Removing Hit Points from the Game

The mechanic that most bothers me with D&D ingeneral is the use of hit points. yes, this is well trod ground for internet debates, but I am interested in actually finding a solution to the "hit point problem."

Now, it is not hit points per se that bothers me, but how they increase significantly as the PCs gain levels. It is primarily through hit points that characters become superheroes in D&D, able to shrug off attacks that very recently would have been worrisome if not downright fatal. And note that this isn't about realism or trying to simulate anything. I simply don't like how the change happens, and the rate at which it happens: the PCs head off to the Sunless Citadel and have to carefully pick their way through the wilderness lest they run afoul of bandits, for example, but three days later they are 3rd level and the way back is barely a concern because those CR 1/8 bandits are no longer much of a threat. That change in threat is mostly about damage capacity.

One solution is to effectively star PCs off at more hit points and then greatly reduce the number they increase over time. This means threats early remain threats later and PCs increase primarily in versatility and skill rather than toughness. But figuring out where to put that starting value is highly dependent on where you expect the campaign to end. If you are running a 1-5 like Phandelver or DragonHeist, you can give everyone max 3rd level hit points and then allow them just their con modifier per level and you should be good. But if the end is in the teens, balance is going to get really wonky at low levels.

Another solution is to use something like the Mutants and Masterminds damage save, which seems to work well enough for super hero d20 games, but might require a lot more initial design changes to make balanced and workable.

Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
 

dave2008

Legend
It seems to me that the issue is how you perceive HP. You state that you want PCs to "...increase primarily in versatility and skill..." But that is a bid part of what HP represents (IMO). HP increase because the PC are more skilled at avoiding real damage. This is more obvious in 5e because AC doesn't increase nearly as much. Now personally, I do have some issues with "meat points" so we have 2 pools. HP, figured as normal and BHP (bloodied hit points) that is pretty static and basically doesn't change. If your BHP reach 0, your dead.
 

Seramus

Adventurer
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
I used this crazy system where characters got full HP for a little while, then +1/+2 HP for each additional level.
But it was a little too Advanced for us.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
In a prior edition I went to a wound system. We used HPs as is, but they did not represent your wounds. Instead, you rolled percentage dice. If the percentage dice roll exceeded he percentage of hps you had remaining, you took a wound. The type of attack determined the type of wound, but they were on cards, and the deck ou drew from was based upon the type of damage and the extent to which your percentage roll exceeded hp percentage.

Example: Bob has 25 hps. He is hit for 5 hps with a slashing weapon. Bob now has 20 hps which is 80% of his max hps. He rolls percentage dice and gets 60... no wound. Then he takes 15 fire damage. He now has 5 hps, which is 20% of hs max hps. He rolls percentage dice and gets 63. That is 43 above 20. The Yellow deck is drawn from when a roll is more than 30% but less than 60%, so the player pulls a wound from the yellow fire deck. It indicates that the fire has burned the eyes - the PC is blind until they make a DC15 con save at the end of their turn. If they fail 3 saves before making one, they are blind until a restoration spell is used.

You could do this with the idea of increasing the starting hps and you'd likely get a feel closer to what you seek.
 

Draegn

Explorer
I start with constitution/health attribute X 10 at first level, then add the attribute every level after that. A character with con/health 10 would start with 100 hp and at level 10 have 190.

With weapons skills which lower the critical hit range which cause 2x-5x damage, plus possible permanent injury or instant death combat is deadly and quick.

We also have an additional attribute quickness which increases the number of melee attacks and missile rate of fire. This starts at first level. Quickness/5 any fractions if rolled on a d10 allow another attack. Quickness 15 15/5 3 melee attacks and 3 missiles added to the rate of fire. Quickness 16 16/5 3 with .2 remaining gives 3 melee attacks but if rolling a 2 or less on d10 gives a fourth attack.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Hit point is the best of all silly solutions to emulate heroic skill.
Otherwise you have to allow a small chance to have a high level character to be slain one shot by any low threat encounter.
 

pukunui

Adventurer
In the game I’m playing in, the DM capped our hit dice at 10. Some from 11th level on, we’ve just been getting our Con mod (plus, in my PC’s case, +1 hp/lvl for being a hill dwarf). He says he’s done the same for monsters and NPCs. Seems to be working OK.
 

