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5E Assumptions on Hit Points and Armor Class...

i_dont_meta

Explorer
This came to me this evening: what are "Hit Points" and what is "Armor Class"? Now bear with me, I'm not sure I've completely thought this thru. But long story short: how can Dexterity give you a similar bonus to AC as, say, Chain Mail? Actual Attributes notwithstanding, but it seems as if one's ability to evade an attack (Dex AC modifier) is equated to one's ability to abstain from injury (Chain Mail absorbs the hit) and to me this seems like comparing eeple's and baneenee's. What if Armor instead granted you Temp HP instead? And so when you use Hit Dice to "heal" you could actually just be doing routine Armor maintenance. Seems radical to an old grognard like me, but it somehow makes so much more sense. I don't know.


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Horwath

Adventurer
This came to me this evening: what are "Hit Points" and what is "Armor Class"? Now bear with me, I'm not sure I've completely thought this thru. But long story short: how can Dexterity give you a similar bonus to AC as, say, Chain Mail? Actual Attributes notwithstanding, but it seems as if one's ability to evade an attack (Dex AC modifier) is equated to one's ability to abstain from injury (Chain Mail absorbs the hit) and to me this seems like comparing eeple's and baneenee's. What if Armor instead granted you Temp HP instead? And so when you use Hit Dice to "heal" you could actually just be doing routine Armor maintenance. Seems radical to an old grognard like me, but it somehow makes so much more sense. I don't know.


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Just simplify it.

Missed attack to AC just from dex is simple dodge, you moved out of the way.

With AC from chainmail the blow connected but just glanced off the armor.

To get a hit, weapon must bypass the armor.

But, HPs are an abstraction at best so you can describe hit/miss any way you want.
 

HP is a mix of many things. They just define how close you are to dropping unconscious. Low HP does not necessarily mean you are badly wounded, it could also mean you are about to run out of luck that attacks against you never hit any vital spots.

AC just means how likely it is that you get hit by an attack. If an attack misses the DM best narrates it in a way that makes sense. Some speedy fighter with light armor probably just dodges the attack, but a fighter with a heavy armor just lets the attack get deflected by his armor. Someone with a shield might block the attack with that.
 

Lanliss

Explorer
It is tied to HP being ambiguous, I think. Because HP can represent "luck", you can prevent losing luck by dodging on purpose, hence Dex being added to AC. Stronger armors replace this skill with a solid foundation, allowing you to bear the brunt of attacks despite not actually avoiding them. Of course, this means that a "Miss" in game terms could still be a narrative "hit" on your armor, while a "Hit" in game terms can be a Narrative miss. Doesn't bother me, personally, but I can see it bugging someone.

On your houserule, it would need to be a substantial number of temp HP. You never roll to hit again, but instead only roll damage. As a result, you need to figure out a general average number for how much HP a given AC normally defends. For example, assume a 15 AC protects a 1st level adventurer from 7 1d6(4) hits per short rest. So, the 15 AC would be replaced with the equation
[Level*average damage*Number of hits]=28 temp hp.

Of course, that is completely arbitrary on my part. My point is, you need to find out what equation you would use to decide how much temp HP. Thinking about it a bit harder, [Level+1*AC] seems like an alright area. A 15 AC would then provide 30 HP bonus for a first level character, but more for a progressively more skilled character. This would make abilities that give resistance, like Rage, much stronger, since it effectively doubles the power of armor vs. non-magical attacks. A bear totem barbarian, at 3rd level with an AC of 17 would basically have 68 extra health, doubled as long as they are not fighting psychic damage. That said, I actually like this thought, thanks for putting it in my head.

EDIT: To continue, you would still need to roll, but any result other than 20 or 1 can be treated as dealing damage, maybe even adding your roll to hit to the damage received. A 1 can be treated as a complete miss, while a 20 doubles/maximizes damage as normal for a given table. I am liking this thought more. I might come back and post another response when I have put more thought in.
 
