D&D General D&D as a Game- On the Origin of Hit Points and Start of the Meat Debate


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Yeah this is one of those things that I've run into. Like going from the Gygaxian definition of hit points, characters who mostly evade damage would best be modeled as having high hit dice- like Monks or Rogues. But instead the game chooses to model this in other ways, like having abilities to reduce damage taken, because a lot of people cross their eyes because they see that Fighters and Barbarians have lots of hit points.

Fighters and Barbarians tend to be big, tough guys, so obviously that's where their hit points come from.

And of course, Constitution is the big offender here. If hit points aren't meat, then why do you get a Con bonus to hit points instead of say, a Dexterity bonus?
That doesn’t bother me, because I imagine the bulkier, higher-constitution characters as having more stamina. And frankly, I think bulk and constitution being tied to hit points makes more sense in a non-meat model, since in reality, a hulking muscle-man isn’t meaningfully able to withstand being stabbed more times than a scrawny beanpole. But they would probably be able to sustain a high-exhertion activity for longer.

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Where is that Singe?
Heck, maybe the RAW falling damage is what you take on a successful save.
Or treat it like a Concentration thing: DC 10 or half the damage, whichever is higher. Make it a CON save or CON check if you don't want "experience via proficiency" to help...

A 50-foot fall would be DC 10 most likely, but occasionally higher. Advantage or disadvantage could depend on the landing surface.
IRL people survive a 50(ish)-foot fall about 50% of the time.

A 80-foot fall would be DC 14 or so on average. This would result in survival of 35%, which is much higher than the IRL odds of about 10%, but could work for a simple gaming system.

The issue arises when DCs get super high, which easily could happen with very high falls. If the rule in D&D was a 20 always succeeds, then even the ridiculously high DCs could be made with just luck (the natural 20).


The Elephant in the Room (she/her)
shade smile GIF by Robert E Blackmon


I feel like the obvious solution to this problem is to let logic overrule RAW and say falling from any significant height is a save-or-die effect. Heck, maybe the RAW falling damage is what you take on a successful save.
I agree, modified by situation. For instance, falling next to a wall or building? I have no problem imagining an action film scenario where the character is sort of breaking their fall as they go, making it survivable. Falling through thin air onto jagged rocks (e.g. doing a Keyleth)? You're probably just dead, barring a save with a VERY high DC.


Moderator Emeritus
One thing I have added since 1E days is a save vs. against being stunned once you land, which I started after a real life fall at 13 when trying to run down a wet slide at a playground led to me slipping into the air and landing flat on my back. It was the first time (and still worst) time I ever had the wind knocked out of me and how I learned that that is more than just an expression as I thought I was dying - and I certainly wasn't going to get immediately up and cast a fireball or shoot an arrow. ;)

The Soloist

Dragonquest 2e had Fatigue Points. Characters lost fatigue went hit with an average success. A superior success went directly to Health Points. Losing fatigue gave the character a penalty on attack, dodge/parry and some skills. Feels more realistic.

I think I'm more in the Arneson camp and prefer hit points to be relatively fixed. I don't mind a slight increase over time, but for the most part I prefer characters being harder to hit (be it through better equipment or character advances).
I'm fine with stamina-like hit points, though. In Forbidden Lands, one of my favourite fantasy games from the recent years, characters suffer damage to their attributes (the specific attribute depends on the type of damage, e.g. physical damage, by default, goes to strength). But they might also attributes damage when they strain themselves (to re-roll dice that did not show a success). However, in any case the real pain only starts when you go down to 0, because then you have to roll on a critical table.
As @Ancalagon already mentioned for Warhammer Fantasy, this comes at the price of attacks resolving slower. But personally, that's a price I'm willing to pay.


That's why in my game if you voluntarily jump off that 100 foot cliff, you are giving up your skill, luck, etc. hit point and relying on the few physical hit points you have. So your PC is probably dead.
Back in the late 80s or early 1990s, Palladium made a similar suggestion as yours when someone wrote in asking what to do about players taking advantage of the rules to do suicidal acts. Palladium's suggestion was to allow the damage to go directly to their hit points (bypassing their SDC which would normally absorb the damage first) or to rule that the character dies. Which seemed reasonable to me as I believe the default assumption is for all characters to avoid damage/death.

There's a scene in Rambo where he jumps off a fairly high cliff and he survives with minor injuries requiring stitches. It's somewhat believable because the branches on the pine trees between him and the ground serve to break his fall. Had it been a straight drop to the ground below, his survival would have been beyond incredulous. If a player is going to game the system by jumping off a bridge onto the rocky crags below I'm not going to roll the dice. But I'd warn them before the jumped.

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