Hit Points should be meat!

The hit point abstraction has significantly changed since OD&D. Back then, the game designers were unrestricted by 40 years of D&D history and could stay consistent with their own definition of hit points.


I haven’t managed to find a copy of the rules, but from what I gathered on the Internet, in OD&D, hit points are meat. A human takes one hit and he’s usually out. Large or mythical creatures can sustain multiple hits before they die. That’s where the word Hit Die comes from. A creature with 1 Hit Die can sustain 1 hit before he dies, a creature with 4 Hit Die can take 4 hits.


If hit points are meat, when humans get bonus hit die from levels, things get a little confusing. How can a human get hit 10 times by a sword and live through it? The answer is quite simple actually; D&D is a heroic fantasy RPG and not a real world physics simulation. But still, some future game designers that didn’t share Arneson’s vision of heroic fantasy heroes thought that it would be “more realistic” to have heroes that avoid blows instead of taking them. Is it really more realistic? Not really. Your heroes are dodging fireballs using ninja moves, they’re avoiding the damage of a 100’ fall, they somehow manage to swim in acid and still avoid the acid, they manage to dodge a sniper’s arrow, etc…


Except that with the “more modern” definition of hit points, things get even more confusing.


1) Why does your armor provide a bonus to your AC? This is really backwards. The only way you can rationalize this is by assuming things like “you would have been hit but because of your skill you managed to deflect the blow”.


2) It makes AC and hit points redundant. Your AC is your ability to avoid physical blows and your hit points is your ability to avoid physical blows. Which one is it? Why do you even have an attack roll if your ability to avoid physical blows is modeled by hit points.


3) Why do creatures have damage reduction or resistance? This is really backwards again.


4) Why do trolls have regeneration?


5) Why do attacks deal effects like poison and paralysis? Either you avoided the blow, either you don’t. Make up your mind.


6) Why don’t spells such as Sleep, Web or Finger of Death deal damage? Why can you avoid a sword blow but not avoid a spell?


7) If the amount of damage represents how hard it is to avoid a blow, why don’t you get a bonus to damage for favorable conditions such as flanking, backstabbing or sniping?


8) Why do you get bonus hit points for high constitution?


And the list goes on and on.


With Arneson’s vision of hit points, you only have one thing to deal with: you’re playing heroes and these heroes start as peasants and become creatures of legend that have the stamina of an elephant. Everything else makes perfect sense if you assume that hit points are meat. But if hit points are your ability to avoid blows, you have to rationalize everything on a case by case basis. You’re constantly juggling with the multiple elements included in the hit point abstraction to justify why it works. And sometimes, you can’t explain it at all. And there worst is that you don't even get the benefit of more realism. You just add confusion.


Wouldn’t it just be easier and more consistent to stick to hit points as meat?

Even in OD&D, hit points were vague. That's not to say they were necessarily abstract, mind. It was possible to read it in such a way as to interpret hit points as meat, and it was also possible to interpret in a way where it was primarily not meat. There was definitely some aspect of something mental or magical to explain why some characters had a lot of HP.

To the best of my logical ability, I have interpreted it (the OD&D definition) as you only have a finite amount of meat, but the ability to not die when that meat has been damaged is why some people have more hit points than others. Some people will die from a dagger to the stomach, and some people won't die unless stabbed several times through the torso. Even to modern science in real life, it's hard to say why some people will succumb to wounds and others can go on without even noticing the dagger sticking out of their head.

(And the issue of why you don't take penalties for being wounded basically comes down to not wanting to slow down the game.)

The metagame is not the game.

Who cares? HP is 50% meat, 50% "heroic vitality," whatever that means. Or not, depending on the narrative and game style. They're abstract--they're whatever you want them to be.
Yep, HP is a huge abstraction and means a LOT of stuff. If HP were defined as just meat then AC needs to be FAR more superior in stopping blows and reducing damage.
I've always do it as part meat, part stamina, part combat focus and morale.

Your HP from you racial HD is your meat. Above that is other stuff.

For a humaniod, the last 4 HPs and negative HP are meat. Everything about that is stamina , combate skill, and morale.

