Let's make a hit mean a hit and damage mean damage

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I know, I know D&D has a great system (becasue it is balanced, simple to learn and fast) And HP and AC have been a huge part of it from the begining.

But I have a bit of a problem saying, oh, I know it says you missed, but really you hit, you just didn't get through his armor. Or worse I know it says you hit the guy and it says you did damage. But he is just such a good fighter, he was able to parry your blow; you just tired him out a bit.

These sort of seperations between what is happening in the game (of character sheets as dice) and the game (of warriors, wizards and monsters) sort of distract from the game (both).

A good example of this is how armor works. If you play a high level fast swashbuckler-like warrior or a well armored knight like warrior. and something attacks you both characters have a high AC making both character hard to hit. Despite the fact that these two fighter should feel totally opposite, the end up feeling exactly the same (at least in reguards to taking damage)

How would you beat these two warriors in real life (not really real life, but you know what I mean) well if you can just get ahold of that quick little guy, you should be able to do some seriouse damage. But with that guy in heavy armor, you just need to beat him down, or get hit him hard enough that you damage him despite his armor.

I know that there is alot more that seperates these two warriors fight than how they avoid damage. And many of these aspects are taken into account in 3.x rules.

Suggestion. Let Armor actually protect you from damage rather than make you harder to hit. You could even make make armor make you easier to hit.


Another big problem is just how HP work. If you play that swashbuckling fast warrior, you still get lots of hit points at hight levels. So when you do get hit by that great ax (wich is almost garanteed to happen at high levels becasue AC doesn't really improve much as you progress and attack bonus does) Well this litte fast swashbuckler survives because in this case (as the game designers would say) having a lot of HP means that he wasn't really hit, he just got a little tired.

The real problem with this is how it make combat feel in the game. You get into what I call the beat down effect. As you raise levels it is no longer a question about if your character can hit the other guy, or if that other guy can hit you. They both will hit each other a lot. It is just a race to get the other guy to zero HP's before the other guy get you to 0 HP's. this makes combat slow, repatiative, and worse of all boring.

A couple of fixes. Let AC or as I prefer to call it Def (becasue I don't think it should really have much to do with your armor) increase as you go up in level. This would not be all that much of a change, many D20 games already do this (including Star Wars). This lets that character whose thing is avoid getting hit, still not get hit as levels increase.
Also if HP's mean that you can defend easier, then let high level characters do more damage (this is also something that you can do in Star Wars)

I'm not saying that D&D needs to change tons. There are already games out there that have a very realistic combat system, but D&D is muh simpler. I just think a few little changes could make D&D better without making really complicated like say The Hero System.

But combat should be as fast and as fun as possible. The current system really doesn't do that. It is fast, but the system becomes very repetative because things like hits and damage are too abstracted away from actually getting hit and actually getting hurt.
Some of your ideas are interesting but I'm not sure how well it would work in practice. In reality no one is tough enough to withstand getting stabbed in the chest with a sword more than a few times, so what about the D&D Barbarian who has no armour doesn't try to dodge that often but has a stack of HP, if we say that hit and damage needs to mean, you suffer an injury how do we reconcile the barbarian to this. More so how would we distinguish the barbarian from other lighty armoured combantants like the monk. The monk are the barbarian both fight in contrasting manners, do we simply give them the same increases to AC even though they obviously aren't the same style of fighter?

Also what about critical hits? If you got critically hit, surely in terms of what makes sense if hits and damage have a less abstract meaning, you'd die.

If the system was changed so the hits and damage meant hits and damage AC would be the king and attacks that automatically hit would be much much more deadly. At least that is why I think the current system is good.
"He didn't hit me, he just hit my armour" or "my shield" is completely analogous to "He didn't hit me, he just hit the wall I was hiding behind". In each case, something stopped the attack actually hitting you.
Suggestion. Let Armor actually protect you from damage rather than make you harder to hit. You could even make make armor make you easier to hit.

There is at least one thread on this board explaining why threshold DR is necessarily either broken or of minimal effect in any system where damage values are not extremely tightly controlled ("Of armour and DR", I believe). And fractional DR is a pain to implement on the tabletop. If you have a workable alternative, there are many who'd love to see it.
I agree; I don't like this fuzzy damage. Was I hit or wasn't I? should be a binary yes or no question not determined by a DM's narration of exactly what happened. (That narration is, by the way, without mechanical effect so essentially the game doesn't distinguish between getting hit and not getting hit.)

It's way too late to change D&D, but designers of new games should consider the possibility of creating an *explicit*, well defined "not hit but used up energy in avoiding it" sort of rule for heroes. (Non heroes would almost always just take damage.)

In a lot of ways the Star Wars vitality/wounds system was this sort of thing, clearly spelling out when you were not hit or only superficially hit and when you were really, seriously, honest to God hit. I didn't like the particular implementation of it but the basic idea has promise.

I really think the game would be improved if a hit really meant just that. There could be, a la D&D's "energy and luck" hit point function, some middle state of not being hit and yet still suffering a loss in some combat efficacy or resource, but it sure would be nice to have a bright-line demarcation between hits, misses, and near-misses/semi-hits.

the way it is it's just all muddled together.
No.
Because, of course, there should be more binary bright-line certainty about whether or not you've picked a lock than whether you've gotten a sword stuck into you.

Grognards. Sheesh.
I vote no.

