Monday, July 7, 2014

Better Hit Points per Die

Details, details.  Eight days left.

"It's a revealing thing, an author's index of his own work," she informed me.  "It's a shameless exhibition - to the trained eye."
Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle 

I have this firmly in mind as I take steps, uncomfortably, to index my own work.

Setting all that aside, now and then I find myself wondering if I should include intricate discussions about the original rules of AD&D, what with everyone wetting their pants about 5e having re-invented the wheel. "Oooh, ah!  They've invented rules where rules existed before!"  . . . and so on.  Ah well.  No big deal I guess.  I still live in the realm of orcs not having 274 hit points (or whatever number they have now), where it is still possible to kill one with a single swing.  This is utterly unlike trying to drive a spike into a ground with a sledge hammer, as all modern D&D has become -

I'm John Henry, an Orc-beatin' man
I got me a nine-pound sword
an' I'll drive this lone orc down,
I'll drive this lone orc down

That orc's still standin', it's bloodied and moanin'
It's still got points and it ain't done in
Tain't nothin' but my sword suckin' wind,
Tain't nothin' but my sword suckin' wind.


Me, I like it when a party faces forty, fifty enemies, dropping them like cordwood 'cause the party's got themselves up some levels and four dozen orcs are the threat they used to be.  But I have to admit that I've been reconsidering the logic of 1d8 hit points.  Not because I want to add more.  I've done that already, for massive creatures.  I don't want to extend that to orcs.  I do, however, want to make a change.

Since some readers are going to futz and fiddle about orc lifespans, claiming that orcs are made like oven buns, I'll apply my arguments to a non-specific 'humanoid.'  Could be a human, could be a gnome, could be whatever creature you want it to be that has one hit die, 1d8 hit points.  Those gentle readers who have turned your backs on 1e and OD&D, please feel free to seek life elsewhere.

1 hit point.  Been thinking about that.  You're a 20 year old humanoid, you've labored on your father's farm or in your father's mine, and now somehow you've gotten a spear into your hands and you're facing a party of adventurers.  You're there with a half-dozen of your buddies, who have got 4, 8, 3, 5 and 5 hit points. You're the only one in your bunch with 1.  You're not the only one in your tribe of 300, of course.  There are nearly 40 humanoids just like you.

Now, how did you manage to live this long?  Clearly, you never slipped down a mountain.  You've never been caught in a river.  A goat has never butted you really hard.  You've never had a serious accident of any kind.  Yet somehow, you've managed to live to be 20.  And many of your 1-hit-point buddies are a lot older than you.  That's really amazing.

It's even more interesting that your weak brothers and you comprise an eighth of your tribe.  The same percentage, exactly, as any other group of differently hit-pointed humanoids.  That's profound.  For some reason, in your tribe, the number of hit points you have has no effect whatsoever on the chance of your surviving up to the point you meet an adventuring party.  I would love to know how that works!  If I were a mage in the DM's world, would it be possible to research into how having 1 hit point guarantees a safe and accident free life?

So, I have been thinking about this.  There aren't going to be any surprises in the table below, but let's include it for interest:

Trying to get my math right here.  The numbers are based on the chances of being hit once plus the chance of being hit twice and the chance of being hit three times, multiplied by the chance of any of those hits killing the humanoid.  The humanoid's attacks are not considered - only the chance of a humanoid with an armor class of 6 surviving three spear attacks during a given combat.

From the final count, if we presume that any of these humanoids we're meeting have been in only 3 rounds of combat, only 1 in 100 humanoids should have 1 hit point.  Only 13% should have 3 or less. Nearly half, 45%, should have either 7 or 8 hit points.  More than three quarters, 77%, should have 5 or more.

Obviously, those numbers are more pronounced as we increase the number of combat rounds experienced.  Looking at the table on the left, this is the number of survivors per hit point total, presuming that they have taken place in three 3-round battles, with time to heal and recover in between.

Basically, if encountering any humanoid with one hit die, the number of hit points really ought to be either 7 or 8.  The difference between those two is slight. A group of six, the party might meet one humanoid with 6 hp; a dozen humanoids might include one with 5 hp.  Seriously, though, the balance will have 7 or 8.

