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?


I wasn't particularly talking about injuries that reduce a character into negative hit points, which have their own complexities (in 1st ed AD&D, a week's recovery after binding, and in 3E the need for binding - though, frankly, binding wounds in 6 seconds or so isn't redolent of anything very serious).

I was thinking more of, say, a 2nd level PC who drops from 15 hp to 1 hp in two blows from an orc in a combat. Thos 14 hp will heal in 4 days (at 4 hp per day), or in 2 days (at 8 hp per day) with nursing care (which nearly any trained nurse will be able to provide by taking 10). Therefore they cannot, in my view represent anything very serious.
In which case then we are in perfect accord.

A character at 1hp is still acting at full capacity and so is not troubled by their "injuries" or perhaps more precisely their current condition based purely on hit points. Complicating this (from trying to work out what is going on) is that tougher characters can most likely take quite a bit of roughing up yet still be at combat capacity where as a non-combat wizard takes a thump to the stomach and they're more than likely incapacitated. JeffH raises an interesting point in regards to poison saves, with a poisoning hit representing some form of physical contact and injury. But realistically, the damage caused is purely relative to the time taken to heal from it and so an injury that can be naturally healed in a day (4e/5e) or a handful of days (3e) is never going to be that serious, and certainly not to the violence level of guts across the floor.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise
 

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Mercutio01

First Post
I was thinking more of, say, a 2nd level PC who drops from 15 hp to 1 hp in two blows from an orc in a combat. Thos 14 hp will heal in 4 days (at 4 hp per day), or in 2 days (at 8 hp per day) with nursing care (which nearly any trained nurse will be able to provide by taking 10). Therefore they cannot, in my view represent anything very serious.
The numbers are off. It'd be 2 HP per day or 4 for total bed rest (so 7 days or 4 days).

Otherwise that's not untrue. But they are wounds (cuts, abrasions, bruises) and the difference between 4 days and 8 hours is too big of one for me to accept.
 

pemerton

Legend
just looking at the original question, a hit has to indicate some injury or at least physical contact, doesn't it? Think of how, for example, poisonous snakes work - if you take 10 hits from them, you need to make 10 saves
One of the things that's been discussed in this thread is how flexible hit point narration is allowed to be.

So, for example, just because a 1 hit point blow from a snake, delivered to a 100 hp fighter, has to be narrated as making physical contact, does that mean that every 1 hp blow has to be narrated that way?

[MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION] is the only person so far to have been strongly arguing "yes" in answer to that question, but even he seemed to allow that, if the 100 hp fighter made the save, that could be narrated as the skin not having been broken by the snake.
 

Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
As I read the rules, 4e is a game where the mechanics render it impossible for a PC to be seriously injured in combat but not killed.

I'm inclined to disagree.

Consider the little picture of the PC's face at the bottom of the screen in Doom. When you're at 100% health he looks fine. As he takes damage, the face becomes bloodied, then bruised - you can glance at that face and get a readout of how much health you have left.

If you treat a 4E PC the same way, then yeah, you can't narrate an injury that can't heal overnight.

But what if you don't?

Let's say I have 30 hit points. On the attack that Bloodies me - drops me from 21 to 14, say - we decide to narrate it as a goblin stabbing me in the shoulder with a spear.

Now, the cinematic description of "stabbed through the shoulder" has no actual mechanical consequence. All that mechanically matters are two things - I have the Bloodied status, and I'm 7 hit points closer to being rendered incapable of further direct influence on the course of the narrative.

We polish off the goblins and take an Extended rest. Voila, I'm back at 30 hit points. We could take the Doom approach, and say that this means my shoulder is completely unblemished. But that's not the only way to do it.

I'm happy to say that I have 30 hit points, and there's a nasty wound in my shoulder that's still oozing into the bandages we strapped on me after the fight.

Yesterday, when I was at 14 hit points, the shoulder wound had no mechanical effect on my combat capabilities. Today, when I'm at 30 hit points, the shoulder wound has no effect on my combat capabilities. So it doesn't mechanically break anything to say "I'm at max health, but the little face at the bottom of the screen still looks battered and bruised".

I can complain about how my shoulder is still aching like blazes for the next couple of in-game months, if I like. What the extended rest has done is to replenish my capacity to resist attempts to prevent my direct influence on the narrative, rather than removing any medical evidence within the fiction that someone stuck a spear in me.

