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Removing Hit Points from the Game

Saelorn

Adventurer
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 leaves you with some opportunity to respond, typically you have relatively few options to do so. They also tend to have mechanics that allow for more than a single point of damage to occur at once.
A wound track is a reasonable HP alternative. I mean, there's a huge difference between an HP system and no system, but the difference between an HP system and a wound track is not necessarily that significant.

Even if the first wound gives the equivalent of Disadvantage on every check, that can present an interesting choice in terms of action economy, whether you hide from the fight (and thus deprive your team of a meaningful action each round), or risk serious injury in order to keep contributing. If you compare it to the HP system from 1E, where you didn't have Disadvantage but you died instantly when you ran out of HP, then it presents much the same choice. It's not quite a true Hunter's Dilemma, since there are a bunch of dice involved, but if every individual fled when they were first bloodied then the enemy would have a much greater chance of prevailing.
 

Celebrim

Hero
A wound track is a reasonable HP alternative. I mean, there's a huge difference between an HP system and no system, but the difference between an HP system and a wound track is not necessarily that significant.
True, and they can blur at the edges.

For example, you can implement both hit points and a wound track by having statuses that come into effect when you have various fractions of your max hit points.

One of the biggest problems I have with 5e though makes this tough to adapt to 5e, and that is that in an effort to get rid of the fiddliness of prior editions they introduced a very elegant advantage/disadvantage mechanic. And it's really elegant but what it lacks is any concept of 'extra advantaged' or 'extra disadvantaged'. So if you are already advantaged, there is no value in trying to do anything that would increase your advantage and if your already disadvantaged there is no value in avoiding doing things that increase your disadvantage. Things are already as bad as they can get. You are never forced to throw 3 or 4 die and choose the best/worse. If you do something like, "If you have less than 50% hit points, you are 'wounded' and have disadvantage on all rolls.", you might mitigate some of the hit point inflation by punishing you tactically for choices that get you wounded, but you interact negatively with the rest of the system. So while getting rid of fiddliness was worthwhile, it really feels like a big tradeoff.

My homebrew system has a quasi-wound track where if you are reduced to 10% or less of your hit points, you are 'staggered' and limited to partial actions, and reduced to less than 0 hit points you are dying. So in a sense, you have 3 hit points - healthy, staggered, dying (and then dead). But there is space between those situations that you don't have in a true wound track. And of course, if I wanted even more complexity (which 5e could probably withstand) I could have more boxes on the quasi-wound track.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Personally, I don't think you can remove HP from the game and have it still function -- at least not without reworking enough other mechanics such that it is no longer recognizable as D&D. I really think you have two options:

1) Put whatever fluff you need to around HP so that it no longer causes pain. My preference is that hit point is an abstraction that incorporates some elements of skill and luck that could be handled by some other mechanic (say, defensive bonus on AC), but aren't for... reasons. Narrate it, if you want. Or, just ignore it. Yes, it's awkward if you're looking at it directly, but I just mentally stick it in the back bedroom and don't open that door -- while I refer to it as my "craft room" during public conversations. To an extent, this is exactly what you're doing in any number of video games that only show you a health bar, but still have a number, if you look at your character details.

2) Switch to another system that is built to not use HP. Savage Worlds, Fate, or Fantasy Hero all come to mind well enough. IIRC, Genesys uses a wounds system, and it's roughly the same level of complexity as 5E.

Whether you choose option #1 or #2 depends on your priorities. You decide what they are and live with them. Personally, I loathe the class/level mechanics and pseudo-Vancian spell slots (5E magic is tolerably improved), but I like having a Monster Manual and some other niceties, so I stick with D&D. YMMV.
 