That means that in rolling for the number of hit points per die, at least with low-hit die creatures, the DM may justifiably roll a d2 or a d3 to determine the number of hit points, counting only those numbers at the top of the scale.  I should think that this can be extended upwards through the strength of monsters.  Something with 2 hit die should be 2d4+8; something with 3 hit dice, perhaps 3d6+6.  Or some variation thereof.

I hadn't thought as far as building up a table for this.  The reader will remember that my hit points per die rule is goofy and complicated and throws all sorts of monkey wrenches into this.  I'm keeping it simple so that anyone old school can follow.


JDJarvis said...

I suppose rolling an extra hit die and dropping the lowest one when randomly determining hit points would clear this up a bit. You'd at least go from 1 in 8 one HD foes having only one 1 hp to 1 in 64. No changes in notation required.

Alexis Smolensk said...

A pathetically weak solution, JD, that ignores BOTH the statistics and my logic for . . . I'm sorry, what reason? For a solution you pulled out of your ass?

Ah. Good to be back.

Clovis Cithog said...

You are correct, it is highly unlikely a humanoid with one hit point would survive a single prolonged fight yet alone twenty years. Hit points is an abstract term reflecting the current status of an opponent.
Monster or humanoids with low hit points are nursing and recovering wounds from previous battles. The violent existence of humanoids assures that at a given time a large percent of their population is recover from previous conflicts or inter-tribal brawls.
.. .
For untrained and uninjured ‘0’ level NPCs minimum hit point total equals 1/3rd their strength adjusted by one’s constitution modifier.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Well, that's an argument for the status quo, Clovis, but "abstract term reflecting the current status of an opponent" is only a different pound of shit pulled out of your ass.

Why does THIS humanoid have 1 hit point at this time? Based on what? The fact that 1/8th of all 1 HD humanoids are feeling 'down' this morning? Who says they had a battle just previously? Where are these other creatures who so conveniently fought these particular humanoids as of a day or two ago? Really? A tribal brawl every three days? Given the numbers, its amazing ANY humanoids are left. In the very least, they'd know not to brawl before going on patrol.

If these humanoids are injured, why are they now ambushing the party or otherwise joining in with their squad of perfectly healthy associates? Why are there always some humanoids that are 'recovering'?

I don't know where that rule is about NPCs minimum hit points. Can you point to it in the DMG? I hope you're not referring to something in 3e or such, since I was very specific what edition I was addressing.

Why is it your quoted bullshit rule is so different from my proposed rule for 7 to 8 hp per die? Hm? I suspect you think there is something special about the way your shit smells.

Damn. It is good to be back.

JDJarvis said...

The method I mentioned would give 5 or more HP 75% of the time,darned close to that 77% you mention. The chance for 7 or 8 HP would also be 43.75%,darned close to that 45%.
That's why I mentioned it and I pulled it out of my brain, where I do calculations.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I am only a 'better writer' when it's convenient for you, Clovis. The word 'shit' is perfectly clear, everyone knows what it means, it is easy to spell, it is recognizable in multiple languages and EVERYONE DOES IT EVERY DAY. I wish every word in the English language was as commonplace and perfectly comprehensible. That must be why a significant portion of the population shies away from it - the difficulty of accomplishing mendacity without the accompanying odor.

Show your math, JD. I only get that an '8' will show up 1 in 4, not 1 in 3. That is a hell of a difference. I believe you are basing YOUR arguments on the one-time 3 round battle, while I'm basing MY arguments on the multiple battle principle . . . that only grows more and more in my favour and not yours as time passes. But then, you don't care, because you have your way of doing it, created on the spur of the moment AFTER you took half the idea from me. See point (2) above? Where it says don't piggyback your shit on this blog? there's that word again). Well, don't piggyback your shit on this blog.

James said...

If you want to go the pure statistics route, then it would be a bell curve most likely. If the game decided that a human had 1d8 hitpoints, then the average human has 4.5 hitpoints. Under that logic, hitpoint totals of 1 or 8 should be incredibly rare, probably represented by being 3 standard deviations away.

