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Removing Hit Points from the Game

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I wish I knew, but I almost never track combat rounds.
I was curious. We've had larger battles take 2-3 hours in real-time and maybe 15-20 rounds in game time. The other end is also true, 2-3 rounds in about 15-30 minutes. I know what you mean about the lengthy process of reducing overblown PC hit points, though. However, by Tier 3 there are a lot of decent damage monsters where 4-5 hits will take a PC out.
 

S'mon

Legend
I was curious. We've had larger battles take 2-3 hours in real-time and maybe 15-20 rounds in game time. The other end is also true, 2-3 rounds in about 15-30 minutes. I know what you mean about the lengthy process of reducing overblown PC hit points, though. However, by Tier 3 there are a lot of decent damage monsters where 4-5 hits will take a PC out.
I find the problem is with large numbers of medium-threat monsters, the "Steading of the Hill Giant Chief" problem. Recently in online text chat game the 5 PCs vs 10 giants & a dire tiger took us 3 hours.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
I can see that. I'm hoping the "using averages" idea with roll-once initiative will speed things up considerably (it has so far). I just ordered TFtYP since I loved the older Against the Giants modules! If the DM runs it, I'll keep this in mind.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
[MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] although hitpoint inflation doesn't bother me as ive never played past 11th level in 5e, i have run some numbers on where my sweet spot would be.

Ultimately I decided on this: at level 0 use you CON score for hitpoints. At level 1 and every level thereafter, use the average hit points gained per level WITHOUT the CON modifier.

This front loads some of the HP and most classes with a COn bonus will break even around 3rd to 5th level.

It props up those with a low con slightly and brings down those with a high con score slightly, lessening the hp gap between classes.

Note i would still use the con mod for hit dice recovery and for con saves of course, so it is still a useful stat.

That may or may not work for you.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
The only alternate HP system I've used is Deadlands body chart (and frankly I love it). I'm not sure how well it would translate into D&D. For the unfamiliar, everyone gets a fixed amount of HP (30) unless you are "hefty" or "slim" (35 and 25 if I recall). There are 8 default body parts (head, chest, gut, groin, left leg, left arm, right leg, right arm), each are assigned a range on a d20 based on how difficult they are to hit (20 was head, 19 was groin, etc...). But your HP in any area never changes. (Apologies if I'm not remembering the system perfectly, it's been almost a decade since I played.)

Each body part also had "damage thresholds" that resulted in impairment (or death) the higher the damage in that area got.

I've considering using such a system in D&D. I do think HP should "grow" over the levels, but with such a system it would have to be much less. I'm still tooling it over in my head how to implement it, how to adapt for the various classes(maybe max 1st level HD+Con Score), how to handle called shots, how to handle healing (does it heal one area? divided over the whole body? called healing?) and so on.
 
The systems I enjoy the most are the ones where your HPs are fixed

Dangerous Journeys had Hit points fixed based on your physical stats. A very, very tough person could take 120 damage while most people were around 60-80. Armour provided damage reduction and every attack could be parried.
You never got tougher.

FATE has a Stress track(based on your Endurance(Constitution) which lets you soak up damage. Lets say you have a stress track of 4 (0000)

if you took 5 damage, you can soak up 1 to 4 damage and the rest is overflow. if you choose to soak 3, for instance, (00X0), and the other 2 would be overflow and then you couldn't use that 3rd box to soak damage anymore, but can still use the 1,2 or 4. getting hit for another 3 damage forces you to take a 4 box. So, as your stress track gets worn down, you keep being forced to accumulate more overflow.

I suppose you could lower hit points and have a stress track based on your Con score. Your stress track clears after a short rest and Hit points are recovered using Hit dice. (or vice versa) No full recovery.

I'm just brainstorming. I'm sure there's a way to do a wound system in 5e (I think I saw a good one suggested), but most would require a huge revamp of the system.

Personally, I like the idea of lower hit point but letting armour absorb damage. I think that would have a better feel than straight AC.
 
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5ekyu

Adventurer
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.



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.
At this point you are really into a point buy no level system - say HETO or GURPS or any of many others.