scoolio

Villager
As a player of "other than D&D" systems for the last 20 years I struggle with the Hit Points problem as well. I've been debating doing a limit on HP and giving full Hit Points for Levels 1-3 to boost survivability and then just allow 1HP + Con bonus for every level after that. Unfortunately this means that I have to also adjust things like a Fireball cast as a 9th level spell issues as they occur in game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As a player of "other than D&D" systems for the last 20 years I struggle with the Hit Points problem as well. I've been debating doing a limit on HP and giving full Hit Points for Levels 1-3 to boost survivability and then just allow 1HP + Con bonus for every level after that. Unfortunately this means that I have to also adjust things like a Fireball cast as a 9th level spell issues as they occur in game.
Yeah, if HP doesn’t increase significantly throughout a character’s career but damage remains the same, survivability is going to dramatically decrease as characters gain levels, which is very counter-intuitive. For a change like this, you’d pretty much have to re-write half the game to adjust damage scaling to suit your new HP scaling.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
Yeah, if HP doesn’t increase significantly throughout a character’s career but damage remains the same, survivability is going to dramatically decrease as characters gain levels, which is very counter-intuitive. For a change like this, you’d pretty much have to re-write half the game to adjust damage scaling to suit your new HP scaling.
I agree that it's counter-intuitive, and it's not to my taste, but I would expect that lower survivability at higher levels is the goal of such an effort.

If you reduce HP but then scale damage to match, all you're left with is the same game with slightly smaller numbers. That doesn't seem like it would be worth the effort.

On the other hand, if you reduce HP but don't scale the damage to match, you end up with a game that plays very differently. High level characters would have a lot more damage output than low levels, but wouldn't have grown much in terms of survivability. As such, they'd be powerful but cautious. I don't think it would be my cup of tea, but there are probably some out there who would enjoy it.
 

HJFudge

Villager
One thing I have wanted to try but have not yet got around to, is simply changing what I call Hit Points to Morale Points, and then narrating successful attacks and such in a different way than 'He hits you with his sword, cutting you deeply!'.

Mechanically? Nothing would change, so if your issue is with slow combat or what not this won't help at all. However, if you want to have a different 'narrative feel' to the game, simply having successful attacks against a PC not do damage but instead 'scare them, shake them, make them want to give up hope, etc' I would think this might assist. Perhaps at certain percentage points you can narrate an actual wound.

This simulates the battle being an expert affair, where each hit can be devastating...and that the enemies don't wear down on the characters meat but rather their state of mind. The fighter keeps getting almost overwhelmed by the goblins strikes...parrying or blocking each one but maybe a few of them have gotten too close for comfort, and are tiring him out...making him doubt himself, etc.
 

ART!

Explorer
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.
What if you just gave PCs all the benefits of leveling up except for the hit points (assuming they start with some decent chunk of HP)?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
One thing I have wanted to try but have not yet got around to, is simply changing what I call Hit Points to Morale Points, and then narrating successful attacks and such in a different way than 'He hits you with his sword, cutting you deeply!'.
One issue with this comes in the form of healing potions. It's hard enough to ask someone to hand you a healing potion, under the existing model of abstract damage. It would be even harder to ask someone for a morale potion, when everyone involved is perfectly aware that nobody has been injured at all.

Likewise, complaining to the cleric that you feel distressed, and having them cast cheer up on you, does not seem very heroic.
 

HJFudge

Villager
But morale potions exist in real life! Its called booze :p Liquid Courage and all that.

Also, there have been plenty situations I have been in where no one has been injured, but someone remarks 'Ugh, I need a drink' and no one thinks this odd...as we are mostly feeling the same way. This usually occurs during holiday season with the extended family, or after a brutal work day
 

CleverNickName

Adventurer
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.

Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Eliminated, no. But we tried to significantly reduce it, and it didn't go very well for us.

I played brief campaign where characters started with maximum hit points at Level 1, and whenever they gained a level they gained 1+Con Mod hit points (minimum 1). The results were just what you would expect: everyone put their highest or second-highest stat into Constitution, everyone took the Tough feat as soon as they possibly could, half the party were Hill Dwarves and the other half were humans, that sort of thing. That houserule might have curbed the inflation of hit points a little, but it also curbed character diversity and creativity.

The best way I've found to address the issue of hit point inflation is to adjust their recovery rate. Short and Long Rests can be a real problem if you let them be.
 

snickersnax

Explorer
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
I have eliminated hit point inflation in 5E. My latest iteration is this:

PCs gain hit dice equal to their proficiency bonus. So Level 1 characters start with 3 HD and gain an additional HD at 5th, 9th, 13th and 17th level.

