D&D 5E The mathematics of D&D–Damage and HP

Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?
 

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pemerton

Legend
Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?
For creatures like dragons, elephants, crocodiles etc pincushion narration seems fine.

For evil high priests, bugbears etc then you can narrate dodges, grazes, missiles that strike but don't penetrate armour or shields, etc.
 

Asisreo

Patron Badass
Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?
Yes, anything like a graze is good. If they're wearing armor, it could pierce but not deep.

Some monsters will just plainly look like a pincushion especially below half-hp. Exhaustion is a factor and I imagine dodging or avoiding an arrow can be mighty exhausting for most humanoid creatures.
 

Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?

An arrow that doesn't actually get through the armor/shield/etc. may still hit with a lot of force, knocking you about, taking the wind out of you, etc, just as a melee weapon might (depending on range and draw-weight). They may also damage equipment or become embedded in clothes, armor, or (most classically) shields in ways that make them more cumbersome. An arrow embedded halfway through a shield can do no damage to someone whatsoever while still putting them in a position of having to be careful how they move with their shield if they don't want to cut themself on the arrow.

Also enemies can become tired and stressed by dodging or otherwise adopting a movement pattern to avoid being hit by arrows. Or move themselves into otherwise disadvantageous positions to do so.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?
In this narrative, which I use for hp damage, you might decide that the arrow hits flesh in a non-critical way, or that it is a glancing blow leaving a bloody scratch. I tend to have the narrative of the blow match how many hps the monster or player has remaining. If a 300 hp raging barbarian takes 7 (reduced down to 3) hp damage from a bow, the arrow will bounce off his calloused skin. If a 7 hit point goblin takes that same 7 damage, the arrow would sink into their chest and drop them to the ground. A 20 hp fighter taking 7 damage from an arrow might have it rip through a shoulder muscle. Again, only dropping to zero hp will typically have a game impact.

I actually have a mechanic in my game that explains this supernatural toughness. About 3000 years ago a God was killed and their power was divided up amongst thousands and thousands of mortals. This power stays in mortal hands and finds a path to new mortals when one of these "God Touched" dies. Being God Touched allows you to heal quickly, advance in class levels at the state listed in the PHB/DMG, etc... Beings that are not God Touched may be able to master 5th level wizardry in 60 years of study (and Elves mastering 9th level magics over a thousand years). The Non-God Touched go down at 0 hp and die when their hps reach a negative number equal to (3 + their con save modifier). They lose 1 hp every round when down instead of making a death save.
 

Thanks all. It’s a bit tiresome at times isn’t it? Part of me wishes you could just run a Deadliest Warrior type algorithm (bearing in mind it looks mighty like an Excel sheet!) and then narrate the story of the battle. Obviously magic messes with that somewhat, and reduces agency esp for casters, but those long, long fights of attrition gets bit dull narrating nick here, shove there, ad nauseam. And players (and I’m one too) want to feel like they’re actually doing damage, damage, rather than tiring damage.
Especially because the language of DnD is roll to hit then roll damage; implication is every hit is a landed blow rather than a hit being a combo of many damaging or exhausting things.
Similarly with the roll to hit being against armour class - ‘did I beat their armour? If I did, I did some stabby/slashy/thumpy (or fiery/acidy/rotteny) damage’
I think narratively the idea of an opposed roll (player attack v monster defence) lends itself more easily, linguistically and therefore subconsciously and imaginatively, to being happy with an outcome of “You press your attack savagely, hammering the Death Knight’s armour with your sword, causing him to gasp and fall back”.
I dunno. I guess I just find it hard to narrate so many nicks and bruises compellingly so often.
sigh
 

jgsugden

Legend
Thanks all. It’s a bit tiresome at times isn’t it? Part of me wishes you could just run a Deadliest Warrior type algorithm (bearing in mind it looks mighty like an Excel sheet!) and then narrate the story of the battle. ...
...I dunno. I guess I just find it hard to narrate so many nicks and bruises compellingly so often.
sigh
Critical Role is worth a listen to give you one idea of how to approach it successfully.

