But does not necessarily mean instant death. A character with a high Wisdom has a good chance to survive the effect, and the roll of the spell's drain might also be low or high. If the target does fail the save, however, even if he does not die he'll still suffer a pretty considerable penalty. The spell remains powerful, potentially lethal, but it's not an "all or nothing" effect.


Here's an idea:
(not sure if it's even a good one, it just came to me so I decided to share it)

We could have save-or-die spells work like that. Let's take something like Phantasmal Killer.
The target has to make a Will/Wisdom save to avoid the effect. If he fails his Wisdom ability score is drained of 3d6 points. If the target is brought to Zero wisdom score by that spell he is dead.

This allows the spell to work more or less like the traditional stuff, a save-or-screwed spell. But does not necessarily mean instant death. A character with a high Wisdom has a good chance to survive the effect, and the roll of the spell's drain might also be low or high. If the target does fail the save, however, even if he does not die he'll still suffer a pretty considerable penalty. The spell remains powerful, potentially lethal, but it's not an "all or nothing" effect.

Ehh, not a fan of ability damage. Like, at all. How about a compromise?

"Phantasmal Killer: Roll 3d6. If the result of your roll is equal to or more than the target's Wisdom score, then the target dies. The target can make a Wisdom saving throw to half the result of your roll."

If has the same save-or-suck effect but without the bookkeeping that ability damage involves.

Really, though, I think the best answer is to tie save-or-suck spells to hit point thresholds. It will prevent spellcasters from obviating entire encounters the first round of combat and also encourage teamwork with the other party members.

 
I've seen a lot of hate for ability damage that I really don't understand.  I mean, I get how annoying level damage was, and how annoying mental ability damage was to spellcasters who lost spells (and therefore had to figure out which spells).  But in Next?  There are no spillover book keeping effects (other than maybe CON).  You get worse at wisdom checks.  Period.  This may, for some classes, include wisdom based attack rolls (but not damage rolls).  Where's the book keeping?  Are people just forgetting that this is a different game from 3.5, and projecting their hate onto a mechanic that no longer deserves it?  Or am I missing something?

Also, your alternative has the disadvantage that, should the spell fail to kill its target, it has no affect.  That means at least one of two things, probably both: 1) the spell must be sufficiently likely to kill it's target that it breaks the game, or 2) the spell must be sufficiently unlikely that you would be a fool to ever use it.  The fact that some targets are more or less vulnerable to its affect than others does not improve matters much.  Ability damage would have the advantage that, should you stack it with another attack that does wisdom damage, the second attack could defeat the target, therefore the effect of a non-kill is not zero, therefore the odds of a kill sufficient to make the spell worthwhile may be smaller, and a gap opens up imbetween problem (1) and problem (2).

HP thresholds work pretty well mechanically, if they're designed right.  They keep non-spellcasters contributing, they keep fights from being trivialized by one lucky roll, and they provide a safe zone to allow healthy PCs to avoid sudden death.  But they really don't make any sense to me.  Why should not being tired from dodging sword swings and/or a little bit cut up make you more vulnerable to being turned to stone?

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that?




Hit Points are an abstraction. It doesn't mean this abstraction encompasses each and every harm that may come the character's way.

The reason why every sword blow isn't necessarily lethal in D&D is because the Hit Point abstraction assumes your character is activelly trying to avoid blows in combat. The "hit" with "damage" represents cuts, bruises, exhaustion, etc, until your capacity to keep fighting (hit points) fail and a serious blow is delivered, potentially killing the character.

Save-or-screwed spells don't fit in that abstraction (can be save or die, petrify, hold, or anything). They have a wholly different concept in how their effects apply. A magical force is unleashed upon the target which is intangible, which can't be physically avoided, but only the target's raw willpower or body endurance can shake off. It's because of this interpretation/abstraction (a different one from that of attacks and hit points) that save-or-screwed effects tend to required a Fortitue or Will save, and not Reflex. Damaging spells which work like external attacks (fireball, etc) tend to fall into the hit point abstraction and allow a save for half or no damage. And if they hit they work with the hit point abstraction like other attacks.



Why can't HP represent raw willpower? Why can't they represent "body endurance"? Why can't the represent luck or divine favour (Which many editions said they were)? The only thing stopping it from being those things is you saying it isn't, and the only reason I can see for you saying it isn't is that "That's how it used to work"

Of course we could change save-or-screwed spells to work with hit points. It just would need a different interpretation/abstraction. But my point above is only to show that the current interpretation of save-or-screwed does make sense in it's own general concept. There's nothing "faulty" in why hit points don't play a part in those spells.



If you use your interpretation of how HP works, which requires making many, many exceptions for no real reason (why does my "ability to avoid blows" works against Fireball or Lightning Bolt, but not against dodging Hold Person, Finger of Death or similar spells?) then yes, nothing is faulty about that interpretation. What we need to ask ourselves, is it the best interpretation to use?

I do think, however, that turning everything into hit point damage would make the game utterly boring!



Interesting. Yet you are totally fine with the martial characters only being able to use that "boring" method. Very interesting.
 
Diversification in how things work in combat is good.



I agree. However, I think that can be achieved without that "diversity" being "I can totally bypass the mechanic that represents nothing but being able to survive harm because I have magic". HP thersholds have been brought up many times, and are an excellent idea to explore, in my opinion. It gives a sense of vulnerability to those caught under it, as they dread being hit by a powerful effect that only works under the threshold, something the constant threat of instant death out of nowhere through no fault of your own with no way to defend against it (unless you are a magic user who has prepared in advance) does NOT provide. It is far more itneresting and makes combat more interesting. Plus, you can easily justify it for martial combat users, as they can take advantage of a tired/weakened/whatever foe, so they can stop being restricted to only the "boring" method!
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Hit point thresholds are used extensively in 13th Age for spells like sleep and hold person. In my experience, they work very well and really encourage teamwork between the casters and noncasters.

