Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hit Points, by Any Other Name...

Over at ENWorld, someone (maybe Morrus) has posted thoughts from their initial foray into 4th edition. (Scroll down to May 1st. Unfortunately, near as I can tell, ENWorld doesn't have a way to link to an individual post.) Among other things, there's this comment:

Hit points, hit points, hit points... I feel that at this point in the stage, hit points really need to be renamed and rebranded. Yes, I know they're a sacred cow and they aren't going away any time soon, and yes, I like the mechanic because it's simple, cinematic and abstract, but they really need a new name! Over the past couple of editions, we've been moving away from the "hit points are physical damage" model, although D&D never completely divorced them from the concept. At this point, though, we've reached the point where hit points represent everything - damage, fatigue, luck, divine favour, and morale.

Once you get your head around this basic truism, all the random damaging and healing effects suddenly make sense. Why does the monster take damage just because he attacked someone other than the paladin challenging him? Morale; he's backing out of a fight and that weakens his resolve. Second Wind? Watch a Rocky film. It's all cinematic, and it works. Just, whatever you do, don't think of it as physical damage.


In spite of my general misgivings about 4e, this is something I'm rather grooving on. I can't wait to use my own version of Robert Fisher's injury table in my own games, as I think it manages to do something very similar, by driving home the idea that losing hit points doesn't necessarily mean getting hit. Which would be helped along a lot by changing the name of the "to hit" roll, too.

5 comments:

Eric said...

HHHHmmmmm, I can't wrap my mind around the healing surge. Is it something like the Rage bonus to HP's Barbarians get?

I tell you one thing I despise Wound condition tables. Like the ones used in True20, Shadowrun, etc, etc....

Eric

trollsmyth said...

I haven't played 4e myself, but as I understand it, it's more like a do-it-yourself cure light wounds with no cleric required. In effect, it's like getting a second wind, wiping away the exhaustion of battle and redoubling your efforts.

I'm kinda mixed on wound condition tables, honestly. It really depends on the game, but they are a bit cumbersome. The fun thing about Mr. Fisher's injury table is that it only applies in extreme circumstances (when a PC has been dropped to 0 or fewer hit points) and is less likely to slow the game down any.

-Brian

Jeff Rients said...

For the past couple years I've been using a chart much like Fisher's. Between it and the occasional Arduin-powered critical you get much of the gruesomeness of Rolemaster's charts for a lot less hassle.

Eric said...

Rolemaster's Tables where great until you started using them, ugh.

wulfgar said...

Hit points do encompass a lot more than physical damage- morale, fatigue, etc. However, a game starts to lose me when it acts as if Hit Points cover everything BUT physical damage. What I'm getting at is the whole "sleep for 6 hours and your completely healed" rule that is purported to be in 4e. I'm sorry, but if my character is mauled by a cave bear or has his arm bitten off by a dragon or gets beaten within an inch of his life by a mob of drunken peasants- 6 hours of sleep without any magical aid should not be enough to be all hunky dory. I normally cringe at arguments about "realism" in a fantasy game like D&D, but for me this goes beyond that and is more a question of the feel of a game. Being completely healed after a 6 hour nap feels more like reseting a video game than playing an rpg.