Wednesday, May 2, 2012

An echo from the past

Way back in December I was talking about lowering starting hit points in order to bring first level characters more in line with the general level of monsters (that's both stuff you'd find in modules and the monsters in Beacon).  I was thinking that starting players with hp equal to STR + bonus +1d6  seemed more like 3-4th level in toughness and would have an easy time with the standard orcs and goblins.  I noticed during the playtest that I had to really pile on the goblins and hobgoblins for a challenge, and even then the players were pretty safe unless they rushed blindly into fights.  I don't want to inflate the monsters so I thought about lowering the starting HP to something more like 1/2 STR + bonus + 1d6.   I posted about this and The Bane commented:
The same thought had crossed my mind. But, since I am strongly considering a HP fueled Feat system I think I will stick with RAW. I had thought of giving the monsters the Strength starting HPs as an option.
Who wants a 15hp Goblin though. I think it would make combats more complicated. I don't know though.
In my interpretation, only 1d6 are actually "hp"s anyway. Hit Points won't be physical damage. Once those first 1d6 are gone then you are doing physical, mental, mobility, or social damage to the Player. 
HPs will recover quickly, Attribute damage will not...
I wasn't on the ball to realize just what he was saying back then but the dude was obviously rocking the Spice. If you follow my posts you can see over the last couple months as I slowly mulled this over independently I believe that I've hit on almost all of the same points he made way back then.  It was even suggested  in the last post to allow players to burn HP for 'feats' which I thought was an interesting direction to take.  Ha!  I originally dismissed the idea as too complicated!  I still don't know if I'd go as far as writing up feats but I have been considering other ways to spend HP that would be organic and allow other classes to benefit from the concept.

I never really liked using half STR for starting HP - that's not elegant. I also didn't like the idea using just STR + STR bonus and not rolling d6 for HP  That seems to be a double reward for high STR and the amount of HP is still way to high.  You also can't just remove the STR bonus to HP or the d6 because if you change the formula  the you are making an exception to the mechanic and I don't like exceptions.

What I believe now is that players should start with 6HP + STR bonus.  The d6 is represented here in giving players a best possible roll (they are heroes after all) as is the bonus from having a high STR.  What's not there is the initial HP boost from the STR stat and I think that that is fine.  In fact that's what was overloading the system and making the monsters too weak.  Characters still benefit from having a high STR because they become unconscious at 0 hp but they die at 0 STR.  What changed my mind on this was the recent thought that HP should be spent to avoid damage and not just automatically have damage lower HP - this means that players could use their STR as a buffer to take damage but still be able to stay in the game - take 3-4 points actual damage in order to have enough HP to go another round or cast one more spell.  Poison and spells or effects that directly target stats would not be impacted since only generic damage could be soaked this way.

Removing the STR component to HP will drastically drop the starting power of characters, and will be felt a lot by magic using characters but I don't think that's a huge issue because it balances all the characters back to a more reasonable start level which matches the strength of the monsters and NPCs.  I think that magic using characters were overpowered at the low levels compared to the other classes anyway.  Also you don't have to start at level 1 - that's just the lowest level available.  In fact starting at level 3 or 4 should be a very reasonable and common thing if you want to start your campaign with more capable characters and a bit more monsters and  magic going on.  Clawing back the level 1 HP simply allows a lower baseline for the sort of 'farmhands in the forest' campaigns that people like to run as well.

So I think that's the model I believe I'm going to go with -  characters at first level start with 6 + their STR bonus in HP, general damage does not automatically lower HP, but instead hit points are used to avoid STR damage.   Stat damage and stat recovery stays the same and 0 STR is what gets you dead.

I know I owe you an update, but I want it to be a good and proper update.

1 comment:

  1. I had meant to comment on this when you first posted it, but my seven day a week, twelve to sixteen hour days has kicked me squarely... anyway, I hope to see how this plays out and hope you post on it. I feel, for me, it might be a bit too zealous a crop in HPs.

    I also wanted to thank you for the reference. I often am afraid that I haven't been able to articulate what I mean in the written media.

    To that end, I think, based on this, "It was even suggested in the last post to allow players to burn HP for 'feats' which I thought was an interesting direction to take. Ha! I originally dismissed the idea as too complicated!" I should elaborate a bit, while trying to stay brief.

    "Feats" for me, and I haven't had much chance to refine the idea since I mentioned it, is to allow the non-casters to do what casters do with spells and somewhat on the order of 'Heroics'.

    A character could spend 1/2 HPs of the number of sides on a dX, +1 for each die step of to get that die added to their roll. So, as a fighter I want a "Crushing Blow" Feat, or basically to be able to add 1d4 to my damage with my maul (the restriction if you will ~ melee only), I can subtract 3 (1/2 of 4, always rounding down, plus 1 for it being a d4, or first step up the dice ladder; 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, etc.) from my HPs.

    At second level, I could take "Crushing Maul" which would be +1d6 to my damage with mauls only, a second level of restriction (Melee -> Maul). It would cost me 5 HPs though: 1/2 of 6 plus 2 because it is the second die up the die ladder.

    I could continue refining/restricting the weapon, say Alsomed's Maul, and take the "Feat" again for a +1d8 that costs 7 HPs. Or I could take a different "Feat". That put the dX against something else with a restriction...

    Crippling Blow: On a successful melee attack reduce opponent's movement by 1d4 (3 HP)

    Hamstring: On a successful melee attack with an edged weapon, reduce opponent's movement by 1d6 (5 HPs)

    The Foot Mangler: On a successful melee attack with a blunt weapon, for 1d4 rounds, reduce opponent's movement by 1d8 (7 HPs)

    Ta-da, simple Feat mechanic. I was thinking of having HPs for each attribute, so a Rogue could take these HPs from his DEX, while a caster takes them from MIND, and a Fighter from Strength.

    Note: I differentiate between HPs provided by the attribute and the 1d6 'luck/skill/whatever' that is added to it. Those pts can only be used up when defending as normal...