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Secret hit points?

Just a brainstorm I had for a variant to increase tension in combat.

The DM rolls each PC's hit points, but keeps them secret from the players. The player tracks damage, just counting upward towards an unknown limit. When damage equals or exceeds hit points, the PC is at zero, all normal rules apply. If the PC survives and regains hit points, the DM rerolls their hit points and keeps the new total secret.

So basically, players don't know exactly how close to dying they are.

Thoughts?
 

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I use a similar system for monster HP. Make HP of monsters unknown to my players and only keep track of how much damage my players did to them. Though I don't randomize it (so if they fight the same monster often, just like their character, they will eventually be able to estimate the monster's endurance).

Anyway, I think your system is perfectly viable, I'm just not quite sure if there's any good benefit from it.

Let's think about it. For example a PC has 8/40 HP. Regardless of whether you keep HP a secret or not, as DM you would at least describe that PC as "badly wounded", right?
So let's see... if the PC knows he has exactly 8 HP, that still won't tell him whether he can survive the next hit or not, as damage itself is also random. The only situation where it would make a difference would be if we knew the maximum damage the enemy can do is 7.
I wonder what kind of effect that had on the players, because I feel on one hand they might be more likely to run when I say "badly wounded", because they can't be sure to survive the next it. On the other hand, it could also have the opposite effect. If they don't see their HP they might just fight till death, because the feedback of "you're going to lose" is not as clear as when they see their current HP.
 

Sadras

Hero
So basically, players don't know exactly how close to dying they are.

Thoughts?

Not a fan, besides the additional headache of having to roll hit points for every combat it doesn't make sense for the player not to know their character's state of health. There are better ways to building tension IMO.
 
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Nagol

Unimportant
Been there, done that, works poorly.

There are two main problems with the system.

First. it places more strain on the process bottleneck. The DM has a lot to do already and adding being in charge of player hp bookkeeping simply adds to the pile. It tends to slow the game down with very little gained.

Second, it reduces player information flow. The game has a small bandwidth for information transfer as it is. This further reduces player information by obscuring the lethality of the encounter: monster A uses a sword and does 1 - 6 hp per blow and monster B uses a sword and does 7 - 12 hp per blow. Monster B is much more dangerous, but the primary signal (damage of its first blow) is now hidden from the group. Which means the DM has to creatively find a way to present that information in a way the players can notice and properly interpret -- every combat -- or the players have to learn to do without.
 

Works just fine in practice. At least if you're willing to give the players a qualitative description of how they feel whenever they ask (and after each time they take damage). Was one of the options presented back in 1e.
 

I know a group that did something like this in a 3.5 game. The players were never told any numbers, as the DM made ALL rolls in secret: HP, damage, saves, etc. I would have thought this particular group would have hated it, but it appears it was one of the most popular games they had. I was not personally a part of the game, so this is secondhand information.
 

akr71

Adventurer
As a DM, I have enough to keep track of, thanks. My players would hate this idea too, feeling that I was stealing something integral to their character building from them. I would also say that a character should know how well they are doing - they are the ones taking all the bumps, bruises and fireballs after all.

My DM style is moving in the opposite direction. I am actively trying to get me to track less things and my players track more things like monster damage, initiative order.
 

As a DM, I have enough to keep track of, thanks. My players would hate this idea too, feeling that I was stealing something integral to their character building from them. I would also say that a character should know how well they are doing - they are the ones taking all the bumps, bruises and fireballs after all.

My DM style is moving in the opposite direction. I am actively trying to get me to track less things and my players track more things like monster damage, initiative order.

You had me up until monster damage. That needs to be on my side of the DM screen so I can fudge down - to eliminate a monster when a combat has gone on too long - or up - when a BBEG is going down one round too quickly. The players just can't know that stuff and will have to pry that data from my cold, dead hand of Vecna!

But, yes, in general anything the players can take on to reduce my DM workload is greatly appreciated.

EDIT: of course, after thinking another minute about this, maybe you were referring to the damage monsters do rather than their HP. Yeah, that might be ok... although I love when they freak out when I grab a handful of dice to resolve the massive damage from an attack they've never seen before.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It definitely wouldn't be my bag. I think that the tension comes from knowing how close the character is to death and, to that end, hit points help with that. So much so that I reveal monster hit points to the players via their hit point bar on Roll20. Everyone starts getting really nervous when the fighter or paladin whacks a monster for big damage and the bar only moves a little.
 

akr71

Adventurer
You had me up until monster damage. That needs to be on my side of the DM screen so I can fudge down - to eliminate a monster when a combat has gone on too long - or up - when a BBEG is going down one round too quickly. The players just can't know that stuff and will have to pry that data from my cold, dead hand of Vecna!

But, yes, in general anything the players can take on to reduce my DM workload is greatly appreciated.

Oh, I don't tell them how many HP the monster has, I just ask them to tally how much damage they've done to a particular foe. Granted it works better for minions - "My arrow does 8 damage to the orc guarding the cage. It's taken 16 total, is it still standing?"