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Saelorn

Hero
Hit Points are your ability to withstand injury without falling unconscious or dying. We know for a fact that, if you take damage, then you are physically injured in some way (and there is blood in the water - sharks have advantage on further attacks against you). We don't know the degree of physical injury - whether it's a bloody nose or a broken rib - and that sort of thing is expected to vary by DM.

Armor Class is your ability to not suffer injury when someone attacks you. If an attack fails to hit your AC, then we know for a fact that either the attack missed you, or it hit in such a way that you weren't injured by it (because it was deflected or absorbed by your armor). We don't know which of those things happened for certain, in most cases, but it also doesn't really matter.
 


Li Shenron

Legend
Actual Attributes notwithstanding, but it seems as if one's ability to evade an attack (Dex AC modifier) is equated to one's ability to abstain from injury (Chain Mail absorbs the hit) and to me this seems like comparing eeple's and baneenee's.
In D&D armor has never represented absorbing the hit, but rather covering targettable spots. That's why armor is equivalent to shield, actual solid cover, and dexterity. [Hint: full plate armor is not necessarily thicker, it just tries to cover everything head-to-toe]

HP damage is explained to represent a variety of effects, not only injuries. Once these effects are considered together, HP total becomes the representation of one's general ability to resist cumulative effects, before passing out and risking death. (There exist however other effects which bypass HP and can cause unconsciousness or death immediately - just because a lot of effects are represented by HP loss, doesn't mean EVERY effect is).

So within these concept, the capability of absorbing the hits is intrinsically represented by HP (including temporary HP), although there is also damage resistance as an additional representation, for a few characters and monsters.
 

AC represents your ability to either dodge or deflect impact. Dex helps with dodging, while Heavy Armor simply tries to absorb the shock and prevent injury. There has been discussion that technically it would be better to have armor provide damage reduction, but this would be a radical change to the base assumptions to the game (making it "not D&D" to some).

As for HP, they can represent a lot of things, and has always been an abstract concept. I personally consider it to be stamina/endurance in 5E. You get bludgeoned, burnt, poisoned, psychically assaulted, but still manage to push on. When you run out of HP, then you collapse, unable to take any more punishment. With 5E's full refresh on a Long Rest, this makes the most sense to me.
 

schnee

First Post
This came to me this evening: what are "Hit Points" and what is "Armor Class"? Now bear with me, I'm not sure I've completely thought this thru. But long story short: how can Dexterity give you a similar bonus to AC as, say, Chain Mail? Actual Attributes notwithstanding, but it seems as if one's ability to evade an attack (Dex AC modifier) is equated to one's ability to abstain from injury (Chain Mail absorbs the hit) and to me this seems like comparing eeple's and baneenee's. What if Armor instead granted you Temp HP instead? And so when you use Hit Dice to "heal" you could actually just be doing routine Armor maintenance. Seems radical to an old grognard like me, but it somehow makes so much more sense. I don't know.
I've seen this sort of thing playing out in Dragon Magazine since the early 80's.

Entire game systems have been created in an attempt to make more sense of it. Many, many different ideas, that each came along, crashed against the bulwark of tradition, and broke - along with the hearts of their creators.

So, you're not alone. :)

I think the real issue I've always had is that a 1st level character healed up instantly to brand new with one tiny, low-powered spell, but a higher level character took multiple days to heal up using much more powerful magic.

Shouldn't it be that a higher level character in fact got less wounded, because they were so much more experienced, skilled, aware, lucky, etcetera? And in fact they should heal either at the same rate, or maybe even faster, because their wounds/aches/pains are each so little in comparison, since each one is such a small proportion of their overall hit point total? Wouldn't that mean that a 1st level fighter taking 8hp of damage took one hit from a sword that almost killed them, and a 10th level fighter taking 8hp just took a hard hit on their shield that bruised their arm a little, would involve such little injury that a Cure Light Wounds would in fact do more healing on a higher level character?

Past a certain point, it just doesn't make sense, in the same way a Gelatinous Cube doesn't make sense. (A cube, that ... rolls?)
 