In summary - I don't think that "being at full hit points" mandates "showing no evidence of physical trauma narrated to explain previous hit point loss".

pemerton said:
[MENTION=29398]Lanefan[/MENTION] is the only person so far to have been strongly arguing "yes" in answer to that question, but even he seemed to allow that, if the 100 hp fighter made the save, that could be narrated as the skin not having been broken by the snake.

Yeah.

You obviously can't narrate an attack before the attack roll is made. You don't know if it's a successful attack or an unsuccessful attack.

It's generally accepted that it's a bad idea to narrate an attack before the damage roll is made. vs AC 15, an attack roll of 15 sounds less impressive than an attack roll of 27, but if it's 15 for 13 points of damage vs 27 for 2 point of damage, the damage roll will presumably impact on the description you choose.

It's a bad idea to commit to a narration before DR is considered. If you deal 8 damage but the creature has DR 10, that consideration will influence the narrative.

It's a bad idea to commit to a narration before the existence of poison is confirmed or denied, since poison may mandate physical injury to be involved in the narrative resolution of the attack.

But, as Lanefan concedes, a successful saving throw against poison may negate that mandate - if we know that the attack did not result in the character succumbing to poison, then we retain the freedom to narrate the attack without the poison being successfully introduced to the victim's bloodstream... which means physical injury is no longer a necessity.

In the D&DN playtest or 4E, we also need to consider if the attack can reduce the target's HP total despite an unsuccessful attack roll.

Once all of those factors are considered, you know what is forbidden in the narrative ("He failed his poison save, so you must incorporate physical contact"; "DR prevented all hit point loss, so you shouldn't narrate major inconvenience"), and anything else is really fair game... assuming one allows for hit points to represent multiple avenues of plot resilience.

(For certain types of DR - zombies, say - even the reduction of damage to zero doesn't require no wounds in the cinematic depiction. You can carve big chunks out of a zombie with an axe, and he keeps coming... perfectly valid zero-damage attack!)

-Hyp.
 
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In summary - I don't think that "being at full hit points" mandates "showing no evidence of physical trauma narrated to explain previous hit point loss".
I agree with this. However, if you describe a spear through the shoulder, it is a little difficult to believe that the character is at full capacity the following day striking effectively with a sword in one hand and defending stoutly with a shield in the other. Where this line of believability is drawn is highly dependent upon the group, campaign style and individual.

Hit points as they stand do a really poor job of representing physical wounding as well as all their metaphysical aspects. Primarily, a character is either at operational capacity or they are incapacitated. Occasionally, a character has to deal with a handful of extremely transient conditions but there is nothing mechanically representing a condition where the character is substantially injured and impaired, but they still have the use of some or most of their hit points. I think having this bridging state between incapacitated and operational capacity would aid the believability of combat and injury.

Unfortunately, it can also potentially represent a death spiral. However, by allowing an impaired character to still use the majority of their hit points to avoid being damaged, I think it gentles the slope. It can further nullify the spiral by allowing heroic opportunities (action points, surges, spending xhit points) for a character to momentarily ignore such penalties. In essence, I would love to see this bridging health state as a possibility in 5e.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise
 

Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
Primarily, a character is either at operational capacity or they are incapacitated.

That's essentially my point. Yesterday, with a spear in his shoulder, the character was capable of using his sword in one hand and shield in the other at full effectiveness. Today, having been speared in the shoulder, the character is capable of using his sword in one hand and shield in the other at full effectiveness.

The difference is that yesterday, he was more likely to end up in a situation where he's rendered incapacitated by a different attack (since the probability of going negative from 14 is higher than the probability of going negative from 30). But while the spear was the narration that accounted for 7 points of the 16 damage he'd taken, the abstract nature of hit points means that we don't need to inextricably bind those 7 points to that spear wound thereafter.

If the nature of the injury imposed an interwoven mechanical impairment (and by interwoven, I exclude the Bloodied condition which is tied to a hit point threshold, regardless of how many times you cross back and forth over that number since sustaining the injury), the narrative freedom would be curtailed by that impairment. "Spear in the shoulder" provides condition X, and anyone without condition X does not have a spear wound in the shoulder? Then something that removes condition X must somehow remove the wound.

But those impairments don't exist in 3E, or 4E, or D&DN.

(Most of my gaming of late has been in a FATE system, which separates basic damage ('Stress') from lasting injuries ('Consequences'), and those injuries heal at different speeds depending on their severity. (A Minor Consequence might be "Bruised Ribs", and cease to be mechanically significant at the end of the Scene. A Severe Consequence might be "Broken Ribs", and it will continue to impact the character until the end of the Adventure, for example.))

