Hit Points (once again)

The discussion about Hit Points seems to be never ending among those of us who play D&D; are they stamina, luck, injuries, skill? I’m not too worried with the discussion, actually; they are a resource which wards off death, and although that might sound dry that suffices for me as a GM. I do not, however, like all aspects of how that resource is managed. The all-or-nothing approach of most D&D versions is simple, but adds little of interest to managing wounds and risk. I’ve toyed with other versions, but so far I’ve been very hesitant because most solutions add complexity to combat, which (although fairly simple in LotFP) tends to be the most mechanical part of the game.

Then I started reading up on and planning a campaign in Pits & Perils, and the match with my concept system was suddenly far better! The lower amount of Hit Points (or simply Hits, here) makes the math work much better, at least to me. Most concepts in this system would probably work with D&D as well, though. I went ahead and included rules for being Felled (struck down to zero Hits or below); I myself don’t mind making that mean certain death, but my players are soft this way…

So, here goes; my system. This is how it has been used so far in my Pits & Perils game, which does not mean any in-depth playtesting, but my players have been very positive. Any commentary on my side is done in italics.

woodcut1

Hits versus Wounds

If a character rests after having lost a number of Hits, she will be able to recover from half of them. The remainder, however, are converted into Wounds. These are more long-lasting injuries, exhaustion and other ailments that will not be cured by a simple rest. For game purposes, resting a Turn (10 rounds) without interruption allows a character to remove all Hits suffered. However, half of these Hits (rounded down) are converted into Wounds. These Wounds are noted alongside Hits suffered on the character sheet, and for all intents and purposes count as damage in the same way as Hits do; they are only different in matters of recovery, as they are not affected by a simple rest.

This does add complexity, and tracking two numbers. The benefit is that any calculations are done after combat, not while combat is happening. Also, the math is pretty simple. And yes, it’s possible to “game” this system by resting only when you’ve suffered an odd number of Hits; that’s intentional, and also slightly risky.

Recovering Wounds

A character will recover 1 Wound from a full night’s uninterrupted rest. For this to be possible on the road, the camp must be well set by a competent Outdoorsman. If a character rests a full day in a bed or in similar environs (a wilderness camp will not do for these purposes), 2 Wounds can be recovered per day. These recovery rates assume that a full ration can be consumed and that water is available. A spellcaster’s HEAL spell will cure Wounds, but will always first cure any suffered Hits (thus making magical healing more effective if used in the calm after a fight, although that is not always a tactical option).

This recovery rate is fairly quick, because I like it that way, but it could be tweaked to be far worse for a realistic approach, especially if you’re not going to use the Injury rules below.

Death and dismemberment

For any but the most important NPCs or monsters, suffering damage from Hits and/or Wounds totaling more than your Total Hits means death. For PCs, and possibly key persona as determined by the GM, this need not be the case; they are simply Felled. A character which is Felled is out of the action completely for the duration of the encounter. If her companions flee or retreat, then she is at the mercy of the enemy and may or may not be revived (usually, she will instead be eaten). Otherwise, a character can be revived once the immediate danger is over, which takes one Turn. A notable exception is if the character is slain by immolation, disintegration or other similarly destructive means (at the GM’s adjudication) or if the damage was too severe (beyond 3 more than Total Hits).

When a character is revived, she must roll 2D6 on the Felled table below to determine her fate. She must deduct one from her roll for each point of damage she has suffered beyond her Total Hits (if any). If revived using magical healing, she modifies the roll with the difference between her total damage and her Total Hits after the spell has taken effect (positive or negative).

Now, these rules do add complexity, although once again only outside of combat. They can also serve to make magical healing or a Cleric even more important; whether that is a good or bad thing.

FELLED TABLE
2D6 RESULT
-5 Slain
6-7 Dismemberment
8 Grievous injury (4 IP)
9 Severe injury (3 IP)
10 Bad injury (2 IP)
11 Fleshwound (1 IP)
12+ Fine

woundman

After revival, the character counts as having Rested as per the rules above, with half the Hits suffered converted into Wounds.

INJURY POINTS (IP) represent serious injuries; they count as Wounds and thus towards total damage. More importantly, they also give the character a negative modifier to any roll made which requires physical activity or concentration equal to one per IP, hamper movement rate på 10′ per IP (meaning armor may sometimes need to be removed) and raise the cost of any Magician spells by +1 SP per IP. Injuries resulting in IP take a very long time to heal; a character must spend at least one month in complete rest per point for them to go away. A Cleric can remedy the situation a lot faster, but a casting of the HEAL spell still only removes one single Injury Point.

DISMEMBERMENT represents permanent injury of some sort. For starters, they come with a Grievous Injury (4 IP) representing time needed to recover from them, but they also require a roll on the table below. In the case of odd injury sources (acid, fire etc) the GM will have to adapt the result below to make it fit the fiction (but the effect should remain the same). Severed legs are assumed to be replaced in some fashion, for arms/hands this is more optional.