A commoner has 4 HP. The commoner has no training and cannot use his stamina to absorb blow any more that his Dex mod to AC. If someone beats he; his AC, the commoner lacks the combat skill to deflect the low at the last moment. So the attack hits his meat.

A first level fighter has usually 12 HP. He still has 19 points of meat (4 HPs, 1 from level, 14 from Con score). Above those last 4 HP, is his combat skill and stamina. Barring a crit, he will always parry the first club strike of a measly goblin that gets past his dodging and armor. But the second with almost alway connect. And the 3 will usually knock him out.

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If HPs were just meat that would end up limiting a lot of the things in the game.

Healing without magic (Just plain old bed rest) could take weeks or months, which may make sense simulation wise, does not necessarily make for an enjoyable game.

HPs would probably have to be static, never changing by that many points, which means at higher levels nearly every attack would be miss or kill.

that alone would change the face of the game considerably.

 
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This is from the 1st edition PH, page 34:

"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 don't have the basic rules with me but to the best of my recollection, HPs was only described as a game mechanic.

So the idea of HPs being abstract has been around for all editions of D&D. The idea was birthed out of Table-top wargamming and HPs is certainly abstract in those games. A unit (represented by only a few models) reduced to 0 HPs might be destroyed but could be destroyed for a number of reasons: Every single warrior may have been killed but more likely some ran, were injured, played dead, or surrendered. 


Would it be easier to stick to HPs as meat? Yes. But imagine a Level 10 Fighter with 6 HPs. 



 
Hit points are a catch all for stuff that happens in the game, and then by exception, you can make special provisions for poison damage that needs cure poison, or temporary hit points that last for a short period, or physical damage that occurs each day until cure disease is used. With those examples, including damage as meat, hit points allow you to have your cake and eat it to.
No. HP in D&D is a character's survivability index, and always has been. That D&D has poorly implemented other elements to consistently support this is not indicative that HP is the correct element to change. I do agree with your analysis that D&D is widely inconsistent with its mechanics, but it was a pioneer in the industry, and has outlasted other games that had arguably "better" mechanics.

HP cannot and never should be just meat. If D&D changes to HP =  meat, it will likely be a dealbreaker for me.

Look at Rolemaster. That is a HP = meat system, and it does a ridiculously good job of simulating it, at the cost of complexity. IMO, that is the main reason it never caught on in the mainstream. You start building around the idea of HP = meat, and the game gets more complex to support it. It is much easier and "cleaner" to keep things vague and let the narrative fill in the details as needed. World of Darkness and Shadowrun both have HP = meat, yet you don't see them overtaking D&D in the market share, even though their rulesets are fairly simple. The majority have spoken, IMO. D&D needs to fix the game elements that support HP = meat, not reenforce the inconsistency.

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HPs can't be meat.

Just regarding bleeding, it would mean that characters grows liters of blood between levels, without increasing the volume of their bodies.
And 1st level halfling would have more meat than a 1st level human, which is impossible as baby halflings are food for dogs and cats, and adult halfling can be roasted above a campfire.

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Wouldn’t it just be easier and more consistent to stick to hit points as meat?




For your preferred playstyle perhaps.

For my preferences it is wholly unsuitable.

DnD is not and never has been a very good reality simulator for me and I don't think it was meant to be based on the things I remember from the 1ed DMG.

 
Why it can't be meat:

D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
A hit point can only properly be described as a meat/stamina duality. Each hit point is neither meat nor stamina until observed by an individual rule or game element, at which point the meat/stamina wavefront collapses and it appears to obtain the desired quality. But don't look too close or apply multiple game rules at the same time. In that way lies madness.
A hit point can only properly be described as a meat/stamina duality. Each hit point is neither meat nor stamina until observed by an individual rule or game element, at which point the meat/stamina wavefront collapses and it appeart to obtain the desired quality. But don't look too close or apply multiple game rules at the same time. In that way lies madness.


Heizenburg hit points ... its just a flesh wound (but it seemed like it might be truly nasty). Shroedingers quantum  cat is exciting.
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At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
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People who prefer putting cats in boxes to poison them instead of poisoning dogs is beyond me.

