Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lucky You; You're Here for Rock Bottom

Taken to hilarious extremes.  The best head-up-the-ass argument yet?  This one.

Hit points are, in fact, real.  They are a real mechanic performing a real function in an actual, real game design.  It isn't the interpretation that makes them real or not.

Self-deluded dumbassery at its truly finest.

23 comments:

Barrow said...

Why not extend the 'hit points don't exist "offstage"' argument to the Orcs themselves? If the Orcs don't exist until the players encounter them, then neither do the Orcs' outposts, walls, and villages. When the players approach anything having to do with Orcs, we could simply dump a bucket of dice on the table and watch as the players are satiated with the randomly generated Orc community. It would be silly to think about the Orcs in your campaign in any sort of logical way. - I disagree

I don't buy the argument that the current HP mechanic in discussion is "a way of creating a satisfying and interesting set of possibilities influenced by multiple levels of randomness." While randomness adds some immersion for players, I think greater immersion is spawned from player creativity and strategy than game mechanics. When 1 out of 8 Orcs soldiers fall from the weakest of attacks, the players don't assume they performed a wild finishing move. They assume that these Orcs Soldiers are weak sauce. The Orc Soldier is misrepresented, because a 1-hit move would not kill a trained fighter (less you had many levels on them). Let the players figure out how to down an Orc soldier in one round without letting the game mechanic overshadow there creativity.

I took Alexis post at face value three days ago. How can you properly represent a trained fighting group, when a large minority of them don't last a single round of combat. You can not. At most you represent trained beefy Orcs fighting among rabble. That would be irritating to me, if I used this mechanic in my campaign too.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The telling moment in the post is this: "If you're like me, you probably find the conclusion annoying"

I can't for the life of me understand how the conclusion annoys. It is math. It is a conclusion. Are we annoyed when 6+8=14? I don't see any difference in the two examples.

It is in that statement that everything that has gone on this week lies. The recognition of fact, followed by the refusal to acquiesce to fact, followed by a total bullshit argument that is somehow supposed to refute fact. It is everything the post I wrote yesterday addresses. The insertion of fantasy as an alternative to reality, followed by the assertion that the fantasy is better, and that anyone proposing reality clearly fails to understand that, quote, "this is a game."

Delusion.

Dave Cesarano said...

The idea that hit points don't exist is something I agree with when it comes to real life but that is because they're a game mechanic that tries to condense a lot of other stuff into a sort of basic system that works smoothly because it is so abstract.

Let's be honest, if The Rock (the wrestler/movie star) were to take a straight, solid axe-blow to the neck and a 90-lb. weakling were to receive the same exact blow, the end result is going to be almost identical--the head is removed from the shoulders --at the very least the person is given a likely fatal wound.

Now, we'd think The Rock had more hit-points than the weakling. Okay. Maybe an axe-blow directly to the neck counts as a critical hit. Fine. Well, why, in game terms, can The Rock be more likely to withstand a critical hit from an axe that would fell a 90-lb. wuss?

This means that hit points must represent something more than just physical hardiness, I think. I mean, a spear to the guts is a spear to the guts, whether you're the 8-hp orc or the 1-hp orc. The wound goes septic very quickly, and you gradually bleed to death if you don't get treatment, and all this assumes the "hero" doesn't finish you off while you sit on the ground clutching at our bleeding belly. So, hp has to condense more than just that physical ability to take punishment because, realistically speaking, the damage a weapon does when it hits the same spot (assuming the defender isn't wearing armor) is going to be relatively comparable.

I've had hp explained to me as signifying a person's resolve, energy, capability to ward off blows, etc. So, when you get hit with an axe, unless you're dead, that damage actually doesn't mean the axe actually struck your body, but it could mean that your blocking the axe pulled muscles, strained your tendons, sent shockwaves vibrating through your bones and joints, etc.

Now, the only reason I'm bringing all this up, Alexis, isn't to make an argument so much as to discuss a bunch of arguments I've heard before in favor of and against the application of hit points in game.

So, essentially, what I want to know is where you stand in all of this? Are both viewpoints bull? Are they legitimate?

If the second argument is correct, it really dovetails with yours as to why you'd mostly run into orcs with 7 or 8 hp. They've more stamina for fighting, can roll with punches more effectively, can ignore bruises, sprains, and minor fractures, knocks on the helmet, or getting the wind knocked out of them better. Those that couldn't weren't able to last very long.

Alexis Smolensk said...

What hit points "mean" is IRRELEVANT. They are an abstract game function indicating the chance of a creature to withstand combat. Period. How they manifest in the world is exactly how they manifest as a game mechanic. The more hit points you have, the more likely you will survive in combat or against any agency that causes damage.

