Start high, build slow HP tweak





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  1. #1
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    ° Ignore Palocles

    Start high, build slow HP tweak

    I was considering using a variation on HP progression for my up coming PF Campaign but i realise it will alter the game balance a fair bit so was looking for educated guesses or actual experience of the affects on a game.

    I like that 4E PCs start with more HP and you can throw a tougher encounter at the party straight away, instead of sending tiny groups or individuals at them. BUt i don't like that a PC at higher level can basically fall off a clif and walk away from it (when rolling damage dice only and not giving PCs narratively accurate injuries).

    So i was thinking of running an HP system which give the PCs a max dice plus their con stat as starting HP but only gives con bonus plus a very small dice or set value at each level.

    That would be something like: 1 HP + con bonus for mages (and anyone using D6s), 2 HP + con bonus for Rouge/Cleric or 3 + con bonus for fighter types. Or: D2+con bonus for mages, D3 + con bonus for clerics and D4 + con bonus for fighters.

    The good thing is that a DM can match the party against, probably, twice as many monsters of CR1 or less straight away and have dramatic battles right away (cause i don't think 4 PCs fighting 3-4 Orcs is very impressive).

    But it will probably mean that as the PCs level they will not stay even with the CR of monsters. Which means that either monsters HP could be lowered a bit or a lower CR encounter would match them, in turn saving higher CR creatures for even higher charcter levels. I'd lean towards the second option.

    Allowing the PCs to gain +1 to 2 stats each 4 levels, more like 4E could help to make them maintain parity with CR and allow a PC to be more diversely developed.

    It might mean magic item distribution and treasure allocation should be altered a bit too.

    Has anyone tried this or have enough experience with the game to have an idea how it would play out?

    Some how a slower HP proggrassion strikes me as leading to more tense combats and a more agreeable game style (for me atleast).

 

  • #2
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    ° Ignore Herobizkit
    I'd wager giving average HP (ie half of their HD) per level would suit your fancy. A 10th level barbarian with a 20 CON would have (6+5)*10 or 110 HP versus a possible max of (12+5)*10 or 170.

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    ° Ignore Palocles
    A quarter of an HD was more what i was thinking but it's worth knowing that it's within the bounds of posibility and bad luck just rolling the dice normally.

    But if a player was to 'roll badly' every level till X, how far behind the power curve would it put them? And how far behind would a party of such poor rollers be?

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    ° Ignore N'raac
    It seems reasonable to say hit points would need to fall across the board. It's hardly fair to keep that Adult Red Dragon at 212 hp when its L14 opponents (its CR) have their own hp so markedly reduced. Its d12's should be reduced to 3 per die just like the PC's.

    But it will still have well over 100 hp. Why? It has a 23 CON. This system will massively increase the desirability of CON - instead of a boost, a 16 CON now doubles a warrior's hp per level and quadruples them for a wizard. And bigger monsters tend to massive CON, so they still stay well ahead on the curve. Toughness becomes a much more desirable feat as well, adding a much greater percentage of hp.

    Since we're reducing hp but not damage, Blasting becomes a much more viable choice for spellcasters, and criticals are way more beneficial (or dangerous, depending on which end of the weapon you're on).

    Undoubtedly, it changes the balance of the game, and will change a lot of things not obvious on first glance.

    I also note you're comparing to 4e (more hp at the outset), but you're only reducing hp growth, not increasing starting hp, which are already max die + CON bonus.

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    ° Ignore udalrich
    Quote Originally Posted by N'raac View Post
    You're only reducing hp growth, not increasing starting hp, which are already max die + CON bonus.
    He was talking about using the con stat, not the bonus, for starting hit points. So the 16 Con barbarian starts with 28 hit points (1d12 max + 16). And presumably gains an additional 4 ht points when he rages.

    At higher levels, it will change a lot of things. N'raac listed several. Others include:

    The symbol and power word spells often have a hit point limit. They either need to have that revised downward, or the spells become more powerful.

    Healing takes less resources. If it currently takes 5 cure criticals wounds to bring the tank from 1 hp to full health, now it probably only takes 3 or 4.

    If you do not also scale down damage, the time between uninjured and dead decreases notably. A power attacking Storm Giant (CR 13) does 4d6+33 with three attacks, average 57 points of damage per hit. A 13th level fighter with a con of 16 currently has 10+12*5.5+13*3=115 hp. Under the proposed rules, he has 10+16+12*(3+3)=96 hp. Instead of two hits leaving him at about 0, two hits now leave him at -20. The gap will get worse as you go to higher levels. By 20th level, you are about 40 hit points behind the nominal values.

    OTOH, I've just shown that at 13th level, the fighter has about the hit points you currently expect for a rogue with a similar con score. So the world is more dangerous, but not on the level of front line characters dropping after half the hits.

    I think this is a viable option. It makes the lower levels safer and the higher levels more dangerous. Characters with con penalties are probably not viable, since con is now a much more important part of your total hit points.

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    ° Ignore N'raac
    All good points.

    The characters all lose 2.5 hp per level beyond first, offsetting the difference between CON and CON bonus.

