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Removing Hit Points from the Game

FrogReaver

Adventurer
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?
Your problem isn't hit points, it's how much power is gained through leveling. I suggest starting a game at level 5 and having level 10 be the max achievable level. Characters level much more slowly, their hp won't ever double. Their damage ouput won't double. Modify XP gain if you want a long campaign or a shorter one. I think that solves almost all of your issues.

Alternatively only allow PC's to level during extended downtime and don't tie adventuring to leveling. Tie adventuring to loot.
 

aco175

Explorer
I tried a basic or kids game of D&D I mostly stole from online where there was no damage, but just a hit. PCs had like 4-7 Hp and each time they were hit, one would come off. Monsters had 1-2 HP. It was basic and mostly used for 8 year olds. When the PCs went up a level, only the fighters gained 1 HP and the others needed to wait for every other level. Overall it was a bit basic for the adults, but easy for the kids to pick up.

In the past, we have also used a critical system where each crit would roll on a %chart to determine a serious wound or possible kill outright. There was some things like a limp, or blind, or unable to use 1 arm. These would have penalties like -2 on Dex checks or such until a week rest or restoration or such. I think we gave up on this when 3e came out and now getting a crit is much easier, so the system may need to be nerfed a bit.
 
Your problem isn't hit points, it's how much power is gained through leveling. I suggest starting a game at level 5 and having level 10 be the max achievable level. Characters level much more slowly, their hp won't ever double. Their damage ouput won't double. Modify XP gain if you want a long campaign or a shorter one. I think that solves almost all of your issues.

Alternatively only allow PC's to level during extended downtime and don't tie adventuring to leveling. Tie adventuring to loot.
When I run games at conventions, I do so in an ongoing, mini-campaign format. For example, the last time I did so with 5E I ran "Return to the Isle of Dread" (well before Goodman's reprint). We played 6 sessions or 24 hours over the course of the con (as much as some groups might get in over months of playing, depending on how often they meet). There was much fun and adventure and exploration and danger and combat and not a drop of level advancement. The game looked at the end like it did at the beginning.

I know that no leveling is a hard sell for D&D, given that leveling up and getting more toys is part of the charm, so the idea of eliminating hit point inflation (like, entirely) is my compromise between standard play and my preferred no leveling or leveling once every few months of playing (and at the end of some significant portion of the game). From 5th to 10th as you suggest would be, for me if given my druthers, a few years of play.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
I removed hit point inflation from my 3e game. The trick is to balance hit points against their arch-nemesis: damage.

But once you fix hit points, you wonder what else can be fixed. For me, it kinda got out of control, and I had to write a completely different role-playing game. Worked out well for the players, though.
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
In 5e hp works well due to bounded accuracy.

You could however lower the increase of hp but also give proficiency bonus to AC.
And now comes the trick: Armor does not increase AC (solely) but instead grants either damage reduction or an hp buffer. So instead of being hit less often, armor actually protects from damage. You might also consider constitution reducing damage instead of adding hp.
I now just throw out numbers:
Light armor:
0 AC, DR old AC
Medium Armor
2 AC DR Old AC -2
Heavy Armor
4AC DR Old AC -4

You start with Full Class HP+Con
After that you only gain 1+con/2 hp.

When you are reduced to 0hp you make a con save vs 5+damage dealt. If you succeed you may spend a hit die to reduce the damage by hit die + con.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Isn't the core of the issue how quickly in the game world PCs become more powerful? I agree that doubling hit points overnight is a bit odd. I just think there's an easier way to handle it, at least at lower levels.

I use the alternate rules for resting (short rest is overnight, long rest is several days, usually a week or more). In addition PCs only level up during down-time so they don't level up over the course of a week, campaigns last for years from the PC's perspective. Sometimes levels are gained fairly quickly from the character's perspective, other times it may be months or even years.

I frequently think of novel series like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, the everyday training and "leveling up" is boring so we don't cover it. What's exciting, fun and worth playing are those few days here and there where everything goes to heck and blows up. Occasionally during one of those periods of chaos, the protagonist will make a breakthrough. Most of the time it's something he's been perfecting off-screen that he just hasn't had an opportunity to use yet.

That keeps the narrative relatively logical while not having to rebuild the entire system.
 
The more I think about it and read responses in this thread, the more I think the appropriate solutions are a) start at and design he world around a level I prefer (say, 4th), and b) make leveling happen very slowly over long periods of both in game and real world time. Now, could I get buy in from players for such a thing?