Maybe Mr Shrödinger didn't want his name being associated with a vile animal like a dog ?

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Look at Rolemaster. That is a HP = meat system, and it does a ridiculously good job of simulating it, at the cost of complexity. IMO, that is the main reason it never caught on in the mainstream.


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I quit D&D for RM and have never looked back.
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Kind of neat image to think of someone gaining temporary hit points as growing an extra thick and blubbery sub-dermal layer.

From the original D&D rules, 1978 blue-cover reprint of the original 1974 print:


First generate a random number for "hit points."
To generate the numbers roll the special dice in this
game — 8-sided, 6-sided, 4-sided. This represents the
amount of damage the character can take.


(...)

In combat, if a character receives a blow, a
dice roll will be made to determine the number of
damage points inflicted. These are subtracted from the
character's "hit points." If his hit score falls to zero he is
dead. Hit points can be restored, if the character is
alive, by a clerical healing spell, a healing potion or
some other magical item. Otherwise he must continue
on in his wounded state until the game is over and he
returns to the surface. Each day of rest and recuperation
back "home" will regenerate 1 to 3 of his hit points for
the next adventure.




That's about all the "definition" you get for Hit Points.

Throughout the entire book, though, entries related to HP are mentioned as "damage" and "injury".
Which leads to think that HP originally was actually meat.
You lost HP = you're wounded.

Which is not to say that every sword blow which connects and deals HP damage is a deadly-deep-bleeding-wound.
Bumps, bruises and small cuts are also "HP damage".



Not saying "HP = meat only" is my favorite approach to HP.
Just pointing out it's origins.


I will state what I have said in other threads: if hit points are just meat, then that means every 1st level Commoner in the world can completely regenerate  a knife wound (average 2.5 damage) after 2 to 3 nights of rest (or even 1 night of rest if he or she has a decent Con mod).

I will accept hit points are meat if you accept the "humans" in DnD are actually some kind of Wolverine-like mutant race with supernatural regeneration while sleeping.

Until then, I shall reject such cognitive dissonance and realize hit points are abstract plot armor just as they have always been. 
It's actually very, very easy to make hit points meat without adding a lot of complexity:



  • Hit points become a small number that you rarely lose.  If we want all that realism stuff people are talking about these days, it never rises ever.  Attacks at 20th level will do about as much damage to your hit points per attack as attacks at 1st level.

  • Reflex replaces the current function of AC and becomes pure damage avoidance through dodging.  Adjust numbers as appropriate.

  • AC becomes a flat value of damage reduction.  For something to hurt you, it must beat your ability to dodge it, then beat your armor's ability to reduce the damage.


This is much more consistent, though it has the minor issue that it tends to lead to attacks either doing no damage or tons of damage.  Whittling down buckets of HP gives a more gradual sense of progress.

It's also "not D&D", so it's obviously not happening.  I just thought I'd point out that it's doable.
It's actually very, very easy to make hit points meat without adding a lot of complexity:



  • Hit points become a small number that you rarely lose.  If we want all that realism stuff people are talking about these days, it never rises ever.  Attacks at 20th level will do about as much damage to your hit points per attack as attacks at 1st level.

  • Reflex replaces the current function of AC and becomes pure damage avoidance through dodging.  Adjust numbers as appropriate.

  • AC becomes a flat value of damage reduction.  For something to hurt you, it must beat your ability to dodge it, then beat your armor's ability to reduce the damage.


This is much more consistent, though it has the minor issue that it tends to lead to attacks either doing no damage or tons of damage.  Whittling down buckets of HP gives a more gradual sense of progress.

It's also "not D&D", so it's obviously not happening.  I just thought I'd point out that it's doable.

I've actually heard complaints similar to this in older versions of Savage Worlds. Some of the enemies (such as dragons) would have armor so high that players would go round after round of "hitting" the enemy while dealing absolutely no damage. My understanding is it was extremely frustrating and pretty much guaranteed the only way to beat such enemies was scoring lucky damage rolls (SW has exploding dice) against them.