Damage has to be an abstraction where humans take the same types of attacks that Collosal Dragons do. Giving the things the full spread of DR and making it ballanced would be nigh impossible, and adding dodge rolls would make combat more complex. And just shafting players on HP would kill the whole heroic fantasy thing.

I suppose D&D could go the Exaulted route and just claim your character can take 4 axes to the torso before dying, but I like giving the DMs options.
Well... At least we got custom avatars....
There are also plenty of times where you might get hit and not injured. You might take that Greataxe to the face and get right back up, pis$ed as hell, with a broken jaw, but the blade just couldn't cut you're head off, cuz you're one tough SOB. That sword might have cleaved into your side a bit, hewing flesh and muscle tissue, but it scraped and stalled against your ribcage (Or maybe even in your muscles themselves!) before doing serious damage. These characters are a single heal check away from being nearly fine - perfectly able to continue fighting for the rest of the day.

You know, now that I think about it, it seems reasonable that a solid Heal (skill) check should be able to eliminate the "Bloodied" status.

Maybe instead of Con increasing hitpoints it could grant some DR itself? Like... DR 1/-- per con bonus? Sounds really good, but it really wouldn't be considering the amount of life you'd not have.

One way to impliment your idea of Armor preventing damage is to give Armor a hardness and HP value. It doesn't grant you any DR per se, but it has its own, and magical armor has higher hardness and higher HP. Whenever a hit deals more damage than your armor's hardness you subtract that from the armor's HP. Whenever your armor's HP is reduced to 0 it breaks (nonfunctional). Wearing armor actually makes you easier to hit though.

And just one more thing: Just because a guy is a lightly armored fencer-type doesn't mean he isn't tough as nails. I happen to be a "small, lightly armored (preferably none) fencer type" but I've taken some serious hits without even thinking of stopping.
A hit is just piercing the target's basic defense be it his armor, speedy, or size and getting to a vulnerable area. The damage cause by the hit is merely the amount of danger or lethality of the attack. Having armor count for DR doesn't work half the time and near impossible to do right.

Con graining DR sound silly to me. Con for HP makes sense because it suggest increased stamina for dodging. But outside of undead, oozes, constructs, and things with natural armor and DR; Con "ain't gonna make that sword not pierce your hide."

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 think it can make sense either way. You can have a high Con and have inexhaustible reserves of stamina, or you can have a high Con and just be freaking tough (strong bones, tough skin, steely muscle tissue, etc...).
It has been discussed before. While it might be fine as idea, it has several problems as implementation.

Main one, that, as happened in the crussades and up to the developement of firearms, plate warriors become absolutely unstopable except for plate-piercing weapons such as halberds. The plated knights cut through armies of scimitar wielding oponents like there is no tomorrow.
That would bassically reduce the fighter stereotipes to
1) knights (which in the late periods used maces instead of swords)
2) polearm users
3) big two handers users

A lot of the the flavour and options (like dual wielding kukri fighters, rangers with dual scimitarsTM, rapier-using swasbucklers and the several others would suffer the same fate that in RL: defeat)
Similarly, the "dex based AC" players will find themselves in a bad balance, being much easier to kill

If armor works as in RL, the game follow RL patterns: armor completelly beat everything else, until the development of armor-ignoring muskets.

IMHO, game balance, game fun, and multiple viable choices for players >>>>>>> realism so bad, that there is not even a discussion
Well, I said based in the "miss and still do damage" thread, that the perfect solution to the binary "you hit or miss" would be a trinary system: miss, hit armor or hit flesh.

The system is easy althrough only a bit more complicated than binary, you roll to hit and then you see if you roll over reflex defense and then if you roll under AC being AC the reflex + the armor protection.

Hitting armor should still cause some damage, don't matters what kind of armor you have, being hit by a large ogre is going to hurt. The mencionated thread says that you will deal your str. mod as damage and is logical that you could add some other kinds of damage like the fire from a magical sword or power attack, this system also handles touch attacks ever better than actual system since you can add touch effects without being weird when used as a regular attack.
While it would be great if this kind of system could work and be simplified there seem to be numerous problems.

Even if you hit armor you could still do damage. Certain types of weapons would do more damage to certain types of armor.

Armor would also have to deteriorate over time based on how much damage it took.

Placement of the hit would need to be taken into account. Again this complicates and slows down fighting.

How do you account for getting tired in a fight?

Instead I prefer a system where anytime a single "hit" does over 1/3 of a characters hit points it is considered a wound. All other damage is considered superficial (minor wounds like nicks, cuts, scrapes) and exhaustion. All minor wounds are easily healed after combat. Major wounds that do over 1/3 of a characters hit points have to be healed normally by rest or other various cure spells or potions.

Simple, straightforward and keeps things fairly fast paced while characters can still take actual wounds.
I'm not saying we need to make combat in D&D 100% realistic. I mean a single knife under the right rib can kill, just about anyone. It is a game, and the goal of any rules should be to make it a fun game. My problem with the way hit's and damge work, is just that they are so abstract they don't seem to mean anything at all.

I don't know if my suggestions are good fixes or not. But I do think there should be some simple ways to do it.

But the way the current system works, there are some seriose problems with how the game plays. If a hit doesn't mean a hit and damage doesn't mean damage then why even have them. I mean you could have a system where you just had a combat ability that incorperated all aspects of combat, and then just have apposed combat checks to see who wins, but think that would be much fun. But at least it would acknowledge that it is all an abstraction.