"We're starting at 4th level. You guys should make 6th about this time next year."
 

S'mon

Legend
The more I think about it and read responses in this thread, the more I think the appropriate solutions are a) start at and design he world around a level I prefer (say, 4th), and b) make leveling happen very slowly over long periods of both in game and real world time. Now, could I get buy in from players for such a thing?

"We're starting at 4th level. You guys should make 6th about this time next year."
If you're designing around a level, I recommend starting at a lower level and letting the PCs grow into it. Eg for 4th, you could start at 3rd.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
If something as fundamental to the game as HP is a problem, I'd look at another system. There are countless other fantasy RPG rulesets that don't have high level "superhero" characters.
 

Satyrn

Villager
The more I think about it and read responses in this thread, the more I think the appropriate solutions are a) start at and design he world around a level I prefer (say, 4th), and b) make leveling happen very slowly over long periods of both in game and real world time. Now, could I get buy in from players for such a thing?

"We're starting at 4th level. You guys should make 6th about this time next year."
I'd probably buy in if I could get some "sub levelling" in. Like, even if it took 6 months to get to 5th level, if I gained an extra ASI or a feat halfway through, that would satisfy me.
 

Caliburn101

Explorer
How I deal with it to make things gritty for longer without making low levels unsurvivable.

Each HD (except monsters) is -1 step - so 1d6 becomes 1d4, 1d10 becomes 1d8, etc.

Everyone gets double normal HP at 1st level.

Injured Condition (at 50% of HP or lower)
1. Resistance to Healing
2. Disadvantage on Athletics and Health Checks
3. -10ft movement

I also only have anyone make Concentration checks when they are suffering the Injured condition.

Also, when on 0 HP, Healing takes 3 rounds to take effect (so there must be at least 3 Death Saves) and this includes stabilisation etc.

A small change but it makes the game grittier and less counterintuitive as far as HP are concerned.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
If you're designing around a level, I recommend starting at a lower level and letting the PCs grow into it. Eg for 4th, you could start at 3rd.
The more I think about it and read responses in this thread, the more I think the appropriate solutions are a) start at and design he world around a level I prefer (say, 4th), and b) make leveling happen very slowly over long periods of both in game and real world time. Now, could I get buy in from players for such a thing?

"We're starting at 4th level. You guys should make 6th about this time next year."
I think starting at 3rd, the archetype level, is a good place to begin. I think it wouldn't be a hard sell with award ideas such as Satyrn suggests once in a while.

I'd probably buy in if I could get some "sub levelling" in. Like, even if it took 6 months to get to 5th level, if I gained an extra ASI or a feat halfway through, that would satisfy me.
One idea is to look at what gaining a level would give the PC. Instead of getting it all at once, maybe every few weeks or a month, award 1-2 HP, eventually a prof bonus increase, maybe a new skill or feat, etc.

Actually, now that I think about it--I might look more carefully into this idea myself.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
The issue for me is that combat drags on foreeeeveeeer at the higher levels. By level 12 or 13, a hard or deadly encounter can easily take an hour (or more) to resolve. That's way too slow-paced for me.

I haven't come up with the perfect solution yet, but one thing I did that seemed to work in my last campaign was to design monsters that basically had 1/2 the usual HP and did *2 the usual damage. So they hit twice as hard, but died twice as fast. Combat was a lot quicker-paced as a result.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Interesting. Instead of real-time, how many rounds do they usually take for your group at that level?
 

S'mon

Legend
The issue for me is that combat drags on foreeeeveeeer at the higher levels. By level 12 or 13, a hard or deadly encounter can easily take an hour (or more) to resolve. That's way too slow-paced for me.

I haven't come up with the perfect solution yet, but one thing I did that seemed to work in my last campaign was to design monsters that basically had 1/2 the usual HP and did *2 the usual damage. So they hit twice as hard, but died twice as fast. Combat was a lot quicker-paced as a result.
Yeah, I've noticed that this is an issue - there are a lot of bag-of-hp, low damage monsters. Your solution of half hp & x2 damage works well for some cases. As an alternative you can double damage and reduce the number of monsters - if you put the number to 2/3, with x2 damage, the overall encounter threat level stays constant. In practice I tend to do more like +50% damage and 3/4 numbers.

A final solution that is very popular with players is to hand out means of increased PC damage via items, boons etc, while using some high damage homebrew or 3rd party (eg Tome of Beasts)
monsters.
 

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