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  1. - Top - End - #121
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Hit points measure the body's ability to withstand physical trauma/damage.

    If they were intended to reflect ANYTHING else, then the rules were horribly written.

  2. - Top - End - #122
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Electric knight View Post
    To make myself clear, then:

    Arg. 1: HP are fairly coherent at 1st level but the notion of HP increasing with experience is absurd, especially because . . .

    Arg. 3: HP obviously represent physical health - that's why they diminish with combat and accidents, and why healing restores them.

    Argument 2 and the subject of behaviour influence add nothing meaningful to the discussion.
    While I more or less* agree with these, I'd note that Argument 2 is a lot of fun, even if it isn't particularly relevant.

    *Again, gallons of blood, Dungeons and Dragonballs, so on and so forth. For that, they work beautifully.
    Last edited by Knaight; 2012-04-21 at 06:11 AM.
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by cattoy View Post
    Hit points measure the body's ability to withstand physical trauma/damage.

    If they were intended to reflect ANYTHING else, then the rules were horribly written.
    If you read the first edition notes, HP were indeed meant to represent physical trauma, and the reason players got more HP as they leveled up was not to represent them getting somehow magically tougher, but because they were more skilled at avoiding or minimizing damage, turning lethal wounds into mere strain and glancing blows.

    Of course, this all falls apart when you have people declaring suicidal actions like swimming in lava and not even trying to minimize the damage.

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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    I recently came up with a system of increasing armour class to replace increasing hit points, but it leaves even high level characters very vulnerable to special attacks such as dragon breath, fireball spells and to falling damage. I can't go back to the original hit point rules, though, so I've now come up with a magic item which provides a reserve of 'healing points' and tends to get fuller with experience.
    Last edited by Electric knight; 2012-04-22 at 07:41 PM.

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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    If you read the first edition notes, HP were indeed meant to represent physical trauma, and the reason players got more HP as they leveled up was not to represent them getting somehow magically tougher, but because they were more skilled at avoiding or minimizing damage, turning lethal wounds into mere strain and glancing blows.

    Of course, this all falls apart when you have people declaring suicidal actions like swimming in lava and not even trying to minimize the damage.
    It all falls apart as soon as characters fall in lava, or fall off a cliff, or are exposed to dangerous stuff that can't be mitigated. If one must treat a model delicately less it break, it breaking is due to a flaw in the model and not the ones using it. This is particularly true when similar models are made elsewhere that don't have those flaws, such as the coherent HP system in GURPS.
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    I already said the system gets a little wonky if players decide to swim in lava etc.

    However, if you are adept at tumbling and rolling with damage you can minimize the impact of falls, and I would imagine you could minimize contact with lava as you scramble to get away from it.

    If you are in a situation where this is actually no way to avoid or mitigate the damage, well that's why the book has rules for inescapable death.

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    I already said the system gets a little wonky if players decide to swim in lava etc.
    It applies just as much when it isn't their decision. If you fall in a lake of lava, there are no ways to mitigate that damage. That doesn't particularly matter with the actual HP rules. Plus, if it is physical damage, and more HP means better ability to turn actual wounds into tiny cuts, why don't healing spells scale by HP?
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  8. - Top - End - #128
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    If you read the first edition notes, HP were indeed meant to represent physical trauma, and the reason players got more HP as they leveled up was not to represent them getting somehow magically tougher, but because they were more skilled at avoiding or minimizing damage, turning lethal wounds into mere strain and glancing blows.
    Well, first edition AD&D actually describes hit point as having a very variable function, certainly magical aspects are considered part and parcel. OD&D on the other hand does not really bother to describe what hit points are, which is not surprising since it had just jumped from hits to hit points (normal men are slain when "hit", but heroes must be "hit" four times)..