Likely best to start with them rather than try to turn DnD into them.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
Well, it is an option the OP can follow if he wants to try it. Like I said, I might explore it since I already have material for D&D but nothing for the other games you mention. I barely remember seeing GURPS back in the 80's... barely, I think once--maybe twice.

It would take some time, and the OP might not think it is worth it. Either way, play on! :)
 

UngeheuerLich

Adventurer
[MENTION=467]Reynard[/MENTION] although hitpoint inflation doesn't bother me as ive never played past 11th level in 5e, i have run some numbers on where my sweet spot would be.

Ultimately I decided on this: at level 0 use you CON score for hitpoints. At level 1 and every level thereafter, use the average hit points gained per level WITHOUT the CON modifier.

This front loads some of the HP and most classes with a COn bonus will break even around 3rd to 5th level.

It props up those with a low con slightly and brings down those with a high con score slightly, lessening the hp gap between classes.

Note i would still use the con mod for hit dice recovery and for con saves of course, so it is still a useful stat.

That may or may not work for you.
Most interestingly that was about the solution in the first 5e playtest. I think it was Con score hp. Then class based hp rolled per level. Con score was the minimum you would get however. Hit dice were already in place as rolled die+con.
My experience and probably that of most other people was that 1st level was not dangerous enough. It somehow felt off that a first level wizard was so tough... one should mention however that monsters were quite weak then. Maybe too weak. Today's MM goblins would fare better.

I am a bit sorry that the way it was done in the MM. Every monster seems to start with 1 hit die and then a second for level 1 was not done in the PHB. Pathfinder 2 seems to implement it.
So maybe 1d8 for medium. 1d6 for small people at level 0. Even if you don't maximze them and assign average + con, you will increase everyone's 1st level hp except for the small barbarian with 10 con.

So a small wizard at level 1 would have 4+4+2xCon hp instead of 6+con.
The medium barbarian would have 5+7+2xCon

So everyone starts witha a bit more and 2HD at level 1.

Small PCs would be a little bit disadvantaged but not too much. You could make it easier and just start anyone with d6 hp maximized. Would also work well enough.
 

Johnny3D3D

Adventurer
If I'm understanding the OP correctly, it sounds as though he wants a system which has (for a lack of better words) a more horizontal style of PC advancement, as opposed to the somewhat vertical nature of stacking more numbers on top of each other.

If I'm understanding that correctly, I have similar issues with D&D sometimes. (I wouldn't say "problems" because the game is intentionally designed that way; so, it's functioning as intended.) On the player side of things, there are a few common story tropes and scenarios (such as a hostage situation) which don't quite play out the way I imagine in D&D. On the monster side of things, there are some later-tier battles in which fights start to drag because of buckets of HP being the way in which monsters are made tougher. It's not quite as noticeable as 4th, but it still happens and can eat up a lot of play time. From the DM side of things, I occasionally have some cognitive dissonance with how the various parts of the game world compare to each other, but, as said, it's part of the intended design, so it's working as it's supposed to.

I think there are some possible solutions -such as a 5e version of what 3rd Edition players called E6 games. I did see a comment earlier which sounded similar to that by stopping at 10.

If you're looking to heavily modify how HP, damage, and etc work in general and also additionally work toward a more "horizontal" game, it may be easier to try a different system rather than try to work against the core design of D&D.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Remove stat mod to damage and HP. Add Con mod as temporary HP per encounter. Remove Hit Dice as a source of free healing. Add Proficiency bonus to AC.

That solves everything. High-level characters actually get better at avoiding hits, and they can no longer absorb multiple crossbow bolts in every encounter without worrying about it.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Well, it is an option the OP can follow if he wants to try it. Like I said, I might explore it since I already have material for D&D but nothing for the other games you mention. I barely remember seeing GURPS back in the 80's... barely, I think once--maybe twice.

It would take some time, and the OP might not think it is worth it. Either way, play on! :)
Absolutely, but the reason I suggest is once dnd has lost HP those other d&d products are likely as close to that system as they are to a gurps orvhero - both serve as setting/plot but need conversions.

