Friday, October 5, 2012

Hit Points - Actual Ability to Absorb Damage, Luck, Skill, Blessing of the Gods - What Is It

This Can't Happen Until That Last HP Is Gone

WTF is Hit Points in D&D and the whole line of OSR games?

For an elephant or a dragon, I'm sure it's actually ability to withstand damage.

For a 9th Level Fighter with and +4 Con Bonus, those 90 HPs are what? He certainly isn't withstanding damage like a dragon.

I like the way Crypts & Things handles it:

Player characters’ hit points represent only ‘superficial’
damage (i.e., exhaustion, light bruises, minor scrapes,
and so forth).. Because of this, all lost hit points may be
recovered by sleeping without interruption for eight full
hours. Resting (not sleeping), or sleeping for less than
eight hours, will enable a player character to recover one
hit point per full hour of rest or sleep.
Cure Wounds spells and potions of Healing do not
heal hit points, but only lost points of Constitution (as
explained below). However, a draught of ‘strong drink’
(ale, wine, liquor) can ‘invigorate’ a character, enabling
him/her to recover immediately 1d4 hit points. Crypt
Keepers may also want to allow alchemists to sell ‘Elixirs
of Invigoration’ for 200 to 300 gold pieces. Drinking
such an elixir might enable a player character to recover
instantly 1d6 + 2 hit points. Only one such draught,
whether of strong drink or an elixir, will have this effect
per day.
Once a player character’s hit points have been depleted,
any further damage is done to the character’s constitution
score. Damage to a character’s constitution score
represents ‘serious’ damage. Every time a character takes
damage to his/her constitution, he/she must make a
saving throw or fall unconscious. In addition, a character
that has taken damage to his/her constitution suffers a -2
penalty to all actions (including attack rolls and saving
throws). If a character’s constitution score is reduced to 0
or lower that character is dead.

It certainly gives Hit Points a use and a definition that makes  sense, or at least more sense than most of the Hit Point definitions I've read or heard over the years.

Which definition of Hit Points strikes the right chord in you?


  1. Well i used to go for something along the lines of the abstract until the last few which mean 'real' damage. But your earlier post on Party hit Points got me thinking.

    It's a fantasy world so why not go with a literal interpretation? The more powerful (higher level) a character, the more damage he or she can sustain. Why not let a 9th level fighter trade blows with a dragon, instead of just barely dodging or rolling with the impact? Why not let him slug it out, blood dripping from grievous wounds? He's fighting a DRAGON! Realism? **shrug**

    So now I'm thinking damage is damage. Justification? It's magic. Like everything else.

    My .

  2. In 1eAD&D hp are both a representation of physical damage and the character's combat experience, their luck as well, and a certain sixth sense type of quality.

    1eAD&D is not a wargame and combat is a broad simulation of a number of factors, not just who hit what where, and how hard.

  3. Lost hit points (for me) represent exhaustion, physical strain, mental stress, minor injuries and superficial damage. The fewer hit points you have the more likely you are to leave yourself open for that fatal blow - or, if you're using a death & dismemberment table, a serious injury.

    All your hit points healing overnight doesn't seem any more sensical than the traditional rules to me. We've all suffered "lost hit points" in real life, and usually we're still sore in the morning. Plus it messes with the real purpose of hit points as a tension building mechanic.

  4. I treat hit points as an abstract measure of "a combination of fighting skill, experience, conditioning to the peculiar physical and psychological – e.g. dealing with stress, terror, and exhilaration – demands of combat, and perhaps most importantly luck and/or the blessings of fate. For human-sized characters at least, only a very small component of HP should be the ability to fight on with actual wounds. Because a human or demi-human ought to need only get stuck with a sword once before he dies, no matter the level, but then no ‘hero’ ought be killed by the first ‘hit’ in a role-playing game such as D&D."


  5. I like that constitution thing, essentially it's the same thing as the Wound Points/Vitality Points that Star Wars d20 introduced (and many other "modern" setting games also used)

  6. I hate discussions like this. Let's not muddy the waters of HP. You have them you are good and you dont your toast.

  7. i don't buy the "superficial damage" aspect to some views of Hit Points. Why do tough opponents tend to inflict more superficial damage?

    HP are a measure of good-old Bad-assery. The tough guys have more hp because they are tough and important to the campaign setting.

  8. @JD Not sure I understand the question, but you're liable to do more damage to yourself getting out of the way of a sword swing than, say, a broken bottle. I'd assume the same applies to dragon claws.

  9. @John I've been in hundreds of real,martial arts, and fake-fun fights, you don't superficially damage yourself more avoiding a baseball bat or padded sword than you do a fist.


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