This solves so many problems at once: hit point abstraction and inflation to the point of absurdity is reduced, level 1 survive-ability is increased, falling damage feels better, single BBEGs become an option.

But as others have pointed out it causes a few problems. Fortunately they were problems that I wanted to fix anyway.

1) Damage from spells needs to be reduced to stay in line with PC hit points: I want a lower magic game anyway so my solution is to make the highest level spell a PC can cast equal to proficiency bonus minus 1. So casters go from 1st level spells at character level 1-4 to 5th level spells at level 17-20. Half-casters get spells equal to proficiency bonus divided by 2 rounded down.

An alternative to this, making it a closer to an E6-like version, is to limit spell level to proficiency bonus divided by 2 rounded up (so level one spells at character level 1, level 2 spells at character level 5 and level 3 spells at character level 13). Half- casters would get 1st level spells at level 5 and second level spells at level 13.

2) Damage dice from sneak attacks is reduced by half (rounded up)

3) Radiant damage only damages fiends and undead.

4) extra attack is gained at 9th level for those who used to get it at level 5, and 13th level for those who used to get it at level 6

5) polymorph and wildshape don't change anyone's hit points.

6)I have also included proficiency bonus to AC with formulas for AC starting at 8 instead of 10, (so effectively adding one point of AC for each point of proficiency bonus gained from level 5 on). I know this gets the bounded accuracy people all up in arms, but I've done it for this system because it give me the feel and play in the game that I want.

I think it works quite nicely, it gives the gritty, realistic feel that I want and collaterally solves other problems that I have with 5e.

There are a few other clean-ups on some of the feats, but this seems to play very smoothly
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
Yeah, if HP doesn’t increase significantly throughout a character’s career but damage remains the same, survivability is going to dramatically decrease as characters gain levels, which is very counter-intuitive. For a change like this, you’d pretty much have to re-write half the game to adjust damage scaling to suit your new HP scaling.
I don't agree that that is counter-intuitive. Or maybe it is counter-intuitive, but that doesn't make it inherently bad.

Enemies should get more dangerous as you gain levels. Reducing hit point gains at higher levels makes combat against higher level enemies much more risky, which, IMO, is how high level play should feel. Yes, when facing off with giants or trolls or orcs, high level characters should feel powerful. But facing high level challenges should not feel just as risky as it facing lower level challenges did. You have to play smarter and get luckier against higher powered opponents.

Compare it to an MMO (well, early or vanilla WoW at least). At low level, you can accomplish almost anything by yourself. You might need to group up to face an elite mob or small dungeon, but you're pretty good at what you do. By the end game, however, you struggle to do anything by yourself. Even the most basic quests seem to require a group, and the real threatening challenges? They require a raid of 10, 25, or 40 characters to fight one individual. Relatively speaking, you get weaker as you gain levels in an MMO because your challenges scale faster than you do. I don't think it's inherently wrong to partially adopt that model even if you've still got 5 characters.

For my part, I've considered capping hit point gains at higher level. I'd keep it very simple: After level 10, you get fixed hit point gains. If class you gained a level in has a d6 hit die, you get +1 hit point. +2 for d8, +3 for d10, and +4 for d12. No Con modifier to those, either. You do still get Hit Dice normally (since those are for recovery) and if you take the Toughness feat you still get the bonus hit points from that. Yeah, that makes Toughness really attractive at high levels. I think that's fine. It's not like it isn't competing with Resilient. I haven't had a chance to DM with it, though.
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Monte Cook's Experimental Might first introduced me to the concept of separating Hit Points into two categories; Vigor and Health, I believe he used. One came back easily (Vigor), and the other represented more severe damage to the character. That was the first step I took to adding a bit of spice to our D&D games. I've found I had to do a lot more to get a similar feel in 5E.

We use a 'Wounds' system on critical hits, as well as any hit that reduces a character to 0 but doesn't kill them outright. We use a simple Warhammer-like hit location chart to determine where the wound is. Even if you save vs. Death and are later healed, wounds cannot be magically whisked away easily. (In example, a Cure Wounds spell only restores wounds equal to the level of the spell, and no hit points if you use it in this way). Then 1 wound per long rest.

