Alternate HP Rules

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I've been researching other Role Playing systems, and a clear majority do not model an experienced character's ability to stay alive longer by doling out more hit points. They do things like... increase defense skill, what a concept! Unfortunately, none of those systems are widely used or as THOROUGHLY designed as D&D, so I'm still a big D&D fan.

I noticed in the discussion about how 4th Edition was developed a mention of ideas "that were no longer D&D". This implies that some rule changes would potentially kill a sacred cow. My guess is that hit points that increase with level constitutes one such cow.

My question to WoTC is this: Could you guys at least work on something for the next "Unearthed Arcana" (or whatever)? Actually having AC increase with level is a step in the right direction (THANK YOU!). But let's face it: the fact that a 20th level character requires a small army of low-level clerics to heal up will never make sense. Not even a little.
Remember that Hit Points is an abstract concept.

A high-level character does not "require" an army of clerics. He just has potential for that amount of health they can infuse him with, unlike lesser beings.

Think of it like this: Only the hit points you got at first level are your "real" hit points. Anything beyond that represents a mix of increased luck, survival instincts, willpower, hardening of the body, etc.

If you suffer damage, it's not necessarily an injury. It might just be a flesh wound, a "close shot" or an impact you resisted through force of will, although it sapped some of that will. Later, when the cleric heals you, he restores some of your health, luck, willpower, vitality, vigor, or whatever else you want the positive energy to represent.

So when a high-level character is reduced to 2 Hit Points, he's in just as bad a state as a low-level character down to 2 HP. However, his superior luck/training/willpower/whatever has kept him alive despite adversity that would have killed the low-level character much sooner.

And when the clerics heal them both up to 20 HP (the low-level character's max), they're still in equally good shape, but the high-level character has potential for much more and can receive and benefit from much more positive energy.

So, as I said, it's an abstract system and thus trying to translate it into wounds or blood loss will automatically result in skewed impressions.

And it's so delightfully simple once you get the gist of what Hit Points represent that you don't have to spend much energy on it, and can instead focus on the story and fun.
As an abstraction, hit points may lack high realism, but they are elegant.

I think introducing new damage thresholds (as done in Star Wars SAGA Edition) will help hit points feel more "real" by introducing results of damage loss not covered by the current rules...

Currently, a player could take 49 hit points worth of damage with no ill effects (assuming they had 50+ hp to start with)... Introducing "personal" damage thresholds, and the concept of a Condition Track tied to those thresholds, adds some nice opportunities to scale toughness with experience as well as add realism without sacrificing simplicity.
Of course if the system changed the way healing worked, then hitpoints would make sense to everyone.

If hitpoints came back rapidly, then they would easily be a measure of someones luck, ability to avoid blows and minor injuries.

Which makes sense that as you get to higher levels you get more skilled at avoiding damage.

But as long as they keep healing the same way as they do now, hitpoints just don't make sense.
I think Star Wars almost had it right.

Excpet it was easier to heal the condition track damage then it was to heal hit points. Which I wish they had gone the other way around on.

Make the condition track represent real wounds and damage and hit points represent the old star wars vitality system.

If they did that I think it would have been perfect, but that's just me.
My group has been using a houserule to speed up healing hit point damage for some time now and it works great. It's never made sense that something that DOESN'T represent physical damage takes so long to heal so we let characters heal a lot more between encounters and by the hour. It's kind of like a more active Second Wind from Saga.
It especially doesn't make sense that an abstract number that doesn't necessarily doesn't represent actual physical damage takes longer to heal the higher level you are.

Natural healing should be a percentage, or scale with level better than it does rather being the near constant that it is now.

I'm not sure how magical healing will work, but overall I don't have a problem with it. Magical healing still needs more granularity though, and spells that scale with level better as well.
It especially doesn't make sense that an abstract number that doesn't necessarily doesn't represent actual physical damage takes longer to heal the higher level you are.

It doesn't, it heals faster.
When you gain a level, your "abstract number" increases, and so does it's recovery rate. Immediately, you notice that, not only are you able to sustain more effort and distress, but now you go from "exhausted" (let's say, 3HP) to "yeah, I can take another one" (let's say: 15HP) in faster than you did before.