The Hit Points As Plot Armor model is made even more explicit in 13th Age since ALL attacks (even weapon attacks) do at least some damage on a miss. Not a bad idea for DnD to implement. 
I'd rather not see a "hit" turn into a "miss" by damage reduction, at least not as a regular occurance. Ultimately, wearing armor or not wearing armor should have some mechanical differences, but the exact rules is mostly irrelavent as long as there is some balance. If no/light armor is inferior to heavy armor, but heavy armor comes with some penalties, balance could be achieved. If you can get the the same mechanical benefit from light armor as you can with heavy armor, then heavy armor should not have penalties.

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Points in favor of HP as meat:
More constitution gives you more HP 
Pre-4e, healing required magic, which often used language like "cure light wounds."

Points against HP as meat:
"Wounds" have no impact on performance up until you keel over--a guy with 20 Hp can get stabbed a bunch of times, and be at 1 HP, and he's still just as fast and dangerous as ever, until he gets slapped or something and falls over, suddenly mortally wounded and in critical condition. The Binary "If you have HP, you can perform at full capacity, if you don't you're dying" does a terrible job of modelling actual wounds.

It scales up with level in a way that makes basically no sense--the sword "wound" that would kill a level 1 character barely registers for a level 20 character. And the reverse is true as well--"Cure Light Wounds" restores a fraction of a high level character's health, but can bring a low level character from dying to full HP.

Nonmagical healing rates are way too fast in every edition to realistically model recovery from actual wounds. 


Its ambiguous, but ultimately HP are just such a terribly inconsistent way of modelling actual physical damage that I don't really think they make any sense when used that way.

 
I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."
I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."



Or you could just understand that cure light wounds doesnt just heal the physical part.  Mental and spiritual wounds do exist.

This is from the 1st edition PH, page 34:

"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 don't have the basic rules with me but to the best of my recollection, HPs was only described as a game mechanic.

So the idea of HPs being abstract has been around for all editions of D&D. The idea was birthed out of Table-top wargamming and HPs is certainly abstract in those games. A unit (represented by only a few models) reduced to 0 HPs might be destroyed but could be destroyed for a number of reasons: Every single warrior may have been killed but more likely some ran, were injured, played dead, or surrendered. 


Would it be easier to stick to HPs as meat? Yes. But imagine a Level 10 Fighter with 6 HPs. 



 

Cool.
Really, HP are part meat and health, and part other things. HP are the amount of damage a character can take, and it's usually connected somehow with health, so I would not change that, but it's also connected to other things. The problem is taking damage normally doesn't mean talking a fatal wound. It means taking a wound but usually is not so severe. Some people talk so much about the abstraction of HP that they forget that health is a part of it. HP doesn't include only health, but it does include health.
Points in favor of HP as meat:
More constitution gives you more HP 
Pre-4e, healing required magic, which often used language like "cure light wounds."

Points against HP as meat:
"Wounds" have no impact on performance up until you keel over--a guy with 20 Hp can get stabbed a bunch of times, and be at 1 HP, and he's still just as fast and dangerous as ever, until he gets slapped or something and falls over, suddenly mortally wounded and in critical condition. The Binary "If you have HP, you can perform at full capacity, if you don't you're dying" does a terrible job of modelling actual wounds.

It scales up with level in a way that makes basically no sense--the sword "wound" that would kill a level 1 character barely registers for a level 20 character. And the reverse is true as well--"Cure Light Wounds" restores a fraction of a high level character's health, but can bring a low level character from dying to full HP.

Nonmagical healing rates are way too fast in every edition to realistically model recovery from actual wounds. 


Its ambiguous, but ultimately HP are just such a terribly inconsistent way of modelling actual physical damage that I don't really think they make any sense when used that way.

 

If somebody can pull up that quote from Gygax in the 1E DMG that gets tossed around in these discussions, he implied that Constitution as used in relation to Hit Points wasn't just physical/bodily toughness but referred to a general state of tenacity and resolve. I don't recall the specifics off hand, though.

That seems to make sense, given you can take Hit Point damage from completely non-physical attacks such as psychic damage.
I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."