No matter how you choose to reconcile the 'hit point' with the 'in-character' conception of same, the actual mechanical function of the game dictates that a given amount of damage will destroy creatures with less hit points.

This endless, purposeless, self-serving naval gazing that is sucking up the dialogue of how to improve a game mechanic to produce a better functioning game is a degredation.

Jeeebus. What is a 'heart'? What is a 'club'? What is a 'spade'? What is a 'diamond'? Does it fucking matter?

James C. said...

A better functioning game is in the eye of the beholder. Some people are just fine with 1 hit point and their reasoning for it is just as valid as yours against it.

The real failing here is a communty's continued inability to have a menainfgful dialogue without it becoming mean-natured and silly. The saving grace here is that this thing specifically is so dmaned incosequential and now absurd that it's given some observers some much needed perspective. I'd recommend everybody else take a nice long walk.

:)

Alexis Smolensk said...

James C.,

This comment is accepted for no other reason except that you are you. You should know very well that the 'community' carries no weight with me. I'm not running the 'community's' game. I'm running my game. So, "the beholder" is me and my players.

Everyone who reads any part of this blog beyond me and my players reads it because it is of value to THEM. But I don't change the content or my opinion on the basis of what they value. I do so on the basis of what they can argue.

I don't know why you'd think that something I believe is worthy publishing post-after-post is 'silly.' I don't think you were intending to be insulting. I believe you meant to try to settle this.

Why? What for? There's obviously a HUGE DISCONNECT over this issue. There's obviously some tremendous resentment that's built with certain players about how hit points ought to be viewed or applied, a strong enough resentment that anything challenging the status quo must be mocked or smashed down. Why?

What is the issue? Why does anyone except a few readers of mine care about this SO MUCH? Why does it make a difference to them - or to you - that I have 1 hit die creatures with 7-8 hit points.

Hell, James, I'm a DM. If I banished 1 hit die creatures from my campaign FOREVER, that would be my privilege. The total effect of that would be that I threw ogrillon and giant ants at 1st level parties - which we do anyway!

I want to know what the hell is causing people to be this staggeringly obtuse about 1 HD.

You telling us all to stop talking about it is just one more way of being obtuse. Me letting you have this comment on the post only serves to help me identify, again, what the real problem is.

Willful ignorance. Habitual, willful, resentful, even abusive ignorance. All shouted in the name of protecting the game, protecting the 1 HD creature, protecting 'fantasy' and whatever the hell else they can make up.

Aren't you curious? I am.

Please don't tell me my curiousity is 'silly.'

If you don't want to take part, then don't. But as long as you're not taking part, please get the hell out of way.

James C. said...

If you're only posting my replies because I am me, then please understand that I'm only botheirng to write them becuase you are you. I could be spending my time otherwise and setting aside reading whatever reply you might have to this out of respect for you and answering as necessary, I will be doing so. If you choose not to post this, that will be fine. I'll know you read it just the same.

Here's my advice. I understand, of course, that it's only advice and it hasn't been asked for. If you want to talk about IT, then talk about IT. Talk about why your rule makes the game better, not why your ostensible logic justifying your rule is better then the ostensible logic against it. It's specious and silly and you might as well be arguing over how many angels can dance upon the head of a pin. What does the natural selection of your pretend world have to do with a better game mechanic? Nothing, really. Convince your critics why 7-8 hitpoints per 1 HD creature makes for a better play experience. That's all that matters.

Put it this way, I'm having trouble differentiating you from the community you claim to have no interest in and for which you have little regard. The same community, coincidentally, from which you draw readers and mention and comment upon incessantly. If a longtime reader, friend and player is telling you all of this I think you should at least listen before you refute it.

Alexis Smolensk said...

That is a breath of fresh air.

The answer is self-evident. It's threatening. It encourages parties to recognize that they're up against enemies and not targets. It means that if 8 orcs are on patrol near the party, even if the party are all second level, they have a reason to pause before going blitzkrieg on the orcs. They know if there are 8 other orcs just out of sight, they're in deep trouble.

That means an orc patrol makes SENSE. They're actually defending their people against enemies like the party, because they CAN. They're not going to fold and cave and go down like nine pins because a 2nd level party has decided to rush the patrol.

That encourages respect. Respect for orcs and respect for my world. It encourages innovation, just like my written book says. It forces a party to work together to take the enemy down, because 1 fighter on 4 orcs ain't gonna cut it. That means greater party cooperation and fellowship.

Sorry. I thought this was self-evident. I've only been preaching it for 7 years.

James C. said...

Perhaps I'm just dumb, then. These self evident things sail right by me when the author's emphasis, as judged by tone and the amount of words chosen to express one thing over another, appears to be on things other than his succinctly described reasoning for the thing itself.

