Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Stand Back - I'm Going to Try Science

If the gentle reader comes to find this post months or years from now, you will want to start with this post, then with this one.

Well, well, I have so many places to go.  I will make an effort to be nice.  I am seeing some amazing arguments on other sites.  Staggering.

Something I often notice when I write posts that get under people's skins, I see better arguments against me than are being presented.  For example, what about zero hit points?  Zero hit points are supposed to be unconsciousness and not death, no?  I don't think that's strictly AD&D, though, so perhaps that's the reason it hasn't been brought up.  Still, I could write a post adjusting my numbers, allowing that more 1 hp humanoids might survive, since some would be hit and not killed, so that they might heal and return to a combat later.

There's also this argument floating around that monsters and NPCs don't know how many hit points they have.  This is definitely a post.  There's the situation where a high-level combatant knows to withdraw before dying (are they allowed to do this if they have no idea of their hit points?).  As well, two 1 HD humanoids, with 1 and 8 hit points, not only 'look the same,' apparently they feel the same.  There's no reconciliation of health, training, size or build that's inclusive - I presume so that the DM can freely say "the biggest one is on the right" without the players knowing that's the one with the most hit points.  Apparently, the players knowing these things would break the game.

I also considered a post describing why leaders would be particular about whom then entered battle with. As a leader, I would tell the 1 hp cretins to go home and keep just the tough 7ers and 8ers.  But yes, I forgot, you can't tell the difference between hp totals.  Yes, that's right, I can look at 14 friends and associates on a soccer field and immediately know what my first choice is going to be for my team - and pick my way right down to the last member.  Yet, I have no idea whatsoever about who in my tribe has a greater chance of surviving in battle.

(Sorry.  Laughing.  I need a moment)

I've already tried the Socratic Method.  That doesn't seem to have made any impression.  Therefore, I'll stop asking questions.

I believe I'll make a well-established argument that is almost certain to be ignored - since it is an argument that has consistently failed to make inroads among true believers of the faith.  So far, that would describe the group that has decided that 1-8 hit points per die, regardless of logic, is sacred.

Still, I might make some converts.  One never knows.

Whatever particular explanations that people would like to invent for why a combatant on the battlefield has 1 hp, there's a certain truth that has to be acknowledged.  It doesn't matter if why some of the tribe has 1 hit point.  It doesn't matter if they're injured or if they are the runt.  It doesn't matter if they know how many hit points they have.  It doesn't matter, because once the battle starts, those with the lowest hit points are going to die.  Those with the highest hit points are going to survive.  The ones that survive are going to go home and procreate.  The children resulting are going to have higher hit points.  Because they have to.

Unless, of course, the reader would like to argue that there is no such thing as evolution.

7 comments:

Maxwell Joslyn said...

If we follow through your final paragraph to its conclusion, then over a period of generations the humanoid population has a higher and higher percentage of high-HP individuals.

There's nothing wrong with that. It just is.

It makes me think of quantifying the difference between primitive and advanced sub-species with the subrange (within the die range) that their HP can have. Perhaps the Cro-Magnon orc has 1-3 HP and his more-evolved Neanderthal cousin has 4-6 and the modern one has 7-8.

Maybe I'm taking "evolution" a bit too literally?

Having read the last two days' posts and comments, I'm inclined to simply split NPC HP into two camps: those with cushy lives and those without. Cushy-lifers get the average of the bottom half of their species HD; hard-lifers get the average of the top half. For instance, since the orc HD is 1d8, an orc tailor gets (1+4)/2 HP, while an orc soldier gets (5+8)/2 HP. Both quantities are before assigning HP for mass, which I use (in my own way.)

(There is no dice roll here. Frankly, I've been leaning that way for a while. Why not just assign fixed HPs to monster types, e.g. "orcs get 3 or 7 HP per HD"? If the players take note through trial and error, then they've simply learned how to judge that type of opponent, no?)

I would also assume that unless the DM chooses otherwise, enemies encountered are at full HP. So a band of orc raiders would normally all be at full HP (which would be the fixed value of 7 plus whatever for their mass - probably also all about the same, if you ask me.)

Of course the numbers can change, especially if one throws dicing for monster HP out the window.