If your character gets better at attacking and avoiding attack as they pregress, then why not give them a level adjustment to their AC rather than give more HP's. I'm okay giving them more HP's as they improve. I just want it to mean they are better at taking a hit rather than being better at not getting hit.


Two fighters at high level fighter in the current system (if you don't include magic weapons) will just slowly beat eachother down, hitting with almost every attack. But they will seem to be full strength until one of them just keals over when they reach 0 HP. Not to exciting. They could almost take turns rolling damage against each other. I know this is an over simplification. But it illistrates the problem.

At high levels your primary defensive stat changes from your AC to your HP's.
Another big problem is just how HP work. If you play that swashbuckling fast warrior, you still get lots of hit points at hight levels.

Where's the problem here? The fact that you're a fast swashbuckler does not mean you have fewer hps, or that you should have fewer hps.

in regards to the rest of your post: We've always played that Hps really are the amount of damage you can take, not some nebulous combination of stamina/toughness/etc. When your character can lift boulders, parley with dragons and cast spells of earth-shattering doom (TM), taking 10 arrows to the head and chest should be just another day at the office.
I actually already have house ruled that armor means damage reduction, that all classes get a defense bonus to their defense (yep, I call it that way too) equal to their ref save and that a critical threat is when a characters attack roll is better than a defender's defense roll (it's not that complicated to ahve them both roll) by 10 or more.

If the critical hit is confirmed then you, as the attacker, choose one of this options:
-You double the damage dealt to the the character (after DR)
-You ignore the target's armor. This one is very important because it's the way that a guy with a lot of attack and very few damage can beat an armored knight.
-You hit on an specific body part such as the hand, the arm of the tentacles. Then the defender has to make a fort save and depending on the result compared to the damage, he might get a penalty using that body part or he might just lose it.

There are more rules concerning critical range and x3 crit weapons as well as other stuff.

But the important thing here is that I completely agree with the operator and all of those who defend this sistem because there's not a one-rule solution should think about three-rules solutions. They are completely worth it.
Much as I despise the abstraction of current HP and AC...as far as simplicity and speed are concerned, there is no better system that still maintains at least a semblance of combat feel.

I'd choose a system that distinguishes between evasiveness, durability, and and sheer stamina, any day of the week. But, even a well-balanced and effective system is going to require extra book-keeping and/or more steps to resolve completely.

I tinkered with a concept a while back where someone's Con score determined how long they could fight at a certain pace before suffering penalties... It worked, but it was tedious to keep track of. Ever since ToB came out, I've been contemplating reworking the system to see if I can get it to work without the excessive book-keeping.

Eh, we'll see I guess.

For now, it's HP and AC...because no one can find a better way that works.
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The the miniature rules Striker for the GDW sci-fi game Traveller had a good system. You roll to hit (sort of like a touch attack). If you succeed you rolled to penetrate the armor (+ weapon penetration value - armor value). Depending on how high you rolled is how badly the target got injured (no effect, light would, serious wound, death).

This is a realistic system and very deadly. I still use it in my customized sci-fi game, but I don't think it is appropriate for heroic fantasy games. D&D is fine for heroic fantasy because of the abstract combat. It is self consistent and allows characters to take a lot of damage and keep on fighting, just like in books and movies. If you make it too realistic then a lucky sword blow from a 1st level warrior is going to kill your 20th level fighter. Now how heroic is that?

(Edit: If you're the 1st level warrior I guess that is pretty heroic. At least your city guard friends will thing so. )

The wound point/vitality point system is a good compromise for 3.x D&D. We'll have to wait until the books are out to see what it is like in 4e.
While it would be great if this kind of system could work and be simplified there seem to be numerous problems.

Even if you hit armor you could still do damage.

My system utilizes a so-called 'trinary system' for hitting.
Attack < AC = no tiring or harm to your opponent.
Attack => AC = limited tiring or harm (reduced by DR). Minimum of at least 1 hp lost.
Attack => AC+5 = full tiring or harm (bypassed DR).

Certain types of weapons would do more damage to certain types of armor.

We have this function contained within our critical hit system. That way we aren't burdened by it for every successful attack but it still comes into play when it matters.

Armor would also have to deteriorate over time based on how much damage it took.

I have been unsuccessful in designing a suitable mechanic for this. I stick to my mantra of quick, simple, and intuitive.

Placement of the hit would need to be taken into account. Again this complicates and slows down fighting.

Again, this appears only criticals with confirmed effects.

How do you account for getting tired in a fight?

A hp/wp system where hps represent your general fatigue and morale type 'damage' and wps represent true physical harm. hps = 0 results in fatigue, wps = 0 results in exhaustion, -wps = dying.

Instead I prefer a system where anytime a single "hit" does over 1/3 of a characters hit points it is considered a wound. All other damage is considered superficial (minor wounds like nicks, cuts, scrapes) and exhaustion. All minor wounds are easily healed after combat. Major wounds that do over 1/3 of a characters hit points have to be healed normally by rest or other various cure spells or potions.

Honestly? This is much more complex than it needs to be or what we use in our game system.

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I'm not saying we need to make combat in D&D 100% realistic. I mean a single knife under the right rib can kill, just about anyone. It is a game, and the goal of any rules should be to make it a fun game. My problem with the way hit's and damge work, is just that they are so abstract they don't seem to mean anything at all.