The problem with hitpoint totals is that they treat all numbers as equal, when all numbers are not equal. 2d4 is one possible solution, raising the average to 5 and changing the range from 2-8, acknowledging that anyone unlucky enough to have 1 hitpoint probably died before ever carrying a weapon. 2d4 isn't perfect, but I can't think of a better solution outside of a random number generator with the odds of each number predetermined, that would then spit out the appropriate numbers.

My issue with your system is it makes the high end of the curve the expected rather than the unusual, and you completely sacrifice the average which is likely to make up the majority of any army. Your system would be appropriate for a militaristic society that forcibly rid themselves of the weak and soft, but that is the exception, not the norm.

Also, the question is, what casualty rate do you think an average battle should have. If a battle has a 30% casualty rate, the odds of any one person surviving three battles is 34.3% roughly equivalent to your numbers for 6 hitpoints. Since surviving three battles would be an impressive feat, being of above average health (under a bell curve, in the 67th percentile if I recall properly) makes sense.

JDJarvis said...

Darn Alexis sorry I read your math, saw your issue and thought "Well he has some point but do we really want to screw PCs out of the occasional wimp encounter and offered comment.

I didn't tell you "this is how I do it", and I'm still not.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, JD. We really DO want to screw PCs out of the occasional wimp encounter. That was the point! And you took your assumption and dumped all over that.

See, it is that I spend a couple hours thinking of a problem, then a couple hours writing the post, doing the math, making the charts, and some 'commenter' comes along and says, "well, I see your numbers but I like mine" or "well, you have your numbers, but I have this cheap-o explanation that works as well" (Clovis' angle). I know damn well no one - damn it, no one - is looking at the numbers this way, even though its actually pretty simple.

Where the hell is the, "Geez, Alexis. Fuck. I never even thought about it from that angle." Nope.

Pearls before fucking swine.

Fucking, Clovis. That's another of them 'clear' words.

You've really be trying to get my goat lately, JD. What the hell? First that fucking shit with the triangles and now this. Open your mind, dude. Stop commenting here like this is Zak's blog.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Actually, James, the whole point was that a bell curve doesn't manage it. 'Survival' is not a bell curve. It is a gradient.

Why, oh why, is 4 or 5 hit points for a 1 HD creature okay but 7 or 8 hit points are somehow unreasonable or unfair? They're all just numbers. I hear the definite sound of prejudice, not an argument. I like this "the majority of any army" . . . you mean, like the army base twenty blocks from me where EVERY resident can kick my ass from here to doomsday using only their thumb? That 'majority'? Where is your measuring stick? Just how the hell do you know how many hit points the majority of an army ought to have? Are you blessed by Jeebus? Because I can't figure out for the life of me why your numbers are fine but my numbers are an 'issue.' Do you think that is because they break the game? Say so. But don't give me these made up statistics ("if a battle has a 30% casualty rate . . .") as an answer to actual extrapolation from the actual rules.

Maybe this is the part that got missed. I didn't make anything up here. I didn't fudge any numbers. I took the rules, demonstrated the results and said, hey, this makes no sense. To make the change I'm suggesting, I don't have to change any rules, I don't have to invent any bullshit explanations for what hit points need, I don't need to fudge any numbers or make up guesses about how many people die on a battlefield in reality.

IN THE GAME, if a humanoid with 1 hit point fights this many rounds, that is how many die. Period.

What in hell is wrong with you people?

Alexis Smolensk said...

*shakes head*

I think I could go on all day.

As near as I can tell, there is such a powerful need to point at something like this post and think, "well, that's broken, we ought to fix that," that people just stop thinking. I haven't demonstrated anything that needs to be changed, EXCEPT that the actual hit points per die should be rolled in accordance with the survival of creatures in the game, presuming they live long enough to face the party.

We have to assume they've had some experience in battle, so the humanoids that approach the party bravely ought to have done this before. That doesn't mean we need to 'make up' and explanation for why weak-ass creatures with 1 HD ought to exist (which is just fuck -ass stupid, as anyone with the tiniest brain will recognize at once), nor that we need to create a different way to randomize hit points. Changing the d8 to 2d4 doesn't get rid of the premise. The chance of a creature having a certain number of hit points was never part of the original evaluation. 100 creatures with 5 hit points produces the same number of survivors whether the 5 hit points are rolled with a d8 or 2d4 or 5d10. Not being able to see that at a glance is willful resistance to facts.

