Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hit Dice & Hit Points

In my previous post I talked about redefining the nature of hit points arriving at a concise definition that hit points represent your ability to avoid a hit.  Any attack making it past your defenses would be considered life threatening unless you have hit points remaining to neutralize the hit.  Defining hit points got me thinking about how each class defines their hit points, the hit die (HD).  For those unfamiliar a HD is the type of die you roll to determine how many hit points you gain at each level ranging from the curious d4 pyramid to the mighty and oft neglected d12.

Looking at the way HD are assigned the smallest HD goes to the character least likely to be squaring off in melee, the magic-user, while the largest HD goes to the character you only expect to see in the melee going on and on about the lamentations of women, the barbarian.  A casual observation would seem to indicate that the ones doing the most fighting should have the highest hit dice while the classes that have a wider selection in solving problems have smaller HD.  Well alright, that makes sense to a degree but think about this.  If hit points represent your ability to not be hit, shouldn't the people who want above all to not be hit have the highest hit points.  Meaning that the wizard in his silk pajamas will be doing his best to keep out of the way of stray arrows while the berserker could care less how often he is hit.  Did I just blow your mind?  It's ok, take a moment to collect yourself before we ride this rollercoaster of insanity to the finish.

Wizards with larger hit dice than fighting mans, you can't be serious?!  Oh, but I am.  You see the Wizard isn't going to sit around while bjork the orc swings his radical axe.  He's going to grab his silly hat and hightail it before that axe has a chance to split him in twain.  Frank the tank isn't too worried about this bobbing and weaving nonsense, he's got the armor of his ancestors to look out for him while his vorpal blade goes snicker snack.  As we all know wizards don't wear armor, it gets in the way of their pernicious dance moves.  So it stands to reason in this topsy turvy bizarro world that the wizard should have more hit points than the fighting man because the wizard has a glass jaw!

Now you may be stroking your beard safe under the protection of your cthulu proof cap of tin foil (+1) preparing a counter argument.  Something about not being near an orc or in a melee to begin with.  Also, that men of a fighting nature are used to avoiding retirement ruining blows due to their combat focus.  To which I would agree.  So this is what I came up with.  Each class has a different attribute for hit points.

That's right, no longer is constitution (or whatever variant suits your fancy) the end all be all to hit points.  I initially thought of this when I redefined hit points to be only avoiding hits.  In that case your healthiness didn't completely correlate with that definition.  Sure it makes you more resistant to fatigue but it would make a lot more sense if your agility were boosting your values representing dodging thrusts and blocking slashes.  That got me thinking, wouldn't each class have their own method of avoiding death.  A spy would likely use their quick wits and charm to seize an opportunity and get away.  A magic-user would be shaping the winds to impact the arrows trajectory or shifting a puddle to turn the cobble stone slick prompting their attacker to slip and overexert themselves.  A berserker trusts only in his courage and battle rage to pull him through.  To that end I decided that each class should be using a different attribute to calculate their hit points.

Since I like simple solutions here is what I decided on.  You add your classes primary and secondary attribute modifiers to each hit die rolled.  I designed each class to have at least two attributes that really fit the theme of the class.  The skirmisher type relies on their superior agility to get out of the way and their marathon endurance to keep it up for as long as possible. The magic user relies on their ability to shape the elements to influence incoming attacks and their knowledge of the unknown to threaten curses on those that would attack them sometimes staying their hand.  The leader type relies on their brawn to lock swords with their opponents and either their knowledge of tactics or their courage to lead from the front to carry them through.  If you can't envision how certain attributes could be apply to hit points I've prepared a few examples of non-physical stats below that I think will help.

The Fearless Knight: “You see my lady, most knights will look away at the last minute as the lance hits them to protect their eyes. Not this one, he keeps his eyes on the prize the entire time and that is what makes him dangerous.”

The Inquisitrix: “Seeing the muscles in his neck tense up I knew he was about to do something foolish. His right foot swung out well before his fist did but by then I was already well prepared to intercept.”

The Tactician: “With a weapon that large I imagine most are so stunned that they don't have the chance to get out of it's way.  I bet it would do a lot of damage when it finally hits something but a weapon that size has its own disadvantages. For instance you can only reliably swing that either horizontally or vertically meaning that I've got a 50/50 shot of predicting and evading your attack.  Compound that with such a slow windup time and I'm practically untouchable.  Your move champ."

 The Alchemist Firebug: "I'd reconsider that if I were you.  On a day like today with the sun high in the sky on the thirtieth day of this damnable drought I can only imagine how hot it is in that armor of yours.  Now you see I've taken the liberty of super heating the air around me so that if you even think of drawing steel on me you'll be flinching in pain as the metal starts searing into you producing the same sound as bacon hitting a hot pan.  Those of you foolish enough to cut through the pain can look forward to your armor enjoying the same heat treatment and pretty soon you'll be cooking faster than you can tear that armor off.  So go ahead, draw steel on me and let's see how well that ends.

I briefly considered having different attributes apply to defense and reading the above examples you could certainly make a case for it.  However, I think it would be far simpler to keep a simple unified formula for defense as it would make it easy for players to remember and far easier to design monsters along that way.  Since each class already had two attributes recommended to players it didn't take much to have those two attributes apply to their hit points as well.  Fighting types will more than likely retain their larger HD but all in all I'm rather satisfied with this solution.  If you like feel free to use and adapt it for yourself.