I don't know if my suggestions are good fixes or not. But I do think there should be some simple ways to do it.

But the way the current system works, there are some seriose problems with how the game plays. If a hit doesn't mean a hit and damage doesn't mean damage then why even have them. I mean you could have a system where you just had a combat ability that incorperated all aspects of combat, and then just have apposed combat checks to see who wins, but think that would be much fun. But at least it would acknowledge that it is all an abstraction.


If your character gets better at attacking and avoiding attack as they pregress, then why not give them a level adjustment to their AC rather than give more HP's. I'm okay giving them more HP's as they improve. I just want it to mean they are better at taking a hit rather than being better at not getting hit.


Two fighters at high level fighter in the current system (if you don't include magic weapons) will just slowly beat eachother down, hitting with almost every attack. But they will seem to be full strength until one of them just keals over when they reach 0 HP. Not to exciting. They could almost take turns rolling damage against each other. I know this is an over simplification. But it illistrates the problem.

At high levels your primary defensive stat changes from your AC to your HP's.

Shadowrun has a somewhat realistic system in which your Reaction stat decides how hard you are to hit, but your Body stat along with your armor rating is rolled vs the damage you took. It works better in that system than it would in D&D, however, because it uses a dice pool and not just a D20 for task resolution.

Of course, in Shadowrun, every bullet that hits you could be the last, so it probably wouldn't be too popular with most D&D fans. Critical hits occur FAR less in Shadowrun than in D&D, and with a 1 in 20 chance for a crit, there's no way in crap that there should be one hit kills.

I can see where you're coming from, but D&D has always been about action. 4E seems to be going towards fast-paced action, so a slightly more realistic, albeit slower system probably just won't be in the cards.

That's how I see it at least.

Go give Shadowrun a try if you wanna get your head blown off. It's fun! :D
The thing is D&D is a heroic fantasy game. The PCs don't just fight human opponents in the average campaign, they fight strange and fantastic monsters, some of which are far too large to be defeated by toothpicks in a vaguely realistic system. But D&D deliberately doesn't have a realistic combat system. Players avoid combat in realistic or gritty combat systems, while the tactical combats are a main (perhaps the main) selling point of D&D.

Yes, the AC/hp system is an abstraction, but one that makes it possible to attempt to balance the disparate character classes between each other and against the amazing variety of D&D creatures. Myself, I think of hp in action thriller terms, with each hit indicating at least a scratch or a bruise, but not a serious or debilitating injury as there is no system in place for these. If there is a condition track in 4e this will allow for the indication of penalties separate from hp.

HP have been stated to be an abstraction ever since 1e. I remember in 1e days on seeing Runequest trying to introduce grittier rules into D&D, but I abandoned the attempt eventually as it made the game too complex in return for dubious results. Nowadays I think D&D is the wrong RPG for a grittier wound-based combat system - there are other systems out there with different core assumptions.
I don't want to add any extra rolls or game mechanics to D&D. Everything you add makes things go slower, and the last thing you want combat to be is slow. (slow = boring) But what if we just took some of that it's actually hard to hit me stuff that WotC puts into your HP's and put it into your Defence. Is there a really good reason why AC's don't really go up as your character progresses.
I have an issue with the OP's suggestion.

What he is essentially proposing is that combat be broken up into 2 parts - a attack roll against the target's touch AC to determine if you hit, then dr to reduce the damage you actually deal.

I personally feel that armour as dr is a very problematic rule that is very easy to screw up, in that there is apparently no 1-size-fits-all value that can take into account all scenarios, unlike flat AC.

For example, too high a DR will make 2WFing suck, since damage is applied to each hit, but too low a DR will make it useless against 2HFing, since the damage prevented accounts for just a very small proportion of the total damage dealt.

It will be very hard to balance. I am not sure if it can even be done in the first place.

I am actually in favour of retaining the existing armour system, not necessarily because it is all that great, but because the alternatives don't seem so feasible, so it is really the lesser of 2 evils.
But D&D deliberately doesn't have a realistic combat system.

Are you kinding? D&D doesn't have a very realistic combat system because it's the original RPG and it has many old ideas stuck inside. But they certaintly have tried to make the game more "real" (which means, mechanically more coherent with the story)

My system utilizes a so-called 'trinary system' for hitting.
Attack < AC = no tiring or harm to your opponent.
Attack => AC = limited tiring or harm (reduced by DR). Minimum of at least 1 hp lost.
Attack => AC+5 = full tiring or harm (bypassed DR).


We have this function contained within our critical hit system. That way we aren't burdened by it for every successful attack but it still comes into play when it matters.

That's about the same thing that I tought: making good high hits pierce through armor. I just fused it with criticals, check out my last post.

See people, this way, if you are a double dagger fighter fighting a giant crab with a huge amount of DR you just have to bypass it's AC by +5 or +10... but now that the crab doesn't have that natural armor bonus to AC that's not really harder than it was before is it?


A hp/wp system where hps represent your general fatigue and morale type 'damage' and wps represent true physical harm. hps = 0 results in fatigue, wps = 0 results in exhaustion, -wps = dying.