I have never found a major system rework to leave a system easily adaptable with prior product.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
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."
It’s just a matter of finding the right players. I’d be down for something like that.

You would probably find it easier to get players to buy in if you offered some form of horizontal advancement in place of the vertical advancement levels normally give. Something like E6 for 3.5, where you stopped leveling at 6, but kept gaining Feats when you gained enough XP to level. I don’t think Feats would be the thing to give in 5e cause they’re so strong, but maybe some other small boon.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Get the rope boys. We have a cult fanatic! I wonder if he has average hit points or full points. You could try the Traveller T20 or something similar. You have hit points and constitution. On roll +5 better that your AC, you take a 1d4 to con. Lost all you con lose your life.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Get the rope boys. We have a cult fanatic! I wonder if he has average hit points or full points. You could try the Traveller T20 or something similar. You have hit points and constitution. On roll +5 better that your AC, you take a 1d4 to con. Lost all you con lose your life.
yup, there are a ton of systems with lotsa different ways to track "wear down".
 

CleverNickName

Adventurer
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
We've done this a couple of times, in a couple of ways. Here's how it all went down.

-----

Fixed HP: Back in the days of 3rd Edition, we capped everyone's hit points. You started out at 1st level, with a number of hit points equal to your Constitution score. Got an 18 Con? Sweet, you have 18 hit points. Then, at every level-up, you got +1 hit point. And that was that.

This meant that damage had to be scaled back for the monsters, and the party had to become a lot more comfortable with fleeing, using skirmish tactics, surprising their opponent, etc. And at higher levels, I had to make resurrection and reincarnation more widely available (and less expensive). We ended up abandoning this rule at around 9th level; it just wasn't viable for high-level play.

-----

Wound Meter: In 5E, we experimented with "wounds." Every character and monster in the game could withstand a number of "wounds" equal to their max hit dice. Fighters have d10 hit dice, so they can withstand 10 wounds. Clerics have d8 hit dice, they can withstand 8 wounds. There were tweaks for Legendary monsters and such, but you get the idea.

Then, through the course of the adventure, any time you take any amount of damage for any reason, you take a wound. Fall 10 feet, getting struck by an arrow, or getting blasted by dragon-fire, doesn't matter--it costs 1 wound point. When you run out of wound points, you fall unconscious and start making death save throws. Short rest restores 1 wound point, long rest restores all of them, and cure wounds cures a number of wounds equal to the spell level used. (And this is neither here nor there, but players had a special "desperation move" that they could only do if they had 1 wound point remaining, and rolled a critical hit.)

We've only tested this for a couple of one-shot adventures, and it was a lot of fun. We haven't tried to run it as a campaign, though. It cuts through a lot of the math and makes resource management a bit easier, so it might be good for very young or very new players.

-----

Anyhoo. That's my two coppers anyway; these options certainly aren't for everyone. As always, if something isn't broken in your game, you shouldn't feel obligated to fix it.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Most people don't understand what hit points do.

The main advantage of hit points is that they make encounters mostly predictable. You can estimate how much damage monsters will do, and how much damage monsters will take, and assess whether that outcome is one that is reasonable. If you don't have hit points, you can't predict how things will play out, because everything devolves down to individual die rolls. Randomly one side or the other will roll well, and that one good roll determines the outcome of the fight. In that case, the best you can predict is the percentage chance that this will be the fight a PC dies or the PC loses, and that chance is always surprisingly high compared to systems with hit points. Think of systems without hit points as always devolving down to a situation where every threat is a "save or die" threat. You may have mechanically made the chance that the death is saved against fairly high, but it will still inevitably happen.

There is a corollary to that and that is that without hit points, players lose the ability to react to changing circumstances. If you don't have hit points, then when something goes bad, it tends to go back completely and without chance of recovery. One moment someone is fine and the next someone is dead. No one gets a chance to adjust their tactics to deal with a problem.
Finally, hit points serve a narrativist goal of giving heroes plot protection so that there is character continuity (or at least can be character continuity) over the course of a story. If you want to tell any sort of character driven story in an RPG, then you need to give the protagonists some sort of plot protection and hit points are some of the most efficient ways of doing that.

