Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hit Points explained really well (not by me)

xaxers said in comments here this:

AH! Let me explain to you what HP really represent, rather than just how many hits from a sword you can take:
Really, they're about how well you can avoid critical damage. The fighter with 200 hp? Look, that d8 damage from a sword isn't about him just being so tough and manly that he just ignores the stab wound, it's that he's so tough, manly, and good at not getting stabbed in the face that he moves out of the way of most of the blow, so that you just cut him a little bit. A peasant who has never held a sword? Yeah, you're going to stick him real good, right in his liver. Dead and gone, real quick like.
That is what having a high HP count does--you, without need for additional rolling, basically avoid most of the blow that otherwise did connect with your armor. You get a bruise or scrape instead of a broken skull or pierced lung because you moved at the last instant, or gave with the blow and reduced the impact, or whatever. The point is, your skill at combat is what saved your life from that blow.

In my opinion that explanation is one of the best for HP I've read this far. What do you think?


Unknown said...

How do healing spells factor in then? How does a healing spell restore your skill in combat? Why can't the healing spell be used to temporarily boost your combat ability *before* combat?

How does your skill in combat reduce the effects of ingested or injected poison? Poison gas?

If this ability to avoid critical damage is what hit points are, why does Dexterity (or equivalent) not add to hit points? Presumably someone more coordinated with faster reflexes should be able to more effectively twist and turn such that potentially lethal blows turn into something less lethal?

This isn't a new explanation, in short. The AD&D1 DMG explained them that way in the late '70s or so. It wasn't persuasive then and this hasn't changed now. The only possible coherent answer to the question of what hit points are is basically "shut up and play the damned game".

Unknown said...

I still think HPs are a terrible way to simulate damage. They remind me of all those boss battles on the 1980s and 90s console games, chipping away on a bar of health. There needs to be consequences for damage beyond a loss of 'points' that otherwise has no connection to your character beyond how many hits they can take before they finally fall over.

Unknown said...

I don't have problems with hit points at all. It's game mechanics and it works for me.

I didn't think about those other damage sources so you got good points there. That HP description I found and liked is a torso in that way.

Sometimes "shut up and play the damned game" doesn't work. For example if a player thinks that HP is stupid you can try to explain it why it is not stupid and I think this is one way to explain it. If the player asks the questions you pointed out then he can shut up and play the damned game :)

I know that HP has been explained earlier but not everyone has access to that material.

Unknown said...

True20 has ditched HP and damage is a little different. Tougher character you have less likely he takes damage. That works too, but in my opinion it's easier to just decrease your current HP.

And there are naturally hundreds of other damage systems what don't use HP as D&D and similacrum games.

Oh, and in video games that happens even today.

Keith Davies said...

Thaumiel, you might find my post On Hit Points and Healing of interest. It expands a little more on xaxers' comment and explores some of these other questions.

Unknown said...

Really interesting read. I encourage people who check the comments to check above link up!