Ganders

Explorer
Hit points only increase if you gain levels. If you start everyone at 5th level. and keep them there forever, it's not a problem.

Let the adventures be done to save the world, to gather magic items, and to gain feats and epic boons, without ever gaining a level, without ever learning any new ranks of spells. Just like adventuring past level 20, except starting sooner.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Now, it is not hit points per se that bothers me, but how they increase significantly as the PCs gain levels. It is primarily through hit points that characters become superheroes in D&D, able to shrug off attacks that very recently would have been worrisome if not downright fatal. And note that this isn't about realism or trying to simulate anything. I simply don't like how the change happens, and the rate at which it happens: the PCs head off to the Sunless Citadel and have to carefully pick their way through the wilderness lest they run afoul of bandits, for example, but three days later they are 3rd level and the way back is barely a concern because those CR 1/8 bandits are no longer much of a threat. That change in threat is mostly about damage capacity.
5e with bounded accuracy took out a lot of the other parts of survivability, replacing it all with HP growth. Both for PCs and monsters.

Regardless of the validity of the point, changing this goes against one of the intentional design decisions. It can change, but will have ripple effects. That's not a discouragement - just realize that that change will requiring layers of tweaking, and hopefully leads you more to the game you want to play.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
I used this crazy system where characters got full HP for a little while, then +1/+2 HP for each additional level.
But it was a little too Advanced for us.
You know, that is crazy! We used a similar system a long time ago, but a character could even get +3 HP per level! Small world, huh? ;)

The mechanic that most bothers me with D&D ingeneral is the use of hit points. yes, this is well trod ground for internet debates, but I am interested in actually finding a solution to the "hit point problem."

Now, it is not hit points per se that bothers me, but how they increase significantly as the PCs gain levels. It is primarily through hit points that characters become superheroes in D&D, able to shrug off attacks that very recently would have been worrisome if not downright fatal. And note that this isn't about realism or trying to simulate anything. I simply don't like how the change happens, and the rate at which it happens: the PCs head off to the Sunless Citadel and have to carefully pick their way through the wilderness lest they run afoul of bandits, for example, but three days later they are 3rd level and the way back is barely a concern because those CR 1/8 bandits are no longer much of a threat. That change in threat is mostly about damage capacity.

One solution is to effectively star PCs off at more hit points and then greatly reduce the number they increase over time. This means threats early remain threats later and PCs increase primarily in versatility and skill rather than toughness. But figuring out where to put that starting value is highly dependent on where you expect the campaign to end. If you are running a 1-5 like Phandelver or DragonHeist, you can give everyone max 3rd level hit points and then allow them just their con modifier per level and you should be good. But if the end is in the teens, balance is going to get really wonky at low levels.

Another solution is to use something like the Mutants and Masterminds damage save, which seems to work well enough for super hero d20 games, but might require a lot more initial design changes to make balanced and workable.

Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Seriously though, our DM experimented with a system based on Vitality/Wounds from d20 Star Wars, with some changes however. The problem arose that everything you encounter, all spells, etc. has to be revamped to fit the new system. In the end, we just decided as much as we liked it, it wasn't worth the hassle.

Our DM had to change some encounters for us when he ran the Keep on the Borderlands. It was okay until level 3, but by the time we finished at Level 5 the BBEG would have been a cakewalk if he hadn't beefed up the encounter to make it a challenge. It was similar with the wilderness encounters later on, too, so I completely understand your frustration.

I don't know how it might affect balance at higher levels, but one thing to consider is lower the HD type one place, but grant a +2 bonus at level 1.

d12 becomes d10, but still 12 at level 1
d10 becomes d8, but still 10 at level 1
d8 becomes d6, but still 8 at level 1
d6 becomes d4, but still 6 at level 1

Also, if the players want to take the average, I would round down. Unless otherwise noted, everything is supposed to round down anyway. This way, the average HP is 2 less per level after first.

With these ideas, look at a Fighter with Con 14 to level 20. Normally, the Fighter gains 6 + Con mod, or 8 per level in this case. Using a d8, with avg 4.5 rounded down to 4, the character would gain 6 hp per level. By 20th level, that's 38 fewer HP.

1: 12 stays as 12
2: 20 turns to 18 (12 + 4 (avg d8, round down) + 2
3: 28 turns to 24 (18 + 6)
4: 36 turns to 30
5: 44 turns to 36
etc.
20: 164 turns to 126.

