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D&D 5E D&D Should Have Less HP Bloat

Excellent demonstration of how it is impossible to make a game that pleases the D&D fanbase generally.

Can't make the defense and hit numbers scale up, because people get upset that high-level monsters are unhittable and low-level ones are unable to hit.

Can't make HP and damage scale up, because people get upset that high-level monsters are big fat bags of HP that can obliterate low-level PCs, while low-level ones are smushed instantly and unable to scratch high-level PCs.

What's next on the "oh, we'll bake advancement into this"/"it sucks they made this grow, because it's slow/bad/dumb" sequence?

Honestly, at this point, I am beginning to wonder if we don't NEED to split the D&D line back into Basic and Advanced versions (possibly with different, less-loaded names). Neo-Basic is for the people who never want anything to scale, so they can have their "start from zero" feel and their desired "all fights are brisk and dangerous no matter what appears" experience and avoiding their loathing of the so-called "treadmill." Neo-Advanced for the people who want things to have a growth curve, a mathematical difference between "early" monsters and "late" ones, and avoiding their loathing of "things never grow or change."
 

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Aldarc

Legend
Honestly, at this point, I am beginning to wonder if we don't NEED to split the D&D line back into Basic and Advanced versions (possibly with different, less-loaded names). Neo-Basic is for the people who never want anything to scale, so they can have their "start from zero" feel and their desired "all fights are brisk and dangerous no matter what appears" experience and avoiding their loathing of the so-called "treadmill." Neo-Advanced for the people who want things to have a growth curve, a mathematical difference between "early" monsters and "late" ones, and avoiding their loathing of "things never grow or change."
I have advocated for something like this before. I think it definitely would have made 5e more modular than initially advertised. Break the game up into four level-based tiers of play and then have modular dials and levers for each tier.
 

Easiest solution seems to be a campaign I'm playing in where the monsters do max damage on a hit. We don't do max on ours because we're a big group and tend to hit pretty hard, but you could do that as well.

For us it works brilliantly. Currently level 18 and we still regularly get hit to 0 in most fights.
 

A hidden (at least to me) benefit of less HP bloat however, is that encounter balance becomes less sensitive.

I'm running a campaign in Shadow of the Demon Lord where the HP levels are more restrained and the encounters the players have faced seem to be challenging most of the time, even for encounters I pull up with little prep.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Excellent demonstration of how it is impossible to make a game that pleases the D&D fanbase generally.

Can't make the defense and hit numbers scale up, because people get upset that high-level monsters are unhittable and low-level ones are unable to hit.

Can't make HP and damage scale up, because people get upset that high-level monsters are big fat bags of HP that can obliterate low-level PCs, while low-level ones are smushed instantly and unable to scratch high-level PCs.

What's next on the "oh, we'll bake advancement into this"/"it sucks they made this grow, because it's slow/bad/dumb" sequence?

Honestly, at this point, I am beginning to wonder if we don't NEED to split the D&D line back into Basic and Advanced versions (possibly with different, less-loaded names). Neo-Basic is for the people who never want anything to scale, so they can have their "start from zero" feel and their desired "all fights are brisk and dangerous no matter what appears" experience and avoiding their loathing of the so-called "treadmill." Neo-Advanced for the people who want things to have a growth curve, a mathematical difference between "early" monsters and "late" ones, and avoiding their loathing of "things never grow or change."

Both of the things you mention are really the same problem though -just manifested differently.

An unhittable monster with weak offense creating a prolonged fight isn't drastically different from tons of HP creating a prolonged fight. In both cases, the game hasn't offered a tactical way for a player to make a choice which changes that.

To be fair, 4E did offer tactical choices to fix the (allegedly) "unhittable" problem in the form of powers and abilities which sacrificed damage for accuracy (and many of the Leader abilities). Many of the people who complained were also folks I saw complaining that choosing those options "sucked."

5E does a lot of things really well. However, it kept a scaling HP model similar to 4E, took away some of the ways that could be mitigated without replacing that with something else. Similarly, without some of the extra options of 3E, there's not a whole lot else to do to circumvent the bag of HP in many cases. In non-D&D games, something akin to "bounded accuracy" is achieved without needing to give things more and more hit points or making things unhittable. Depending on the game, that might mean defenses, soak, or any number of things -with my point here being that it is possible to do. A few of 5E's optional rules lightly touch upon other options but stop short.