Also, your alternative has the disadvantage that, should the spell fail to kill its target, it has no affect.  That means at least one of two things, probably both: 1) the spell must be sufficiently likely to kill it's target that it breaks the game, or 2) the spell must be sufficiently unlikely that you would be a fool to ever use it.  The fact that some targets are more or less vulnerable to its affect than others does not improve matters much.  Ability damage would have the advantage that, should you stack it with another attack that does wisdom damage, the second attack could defeat the target, therefore the effect of a non-kill is not zero, therefore the odds of a kill sufficient to make the spell worthwhile may be smaller, and a gap opens up imbetween problem (1) and problem (2).



This is the reason why, when I was making a houserule system-changes for 3.5, I used the Star Wars d20 Vitality/Wound point split.

Any spell or effect that had any chance of instantly killing the target dealt wound damage (and I also set a bunch of other stuff that would do wound damage, in lesser amounts, to make it less niche, but that fact is also largely irrelevant).  In order to kill a target with HP damage, you need to take out their vit score and then their wound score.  So even if exactly one source of wound damage is dealt, at minimum, it's as effective as doing the same amount of HP damage.

(Since raw damage spells did more damage, of course, it's basically the equivalent of them having saved for half, but the point is that it is not useless if it doesn't kill them.)
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To my mind, the problem with spellcasters using the same track isn't (just) that the HP track doesn't make sense for them, it's that it's nice to have two tracks.  If you're fighting the elder black pudding of 9999 HP, it's nice to have a way of defeating it that doesn't involve eating through 9999 HP.  Or even 9899 before you can throw down a SoD with 100HP threshold.  If on the other hand you're fighting the paper mache golem of willpower, the guy with the big sword gets his moment to shine (or the guy with pillar of fire).  I don't think 1-shot SoD is necessarily a good option as the second track, but HP thresholds make it less of a second track and more of a HP damage with flavor sort of thing; PWK is less "you kill it with magic" and more "you do 50 dmg, unless it does nothing at all."  

Having only one track for killing things in 4e contributed to the sameyness of encounters: even when players had different things to do every round, there was rarely much reason not to do the same sequence of things every encounter because every monster could be defeated the same way, and indeed the same way was usually the best way.  I was glad to get the chance to do different things every round as a player, but I had to go out of my way as a DM to make my players do different things every encounter, and I didn't have very many tools to play with to make that happen.  Defeating a monster with ability damage is a good way to make fighting that monster a very different fight from fighting a monster that you defeat with HP damage.  But only if you give people other than the wizard ways to contribute.  If the HP threshold is too low, other players can contribute by knocking the monster to that threshold, but it's not really a separate track because you spend most of the fight reducing his HP. If the HP threshold is too high, the wizard just kills the monster more or less himself and nobody else contributes.  With a proper second track, the wizard can work his way towards killing the monster while his buddies work to keep the monster from eating the wizard, work to limit the monster's damage during his death throws, work to keep it from running away, etc.  

It occurs to me, though, that an ability damage track need not even have the book keeping issues  that remain to it.  How's this for a rule:

Ability damage: Ability damage is cumulative, but characters heal ability damage at a rate of 1 point per [minute/hour/day (according to campaign dial)].   If a character currently suffers from ability damage of more than one point and less than a number of points equal to his ability score, the character has disadvantage on ability checks with that ability.  If he has ability damage equal to or greater than his ability score, he becomes unconscious, paralyzed, dead, permanently insane, etc., depending on the ability score, the power, and whatever is most dramatically appropriate.  

A spell like Phantasmal killer would become a concentration spell.  Each round, as an action you could do 2d6 wisdom damage, wisdom save negates.  If your concentration is broken, you must cast the spell again to use the effect.

This way, there's very little book keeping: just keep track of the number of points of ability damage you've taken for each ability.  No different from keeping track of HP damage.  Your bonuses never change, so you don't have to refigure your HP, your attack bonuses, or anything, you just take disadvantage.  Phantasmal killer is extremely unlikely to one-shot anything, but it's still a useful spell to have because you can keep on using it until the thing dies, which is likely to take as long as killing an average monster with HP damage but less time than killing a high HP one and more time than killing a low HP one, especially if it has low or high WIS.  The monster knows you're a threat though, and that his only hope is to break your concentration, so he has an incentive to provoke from the fighter and come eat you while the rest of your party has a job to do preventing him from doing that.  It's a very different encounter than the one against the evil wizard that you're better off decapitating.  That's a win in my book. 
Whether is save or die, save ends, ongoing, hp thresholds (max hit points, max damage), attribute damage, critical hits, etc. it must be decided how each class may use it. It may mean different types of attacks for different classes, but casters should not monopolize everything except for attacking AC or raw damage. That gets old really fast.

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that?




Hit Points are an abstraction. It doesn't mean this abstraction encompasses each and every harm that may come the character's way.

The reason why every sword blow isn't necessarily lethal in D&D is because the Hit Point abstraction assumes your character is activelly trying to avoid blows in combat. The "hit" with "damage" represents cuts, bruises, exhaustion, etc, until your capacity to keep fighting (hit points) fail and a serious blow is delivered, potentially killing the character.

Save-or-screwed spells don't fit in that abstraction (can be save or die, petrify, hold, or anything). They have a wholly different concept in how their effects apply. A magical force is unleashed upon the target which is intangible, which can't be physically avoided, but only the target's raw willpower or body endurance can shake off. It's because of this interpretation/abstraction (a different one from that of attacks and hit points) that save-or-screwed effects tend to required a Fortitue or Will save, and not Reflex. Damaging spells which work like external attacks (fireball, etc) tend to fall into the hit point abstraction and allow a save for half or no damage. And if they hit they work with the hit point abstraction like other attacks.