Honestly, you might even want to remove the additional +2 at level one, but survival can be so hard at lower levels I would advise against it.

Other options are to grant Con bonus only once, or maybe have it decline one point per level, so a +2 Con bonus would add 2 at level one, 1 and level 2, and 0 after that. Characters with a -1 would only suffer that at first level, and it would improve to 0 afterwards.

I don't know, there are all sorts of ways to reduce HP without crippling the players. Another option would be to make critical hits more deadly by making them open-ended, or just increase the multiplier. That way, even lower CR creatures can still be feared, because a critical hit could still hurt a LOT.

Just some thoughts before bed. Hope it helps.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
"Another solution is to use something like the Mutants and Masterminds damage save, which seems to work well enough for super hero d20 games, but might require a lot more initial design changes to make balanced and workable."

Played damage save systems (and many others) in cyber and supers and fantasy. It works fine but its just as prone to not-quite-right and issues as others. Still its likely my favorite overall for ease and flexibility.

But, dont kid yourself. Any significant change to the HP dynamic has major ripples thru 5e. Anything is gonna be a ton of work.

But to get started and move forward with direction and purpose, you need to know what you want, not just malaise.

So, can you identify six cases of attack hits and this happens - very specific very straight outta box - that you absolutely want to see happen in your new wonder-system **and** six that absolutely cannotvl be in it?

Of these two sets of six, three should be "as seen in DnD now" and three should be "not gonna happen in dnd now"

That dirty dozen use cases should - if robust - give you a set of boundaries to design in.
 

Sadras

Adventurer
During the playtest period of 5e I would cap HD for PC and NPCs depending on their size. Con modifiers though would carry on. Seemed to work well enough, but we did not playtest all the way through to level 20. It did have the added effect of the players not being super-cavalier about everything due to their limited hit points and it seemed to ramp-up the tenseness in combat.

Small Size - 4HD
Medium Size - 6HD
Large Size - 10HD
Huge - 18HD
Gargantuan - 30HD
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
I would suggest incorporating a "wound" system. Basically each race gets a number of wounds (say 5 is average, elf gets 4, dwarf gets 6). You gain wounds by: taking a critical hit, taking 20 damage from a single source, dropping to 0 HP, or taking a failed death save (this replaces the death saves). If you take too many wounds, you die.

Wounds can be removed by: completing a long rest, healing 20 HP from a single source, healing to maximum HP (once per long rest), a Lesser Restoration (instead of any other effect) and Greater Restoration removes 3 (or 1 with another effect).

This turns HP into stamina, and your Wounds become far more important. At higher levels, you may be able to take a lot of damage, but it still only takes a couple of wounds to die since they never go up. Obviously this is a draft that needs tweaking, but you get the idea.
 

S'mon

Legend
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
I took a cue from 4e for my Primeval Thule campaign, and start PCs off with their full CON score plus maxed hit die for their first level hp. HP at higher levels still increase normally. Somewhat counter intuitively, this big boost in level 1 hp greatly lessens the feel of hp inflation you get under the standard system - a 4th level PC does not feel like they're in a different genre from a 1st level PC any more.

I could have reduced hp gain at higher level, but that will eventually throw out the whole balance of play; damaging spells and high-damage monsters quickly become excessively lethal. Better just to reduce the rate of level gain, and if necessary cap level below 20 - eg with E10 (cap at 10, further advances through stat boost & feats) PC max hp is halved; monster & PC damage remains proportionate to hp.

I could certainly cap my Thule game at E10 and it would work well - I can't say I care much about the difference between 100 hp and 200 hp though. If I really wanted a keep-hp-low game I'd play Runequest/BRP.
 