(edit: growth and change can look different than going from a +1 to a +2; it could also mean having a new way to use an ability or expanding how an option can be used rather than stacking more numbers. I support an evolving and changing play experience, but I want the change to occur differently than it now does.)

5th captured some of the good things of combat from both of the previous editions but also brought in some of the problems with both of them (and I've seen that higher level play often does a weird pendulum swing of either being 4E easy or 3E rocket tag). I do not feel 5E is a bad game; it simply could be better. Ideally, looking into how it could be improved leads to creating a future edition which works better, and builds upon how things are now rather than starting the whole process from scratch again.

For now, if there's a way to improve how I play at my home table, I'll take that. The spirit of 5E claims to be a game which is modular enough to fit that goal. If there are methods I can use so as to make my table a medium for that spirit, I welcome that.
 


tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Both of the things you mention are really the same problem though -just manifested differently.

An unhittable monster with weak offense creating a prolonged fight isn't drastically different from tons of HP creating a prolonged fight. In both cases, the game hasn't offered a tactical way for a player to make a choice which changes that.

To be fair, 4E did offer tactical choices to fix the (allegedly) "unhittable" problem in the form of powers and abilities which sacrificed damage for accuracy (and many of the Leader abilities). Many of the people who complained were also folks I saw complaining that choosing those options "sucked."

5E does a lot of things really well. However, it kept a scaling HP model similar to 4E, took away some of the ways that could be mitigated without replacing that with something else. Similarly, without some of the extra options of 3E, there's not a whole lot else to do to circumvent the bag of HP in many cases. In non-D&D games, something akin to "bounded accuracy" is achieved without needing to give things more and more hit points or making things unhittable. Depending on the game, that might mean defenses, soak, or any number of things -with my point here being that it is possible to do. A few of 5E's optional rules lightly touch upon other options but stop short.

5th captured some of the good things of combat from both of the previous editions but also brought in some of the problems with both of them (and I've seen that higher level play often does a weird pendulum swing of either being 4E easy or 3E rocket tag). I do not feel 5E is a bad game; it simply could be better. Ideally, looking into how it could be improved leads to creating a future edition which works better, and builds upon how things are now rather than starting the whole process from scratch again.

For now, if there's a way to improve how I play at my home table, I'll take that. The spirit of 5E claims to be a game which is modular enough to fit that goal. If there are methods I can use so as to make my table a medium for that spirit, I welcome that.
Actually it' dramatically different. Since "unhittable" is an extreme edge case that borders on "plot reasons" lets shift to a more meaningful example
  • Say for example 30-60% of a level 11 fighter's attacks are expected to hit each round against monster A. It's a big tough revenant with a good chunk of hp in plate armor. With three attacks that's an expected 1-2 attacks/round that land
  • Monster A is a weak mook type thing , just to give it a name lets call it a zombie The fighter can be expected to hit 60-100% of his attacks each round & can go chainsaw massacre on them by the dozen. No real reason for using a dozen, It's just a handy number
  • Monster C gets hit 100% of the time but has about 2x more hp as monster A . Lets call hem skeletons If my late night eyeball math is right it should take about as many rounds for Frank the fighter to kill them by the dozen,
  • Alongside fighter Frank you can throw in Billy Barbarian, & Willie Wizard
  • Billy Barbarian has the same hit chances as Frank the fighter, Willie Wizard has a great chance of landing save or x spells on Monster B except those are trash so he doesn't want to. use any big spells. Instead he throws down web or something to help his buddies corral those zombies. Billy & frank make short work of them either way but one way is more dangerous if the battlefield doesn't have good choke points.
  • If things get out of hand Willie wizard can pull out the big guns & demolish a big chunk of those zombies & skeletons to save his buddies, but that's going to cost him later when he won't be able to use that consumed spell slot.
  • When Monster A comes around the group could just pile on & bash it to death, but there are a few other options now. Willie wizard could demolish it's AC, he could make it take more damage from his buddy, he could nerf it's ability to hit his buddies, or he could even cast a big nuke and not really accomplish much
  • Monster D is exactly like monster A but gets hit twice as often & has twice the hp

When you have huge bags of HP with low AC it doesn't really matter what you do against MonsterD because it's not tough to hit & you have plenty of hp yourself. When things go sideways against monsterC Willie wizard could throw out the same big nuke that changed fate with monsterB... but they have so many HP it doesn't really change much
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I don't much care if the numbers get larger, but generally I like offense to defense ratios against relevant adversaries to stay somewhat static over levels. If it takes 3 or 4 good whacks on average to kill a tough monster at 2nd level I prefer the same to be true at 12th level. I really dislike using increasing numbers of attacks as a means to increase offensive capabilities because that means fights are getting to take longer and longer to resolve as the levels increase. Obviously details matter here, but I would much rather damage per attack increased rather than have a fighter end up making up to 4 attacks with feats in the mix on their turn. Let's not even get into action surge.
 

