Friday, January 13, 2012

again with the Hit Points

I have more to say about starting Hit Points.  In my recent foray into Labyrinth Lord I rolled up a fighter with 4 HP.  I was mildly disappointed with the roll for a second, but then I realized that I wasn't unhappy about it at all.   I had no expectation that this character would live though his first adventure as even a single dagger blow could kill him.  Instead of feeling like I had bad luck rolling up my character, I felt tense and edgy imagining all the ways this poor bastard could bite it.  I felt good.  It was interesting putting on his shoes and feeling afraid of the world.  Paradoxically he felt alive.

The thrill of playing Beacon!
He did bite it, and in the first round of the first combat actually.  Poor Marlin Densburg - son of accountants, dusty traveler - got bitten by a giant spider and failed his save vs poison.  He did however manage to slay the spider with a mighty blow before he died. Ironically he still had 3 HP left when he expired clutching at his rapidly swelling neck, so this has no bearing on starting Hit Points at all really.  Quickly the other players gathered up his possessions and Marlin's hireling became my new character and joined in trading his morning star for Marlin's grandpa's two handed sword. Life goes on, and pragmatically these adventurers remembered their comrade, gathered everything useful to them, and knew they could be dead next time.  It was fun.  I felt good about it and I want some of that same feeling to built in the Beacon game.

Now Beacon uses STR + 1d6/level for player Hit Points and I really don't want to change the rules so that you don't roll at first level because I don't like unnecessary exceptions, they cause confusion.  I also don't think it's wise to remove the STR component from starting HP because the way magic works.  I'm not looking to make casters pass-out after casting one spell.  I can however do something like start players with half their STR + 1d6.  I could even phrase the rule to make this an option, something like - "for more thrilling games the GM should start players with half STR + 1d6".  I think this will make First Level a bit more dangerous a place and that's a good thing in my mind.

Why do this at all?  I mean this can be left up to the GM anyway so why mess with the rules?  Well I think that it's always easier to boost starting players than it is to nerf them.  Starting the players out at say, level 3 is always a good compromise if you want them to be less likely to die.  Also yes changing the rules and all that is practically expected but this comes back to previous discussions about things like silver vs gold standard and divine rituals - people have the choice of playing many types of games so the Beacon rules should represent some specific game feelings as opposed to catering to the middle ground.  Anyone playing Beacon instead of Pathfinder is going to be capable of tweaking things to their satisfaction in any case.

As for saves vs death, well I'm not as sure about that.  There are no 'death saves' in the rules per/se but certainly you can take enough damage by failing a resist roll to die. I am of two minds on this because I can see a place for deadly things that no amount of HP is going to mitigate but on the other hand, these things tend to either get watered down or abused.  I think I need to think on that some more.


  1. Alas, Poor Marlin, we hardly knew ye! But your boon companions (and paid hirelings) shall ensure your sacrifice was not in vain.

    As for HP, as I'm just coming back into things after a long, long absence, I've read up on 10+ years worth of game theory and like what I see. Labyrinth Lord *feels* like the direct heir to Moldvey/Mentzer -- though I admit to a deep fondness for Swords & Wizardry. Nobody likes working the ropes at 1st-4th levels...I remember skipping Basic and starting characters at 4th in Expert on the basis of "they should already have some kind of training behind them...and more HPs."

    From what I've read recently, I like the notion of 1st level characters having either (10 or CON + "class die"). So, my 1st level fighter would have either 10+1d8 or (with a CON of 15) 15+1d8. I also like the notion of CON as "physical body points" and HPs are a temporary "endurance" rating. At 0 HPs you're unconscious; then all further damage is taken off of CON (and heals much slower than HP), thus once my fighter's HP hit 0, he gets hit with a polearm for 1d10 damage, say 7, so his CON goes to 8 and his body takes serious damage (and in some rules he's losing x amount of CON per round/turn/whatever afterwards to represent unbandaged wounds, bleeding profusely, etc.)

    The proliferation of house rules for what was in my youth a simple, "as written" game blows my mind. As much as I fight the urge, I to seem to have the "compile my own game from the rules I want to play" bug.