I have so much dreamed of a sistem like that. Where do I read about it?
I would really like constitution to mean vitality rather than being just defensive strenght. (And I think that there should be eight ability scores: strenght, constitution, reflex, agility, intelligence, perception, will and charisma)


Ok people, if you still think that a sistem like the one I propose is too much, then I think that the best solution is to make armor mean hp. Having armors that increase your hp by 50% or 150% is just a way of having armor that reduces damage by 1/3 or by 3/5.

But please, please, please, lets unite against a sistem where it's logical that a lucky kobold will take no damage from the ogre's mace because it's natural armor protected him.
is this trolling?
"D&D is a heroic Fantasy" ... why is this statement always followed with some sort of recrimination for wanting to make your D&D games a "slightly more realistic heroic fantasy?" Honestly now,

I personally have no clue why people bother posting "you shouldn’t bother" on threads ... I mean ... You shouldn't bother ... If your not interested - leave it alone "If it don't ride, let it slide" or so they say.

To all the nay sayers I say this,
This damage thing is like a mountain.
If you don’t want to climb the mountain – stop getting in our way.
If you need an excuse to climb the mountain – then you don’t understand why people climb mountains.


I find the idea of putting some reality into the damage mechanics of ..D20.. to be a perfectly admirable (if tacitly impossible) endeavor. I have at times “grappled” with the issue and think somewhat thusly.

HP damage is not “trauma” as defined by the modern medical community. It’s at best “contusions and abrasions” but not actual “wounds” … even large damage. All HP damage is truly “a miss” in the strictest sense. The reality of the matter is that a sharp rock can kill a person, and the HP system represents “dodging” allot more than it represents physical integrity. Loosing HP is more like sweating than it is like bleeding. Reaching 0 HP represents the fact that the character has reached a point of exhaustion that they cannot defend themselves from attack any more and … as we all know, even an unarmed strike can reduce you from 1 HP to -1 HP. A single stab will eventually kill you – because you didn’t have no more energy to dodge.

If HP is your “dodge meter” then what is AC? I consider it “your guard” that’s why (using base rules) heavy plate mail is equivalent to fancy feet. The plate mail warrior is not “soaking” (WoD 1.0 term) the damage, but actually deflecting it. This is accurate insomuch as how armor really works – via distribution or deflection of force. A dexterous swashbuckler is capable of providing an equivalent amount of deflecting energies with their billowing white shirts and no small amount of what is technically called parrying. I know that “parry” is an actual action, but I remember the 3.0 rules mentioned that “a single attack roll represents multiple swings and potential parries” or some such verbiage. That said …

I would much prefer a slightly more complicated system of damage and what not, IF it can remain simple and easy to track.

Regarding some of the systems put forward … umm here’s my version

I have often (loosely) ruled that AC has three stages. For lack of better terms I will refer to them as “Base, Hit, and Slam”

First you figure out what your AC is sans physical or natural armor.
This is the AC you have to beat to “Touch or Base” the target.

Second you figure out what your AC is with Base AC plus Physical and Natural Armor.
This is the AC you have to beat to punch through the guard or “Hit” the target.

Base and Hit ACs are simply HP damage (winding the opponent). The difference is that if you Base “but don’t Hit” your target you have technically missed (unless you have special weapons) but it still counts as a successful Touch attack for discharge and etc kind of effects. If a character has no physical or natural armor then the Base AC and a Hit AC are the same, but if you have armor then a Hit deals its damage to the armor’s HP (after hardness) and to the HP of the character (after reduction). Again the target has suffered no “trauma” yet (though their armor might have), but a Hit is fatiguing the character.

Now, here comes the “shadowrun – one bullet death”

For “SLAM” damage you add half again your AC to your Hit AC and if an attack roll surpasses this AC you take the damage to your armor (if applicable), to your HP, and directly to your CON. Heh. No one has let me playtest this at “full power” (and I even ran it by some shadowrun players no less), but they have accepted both “bleeding wounds” and “1 point of CON damage” as acceptable alternatives to taking full longsword damage directly to their Constitution. Even though it only happens rarely.

When taustealthsuit says ‘e doesn’t want to add any new rolls to the system – I have to agree. Instead I have looked to a single roll to provide more information (and then applied one damage roll to multiple targets). No additional attributes have been added to the system (such as DR for armor), the very real phenomena of armor failing over time and use (mentioned earlier) is addressed with only the slightest change of rules (and no extra rolls). Honestly the most profound change this would entail is the fact that it would allow an otherwise “failed” attack roll to nonetheless trigger a touch attack (actually a very pointed tactical difference when you think about it).

Insomuch as the “SLAM” level, again .. I have never seen it in its “full glory” but I think what I have tested leaves me satisfied with the Half-Again amount (it’s rare enough, but when it happens you really feel like you were ..slammed). Perhaps it’s one of those “Tri-Rule” solutions. “When you defeat an opponents AC by half again the total AC you” auto crit, deal damage direct to con, or … something else ..

Finally, I have a hard time accepting the “fantasy hero” argument against making the rules more realistic. If there is one real key point in the damage and health system in D&D D20 that I have a “realism problem with” it is in the actual dying part. In real life it takes a long time to die. From the classic “ole west” gut shot, to this particularly harrowing story I once read .. the simple fact of the matter is that D&D characters die in seconds while real living creatures die over a matter of minutes and hours. I will relate the previously mentioned harrowing story. It is graphic so I will sblock.

death from massive damage


I was taking a course on the medical industry and a story that was tacitly about the “grief cycle” (denial, acceptance, bargaining .. that one) proved to me a tale of how powerful a human’s will to live can be, and how durable the body actually is. The patient suffered one single “attack” … that attack was the environmental damage suffered from the “fall” brought about by a car wreck. The woman was effectively crushed to death. The lower half of her body was literally smashed into the wall by the vehicle, but her upperbody was mostly fine. When the paramedics got there she was cognizant, alive, and doomed.

