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D&D 5E Max HP?

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Hiya ENWorlders!

After 15 years, I finally finished "Red Hand of Doom", converted to 5th Edition! The PCs ended up at 12th level for the final fight, and hit 13th afterwards.

One thing I observed after running a game from 5th level all the way to 12th level was that fights are, truly, quick and decisive. It takes real effort to make an impactful, setpiece climactic encounter. My final fight ended up lasting only 7 rounds and it had some positioning issues and was against a high level mythic.

Mythics go a long way to help this, but I wanted to discuss the ramifications of max HP for PCs and Monsters. How do you think this would affect the game? What do you think might become problematic issues?

I think full-casters might be weakened. With fights taking a little longer, they'll have to fall back on cantrips more, while Fighters and Rogues can mostly keep putting out at the same strength. Status spells may feel better than damage spells. Healing spells may feel weakened. Hit Dice healing may feel weakened (though this can be compensated by having all HD recover on a long rest).

What do you think would happen? How would you act differently?
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
I think monsters are undertuned in 5E. By quite a lot. Max PC hit points would only make the problems of the edition worse.

Monsters should have more hit points, more actions, and do more damage. Across the board. Legendary and Mythic monsters help, but only a little. But even they are undertuned. And the problem only gets worse as you level.

I’m not sure about max hit points for monsters, but they should have at least 25% more than the listed average. And even that is likely lowballing.

The game is balanced on the idea that you’ll have 6-8 medium encounters per day with a short rest after every two encounters and a long rest after the 6-8. That’s what class abilities assume. So if you have fewer fights per day, daily resource characters get more powerful while short rest resource characters get less powerful.

One thing I’m doing is letting characters take a short rest as an action, though I’m thinking it might even need to be a bonus or free action, and using the daily XP chart to determine encounters.

I tried a CR2 creature with buffed attacks, damage, and hit points against a non-optimized 1st-level party. What should have been a more than deadly encounter was a 3 and 1/3 round slaughter...of the monster. The PCs barely broke a sweat and one character went down twice. There was nothing wild or extraordinary about the spells used, dice rolled, or damage caused. It was just a cakewalk.

Max hp for both sides would have made it take longer. That’s all. And the one character who went down probably wouldn’t have. So even less of a challenge than it already wasn’t.
 

Ogre Mage

Adventurer
The first thing which jumps to mind is that blaster-focused casters would be weakened considerably. Eldritch blast-focused warlocks might be the exception since their blasting is an unlimited resource. But this change would turn them into even more of an eldritch blast turret. I would imagine nova-focused characters would suffer in general but I am less familiar with running martials.

Characters and abilities built to win a war of attrition will perform better. Spirit guardians with its 10 minute duration would retain its strength in this situation. While fireball is obviously worse. Damage spells which require an attack roll, expend a spell slot and are of instant duration like scorching ray and guiding bolt are :poop: in this scenario. I would never prepare them.

I might play a circle of the shepherd druid summoner and start flooding the battlefield with max HP conjure animals! If wildshape is also at max HP then moon druids are insane. At level 2 they will turn into a brown bear and have 52 HP!!! :eek:
 
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Lyxen

Great Old One
What do you think would happen? How would you act differently?

A question for you: How is it a problem that a fight only lasts 7 rounds ? Quick and decisive fights are good, right ? Who likes fights that drag over hours and hours, just for dragging out the issue ?

That being said, yes, mythic monsters are the option of choice for me too for bosses, they make sense, they have implications story-wide and they reflect exactly the kind of drama expected from big battle scenes of movies and books.

View attachment This_Isn%27t_Even_My_Final_Form_Image.webp
 

Balancing fights is an art and a party of high level PCs can deal a lot of damage, so sometimes you can consider to give the monsters more HP if they need to survive more than 1 round and there is no opportunity to add a shield of minions.

If you also want to give the PCs more HP, so the overall fight lasts longer, you can allow them to take healing potions as a bonus action (RAW it's an action), and make the healing potions more abundant in the world.

But you need to realize that this game is designed to have fights that last only a few rounds. A fight of 7 rounds sounds long, imho. The usual method is to add some minions or a special monster in the rooms prior to the BBEG. Although it is not a single fight, this does add many more rounds of combat, and allows the PCs to use all their abilities and grind it down a bit. They can then heal up (healing potions / spells), which increases the total HP of the party by a lot.
 


I think HP in general is an overused defensive factor for both PCs and NPCs. It leads to number bloat which is just going to slow the game down. Bigger HP pools leads to seeking more damage which will eventually lead to the need to inflate them again.
I'd much rather have more active mitigation, recovery, and avoidance features than just treadmills of bigger values.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
When I have run tables with 7 or 8 PCs having reached 7th or 8th level... I quite often would run monsters with Max HP. And it didn't really change much about the game, it just varied the types of encounters the party would have.

Rather than fighting 8 monsters with normal HP numbers from the MM... they instead might fight 5 monsters with Max XP. The total amount of HP the monsters would have would be the same... but it would just be the number of targets and the number of monster actions would be lessened. But if I used more powerful monsters (and occasionally had them do Max Damage on attacks), then the amount of return fire would be more powerful which would just change how the party would react.

Nothing wrong with changing things up in my opinion, and also nothing wrong with not changing things the same way every single time. Variety is the spice of life and makes for more compelling drama when the party has to always react differently to different things.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
One thing I observed after running a game from 5th level all the way to 12th level was that fights are, truly, quick and decisive. It takes real effort to make an impactful, setpiece climactic encounter. My final fight ended up lasting only 7 rounds and it had some positioning issues and was against a high level mythic.
Did the players enjoy themselves? Were they bored? Why would a quick and decisive fight not be impactful?
 

