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Author Topic: Neo-Classic Hit Points  (Read 744 times)

Blackleaf

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Neo-Classic Hit Points
« on: May 26, 2008, 03:16:21 pm »
TSR Publications Editor, Tim Kask, recently made these comments over on Dragonsfoot.

On Rules Complexity and Rules Lawyers:

Quote from: Tim Kask
One could argue that the extra detail baked into AD&D maybe isn't such a good thing; it seems to have encouraged a generation of players who enjoy fussing over the wording of the rulebook instead of deferring to their DM's judgement.
...
We shot ourselves, altogether unknowingly, in the foot. We had no idea that we were corrupting the original players into a flock of nit-pickers and rules lawyers. It was our own fault, although I don't think any of us could have seen that far into the future and foreseen it.


On The Original Hit Point System

Quote from: Tim Kask
TSR put out a rules-set by Brian that should have alerted us to the possible problems to come...
...
It was all about hit location, critical hits and that kind of stuff. It bored me to tears... It was too, in my opinion, trivia-oriented. Also, it violated all the precepts of hitpoints in D&D. Hitpoints were NOT chunks of meat carved off of you, nor pints of blood. Hitpoints were supposed to be the measure of how long your strength, skill, luck, experience, armor and weaponry could enable you to escape a debilitating, if not deadly, blow. This book was about where you were hit and how badly. My memory, tricksy as it is nowadays, seems to tell me it was more for firearms and energy weapons, a la BOOT HILL, MA or GW. However, it did address edged weapons like knives and such. That was where the dough turned rancid.


Both very interesting points.  The first is one we've heard expressed here quite frequently. :pundit:

The second is something a number of us have mentioned, and we see shades of in 4e.

And after having looked at a lot of writing on Medieval combat, the classic system of hit points and armour class works very well when used in this way.

Even for touch attacks and poison attacks it works.  You only get a solid "killing stroke" hit when you're out of hit points, but a touch attack or scratch from a poison blade could be something you'd otherwise ignore and keep going with no ill effect.

Grappling doesn't work as well with the classic system.  Or does it?

Clerical healing and healing potions could still "make sense" and work well -- particularly if you view it more as a return of strength, skill and luck.

What about the way recovery and healing is managed -- if hit points and AC represent strength, skill, luck, experience, armor and weaponry, then surely a good night's sleep would be all it would take to get you at or near to full hit points.

The system also doesn't handle wounding well.  Unless 0 hit points doesn't automatically mean "dead" but rather "out of the fight".  Perhaps a character at 0 hit points could continue... but they would have some sort of ongoing injury that requires rest and recuperation.

For those who play Original D&D and Classic D&D, and treat hit points as Tim Kask outlines above, what areas have you found most "tricksy" and/or what house rules have you added?

For game systems that also consider stamina / hit points in the same manner as OD&D, what areas do you think are a challenge for players and GMs to model compared to other game systems?

Aos

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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2008, 12:49:21 am »
I think the classic system is actually pretty good when viewed in this light, but the recovery times (It's 1pt a day isn't it?) would seem long to me.  A good nights sleep and a plate of chow should give you back all your skill and stamina.
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madunkieg

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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 01:19:26 am »
Frankly, I like hit points, but it has little to do with either side of the argument presented. I like how hit points (and healing) tie together the length of adventure and the rough magnitude of the characters' fame (or infamy).

As characters increase in levels, there is a balancing act between damage taken and the pace healing (including healing spells) can be used to recover. Individual battles may not be threatening, but if the damage accumulates faster than the healing can cover, tension increases. Eventually, the climactic battle pushes the characters as close to their limit as the DM dares.

What this means is that minor heroes (low-level characters) have short adventures, reflecting their limited reputations. They couldn't survive longer, but they also get quicker rewards, too. When characters become the heroes of the realm (high-level characters) they also have the hit points and healing to undertake long quests befitting their status. There is more invested in the characters by that time, allowing longer times and more work between rewards.

This could be done with more complex damage-tracking systems, but it is so much easier to do with hit points.
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KenHR

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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 10:30:00 am »
Excellent point, Madunkieg.

Myself, I favor hit points in an abstract combat system like that in D&D's older versions because they're simple and intuitive.