I hope none of this is off-topic.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Completely on topic.

Jhandar said...

I am assuming that you pre-read these before posting so no real need to post this.

I am being taken out of context slightly. I am not asking for a redaction as it is likely due to my own poor editing of my own words. But my comment was: "Well everyone seems to be wading into the fray and I have not posted in a while. Neither of them I realize, are wonderful justifications. But when has logic stopped discourse on the internet."

The association I was trying to imply was that the logic of: 'everyone is doing it', and 'I have not said anything in a while' are not logical justifications to say anything at all.

But now that I am thinking about it, and you may choose to post or not, let us consider the humble case of man vs. troll. Three rounds after taking damage a trolls recover 3 hp a round until fully healed. Upon reaching 0 hp they drop to the ground unconscious but not slain, and rejoin the combat once they have positive hit points. Trolls have no fear of death and launch themselves into combat wildly. Assuming they have average hit points for their 6 HD +6 they would have 33 hp. Your example peasants do 3.5 dmg per spear strike. Against the superior AC 4 of the troll it would take on average 5 peasants all attacking the troll in the same round to score a hit (20% chance to hit AC 4 on a Thac0 of 20). So five on one, the peasants will get to round three of the troll doing nothing before its regeneration kicks in. At which point it approaches being mathematically immortal. If we allow for the half damage it would take 42 rounds after the first three to cause the troll to reach 0 hp.

If we add in the troll acting, it will hit a peasant 65% of the time (Thac0 13 vs AC 6). The troll does three attacks, so we are close to being able to call it landing 2 out of 3. It is not quite a 66% chance to hit, but I will take that rounding liberty). The troll does 1d4+4 x2 and 1d8+4 for its attacks. To err on the side of humanity, I will ignore the bite, and just use the 6.5 dmg average per claw attack, which means that the troll does a fairly consistent 13 damage per round to one or two targets.

If we give humans the edge again, and say that the 50% odds of a 7hper surviving are actually 100%, then the troll focus fires on one target a round, killing the victim. The scenario for the humans to get a troll to 0 hp goes from 45 rounds of 5 men banging away to 49 men banging away the same duration of which only 5 will survive the ordeal (making the assumption that only 5 men can get at the troll at one time). And this is assuming that they happen to have fire ready at the exact moment they need it (with it being more common than acid).

And since trolls can appear 1d12 at a time a random troll encounter (also ignoring the 7th level priest matriarch that would be with them) requires between 49 and 588 peasants (or 1 HD men-at-arms) with perfect hit points to deal with, assuming they have the fortitude to continue to mount an assault over the corpses of potentially everyone they have ever met. To add to this scenario, trolls are found in every biome and while nocturnal, can operate in the day without penalty and are at an uncommon rarity (20% chance of appearance). And if we extend the same logic to the trolls and grant those near max hp; look out.

I recognize that in your world there are things such as troll kingdoms, however, if we were looking at the world through a purely mathematical lens, there is no logical reason why humans would hold the dominant amount of land and not be hiding for their very lives against the things that go bump when they damn well choose because humans pose little mathematical threat to them. Realistically it would be safer less effort for a town to move and rebuild somewhere else if trolls are seen in the area than try and fight them off without the help of high level adventurers (which have a frequency of Very Rare).
In summation; do I have the solution; absolutely not. Is discussion good; absolutely. And all hail our new troll overlords!

Alexis Smolensk said...

I have repaired the line, Jhandar.

Had you consider the fact that five peasants forewarned and prepared with one flask of oil each could splash a single troll for an average of 52.5 damage in 2 rounds (if they all hit AC 10). First round, 2d6 per flask, +1d6 the second round.

And fire stops regeneration.

Off topic, but worth noting.

Jhandar said...

I am aware of flaming oil, and it was regrettably a bit of a bread crumb trail I was hoping you would take. The point of which being that if a mathematically inferior foe can overcome a superior one, why then could that example not work with a 1 hp peasant vs. the 8 hp peasant?

I am not suggesting that humanoids sit around and settle their disputes in hot oil fights a lot, but as you had pointed out you can assess your soccer team in terms of strengths and weaknesses. This means they can to, and were I at the low end of that assessment and had to engage in combat I would hopefully be self-aware enough to look for an edge to level the playing field.