Sure, it takes you longer to recover fully. But recovering fully means going beyond what you could do before, so of course it will take longer to heal, it will will have much more to heal now.
Justifications for the system that include actually bieng able to physically being able to absorb more damage do not gel with either reality or with any sort of fantasy fiction. When an experienced character in a book gets damaged, they are no easier or harder to heal than a peasant. The only thing that keeps them from getting damaged as easily is their skill and wits.
Justifications for the system that include actually bieng able to physically being able to absorb more damage do not gel with either reality or with any sort of fantasy fiction.

This was a little confusing to me. Are you saying that being able to absorb more physical damage is not realistic? 'cause I would have to disagree.
When an experienced character in a book gets damaged, they are no easier or harder to heal than a peasant. The only thing that keeps them from getting damaged as easily is their skill and wits.

He is not harder to heal, he is just as easy.
Think of whichever fantasy character you like the most. Now imagine he goes to war and gets stabbed once in the arm. It's gonna take the cleric the exact same effort to heal his injury, as it will take that same cleric to heal some other soldier's stabbed arm (X amount of HP). The thing is, after having his arm healed, the soldier is still tired, but he's gonna raise his head and get ready for the next battle. On the other hand, if the cleric is willing to spare a couple extra healing spells, your favorite fantasy character could still recover his splendid stamina back to full and charge into the next battle ready to dodge a hundred more blows.

It is not harder to heal an experienced soldier. Only he has much more potential to be healed. If both he and a regular soldier fall to -1HP, they are both going to require the same amount of healing to have all their wounds healed and have the same health, but the experienced one will still have a lot more potential to be healed beyond that.
Does that mean that he we won't be at the top of his game?
Yeah, he won't.
Does that mean that he is not as well recovered as the regular soldier (who was fully healed)?
Absolutely not. Their HPs are the same, so he is at least as well recovered as the regular guy.
The thing is, the top of his game is far beyond the regular soldier's "fully healed" status.
When rules for fantasy role playing have been reimagined, nobody has ever decided to simulate using a growing massive pool of hit points. There are plenty of other easy to use and more intuitive methods out there. Please don't comment unless you have some expertise to offer (preferably knowledge of other RPG systems).

If WOTC put their considerable creative and thoughtful efforts toward it, they could come up with something great. The point is that such a thing would kill a sacred cow. One of the four main D&D roles has ALWAYS been the healer (4th Edition is just formalizing that role). This is necessitated by the game's design, not necessarily by what makes for a good story and a fun time. But that's why any change or optional rule would be so difficult; it would significantly change the way one of the 4 roles should be built.
When rules for fantasy role playing have been reimagined, nobody has ever decided to simulate using a growing massive pool of hit points. There are plenty of other easy to use and more intuitive methods out there. Please don't comment unless you have some expertise to offer (preferably knowledge of other RPG systems).

If WOTC put their considerable creative and thoughtful efforts toward it, they could come up with something great. The point is that such a thing would kill a sacred cow. One of the four main D&D roles has ALWAYS been the healer (4th Edition is just formalizing that role). This is necessitated by the game's design, not necessarily by what makes for a good story and a fun time. But that's why any change or optional rule would be so difficult; it would significantly change the way one of the 4 roles should be built.

Careful with presuming others have no or little expertise or experience. And while there are other ways of handling character survival, few are as simple and easy-to-use as "classic-style" Hit Points.

The Vitality and Wound System was curious, but it had awfully lethal flaws, encouraging players to take advantage of those (such as increasing chances of getting crits to damage Wound Points directly, avoiding the Vitality Points) and also rendering the heroes relatively fragile (encouraging Fortification armor).

What I'm trying to say is that while other systems might be more "accurate" or "realistic", you need to consider the consequences of such overhauls, and often those are making something simple complicated or filling it with loopholes for powergamers to exploit, and only at a small increase in "realism"...

That's the beauty of Hit Points. It's so abstract you (as the DM) can explain it any way you like, so it makes sense in any given situation.

Lastly, it seems many of the Leader-type classes in 4E will be able to "heal" in a variety of ways while doing other things. For instance, the Warlord is supposedly able to rally and inspire allies when charging enemies, allowing them to "recover".. That doesn't mention healing or bandaging or closing wounds, but rather uses an abstraction that makes it seem plausible the characters can keep fighting. Just like Bards' Inspire Greatness ability grants temporary hit points in 3E, it might grant "healing" instead in 4E.
As an abstraction, hit points may lack high realism, but they are elegant.