The vehicle had crushed her from roughly the abdomen down. The “only reason she was alive” was the fact that the vehicle was acting like a form of tourniquet. Without its deadly embrace she would have died from blood loss much sooner, but there was absolutely nothing they could do to save her. Any attempt to move the car would have released the pressure and all the blood in the woman’s body, and she would then die. Rather than provoke the inevitable the sheriff got her husband onto the scene to say goodbye. Now, here is the part that really touched me. Shortly after she spoke with her husband she died.

They didn’t remove the car, and technically she should have lived for a few more hours. The “tourniquet” was in place, and they expected her to survive long enough for her children to arrive. However, in her husband’s presence she was able to accept that despite the lack of pain (and her seemingly healthy upper body), there was no way she could live. So she let go, and she died. She only took one hit. She failed her “death from massive damage” roll, and she still lived for hours after the actual death blow. She lived until the point that she really honestly gave up and let go. Whatever and nonsense to “tourniquets” and “blood pressure” etc. I believe that it was her active and willful desire to live that kept her alive.

And anyone who says that women wasn’t a “hero” for holding on to say goodbye … don’t even talk to me.


I understand that even in that example we have a situation where death could have come much earlier, but even death from blood loss takes minutes. Death in base D20 takes roughly 6 seconds. Not realistic, nor the heroic “dragging oneself by one arm to strike once more at your enemy as you bleed your life’s blood onto the dirt” kinda game I would like to be able to play ... someday.
I'd like to point out that there are going to be four defense stats in 4E:
AC, Ref, Will, Fort.

Not every attack that involved swinging a weapon will be opposed by AC, as it was in 3E. That's the old way of thinking. The designers, contrary to the opinions of curmugeons, have actually be trying to drop all of the dead weight that does not tell a quick-but-interesting story of fantasy combat. They have suggested that realism (as in the laws of physics and anatomy) are not even second fiddle; just as they are often not the priority of novelists and filmmakers. (Or most players, I would hazard, but certainly some players.)


AC will counter strength-based attacks, and some other powers, such as many Paladin smites.

Ref will counter area effects, touch attacks and sneak attacks that bypass AC.

Will will counter many spells and magical effects, including powers that attack an enemy's resolve (such as fear or enchantment, one of the paladin smites also attacks Will)

Fort will counter many spells and magical effects, including powers that attack an enemy's health (such as poison or disintergration)

Most of the schema I see on this topic are trying to make AC do all of the work of defending the character. Some of that work has been moved to Ref, some to Fort.
Most of the schema I see on this topic are trying to make AC do all of the work of defending the character. Some of that work has been moved to Ref, some to Fort.

Actually seems more like they are trying to make AC work more realistically, as well as clarify the nature of what HP really is. Reflex and fort and Will are all means of defense, but the type of defense we are talking about is specifically the kind that is AC.
The abstraction of D&D combat is taking two dice rolls (to hit and damage) and combining them to cover a range of results. Those rolls (in 3E) stand opposed by AC, which is the abstracted sum of dodging, armor, magic protection, and anatomy.

(I'm not even going to touch HP for the moment!)

Now, I'm not sure why it is neccesary to pin down the results into an exact specific cause of losing "8 hp".

The list of results that are abstracted here is huge. I'll sum up a few:
  • A blade sneaks through protections just right with the full weight of the fighter behind it, decapitating the head (Possibly a max damage crit that causes the foe to fail his save vs massive damage)
  • The weapon scores a direct hit in a vulnerable spot in the armor, catching the victem unprepared. (Max damage with a successful to hit roll?)
  • A mace scores a solid impact on the breastplate, driving the foe back (Average roll?)
  • An ogre's massive battle axe scores a direct hit on the shoulder, but the armor absorbs some of the damage. (Average roll?)
  • The rogue hurls himself to the ground roughly to duck under the dragon's tailslap (Low damage roll?)
  • The spear solidly hits a pauldron, and is easily deflected by mithril decoration (Makes a touch AC, but fails to overcome the total AC? Alternately, minimum damage?)


I could make this posting into a novel. There are just too many outcomes in which dozens of variables are abstracted to two die rolls and an AC rating. Maybe what is really needed are better DM's so that every hit is described in an exciting and unique fashion, because I don't see how the system can remain simple and not boil down to "real", but repetitive results.
Actually seems more like they are trying to make AC work more realistically, as well as clarify the nature of what HP really is. Reflex and fort and Will are all means of defense, but the type of defense we are talking about is specifically the kind that is AC.

I agree. That's what they are trying to do.

But I would like to assert that trying to penetrate someone's armor with a weapon is not the only way to hurt them. And that combat is too complex to realistically model. In fact, it's too complex to even model on film in a realistic manner. One attack, sure, but a whole battle with multiple participants.