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Of course, this all falls apart when you have people declaring suicidal actions like swimming in lava and not even trying to minimize the damage.
    Technically, hit points can be and are bypassed in the face of certain death. Poison, lava, assassination or anything of that ilk is simply death. Hit points only measure damage when damage is meted out in hit points, unfortunately there was a tendency to try and expand this universally to anything that threatened a character [e.g. falling damage].
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Healing spells are always a bit weird. My personal explanation was that as a character grew stronger they built up an innate resistance to magic. This explained why their saving throws went up as they leveled, and also why healing spells had proportionally reduced effectiveness.

    Inescapable death was a big thing in 1e and 2e, and the DM could apply it whenever they felt like. I believe the examples listed in the book where falling into lava and being crushed under a descending ceiling. Also, coup de grace was simple "target dies", no save or roll or anything.

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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Healing spells are always a bit weird. My personal explanation was that as a character grew stronger they built up an innate resistance to magic. This explained why their saving throws went up as they leveled, and also why healing spells had proportionally reduced effectiveness.
    I'd like that one, but the issue is that healing spells scale the exact same way damage spells do, where the latter should be mitigated both by magic resistance and by better wound mitigation, which could thus reduce damage further. It's all sorts of iffy, which gets back to the whole "incoherent mess" thing.
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  11. - Top - End - #131
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by harpy View Post
    I've been mulling over the nature of hit points lately. One thing that keeps cropping up is the issue of their “incoherence.” That is, hit points are seen as both an abstract model, but also a “realistic” model (and I put those quotes around realistic for a reason, don't go there!). On the one hand hit points are supposed to represent a broad range of factors, including physical health, luck, skill, divine grace, etc. However when hit points have to be recovered naturally the recovery is at a rate that better represents bodily damage.

    The incoherence began right from the start with Old D&D, however I'll skip over it because the game was still in an “accretion” state where game elements and assumptions were still forming. The references to hit points and there recovery are very brief and still assume some afterglow to miniature wargaming which is rife with deliberate abstraction. I'll also skip over Holmes Basic D&D because the language is terse to get a succinct rules package assembled.

    It's when we get to Advanced D&D where Gygax has license and page count to go into a great deal of depth on what hit points represent and how they are recovered. It's here where the contradiction comes into high relief. He even tries to address it pretty head on in the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide, but the explanation doesn't seem to quite fit.


    Already there is a problem here. Gygax pushes hard right at the beginning that hit points do not merely equate physical damage, and that as you gain levels the inflation of hit points means even less the capacity to absorb damage. Most of the hit points lean towards a sixth sense, luck, magic and divine protection. However, in that last sentence the sixth sense and luck are collapsed into a corporeal notion of “fitness.” He's trying to make a distinction between physique and fitness, but both analogies are tied to the body and not the more abstract notions of luck, fate, divine providence, or even just plain skill to avoid being hit.



    Above Gygax goes into more depth of how hit points can be broken down conceptually with a character. There are the hit points you gain from the class, and there is also the hit points gained from Constitution. There is some assumption that character's simply become tougher over time through the level inflation of hit points. Adventurers become inured to the hostile life and gain a kind of pain tolerance or willpower that can hopefully see them through tough situations. And so if you were to slice hit points into different categories, the corporeal hit points that represent health, pain tolerance, willpower, etc. versus the incorporeal hit points that represent luck, magic, divine grace and the avoidance of damage through skill, what happens is that the minority of them are every the corporeal hit points.



    Just as the first paragraph, this above paragraph seems fine until that last sentence. Once again we're given an explanation of how hit points function that seems to be at odds with itself. Gygax once again divides hit points into two broad categories, the physical hit points and the metaphysical hit points.

    If one wanted a sense of verisimilitude in their game, then it makes sense that the physical hit points one has need a good deal of rest and recuperation if you were to lose them. If someone in real life gets stabbed by a sword it could take weeks, months, years or even permanent damage that can never be recovered. So in that regard long rest periods do make sense.