    So what does that Dragon receive instead of his standard 212? 3 x 17 = 51 + 16x6 = 96 + 23 = 170? Does it now get the first d12 maxed out, or get 4 per die rather than 3 (where does the d12 sit?) for another 17 hp? Does it get CON added direct to its first hit die, or reduce the above by 17 hp?

    The PC has more hp - does his Orc opponent also add his full CON, or only his bonus, to his 1 hit die?

    Changes to the opponents also impact the balance.

  • #7
    I'm just going to throw this out there before a bunch of work is done that maybe doesn't need to be. The two drives behind this are 1} desire for beefier opponents at low-level and 2} desire for falling off a cliff to be fatal even at high level.

    First up, take a look at the wiki for free fall. You'll discover that apparently (a few) human beings have survived falls from thousands of feet up, let alone the 200 that PFRPG falling damage caps out at. So... the premise that heroic and amazing adventurers might survive falling off a cliff isn't nearly as ridiculous as it seems.

    Speaking of ridiculous, we're talking about a game where these very same characters get hit in the face with axes, regularly. Dragons breathe fire on the, they're struck by lightning bolts, they're poisoned frequently, swallowed whole by monsters, and get stabbed by assassins. If surviving one "hit" from a warhammer is acceptable to you, why isn't a little... falling?

    Second, it seems to me that the easiest method is to adjust the goal-post, not the entire game. Say... make falling damage above 5 dice switch to d8s. Above 10 dice switches to d10s. Above 15 dice switches to d12s. Net effect is that at 200 feet of falling, you're looking at 130 damage on average instead of 70. Not good enough? Remove the 200ft cap. And maybe throw a multiplier on... every time you increase the dice size, double the rolled damage. So when you shift to d8s, double the result. When you shift to d10s, quadruple the result. When you shift to d12s, do eight times the rolled damage. This is all way easier than futzing with PC hit points, upon which the entire mathematical game structure hangs. Damage dealt by spells, hit points monsters have, availability of damage-increasing effects like bane weapons... it's all depending on hit points as a foundation for scaling.

    Third, low-level survivability is easy. Go ahead, give your PCs double their hit die at 1st or something. If you leave that be, over time that boost will become statistically insignificant. A barbarian with 24+ConBonus+FavoredClass hit points at first is doing just fine.

    All I'm saying is... if your problem is that you need to get a light bulb out of its socket, don't hold it still and rotate the universe around it.

  • #8
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    ° Ignore Wik
    I wanted beefier first level PCs, too, but for a different reason. Namely, I wanted a campaign where all new characters came it at first level, and that new players would have a first level character kicking around with those who had a few levels under their belt.

    As a disclaimer, I run an E6 game, so that the PCs "max out" at level 6. So there is that.

    Anyways, in my campaign, PCs start out with their constitution score in hit points, plus HALF of their hit die. At each subsequent level, they roll their hit die, though this is not modified by their constitution modifier.

    Instead, a character's constitution modifier only applies to the minimums and ceilings of their rolls. A character with a +2 modifier will bump any roll of 1 or 2 up to a 3, because that would normally be the smallest number of hit points he would get when progressing... but if he had a d8 hit die, he would not gain more than 8 HP any particular level. Likewise, characters with con penalties wouldn't apply the modifier unless they rolled higher than they could normally achieve.

    The end result? Those with lower hit dice see a bonus, and those with a higher hit die wind up seeing a slight drop at the higher levels. It also gets rid of making con an absolutely necessary stat, while still making it quite useful.
    Wik: Solving internet arguments since 1983.

  • #9
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    ° Ignore Palocles
    Thanks for the interesting comments everyone.

    I'll address a few points in order, hopefully don't miss anythign important.

    N'raac; I imagine that changing the HP of every monster to be an arduous task that's best avoided. My thought was that it would be simpler to consider the PCs (of 14th lvl, eg.) to be of a lower level for the CR on the monsters (ie. CR 10).

    That way they will fight 'less powerful' monsters longer and there is no hassle with gimping monsters HP. Likewise they wouldn't be increased for their first HD either. The monsters stay the same but are effectively higher CR.

    Udalrich; those are things i'm particularly interested in as the effect could be quite dramatic and unbalancing. As long as the PC classes stay relatively balanced then it doesn't matter as much if the balance between PCs and monsters shift as you can change their CRs, as i said above.

    Anguish; The point was not really to make falling more deadly, that could be easily aachieved by telling a player whose character has fallen 200 feet that their spine, pelvis, a couple of leg bones and a couple of arms and ribs are broken and they can't move because of the pain, oh yeah, now the scavengers at the bottom of the cliff are coming for a bite.

    The idea was to make everything more dangerous or more accurately, the PCs less bullet proof. All those things you mentioned that PCs can get away with now, i would like to see them less able to get away with. A lightning bolt should be deadly at any level as should repeated whacks with a warhammer or being eaten whole.

    So what you and Udalrich mention about extra damage weapons and spells, is it going to upset the balance between melee classes and magic classes? (I know it will, but will it be by a game breakable amount?)