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They are abstractions that are part of the game. Don't operationalize it too much or you'll go down the rabbit hole of tautology. Yes, you can make a combat system that is more realistic and yes it will be more complex and take longer to play. If that's what you like, feel free to play games with those mechanics. I do when I get the chance to and find people who can play them well. But to me the D&D abstraction works just fine for most of my RPG pleasure.
 

A

amerigoV

Guest
Grumpy ancient gamer here. Let me give you the answer that will really help you - just don't think about it. I was on the internet boards when the internet was not cool (yes, there was a time...) and these posts existed back then. I am sure if you go back to old Dragon Mags you can find them in the Sage. There is no satisfactory resolution. HP and AC are abstract to make it possible for normal human beings to defeat things that should kill them in a second. Its designed to be fun.

Its thinking like yours that will lead you to start posting about Falling Damage - when that fighter decides he can jump off a 50' cliff and hardly break a sweat it will really wreck your mind. Or why does a person in a small room still get a Saving Throw against Fireball. Or how does Magic Missile work vs. Mirror Image?

Just roll with it. Go kill a dragon - it will make everyone feel better.
 

i_dont_meta

Explorer
This was really more an exercise in thinking outside of the box. Yes, I understand the D&D Sacred Cow Holy Trinity (6 Classic Attributes/AC/HP): With These, We, The Masses, Shall Not Tinker. And yes, I'm sure there ARE other games out there that complicate the hell out of things. I wouldn't know. Haven't played em. I like D&D just the way she is, but surely there's nothing wrong with poking the status quo with a big stick, right?


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A

amerigoV

Guest
This was really more an exercise in thinking outside of the box. Yes, I understand the D&D Sacred Cow Holy Trinity (6 Classic Attributes/AC/HP): With These, We, The Masses, Shall Not Tinker. And yes, I'm sure there ARE other games out there that complicate the hell out of things. I wouldn't know. Haven't played em. I like D&D just the way she is, but surely there's nothing wrong with poking the status quo with a big stick, right?

At least from my perspective- tinker all you want to make it fun. Poke at it all you want. Understanding the interactions so the rules do not break if you change it is great. But rationalizing what some of the key mechanics mean in real life terms...well, that is where it breaks and has led to fussing about it for 40 years, leading to classic discussions like how many HPs are in a Tootsie Pop? (the answer is 3, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise). I recall as a youngster (High School) we tried to break hit points into "Meat" and "Endurance" because it made sense, but it really did not help the game all the much. It just led to other things to argue about (but I had to grin when I saw Modern have something like that many years later - some stuff hits Con, rest "hp"). The simple solution would have been just to give out more Wands/Potions of Healing (we all hated playing clerics :)).
 

discosoc

First Post
I've always just rationalized HP as a "resource" (luck, experience, etc) that allows your character to turn a fatal attack into a miss or graze in a REACTIVE way. So if someone gets "hit" with a sword and takes 15 points of damage, what probably happened was they were able to avoid it at the last second, or roll with the hit in a way that it became superficial.

Armor Class is really just a representation of how PROACTIVELY your character can avoid being damaged, usually by avoiding the attack or making sure you have stuff (armor and shield) between it and you.

The only problem is that I think most of us are in the habit of narrating combat inaccurately, so we'll make the above sword attack sound like it was a solid hit that drew blood or something, when really only the one or two hits that lead to a character dropping to zero would qualify.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Shouldn't it be that a higher level character in fact got less wounded, because they were so much more experienced, skilled, aware, lucky, etcetera? And in fact they should heal either at the same rate, or maybe even faster, because their wounds/aches/pains are each so little in comparison, since each one is such a small proportion of their overall hit point total? Wouldn't that mean that a 1st level fighter taking 8hp of damage took one hit from a sword that almost killed them, and a 10th level fighter taking 8hp just took a hard hit on their shield that bruised their arm a little, would involve such little injury that a Cure Light Wounds would in fact do more healing on a higher level character?
That is the Proportional Wound model, which is favored by many because it is intuitive and mostly makes sense. If it takes 3 damage to make a shallow cut on the upper arm of someone with 10 HP, then it should take 30 damage to make the same cut on someone with 100 HP, right? And, as you've pointed out, the one big problem is that healing works by fixed numbers rather than percentages, such that it takes the tougher character much longer (or much stronger magic) to heal an identical wound.