Hit Points As Meat have the logical inconsistencies of:
a) Everyone turning into Wolverine while sleeping and regenerating knife wounds overnight.
b) Attacks of a decidedly non-physical nature dealing Hit Point damage, most notably psychic and illusory attacks.
c) Hit Points having little correlation with physical size, as evidenced by the fact that a Halfling can have more Hit Points than a Human and a high level character is not any larger/meatier than a low level character.
d) Hit Point damage has absolutely no effect on physical abilities until you hit 0.
e) High Hit Point characters without magical protection doing really absurd things like walking away from a 200 foot fall or swimming in acid pools with no physical impairments after the fact.

Really, the ONLY way Hit Points make ANY kind of sense is as abstract "plot armor" that signifies a character's ability to turn things that would have wounded or killed him into things that do not. This makes them very abstract and Schrodinger's Cat, but thats the nature of the beast.

EDIT: The problem in your example is that CLW is not based on proprotional healing and uses a fixed amount, a problem 4E solved 5 years ago. 

Apr 6, 2013 -- 10:59AM, Gnarl wrote:

I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."


Hit Points As Meat have the logical inconsistencies of:
a) Everyone turning into Wolverine while sleeping and regenerating knife wounds overnight.
b) Attacks of a decidedly non-physical nature dealing Hit Point damage, most notably psychic and illusory attacks.
c) Hit Points having little correlation with physical size, as evidenced by the fact that a Halfling can have more Hit Points than a Human and a high level character is not any larger/meatier than a low level character.
d) Hit Point damage has absolutely no effect on physical abilities until you hit 0.
e) High Hit Point characters without magical protection doing really absurd things like walking away from a 200 foot fall or swimming in acid pools with no physical impairments after the fact.

Really, the ONLY way Hit Points make ANY kind of sense is as abstract "plot armor" that signifies a character's ability to turn things that would have wounded or killed him into things that do not. This makes them very abstract and Schrodinger's Cat, but thats the nature of the beast. 


Again, HP are part meat and health, and part other things. HP are the amount of damage a character can take, and it's usually connected somehow with health, so I would not change that, but it's also connected to other things. The problem is taking damage normally doesn't mean talking a fatal wound. It means taking a wound but usually is not so severe. Some people talk so much about the abstraction of HP that they forget that health is a part of it. HP doesn't include only health, but it does include health.

Apr 6, 2013 -- 10:59AM, Gnarl wrote:

I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."


Hit Points As Meat have the logical inconsistencies of:
a) Everyone turning into Wolverine while sleeping and regenerating knife wounds overnight.
b) Attacks of a decidedly non-physical nature dealing Hit Point damage, most notably psychic and illusory attacks.
c) Hit Points having little correlation with physical size, as evidenced by the fact that a Halfling can have more Hit Points than a Human and a high level character is not any larger/meatier than a low level character.
d) Hit Point damage has absolutely no effect on physical abilities until you hit 0.
e) High Hit Point characters without magical protection doing really absurd things like walking away from a 200 foot fall or swimming in acid pools with no physical impairments after the fact.

Really, the ONLY way Hit Points make ANY kind of sense is as abstract "plot armor" that signifies a character's ability to turn things that would have wounded or killed him into things that do not. This makes them very abstract and Schrodinger's Cat, but thats the nature of the beast. 


Again, HP are part meat and health, and part other things. HP are the amount of damage a character can take, and it's usually connected somehow with health, so I would not change that, but it's also connected to other things. The problem is taking damage normally doesn't mean talking a fatal wound. It means taking a wound but usually is not so severe. Some people talk so much about the abstraction of HP that they forget that health is a part of it. HP doesn't include only health, but it does include health.

So, when my Fighter takes psychic damage where is his "wound"?

The problem with Hit Points is they mean different things in different situations and if they DO signify "wounds" they are of the superficial category (scratches, bumps, bruises, etc.) that wouldn't significantly impair a character's abilities until he takes that hit that drops him to 0.

Honestly, if I were to pin down Hit Points as any ONE thing it would be Fatigue. That's something that could be impacted by your Constitution, that you have a finite amount of but that you can restore somewhat with resting. As wounds, though, they are nonsense unless the wounds are superficial bumps and nicks.