    The incoherence comes from the metaphysical type of hit points needing the same amount of rest to be recovered. Why is luck, skill, divine favor or magic tied to the biological healing process? Why does a god only dribble out divine favor? Why is luck tied to tissue recover rates?

    Today, unlike in the 1970s, one could make an argument that skill and general performance are impacted by things such as PTSD, so there is some overlap between wounds healing and a more ephemeral mental recovery, but the metaphysical is also pushed hard in the hit point explanation and it doesn't fit well together.

    I've gotten ahead of myself a bit because we haven't looked at how hit point recovery happens in 1st edition. This is where the incoherence really hits hard because recovery rates are rather brutal, and the metaphysical elements are marginalized in specific ways.

    For natural healing, true rest (no combat, spell casting, etc.) can be performed. A character gains 1 hit point per day in the first week. In the subsequent weeks they gain 1 hit point per day, plus their Constitution bonus per week. If a character rests continuously for 4 weeks they gain all of their hit points back regardless of the amount to be gained.

    You can of course use magic to accelerate all of this. Spells, points, and other magic items will give you hit points at a much more accelerated rate. All of these magical effects are specifically defined as healing wounds.

    However, that magic or divine grace is not as helpful you if you have gone to 0 hit points or less unless it is very powerful. The character is automatically in a coma for a bit even if they gain positive hit points, and more devastatingly, they simply can not function and must rest for a week, even if they were brought to maximum hit points. The only thing they can do is stumble out of the dungeon and find a bed to collapse into.

    I'm walking through all of this because I just have to ask, why were hit points envisioned this way? Why stress the metaphysical when it came to absorbing damage, but when it came to recovery it was slanted towards the physical?

    The alternative is seen today in a variety of mediums. Most video games today with a health bar, which is just hit points presented in a different manner, generally have some kind of auto regeneration effect.

    Take your typical shooter today and how the health bar works is that if you take too much damage in a short period of time then you could die, but if you are able to duck, hide or generally pull yourself out of the line of fire you'll get your health back and can then rejoin the battle. This approach isn't realistic. If you get shot in real life you're pretty much shut down due to pain, bleeding and shock. However conceptually it emulates the metaphysical a bit more. In a sense you're not truly getting hit, instead you're getting grazed, or need to duck and your nerves are being overwhelmed, to the point where you finally do take an incapacitating hit.

    Likewise, with 4th edition of D&D there is finally an introduction of a more explicit metaphysical statement of hit points through healing surges and second winds. Characters have the capacity to regain some of their hit points in a variety of ways, including just taking a breather for a moment to collect themselves. Anyone who plays a sport or has been in highly physical situations knows full well that your capacity to output energy has a limit, but that if you manage the pace of that expenditure it can be sustained over a long period of time. So 4th edition is trying to address the kind of ebb and flow of a person's performance in stressful situations through hit points.

    So having some of those alternatives out there now, why weren't these ideas being used or considered back in the 1970s? Why wasn't there a “second wind” or say after five minutes of rest you'd regain half of your hit points, or any other metric where at least a portion of the metaphysical hit points could quickly come back to a character?
    It is not hit points that don't make sense as defined. The mechanic that is stapled on and illogical is healing. Hit points representing both an increase in physique and ability comes across fairly well. But then they decided that a low lvl heal should heal a low level character completely but only a powerful heal could heal a high lvl character..even though half(at least) of their injuries were mitigated not by physicality but by ability, meaning a cure light wounds should in fact heal a 10th lvl fighter for more hitpoints..but not necessarily a greater percentage of hit points..The problem being that this would, in general mean a cure light and a cure serious are identical spells or one of them is obsolete depending which way you correct for the problem. Making healing a special ability not tied to spell level with various utilities(burst, vs single target, etc) would probably be the best way to fix it..so longer as the uses per day were either unlimited( meaning much but not all of challenge becomes per encounter) or sufficiently plentiful. Alternately leaving them as spells with a sliding scale..the current sliding scale falls short yet..well current for me being 3.5. I do not play the later ones.