Why can't HP represent raw willpower? Why can't they represent "body endurance"? Why can't the represent luck or divine favour (Which many editions said they were)? The only thing stopping it from being those things is you saying it isn't, and the only reason I can see for you saying it isn't is that "That's how it used to work"

Of course we could change save-or-screwed spells to work with hit points. It just would need a different interpretation/abstraction. But my point above is only to show that the current interpretation of save-or-screwed does make sense in it's own general concept. There's nothing "faulty" in why hit points don't play a part in those spells.



If you use your interpretation of how HP works, which requires making many, many exceptions for no real reason (why does my "ability to avoid blows" works against Fireball or Lightning Bolt, but not against dodging Hold Person, Finger of Death or similar spells?) then yes, nothing is faulty about that interpretation. What we need to ask ourselves, is it the best interpretation to use?

I do think, however, that turning everything into hit point damage would make the game utterly boring!



Interesting. Yet you are totally fine with the martial characters only being able to use that "boring" method. Very interesting.
 
Diversification in how things work in combat is good.



I agree. However, I think that can be achieved without that "diversity" being "I can totally bypass the mechanic that represents nothing but being able to survive harm because I have magic". HP thersholds have been brought up many times, and are an excellent idea to explore, in my opinion. It gives a sense of vulnerability to those caught under it, as they dread being hit by a powerful effect that only works under the threshold, something the constant threat of instant death out of nowhere through no fault of your own with no way to defend against it (unless you are a magic user who has prepared in advance) does NOT provide. It is far more itneresting and makes combat more interesting. Plus, you can easily justify it for martial combat users, as they can take advantage of a tired/weakened/whatever foe, so they can stop being restricted to only the "boring" method!





Really, your "attacks" only prove that you are a sad little person who desperately needs to direct his anger at someone or something who or which you think must be completely wrong because he disagrees with you in some aspect.

Your post is not almost entirely senseless by itself, but the very fact that you think it contradicts what I said in the first place only proves that you didn't even bother trying to pay attention to what I was saying when you read my post.

Your assumption that I was saying things should be this way, when what you were reading was an analysis of how things have been handled so far, only proves that you have no idea what you're talking about and are merely behaving like a spoiled child at the tiniest mention of something that might not be the exact way you want it.


If you have unresolved issues please go see a psychiatrist or something like that.
This place here is only for discussing a game, and nonsensical attacks that aren't even remotelly constructive (since you didn't even bother trying to understand what other people are saying in the first place) serve no useful purpose at all.





Oh, and on a side note: the fact that you see "martial characters" as characters who can only roll damage and do nothing else, clearly show me how narrow a view you have. Apparently by your attitude this narrow view is not only towards the game.
 

"Phantasmal Killer: Roll 3d6. If the result of your roll is equal to or more than the target's Wisdom score, then the target dies. The target can make a Wisdom saving throw to half the result of your roll."



That could work too.
I'm not against ability damage myself but your suggestion works fine by me too.


If has the same save-or-suck effect but without the bookkeeping that ability damage involves.



Usually it's constitution damage which causes too much book-keeping, since you have to recalculate HP and all. For the other abilities I don't see it as too much of a bother, but again, the way you proposed is fine too.


Really, though, I think the best answer is to tie save-or-suck spells to hit point thresholds. It will prevent spellcasters from obviating entire encounters the first round of combat and also encourage teamwork with the other party members.

 



I don't mind a few spells based on HP threshold, like Power Word Kill and such.
But making it a base, generic system for a whole lot of spells (especially since with old save-or-screwed spells we're talking about powerful ones) can lead to an over-empowerment of high-HP characters, making them immune to lots of spells, when in fact I believe those types of spells were created in D&D to actually deal with this kind of opponent. If a spell represents a mental attack, for instance, a wizard shouldn't be more vulnerable to it than a fighter or dumb creature with lots of HP.

I still like our ability-related options above better than HP threshold.
The difference between the "high" hp character and the "low" hp character when it comes to hp thresholds comes down to about one attack in 13A. I have no reason to believe that will be much different in Next. Anyways, in 13A only PCs have spells that key off hp thresholds (so far) although monster fear auras key off hp thresholds, too.

In any event, the wizard IS less vulnerable than the fighter against this stuff if it targets an ability the wizard has invested in (probably Wisdom or Intelligence).
The problem with ability score damage is that it scales poorly with level. It basically means that you have "hit points" that never increase with level and you get more and more spell slots to use every round that can damage these ability scores.

If properly implemented, hit point thresholds are better at doing the job because they have a built-in planned obsolescence mechanic. Only your higher level spells have a chance of affecting critters of roughly your level. The lower level spells will only work once you start hacking through those hit points.

If you want to damage mental stats, a "mental stamina" pool equivalent to hit points but for the mind would probably work better. You could imagine similar "mental damage" from mind-affecting spells and effects and thresholds. I'm not sure it's a good idea to have multiple competing hit point pools though.

In any event, if they're going to use hit point thresholds, I'd like them to stay consistent with what it represents. Why doesn't Web not have a hit point threshold for instance? Why does sleep use a random threshold mechanic and not the other spells? Why doesn't poison have a hit point threshold mechanic tied to it?

Also, if you're going to implement hit point threshold for melee characters so that they can do cool things, then it needs to be modeled in the conditions. For example, if you're blind, unaware of your attacker, attacked from behind or flanked, you can't defend as well. If your total current hit point represents how well you are at defending yourself, then all these conditions should have a consequence on the hit point threshold abstraction. For example, your hit point total could be considered 10 points lower for the purporse of determining which effects affect you.