Personally, I prefer the Absolute Wound model, where a 3 damage hit is the same on someone with 10 HP or 100 HP. It means that it always takes the same amount of healing to fix the same severity of wound, and the only difference between the chump and the hero is that the hero doesn't die from wounds that would kill a lesser person. (I haven't quite figured out how to reconcile that with Hit Dice for healing, though.)
 

Lanliss

Explorer
So, coming back to this. I think that AC should be basically a third health bar, and it is depleted before your Temp HP. I will stick by my earlier thought of level+1*AC to find out how much you get, as that feels like a good enough number. Recharge on a short rest for a Heroic style game, but only recharge AC on a long rest for a more gritty game. You would need a spreadsheet for quick referencing, in case someone Dons their shield. just a level:AC table should work fine. For things like a Beastshaping Druid you can say they only gain something like half of their level's AC (Rounded up), to prevent them being even tankier than they already are at low levels.

This also makes a scary high AC like a Bladesinger much less powerful, since you are no longer essentially untouchable. OTOH, it could strengthen a spell like Barkskin, if you consider that to be a grown armor type thing. A lot of different abilities and spells to consider in this...
 

Personally, I prefer the Absolute Wound model, where a 3 damage hit is the same on someone with 10 HP or 100 HP. It means that it always takes the same amount of healing to fix the same severity of wound, and the only difference between the chump and the hero is that the hero doesn't die from wounds that would kill a lesser person. (I haven't quite figured out how to reconcile that with Hit Dice for healing, though.)
It also lets you do fun things with scars.

DM: looking at the grizzled mercenary, you can see that he's been smashed, bashed, bitten, hacked, smitten, cursed, and tortured. From the scar patterns all over his body, this guy has probably taken thousands of HP of damage in his life. He looks you over once and then spits on your boots. "You're funny-looking for an elf," he says. What do you do?
 

ArchfiendBobbie

First Post
So, coming back to this. I think that AC should be basically a third health bar, and it is depleted before your Temp HP. I will stick by my earlier thought of level+1*AC to find out how much you get, as that feels like a good enough number. Recharge on a short rest for a Heroic style game, but only recharge AC on a long rest for a more gritty game. You would need a spreadsheet for quick referencing, in case someone Dons their shield. just a level:AC table should work fine. For things like a Beastshaping Druid you can say they only gain something like half of their level's AC (Rounded up), to prevent them being even tankier than they already are at low levels.

This also makes a scary high AC like a Bladesinger much less powerful, since you are no longer essentially untouchable. OTOH, it could strengthen a spell like Barkskin, if you consider that to be a grown armor type thing. A lot of different abilities and spells to consider in this...
I would actually suggest treating AC like a damage threshold. If below the threshold, it's reduced by the armor absorbing the impact. Thus, better armor protects you more by reducing more damage. But if above, the attack pierced the armor and the character took the full brunt.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
We know for a fact that, if you take damage, then you are physically injured in some way . . .
We?

I'm going to shorten the Warmaster's post down to two "words":

Because D&D.

If you don't like it, house-rule it, or grab another RPG to play. You can easily do both with the game I'm working on...
 

You could make an argument that Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution could modify hit points. Strength is indicative of muscle power, and muscle protects vitals organs and bones. Constitution is the default, and Dexterity also reflects an ability to roll with impact and reduce the severity of injury, so a modification to hit points is logical. A possible solution is using the best of Str, Dex, or Con as a hit point modifier. There also could be feats or class abilities that allow Int, Wis, or Cha to be the hit point modifying ability too (3.5 had a feat called Mind Over Matter that replaced Con with Int).

I've also argued in my game that characters should use the higher of Dex or Con for their AC modifying stat too.
 

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