Simple is not equivalent to elegant. I've always had issues with hp systems and they only get worse the more you have. Allow me to illustrate:

You have a 50hp fighter...he's taken 49 points of damage. You have a 10hp hireling who has taken 9 points of damage. Since a lot of the fighter's "damage" wasn't DAMAGE, but was instead "his ability to dodge, weave, deflect the blow, yada yada." How does the Cleric know he needs to burn a higher level cure spell on him than on the hireling?

Additionally, hit points make "character building" injuries (losing an eye, etc.) harder to model.

The Saga Edition condition track was a good start, but I don't know why they kept the hp at all. Just give each character an appropriate defense, beat it and drop a condition. Other systems, like Mutants and Masterminds run multiple injury types.
When rules for fantasy role playing have been reimagined, nobody has ever decided to simulate using a growing massive pool of hit points. There are plenty of other easy to use and more intuitive methods out there. Please don't comment unless you have some expertise to offer (preferably knowledge of other RPG systems).

If WOTC put their considerable creative and thoughtful efforts toward it, they could come up with something great. The point is that such a thing would kill a sacred cow. One of the four main D&D roles has ALWAYS been the healer (4th Edition is just formalizing that role). This is necessitated by the game's design, not necessarily by what makes for a good story and a fun time. But that's why any change or optional rule would be so difficult; it would significantly change the way one of the 4 roles should be built.

I don't think it has to. Imagine that instead of abstract hp, we had a system that actually dealt Light, Serious, and Critical Wounds. Such a system can easily be cobbled together from Mutants and Masterminds (which kinda made it into Unearthed Arcana) and the Saga Edition.

If you'll allow me to put on a speculative design hat for a moment. You'll have a Dodge Defense that must be beat to hit you with a normal attack. Now here's the thing, if that gets beat, we move to the damage resolution. Where you get an Armor Defense that comes in three tiers of base 10/20/30 for Light, Serious, and Critical. To which you add modifiers for Armor worn, class, Constitution, etc. So a Ftr 5 might have an Armor defense of 20/30/40. So if you hit him with a 23 point hit, he takes a Light wound, a 43 point hit does a critical wound. Each wound moves him down the condition track (maybe two steps for the crit) and possibly gives future attacks a bonus to damage rolls. That way you can still "wear down" tougher opponents.

So how does this provide for healers. Same way it always did. Except now when you cast Cure Serious Wounds, you actually are.

Now I'm just tossing that off the top of my head, obviously you'd need to playtest it and refine it, but its certainly a workable, simple, solution.
Lastly, it seems many of the Leader-type classes in 4E will be able to "heal" in a variety of ways while doing other things. For instance, the Warlord is supposedly able to rally and inspire allies when charging enemies, allowing them to "recover".. That doesn't mention healing or bandaging or closing wounds, but rather uses an abstraction that makes it seem plausible the characters can keep fighting. Just like Bards' Inspire Greatness ability grants temporary hit points in 3E, it might grant "healing" instead in 4E.

Didn't the Crusader from the Book of the 9 Swords have a number of attacks that healed his allies if successful? Sounds like a very, very similar mechanism is going to be used...
Remember that Hit Points is an abstract concept.

A high-level character does not "require" an army of clerics. He just has potential for that amount of health they can infuse him with, unlike lesser beings.

Think of it like this: Only the hit points you got at first level are your "real" hit points. Anything beyond that represents a mix of increased luck, survival instincts, willpower, hardening of the body, etc.

If you suffer damage, it's not necessarily an injury. It might just be a flesh wound, a "close shot" or an impact you resisted through force of will, although it sapped some of that will. Later, when the cleric heals you, he restores some of your health, luck, willpower, vitality, vigor, or whatever else you want the positive energy to represent.

So when a high-level character is reduced to 2 Hit Points, he's in just as bad a state as a low-level character down to 2 HP. However, his superior luck/training/willpower/whatever has kept him alive despite adversity that would have killed the low-level character much sooner.

And when the clerics heal them both up to 20 HP (the low-level character's max), they're still in equally good shape, but the high-level character has potential for much more and can receive and benefit from much more positive energy.

So, as I said, it's an abstract system and thus trying to translate it into wounds or blood loss will automatically result in skewed impressions.

And it's so delightfully simple once you get the gist of what Hit Points represent that you don't have to spend much energy on it, and can instead focus on the story and fun.

I agree with you. HP is abstract. It took me a while to come to that conclusion but I realized it eventually.

I would not mind a condition tracker system though.
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