    The goal is to encourage creativity when approaching situations and encounters. They PCs could still win a straight up fight be dealing damage if they're lucky but is it worth the risk of dieing, which is a higher risk now?

    And yes, some people have been lucky enough to survive falls from crazy heights (parachutes failing, etc) and other deadly injuries but those situations would have extraordinary circumstances contributing. A fall into a swamp would be much less dangerous (just the fall) than one onto concrete or rocks, for example.

    Wik; i saw your method in another thread. It's quite similar but i don't actually want to make Con less important, but i realise this could make it much more important which i also don't want. I think all the stats should be equally important, even though they aren't. With low HP Str and Dex for attacks and AC is still important, as are the magic affecting mental stats.

    I'm not planning on doing E6 but i do like the idea. If i had plenty of time to play and players keen to give everything a try i'd give it a go.

  • #10
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    ° Ignore Empirate
    Quote Originally Posted by Palocles View Post
    Thanks for the interesting comments everyone.

    I'll address a few points in order, hopefully don't miss anythign important.

    N'raac; I imagine that changing the HP of every monster to be an arduous task that's best avoided. My thought was that it would be simpler to consider the PCs (of 14th lvl, eg.) to be of a lower level for the CR on the monsters (ie. CR 10).

    That way they will fight 'less powerful' monsters longer and there is no hassle with gimping monsters HP. Likewise they wouldn't be increased for their first HD either. The monsters stay the same but are effectively higher CR.
    HP aren't the sole measurement of PC power, even staying power. Not being likely to get hit at all is quite possible to achieve at mid levels onward, at least for casters (Mirror Image, Blink, Fly, Invisibility... combine with good tactics). So some PCs at least would feel they're being held back by the relatively fragile frontliners, who simply don't have what it takes to challenge a truly appropriate foe.
    I also don't think it'd be much fun to fight less powerful monsters for longer in a regular game.


    Quote Originally Posted by Palocles View Post
    Udalrich; those are things i'm particularly interested in as the effect could be quite dramatic and unbalancing. As long as the PC classes stay relatively balanced then it doesn't matter as much if the balance between PCs and monsters shift as you can change their CRs, as i said above.
    The PC classes won't stay balanced with your tweak. In fact, you just made tanking an even more unsatisfactory job, and flying around under cover of invisibility summoning monsters an even more appealing one.

    Note that limiting a rules change to PCs conjures huge hassles at least on par with the 'change every monster stat block' approach: what about NPCs, which might be cohorts or followers or otherwise allied to the PCs? What about NPC opponents, who are suddenly even worse for their CR? What about summoning/animal companions/necromancy, which explicitly uses monster stat blocks (now powerful, high-HP creatures do the heroes' work, which is too dangerous for the heroes themselves?!)? What about temporary HP - which become much more useful to PCs than they are to monsters? What about fast healing or regeneration abilities, magical healing, DR, etc., which are all available to PCs and suddenly take on a whole new meaning?

    Bottom line: the balance of the whole game is altered if you make changes to a fundamental stat like HP. You won't see the end to the repercussions of such a houserule. Note that I'm not saying it's a terrible idea - but your game won't be the same, in many many regards.


    Quote Originally Posted by Palocles View Post
    Anguish; The point was not really to make falling more deadly, that could be easily aachieved by telling a player whose character has fallen 200 feet that their spine, pelvis, a couple of leg bones and a couple of arms and ribs are broken and they can't move because of the pain, oh yeah, now the scavengers at the bottom of the cliff are coming for a bite.

    The idea was to make everything more dangerous or more accurately, the PCs less bullet proof. All those things you mentioned that PCs can get away with now, i would like to see them less able to get away with. A lightning bolt should be deadly at any level as should repeated whacks with a warhammer or being eaten whole.

    So what you and Udalrich mention about extra damage weapons and spells, is it going to upset the balance between melee classes and magic classes? (I know it will, but will it be by a game breakable amount?)
    PCs are far from bullet proof in 3.5. If high HP are giving you trouble, there's a myriad of ways to attack PCs that don't involve HP. Even in the HP department, character growth barely keeps up with the way average DPR increases on damage-focused opponents over the levels.

    If you want certain effects to be deadly at any levels, I'd do changes to those effects specifically, not introduce an across-the-board change to a fundamental stat. I'd also think long and hard about which effects I'd like to increase in potency. I'd ask questions like "Is this effect available to PCs? At what level? What monsters/NPCs have access to it? What is immune/resistant to it?" etc.

    If you want a system where warhammer hits, lightning bolts and long falls are deadly at all levels, I can only give the following counsel: don't play D&D. In fact, don't play a game which uses HP to model injury. Play some wound- or consequence-based system instead. HÔrnmaster, for example, might see a veteran of twenty years with super-high sword skill be stabbed once by a 16-year-old with a rusty dagger and succumb to the wound's bleeding, or later to shock, or still later to infection.

    One final thing: do your players feel the same way as you? If not, leave well enough alone. If yes, on the other hand, why not ask their opinions on the kind of houserule you want to use?

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