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D&D General Are Hit Points Meat? (Redux): D&D Co-Creator Saw Hit Points Very Differently

D&D co-creator Dave Arneson wasn't a fan of hit points increasing with level. According to the excellent Jon Peterson's Playing at the World he felt that hit points should be fixed at character creation, with characters becoming harder to hit at higher levels.

Of course, this is an early example of the oft-lengthily and vehemently discussed question best summarised as ‘Are hit points meat?’— a debate which has raged for over 40 years and isn’t likely to be resolved today! (but no they’re not)


gpgpn-#15-arneson-hp.jpg


Arneson later created a hit point equation in his 1979 RPG Adventures in Fantasy which was a game in which he hoped to correct "the many errors in the original rules".

aif-p4.jpg
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So he seemed to see HP a bit more physically. That's fair, though his solution is a bit fiddly. Well, okay probably not especially fiddly for back then.
 

I saw a set of houserules put together to do something back in the day. They may well have been derived by that, and were informed by the same discomfort with the degree of abstraction level-elevating hit points produced.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Was Arneson's Adventures in Fantasy also using a 3-18 bell curve to generate stats? If yes, then most characters wouldn't be able to take a solid blow from anything.

Example: let's be generous and assume that on a 3-18 curve the character has 15-15-15 on those three stats. So, rounding up as suggested, 15/2 = 8, 15/3 = 5, and 15/4 = 4. In the next step, 8 + 5 + 4 = 17; dividing that by 5 gives 3.4, which rounds up to 4 if the round-up suggestion is to be taken to the full.

Something is very amiss here...
 

There are games where most characters can't take two blows from most anything barring armor. Runequest I characters had around 10 hit points mostly, and a slightly above average strength gave a D4 Damage Bonus with a Broadsword doing D8+1.

The key was A )Not getting hit (usually by parrying) or B)Having enough armor to take it down to an acceptable level. Or ideally both.

Even now the hobby has plenty of games where just taking a hit sans armor is a terrible idea.
 


Kurotowa

Legend
The formula says character (men), it that to mean there is another chart for woman like in older editions where strength was different or is that more generic use, like humanoid. Either way it seems outdated like Thac0 and level limits for non-humans.
It probably means "humans", as opposed to elves or dwarves, by the syntax they used in those days. But that's just my guess.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Was Arneson's Adventures in Fantasy also using a 3-18 bell curve to generate stats? If yes, then most characters wouldn't be able to take a solid blow from anything.

Example: let's be generous and assume that on a 3-18 curve the character has 15-15-15 on those three stats. So, rounding up as suggested, 15/2 = 8, 15/3 = 5, and 15/4 = 4. In the next step, 8 + 5 + 4 = 17; dividing that by 5 gives 3.4, which rounds up to 4 if the round-up suggestion is to be taken to the full.

Something is very amiss here...
Post on Grognardia says the stats in this game were percentiles. So if I did the math right, it looks like HP would typically be in the neighborhood of 10, over a range from 1 to 22.

 

Rabulias

Hero
Post on Grognardia says the stats in this game were percentiles. So if I did the math right, it looks like HP would typically be in the neighborhood of 10, over a range from 1 to 22.

Also we would need to look at weapon damage, damage resistance (if any), and how often one gets hit to fully appreciate what this all means in context. I would imagine though that Arneson ran a very gritty/deadly game so these other factors are probably very similar to AD&D.
 

Also we would need to look at weapon damage, damage resistance (if any), and how often one gets hit to fully appreciate what this all means in context. I would imagine though that Arneson ran a very gritty/deadly game so these other factors are probably very similar to AD&D.

There's at least three ways of dealing with how armor is handled, and there's no reason Arneson would necessarily have stuck with it as a modifier to attack roll (though of course he may have).
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The character (men) concept meshes well with how I see HP. I mostly see the Mass Effect method.
Different creature type has different proportions of different defenses. Humanoids run on mostly Dodges, Blocks, and Luck. Giants are too big to dodge and tank hits with Meat. Whereas Celestials run on Luck and your attacks just... miss.

Post on Grognardia says the stats in this game were percentiles.

Yeah, it uses percentiles. So your HP would be ~11 if all 50.
 

MGibster

Legend
After 30+ years of gaming I've never been able to reconcile hit points and what they actually mean. If it's just narrative luck points then how does healing work? It just recharges your luck points. If getting stabbed for 1d4 damage the equivalent of me being stabbed in the real world? i.e. Does it leave a bleeding wound? I stopped asking these questions long ago because I could never find a satisfactory answer.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
After 30+ years of gaming I've never been able to reconcile hit points and what they actually mean. If it's just narrative luck points then how does healing work? It just recharges your luck points. If getting stabbed for 1d4 damage the equivalent of me being stabbed in the real world? i.e. Does it leave a bleeding wound? I stopped asking these questions long ago because I could never find a satisfactory answer.
The existence and use of poisoned weapons forces one to answer this, at least in part, in a way that allows poisoned weapons to function as they should regardless of the target's current hit point total.

And that answer has to be that no matter how high the luck-to-meat ratio might be, hit points always have to represent at least a tiny little bit of meat or else poisoned weapons cannot work as intended.
 

Jimmy Dick

Adventurer
Increasing AC, HP, ATK roll modifiers, etc., all are part of the character progression. Were we to eliminate those, character growth would be reduced significantly. I get that Arneson and Gygax were miniature wargamers, but I'm pretty sure Gygax or someone realized that character growth was pretty important in order to get the game audience to grow. I personally think that character progression is a major factor in why D&D become so popular. I remember the first time I leveled up my first character back in 1979 and it was a wonderful feeling. Based on the questions I get asked a lot by people in my role as a GM, leveling up is a major concern of theirs as well.
 

lingual

Adventurer
Increasing AC, HP, ATK roll modifiers, etc., all are part of the character progression. Were we to eliminate those, character growth would be reduced significantly. I get that Arneson and Gygax were miniature wargamers, but I'm pretty sure Gygax or someone realized that character growth was pretty important in order to get the game audience to grow. I personally think that character progression is a major factor in why D&D become so popular. I remember the first time I leveled up my first character back in 1979 and it was a wonderful feeling. Based on the questions I get asked a lot by people in my role as a GM, leveling up is a major concern of theirs as well.
It would be a horrible feeling to get one-shotted by some lucky orc with a bow when you are high level and have invested a lot of time in a character.

A hit points ARE meat system could very well have stuff like that happen 5 percent of the time. Maybe someone has a good system out there that can accommodate meat points and sustained character growth.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
After 30+ years of gaming I've never been able to reconcile hit points and what they actually mean. If it's just narrative luck points then how does healing work? It just recharges your luck points. If getting stabbed for 1d4 damage the equivalent of me being stabbed in the real world? i.e. Does it leave a bleeding wound? I stopped asking these questions long ago because I could never find a satisfactory answer.
4e’s answer was pretty solid, what with healing having to draw from your pool of healing surges, which essentially represented will to fight. “Healing” was just a catalyst allowing to tap into your reserve of energy instantly, where you would otherwise need a few moments to catch your breath, gather yourself, steel your nerves, etc.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
The existence and use of poisoned weapons forces one to answer this, at least in part, in a way that allows poisoned weapons to function as they should regardless of the target's current hit point total.

And that answer has to be that no matter how high the luck-to-meat ratio might be, hit points always have to represent at least a tiny little bit of meat or else poisoned weapons cannot work as intended.
Not really. A poisoned weapon requires more luck to avoid being killed by than a not-poisoned weapon, since a tiny scratch is a potentially lethal blow, which is not the case with weapons that are not poisoned.
 



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