DISMEMBERMENT TABLE
2D6 RESULT PERMANENT EFFECT
2 Ruptured lung -1 to all physical activity
3 Severed leg -20′ Movement, -1/-2 to certain rolls (GM’s call)
4 Severed foot -10′ Movement
5 Shattered bones Lose 2 Total Hits
6 Lasting ache Lose 1 Total Hit
7 Scarring Distinctive feature
8 Lost fingers -1 to Fine Manipulation (lockpicks, stealing etc)
9 Lost eye -1 to Missile Attack Dice and Searching
10 Severed hand Only 1h weapons, shield still OK
11 Severed arm Only 1h weapons, -1/-2 to certain rolls (GM’s call)
12 Skull crack -1 to all social/mental rolls, +1 SP cost for Magician

Horn of the Five Winds

This old, filthy battle-horn appears to have been to hell and back (perhaps it has?). It is made from the curled horn from some sort of ram, but this is hard to detect beneath all the brine and soot it is normally covered with. Cleaning the horn is certainly possible, but it has an uncanny ability to once again get filthy and appear worn.

Anyone can blow this horn, and the effects can be devastating both for the one using it and others in the vicinity. Each time the horn is blown, roll a D6. It is prudent if the person blowing the horn specifies what direction he/she is pointing it before rolling this die.

horn

1. Wind of the Northern Mountain

A blast of deadly cold air escapes the horn, accompanied by an angry howling sound. The  blast of searing cold is projected in a 30×30′ cone from the bell (front) of the horn, causing 3D10 cold damage (save vs Magical Device for half).

2. Wind of the Easter Steppe

The autumn storms of the East are legend, and the horn emits this gale full-force in a cone 60′ long and 30′ wide at its end. Creatures of ogre-size or smaller caught in this wind are thrown 1D6x10′ away from the horn-blower; should they strike a solid surface along this path, they will suffer D6 points of damage for each 10′ of distance remaining. Tiny creatures, such as birds, will be flung twice as far and will suffer 2D6 additional damage from the raw force of the wind.

3. Wind of the Western Water

Sea-air and cold brine spurts forth, spraying everything in a 50×50′ cone projected from the bell of the horn. Those caught in the cone will be soaked (and possibly miserable), and minor fires (such as torches) will be put out.

4. Wind of the Southern Desert

A blast of super-heated air filled with sand streams from the horn in a cone 60′ long and 20′ wide at its end. Creatures caught in this suffer 2D8 points of damage from the heat, and an additional 2D8 points of damage from the blasting sand (save vs Magical Device for half).

5. Wind from the Void

As the horn emits a hideous, disharmonic note it rends reality, and a wind from the blackest abyss spews forth, and riding upon it comes something best left unnamed. Make a roll on the Summon spell table (LotFP Rules & Magic p 142) for a creature with 2D4 Hit Dice. This creature will be uncontrolled and will attack all living things in its vicinity for 2D10 rounds before returning to its own reality, unless the roll for this duration is 20; in this case, it will remain indefinitely in this world, and will feel a permanent and consuming hatred for the individual who blew the horn.

6. The Last Breath

As the horn is blown, the last air is sucked from the lungs of the horn-blower as it attempts to rend out his/her soul. A save vs Poison/Death must be made; if successful, the horn-blower manages to remove the horn from his/her lips and nothing happens. Otherwise, a horrible keening escapes the horn as the blower dies. All creatures able to hear this keening must save vs Magical Device or be Stunned for D6 rounds. Any creatures eligible for Morale checks should also be forced to make one at -2 after hearing the sound.

Needless to say, the horn has changed hands many times throughout history, and is often found clasped in the mummified or skeletal hands of its former owner…

Encounters

There seem to be as many ways to handle “Encounters” (and actually, even some discrepancies regarding what such a thing entails) as there are Dungeon Masters, and so far I’ve been running it a inconsistently; partly because I’ve been exploring different options together with my players, and partly because I’ve been… well, inconsistent.

Time to formalize things. I’ve been looking at different approaches to surprise, initiative and associated rules and I’ve created this simple 1-page flowchart to show my players. It is heavily influenced by the sequence from d20swsrd found here, and also introduces group initiative and surprise as a slight change to the basic LotFP rules. I love the rules for declaring spells at the onset of combat; it really creates tension around successfully casting them and shows just how important allies and defense is for spellcasters – especially Magic Users.

I also add a couple of rules of my own:

Sitting Duck
I agree that casters should be in serious trouble if they try to cast spells in melee, and the Concentration skill and “combat casting” and all that it added to 3rd edition D&D isn’t really to my tastes. I do think, however, that you should be allowed to try – I don’t like a rule that says “you cant cast spells if engaged in melee”. Instead, I give each opponent that has not yet attacked and which is engaged with a spellcaster a chance to take his/her attack before the spell goes off; just a single point of damage will disrupt the spell. This is in addition to spell declaration at the start of the turn, and I think this opens up a lot of interesting tactical choices – both for caster PCs and when combatting spellcasting enemies.

Better part of Valor
Disengaging can get messy, and I wanted to keep this as simple as possible; let those who have remaining move follow a person who disengages. This is an uncomplicated simulation of the fact that movement in combat is still more or less simultaneous; if you move 60′ per round and your opponent does the same, then you will remain beside each other – to change this, you need allies, clever tactics or to increase your movement speed somehow (such as by running).

You can find a PDF of the flowchart here, or in the Library.