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

You aren't getting what I'm saying.

the description of D&D Orcs who pillage villages, kill commoners, and rely on raids for resources.

The issue is not whether or not an orc can kill 4 commoners. The issue is that 4 commoners should not have a chance against an orc because in the lore a common orc is hardened veteran warrior with several kills on each of their belts.

A 5e Veteran is a 9 HD monster.

Even if you say that is too high, 4-5 Hit Die should be the minimum fora common orc monster by the lore.
Fair fights are for suckers and any sensible raider who wants to live to be an old person isn't going to walk into that 4:1 fight without backup. That's part of being a veteran; the knowledge to not do suicidal nonsense.

And why are those four commoners standing to fight when they are pretty sure three of them are going to die? If they run in four directions three can probably escape.

Part of being a veteran is the experience to not get into this situation. And the orc still wins? They're powerful enough. And 9hd is silly.
 

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Legend
Supporter
Fair fights are for suckers and any sensible raider who wants to live to be an old person isn't going to walk into that 4:1 fight without backup. That's part of being a veteran; the knowledge to not do suicidal nonsense.

And why are those four commoners standing to fight when they are pretty sure three of them are going to die? If they run in four directions three can probably escape.

Part of being a veteran is the experience to not get into this situation. And the orc still wins? They're powerful enough. And 9hd is silly.

That's what I'm saying.

An orc jumping 4 commoners at a campfire isn't lore. 1-4 dozen orcs rushing a village in the middle of the night with archer and shaman support and dragging away resources is

If common orc are only 2 HD, they'd have better gear. If their gear sucks then they are higher level

It's the "Dark Elf Kidnapper" situation
 

Not very immersive...
For you. I've had many players tell me that they felt more immersed in the story when using minions because now not everything is a drawn-out 2-3+ round combat, and IRL, you usually only need to tap someone once with something sharp to make them not want to fight anymore.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Fair fights are for suckers and any sensible raider who wants to live to be an old person isn't going to walk into that 4:1 fight without backup. That's part of being a veteran; the knowledge to not do suicidal nonsense.

And why are those four commoners standing to fight when they are pretty sure three of them are going to die? If they run in four directions three can probably escape.
All these points are spot on, but especially the last one. It hits on something that was enormously, incredibly important in medieval (and modern) warfare but that hasn't been modeled in D&D since the TSR days: Morale.

Battle is terrifying. It takes a lot of discipline to stand your ground in the face of an oncoming enemy. And if you see your comrades flee, the impulse to do likewise is very strong. (To be clear, this is a rational impulse! If the rest of your army flees, it does no one any good for you to stand your ground. You'll just be killed out of hand and your fleeing army will be down one soldier whenever it regroups.)

But what this means is that armies are vulnerable to a cascading effect, where one person panics and flees, and then three other people who were wavering are tipped into doing likewise, and then others follow until the whole army routs. A whole lot of military training is aimed at preventing this cascade of panic*. That is one of the biggest differences between soldiers and civilians in battle, and it's more than enough to let a band of orcs take on a village's worth of peasants. In theory, the peasants have the numbers to overwhelm the orcs, but that doesn't matter when they rout before the orcs' charge.

Set aside orcs and look at dragons. In theory, an ancient red dragon can be slain by about 800 commoners with longbows**. So how do we get all these towns burned and pillaged by marauding dragons? Because for those 800 commoners to pull it off, they must hold their ground, wait for the right moment, time it perfectly, and shoot as an immense monster dives down out of the sky, all claws and jaws and iron-hard scales, with fire boiling up its throat. Without extraordinary leadership (supplied perhaps by a high-Charisma PC) and at least some training, that isn't going to happen.

*And also at triggering it in the opposing army. This is why Sun Tzu advised always to leave the enemy an escape route. You can't rout an army that has nowhere to run.
**They all ready attacks for as soon as it gets within 150 feet. Assuming no proficiency and no Dex bonus, 40 of them will roll 19 and score a hit for 1d8, and another 40 will roll nat 20s and crit for 2d8. This deals an average 540 damage. The dragon may survive one volley but will certainly fall to the second; just keep the archers spread out enough that a couple hundred make it to round two without being frightened, wing-buffeted, or incinerated.
 

  • RaThat's what I'm saying.

An orc jumping 4 commoners at a campfire isn't lore. 1-4 dozen orcs rushing a village in the middle of the night with archer and shaman support and dragging away resources is

If common orc are only 2 HD, they'd have better gear. If their gear sucks then they are higher level

It's the "Dark Elf Kidnapper" situation
But orcs do have decent enough gear to do what they want. Hide armour, greataxe, javelin, and the appropriate racial traits of +3 Str, Night Vision, and Aggressive. This is a shock-and-awe attack to take down lightly armoured foes.

The point about aggressive is that it's a gap closer. If the orcs can get within 90' they can javelin from close range. If they can get within 60' they can melee on the first turn. And it's literally impossible to escape orcs by dashing because if you double move they either triple move after you thanks to aggressive (thus closing the gap) or double move and javelin (meaning you aren't getting further away and they have an extra attack).

Your average village, outside of wartime, isn't going to have professional guards in a chain shirt and carrying a large shield. That stuff is heavy and expensive. No one wears 20lbs of metal unless they are expecting a fight or getting paid for it. Instead those keeping watch are basically equipped as bandits with leather armour and light crossbows or shortbows.