I could explain now how 1 HP orcs still make perfect SENSE in a world with fewer overall hit points and more frequent encounters than yours, but I accept that you're here to talk about YOUR world. It would not be in keeping with your stated purpose for having comments. I appreciate your humoring me.



Alexis Smolensk said...

It's funny that you say that, James, since both Oddbit and Matt in the comments thread on Monday said as much, while YOU decided to attack me on the PERSONAL issues you now claim I shouldn't address.

You will also notice that I showed great interest in what Oddbit said, talked about how it could be applied to the system overall and used as a means to give more meaning to the various levels of hierarchically-established 1 HD humanoid groups.

How succinct does the conversation have to get?

James C. said...

It's not difficult to show great interest when somebody is enthusiastically providing you fodder for your own ideas. I must admit that I'm at a loss when I go back and try to identify where, when and how I attacked you personally. Conversely, I've been mocked and very recently held up as an example of "...staggering obtuseness... habitual, willful, resentful and abusive ignorance..." where any reasonable and objective reading of any of my posts this last week should prove otherwise.

If I were wiser I'd probably bow out gracefully at this time, and I mean that in the fullest sense that only you and few others reading might understand.

But I'm not going to. You don't get to speak to people in the manner that you do then throw your arms up in surprise when they take offense. If you're going to play the abrasive pedagogue then embrace the role. Own it. Don't be a pussy about it.

Here's me getting the hell out of the way.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Are you COMPLETELY unaware of the fourteen other arguments going on elsewhere, including the crap I'm not posting, etc.? Did it not occur to you that I was speaking of a much wider community than just you?

I said, quote, "attack me on the personal issues you now claim" - the personal issues that you had that encouraged you to attack me.

I believe that moment came when you decided not to take my gentle hint that I was talking mechanics, not stories, and your answer came all in caps. No big deal. Whereupon I emphasized, again, that I was talking about rules/structure, not 'stories,' at which point your next answer was a wealth of suppositions and statements about what I was doing or intending or meaning (none of which was true), mixed with what YOU do while completely discounting anything the post was actually about, as by that point you clearly had an agenda.

But you're a friend, so I answered, "Fair enough, James." I figured, better to let what you had to say stand, let it be, no get into the errors and move on.

THEN, when I wrote a second post that had nothing to do with you, but was entirely about JD and others who had been invading my space, YOU went all out with "Your essential shortcoming ..." etc.

That, my friend, is an attack. Which you made because you thought I was talking about you. When I wasn't. But, as I noted, there is something WHACKED about this subject, that brings out the weird.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Oh, and James. You're not the boss of me. Save your 'rules' on what I get or when I throw up my arms or take offense or play or embrace or own or be. For someone who's so concerned with proper behaviour, your statements include an awful lot of verbs you expect others to follow.

I'm guessing you mean well. I don't mind. I'm pretty much going to do whatever I want that's legal, though.

Issara Booncharoen said...

First off, I agree with the general principle of the argument. It makes sense that anyone that goes into combat with 1 or two hit points is asking to be killed. So anyone with that many hit points is going to have died or do everything in their power to avoid combat. So ever fighting things with 1 hit point that have a choice not to fight you is pretty much not going to happen.

Given all that I don't understand the need to roll hit dice for these guys at all. Assuming you are not rolling the dice and not really thinking about the result (as it seems most people who have a problem with your hit dice idea seem to) then you are rolling the dice (in secret) to force yourself to come up with an explanation, and trying to explain why these orcs have slightly more orcs with 8 hit points than your table would suggest every other time you roll orc hit dice seems to be about as useful as coming up a contrived reason why around 24% of every orc encounter are orcs with 1 or 2 hitpoints who should really know better.

When you have rightly decided that any orc that lives in a warlike society is going to strongly tend towards 7 or 8 hit points why roll dice at all? Surely you have enough information to make a decision like, this is a especially warlike and successful tribe of orcs, they much all have 8 hp, or these humaniods have not been in any fight larger than a skirmish for a generation, so they have a quite a few members with around 4 and 5 hitpoints. This way hit points reflect the nuances of the things you fight rather than just being another dice roll.

Is saving a tonne of dice rolling by just deciding that all the rocs in this encounter have 8 hit points a step too far?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Issara,

I don't like to arbitrarily decide things.

Before crunching the numbers, I didn't know how many orcs of each number of hit points ought to exist. I just took a premise, decided to calculate numbers, then wrote the post based on the numbers that turned up. I didn't set out to "come up with an explanation" - I performed an experiment and drew a conclusion.

Issara Booncharoen said...