You do run into some issues.  Unarmed/non-lethal combat could be a pain as Stuart touched on; it started getting fiddly to track real vs. non-lethal damage when you wanted to go for a subdual.  Grappling rules in AD&D and 3/3.5e -- both of them quite a bit more complicated than basic combat procedures -- kind of point up this difficulty as well.

Fixed healing amounts from magic (e.g. 1d6+1 for the CLW spell) was odd, but you could justify that within the abstraction after a little thought.

Natural healing didn't seem to slow to me (though I prefer the older Basic D&D rate of 1d3/day).  You weren't just recovering from physical injuries and exhaustion, you were re-investing in the karma bank as well, and that might take time.  Or something equally flimsy...that aspect just never bothered me.  :)
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2008, 10:38:32 am »
I certainly think somewhere in the 90s we (as players) lost the respect of the GM, in so much as we found it necessary to challenge his calls on decisions, as well as knowing the rules and loop holes better than he does.

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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2008, 10:52:06 am »
Quote from: Lawbag
I certainly think somewhere in the 90s we (as players) lost the respect of the GM, in so much as we found it necessary to challenge his calls on decisions, as well as knowing the rules and loop holes better than he does.

It's a Pandora's box we can't close.
You can close it with a nail gun.  Which I always keep handy when I am running a game.

I blame White Wolf.  Well, perhaps not blame, but certainly, as noted, the penchant for players to have a larger hand in running the game was seized upon with that style of game, and when players 'raised' on the pseudo-shared responsibilities promoted by that style tried out other games, they wanted the same level of input.  The problem being, other games are not always suited to that kind of player scripting.

I don't think the line between 'railroading' and 'round-robin storytelling' is quite so thin, but once you are in that DMZ, it can get a bit murky.
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Lawbag

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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2008, 12:04:04 pm »
@Stormbringer

Oddly I found the Storyteller games harder work as a GM than any other game I tried running.

Here is something I blogged a while back

I think Ive finally sussed out what I hate White Wolf and their storygame system. Its not because of the overly detailed and unnecessary background or the false tempting of you becoming a goth monster. Oh no, its something much more fundamental than that.

When I run a role-playing game, it is just that, a game in which we assume roles and we have fun with the way the dice roll. With WW, its more about the story. So in essence, DND is a collective game in which the GM decides to the plot and the encounters and impartially alters the game according to the actions of the players and hence the players are telling their own story and making their own legends happen. With say Werewolf or any of the other games in the WW stable, its more about the GM (or quite rightfully Storyteller) telling the rest of the players stories about their character, with little or NO real valid input from the player.

Its almost childish in its simplicity. The player creates a monster/character that they want to play, give it to the Storyteller to come up with a fun and exciting and dangerous and epic adventure about their character.

Well I have news for you. As the GM I'm too fucking busy running the game interpreting the rules to be babysitting for a bunch of werewolves.
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KrakaJak

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« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2008, 12:50:49 pm »
Stormbringer and Lawbag: You're both wrong, wrong, wrong. There is nothing stopping you from adjucating your "story" in accordance with the players. All White-Wolf really did is balance the importance of Social and Mental challenges by making it possible to dice roll.

Where are you getting this stuff? Just because it's called Storyteller, does not mean it's a Sory-Game". It's still a traditional RPG through and through, with a GM in full control of what happens.
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« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2008, 01:56:59 pm »
Quote from: Stuart
TSR Publications Editor, Tim Kask, recently made these comments over on Dragonsfoot.

On Rules Complexity and Rules Lawyers:

   We shot ourselves, altogether unknowingly, in the foot. We had no idea that we were corrupting the original players into a flock of nit-pickers and rules lawyers. It was our own fault, although I don't think any of us could have seen that far into the future and foreseen it.


... Well, we figured that out back in 1978 ... this was going to be the obvious direction that D&D would take, we assumed, for one simple reason:  They sell rules books.   Therefore the more rules the more books.  Therefore, for no other reason, the rules would become, over time, more and more complex in stead of simpler.   It was, predictably, a function of the business model.   Which is why we came up with our homebrew's to begin with.   That and in order to mitigate Rules Lawyering which we also saw would become an issue as the rules expanded.   So I think it's a little weak to claim that they couldn't have known what would happen.   Frankly, it was obvious what would happen.