Who's got that kind of time?, I ask myself.
I remember in 1e days on seeing Runequest

Funny you should mention Runequest. RQ (at least the Avalon Hill edition), for all that it is (slightly) more "realistic" than D&D and with a lot fewer options, has plenty of broken mechanics. And its armour as DR mechanic is one of the worst, especially when combined with bladesharp and the armour-boosting equivalent.
I think it can make sense either way. You can have a high Con and have inexhaustible reserves of stamina, or you can have a high Con and just be freaking tough (strong bones, tough skin, steely muscle tissue, etc...).

Yeah, but having 200 hp worth of Con seems so far past fantasy to me, it's downright silly. I agree with taustealthsuit, this notion of hit versus damage has bugged me ever since I started playing, mostly because its subject to interpretation as to what really happened...it makes so everyone perceives a different thing.

Sure, in fantasy characters can be tough SOB's that can withstand a ton of beating. BUT, even in fantasy the primary difficulty in winning an opponent is generally getting through their defenses...actually hitting them (lethally). Tough guys should only be able to take so much, they're only human (or elf, or dwarf, you know what I mean). Even an epic warrior is made of flesh just like a 1st level warrior.

In my opinion, HP is stretched way too far, unless you perceive it as getting tired...which leads to the fuzzy interpretation of "did I hit, or didn't I."
Well, I said based in the "miss and still do damage" thread, that the perfect solution to the binary "you hit or miss" would be a trinary system: miss, hit armor or hit flesh.

This reminds me of Palladium, a system that used ... y'know, I'm not sure I'm remembering the rules right, but I think it was HR (hit rating) and AR (armor rating).

You needed a 5 or better (on a d20) to hit your opponent, modified by things like dexterity (I think they called it "physical agility" or something), and this was called your Hit Rating. Your Armor Rating, depending on what your armor was, would be added to this, and the roll was high enough to hit you but still lower than your Armor Rating, your armor took the damage.

So in adapting this to D&D, say (I'm making these numbers up off the top of my head here) you're wearing full plate, which has an Armor Rating of +10, and you've got a dexterity of 13 so you've got a Hit Rating of 11, that means you've got a total Armor Rating of 21. If some attacks you, they need an 11 or better to hit you and a 21 or better to bypass your armor. If they hit you but don't bypass your armor, your armor takes the damage, and if they bypass the armor, you take the damage.

This would mean that armor would only really be useful some of the time. Against an opponent that's more or less guaranteed to bypass your armor because of their high attack bonus, you might actually be better off without it.

But I believe that's how it works in real life, isn't it?
When I DM, I've kept a table of where each character's AC came from, putting dodge bonuses first, then deflection, shield, armor, and finally natural armor bonuses. I had a handy little chart that I checked against during enemy attacks, and would explain exactly why the character was or was not injured during an attack.

The monk in the party would often actively dodge out of the way, and rarely a blade would scrape against his toughened skin, letting him know that the amulet of natural armor was a good buy. On the other hand, the fighter was used to hearing claws scrape across his breastplate, though occasionally he would simply deflect an attack out of the way with his shield.

I didn't modify the system in any way, but simply tracking the bonuses in a small color coded chart led to much more interesting battle descriptions, without actually changing a single game mechanic. I like the abstracted mechanics because I have the freedom to make the hits, misses and deflections more descriptive without fear that my additional flavor text gets confused with strange penalties to character actions.
This would mean that armor would only really be useful some of the time. Against an opponent that's more or less guaranteed to bypass your armor because of their high attack bonus, you might actually be better off without it.

But I believe that's how it works in real life, isn't it?

It's how it work in actual D&D.
That idea of a trinary of don't hit/hit armor/hit flesh is like the idea I've said.

"We need better DMs" someone said. No, we need a more coherent system.

I've described way better the action since I apply my system (check my post behind). I really hope that R&D changes this nonsense.
I really can't see the problem with the HP/AC system. Is it honestly that hard for the DM or the players to decide, in each instance, what is represented by the mechanics?

P1: "I hit AC 23, 9 damage."
GM: "You beat down the orc's defences and land a glancing blow on his helm. He staggers a little, shaking his head, then attacks with renewed vigour. What's your AC?"
P1: "22."
GM: "You desperately twist and parry to avoid the onslaught of attacks. Take 7 damage."
P2: "I step up and take a swing with my greatsword. Ah, damn... hit AC 14, 12 damage."
GM: "The orc easily meets your blade with his axe and snarls at you."
P1: "My turn again... 20! Confirm against AC 21."
GM: "That'll do it."
P1: "Sweet! 26 damage."
GM: "You see an opening and thrust your sword into the orc's chest, knocking the wind out of him. Incredibly, he's still standing even with his sucking chest wound. He staggers a little, then roars his defiance and attacks. 25 hits your AC, take 13 damage."
P1: "Still standing."
GM: "You manage to block the swing at the last moment, but the impact jars you and shakes your confidence more than a little."
P2: "Time to finish this guy. Power attack for three... hit AC 23, 16 damage."
GM: "Nice. You can see the orc slowing down from loss of blood, and his reactions aren't quite quick enough to stop your swing. Your blade crunches into his neck and he falls, dead before he hits the floor."

It's all flavour. There is no mechanical difference in how the damage is taken or avoided, the only relevant factor is how much. Everything else can be determined by what is dramatically appropriate, logically consistent or just plain cool, depending on how you want to play it.

I have to wonder, why is it important to know, based on a dice roll, whether an attack "actually hit" or not? If it makes no difference to the mechanics of play, why bother having hard-and-fast guidelines for it? Your barbarian can face a group of archers and come out looking like a porcupine if you want, or he can come out without a scratch on him... the important thing, as far as the game mechanics are concerned, is that he's taken 31 points of damage.