This makes the odds the orcs get for attacking pretty good even without advantage on turn 1.
  • vs AC 10 Commoners: 80% chance to hit (miss on a 1-4) and any hit kills
  • vs AC 12 guards/bandits/watch/militia: 70% chance to hit (miss on a 1-6), javelins kill on a 6 - or two javelin hits kill 5 times out of 6. Greataxes kill on a 8+ (so 5/12 times) or two greataxe hits kill 23/24 times

The orcs come out of the darkness. Against the people keeping watch they attack first (there wasn't enough clear ground because orcs attack faster than most other threats). Two hits with javelins gives a 2/3 chance to kill.

Meanwhile what's left to strike back? Again using guard or bandit stats:
  • vs AC 13 orcs that's only a 55% chance to hit
  • Orcs have 15hp.
    • There is no chance of a single hit taking an orc down
    • With two hits at d6+1 damage no chance either. At d8+1 you need 13+ off two dice - or less than 1 in 6.
    • Even with three hits you need an average of 4s on each damage dice to take down the orc.
Orcs, equipped as they are, are substantially more powerful than villagers - and aggressive really enables "bully" tactics for them to beat up weaker foes.

Edit: And why greataxes not e.g. greatswords or sword and shield?
  • The best means not to get hurt is if the enemy is not hitting back. A 5/12 chance of killing a defender beats the 1/8 you'd have with a shield and longsword
  • Axes are better than swords or mauls for breaking doors and chests and otherwise pillaging.
Hide armour is also a nice mix of light, protective, intimidating, and cheap for a rushdown fighting style. Not "the best" - but orcs aren't going to faff around making chain shirts.
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
For you. I've had many players tell me that they felt more immersed in the story when using minions because now not everything is a drawn-out 2-3+ round combat, and IRL, you usually only need to tap someone once with something sharp to make them not want to fight anymore.
2-3 rounds is drawn out? And I assume by your other comment that you subscribe to "hit points are all meat" as a philosophy?
 

Celebrim

Legend
I've had many players tell me that they felt more immersed in the story when using minions because now not everything is a drawn-out 2-3+ round combat...

Well, that's certainly an aesthetic choice. I try to strive for 3-5 round combats because anything shorter and surprise and initiative become way too important and there isn't enough opportunity for maneuver, tactics, or cinematic action. Some exceptionally long combats have gone like 16 rounds, but that usually involves multiple waves of attackers or the PC's running away from something or chasing something.

I think the longest one I can think of involved two waves of juju zombies in a ruined courtyard where the second wave was accompanied by an undead siege tower (itself made up of sewn together body parts and so equipped with arms and weapons) being ridden by skeleton warrior archers.

But my group probably enjoys combat more than anything, and really my next adventure for them is probably going to have to be more linear and more combat heavy to make up for me dragging them through a wide-open sandbox investigation heavy adventure.

Generally combats only drag if you just have two sides standing toe to toe wailing on each other in an effort to break through defenses. That's pretty rare. If a fight goes long, but it involves making tactical choices and characters moving around, it's generally well received. Even the sloggiest fight I can remember, in our Star Wars game versus a heavily armored bounty hunter, it was a slog, but it ultimately got pretty tense because everyone in the party but one was ultimately incapacitated or too heavily wounded to fight and so it came down to one last do or die round. Part of that slogginess is the fault of the D6 system though, which since it lacks hit points tends to feature very binary fights and death spirals.
 

Well, that's certainly an aesthetic choice. I try to strive for 3-5 round combats because anything shorter and surprise and initiative become way too important and there isn't enough opportunity for maneuver, tactics, or cinematic action. Some exceptionally long combats have gone like 16 rounds, but that usually involves multiple waves of attackers or the PC's running away from something or chasing something.

I think the longest one I can think of involved two waves of juju zombies in a ruined courtyard where the second wave was accompanied by an undead siege tower (itself made up of sewn together body parts and so equipped with arms and weapons) being ridden by skeleton warrior archers.

But my group probably enjoys combat more than anything, and really my next adventure for them is probably going to have to be more linear and more combat heavy to make up for me dragging them through a wide-open sandbox investigation heavy adventure.

Generally combats only drag if you just have two sides standing toe to toe wailing on each other in an effort to break through defenses. That's pretty rare. If a fight goes long, but it involves making tactical choices and characters moving around, it's generally well received. Even the sloggiest fight I can remember, in our Star Wars game versus a heavily armored bounty hunter, it was a slog, but it ultimately got pretty tense because everyone in the party but one was ultimately incapacitated or too heavily wounded to fight and so it came down to one last do or die round. Part of that slogginess is the fault of the D6 system though, which since it lacks hit points tends to feature very binary fights and death spirals.
I don't deny that 5E combat, especially when you put effort into it, can be great. But when you have a group where a few members love combat and a few members are in it for more narrative reasons, it requires a bit of tweaking to satisfy both parties. Minions have been great in this aspect; they are basically fun little dynamic combat mini-games that satisfy my players but don't overstay their welcome. Likewise, I still use the full combat procedure (and more) to satisfy the combat-heavy side of my group. Having both tools has helped me to improve the game's enjoyability for my players.
 

2-3 rounds is drawn out? And I assume by your other comment that you subscribe to "hit points are all meat" as a philosophy?
Sometimes it is. To the second question, no, hit points to me are vague and can be described as a huge host of things. Gygax's original description of hit points was very impactful on me as a DM.
 

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