Apr 6, 2013 -- 11:26AM, cassi_brazuca wrote:

Apr 6, 2013 -- 11:24AM, heretic888 wrote:


Apr  6, 2013 -- 10:59AM, Gnarl wrote:

I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."


Hit Points As Meat have the logical inconsistencies of:
a) Everyone turning into Wolverine while sleeping and regenerating knife wounds overnight.
b) Attacks of a decidedly non-physical nature dealing Hit Point damage, most notably psychic and illusory attacks.
c) Hit Points having little correlation with physical size, as evidenced by the fact that a Halfling can have more Hit Points than a Human and a high level character is not any larger/meatier than a low level character.
d) Hit Point damage has absolutely no effect on physical abilities until you hit 0.
e) High Hit Point characters without magical protection doing really absurd things like walking away from a 200 foot fall or swimming in acid pools with no physical impairments after the fact.

Really, the ONLY way Hit Points make ANY kind of sense is as abstract "plot armor" that signifies a character's ability to turn things that would have wounded or killed him into things that do not. This makes them very abstract and Schrodinger's Cat, but thats the nature of the beast. 


Again, HP are part meat and health, and part other things. HP are the amount of damage a character can take, and it's usually connected somehow with health, so I would not change that, but it's also connected to other things. The problem is taking damage normally doesn't mean talking a fatal wound. It means taking a wound but usually is not so severe. Some people talk so much about the abstraction of HP that they forget that health is a part of it. HP doesn't include only health, but it does include health.


So, when my Fighter takes psychic damage where is his "wound"?

The problem with Hit Points is they mean different things in different situations and if they DO signify "wounds" they are of the superficial category (scratches, bumps, bruises, etc.) that wouldn't significantly impair a character's abilities until he takes that hit that drops him to 0.

Honestly, if I were to pin down Hit Points as any ONE thing it would be Fatigue. That's something that could be impacted by your Constitution, that you have a finite amount of but that you can restore somewhat with resting. As wounds, though, they are nonsense unless the wounds are superficial bumps and nicks.


Psychic damage is that, psychic damage.
I just mean that HP as wounds doesn't mean loosing your hand or something like that, as I've seem it, but that doesn't mean that the character is untouched until 0 HP.
I stand by what I've always said.

Hit points are what they need to be at the time they're relevant.

Apr 6, 2013 -- 11:26AM, cassi_brazuca wrote:

Apr 6, 2013 -- 11:24AM, heretic888 wrote:


Apr  6, 2013 -- 10:59AM, Gnarl wrote:

I'm actually not advocating for hit points to be meat, I failed again to be clear... Sorry about that. If I have to chose between the story of a knight that is so skilled that he managed to dodge a dozen arrows in a minute and the story of a heroic knight that has the resilience of an ox and can survive being struck by 12 arrows in a minute, I pick the first one.

According to the information I have found on the Internet, in the original designs of D&D, humans had 1d6 hit points and all weapons dealt 1d6 hit points. The number of hit die was the number of time you could get hit on average. The strongest critter (a cloud giant) could deal 3d6 damage, which is the equivalent of 3 normal human hits.

If you think about it, and really look into the details of how every other combat mechanic works, it's consistent with the hit point = meat definition of hit points. If you can think about anything inconsistent, I would very much like to hear it. Remember, it's about consistency, not realism. D&D is a heroic fantasy game, it's not meant to be realistic. A human fighter with superhuman stamina is not realistic but if every other game mechanic is consistent with this superhuman stamina, it's good enough.

Gradually, hit points went from health to "hero points". But only part of the whole model was updated. I'm fine with "hero points" or "plot armor", it's fun and does the job. What I'm not ok with is changing one part of the model and not updating the rest resulting in an inconsistent rules system.
 
If you decide to ditch hit points and replace it with hero points, keep it consistent. For a start, get rid of health in that abstraction, it creates too many problems*. Maybe rework the base mechanics. For instance, exclude armor from your melee defense and keep it as a last line of defense against blows that your heroics couldn't avoid. Being able to use your hero points to avoid other things than physical damage would be a good idea. Limit the number of hero points you can use per round to get something a bit more exciting than just hit point damage. Regaining hero points every round could also be fun. Anything really as long as it's fun and consistent.