  12. - Top - End - #132
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by Straybow View Post
    You mock my pain.

    You might notice that I said "bleed to death in a few seconds" without comment on how ridiculous it is that a single round of attention by a person with no emergency medical training by modern standards could stabilize somebody that severely wounded.

    Nonetheless, my point was that this supposedly mortal wound is completely healed in ten days of simple bed rest, with essentially no medical care by modern standards.

    As absurd as that may be, the inconsistency is that the supposedly real, traumatic, mortal wound hit points heal just as fast and just as easily as the mystical scrape and bump hit points that aren't even worth counting as a hundredth of a point of real damage.

    That is indeed entertaining.
    Consider the potentiality that they do not count scrapes and bumps except insofar as those scrapes would have actually been substantial wounds to a less capable fighter but for their skill. Further, consider that the stabilization does not specify to manner of injury intentionally but might at times mean a pressure dressing or some other modality. Consider that all adventures have some measure of basic first aid by virtue of lifestyle. Indeed all people might well do to environment. You can as easily see the explanations for these things that concern you as you can see the flaws. they are both there..which in this particular case means the flaws aren't actually there as the answers are too. I, knew all manner of first aid before i was 10 and my parents were not in any way associated with the medical profession. They simply had many active(some call this wild) children.

    There are effects in the same to give you debilitations both short term and long. We do not need more of them and systems that use them extinsively are rarely if ever more accurate. What they are is more punitive. If you want that go for it but don't think it is more realistic. People fall hundreds of feet bounce several times and walk away and just as infrequently fall 1 foot and die. What lies between is a complex mix of the individual the surface they land on(how many games change damage based upon any surface other than liquid for a fall?), the angle of the fall...we could get into ligament strengths or cellular compositions...the hp system is reasonable. It is not the entire story..I could add a number of systems to make it both more complex and more realistic without actually replacing hp but your average group already takes most of a game session playing less than a minute collectively of combat(game time).

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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    I’m not sure but I think that resurrecting a 5 year old thread is a no-no at GitP. But the CLW argument is intriguing. I like your thoughts, but I always look at cure spells (and I’m coming from an AD&D 1E background) as abstract as we’re supposed to look at hit points.

    The higher you get, the less help the CLW is and the more important Heal becomes.
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    Last edited by rredmond; Yesterday at 09:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by rredmond View Post
    I’m not sure but I think that resurrecting a 5 year old thread is a no-no at GitP. But the CLW argument is intriguing. I like your thoughts, but I always look at cure spells (and I’m coming from an AD&D 1E background) as abstract as we’re supposed to look at hit points.

    The higher you get, the less help the CLW is and the more important Heal becomes.
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by rredmond View Post
    I’m not sure but I think that resurrecting a 5 year old thread is a no-no at GitP.
    Why not resurrect a 5-year-old thread... when whoever is making each new edition of D&D keeps resurrecting continuous / steep scaling hit points from the ashheap of ancient bad game design ideas?
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; Yesterday at 04:51 PM.
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    Default Re: Hit Points - Why were they designed to be incoherent?

    Quote Originally Posted by FreddyNoNose View Post
    It is a game. games have rules. To say they are supposed to be or mean X, Y, or Z is just some persons baggage.
    With the exception of the occasional extremely abstract game the rules are usually at least a very rough simulation of something - including for boardgames and videogames. With D&D, a lot of the rules are clearly supposed to mean something. The rules for jumping give a result which is how far you jump, the rules for AC give a result which is what attacks you dodge/ignore, a lot of the rules for spells map to the physical area taken up by spells and their direct effects, all of which has fairly overt meaning. Highly incoherent rules that don't mean anything are rare, and HP is explicitly among them.

    As for baggage, an attitude that D&D must be a perfect system that can never fail and can only be failed would qualify.
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