Wounds can range from slowed movement speed, difficulty attacking, blinding from blood in the eyes, etc. It has helped make hit points less arbitrary, for us. As with all the suggestions I mention of this caliber, it's what works for my old grognard group and may not fit anyone else's needs.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
I agree that it's counter-intuitive, and it's not to my taste, but I would expect that lower survivability at higher levels is the goal of such an effort.

If you reduce HP but then scale damage to match, all you're left with is the same game with slightly smaller numbers. That doesn't seem like it would be worth the effort.

On the other hand, if you reduce HP but don't scale the damage to match, you end up with a game that plays very differently. High level characters would have a lot more damage output than low levels, but wouldn't have grown much in terms of survivability. As such, they'd be powerful but cautious. I don't think it would be my cup of tea, but there are probably some out there who would enjoy it.
But you do run into a "consistency" isdue thst boils down to "why didnt all this overly powerful magic guys develop as much magic for defense if they can be laid low by a single spell?"

You *should" in such z eorld see a **lot** more dolls that provide "temp hp", arcane shields, allow you to cast thru remote avatars, provide resistance, immunities, summons do you sit back in the boat etc etc rtc.

In Ars Magica fir instance, the "arcane aard" was so standard it was treated more like an automatic skill than a cast spell.

A fundamental change like redoing hp creates a different set of "what we would want from magic".

As was said, its ripples thru the core... given so many good systems eith already non-hp systems built in... seems an odd route. It's like deciding to buy z car and remove the wheels and water-proof it instead of buying a boat.
 

the Jester

Legend
Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
Before 5e dropped, I was working on a "D&D Jazz Edition" that would synthesize a version of D&D that pulled the best elements of all editions (much as 5e did). A lot of my design choices ended up echoed strongly by what we got, but one place I wanted to reduce the numbers that 5e didn't was hit points.

My basic approach included a significant reliance on multiclassing; there would be four 'base classes' (cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard) that would top out at level 5 or maybe 10 and a ton of specialized 3-level prestige class like elements that would help you kit-bash almost any concept into existence (in theory). Want to specialize in swords? I got a class for that. Want to specialize in fire magic? Class. How about alchemy? Class. Etcetera.

The way I was going to address hps was simple: at most levels, a given class would give you one or two elements that improved your character, and hit points was one of those elements. In other words, you only got hps sometimes, if you chose a class where the next level gave you hps.

IDHMNIFOM, but I'm pretty sure the four base classes gave you hps at 1st and 2nd level, and then maybe at like 5th? And other classes usually gave you a Hit Die at 2nd or 3rd level. There was a class specifically for gaining hps every level, too (Survivor, IIRC). Not every class gave the same HD, same as standard D&D, and you got your Con bonus to each HD; but even so, a 10th level pc might be a fighter 5/armor master 3/swordsman 2- and have 5d10 + Con bonus hps.

Also, I had a thing I was playing with where each time you gained a new HD, you rerolled ALL your HD, including your new one, with a minimum result of 1 higher than your old total (+ Con bonus).
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
But you do run into a "consistency" isdue thst boils down to "why didnt all this overly powerful magic guys develop as much magic for defense if they can be laid low by a single spell?"

You *should" in such z eorld see a **lot** more dolls that provide "temp hp", arcane shields, allow you to cast thru remote avatars, provide resistance, immunities, summons do you sit back in the boat etc etc rtc.

In Ars Magica fir instance, the "arcane aard" was so standard it was treated more like an automatic skill than a cast spell.

A fundamental change like redoing hp creates a different set of "what we would want from magic".

As was said, its ripples thru the core... given so many good systems eith already non-hp systems built in... seems an odd route. It's like deciding to buy z car and remove the wheels and water-proof it instead of buying a boat.
It's only a consistency issue if you want to make it one. Weapons development tends to outpace armor (in general) in the real world. The same could be true for magic in a fantasy setting.

Besides, there already are great high level spells that allow you to defeat does without significant risk. Simulacrum and True Polymorph (turn an object into a monster, then mind control it into doing what you want) both allow you to attack via proxy, which is about as safe as you can get.

