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


Dusty Dragon
The way "hp" (wounds) in warhammer can actually be "useful" to think about
I really liked what Mongoose D20 conan did; as you kind of got the best of both worlds.

Your Parry and Evade were rolled against like armor class, and armor was Damage reduction. (Parry and evade could be made to work like in WFRP/RQ, but the just gave you the average roll of 10+ you skill level as the opponents target number.)

I'm a bit surprised nobody else has ran with the idea .

Something that can be quite fast is Troika! or other systems, where the attack roll is a contest -whoever wins hits the other. This can lead to scenes where a high skill swordsman is attacked by a bunch of goblins and the swordsman kills them all in ripostes. But it does make fights go fast.

log in or register to remove this ad


I really liked what Mongoose D20 conan did; as you kind of got the best of both worlds.

Your Parry and Evade were rolled against like armor class, and armor was Damage reduction. (Parry and evade could be made to work like in WFRP/RQ, but the just gave you the average roll of 10+ you skill level as the opponents target number.)

I'm a bit surprised nobody else has ran with the idea .
That sounds like the system in Sword World, Japan’s premier fantasy RPG. An attack is a contested 2d6 roll of the attacker’s Accuracy skill and the defender’s Evasion skill. For monsters, GMs can roll the 2d6 for Evasion, or use the average result as a kind of static AC. If the attack is successful, then damage is rolled, and the defender’s armor score subtracts from the total amount of damage.


I feel like I've said this a few times, but that straight up doesn't strike me as an absurdity, because of the longterm D&D exposure. I moved pretty quickly to "fighters just get stabbed hundreds of times before they die." I think that's sufficiently common in D&D derived media, particularly video games that's it's borderline normative. I only see tension around hit points in discussions of D&D itself, which is bizarre because it feels like it's established the norm elsewhere.
The absurdity in the anime comes from the characters completely no-selling the hits, despite copious amounts of blood and visual damage. No cries of pain, not even the fig leaf of an injury to be gutted through typically given in anime. One character even points out that Stark is covered in blood, and he blows it off, saying “What? This is normal for fighters.” Eisen jumps off a cliff and lands with enough force to create a blast and an impact crater, and then just sits up.


I wonder if a HP based game something like the Dresden File Fate Accelerated RPG. I kinda do it in my friendly family scrapbook RPGs.

Basically HP is a nebulous meat/luck/stamina thing but every class as their own additional pool of points and those are more more defined.

So you'd have 5-10 Hit Points.
But being an Elf or Feypact warlock would give you 1d6 Glamour Points per level.
Being a Dwarf or wearing heavy armor gives you 1d10 Armor Points.
Being a halfling or Rogue would give you 1d6 Luck Points per level.
Giants, orcs and Barbarians get 1d12 Meat Points per level.
Fighters would get 1d10 vitality points per level.

Each additional HP point would increase faster but have different recovery methods and was to be bypassed. Cure Wounds only heals HP, Meat points, and Vitality points. An action to readjust armor heals Armor points same as the mending spell. You need another spell or item to restore luck or glamour.


GURPS, BRP/Rolemaster/Runequest/Call of Cthulhu, and Palladium all have the parrying and dodging and such as well. White Wolf has attack rolls, possible opponent parry/dodge rolls, then damage rolls and opponent rolls to soak up damage, all with multiple dice and possible complications of botches and rolling 10s for additional rolls, then applying penalties for the wound on all future rolls.
The tricky thing about GURPS combat between skilled sword fighters is they can last many rounds as they each try to get past their parry skills. Which isn't really fun. Feints, situational terrain, or teaming up is needed to fight a skilled enemy.

I like the situation of having weapons where you need to focus on not being hit. Crossbows or heavy weapons will put a character down. In D&D high level characters need high level characters to oppose them. Kings and their retainers need to be a high enough level to deter players from just doing what they want. Combat is riskier and player will optimize their characters to reduce the risk which can distort the game as well.

Does the increasing hit points led to more murder hoboism? Being able to ignore the town guard or common soldiers leads to high level characters not having much to fear from society. (Yes there are ways to manage this but the game system doesn't always make it easy.)

le Redoutable

Ich bin El Glouglou :)
two things I look for :
Constitution in Ad&d as printed in OP was Physique and Fitness,
contrary to 2E Player's Option, where CON is a mix of Health and Fitness.

also, beyond the scope of Hit Points, Video Games often use Life Points.