*drool* And I can already imagine an optional hit point threshold on weapon attacks module to kill your targets with one blow. *drool*
If you have unresolved issues please go see a psychiatrist or something like that.
This place here is only for discussing a game, and nonsensical attacks that aren't even remotelly constructive (since you didn't even bother trying to understand what other people are saying in the first place) serve no useful purpose at all.



Would you guys mind finishing the argument using private messages?

It's rare for players of all editions to brainstorm together on how to make the game more fun and I'd really like this thread to continue this way.
Actually, the executioner had a class feature like that in 4E: if he dealt damage to a target and it had 10 or fewer hp remaining, he could just choose to automatically kill it. The ability would have been even better if it scaled with level. ;)
Actually, the executioner had a class feature like that in 4E: if he dealt damage to a target and it had 10 or fewer hp remaining, he could just choose to automatically kill it. The ability would have been even better if it scaled with level. ;)



*evil grin* yeah, that's the idea. Mouahahahahahahahahahaa (*sadistic laugh*). My poor players, I already feel sorry for them.
If I recall correctly, I believe the Iron Hand discipline in 3E's Tome of Battle had a few maneuvers that worked off hp thresholds too, although they operated off blooodied-esque proportionals rather than discrete numbers.

The advantage, of course, of hit points thresholds vs "can only target a bloodied creature" is it accentuates the importance of both level and type. Solo types still have a lot of hp remaining even at bloodied and lower level mooks shouldn't be immune to high-level spells just because they're not bloodied yet. This is why I prefer the granularity that hp thresholds provide.

And I am TOTALLY fine with martial maneuvers or skill tricks that have additional effects baked in if the target is within the hp threshold. I say they run with that.  
Actually, the executioner had a class feature like that in 4E: if he dealt damage to a target and it had 10 or fewer hp remaining, he could just choose to automatically kill it. The ability would have been even better if it scaled with level. ;)


It did get higher at certain levels(going as high as below 30=dead. Not a huge increase, but meh)
Actually, the executioner had a class feature like that in 4E: if he dealt damage to a target and it had 10 or fewer hp remaining, he could just choose to automatically kill it. The ability would have been even better if it scaled with level. ;)


It did get higher at certain levels(going as high as below 30=dead. Not a huge increase, but meh)

Even better! Lol
There's nothing more exciting as a fighter than rush into melee in one-shot a whole bunch of weak critters. 4th edition minions kind of do the job but I really like being able to reuse the same critters. It doesn't feel like I'm cheating.
There's nothing more exciting as a fighter than rush into melee in one-shot a whole bunch of weak critters. 4th edition minions kind of do the job but I really like being able to reuse the same critters. It doesn't feel like I'm cheating.


What do you mean by re-use the same creatures?
To my mind, the problem with spellcasters using the same track isn't (just) that the HP track doesn't make sense for them, it's that it's nice to have two tracks. 


The main advantage of having one track is that it encourages teamwork, so you have a scenario where the fighter and the wizard work together to beat something. Where in the multiple track system, the amount of damage the fighter does is totally irrelevant to baleful polymorph working and the polymorph doens't contribute anything to beating the creature via lost hit points.

Further, damage tracks that aren't hit points just usually end up being a screw you to the fighter. If you go with multiple tracks you can't go with something like ability damage, because that ends up being pretty much always superior to hit point damage. You need a scenario where a creature could have 40 physical hit points but 80 mental points to resist phantasmal killer. Because sometimes stabbing something should be the best option. That was something prior editions always seemed to have a problem with, because they made hit point damage always the inferior option.

There's nothing wrong with two tracks, but you can't make one track flat out better than another.


Having only one track for killing things in 4e contributed to the sameyness of encounters: even when players had different things to do every round, there was rarely much reason not to do the same sequence of things every encounter because every monster could be defeated the same way, and indeed the same way was usually the best way.


Yeah, I agree that 4E had that problem, though I'm not sure if it was necessarily the fact that there was a single damage track as it was that character strategies always worked. In prior editions for instance, they weren't afraid to say "Sneak attack won't work here" or "This thing has infinite SR"

Handing out abilities like that are game changers, that immediately force peopel to use different tactics. The problem with 4E was simply that it was a too much of a "say yes to players" edition, that it made things too easy. Your primary schtick *always* worked, even if it made no sense. The book went to explain how even if it makes no sense to knock a creature prone (like a snake or an ooze), it happens anyway because the ruleset was a spineless coward that was afraid to ever say "no" to a player.

The other problem was roles. Quite simply roles screwed up the game badly, just because they locked people into doing the same thing. It'd be nice if everyone was multi-role. Maybe the wizard could defend you from magic, was a controller against big brutes and a striker against big groups of monsters. The fighter could be a defender against big groups, be a striker against squishy targets like wizards and might end up being a controller against a single well armored monster. By giving everyone the ability to act as different roles against different targets, you allow a lot more diversity. Now not every character is a one dimensional "This is what I do" role.

4E actually had some decent ideas, but I feel it was too simplified, and it really needed to be less player friendly.

All that being said, as far as my preference, I like a middle point. I don't like the game being too safe, but at the same time, I want to make death rare. What I like to focus on is combat knockout (something that I feel is sorelyl lacking in 4E and D&DN). This is where your character gets struck down and you have to sit out the combat. You aren't necessarily dead, but you may be bleeding out, paralyzed, knocked out or whatever. This is a state which I think has been far overlooked and leads to all-or-nothing style consequences. Either the game is super gritty with people dying all the time or no PC ever feels threatened.

The problem with ability score damage is that it scales poorly with level. It basically means that you have "hit points" that never increase with level and you get more and more spell slots to use every round that can damage these ability scores.