They unofficially track how much damage they deal to bosses anyway, so I may as well let them handle it and make my life easier. Sometimes it makes them sweat that much more, when they've done a pile of damage and the boss just keeps on coming at them :]
 

It definitely wouldn't be my bag. I think that the tension comes from knowing how close the character is to death and, to that end, hit points help with that. So much so that I reveal monster hit points to the players via their hit point bar on Roll20. Everyone starts getting really nervous when the fighter or paladin whacks a monster for big damage and the bar only moves a little.
I don't show monster HP but that still kind of happens due to my narration.

My players would go like: "I'm a bit worried, we already did 20 damage and Rya didn't even say that he is moderately wounded yet."
 

the Jester

Legend
No thanks. As the DM, I already have plenty to keep track of. No need to add to my workload unless it makes for a noticeable and significant improvement in the game.
 

5ekyu

Hero
Just a brainstorm I had for a variant to increase tension in combat.

The DM rolls each PC's hit points, but keeps them secret from the players. The player tracks damage, just counting upward towards an unknown limit. When damage equals or exceeds hit points, the PC is at zero, all normal rules apply. If the PC survives and regains hit points, the DM rerolls their hit points and keeps the new total secret.

So basically, players don't know exactly how close to dying they are.

Thoughts?

Would not try this at all.

1 - DND as an RPG has a lot of things where precise HP matters a lot for decisions and uses. You need a lot of rewrite to avoid blowing up very common abilities. the game system assumes knowledge of your character and its written for that so its not an easy choice.

2 - The players need info to make choices that matter. the more the Gm hides needed info the less informed their choices are. The less informed their choices are the less they feel involved in more than just a guessing game as opposed to a playing and planning and using things game.

How much more fun would poker be if you did not know what two of the cards in your hand were thru the entire game?

It works for texas hold'em cuz its a competitive thing where all sides have the same issue *and* its about the betting more than the hand.

Neither of those applies to DND.

Let your player's have the knowledge of their characters they need to make informed choices that matter and let the game be about the amazing stuff they do, not about the info they did not get cuz you know Gm thought it was fun if they were in the dark.
 

Oh, I don't tell them how many HP the monster has, I just ask them to tally how much damage they've done to a particular foe. Granted it works better for minions - "My arrow does 8 damage to the orc guarding the cage. It's taken 16 total, is it still standing?"

They unofficially track how much damage they deal to bosses anyway, so I may as well let them handle it and make my life easier. Sometimes it makes them sweat that much more, when they've done a pile of damage and the boss just keeps on coming at them :]

Ah that makes sense - I currently just have a running tally in my campaign notebook for each foe in the combat. Cross out and jot down the new total right next to it. Hmm... I like your point about making them sweat a bit more when they are tracking the total damage dealt and the big bad is still standing. A little meta-gamey, I suppose, but they're doing it anyway in their heads so the difference is in them now knowing exactly what they've dealt. I might just have to experiment with that - Thanks for the idea!
 

ccs

41st lv DM
Will it increase the tension? Maybe.
Will it increase my workload for no good reason? Definitely.
And it'd absolutely annoy my players.

Since increased workload & annoyed players aren't what I'm aiming for....
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I have not played this system at all, so my observations are probably not as valuable, but if the players are still tracking the damage their characters take, and presumably adjusting this number for healing received, One would think that they would get a pretty good idea of what their full hit point total is anyway. I can see how it would add tension, and I'm not sure it would add too much overhead to the DM, as he he just has a static number for each character, the players are still doing most of the tracking, their just tracking damage instead of HP. But it seems like it would add a step each round where a DM would have to check with each play on what damage their character is at and see if it met or exceeded their HP totals in addition to players getting a pretty good idea of what that total was anyway.

Also, what about abilities that reduce the HP maximum? That does seem like it would increase the 'tracking' load on the DM, depending how often it came up.
 

AmerginLiath

Adventurer
If you were going to do so, I’d recommend using something akin to the 4e Bloodied condition so that the players have some feedback on when the characters are taking a substantial amount of damage against their total (this might give them a rough estimate of their character’s total, but that will change by level and will be altered over time with THP and the like).

One of the short campaigns which I wasn’t in but observed among college friends back in the 3.0 days was one where all the characters had amnesia and this was done by the DM actually rolling up the characters himself based off chats with the players and then never showing them the sheets — not only did players not know their HP total, they didn’t know their stats or class until they attempted different things. Of course, such a campaign is good for a short one-off rather than something for a DM to run every time. I’d say the same perhaps for the HP idea, since it requires so much bookkeeping (both literally and in terms of keeping players appraised of subjective conditions) on on the DM’s end.
 


5ekyu

Hero
Ah that makes sense - I currently just have a running tally in my campaign notebook for each foe in the combat. Cross out and jot down the new total right next to it. Hmm... I like your point about making them sweat a bit more when they are tracking the total damage dealt and the big bad is still standing. A little meta-gamey, I suppose, but they're doing it anyway in their heads so the difference is in them now knowing exactly what they've dealt. I might just have to experiment with that - Thanks for the idea!

I also have been letting my players track the monster HP. Saves me a lot of work. But i also want to try and get Alexa to do it but her score keeper skills suck.
 


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