So all that said, you don't seem to really mind hit points per se. What seems to be bothering you is D&D's built in zero to hero story arc that tends to make all D&D stories some sort of Bildungsroman where a relative unknown rises from obscurity to centrality in the story universe and that typically in modern D&D this progession happens really quickly.

And I think you're going to find that it is very difficult to mechanically write that out of D&D, because if you pull on that thread you'll find it is attached to literally everything else in the game. In edition to having to adjust that, you'll need to also adjust the balance with monsters. And, further, you'll need to adjust the offensive balance since spells and attacks tend to inflate at a rate that lets them mostly keep up with the inflating hit point pool, so that if you adjust hit points without adjusting attacks you'll quickly end up where everyone is a glass cannon.

What you can do is introduce a cap of some sort. For example in 1e, hit points were mostly capped at 'name level' with only small amounts of hit points added for each level after that. However, this worked only because by 10th level, characters pretty much already had more hit points than almost anything they'd encounter. And even then, it didn't really work, because damage increases resulted in everything, both PC's and monsters tending to be glass cannons unless you really reworked how monsters worked. Similarly, many people in 3e capped hit points at 6th level, or 8th level or some other low level of advancement. But while these 'Epic 6th' level games work, they don't stop the problem you have nor do they easily deal with the fact that so much stuff is intended for more than 6th or 8th level characters.

But what you seem to be most concerned about is something much more narrow, and that is how fast leveling is in 3e or later editions.

And the solution I suggest for you is to slow the game down. Award half as much experience points, or even less. Or require increasingly large amounts of experience points to level up. Build in more down time between adventures and avoid the franctic paced compressed adventures typical of most modern published modules and in particular adventure paths. Note, this isn't actually a new problem as you can look at for example the 'G Series' 'Against the Giants' proto-Adventure Path from the earliest days of D&D and its abundantly clear that the writer (Gygax) is power leveling the party by dropping much more treasure than would be typical in order to ensure that the party levels up fast enough to allow the modules to be played back to back.

Pathfinder 1e has a really nice solution to this in variable advancement tracks that adjust the amount of XP needed to advance to the pacing that a table wants to have.

The thing about slowing the game down is that it is a change you can make without the need to adjust any of the rules. You simply have to adjust how you pace and write your adventures.

My longest running campaign is has about 140 4 hour sessions. Over the course of those 640 hours of play, the PC's have reached ~10th level. That means that they've leveled up only about once per ~71 hours of play, or roughly once per 18 sessions. This will not seem super fast. While your PC's will eventually reach the point where what was once challenging is now something that is trivial, it will not be 2 sessions later. Now, the thing is, I have been running what is effectively an adventure path and at this point only about 6 months of real time have gone by. So they are leveling up on average about every 20 in game days. This is still a rather quick rate of advancement all things considered, since 6 months ago they were nobodies and now they are big important people, but the player's experience of it is not "Wow this is so unrealistic how fast we've leveled up" unless they really start thinking about it.

One thing I strongly encourage you to consider though is player buy-in. Not every table is going to be great with only leveling up after 72 hours of play. Many players love to 'ding' and love to plan out characters and if the tables aesthetics of play are more mechanical than narrative and more character focused than player focused, you could end up with very dissatisfied players if you slow the game down too much.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
IME, the reason high level combats take more time has less to do with high hp, and more to do with characters having more options.

On the simpler end of things, a character with three attacks will likely take about three times as long to resolve their turn than a character with one attack - and that's assuming all attacks are made on a single target, and the character doesn't have additional options (such as battlemaster maneuvers). (While it's possible to get a much more speedy resolution if all attacks are rolled simultaneously, but not all players are willing to do so, for a variety of reasons.)

High level spellcasters are even more complicated at high levels, with some players taking several minutes for a turn.

While these are related to some extent to hp, it's not a direct correlation. For example, you could give martials a single, big attack that's the equivalent of several smaller attacks. Much faster to resolve. Of course, that has it's own issues. A single attack is much swingier than multiple attacks. Additionally, some players like the flexibility of having options. As such, IME, players tend to prefer multiple attacks to a single equivalent attack.