Nobody worth having at your table is going to nitpick over your descriptions. They may laugh when you inadvertently say something that sounds dirty, but if you're telling a good story, then they'll be too drawn into the story to care how long it has been since you described a wound in the same exact way.

One technique you can do is to allow players, and yourself as DM, the freedom to disentangle the mechanics from the description of what happens. If the Barbarian finishes off a foe with a greatsword attack, there is no reason you can't describe it has the barbarian smashing the enemy back onto a spiked wall. If the barbarian hits a foe for 12 damage with a longsword, there is no reason you can't describe it as being blocked and the force of the blow stinging the enemy.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Thanks all. It’s a bit tiresome at times isn’t it? Part of me wishes you could just run a Deadliest Warrior type algorithm (bearing in mind it looks mighty like an Excel sheet!) and then narrate the story of the battle. Obviously magic messes with that somewhat, and reduces agency esp for casters, but those long, long fights of attrition gets bit dull narrating nick here, shove there, ad nauseam. And players (and I’m one too) want to feel like they’re actually doing damage, damage, rather than tiring damage.
Especially because the language of DnD is roll to hit then roll damage; implication is every hit is a landed blow rather than a hit being a combo of many damaging or exhausting things.
Similarly with the roll to hit being against armour class - ‘did I beat their armour? If I did, I did some stabby/slashy/thumpy (or fiery/acidy/rotteny) damage’
I think narratively the idea of an opposed roll (player attack v monster defence) lends itself more easily, linguistically and therefore subconsciously and imaginatively, to being happy with an outcome of “You press your attack savagely, hammering the Death Knight’s armour with your sword, causing him to gasp and fall back”.
I dunno. I guess I just find it hard to narrate so many nicks and bruises compellingly so often.
sigh
Here's a possible alternative -- treat HP like the metagame mechanic they are. When you hit a PC with an axe swung by an orc, tell the player the orc killed them with the blow. Then the player can ask to use their hp to buy off that hit, and you can roll to see how many it costs. If they play the cost, they can narrate how the attack failed to kill them however they want. If what they can pay doesn't meet the cost, then they loss their staked hp, and they're still dead. They can then invoke dead or dying, and put the actual results of the blow on hold until they finish making death saves, and then they can narrate how the attack actually landed. You do the same for NPCs.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Wrong thread I’m guessing, as this seems to be a maths session, but I have a question on narrating HP specifically for missile damage.
Ie if HP is partly meat, partly attrition, this works for melee combat (wearing down opponent over time, the grunt and shove of close combat - not necessarily a wound each hit); however, for ranged attacks like arrows (esp for highish HP enemies) there is only really the outcome of ‘your arrow hits the target’ so they’re a pincushion whether the arrow sinks into their flesh or thuds into their armour. How else could you (non-meat HP) narrate a hit from a longbow for example?
D&d doesn't have mechanisms like fate's aspects & consequences do you dont need to worry too much about getting debit gritty/pulpy with those
 

There is also a trend to value + to-hit over + damage.
Which is not always the correct choice.
If you get +2 damage for duelling style you might deal 1d8 + 6 damage and always do at least 7 damage to down a goblin.
If you have a 50% hit chance, you kill a goblin with 50% of your attacks.
If you have archery style, you might deal 1d8 + 4 damage with 60% to hit. So you kill a goblin if you hit and roll at least a 3. (75% chance). So your actual chance to kill a 7hp goblin only with 45% of your attacks.

2d6 is also not tge clear winner over 1d12.
Against a goblin with 7 hp... Yes. Against an enemy with 15 hp, not necessarily. If you do 1d12 + 4 damage, your kill probability is 1/6 = 16.67%, with 2d6 + 4 your chance drops to 3/36 = 8.33%.

Of course I cherry picked the examples, but it shows that minimum value (or in other cases maximum value) and standard deviation also plays a roll. A higher average is not always the deciding factor.

Also:
When you play texas holdem poker, the worst cards 2,7 have a good probability to win you the tournament. Ace, King not so much. Why? Because there are 5 cards on table open for anyone to see. If you see 2s and 7s, you really don't expect to run into a full house. If there are Kings and Aces on the table and you don't have them on your hand, you will be a lot more cautious.
 

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