I think however, that the dialogue is losing shape. Your original post seemed to indicate that the variance in hp generated by a larger dice (d8) does not have as elegant a curve as a smaller dice (d2 or d3) with a bonus. What you failed to articulate well is why this is a problem.

You did the appeal to logic to extrapolate the history of a hapless spear wielding peasant who has avoided got butts, stumbles, rivers, and other incidents saying that if this were to happen this guy would not be where he is at this point in the game (which to be fair is a bit of storytelling extrapolation on your part too, which you chided other for, but that is neither here nor there). And then rightly pointed out that this peasant, let us call him ‘Peasant F’ to denote his order in the rolling up of the hit points, is dead meat on the off chance that the party engages in combat with the attempt to do poor ‘Peasant F’ bodily harm.

No one has disagreed with this point.

What you have not done to the point of satisfaction (at least for me), is tell me why this is a problem. Should every encounter with a group of six random humanoids be potentially life or death for the players? If everyone has their near max hp what value does it bring to the game besides extending combat? I can understand the logic of ‘it’s weird this 1 hp guy has survived this long’, but are you going to track the probability of incidental damage that happens worldwide to thin out the herds of humanoids in every corner of the globe?

If you are wanting people to agree that 1 hp mobs are silly and the world would have killed them off, fine I will be on board. But what about 2 hp mobs? They could possibly survive an incident and heal and keep on ticking. But you are walking down a trail logically unbalancing the game in the opposite direction. In this world of 7 or 8 hp humanoids no one can be killed by a knife strike, unless of course you give them a couple of pokes. But again, all we are doing is making combat last longer, and for what?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I see, Jhandar. Having shown that 5 peasants, under optimum conditions, can take down a troll, we have totally proved that three rounds of combat would not devastate 1 hp and 2 hp defenders. It's all very mathematical.

I also see how my expressing doubt that a 1 hp creature could live in a harsh world is exactly the same as someone else inventing conjectures for why that's possible. Is my face red.

I never explained that this was a 'problem' because it isn't. It is a reason to produce an algorithm like one that was suggested two days ago by Oddbit. It is a logic upon which to found a standard number of hit points for creatures in the world. It is only a 'problem' for people who are having their sacred 1d8 roll challenged.

No one ever said anything about 1 hp mobs. Apparently, you're unclear about how 'samples' work in mathematics. You also seem to have totally missed that I included every hp possibility for 1 HD on the original table.

Tell me. If I throw a bunch of 3 HD creatures, traditional average 13.5 hp each, does that "make combat longer" in a way that is somehow damaging to the game?

There is clearly something about the subject of hit points that labotomizes otherwise logical-thinking people.

Don't bother to answer, Jhandar. Your declaration that somehow your previous argument about trolls was a "crumb trail" demonstrates that you're more interested in scoring points off me than having a discussion. You're done for the day.

Carl Torvik said...

Although I confess to never thinking about this issue in as great detail, I recall that when I played D&D back in the 70s I usually rerolled at least some creature's hit points if they came out too low.

But I'm more interested in how our own house rules intersect with the issue of low hit points. We routinely rolled all PC hit points anew each adventure. So as a 1 hit die fighter you might have 3 hp one adventure and 12 the next - hp were more a measure of how fit you were feeling that day than a measure of your overall fitness.

And logically - if that was the assumption for PCs, it would also be the assumption for NPCs.

So to apply this to your Orcs - if you assume that 'having 1 hp' is a transient state (the orc didn't sleep well the night before, ate some bad pork or whatever) the question becomes not: "Do we all avoid fighting for a week so we can attack at full strength" but rather "Do we take the weakest of us along with us on this raid or leave them at home?" - because the (pseudo)realities of the setting are that there will always be some who are not at full fighting trim. (And at least in the case of the Orcs I can't imagine the coddling the weaklings so the answer seems clear. Other species might choose not to risk their (temporarily) weaker members out.

Of course - 5th edition (in the playtest at least) uses static hp, not rolled hp, for the monsters which a) makes this moot and b) seems like an appropriate concession to this very issue.

Carl