Friday, September 3, 2010

EMP: Section 1 Characters - Hit Points

Hit Points

Hit Points will remain the same as specified per class in the LL book.

The big change will be the consideration of mass into Hit Points. Essentially, by adding mass as a factor into determining hit points, we can make giant monsters truly dangerous without having to touch Hit Dice and all the mechanics based off of that. The design change here is made to the dice value of Hit Dice.

For example, an Elephant is listed as 9HD in the LL book, meaning 40 hit points on average. I find it disturbing that you can kill a 6 ton beast so easily. I know hit points are an abstraction, but I want an army that fields elephants to be fearsome, rather than having a mobile target that takes 10 arrows or bolts then dies.

So we start with the assumption that something with roughly the same mass as a human uses d8 hit dice and work from there. As a tentative working system, we can increase the die used every time mass doubles. So, d8 is for an 80kg human, d10 for a 160kg monster, d12 for 320kg, etc. This will create odd dice after this point, but that just means we use a digital random number generator to create D14 or D34. The elephant example (full sized African males weigh in around 5,500kgs) above would have 9HD at D20 for an average hit points of 95. Now we are talking about something fierce! Of course, this monster's to-hit, damage, saving throws versus effects, and susceptibility to effects by HD are all unchanged.

This affects monsters mostly and will require some hand waving for monsters that don't have real life analogues in which to base their mass. In addition, it does have one major impact on PCs.

All characters Hit Points are determined by summing HPs gained from chosen class and race. Bonuses from exceptional Constitution are only added once. Hit points from race never change during play.

Upon reaching a new level, only class hit points are added to the total.

Hit Points Due to Mass by Race

                 Race Hit Points
Gnomes, Halflings     1D4
Elves, Dwarves, Half-Elves     1D6
Humans, Half-Orcs     1D8

There is a little fudging here since the weights are pretty close to each other, but it works well enough and helps differentiate the player races.

By giving players 2 dice worth of hit points at first level, there is no need to have a house rule for max HPs at first level or for re-rolling results of 1 or 2. With the use of 2 dice and the mini-bell curve, the majority of players will have the same amount of hit points as if they were given one full hit dice worth of HPs with the potential to have much more. A Half-Orc or Human Fighter could, with a little luck, have more than 10 hit points at first level.

This system for hit points satisfies a number of design goals. It integrates the concept of mass into hit points, allowing for a more 'realistic' treatment of large monsters. In addition, it gives players more survivability at first level without resorting to simply giving away maximum hit points for everyone. It also helps differentiate races and offer more meaningful choices.


  1. I read the link and it looked like another DM that thinks that monsters are his "characters". A large group of 5 to 6 level characters should be able to kill a hydra. The all have crossed the hero threshold (4th level) so a group of 6 or 7 of them should be pretty tough.

    Using inflated hit dice from 3e introduces something else from that game too, the level treadmill. As I recall, there was a ‘pet’ hydra somewhere in Temple of Elemental Evil. The adventure had a mix of creatures, and it could do that because the old version of the rules didn't require characters to constantly level.

    The 3e version of that adventure added tons of levels. I think they even divided the main portion into three separate dungeons. All of it was to accommodate the grinding necessary because of 3e’s level treadmill. You couldn’t throw hobgoblins and hydras in the same dungeon unless they were separated by enough levels.

  2. Well, I won't comment on Alexis as a DM, I've never even met the guy. I also have 0 exposure to the 3e version of ToEE.

    My goals here were to provide a boost to 1st level PCs without using 'max HP at first level' and also making the racial choice a little more interesting. For monsters, I wanted larger creatures to be more hearty. I used an Elephant from LL and got roughly double the HPs with my system. Alexis would have gotten something like 500 HPs, or a ten-fold increase.

    I'm primarily looking for "realism" in my monsters and giant animals. Mainly, that they have enough staying power to last in a fight, rather than taking the MU's first fireball or all of the henchmen's arrows and dying in 2 rounds.

    Maybe when a group encounters a giant animal being used as a stead for an enemy, they target the rider rather than the animal. Or they try their best to bluff the Giant rather than confidently hacking them down.

    Plus, in a pseudo-historical setting, I would prefer the big ass monsters and animals be a big, rare threat. I'd rather have 1 or 2 big honking Ogres that are legendary, than a group of 6 of them that raid caravans and the PCs can easily handle.