What I was getting at is that the current game designers won't have the balls to update D&D in a way the 4th designers did. But the 4th edition game designers didn't finish the job. These game designers are going to stick to traditional D&D mechanics. Since we're stuck with traditional D&D game mechanics, wouldn't it be easier to stick to a definition of hit points that is consistent with the mechanics? That was my thought process in the original post.
 
*This is why hit points including health is a bad idea:
Player: "I cast cure light wounds. *rolls the die* cool he's back to full hit points."
DM: "Nope, cure light wounds heals physical damage. It's not called restore hero points so it only heals the wound part."
Player: "This sucks. Ok so how much?"
DM: "Well, he's a small creature so it's 1/4 health, 3/4 hero points, so you can heal your halfling buddy 1/4 of the die roll."
Player: "This is not fair."
DM: "I'm just playing by rules."
Player: "But the rules says my spell restores 1d8 hit points."
DM: "The rules also says that hit points aren't just health."
Player: "Would it have worked differently against an ogre?"
DM: "Yes, you would have restored 3/5 of his lost hit points."
Player: "Why?"
DM: "Because ogre hit points are mostly meat."


Hit Points As Meat have the logical inconsistencies of:
a) Everyone turning into Wolverine while sleeping and regenerating knife wounds overnight.
b) Attacks of a decidedly non-physical nature dealing Hit Point damage, most notably psychic and illusory attacks.
c) Hit Points having little correlation with physical size, as evidenced by the fact that a Halfling can have more Hit Points than a Human and a high level character is not any larger/meatier than a low level character.
d) Hit Point damage has absolutely no effect on physical abilities until you hit 0.
e) High Hit Point characters without magical protection doing really absurd things like walking away from a 200 foot fall or swimming in acid pools with no physical impairments after the fact.

Really, the ONLY way Hit Points make ANY kind of sense is as abstract "plot armor" that signifies a character's ability to turn things that would have wounded or killed him into things that do not. This makes them very abstract and Schrodinger's Cat, but thats the nature of the beast. 


Again, HP are part meat and health, and part other things. HP are the amount of damage a character can take, and it's usually connected somehow with health, so I would not change that, but it's also connected to other things. The problem is taking damage normally doesn't mean talking a fatal wound. It means taking a wound but usually is not so severe. Some people talk so much about the abstraction of HP that they forget that health is a part of it. HP doesn't include only health, but it does include health.


So, when my Fighter takes psychic damage where is his "wound"?

The problem with Hit Points is they mean different things in different situations and if they DO signify "wounds" they are of the superficial category (scratches, bumps, bruises, etc.) that wouldn't significantly impair a character's abilities until he takes that hit that drops him to 0.

Honestly, if I were to pin down Hit Points as any ONE thing it would be Fatigue. That's something that could be impacted by your Constitution, that you have a finite amount of but that you can restore somewhat with resting. As wounds, though, they are nonsense unless the wounds are superficial bumps and nicks.


Psychic damage is that, psychic damage.
I just mean that HP as wounds doesn't mean loosing your hand or something like that, as I've seem it, but that doesn't mean that the character is untouched until 0 HP.

Of course. I always assume that a character that was "hit" by a dagger 4 times has various nicks and superficial cuts, but was never actually stabbed in the gut by said dagger. Unless of course, he was dropped to 0 hp --- but, even then, it would have to be a stab that wasn't deep enough to to rupture any major organs and that somehow avoided all major arteries.

In regards to psychic damage, those cause Hit Point damage just as much as any weapon attack. That tells me that Hit Points are abstract enough to be whatever the table needs them to be.

I'd just as soon they rename the mechanic to Resolve and be done with it. 
Call them Grit Points!!!
When playing 4e with my littlest cousins in a Naruto-like setting, HP was chakra use for sustitutions, very fast dodges, and other silly defensive jutsu.

Me: The Orge's club crashes against you r pody but fortunately for you, it was just a water clone. 10 damage.
CC: No, I have rock armor. He's the water clone user. Anyway, I twin strike the orge with my stone swords.