It's epic fantasy. HP/AC is designed to prolong fights to emulate the sort of epic battles you see in epic fantasy. It's a way of determining who makes that fatal mistake first, where "that fatal mistake" was the one that led to your being reduced to 0 hp or below, and it ensures that all fights turn out that way. All it takes is a little imagination.
Not to play thread monitor but the "realistic armor" thing isn't necessarily part of the "make hits real hits" thing at all. Could be, doesn't have to be. And considering the fact that D&D is pretty abstract and tries to be simple (well... kinda) maybe not a good idea.

Of all the various abstractions in the D&D system I find AC the least objectionable. That isn't to say it's terribly realistic, just that there are much more glaring problems (sideways look at HP, "fuzzy damage").

just saying, if you want to design a trinary damage system, maybe start with the basics of it before adding the elaborations and complications of realistic armor.
That thing of "hit" meaning "he parried but got tired" is just stupid.

So he parried the sting but hey! he still got poisoned. So he parried the vampire but hey! he still lost two levels.

A hit must mean a hit!! And yes, it's that hard to create the kind of story kaeron said because it makes no sense for way too many cases. It's just stupid that everytime the ogre hits except the last one, the fighter actually did parry. And where's his armor involved in all this? The thing is that we need to know when a character is hit for more than to see if he's got 0 hp.
To say that we can have a mechanical battle (on dice and rules) and a fantasy battle (with the storytelling) and that they have no relationship beyond having the same outcome is really silly.
And R&D is supposed to be there to help those who play the game and to make it easier for them, not to say "well, solve it yourself, you're the DM"

A trinary sistem is easy to do. The logic is simple, a good attack roll means that you hit on the creature's armor (which reduces the damage) and a great attack roll means you hit on the creature's vulnerable spots (if it has any)

As for "hits meaning hits" I strongly recomend AC incresing over the levels (the one that would help to avoid a hit) so that we don't have to give PC 253 hp, and instead we make them really amazing at avoiding (at least more than they are now). Each class is getting a small healing power and that also helps.
Dumbest idea in a long time.

Hit = actual physical hit means nobody improves HP by any significant amount, ever. A knife to the chest will always put you in critical condition. A knife through the throat will always kill you. Therefore, nobody has more than 8 hitpoints. Even if your AC is jacked through the roof, every once in a while, you get insta-killed.

Good job, genius.
Even if your AC is jacked through the roof, every once in a while, you get insta-killed.

Well, technically, that is already true at higher levels with the current rules. No matter what your AC, a natural 20 will hit, followed by 50 damage (no problem at high levels), and you are a failed Fort Save away from insta-death.
A natural 20 followed by a natural 1, is 1 in 400 chance, ie. every once in awhile.

Obviously additional rules can be utilized to counteract the lethality of a "more realistic" low HP system. For example, higher level PCs could gain variants of the Defensive Roll special ability of the Rogue.

Oh ya and could we please keep the words "dumbest, stupidest, stupid, etc." and further sarcasm to a minimum? Any new idea can sound unappealling when limited to the current rule system, so why do so?
Well, technically, that is already true at higher levels with the current rules. No matter what your AC, a natural 20 will hit, followed by 50 damage (no problem at high levels), and you are a failed Fort Save away from insta-death.
A natural 20 followed by a natural 1, is 1 in 400 chance, ie. every once in awhile.

Obviously additional rules can be utilized to counteract the lethality of a "more realistic" low HP system. For example, higher level PCs could gain variants of the Defensive Roll special ability of the Rogue.

Oh ya and could we please keep the words "dumbest, stupidest, stupid, etc." and further sarcasm to a minimum? Any new idea can sound unappealling when limited to the current rule system, so why do so?

Making a DC 15 Fort save when you're level 15+ is significantly easier than surviving a successful greatsword hit when you've got 8 total hitpoints.

That can be a fun game. It's just not D&D, and would be a terrible game design idea for the D&D franchise. Once again, it's dumb, and that's not hyperbole or sarcasm. This truly is a poorly thought out idea.
A mid level fighter or barbarian can have 20 to 30 times the ability to absorb damage as a first level human commoner. Said mid level barbarian or fighter takes 40+ (on average) discreet wounds from a commoner weilding a dagger to fell, and keeps going at full functionality up until hit 40something drops him to the ground bleeding out.

He can soak up the same amount of damage as an elephant (go to the zoo and actually spend some time lookin at the critters, they're freaking awesome)You will never convince me that any human, regardless of his level can survive the beating that would have to be delivered to kill a bull elephant.

This isn't even taking the system to logical extremes of very high character levels, this is around 10th level. Logically I cannot ever see how the system could scale the way it does (d(x)+mod every level) and maintain any sense of realism if one clings to the idea that hit=hit and damage= real physical bodily harm in every instance.

With level scaling HPs, it quickly becomes impossible to kill a character with the thrust of any sword or the swing of any ax. At this point damage = damage just falls apart for me.

If a critical hit from a great axe has the potential to remove half or less of my total HP at best, then damage as damage no longer makes sense as physical damage. A critical hit from a heavy weapon that cannot threaten my healthy character's life makes NO sense if damage = damage. There has to be other components to HP for them to make any sense at all.