Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Abstract Hit Points and the Casualty Table.

If you're not familiar with at least some of the various arguments, controversies and problems D&D-adjacent, inflationary hit points raise, or you want a refresher, top of Google is The Alexandrian; a bit further down and more recently (it still goes on), Kabouter Games with Gygax quotes and (oh!) a link to The Alexandrian as well. And this at Mythlands of Erce from in between.

I'm assuming combat or at least bodily injury are going to be aspects of the game I make/play; at the moment, I'm using Hit Dice and hit points to keep track of wounds in and out of combat for familiarity/ease of use.

One of the first D&D adjacent 'fixes' I can remember thinking about was how to make 1st level characters less squishy; particularly the magic-user and thief. I'm not so old school that my first introduction to ttrpg wasn't framed as hero-on-a-quest; our alternative personas did not feel disposable, we had somewhat different ideas to Gygax et al about how the game was to be played, and we were not interested enough in system implications and intricacies to see them.

CON hp.

The simplest fix, and one that sprang to mind when I was thinking about mortal, mundane characters surviving in my Stranger Aeons setting, is to give starting characters hit points equal to their Constitution score.

Characters still accumulate Hit Dice as they advance levels, but will only increase their max./total hp once they are able to roll more than their CON. A Mentzer Red Box Fighter might do this by 2nd level (2d8); a corresponding MU or Thief might not do the same until 4th (4d4).

Adjustments for high/low CON can be applied as normal, at your option; the 'extra' hit points are only meant to help the character survive the first phase of the campaign, so it goes back to normal in the end.

The Casualty Table.

The Casualty Table is an alternative to death at 0hp. The spread of 2d6 means that a Serious Wound is a likely outcome, but that's better than instant death, isn't it?

The table's at the end because I kept messing up the formatting of the post.

  • At 0 hp or below, you roll 2d6 and consult the Casualty Table;
  • Casualty = prone, helpless, vulnerable to coup de grace/all hits are critical;
  • Recovery Roll at the end of each round; if you succeed, back to 1 hp at the beginning of the next (3d6 vs. modified CON or just a d6 vs. TN - one or the other);
  • Mortal wound, you need help from someone else to recover;
  • Graze, you automatically recover at the beginning of the next round with at least 1 hit point (roll d6, maybe even with CON mod).

Further Elaboration.

  • Damage in excess of 0 hp means instant death at a certain total. I've seen and used -3 and -10, as well as a total equal to your level. I'm planning to use CON as the threshold.
  • Bleeding Casualties: use the d6 Recovery Roll to determine if you're bleeding; lose 1 hp at the end of each round, and then roll d6 Recovery Roll to see if it stops by itself. Mortal wounds always bleed and do not stop on their own. Recovery Roll and Bleeding rolls are separate.
  • Automatic Recovery Option: either in round 7 or at the end of the encounter; only Mortal Wounds are exempt.
  • CON hp are sort-of your 'body' hp and anything in excess is abstracted (see above).
  • Once you drop below CON hp in an adventure, CON hp becomes your maximum until you properly rest up, recover and reroll your hit points (if applicable). Usually means 'return to town'; some spells, potions, miracles overrule this.
  • Until properly treated, Wounds could either cap your CON hp at a reduced level until properly treated, or could come straight off your CON if you soldier on.

Logical Progression from Abstract hp?

  • Theoretical, planning to try next time I run a one-shot, and assuming only d6 HD.
  • If hp are abstractions, representing things like divine favour, skill at arms, blind luck, stamina, morale etc., then maybe we can use them dynamically? Or, at least HD.
  • Instead of just rolling up a starting pot of hp, expend them for rerolls on the Casualty Table, Recovery Roll or Bleeding rolls: you could do both with enough HD; you already have at least CON hp.
  • Unused HD can be expended in combat to reduce damage taken or after a successful Recovery Roll to roll some new hp so you can jump straight back into the fray.
  • Once used, you only get your HD back through proper rest and recovery, even if you somehow get hp over your CON hp before this.

Recovery Roll (3d6)
Bleeding/ Recovery Roll (d6)
Max. Con hp
help only
help only
Con -6
Con -6
Con -3
Con -3
Con -1
Con -1

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