Damn. Just damn. I'm not even angry at this point, I'm just stupefied. No wonder this dumb bastards can mollify people in this hobby with shiny new editions.

James C. said...

With the exception of maybe important characters I'm rolling ahead of time I have always naturally assumed that the hit dice I roll for a creature when I need them aren't their hit points for all time... just their hit points at the moment I needed them. That is, my 1 hit point orcs are tired or wounded or under the weather. It's a nice way to quickly account for other stuff going on before the players show up. If you dispense with this thinking in your approah Alexis, do you also assume that all orcs are at their full hit points when they are encountered?

James said...

If you'd note, I admitted my using "30% casualty rate" was an assumption and an example, and not offered as proof of anything. I do not think 7 or 8 hitpoints per HD is "unreasonable" or "unfair," but was basing my math on the following premises:

1. The designers thought this creature should have 1-8 hitpoints.
2. In most things, distributions are not even but on a bell curve.

Prejudice? I don't play AD&D, so I have no dog in this race.

I told you my opinion: your system will skew HD high, well above average. That is all. If that is an acceptable, or the desired, outcome, I see no reason it would break the game.

I didn't "make up" any numbers though, and I resent that accusation.

But pointing to the army base 20 blocks from you? Really? I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as you in regards to history, but I thought most armies in the era D&D assumes, as well as the one you play in, where made of peasants who were conscripted, unarmored, malnourished and barely trained? Apples and oranges, no?

James said...

Yes, you are correct. Irrespective of what you rolled to get there, Of 600 creatures with 5 hitpoints, only 100 will survive 3 battles (within a certain amount of margin of error, but still). I think our difference of opinion comes from what assumptions you want to make. You want to assume the enemies encountered by PCs are among the hardiest of their kind. If that is your goal, I like your system quite a lot.

I dislike your idea as it applies to a race as a whole, however, precisely for the reason you state: the survival numbers after 3 battles. That is why I asked you what casualty rate you think is appropriate for a 3 round battle, as that is a question you can answer better than I, and the answer would be critical to any real assessment.

Anyway, I am over-explaining. As I tend to, so I will stop. Thank you for the interesting idea, I never thought of HD in this manner and you have given me some interesting ideas.

Matt said...

I for one like this idea, and have been doing something similar for a few months now. Strong or well prepared enemies have maximum hitpoints

There really is no good reason for random amounts of hit-points for monsters. It was a game mechanic that served to allow impartial information parity 30 years ago. Modern versions of D&D use fixed HP for monsters, and there are house rules for doing the same for player characters.

A patrol of orcs, or an orcish ambush is likely to be made up of the fittest and most survivable orcs around. On the flip side, a camp or a freshly conscripted army is going to have some people with 1 HP. If the party ambushes a group returning from a battlefield they should be in bad condition.

Honestly, your thoughts here make a shit ton of sense. Thanks for figuring out why I have been doing what I've been doing.

I'll offer a dissenting opinion so that I don't look like I'm kissing too much ass. I have mentioned before using HP to represent general levels of stress and wellness. In that sort of system you may have troops on patrol that aren't up to expectations. They will get killed because they cracked under pressure. This still means a group of ambushing veteran orcs has every right to have full hit points though.

Oddbit said...

Here's a thought.
What if you used a computerized background generator for each random opponent to generate their experience grade and thus effective potential hit points?

Say you want a random group of 20 combatants with 2-5 battles experience. Then you could generate hp based on the odds obtained above for their hp ranges.

Step 1: determining actual battles within set range.
Step 2: Calculate odds based on battle simulation.
Step 3: roll against % for HP target range.
Step 4: have 20 logically generated warriors with a decided experience level.

Potentially you could even determine levels of the supposed NPCs. Or inversely you could establish levels to get battle's survived ratios.

Instead of calculating HP based on 1d8, calculate hp based on experience. It still gives you that .5% chance the opponent has 1 hp. (which is about what I can calculate from that first chart.)

Alexis Smolensk said...

James without the C,

I'll let you off the hook, but if you look at my numbers, I'm not making any assumptions. I am making conclusions based on the game results, but I have not calculated any numbers on the basis of assumptions I've made. Therefore, we cannot be making "different" assumptions. You're making them. I am not.