Limit Break Dancing
I posted my opinions on this in another thread a while ago:

There was a discussion* not very long ago** about the nature of damage and hit points. Folks seem to be divided*** into three**** groups on the matter.​
The first group insists that hit points represent the amount of physical damage a body or object can take before falling unconscious or breaking apart. That fireball burns you a lot, or it burns you only a little, or it barely burns you at all, but the point is that fireballs burn you. They don't scare you or exhaust you or bum you out, because that's not how fire works. So now everyone in the world has super healing powers and can bounce back from nearly being burned to death in just 8 hours, and a fighter can just decide to not be burned anymore as a Bonus action. Uh huh. Sure, whatever keeps the game moving.​
The second group insists that hit points are more abstract, that they represent an aggregation of physical, psychological, and physiological effects that can vary depending on the situation, and requires you to play fast and loose with what "reality" looks like. Did you take full damage? It probably burned you. Did you take only a little damage? Probably just stressed you out. Unless the cleric healed you with magic, which means you were actually were burned after all. Unless the cleric ran out of spells and needed to rest to get those spells back: when you wake up it turns out those burns are gone, so they must have just been exhaustion. UNLESS you slept in your armor; you wake up exhausted at full HP so it must have been, I dunno, depression or something? Schrödinger's Burns: they're both present and absent and you never know which until you heal them.​
The third group mostly just shakes their heads, crosses off one number and writes down a new number, and tries not to think about it. Damage and hit points and ability scores and stuff are all just numbers that move around behind the scenes anyway, and all of them are nonsense from a narrative perspective. The City Guards don't brag about who has the highest Strength score, and wanted posters don't have Challenge Ratings of the various villains printed on them, after all. So they try to stay immersed in the story and not let annoying little things like math district them. Did that fireball burn you or not? Who cares, just cross off 22 points from a box and move on.​
I'm usually in the third camp as a player, and the first camp when I'm a DM (I'm fickle). But really, all three are perfectly acceptable if you want my honest opinion. Is fire a chemical reaction or a philosophical quandary? Both hurt my head.​
**every three months​
***willing to die on this hill​
****at least​


Not your screen monkey (he/him)
The model I'm coming around to is that HP is cosmetic meat points. There's a lot of stuff that doesn't make sense if they're entirely luck points, like poisoned weaponed and resistance to certain damage types, or how magical healing works. But instead of going full "The Fighter laughs at getting stabbed ten times", I'm picturing them as small nicks and cuts that are cosmetically visible but don't actually impair the character, action movie style. Like John McClain who's able to get beat to hell but just walks it off by the next scene. And it's only when you're pushed to 0 HP that you actually get stabbed center mass.
That sounds reasonably close to my approach which is - all those things that hit point represent, physical, luck, divine providence, skill, etc - those are present in every hit point. And it may be that the physical represents an increasingly small proportion of each hit point as the hit dice stack onto a PC, but they still result in nicks, scratches, bruises and allow for the quirks like poisoned weapon damage to continue to represent poison being introduced into the PC's body.


The problem is the nomenclature. You would need to stop using terms like hit, miss, wound, injury, and heal. Even non-D&D games often use those words.
And that is the crux of the 'problem'. Are hit points meat, or luck? Answer: Yes.

If hit points are luck or stamina, then a hit is not a hit, it is a near miss....unless it was a poisoned blade or a wight, in which case it was a hit.

If hit points are luck or stamina, and armor class is the ability to avoid 'telling blows', then a miss might actually be a hit, it just didn't penetrate the armor.

So a hit might be a miss, and a miss might be a hit.......you can't have a meaningful interaction if a hit is only a near miss sometimes, but other times (if the conditions are right) it is a real hit; but some misses are really hits that bounce off your platemail, and some hits are really just near misses you dodged.....

All you can do is view it as a gamist mechanism. Because that is what it is.

I describe a miss as either "the orcs swing goes wild, missing you." (for example), or (if the roll hit AC9, but not AC2 (if wearing plate and shield)) "the blade is parried by your shield".

I describe hits as scratches, minor contusions, etc., until the last hit die worth of damage (the last 4-8 hit points) --- those are deadly blows.

Remove ads