Argyle King

Legend
Actually it' dramatically different. Since "unhittable" is an extreme edge case that borders on "plot reasons" lets shift to a more meaningful example
  • Say for example 30-60% of a level 11 fighter's attacks are expected to hit each round against monster A. It's a big tough revenant with a good chunk of hp in plate armor. With three attacks that's an expected 1-2 attacks/round that land
  • Monster A is a weak mook type thing , just to give it a name lets call it a zombie The fighter can be expected to hit 60-100% of his attacks each round & can go chainsaw massacre on them by the dozen. No real reason for using a dozen, It's just a handy number
  • Monster C gets hit 100% of the time but has about 2x more hp as monster A . Lets call hem skeletons If my late night eyeball math is right it should take about as many rounds for Frank the fighter to kill them by the dozen,
  • Alongside fighter Frank you can throw in Billy Barbarian, & Willie Wizard
  • Billy Barbarian has the same hit chances as Frank the fighter, Willie Wizard has a great chance of landing save or x spells on Monster B except those are trash so he doesn't want to. use any big spells. Instead he throws down web or something to help his buddies corral those zombies. Billy & frank make short work of them either way but one way is more dangerous if the battlefield doesn't have good choke points.
  • If things get out of hand Willie wizard can pull out the big guns & demolish a big chunk of those zombies & skeletons to save his buddies, but that's going to cost him later when he won't be able to use that consumed spell slot.
  • When Monster A comes around the group could just pile on & bash it to death, but there are a few other options now. Willie wizard could demolish it's AC, he could make it take more damage from his buddy, he could nerf it's ability to hit his buddies, or he could even cast a big nuke and not really accomplish much
  • Monster D is exactly like monster A but gets hit twice as often & has twice the hp

When you have huge bags of HP with low AC it doesn't really matter what you do against MonsterD because it's not tough to hit & you have plenty of hp yourself. When things go sideways against monsterC Willie wizard could throw out the same big nuke that changed fate with monsterB... but they have so many HP it doesn't really change much

True

Though, my general point was that both can contribute to a combat feeling as though little progress is being made.

In other games, the unhittable monster (or the monster with a ton of soak or whatever) might be mitigated by facing and some of those advantages not applying to attacks performed in a certain way. Which I am not suggesting for D&D. The point I was trying to make -and have done so perhaps poorly- was that building monsters a certain way while also only offering one primary path/method for interacting with them can lead to some of the "problems" I have seen. There are different ways of doing it.

I believe there are/were different ways of doing things, even within the bounds of what would still be clearly recognizable as D&D (and even clearly recognizable as still being 5th Edition,) which could work better than how things work now.
 


Gadget

Adventurer
Well that is the design issue though. In 3e (the apex of whahoo power design), there were four main axes of player/monster power:
  • Hit Points
  • AC/Saves
  • Attack bonus
  • Damage
5e tried to curtail this somewhat with the bounded accuracy design principle such that it was mainly HP & Damage that scaled with level, though of course AC/Saves & Attacks progressed as well, just more slowly. With PC optimization and tactics (focus fire, action economy, items & class features), the HP bloat is designed to prevent easy alpha strikes that take monsters out too quickly/easily. I suppose they could have gone the other way and have attack bonus and AC scale more quickly with HP & damage being marginal increases but that would present other problems imho.

I do agree that they may not have nailed down the HP scaling quite right though.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Allow people to roll hit points as they gain levels based on their class.

Then give them Conmod per level after that.

Combat will get WAY deadlier and faster.

Mages: 5th level
Clerics, Rogues, and Hybrids: 8th Level
Fighter Types: 12th level.

Similarly, give your creature type "Hit Dice" Cutoffs.

