D&D General Hit Points. Did 3.0 Or 3.5 Get it Right?

Zardnaar

Legend
Well with 5E coming to a close this year (long live 5.25 or 5.5) in hindsight I think the hit point bloat was a mistake. 4E also did it.

Playing OSR games again some critters might have to few eg dragons are glass cannons.

This kind of leaves 3.0 and 3.5. 3.0 essentially took 2E monsters and added ability scores while 3.5 and Pathfinder tweaked them.

3.X had other problems and the hit points may not have been enough for those editions relative to damage dealt. 3.X bounded accuracy a'la 5E or SWSE well that's interesting as an engine.

Spoilers./context Conceptually looking at a 5E engine/monster designs but tweaked to wind back the hp bloat.
 

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It's been a while since I played 3e (approaching 10 years now that I think about it). From memory I tend to say that hit points were mostly fine between levels 3 and 11 or 12. On higher levels, the damage output increased too much and enemies went down rather quickly.
 


3.5 hitpoints were problematic. Or rather spells did not deal enough damage to warrant using them. A 5d6 fireball at level 5 was lousy. Better cast a save or suck spell until it sticks.

3.0 actually was a bit better in that regard but not a lot.

3.x suffered from a big misunderstanding. Especially 3.5 that embrace bugs as features:

3.0 was most probably built under the premise, that AC does not scale that much over 20 levels. So fighters would start getting close to automatic hits after a few levels with their first attacks and still a good chance with their second. Someone with 3/4 bab like the monk would also hit well enough soon.

Because this was not explained well and coming from AD&D, where not being hit was often mandatory (prpbably we played that wrong too), DMs, me included, tried to increase enemy AC too much. In this process, fighters started to feel useless, their second attack not having a chance to hit. And thus HP felt a bit too high to get through. So fallback to save or suck and caster dominance.
 

Celebrim

Legend
3.0e got hit points fairly close to "right". But actually "right" depends not just on how many hit points the monster has, but how much damage the expected party can generate in a round.

IMO, the ideal situation is that combat normally goes 3-5 rounds before winding down, which means that the right amount of defenses is the ability to resist damage from a typical party for 3-5 rounds.

My guess is that 3.0e hit points are about 1/4 to 1/3rd too low.

Note that 3.5e doesn't have hit point inflation so much as they have hit DICE inflation. Things have too much HD.

In my own 3.0e game it works pretty close to regular 3.0e except that everything has bonus hit points from size class based on the following table: fine:0, diminutive:1, tiny:2, small: 4, medium: 8, large: 16, huge: 32, gargantuan: 64, and colossal: 128. Note that this means that large herbivores (and large things in general) don't necessarily need as many hit dice as before. Also note that oozes and constructs no longer have their own bonus hit points table nor do undead need a kludge fix of getting hit points from charisma through extraordinary abilities. Rather, oozes and undead get double the above bonus and constructs triple the above bonus. This works really well for me though I do have to handwave the problem of how you kill a deer with a bow and arrow.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
3.0e got hit points fairly close to "right". But actually "right" depends not just on how many hit points the monster has, but how much damage the expected party can generate in a round.

IMO, the ideal situation is that combat normally goes 3-5 rounds before winding down, which means that the right amount of defenses is the ability to resist damage from a typical party for 3-5 rounds.

My guess is that 3.0e hit points are about 1/4 to 1/3rd too low.

Note that 3.5e doesn't have hit point inflation so much as they have hit DICE inflation. Things have too much HD.

In my own 3.0e game it works pretty close to regular 3.0e except that everything has bonus hit points from size class based on the following table: fine:0, diminutive:1, tiny:2, small: 4, medium: 8, large: 16, huge: 32, gargantuan: 64, and colossal: 128. Note that this means that large herbivores (and large things in general) don't necessarily need as many hit dice as before. Also note that oozes and constructs no longer have their own bonus hit points table nor do undead need a kludge fix of getting hit points from charisma through extraordinary abilities. Rather, oozes and undead get double the above bonus and constructs triple the above bonus. This works really well for me though I do have to handwave the problem of how you kill a deer with a bow and arrow.

So 3.5 is better hp wise?

Hit dice inflation doesn't matter in 5E as numbers are tied to CR.
 


cbwjm

Seb-wejem
3e got it wrong in my opinion. From 3e onward a fireball was no longer scary due to the increase of hit points of monsters. It used to be that a 5th level wizard could through a fireball and have a decent chance of killing an ogre, or at least put them in range of a single hit required by warriors; 5e retains this issue and is much of the reason why combat is so bogged down.

Things like dragons could do with more hp in 2e and earlier but that could be resolved by the typical "+X hit points" added to their hit dice.
 

jgsugden

Legend
In 3E, an efficient (not optimized - just efficient) 3E game, we'd often see monsters that the DM spent quite a bit of time assembling go down before they did anything. They might as well have been a potato. I recall one battle with a Frost Giant Jarl and its mount, a Frost Drake (a dragon without the smarts) that took me an hour to craft - but that the PCs killed before either could act.

This is bad design.

If anything is commonly rendered irrelevant in actual play, it is problematic. Other than fodder, a monster should survive to the end of the first round in D&D for it to have some relevancy. There may be the occasional exception to the rule (high damage crit), but it is bad design to have monsters that are easy to fell in

Let's say that a 2nd level party of 5 PCs encounters 2 ogres. This is a 'hard' encounter by the books. Those slow moving ogres will other go after 4 or 5 PCs have activated. If the PCs focus fire, you can often get 10 to 15 damage per PC on these monsters. If the ogres have less than 30 hps, there is a real high chance that one, or both, of these theoretically significant threats, will fall down before they do anything in combat.

In 3E, they had 26 hps. In 5E they have 59.

Which is a better game experience?

The party rolls for initiative. The barbarian rages and deals 2d6+5 damage. The rogue then goes and delivers 2d6+3 with the main hand sneak attack and 1d6 with the off hand. The ranger deals 1d8+1d6 (Hunter's mark) +3 with their bow. Then the warlock blasts away for 1d10+1d6+3 with their Eldritch blast. At this point the monsters have taken 1d10+1d8+6d6+14 damage - or about 45 damage. That is one ogre down and the second nearly down as well. If the fifth PC gets to go, the 52 hps of both ogres may be gone before they do anything! In 5E, you'll probably still have both up and doing something in that combat. In the 3E model, the ogres could be ogres, deinonychus, or black bears - it wouldn't matter. The difference between them would be trivial. In 5E, it matters as they're going to get to act.

5E was designed with intent and knowledge based upon the prior editions. As with most of the decisions they made for it, they improved the situation with their design.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Short Answer: No

Longer but still short answer: No edition got HP right. Every edition tried to make HP calculation simple but the preferred number of HP is always off the simple curve.
 

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