Just because magic is powerful, doesn't mean it can do anything. Personally, I think the limitations of a magic system tend to be far more interesting than what it is capable of.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don't agree that that is counter-intuitive. Or maybe it is counter-intuitive, but that doesn't make it inherently bad.

Enemies should get more dangerous as you gain levels. Reducing hit point gains at higher levels makes combat against higher level enemies much more risky, which, IMO, is how high level play should feel. Yes, when facing off with giants or trolls or orcs, high level characters should feel powerful. But facing high level challenges should not feel just as risky as it facing lower level challenges did. You have to play smarter and get luckier against higher powered opponents.

Compare it to an MMO (well, early or vanilla WoW at least). At low level, you can accomplish almost anything by yourself. You might need to group up to face an elite mob or small dungeon, but you're pretty good at what you do. By the end game, however, you struggle to do anything by yourself. Even the most basic quests seem to require a group, and the real threatening challenges? They require a raid of 10, 25, or 40 characters to fight one individual. Relatively speaking, you get weaker as you gain levels in an MMO because your challenges scale faster than you do. I don't think it's inherently wrong to partially adopt that model even if you've still got 5 characters.

For my part, I've considered capping hit point gains at higher level. I'd keep it very simple: After level 10, you get fixed hit point gains. If class you gained a level in has a d6 hit die, you get +1 hit point. +2 for d8, +3 for d10, and +4 for d12. No Con modifier to those, either. You do still get Hit Dice normally (since those are for recovery) and if you take the Toughness feat you still get the bonus hit points from that. Yeah, that makes Toughness really attractive at high levels. I think that's fine. It's not like it isn't competing with Resilient. I haven't had a chance to DM with it, though.
Sure, I can see what you’re going for with that. I just think getting 5e D&D’s progression to look like that is going to take a much more comprehensive numbers overhaul than simply changing HP gains. Your proposed change doesn’t look to me like it would succeed in creating a difficulty curve like early WoW’s, it looks more like it would result in a curve that starts out high, rises rapidly, and continues to rise exponentially more rapidly from there. If you want that vanilla WoW curve, just increase the average CR of your encounters slightly faster than the characters gain levels.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
It's only a consistency issue if you want to make it one. Weapons development tends to outpace armor (in general) in the real world. The same could be true for magic in a fantasy setting.

Besides, there already are great high level spells that allow you to defeat does without significant risk. Simulacrum and True Polymorph (turn an object into a monster, then mind control it into doing what you want) both allow you to attack via proxy, which is about as safe as you can get.

Just because magic is powerful, doesn't mean it can do anything. Personally, I think the limitations of a magic system tend to be far more interesting than what it is capable of.
Cannot disagree on such a broad scale. One has to get into details to really draw the line between consistency and oversight. But, if HP were substantially reduced without changing offense, then the "value" of a lot of "leveled" abilities changes greatly - but a gm can just say "hey, so what." and not let that be an issue he "want to make it one" sonit foednt get in the way of his new cool notion of an idea too.

As always, everything can work great and be cool... until it goes from idea to application... then it gets a bit trickier.

As I may have said, I prefer to go with a system where its core mechanics are better suited to what I want than yo gur a core out of a system and just dismiss away ths outcomes as just not something I would worry about.

But hey... whaddya I know.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
The mechanic that most bothers me with D&D in general 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."
I share your dislike of HP, but perhaps for different reasons. Nonetheless, removing them from 5e might be a big undertaking, since they are baked into so many things.

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.
I would look at Blades in the Dark as well, there is an SRD. You could go completely abstract and player-facing with the combat. (See the SRD sections from Effect to Resistance and Armor, in particular.) I mean, it would change a lot about the D&D system, but then eliminating HP would as well. Plus, you could do it mostly on the fly.

Have you eliminated hit point inflation from your 5E game? How did you do it? Did it work?
No. I think I would just translate whatever I want into Fate (super easy to do) and run it in that system. Blades in the Dark looks like a fantastic system, but making a new implementation to emulate D&D seems rather difficult. Kit-bashing some of its action-resolution onto D&D seems do-able, though.
 

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