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

I always liked thinking about HP like this:

An attack hits you for 16 points of damage.

You have to "spend" HP to turn that 16 points of damage from a fatal blow into a scratch/bruise/scrape/parry/block/miss/etc.

As you level and become a more skilled combatant, it becomes easier to avoid lethal blows so you gain more HP to spend.
I always liked thinking about HP like this:

An attack hits you for 16 points of damage.

You have to "spend" HP to turn that 16 points of damage from a fatal blow into a scratch/bruise/scrape/parry/block/miss/etc.

As you level and become a more skilled combatant, it becomes easier to avoid lethal blows so you gain more HP to spend.

Makes sense to me.

HP as meat
I usually interpret Hit Points as meat in my games and see no big problems with that.
In that case the "why you gain more HP with levels" is the greater abstraction, and not exactly what HP means specifically.


Imagine it as an Action Movie.
--> At level 10 your character is Rambo. For some reason he's the though guy who despite lots of adversities, after being stabbed, bled and punched to almost death, can still find the strength to keep fighting and beat the hell out of the bad guys.
--> At level 1 you're one of those vietnamese extras in the movies, whom Rambo kills with one arrow or stab.


How much abstraction/realism?
Is this a perfect representation of damage, wounds, and all? No, definitelly not. But it works fine for the game, just as it works for action movies.

One of the advantages is that you keep a more distinct separation from what TH, damage, AC, healing and all this stuff means. If HP is not injury then all this stuff becomes blurry. Questions like "If hit points mean dodging blows, what's the difference from AC, a hit and a no-hit?" are raised and no real satisfying answer is ever reached.

Frankly, I find it easier and more satisfying to just accept that for some reason the more experienced adventurers can whitstand more blows and keep fighting than heading down that path of trying to find a "plausible abstraction" for everything, which always leads only to a greater mess.


Wounds don't slow you down

And... yes, I agree! When treated as injury/meat, it doesn't make much sense that the wounds your character suffer don't slow him down in any way until he finally receives that actual "deadly wound" and falls.
But that's a choice solely made for gameplay purposes, not an actual interpretation of an abstraction. It's basically sayin "Ok, this is kinda weird but let's just ignore this detail so as not to slow the game to a perpetual micro-managing of bonuses and penalties."

You can, if you so desire, add some house-rule that states something like: at every 20% of your total HP lost you receive a -1 penalty on actions.
But good luck with the book-keeping. Especially in big fights with 5 players or so, and 15+ NPCs involved. 
I stopped interpreting Hit Points as meat when I realized it meant every 1st level commoner with a Con score of 12+ was a Wolverine-like mutant that could regenerate a dagger wound in 6 hours of rest. I find it creates more problems than it solves.
How much abstraction/realism?
Is this a perfect representation of damage, wounds, and all? No, definitelly not. But it works fine for the game, just as it works for action movies.

One of the advantages is that you keep a more distinct separation from what TH, damage, AC, healing and all this stuff means. If HP is not injury then all this stuff becomes blurry. Questions like "If hit points mean dodging blows, what's the difference from AC, a hit and a no-hit?" are raised and no real satisfying answer is ever reached.

Frankly, I find it easier and more satisfying to just accept that for some reason the more experienced adventurers can whitstand more blows and keep fighting than heading down that path of trying to find a "plausible abstraction" for everything, which always leads only to a greater mess.


Wounds don't slow you down

And... yes, I agree! When treated as injury/meat, it doesn't make much sense that the wounds your character suffer don't slow him down in any way until he finally receives that actual "deadly wound" and falls.
But that's a choice solely made for gameplay purposes, not an actual interpretation of an abstraction. It's basically sayin "Ok, this is kinda weird but let's just ignore this detail so as not to slow the game to a perpetual micro-managing of bonuses and penalties."



What I find wierd about this, is that most people (and forgive me if you're not one of them, your post just got me thinking about it) who support HP=meat, dislike stuff like martial healing because it feels too "abstract" or "gamey", not "simulationist" enough, etc. But, as you point out, HP=Meat is itself gamey as hell, and if its "simulating" anything its an action movie, not real world combat.