Just my two cents worth.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
There is a corollary to that and that is that without hit points, players lose the ability to react to changing circumstances. If you don't have hit points, then when something goes bad, it tends to go back completely and without chance of recovery. One moment someone is fine and the next someone is dead. No one gets a chance to adjust their tactics to deal with a problem.
If you remove all HP, then that's true, but it's not necessarily true if you keep HP and simply remove their progression. You could play a reasonable game where everyone had 3hp, and a successful hit deals 1 damage. That would give you plenty of opportunity to adjust your approach depending on how much damage you'd taken.

The problem with 5E, in particular, is that HP are so numerous and healing is so generous that there's no need to adjust tactics. You may as well charge straight at those bandits, because it doesn't matter whether or not you get hit, because you'll be fine either way. The worst case scenario is you spend some Hit Dice, which would have gone to waste anyway if you didn't spend them; and if it doesn't matter whether you get hit or not, then there's no real point in rolling anything out, and you can save time by just skipping the combat.

Easy fights aren't worth playing out, because low-level enemies don't do enough damage to dent your nigh-instant regeneration. It's very similar to what happened in 4E, except with damage instead of attack rolls.
 

Celebrim

Legend
If you remove all HP, then that's true, but it's not necessarily true if you keep HP and simply remove their progression. You could play a reasonable game where everyone had 3hp, and a successful hit deals 1 damage. That would give you plenty of opportunity to adjust your approach depending on how much damage you'd taken.
You could, except the games that implement static single digit hit points tend to have highly aggressive 'wound tracks' where each loss of hit points carries with it a commiserate debuff, which tends to change the problem from "every attack is save or die" to "every attack is save or suck". And while that leaves you with some opportunity to respond, typically you have relatively few options to do so because you are debuffed. They also tend to have mechanics that allow for more than a single point of damage to occur at once.

Anyway, none of that deals with the central problem being addressed which is:

The problem with 5E, in particular, is that HP are so numerous and healing is so generous that there's no need to adjust tactics. You may as well charge straight at those bandits, because it doesn't matter whether or not you get hit, because you'll be fine either way. The worst case scenario is you spend some Hit Dice, which would have gone to waste anyway if you didn't spend them; and if it doesn't matter whether you get hit or not, then there's no real point in rolling anything out, and you can save time by just skipping the combat.
Yeah, that sounds bad.

In general, the classic D&D play style - popularized by Gygax as 'skillful play' and promoted by him in the 1e DMG - is that a fight does not necessarily take many resources from the party, but that resources are limited and so the loss of any one is concerning. Even if the fight is easy, players are required to minimize the amount of resources they expend in winning the fight because in the long term resources are precious - hit points and spell slots in particular, though older styles of classic dungeon delves might track ammunition and light sources as well. The party that spends hit points or spells unnecessarily finds itself later in the day or when trying to rest in trouble and hoping for luck to avoid loss.

There is a really great series of posts on EnWorld by Echohawk called the 'Monster ENcyclopedia' where he takes a specific monster and does an in depth review of the history of that monster in the game. One of the things that is most salient about those reviews is just how badly D&D has been inflicted with steady number inflation. Most monsters steadily increase their hit points and expected damage from edition to edition, with 2e variants having more than 1e, 3e more than 2e, 4e more still, and 5e the most of all. Correspondingly, it seems likely that the number of rounds in a combat and or the expected damage of the PC's must be going up as well.

Easy fights aren't worth playing out, because low-level enemies don't do enough damage to dent your nigh-instant regeneration. It's very similar to what happened in 4E, except with damage instead of attack rolls.
Nigh instant regeneration is a problem, whether it comes about from magical or non-magical healing. Your hit point buffer isn't meant to make combat trivial or boring or grindy.

In previous editions, the problem you are describing only was inflicted upon particular play styles - typically event driven scenarios where the events were spaced far about in time (political adventures, for example) or location driven scenarios where the distance between encounters was great (wilderness adventures, for example) and where the magical healing available per day could get everyone back to healthy between encounters.

The problem with 'every fight has to be difficult' is that it works against any sort of naturalistic approach to the game.
 
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