Aberration: 5 HD
Beast: 3 HD
Celestial: 10 HD
Construct: 12 HD
Dragon: 15 HD
Elemental: 8 HD
Fey: 4 HD
Fiend: 10 HD
Giant: 5 HD
Humanoid: 3 HD (Unless they've got a Class)
Monstrosity: 6 HD
Ooze: 4: HD
Plant: 4: HD
Undead: 7HD

Just some examples. A Storm Giant normally has 230hp from 20d12 hit dice. Instead it would have only 139 if you limited it to a maximum of 6 actual Hit Dice plus con mod.

While a Troll would wind up with 70 instead of 84. Much lower scaling of the penalty. So low-level play is largely preserved, but as things get heavier and more dangerous...

Let's just say when you're a 13th level Wizard with a con of 16 and only 5d6 of HP to tack onto your 39hp from Constitution that 6d6+9 Storm Giant Greatsword is -infinitely- more frightening. (Average HP of 59, average hit of 30 and the Giant swings twice!).
 

You'd have to redo all the numbers to fix HP bloat:

1. Cut the max ability score mod to +3
2. Slash the damage from various abilities. Stuff like rogue sneak attack increasing every 3 levels, and/or being d4s, or Paladin smites being d6s.
3. Monster AC curve needs to be tilted upward. Talking average AC at CR 20 needs to be around 24. I think it's 19.5 right now. High-level characters have tons of ways to get advantage, lots of attacks, etc.
4. More buff/debuff spells need to not be concentration and/or apply to multiple people when upcast. It's utterly moronic that Barkskin is Concentration, that Spiritual Armor can't be upcast, etc.

This would require of course total rebalancing of everything and re-playtesting everything, so it's just not happening.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
I'm totally in favor of reducing HP bloat, but 5e has made it clear that HP progression is the primary source of character progression, and the entire system is built around that. I think that the Constitution modifier to HD at each level is positively preposterous (not to mention 20 levels of HD!). Nixing this would contribute the most to reducing the HP bloat...but that's not really feasible within 5e's design paradigm.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Counterpoint.

Maybe .... just maybe .... D&D needs MOAR HIT POINT BLOAT!

Sometimes, you just want to keep hitting something, long past the point of, um, making a point.

PlumpDelayedEgg-max-1mb.gif
 



Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
yeah %e has given me a much better appreciation of 4e, its monster roles and its encounter design in particular.

i'm liking the d6 paradigm myself (all HP and all weapon damage is based on d6) and have been toying with a No HP system (just Hits per level)
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I'm totally in favor of reducing HP bloat, but 5e has made it clear that HP progression is the primary source of character progression, and the entire system is built around that. I think that the Constitution modifier to HD at each level is positively preposterous (not to mention 20 levels of HD!). Nixing this would contribute the most to reducing the HP bloat...but that's not really feasible within 5e's design paradigm.

Well that is the design issue though. In 3e (the apex of whahoo power design), there were four main axes of player/monster power:
  • Hit Points
  • AC/Saves
  • Attack bonus
  • Damage
5e tried to curtail this somewhat with the bounded accuracy design principle such that it was mainly HP & Damage that scaled with level, though of course AC/Saves & Attacks progressed as well, just more slowly. With PC optimization and tactics (focus fire, action economy, items & class features), the HP bloat is designed to prevent easy alpha strikes that take monsters out too quickly/easily. I suppose they could have gone the other way and have attack bonus and AC scale more quickly with HP & damage being marginal increases but that would present other problems imho.

I do agree that they may not have nailed down the HP scaling quite right though.

That's the core issue innit?

IfD&D is a progression based game and you cut down the things that progress (AC, saves hit bonus) and won't allow other stuff in to keepthe game simple and classical (no powers, no feat chains, no caster/weapons checks, no new tables),then what is left will progress a lot (HP and damage)
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
That's the core issue innit?

IfD&D is a progression based game and you cut down the things that progress (AC, saves hit bonus) and won't allow other stuff in to keepthe game simple and classical (no powers, no feat chains, no caster/weapons checks, no new tables),then what is left will progress a lot (HP and damage)
Yes. That was the stated design goal of 5e developers. My personal preference is to drastically flatten the power curve overall, starting the PCs with a little more oomph in their britches and tapering power as the game progresses. There's a reason my preferred playing range is levels 3-7. I appreciate the lower levels and the higher levels for those that want them, but the system math falls apart at either end.

Speaking of which, have you heard the Good News about Savage Worlds? :)
 

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