The hit point system in D&D is the worst combat simululation ... except for all the others.
In spite of my last post, I actually quite like the HP system. My primary argument was that too few hit points were impractical in terms of the potential damage that NPC's, particularly zero levels, ought to be able to withstand. It isn't that I don't imagine some people would have 1 hp, given medical or physical conditions ... but to argue that all non-combative persons should have less than 5 hp is ridiculous, from a game-challenge point of view.
But this post is not inspired by the very good argument that went on yesterday. I want to answer a question from Carl, who asked if I equated physical damage to HP. As he says, the logic of the D&D approach "...breaks down rapidly as characters level up, and I think it starts with HP too low at 0 or 1st level."
I do equate HP to physical damage, as I've made clear in previous posts. But just to recap my basic premise here, I don't see severe damage occurring until getting down to the last few hit points that a character has. Up until then it is nicks, cuts and bruises, or at least nothing which disables the combat value of the participant.
This means that I view the original hit points that a character receives to be mostly made up of body mass and physical condition, and later hit points gained to be made up of quickness and experience. Allow me to demonstrate by metaphor.
Now, I wish I had a better one, but hopefully this will do the trick. Consider, if you will, the game of hockey. The net is a rather small target, made smaller by the presence of the goalie, and its easy to miss. But as you improve your aim and your overall ability to play (and control the bouncing, annoying puck), it gets easier and easier to hit that net. In fact, if you consider the task in terms of perception, the net posts get wider and wider, the better you play.
If I can apply this to hit points. The goal posts are, effectively, the first hit point and the last hit point possessed by the character. While the character's level increases, it is not the physical body that takes more damage, but rather that weapons and attacks upon the player are lessened in comparison. In other words, the sword might touch the arm of a 1st level fighter and it might touch the arm of a 10th level fighter, but the higher level will have learned how to sweep the sword aside in combat without being cut, while the lower level will get cut every time.
Another way to think about it would be to say that the weapons do less and less damage to higher level characters ... but game-wise, this is impractical. You can't be asking, what die do I roll for a long sword against an 8th level ranger? There's too many possibilities, and the dice are not flexible enough. By increasing the hit points instead, we can pin-point the reduced effects of every weapon (and spell) at one and the same time.
Thus, while Armor Class may not change, and it may be as easy to hit a 10th level fighter in chain as a first level fighter, it is much harder to make a significant blow against the 10th level. And as hit points go up, the significance of each blow is lessened.
This seems eminently simple to me. Whereas hit tables and even the time-to-death table I made mention of in my previous post are really impractical where it comes to complicated, extensive combat scenarios.
Once again, I wasn't so much bad-mouthing the use of hit points, but instead insisting that ordinary individuals deserved, on the whole, a greater survival potential than a mere d4.