I am arrogant enough to believe I understand that Alexis. However, now that you have done this experimentation, why is it neccessary to roll dice to see whether the orc has 7 or 8 hitpoints. Now you've done this experimentation you know what an orc that has seven hit points means. You also have enough information in your world to translate the location in which one finds that orc to a very definate number. I.E. these orcs live in a hex that has few monsters and a region that has been relatively peaceful, a few of them can have four hit points, as opposed to this sub hex is full of gribbly things, only orcs with eight hits points could survive here. Am I overstating the detail of your setting? It just seems that rolling hit points is rolling dice for its own sake if you know what any given orcs hit points /should/ be, based on your maths and your knowledge of your world

Alexis Smolensk said...

Issara,

I wouldn't be rolling dice "for their own sake." I would be rolling dice to produce a logical spread of hit points as might occur among creatures of differing habits or goals. It isn't just 7 or 8, either. There would be orcs with 6 and 5, they simply wouldn't be common.

Keep in mind that we're not limited to 1 hit die. What is the spread on 2 hit die, or 3?

You don't overstate the detail of my setting, you dramatically understate it. You fail to recognize the will I have where it comes to applying statistics to the campaign. Others might go with the easy route that you suggest, but that is not my nature.

Johnny said...

I might be totally mistaken, but after reading so much orc HP debate the past couple days, still my only reaction is:
How is this a new concept that defies peoples conventions?
I've been giving PCs and monsters alike the max result on their first HD for 12 years, and not because I'm particularly innovative, I thought it was common practice! I was so sure that on your original post all your comments were going to be along the lines of "oh yeah, all my orcs have 8hp, unless they have a CON penalty for some reason...". I'm completely taken aback. Am I the only one who's confused about a lengthy discussion over a common house rule?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Johnny,

Nah. A house rule is fine for people. The problem was that I proved mathematically that not house-ruling the hit points per die was basically stupid. That sent them off to figure out how to keep their status quo.

I don't advocate your maximum hit points per die because I wonder if it applies to more than 1 hit die creatures. Do 2 HD creatures automatically get 16? Do 7 HD creatures automatically get 56? Is there a point where you are rolling dice, or does every chimera have exactly 72 hit points? If you do roll dice at some point, when? And why at that particular point? And wouldn't that mean that some 4 HD creatures would have less hit points than your maximum generated 3 HD creatures?

These are probably issues you're not thinking about - but my characters would certainly think about them. In my combat system, knowing in advance the EXACT number of hit points a monster has would be power.

My system has other issues that wouldn't fit the house rule you suggest, but that's not important right now.

Issara Booncharoen said...

So I needed to write a couple of paragraphs out before I understood the mistake I was making. When rolling 1d8s someone who cared about how many hit points an orc had would have to explain the ludicrous. With your spread there's extremely few (as far as I can see no) ludicrous results, just some particularly interesting ones.

My apologies

Johnny said...

I only give max hit points for the first die, everything beyond that is rolled normally.
So predictability only truly comes into play with 1 HD foes. But I like the idea that my PCs can size up a healthy-looking foe and know that he's going to be at least that tough or possibly tougher, but never surprisingly weak.
For me, it's all about not unfairly baiting my players.

Zrog (ESR) said...

Can I swear here? How about "holy fnoobles"?

The real argument that's being hidden here, and is the basis for many comments against Alexis' math, is "you can't tell me how to play the game". My impression is that Alexis doesn't care how you play, other than to challenge people to think more about the D&D system they are using, and thus better themselves and the community. My impression is that he mostly cares how HE plays, and puts forth ideas to gather discussion, which he HOPES will be of benefit to him as well as his readers, but then gets really annoyed when no one seems to "get it", because they are defending themselves against an assertion he didn't make.

I think the current hp argument comes down to:
- Do I like the massive variance in hp of 1 HD creatures?
- Is it more appropriate / interesting for my campaign to have potentially-weak vs. potentially a lot stronger, 1 HD creatures? Or is there a benefit to normalizing the curve in some way?
- IF I want to only apply this to specific creatures (e.g. aggressive humanoids, orcs, peasants, whatever), are the creatures common enough to bother making up a house rule?
- Given the math that Alexis has graciously bothered to do, how could I use this information to the benefit of my campaign?

I felt the need to post because I just read like 10,000 words of mostly-irrelevant material based on commenters defending themselves and putting forth ideas and justifications with no math behind them, just so they could feel justified in doing what they have been doing.

Alexis - thank you for the original post. It was an interesting thought with work behind it, and when I get some time, I will dig into the math and see if I like where it leads.

Eric

Alexis Smolensk said...

Eric,

Be warned that the math in the post preceding this, "Better Hit Points per Die" was inaccurate. Correct math can be found with my post, "Back to the Beginning," in which I correct myself, and also on this post at Gnome Stew.