Quote from: Stuart

...

What about the way recovery and healing is managed -- if hit points and AC represent strength, skill, luck, experience, armor and weaponry, then surely a good night's sleep would be all it would take to get you at or near to full hit points.


I have it that Hit Points represent physical capability of taking physical damage.   Armor Class represents both the ability of the armor to deflect blows and absorb damage.  The Dexterity of the character effect their ability to dodge blows.   Higher Armor Classes reduce the Character's Dexterity, but Absorb more damage per blow that hits.  

Quote from: Stuart

The system also doesn't handle wounding well.  Unless 0 hit points doesn't automatically mean "dead" but rather "out of the fight".  Perhaps a character at 0 hit points could continue... but they would have some sort of ongoing injury that requires rest and recuperation.

For those who play Original D&D and Classic D&D, and treat hit points as Tim Kask outlines above, what areas have you found most "tricksy" and/or what house rules have you added?

For game systems that also consider stamina / hit points in the same manner as OD&D, what areas do you think are a challenge for players and GMs to model compared to other game systems?


Yup.  You put your finger on what I think is the trick issue of Hit Points.  The way it works out when you have 0 Hits = Death is that it winds up seeming a little too stark.   However, the fact is that this is also a function of GMing.   What I would do, if 0 = Death is as the character gets down toward 0 (say within two average sword blows of 0) is start describing the battle thusly:

"And now Gorthar, panting heavily and bleeding profusely down the right side stumbles a bit during the next painful swing of his dented battle axe" to convey that maybe, just maybe it might be good idea for Gorthar to consider retiring to the second rank and letting another fighter step up while he gets attended to by the Cleric.   I think a lot of what happens with 0 = Death has to do with the GM's not mentioning this and so the Players feel like they can just fight normally until they're at 0.

One way to handle this might be to start reducing Attack Levels as the Character approaches 0 as well ... to further simulate the effect of being badly wounded.   The key there is to make sure the Player knows that "Gorthar's arms feel wobbly and has a staggering pain tearing through his right thigh as he strikes." That might work.  I'll try it out next game and see how it goes.   :)
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Aos

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« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2008, 03:56:07 pm »
I think you could come up with any number of systems that map damage and its impact better, but I also think that in order to do so you have to add complexity.
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« Reply #10 on: May 28, 2008, 01:41:07 pm »
Quote from: Lawbag
@Stormbringer

Oddly I found the Storyteller games harder work as a GM than any other game I tried running.
Well, it could be reasonably argued that the Referee has at least as much work as for other games/genres, but they also have 'canon' to fall back on.  Innumerable splats support the official arcs, but it seemed a bit easier to pull bits and pieces out.

The couple I ran were easier to just drop a hook or plot point, and let the players stumble around a bare skeleton of a story filling in the blanks with a few hints or guides.  Have a start point and an end point, throw a few conflicting rumours around, and the players fall all over themselves writing a story for you.

In my experience, anyway.
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« Reply #11 on: May 28, 2008, 01:52:05 pm »
Quote from: KrakaJak
Stormbringer and Lawbag: You're both wrong, wrong, wrong. There is nothing stopping you from adjucating your "story" in accordance with the players. All White-Wolf really did is balance the importance of Social and Mental challenges by making it possible to dice roll.

Where are you getting this stuff? Just because it's called Storyteller, does not mean it's a Sory-Game". It's still a traditional RPG through and through, with a GM in full control of what happens.
Well, sure, any GM in any game can be a railroading douchebag if they want.  Certain rulesets have ways to discourage that, especially with a more strongly codified social interaction system.  It makes it more difficult for the GM to say 'the prince refuses to be intimidated' if your Intimidation roll has twelve successes.  Certainly, they can still set the threshold at 20, 50, or 500 successes if they want.  It is just more difficult when the system suggests that a skill level of 10 allows you to bully a river into changing course.

Not that I am championing 'more rules for a better game'.  I have lucked out in having pretty good referees in the games I have played.  But suggesting that the Storyteller system has, at most, the same level of support for weaving a character driven story as Rolemaster or (A)D&D is misguided, at best.
If you read the above post, you owe me $20 for tutoring fees

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