-Hyp.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm happy to say that I have 30 hit points, and there's a nasty wound in my shoulder that's still oozing into the bandages we strapped on me after the fight.

...[...]...

In summary - I don't think that "being at full hit points" mandates "showing no evidence of physical trauma narrated to explain previous hit point loss".
An interesting reversal, to be sure; though I think "a nasty wound ... still oozing into the bandages" is not exactly full h.p. territory. :) In fact, that's a narration I might use to describe somebody who is what we call "incurable", having been below 0 h.p. recently and still recovering.



You obviously can't narrate an attack before the attack roll is made. You don't know if it's a successful attack or an unsuccessful attack.
Except with the Reaper, you can! She's always going to hurt you somehow, provided she swings at all...

And I just thought of another ridiculous thing about that auto-damage ability: with a poor roll on the damage die it is now possible to do more damage on a rolled miss than on a rolled hit. Sigh...

It's generally accepted that it's a bad idea to narrate an attack before the damage roll is made. vs AC 15, an attack roll of 15 sounds less impressive than an attack roll of 27, but if it's 15 for 13 points of damage vs 27 for 2 point of damage, the damage roll will presumably impact on the description you choose.

It's a bad idea to commit to a narration before DR is considered. If you deal 8 damage but the creature has DR 10, that consideration will influence the narrative.
Both true, though I don't have to worry about DR. :)

It's a bad idea to commit to a narration before the existence of poison is confirmed or denied, since poison may mandate physical injury to be involved in the narrative resolution of the attack.

But, as Lanefan concedes, a successful saving throw against poison may negate that mandate - if we know that the attack did not result in the character succumbing to poison, then we retain the freedom to narrate the attack without the poison being successfully introduced to the victim's bloodstream... which means physical injury is no longer a necessity.
I still think minor or trivial physical injury is necessary most of the time - the 100 h.p. Fighter example being the exception rather than the rule (100 h.p. characters are mighty rare in these parts). I've almost always narrated made saves vs. poison as either "your body fights off the effects" or "you quickly do what's necessary to get the poison out of you"; or words to those effects.

Once all of those factors are considered, you know what is forbidden in the narrative ("He failed his poison save, so you must incorporate physical contact"; "DR prevented all hit point loss, so you shouldn't narrate major inconvenience"), and anything else is really fair game... assuming one allows for hit points to represent multiple avenues of plot resilience.
Where you say "plot resilience" I say "pain tolerance". :)

(For certain types of DR - zombies, say - even the reduction of damage to zero doesn't require no wounds in the cinematic depiction. You can carve big chunks out of a zombie with an axe, and he keeps coming... perfectly valid zero-damage attack!)
Brilliant! Same could be used, in this case anyway, for regenerative effects; with a Zombie, who can tell?

Lan-"things requiring brains: zombies, scarecrows, me..."-efan
 

pemerton

Legend
The numbers are off. It'd be 2 HP per day or 4 for total bed rest (so 7 days or 4 days).
My understanding of the rules, which I double-checked on the online SRD, is that it is 1 hp/level/8 hr of rest, or 2 hp/level/day of bed rest, and that a successful Heal check at DC 15 doubles either rate:

Providing long-term care means treating a wounded person for a day or more. If your Heal check is successful, the patient recovers hit points or ability score points (lost to ability damage) at twice the normal rate: 2 hit points per level for a full 8 hours of rest in a day, or 4 hit points per level for each full day of complete rest​

Taking 10 for the DC on the nursing check requires a +5 or better bonus - which is 4 ranks, +1 for stat or +2 for feat - hence my comment that nearly any trained nurse can provide the requisite level of care.
 

pemerton

Legend
We polish off the goblins and take an Extended rest. Voila, I'm back at 30 hit points. We could take the Doom approach, and say that this means my shoulder is completely unblemished. But that's not the only way to do it.

I'm happy to say that I have 30 hit points, and there's a nasty wound in my shoulder that's still oozing into the bandages we strapped on me after the fight.

Yesterday, when I was at 14 hit points, the shoulder wound had no mechanical effect on my combat capabilities. Today, when I'm at 30 hit points, the shoulder wound has no effect on my combat capabilities. So it doesn't mechanically break anything to say "I'm at max health, but the little face at the bottom of the screen still looks battered and bruised".