James C.,

Before their FIRST encounter, the party is ALWAYS at full hit points. The monsters don't get this consideration? Why?

When you went out with your fellow soldiers, were a lot of you at 12% and 25% efficiency?

Alexis Smolensk said...

To answer your second point, James (without the C),

I specifically called them 'humanoids' so it wouldn't be applying to any race as a whole.

I expected the reader to extrapolate a '4th round' and a '5th round' from the existing data, recognizing that the numbers only get drastically worse for low hit point creatures. How many combats only go 3 rounds?

It occurs to me that someone is going to say, "You're assuming the creatures have full hit points."

Will someone please point to the page and paragraph in any AD&D book where it says, "When the party encounters monsters, please assume the monsters with few hit points are injured." Furthermore, if this is the explanation for why there are some monsters with fewer hit points, doesn't this mean that EVERY group of more than 5 monsters are limping back from combat? Seems to me, I'm not making an assumption: I'm avoiding one. I've decided that every hit point roll is the monsters MAXIMUM hit points, since there is no rule, footnote, comment or remote suggestion in any book that this is what is meant. I see "1 HD." I see "1-8 hit points per die." Where's the qualifier? I don't see one.

Was there a memo?

Alexis Smolensk said...

The fact that everyone has already realized that a 'story' has to be invented to reconcile this utterly stupid 1 hit point shit, I take it that the REAL problem is that people would rather retain the weak-ass hit points for monsters rather than simply adapt the system. Well, I'm not interested in duct taping that puppy.

Alexis Smolensk said...


So you build an algorithm that determines how 'tough' the group of humanoids randomly attacking the party is. The algorithm determines how many decade-trained soldier groups there are in a tribe of 300, how many 5-years, 3-years and 1-years there are. Then we assign a tactical value to each, so that IF we're three miles from the humanoid village, we'll be attacked by soldiers of this toughness, if we surprise the guards surrounding the pit mine outside the village we'll encounter this toughness and if we sneak in, late at night, and surprise a humanoid family in its hut we'll encounter this level of toughness.

Thank you Oddbit.

Get it, gentlemen? It isn't an answer until it starts telling you how to rebuild your freaking campaign!

Oddbit said...

You might be able to tie that into the hex generator too.

More populated areas having larger forces, and more soldiers defying the odds to make it to the 5 year mark.

I wonder if you could 'simulate' up to that point in time based off of the age of entry into a military career and expected service 'retirement' age.

This would probably start running the calculations a bit long, but you could run them once for each population segment and only simulate each year as you step through it. Save the results in a database...

Well, anyhow, that starts to get pretty large pretty fast, but with the right tech you could have some fun. Testing and building simulations of military sizes and strengths based on DnD hp.

I wonder what kinds of armies you'd end up if you stepped up or down the hit die.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oh, I am most definitely thinking of Bashi-bazouks and Janisaries.

Oddbit said...

Since you have the cultures, the cities, and the races you should be able to extract the relevant information.

You could just generate charts like you did above for each HP, and then throw in a distribution result for an input population. Though you probably want to put in an output # rather than an input number. That should add some math, but not too much since you can convert it to % instead of actual numbers at the end of each battle population segment.

You would also have this interesting albeit morbid statistic for what overall % of the population died before it made it to the target number of battles.

One thing that isn't probably taken into account with that kind of calculation is one other question. In a world where presumably you might have a reasonable idea you have 1hp, and presuming you don't want to die, would not those with under 5hp have a greater tendency to either not be put into military service?

There is limited production of weapons and armor, you probably only want to give it, and the 'extensive' training to those with actual potential to use it. Once they proved they weren't going to be 5HPers they probably would get shoved off as house servants at the best...

Of course, perhaps the only way to find out is to take 1hp worth of damage at least, and those NPCs would be taken out of the equation anyhow.

JB said...

As a matter of interest, I recently came across this quote from Gygax regarding his ideas for changes to 1E for the 2nd edition (this was before he was booted from TSR and thus didn't contribute to the reworking):

"I say that as barbarians get d12 for HPs, then clearly extrapolation of the same principle must apply to large and vigorous creatures. This mitigates the potential increase in PC prowess. As a matter of fact, adult critters were assigned 7-12 HPs per HD in my AD&D campaign--have been given the same in what I have designed for the C&C game system. Also, with increase in damage due to Strength, all large and powerful monsters, including ogres and giants, gain a damage bonus equal to their number of HD.