Having played a campaign through 20th level, I feel that monsters are undertuned. In some cases they need more hit points, in nearly every case they need to do more damage.

I've started tweaking monsters in ways inspired by 4E, such as:
  • Solos get 4x the number of hit points.
  • Elites get 2x hit points.
  • Some monsters get 1/2 to 1/4 the number of hit points if I want a lot creatures on the battlefield.
  • Monster standard damage is increased by a multiplier equal to the PC's tier. So a troll fighting 7th level PCs does 2x the damage listed in its stat block.
  • More types of legendary actions, such as legendary attacks (automatic hits) or legendary spellcasting (automatic failure on PC saving throws to resist spell effects).
  • Etc.
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
A question for you: How is it a problem that a fight only lasts 7 rounds ? Quick and decisive fights are good, right ? Who likes fights that drag over hours and hours, just for dragging out the issue ?

That being said, yes, mythic monsters are the option of choice for me too for bosses, they make sense, they have implications story-wide and they reflect exactly the kind of drama expected from big battle scenes of movies and books.

View attachment 145414

It was the final fight of a 3 year campaign, against an aspect of a goddess, and it lasted 42 seconds game time. I had to build her an an over leveled mythic purposefully leaned on the defensive side so that she could survive long enough to feel threatening without being able to liquify everyone with one breath weapon.

I already was having most in game days be 2 to 4 hard to deadly encounters, with a short rest after most encounters, allowing for much better pacing and challenge than 6-8 medium encounters. Still, PCs can punch way above their weight class when they let loose.

Another thing I reconfirmed over the course of the campaign, with a Battlemaster Fighter, Eldritch Knight Fighter, Mastermind Rogue, Fey Warlock, and a Nature Cleric is that full casters slow the game down. The cleric player's turns took so much longer than everyone else's (but mine, but spellcasting enemies slowed me down more than anything else).
 

Xeviat

Community Supporter
Supporter
Did the players enjoy themselves? Were they bored? Why would a quick and decisive fight not be impactful?
There were a quite a few boss fights where they took out the enemy much faster than expected, like in 1 to 1.5 rounds. They definitely changed the mood of what I was going for.

Sometimes we focus 100% on player engagement, but we should remember that the DM is a player too and the DM needs to be having fun. Designing an encounter that should be easy or hard that proves to be exactly the opposite makes the game harder to have fun with for the DM at times.
 

toucanbuzz

Legend
Increasing HP to drag out the battle won't make the battle more interesting, though I'm a HUGE fan of leaders of monsters having more than the average HP to reflect their status.

Rather, toss in complications for battles that should be epic and matter. Reinforcements, temporary retreat of a foe to heal, enemy hit and run tactics, terrain changes, PCs need to rush to another area temporarily, magic chaos that changes parameters of the battle, and epic bosses that have triggered tier abilities (e.g. action-oriented monsters per Colville, or "bloodied" features kick in at a certain % of HP, and so on), are all things that can extend the length of a battle yet make it more interesting than shaving away extra hit points.

That all said, I recently ran a 10-round D&D "boss" battle with 5th level characters. It took a LONG time, over an hour, even with my time-saving style of play. I tried to keep it interesting as the battle parameters constantly changed, and the "boss" changed abilities as his HP decreased. I just wouldn't want to do it all the time!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
IMO, all legendary monsters should have the ability to spend a LA to use a reaction even if they already have this round, have 1 more LA than they do now, and have a couple/few strong "don't die" buttons as reactions.
 

ad_hoc

(he/they)
Combats are designed to last 2-4 rounds in 5e so that's the baseline you're working with. 7 rounds is a long combat.

So sure, if you don't like that you can just pump up the numbers. You're going to want to increase legendary saves as well and possibly even give some monsters 1 legendary save when they had none before.

If HP are increased then that is nerfing damage so alternative ways of taking monsters out becomes preferable.

There are multiple monsters now in 5e that have multiple forms. Have you seen the one in the Guide to Ravenloft? That is another route to take.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
I’ve definitely turned to boosting HP to give my monsters stating power. I often found they could dish it out but couldn’t take it meaning the battles ended up underwhelming. I started fudging HP but eventually switched to just max HP.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
It was the final fight of a 3 year campaign, against an aspect of a goddess, and it lasted 42 seconds game time.

Yeah, but that 42 seconds is a completely made up and arbitrary number. The game says a round is 6 seconds long not because the designers actually tried to calculate the time needed to do any of the stuff a character might do, but because it was an easy math choice-- 6 second rounds means 10 rounds per minute. So there is no reason to believe you final combat was actually just 42 seconds long.

After all,, any one of us could just say "Each round is 10 seconds" or "Each round is 30 seconds " or even go back to the original AD&D full minute round and it wouldn't change anything in our combats, other than our fictional "fight duration" after the fact.

So the real question is whether the fight felt good at the table at 7 rounds? If the table length felt epic, then you can just make up whatever in-world duration you want to make the in-game feel just as epic.
 

HammerMan

Adventurer
I think monsters are undertuned in 5E. By quite a lot. Max PC hit points would only make the problems of the edition worse.

Monsters should have more hit points, more actions, and do more damage. Across the board. Legendary and Mythic monsters help, but only a little. But even they are undertuned. And the problem only gets worse as you level.
yup, a big thing I hope they address in 5.5

monster (especially ones meant to be solo) need better action economy, and more staying power. Mythic and Legendary are great but also hard to really use in 'normal' encounters. I don't want my 8th level party to face off against 1 legendary, mythic or BOTH legendary and mythic creature every adventure.
 

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