If properly implemented, hit point thresholds are better at doing the job because they have a built-in planned obsolescence mechanic. Only your higher level spells have a chance of affecting critters of roughly your level. The lower level spells will only work once you start hacking through those hit points.

If you want to damage mental stats, a "mental stamina" pool equivalent to hit points but for the mind would probably work better. You could imagine similar "mental damage" from mind-affecting spells and effects and thresholds. I'm not sure it's a good idea to have multiple competing hit point pools though.

*drool* And I can already imagine an optional hit point threshold on weapon attacks module to kill your targets with one blow. *drool*



One could say the same thing about status effects.  Immobilize is about as useful at high levels as it is at low levels and you get more and higher spell slots to use every round that can then immobilize larger groups and paralyze.  At least high-level monsters are, on average, going to have higher average stats.  The real solution to that problem is to stop having number of spell slots grow with level, and replace spell levels with spells that scale with player level, not to shut down ability damage.  Mental HP isn't a bad idea, but I kinda like the idea of having separate pools for intelligence, wisdom, and charisma, and being able to incapacitate someone with strength damage.  If you're really worried about scaling, how about "you become incapacitated when your ability damage exceeds your score plus your level"?

I'm not against HP thresholds for some things - I think they're a great way to handle vorpal blades, and the e-ssassin ability like that was neat (although they could have handled the scaling better) - but I think an alternate track or six is a good addition to the game and a better way to handle many SoD affects.  
To my mind, the problem with spellcasters using the same track isn't (just) that the HP track doesn't make sense for them, it's that it's nice to have two tracks. 


The main advantage of having one track is that it encourages teamwork, so you have a scenario where the fighter and the wizard work together to beat something. Where in the multiple track system, the amount of damage the fighter does is totally irrelevant to baleful polymorph working and the polymorph doens't contribute anything to beating the creature via lost hit points.

Further, damage tracks that aren't hit points just usually end up being a screw you to the fighter. If you go with multiple tracks you can't go with something like ability damage, because that ends up being pretty much always superior to hit point damage. You need a scenario where a creature could have 40 physical hit points but 80 mental points to resist phantasmal killer. Because sometimes stabbing something should be the best option. That was something prior editions always seemed to have a problem with, because they made hit point damage always the inferior option.

There's nothing wrong with two tracks, but you can't make one track flat out better than another.


Having only one track for killing things in 4e contributed to the sameyness of encounters: even when players had different things to do every round, there was rarely much reason not to do the same sequence of things every encounter because every monster could be defeated the same way, and indeed the same way was usually the best way.


Yeah, I agree that 4E had that problem, though I'm not sure if it was necessarily the fact that there was a single damage track as it was that character strategies always worked. In prior editions for instance, they weren't afraid to say "Sneak attack won't work here" or "This thing has infinite SR"

Handing out abilities like that are game changers, that immediately force peopel to use different tactics. The problem with 4E was simply that it was a too much of a "say yes to players" edition, that it made things too easy. Your primary schtick *always* worked, even if it made no sense. The book went to explain how even if it makes no sense to knock a creature prone (like a snake or an ooze), it happens anyway because the ruleset was a spineless coward that was afraid to ever say "no" to a player.

The other problem was roles. Quite simply roles screwed up the game badly, just because they locked people into doing the same thing. It'd be nice if everyone was multi-role. Maybe the wizard could defend you from magic, was a controller against big brutes and a striker against big groups of monsters. The fighter could be a defender against big groups, be a striker against squishy targets like wizards and might end up being a controller against a single well armored monster. By giving everyone the ability to act as different roles against different targets, you allow a lot more diversity. Now not every character is a one dimensional "This is what I do" role.

4E actually had some decent ideas, but I feel it was too simplified, and it really needed to be less player friendly.

All that being said, as far as my preference, I like a middle point. I don't like the game being too safe, but at the same time, I want to make death rare. What I like to focus on is combat knockout (something that I feel is sorelyl lacking in 4E and D&DN). This is where your character gets struck down and you have to sit out the combat. You aren't necessarily dead, but you may be bleeding out, paralyzed, knocked out or whatever. This is a state which I think has been far overlooked and leads to all-or-nothing style consequences. Either the game is super gritty with people dying all the time or no PC ever feels threatened.


I've played in games where one player's shtick is "locked out" for an encounter. All it does is make that player feel useless for that encounter, like they're being punished by the game for choosing a particular character concept ("how dare you play a rogue, newb!"). It is the textbook definition of an "un-fun" mechanic.

What is more interesting and a better strategy to what you're trying to replicate here is encounters where virtually ALL the players are "locked out" of their normal options/tactics, but there is a toggle within the encounter (perhaps physical attacks don't harm the wight until you destroy or sanctify the profane altar?) that allows the players to do something about it. That is dramatic. Saying no you can't do nothing about no how no way, is not dramatic. Its just crappy.

My experience with roles in 4E is radically, diametrically, emphatically the opposite of yours. Virtually every character I can think of has been able to fulfill more than one role (my player's dragonborn great weapon fighter was as much a striker as he was a defender), especially with the classes in the PHB2 and PHB3. In our last 4E campaign, the fey pact warlock was actually more of a controller than a striker. The only role I felt that was really hard-coded was the leader role; the others felt pretty wide open. 

Your last paragraph actually reminds me of some of the death and dying options in 13A. There is an "PCs can only be killed by major NPCs" optional rule (so no random deaths), but the death and dying rules help support this, too. In 13A monsters do pretty decent damage and so can take out PCs faily easily... But the catch is if you make a death save, you get to spend a recovery (their equivalent of hit dice/healing surges) and take your turn. Problem is the DC for death saves is 16 and if you fail 4 of them, you're dead.
The problem with ability score damage is that it scales poorly with level. It basically means that you have "hit points" that never increase with level and you get more and more spell slots to use every round that can damage these ability scores.