"Admittedly, this is not in the [Unearthed Arcana] work, but it logically follows, and would have been included in the revised edition of AD&D that I was planning.

“Actually I planned to go through the monsters' roster and re-assign HD types--d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. While doing that in regards to the HPs of each type, the monsters' chance to hit based on number of HD would not be affected.

"As too often "weak" monsters were randomly generated, I also planned to have robust adults possess HP totals of something over 50% of the possible maximum by using a HP generation system such as 3-4, 4-6, 6-10, 7-12 using the appropriate die to determine the actual number generated--d2, d3, d5, d6. Non-robust--immature, old, sick, injured, or even non-physically active sorts such as spell caster--monsters would have the obverse HP range using the same type of die without addition."

[not too far off from your own line of thought, it would appear]

I don't have an actual citation for the quotes; Joseph stated in his blog post that they could be produced if requested:

James C. said...

Because this is not the monster's first encounter, of course. Last week there was the battle with the Twisted Eye goblins, and I think Grok's wound might be festering still. Yesterday there was the dust-up over what to do with the slaves we caught in the raid and I think Vrok and Brok's bells are still ringing from the blows Frok gave them both. It was a bit drafty in the cave last night, and I've got the sniffles. Now this band of thugs just banged in the front door to the cave and we've got our hands full with that.

The player-characters are only given the advantage of max hit points when first created. Everyhting after that is up to the players' ability to plan.

James C. said...

Alexis, isn't inventing a story sort, well, sort of THE WHOLE POINT OF PLAYING THE GAME. I'm not duct taping anything, brother.

Alexis Smolensk said...

James C,

We're not looking to use stories to replace rules.

That's nice about Vrok and Brok and Frok and Grok. What you're arguing is that this is true with every encounter. Really?

Maxwell Joslyn said...

Alexis, I want to check my understanding of this post and your comment follow-ups.

(1) Hit points, with no additions such as your mass-HP rule, are a range from 1-X on a dX, e.g. 1-8 on 1d8.

(2) From (1) we know that 1 in 8 1HD creatures ("humanoids") have only 1 HP.

(3) From (2), the damage die for a spear, and the chance to hit a humanoid, a certain number of humanoids will die after one round in battle.

(4) From (3) we can extrapolate, finding that a certain number of humanoids will be killed after 2, 3, ... n rounds of battle.

(5) From (4), low-HP humanoids should at least not be present in raiding parties or guards or similar high-tactical-value groups of humanoids (to borrow a term from the comments.) The reason is because these low-HP humanoids are either (A) not suited for such a role, or (B) already dead, based on (4).

(6) The fact that the HP values of high-tactical-value humanoids do not reflect (5) is a flaw in the system.

Am I correct?

JDJarvis said...

Alexis, you have no monopoly on thought or analysis on the topic. The nature and assignment of HP to PC/NPC/Monster is not something I've given just moments of thought to or hasn't been written about over and over again in the p
Past few decades.
The very first set of D&D rules I read explained the use of HP in encounter setup and how it could reflect injury,illness, or some other handicap. The original DMG made it clear HP were not just meat or endurance on page 82. The method of rolling HP by variant dice rolls so you are guaranteed higher hp by rolling say d4+4 per HD instead of 1d8 has come up before in TSR era D&D. It isn't a topic no one has explored before. And yes Alexis I was able to read what you wrote and spent hours working on and think about it in moments because I feel and see numbers ,I used to dream in calculus and solve equations in my sleep when in college, I still do on occasion. My initial comment could have been better explained but it was not without thought or trying to steal your thunder with piggybaking.

The "shit with the triangles"? Really?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Bang on, Maxwell.

Alexis Smolensk said...


Yeah. The shit with the triangles. That wasn't an argument. You were internet baiting me.

p. 82 discusses hit points. Paragraph 1 discusses the logic of ADDING hit points. Paragraph 2 supports that argument by quoting Rasputin, then specifically argues that hit points are not representative of physical injury, the argument that's been consistently made here to explain low hit points.