I can complain about how my shoulder is still aching like blazes for the next couple of in-game months, if I like. What the extended rest has done is to replenish my capacity to resist attempts to prevent my direct influence on the narrative, rather than removing any medical evidence within the fiction that someone stuck a spear in me.
Sure. [MENTION=3424]FireLance[/MENTION] and I were running just this line on a hit point thread around here a month or so ago.

But there is another consideration, in my view, namely:

if you describe a spear through the shoulder, it is a little difficult to believe that the character is at full capacity the following day striking effectively with a sword in one hand and defending stoutly with a shield in the other.

<snip>

there is nothing mechanically representing a condition where the character is substantially injured and impaired, but they still have the use of some or most of their hit points.
I would add to the last line of this - there is nothing mechanically representing injury and impairment when a character has lost most of their hit points either.

I'm happy to narrate bruises, cuts and the like that are inflicted, and that PCs complain about even after their hp are recovered. That's fine (for the reasons you give, and that Firelance and I were running on that earlier thread). But I can't happily narrate a spear through a PC's shoulder, given that their use of their arm is in no way mechanically impaired.

I don't have the same objection to narrating a spear through an NPC's arm - they don't go into a death spiral either, but they're likely to roll sufficiently few follow-up attacks that the effects of injury can all be subsumed into the variability of to hit and damage rolls. But the idea that a PC has been stabbed through the shoulder, and yet is unimpeded in climbing, swimming, carrying etc is more than my suspension of disbelief can handle.

Hence my view that 4e PCs can't suffer serious injuries pursuant to the combat rules. That qualification is important, in my view - it leaves it open that other mechanical techniques (say, a skill challenge) or even free roleplaying could produce some kind of injury that was serious and that did (for example) impede future climb and swim checks.

My view is also that those powers (clerical, warlord etc) that simply restore hit points are incapable of healing serious injury (like broken bones, blindness etc). In my game it requires Remove Affliction to heal such hurts.
 

Hypersmurf

Moderatarrrrh...
An interesting reversal, to be sure; though I think "a nasty wound ... still oozing into the bandages" is not exactly full h.p. territory. :) In fact, that's a narration I might use to describe somebody who is what we call "incurable", having been below 0 h.p. recently and still recovering.

If you'd never use a stab in the shoulder as the cinematic expression of an attack that doesn't take someone negative, then it's not an issue you need to deal with in the first place.

And I just thought of another ridiculous thing about that auto-damage ability: with a poor roll on the damage die it is now possible to do more damage on a rolled miss than on a rolled hit. Sigh...

No, it isn't. Reaper deals ability mod. A rolled hit deals rolled damage, plus ability mod. A rolled hit will always be, at minimum, 1 point more than Reaper can deal.

I've almost always narrated made saves vs. poison as either "your body fights off the effects" or "you quickly do what's necessary to get the poison out of you"; or words to those effects.

And those are both perfectly serviceable explanations for why the poison doesn't affect someone. I'm saying that "the poison never entered his bloodstream in the first place" also explains it... and that might be because the poisoned dagger didn't touch him. He still lost hit points as a result of the attack action, but those hit points can represent something other than "Sliced by the dagger".

Where you say "plot resilience" I say "pain tolerance". :)

Sure. But because I allow that hit points are a broader concept than "things that cause pain", I'll stand by the phrase :)

The orc successfully beat my AC with his attack roll; consequently, it's more likely that at some point in this combat, I'll be rendered unconscious. Whether that's because I'm wounded, or I used up some luck, or I'm demoralised, or winded, or off-balance, or my deity is getting tired of intervening on my behalf... in some fashion, a later attack might knock me out when, had it not been for the orc just now, I might have remained conscious.

Only one of those possibilities is opposed by my pain tolerance, but all of them affect my plot resilience :)

pemerton said:
I don't have the same objection to narrating a spear through an NPC's arm - they don't go into a death spiral either, but they're likely to roll sufficiently few follow-up attacks that the effects of injury can all be subsumed into the variability of to hit and damage rolls. But the idea that a PC has been stabbed through the shoulder, and yet is unimpeded in climbing, swimming, carrying etc is more than my suspension of disbelief can handle.

From a realistic perspective, sure. From an action-movie point of view, though, the shoulder wound is the stand-by for "He's hurt, but it's not going to stop him from dealing to anyone who crosses him". I like my gaming to feel like I'm in an action movie.

-Hyp.
 

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