If properly implemented, hit point thresholds are better at doing the job because they have a built-in planned obsolescence mechanic. Only your higher level spells have a chance of affecting critters of roughly your level. The lower level spells will only work once you start hacking through those hit points.

If you want to damage mental stats, a "mental stamina" pool equivalent to hit points but for the mind would probably work better. You could imagine similar "mental damage" from mind-affecting spells and effects and thresholds. I'm not sure it's a good idea to have multiple competing hit point pools though.

*drool* And I can already imagine an optional hit point threshold on weapon attacks module to kill your targets with one blow. *drool*



One could say the same thing about status effects.  Immobilize is about as useful at high levels as it is at low levels and you get more and higher spell slots to use every round that can then immobilize larger groups and paralyze.  At least high-level monsters are, on average, going to have higher average stats.  The real solution to that problem is to stop having number of spell slots grow with level, and replace spell levels with spells that scale with player level, not to shut down ability damage.  Mental HP isn't a bad idea, but I kinda like the idea of having separate pools for intelligence, wisdom, and charisma, and being able to incapacitate someone with strength damage.  If you're really worried about scaling, how about "you become incapacitated when your ability damage exceeds your score plus your level"?

I'm not against HP thresholds for some things - I think they're a great way to handle vorpal blades, and the e-ssassin ability like that was neat (although they could have handled the scaling better) - but I think an alternate track or six is a good addition to the game and a better way to handle many SoD affects.  

This kinda reminds me of the physical, mental, and social stress tracks in FATE games like Dresden Files. I don't have any problem with that, but at that point you are going waaaaaay outside of a DnD style (13A doesn't even have stuff like that) game.
I've played in games where one player's shtick is "locked out" for an encounter. All it does is make that player feel useless for that encounter, like they're being punished by the game for choosing a particular character concept ("how dare you play a rogue, newb!"). It is the textbook definition of an "un-fun" mechanic.


This is the problem with modern gaming, everyone cries "un fun" whenever they can't just spam the same tactic every combat. Rogues in prior editions had use magic device skill, alchemical items and other tactics they could employ when sneak attack failed. It may seem unfair at first to a newbie, but then you realize it's an opportunity to think outside the box and try other tactics beyond just "I flank it and sneak attack it!"

If you want a game with any depth at all, then you absolutely must have counters that force creativity. If your weapons don't work against the golem for instance, maybe you lure it across the rickety wooden bridge and let it fall into the chasm. Perhaps you try to hide from it, perhaps you use an illusion to trick it. You're thinking outside the box because your standard schtick doesn't work, and this is good for the game.

If the game says that sneak attack always works and knocking prone always works, and your healing spells always work, then what incentive do the players have to ever bother thinking of new things? They'll just find a good combo and spam it. And that's the problem, until your usual scheme won't work, there's no need to ever improvise. Necessity is the mother of invention.



Your last paragraph actually reminds me of some of the death and dying options in 13A. There is an "PCs can only be killed by major NPCs" optional rule (so no random deaths), but the death and dying rules help support this, too. In 13A monsters do pretty decent damage and so can take out PCs faily easily... But the catch is if you make a death save, you get to spend a recovery (their equivalent of hit dice/healing surges) and take your turn. Problem is the DC for death saves is 16 and if you fail 4 of them, you're dead.



Well the main thing I want is to have some middle ground where PCs can be knocked out, paralyzed, whatever for an entire combat, that way we don't have to outright kill them, but we can certainly have some middle ground of conseuences. Right now, the problem with 4E/D&DN is that the consequences are either death or nothing. Either your character is dead or he's trivially easy to return to the fight (which naturally only encourages monster to slay him outright so he can't retunr to the fight). And because unconscious is such a meaningless state in 4E/D&DN, it makes capturing PCs alive almost impossible. When you throw in D&DN Cure minor wounds or the 4E minor action healing, every fight is effectively a fight to the death, because mosnters can't ever disable a PC unless he's flat out dead.

I can't stress enough how terrible that is from a game design standpoint where you want recurring characters. The moment you demonstrate you have the ability to revive unconscious people, it means that the Coup De Graces start coming out. This means any shot you had of being taken alive is gone, because you're outright forcing your enemies to kill you.
I think one of the fundamental differences between 4th edition and the previous editions is that they fully used the hit point abstraction in 4th edition.

Hit Points do what the name implies: they give you a chance to avoid harmful effects. When you attack with a weapon, you have a 100% chance of avoiding the blow if you use hit points.

Until your hps run out, of course.  It's really kinda brilliant, and something few other games have been comfortable with.

Seeing other games try to incorporate 'plot armor' on top of more realistic damage systems can be rather painful.

One particularly aweful example from the olden days was TSR's "Top Secret," a cold-war era spy game.  In it, firearms were pretty deadly (and handguns realistically inaccurate at longer ranges), and characters had a small, fixed number of life points (I think they were called).  They also had a few 'fame' and 'fortune' points.  When you were about to be killed, you could spend one of these points to retain your last life point.  Basically, you got to linger near death.  Not terribly heroic.

In pre 4th edition D&D, you have casters that use non-hit point based mechanics to determine success. Why is that?

It was the very earliest days of the hobby.  D&D was, perhaps more than people realized, in many ways experimental.  There was an expectation you'd change it - a lot.  If EGG had retained control of TSR, 2e might have been a very different game, indeed.  But, instead of going through cycles of experimentation and improvement, it became stagnant until 3e.  