Paragraph 3 discusses average hit points per level, then an explanation of what hit points represent, to explain how a player can have so many.

Then the book goes on to discuss recovery of hit points and zero hit points. There isn't one thing on page 82 that says anything like, "when encountering monsters with negligible hit points, presuppose it is because they sustained some sort of injury before meeting the party."

Don't teach your grandmother to suck eggs, sonny.

James C. said...

We're not looking to use stories to replace rules.

This isn't an either or proposition, though, Alexis. I think a variable amount of hit points from 1 to 8 is a better rule than what you're proposing so far for reasons stated. I prefer a game where nobody shows up to the battle with max hit points, players included. In my game combats are much quicker and deadlier than in yours but even in your own campaign the players only ever have max hit points after an extended period of rest or travel. Rolling 1d8 for hit points is just a short cut to put the monsters on even footing.

I know you're not looking for a short cut here, but a better method. My original question related to how a better method would account for monsters not being at max. You answered that it won't, then questioned my premise, which I endeavored to explain. Now we're done. :)

Alexis Smolensk said...

Fair enough, James.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I don't believe I actually said anywhere in this post that a 1 hit point creature couldn't exist. I believe what I said was that they would be unusual. So would 2 hp creatures and 3 hp creatures. I fail to see how the rarity of such creatures equals the need to defend the existence of such creatures.

Throughout this whole debate, that has been ignored. It has been conflated into me saying that 1 hp is impossible. It is reworking the message completely. But . . . this is what I expect anymore.

Spazalicious Chaos said...

A thought experiment based on an allegory.

My father, when my sister and I were just babes, read in a book on medieval European cultures that supposedly one was considered old enough to participate in a boar hunt if they could reach over the top of their head and touch the bottom of their ear. Curious, he had my sister and I attempt to do so every month or so to see what age that was. My sister and I had long enough arms to do so at age six.

The implication: six year old children were, by some cultures, considered old enough to participate in hunting one of the most dangerous game animals known to man.

Couple this with the continued practice of using child soldiers, ancient practices of allowing young boys into military service (granted, often in non-combative roles), and the ancient traditions of passing a trade from parent to child, it would seem that weak youths are put into positions to die more often throughout history.

So, I'm curious as to how well your stats for low hit point survival rates match up to historical stats for child mortality, particularly ages 6-13.

If that stats come close, then wouldn't that imply that low HP targets are exceptionally young individuals? Certainly would put a darker and grittier tone on the game, and bring in interesting tactics. Are paladins now morally obligated to avoid low HP targets out of a need to avoid massacring children? Are evil creatures prone to seeking out and killing low HP targets because they are young, weak and scream delightfully as they die?

Robert Masengale said...

Sometimes, it makes sense that they wouldn't be at full strength, but not EVERY group of humanoids you come across as adventurers are going to be as violent and bloodthirsty (and unruly) as a group of orcs and goblins nesting near each other.

When traveling the forests and accidentally coming across a group of elves that decide that they don't like you because you must be up to trouble and/or trying to destroy their forest, they have a high likelihood of attacking, but are not likely to be damaged previously.

You may think/say "but elves aren't evil, so it doesn't count", but what about dark elves? They, with their scheming and sinister attitudes are almost never likely to attack while they are injured, and would be more likely to ensure that the injured are either ready for battle or dead by the time they actually go on to guard duty.

There's a lot of merit in what Alexis is saying. I typically keep most of my NPC's at at least the 50% mark for their max hit points myself.

Incidentally, I think that orcs in particular should be quite a bit closer to d12's than d8's anyway, as they are normally proposed to have a darwinistic culture in which only the strongest survive without becoming slaves. Perhaps just keep them at 2 HD creatures instead of 1 HD.

Charles Taylor (Charles Angus) said...

That comments section... wow... Did anybody actually read the post?

A good post is one that makes you go, "huh, I never thought of that". This is one of those.

This is the first time, I believe, that anyone has looked at the sort of Darwinian side of this, and the implications for the population, and the results really can't be ignored.

Rolled HP for enemies is just one of those unquestioned received wisdom things that has (as clearly laid out here) had its day.