5atbu

Explorer
Play True20 from Green Ronin.
But really you can't fix this in D&D, it's baked in to the system too deep.
Play an RPG that doesn't have this inflated escalation:
RuneQuest
GURPS Fantasy
Savage Worlds
Genesys
Symbaroum
Are some that I like. YMMV
 

5atbu

Explorer
Hit point is the best of all silly solutions to emulate heroic skill.
Otherwise you have to allow a small chance to have a high level character to be slain one shot by any low threat encounter.
IMHO it's the worst. But that's just my view and I have grown to love the whole 5e and 13Age class level games alongside others
 

ccs

39th lv DM
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
I have not. Nor will I.
Because even though "hit point" inflation" may on occasion result in some silliness? That's part of D&D. And I want my D&D to be D&D. If I wanted something else? Then I'd just play something else....
Besides, I'm a bit lazy.
As the DM: If I were to change something as fundamental as how HP accrue/work I'd probably have to tinker with a whole lot more - for, very likely, little actual gain. AND then I'd have to explain & sell this pile-o-change to the players.
As a player: Great, now i have to keep track of major rule changes, who knows how many minor ones, & alter my decades long aproach in how to play D&d.... (Have I mentioned that I'm a bit lazy?)

I don't want to do any of that. I just want to play D&D.
 

dnd4vr

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Another option if you haven't tried it is the grittier variant for HP in the DMG, something so you regain HP more slowly, I think one option is weekly instead of daily. While the pool of HP remains the same, recovering it more slowly might take some of the nonchalant attitude out of them.
 
Another option if you haven't tried it is the grittier variant for HP in the DMG, something so you regain HP more slowly, I think one option is weekly instead of daily. While the pool of HP remains the same, recovering it more slowly might take some of the nonchalant attitude out of them.
This is a useful tool for pacing I have have found, making long journeys worth the effort, for example.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
The mechanic that most bothers me with D&D ingeneral is the use of hit points. yes, this is well trod ground for internet debates, but I am interested in actually finding a solution to the "hit point problem?

(snip)

Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
No, but I am thinking of slowing it down past 10th level. But back to what could be done, here's a few option right of my head.

- Slow down hit point regeneration.

Rather than changing hit point maximums, change the frequency at which hp can be recovered to bring the hp budget from a daily basis to a three-day basis, weekly basis, or cyclic basis. The Slow Healing variant from the DMG is a good start. Perhaps all hit points only come back after a lazy weekend back at home base?
Potential issue: unless you also slow down long-rest abilities recovery ( such as lay of hand and spell slot recovery), magical healing becomes disproportionally beneficial.

-Reduce hp gain per level.

There are several ways to do this. Put a HD maximum (e.g. 10HD cap). Reduce HD progression (i.e. gain hp every second levels, reduce a character's HD max to proficiency bonus). Give diminishing returns on HD (e.g. cut all hp by half after 1st level, divide each hp gain by proficiency bonus, reduce HD size as the character gains level (The fighter only gain 1d8 hp per level after level 3, 1d6 after 7, 1d4 after 11, and only 1hp after level 17)). I'm sure I could come up with a few more.
Potential issue: other than the lower hp itself, certain methods could make Constitution bonus to HP disproportionally beneficial.

- Introduce a type of death spiral.

Don't change hp maximums, but tie mechanics to low hp (e.g. tie hp to exhaustion levels, bring back "bloodied" type effects at 50% hp). Note that not all "steps" of the death spiral need to be negative. A low hp rogue could have a boost to move at low hp, encouraging flight. A low hp fighter could gain advantage on attack rolls as despairation adrenaline kicks in. The new Seventh Sea is a good example of that.
Potential issues: there are a few, but the main one is encouraging more rests after each battles.

- Remove HP altogether.

Introduce a damage-as-saves mechanic as in Mutants & Masterminds, like you suggested. You could tie that to a death spiral mechanics (e.g. give exhaustion levels for each failed save) or hit location chart à la Warhammer RPG, with appropriate repercussions.
Potential issue: repercussions on the system at large are getting greater and less predictable. Players may not "feel" like playing D&D anymore.

- Tie hp to a universal resource.

Make a single pool of resources for characters to use as hp, spell points, and abilities recharge points etc.
Potential issues: so many. I bring this suggestion for the sake of completion, but I don't know how I would implement this in D&D...

- introduce some kind of "travel fatigue"

Have more of the environment affect hp. Travel in rain? Take damage. Rest uneasy because goblins might be in the area? Take damage. Alternatively, suffer exhaustion levels, or regain less hp/HD.
Potential issues: this make travel even more dangerous at low level, and it may not even solve your problems.


Conclusion: to make D&D work with anything else than hp is difficult. I feel your solution lies in introducing a non-linear hp progression, or insist on the attrition of hp over longer periods of time by slowing hp regeneration somehow.

'findel
 
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