I don't know if you guys knew this, but every sword hit is potentially deadly. So every time a fighter swings a sword, it's a potential slay living spell. So why is it that against a sword swing, you have a 100% chance of defending yourself but against a slay living spells your odds drop to 20% (3rd edition math)? Why the double standard?


This is what the 4th edition game designers realized. They had two options to fix this double standard: either implement some kind of mechanic that gives a fighter a reasonable chance of killing his opponent with each blow, either nerf casters to the ground and give your opponents a 100% chance of defending himself against spells.

100%, or just go back to the 1e 95% in which "save:neg" virtually meant "does nothing."  

The 4th edition game designers chose the later options. So they slightly altered the hit point abstraction and decided that you can use hit points to absorb most of the harmful effect. When you aim for the head, you never chop it off but enough of the blow hits the helmet to stun your opponent for a few seconds (save ends or until end of next turn). When you aim for the leg, your opponent parries most of the blow but you still manage to hit and apply a short term slow effect. When you cast a sleep spell, your opponent manages to absorb most of the effect but it makes him dizzy for a few seconds. Etc... The effects of powers are probably more varied and colorful at a narrative level than in the previous editions but the mechanical result isn't as dramatic.

It's worth noting that in 1e high-level characters (and monsters) had such low saving throw targets that those hp-bypassing save:neg spells really did very little.  3e /really/ changed that, making saving throws DC tough at every level, and downright untouchable with enough system mastery.  

While the 1e solution - let spells (and poison, etc) have a chance of bypassing hps, but make that chance drop rapidly to 5% - was somewhat workable (to the degree that any of its balance-across-levels schemes were), it was quite un-satisfying.  Things like Stone to Flesh or Disentegrate or Finger of Death were paper tigers, fearsome in theory, but folding against real resistance.  Once you realized saving throws were a formality, high level 1e became comical, with characters guzzling poison for laughs and high-level wizards using Magic Missle because it actually had the highest DPR once you accounted for virtually-never-failed saves.

The alternative to 4th edition's system is to make every single attack potentially lethal. Every single sword swing has a chance to kill you. Every single arrow has a chance to kill you. Etc... ... It means accidental PC deaths, crippling injuries, PCs forced to retreat because of unexpected events, etc...

Actually 'forced to retreat' is one of the big things this kind of system doesn't give you.  Characters go OK...OK...OK... DEAD!  Where to you retreat in that squence?  With hps, at least, you have a barometer of how badly your ass is being kicked.  If D&D ever stopped making monsters faster than PCs, they might actually rertreat once in a while, too...  Have we even had rules for escape & evasion since 1e?

So, what's your preference? 4th edition style? Gritty and gore for every class? Or keep the double standard because it's normal for casters to be cool and fighters to suck?

IMHO, hps are one of the few D&D sacred cows worth keeping on four hooves.  They really do their plot-armor-modeling job pretty well without making the game unplayable.  Lots of games have tried more 'lethal' feeling or 'realistic' systems with less than heroic and even less than playable results.  


  

 

 

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Actually 'forced to retreat' is one of the big things this kind of system doesn't give you.  Characters go OK...OK...OK... DEAD!  Where to you retreat in that squence?  With hps, at least, you have a barometer of how badly your ass is being kicked.  If D&D ever stopped making monsters faster than PCs, they might actually rertreat once in a while, too...  Have we even had rules for escape & evasion since 1e?


Well you can use something similar to Mutants and Masterminds where depending on how badly you fail a damage save, different things can happen to you. And each small failure gives you a penalty on future rolls, so there's a greater chance of a large failure.
 This kinda reminds me of the physical, mental, and social stress tracks in FATE games like Dresden Files. I don't have any problem with that, but at that point you are going waaaaaay outside of a DnD style (13A doesn't even have stuff like that) game.



I don't know about that.  I won't swear to older editions, but I know 3.5 had a "incapacitated if damaged stat reaches 0" rule.  4e didn't have ability damage, and I don't recall the pre-3 rules on the subject, but it certainly isn't without precedent.
I've played in games where one player's shtick is "locked out" for an encounter. All it does is make that player feel useless for that encounter, like they're being punished by the game for choosing a particular character concept ("how dare you play a rogue, newb!"). It is the textbook definition of an "un-fun" mechanic.


This is the problem with modern gaming, everyone cries "un fun" whenever they can't just spam the same tactic every combat. Rogues in prior editions had use magic device skill, alchemical items and other tactics they could employ when sneak attack failed. It may seem unfair at first to a newbie, but then you realize it's an opportunity to think outside the box and try other tactics beyond just "I flank it and sneak attack it!"

If you want a game with any depth at all, then you absolutely must have counters that force creativity. If your weapons don't work against the golem for instance, maybe you lure it across the rickety wooden bridge and let it fall into the chasm. Perhaps you try to hide from it, perhaps you use an illusion to trick it. You're thinking outside the box because your standard schtick doesn't work, and this is good for the game.

If the game says that sneak attack always works and knocking prone always works, and your healing spells always work, then what incentive do the players have to ever bother thinking of new things? They'll just find a good combo and spam it. And that's the problem, until your usual scheme won't work, there's no need to ever improvise. Necessity is the mother of invention.



Your last paragraph actually reminds me of some of the death and dying options in 13A. There is an "PCs can only be killed by major NPCs" optional rule (so no random deaths), but the death and dying rules help support this, too. In 13A monsters do pretty decent damage and so can take out PCs faily easily... But the catch is if you make a death save, you get to spend a recovery (their equivalent of hit dice/healing surges) and take your turn. Problem is the DC for death saves is 16 and if you fail 4 of them, you're dead.



