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D&D 5E (House Rule Concept) Variable Hit Points

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
This is a quick idea I had this morning, and I sort of like the concept, but I think it might slow the game down too much despite adding a variable and, in some ways, tactical element to the idea of hit points. Here is the first draft of the idea (it'll need a lot of work if it is ever adopted... :) ):

NOTE: Hit Point (HP) Modifier is always equal to your highest ability score modifier, not your Constitution modifier (it can be, but likely isn't). We do this because of the abstract nature of HP and the idea that most of your HP might come from a source besides your ability to take physical punishment, etc. but maybe your ability to dodge, your will to keep going, your understanding of an attack, etc. It also removes the desire for nearly every PC to have CON always as a top-3 ability score.

Variable Hit Points
  • You start with hit points equal to your maximum hit die plus your HP modifier, and only gain additional hit points every odd level (3, 5, 7, etc.)
  • You begin with 1 hit die and gain 1 hit die per level.
  • At any time when you take damage or during your turn, you can roll any number of your unspent hit dice (adding your HP modifier to each) and add the total to your current hit points (up to your current maximum).
  • You can spend any unspent hit dice during a short rest to heal yourself as normal.
  • You regain hit dice equal to your level when you finish a long rest.

What is the purpose of this?

Well, first, it adds a bit of danger and uncertainty to the game. You will have a lower HP maximum due to only getting HP every odd level. Also, players, always knowing exactly how many hit points, are able to rush in knowing they are safe because they have (at higher levels especially) a huge hit point pool. They are also keenly aware when hit points are running low, but know again exactly how much they have left can too easily judge the risk of further encounters. Having additional HP available at any time using Hit Dice offers a buffer, but it is variable so more uncertain.

So, that's the basics of it. I know it will have huge ramifications, so no need to point those out. ;) I am just posting the initial concept for any who might like the idea and want to contribute on how to make it work well. If you don't care for it, feel free not to reply and thanks for reading anyway. :)
 

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TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
It's interesting, although I'm not sure it has as dramatic an impact as you might want.

I like to look at level 12 or so for changes like this, it's a good top level for most games, but there's enough levels for higher stats to be present. So a 12th level fighter, let's say. Bumps Str or Dex up to 20, maybe bumps Con up to 16. (In my experience, most people have 14s in Con, the occasional 12, and some melee types might have 16s.) So a fighter would normally have 10 + 11*6 + 12*3 = 112 HP, in your system, they would have 10 + 5*6 + 6*5 = 70 HP base. Additionally, they would have the ability to spend 12d10+60 (avg 126) in additional HP, in 1d10+5 increments, whenever they take damage (assuming that's a non-action to do, not a reaction).

Personally, I think that's too generous to the PCs if you're trying to make them feel nervous. Anything that doesn't clear a 70 HP benchmark isn't that scary, since you can just react to heal it up. And since about half the amount you heal isn't random, you don't have to be too scared you'll low bad and leave yourself vulnerable.

I think the idea is workable, but you might need to tweak the numbers some. Maybe a limit on the number of Hit Die you can spend, or make it a reaction to do so.
 

I played around with a similar idea when I was trying to figure out how to make 'players roll all the dice' more literal and not have them roll for enemy actions - enemies would do fixed damage, and you would roll to see how many hp you got as needed.

It worked like this: your base hp was one maxed out hit die. As you took damage, you would track damage separately from hit points. If you had more damage than current hp, you would roll Hit Dice (with con, no action). This was added to your hp. Once you had more hp than damage, you stopped rolling. If you ran out of HD and still had more damage than hp, you were dying.

Healing removed damage, and you could get back HD on a short rest (but no more than your current level per day, creating a second new number to track.

I never got around to playtesting this.

If I wanted to incorporate the 'key ability instead of con' idea to the mix, I might reduce the number of HD you can get back.
 

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
I think the idea is workable, but you might need to tweak the numbers some. Maybe a limit on the number of Hit Die you can spend, or make it a reaction to do so.
Glad you mentioned this. Originally the idea was gain HP on odd levels, gain HD on even levels... and I thought about making it a reaction, but that seemed too harsh since you could take multiple sources of damage in one round.

Thanks for your insights!

I played around with a similar idea when I was trying to figure out how to make 'players roll all the dice' more literal and not have them roll for enemy actions - enemies would do fixed damage, and you would roll to see how many hp you got as needed.

It worked like this: your base hp was one maxed out hit die. As you took damage, you would track damage separately from hit points. If you had more damage than current hp, you would roll Hit Dice (with con, no action). This was added to your hp. Once you had more hp than damage, you stopped rolling. If you ran out of HD and still had more damage than hp, you were dying.

Healing removed damage, and you could get back HD on a short rest (but no more than your current level per day, creating a second new number to track.

I never got around to playtesting this.

If I wanted to incorporate the 'key ability instead of con' idea to the mix, I might reduce the number of HD you can get back.
Yes, this is very similar. I also considered the "just level 1 hit points" but changed it to every odd level because I thought the dice pool and subsequent rolling might be too much and drag out combat.

Nice to know you were thinking along similar lines, though, so thanks for your thoughts. :)
 

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