In the heat of battle, is hit point loss a wound?

In your mind, in the heat of a battle, what do hit points represent?

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Considering the amount of physical damage a mid- to high-level character would require to be taken down, it makes no sense that it would all be physical damage. Gygax explained this all decades ago, and it will apply so long as a massively abstract system like hit points is used.


How do you actually think about hit points in the middle of a game; is hit point loss a matter of endurance or real physical damage?

Gygax always claimed the Errol Flynn movies where what he was trying to emulate, its all flashing blades and very little actual contact.

I'm not talking about what Gygax thought; I'm talking about what happens in YOUR mind's eye. Often times what we intend to say is different than how others perceive it; game rules vs. fluff can be seen in the same manner. How do you honestly perceive hit points?


Hit Points is an abstraction of many excuses why a character is not dead.

It's "I'm not dead because I blocked/parried/dodged/shoulder roll or You only scratched/bruised/nicked/shook/winded/dizzied me" with a usage limitation.

Sometimes it is a wound, sometimes a scratch, sometimes a harmless parry, sometimes a forced miss with no contact


First Post
I think the word "hit point" should be used to describe actual physical damage from actual physical hits.

As others have pointed out, this becomes nonsensical with the amount of hit points high level characters have, which is why I stopped using hit points a long time ago.

In any case, physical wounds are the main outcome measure of combat and should be explicitly tracked in some fashion.


We don't really think about it too much. High HP is "looking fine," low HP is "looking pretty bad," 0 HP is "it dies."

Gold Roger

First Post
Depends entirely on the creature hit and what attack it was that hit. On a bulette every hit is a proper wound, on a pixy, only the lone that takes it down. PC's are in the middle, but with large variance.

The halfling rogue mostly aquires fatigue, minor bruises and luck running out, the large in-your-face barbarian starts of with aquiring cuts and goes all the way to arrows and large gashes all over his body.

An attack that goes under 0 is a potentially mortal wound by default, unless other options (and optional rules for going to 0) are explicitly agreed by the group.


First Post
There are two blows I narrate as significant, The one that introduced (in 4e) a bloodied condition, and that would usually be a minor scrap, cut or crush, and the blow that drops the monster, which could be significant or not, depending on whether it dropped it to over -10, or just below 0.

Monsters on 0HP drop, but don't die, in my campaigns.


We are asking the wrong question. What we should be asking is: should the DM subtract hit points from a target regardless of the attack roll result?


New Publisher
I don't really think about hitpoints as anything other than a number that goes down when creatures are hit, and goes up when they are healed. It is totally abstract to me. That way, I don't get all obsessed over what they mean and get all annoyed with rules and fluff and whatnot. Just like AC is a number that helps you adjudicate if you should subtract hitpoints or not. Totally abstract to me.


First Post
First, because that is the closest thing to a common language meaning for the term "hit point"; it's what someone who doesn't play rpgs likely thinks of, someone who hasn't been in endless message board debates about hit point philosophy.

Second, because, and I cannot stress this enough, combining all possible types of physical harm into one number is already an extremely abstract measure. Combining bruises, broken bones, bleeding wounds, injured joints, the interactions between all the different body systems, and the pain of injury into one measure is far more abstract than just about anything else in D&D. Trying to take that and make it even more vague by throwing in a bunch of metagame factors and other considerations creates endless confusion and tons of bad mechanics feeding off of this one fundamental mistake. Fix hit points, and all the healing, save-or-die, fighter vs. wizard, and any number of other endless debates are radically changed for the better.


HP for me is a number that goes up and down. I laugh at my enemies when it goes up and I cry and hide behind the fighter when it goes down.

We are asking the wrong question. What we should be asking is: should the DM subtract hit points from a target regardless of the attack roll result?

If it's an abstraction, then the question becomes, "Is it balanced?" Evidence from polling suggests that very few people actually believes it is unbalanced - myself included. From a purely mechanical point of view, that's all that matters.

However, when dealing with a RPG, internal consistency/logic within the game along with a small measure of real-world logic has an affect on the ability of the players to immerse themselves into the game. My hypothesis was that Hit Points as merely abstraction is not how the majority of people actually think about hit points. With how this poll is shaping up, it looks like I might be wrong, or we might be looking at a 50/50 split.

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