Well the main thing I want is to have some middle ground where PCs can be knocked out, paralyzed, whatever for an entire combat, that way we don't have to outright kill them, but we can certainly have some middle ground of conseuences. Right now, the problem with 4E/D&DN is that the consequences are either death or nothing. Either your character is dead or he's trivially easy to return to the fight (which naturally only encourages monster to slay him outright so he can't retunr to the fight). And because unconscious is such a meaningless state in 4E/D&DN, it makes capturing PCs alive almost impossible. When you throw in D&DN Cure minor wounds or the 4E minor action healing, every fight is effectively a fight to the death, because mosnters can't ever disable a PC unless he's flat out dead.

I can't stress enough how terrible that is from a game design standpoint where you want recurring characters. The moment you demonstrate you have the ability to revive unconscious people, it means that the Coup De Graces start coming out. This means any shot you had of being taken alive is gone, because you're outright forcing your enemies to kill you.

I'm not talking about players always getting their way. I am talking about SELECTIVELY screwing over certain players because of their character concept --- and we both know in actual practice that this is what this amounts to. Wizards can just prepare spells that bypass DR. A fighter can't just use a basic attack that doesn't do weapon damage. That sort of thing.

As I said before in my last post, I am totally fine with encounters that have a "catch" or a puzzle the players have to figure out. Its not about saying yes. Its about saying yes, but...

In FATE games, a player can just choose to be "taken out" at any time during a scene and it doesn't kill their character. DnD would do well to have similar rules and let the group decide what "taken out" means in the context of the narrative. 
I'm not talking about players always getting their way. I am talking about SELECTIVELY screwing over certain players because of their character concept --- and we both know in actual practice that this is what this amounts to. Wizards can just prepare spells that bypass DR. A fighter can't just use a basic attack that doesn't do weapon damage. That sort of thing.


Well a fighter can however grab the enemy and try to grapple it, or trip it, or simply distract it and soak blows. The fact that he can't damage it isn't the be-all, end-all. He's a member of an adventuring party, and yes, maybe in one encounter he can't deal damage, but this is why I say that we're too stuck to roles. Is it all that bad if the fighter becomes more worried about slowing down the enemy instead of damaging it. Is it bad that the wizard who normally throws webs and color sprays has to resort to using something that deals actual damage instead? It's certainly a role switch, but I wouldn't say its a bad thing.

I feel as though the current generation of gamers is so entitled that anything that requires the smallest bit of thinking outside the box is bad. Hell I know some players who get pissed off when their fighter has to use a ranged weapon, because they feel like it's cheap for the dragon to stay flying while it engages them. It's just the problematic attitude of the modern gamer.

Now, on the flip side, ability nullification isn't something that should be used commonly. You shouldn't run an adventure for instance where *nothing* can get sneak attacked. At that point it becomes less about a puzzle and more about just straight up hosing the rogue. I'm not advocating going extreme with it where your main schtick never works. It just should be expected that it won't always work. But once you start designing a game around the entitlement attitude where a PC's main ability always works, and he can rely on it 100%, then things get very boring.



In FATE games, a player can just choose to be "taken out" at any time during a scene and it doesn't kill their character. DnD would do well to have similar rules and let the group decide what "taken out" means in the context of the narrative. 



The PCs alreay have the option to surrender in character, it's the DM who needs a mechanic to disable PCs instead of killing them. And that was one area that 4E/D&DN utterly failed, since healing was just too good and it lead to monsters having no means to take PCs alive.
I'm not talking about players always getting their way. I am talking about SELECTIVELY screwing over certain players because of their character concept --- and we both know in actual practice that this is what this amounts to. Wizards can just prepare spells that bypass DR. A fighter can't just use a basic attack that doesn't do weapon damage. That sort of thing.


Well a fighter can however grab the enemy and try to grapple it, or trip it, or simply distract it and soak blows. The fact that he can't damage it isn't the be-all, end-all. He's a member of an adventuring party, and yes, maybe in one encounter he can't deal damage, but this is why I say that we're too stuck to roles. Is it all that bad if the fighter becomes more worried about slowing down the enemy instead of damaging it. Is it bad that the wizard who normally throws webs and color sprays has to resort to using something that deals actual damage instead? It's certainly a role switch, but I wouldn't say its a bad thing.

I feel as though the current generation of gamers is so entitled that anything that requires the smallest bit of thinking outside the box is bad. Hell I know some players who get pissed off when their fighter has to use a ranged weapon, because they feel like it's cheap for the dragon to stay flying while it engages them. It's just the problematic attitude of the modern gamer.

Now, on the flip side, ability nullification isn't something that should be used commonly. You shouldn't run an adventure for instance where *nothing* can get sneak attacked. At that point it becomes less about a puzzle and more about just straight up hosing the rogue. I'm not advocating going extreme with it where your main schtick never works. It just should be expected that it won't always work. But once you start designing a game around the entitlement attitude where a PC's main ability always works, and he can rely on it 100%, then things get very boring.



In FATE games, a player can just choose to be "taken out" at any time during a scene and it doesn't kill their character. DnD would do well to have similar rules and let the group decide what "taken out" means in the context of the narrative. 



The PCs alreay have the option to surrender in character, it's the DM who needs a mechanic to disable PCs instead of killing them. And that was one area that 4E/D&DN utterly failed, since healing was just too good and it lead to monsters having no means to take PCs alive.

If you're going to nullify player abilities it needs to be dramatic, not just a random F-U because they picked the wrong class or weapon against the wrong monster. You can pull the "Get Off My Lawn!" card all you want, it doesn't change the fact thats bad game design.

Make it something dramatic and dynamic, though, and I can get behind that.

In 4E, monsters have the choice of simply knocking out a player when they run out of hp (as do PCs for that matter), buts its true there could be more "knockout" maneuvers in the game. I'm not sure how you'd implement them in a way that's fair, though.
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