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Zloth July 14th, 2012 04:26

On Hit Points
1 Attachment(s)

It is quite unreasonable to assume that as a character gains levels of ability in his or her class that a corresponding gain in actual ability to sustain physical damage task place. It is preposterous to state such an assumption, for if we are to assume that a man is killed by a sword thrust which does 4 hit points of damage, we must similarly assume that a hero could, on the average, withstand five such thrusts before being slain! Why then the increase in hit points? Because these reflect both the actual physical ability of the character to withstand damage - as indicated by constitution bonus - and a commensurate increase in such areas as skill in combat and similar life-or-death situations, the "sixth sense" which warns the indivdual of some otherwise unforseen events, sheer luck, and the fantastic provisions of magical protections and/or divine protection….

Consider a character who is a 10th level fighter with an 18 constitution. This character would have an average of 5.5 hit points per die, plus a constitution bonus of 4 hit points per level, or 95 hit points! Each hit scored upon the character does only a small amount of actual physical harm - the sword thrust that would have run a 1st level fighter through the heart merely grazes the character due to the fighter's exeptional skill, luck, and sixth sense ability which caused movement to avoid the attack at just the right moment. However, having sustained 40 or 50 hit points of damage, our lordly fighter will be covered with a number of nicks, scratches, cuts and bruises. It will require a long period of rest and recuperation to regain the physical and metaphysical peak of 95 hit points.
Thus it was written in the DM's Guide back in 1979.

Computer games didn't really follow this idea. At first they really couldn't have - how do you show a sword barely grazing a character when you've only got a 16x16 sprite to work with? So games actually went with the "preposterous" notion which, unfortunately, is still with us today. If you go up against a character with high HP, you'll cut right into him over and over again and he'll keep fighting on.

Do computer games really still need to do this? Couldn't a modern game do some animation magic to turn an axe chop to the face into a glancing blow or some such? It seems to me that those sorts of animations would make the whole hit point concept a lot more reasonable. Certainly more reasonable than this:
Attachment 1488

Trelow July 16th, 2012 20:57

I think the abstraction works fine without needing a more cumbersome visual representation that would give me the same information.

BillSeurer July 16th, 2012 21:08

Hit points and levels in modern games are just laziness.

Thrasher July 16th, 2012 22:01

Yeah, it's as if they want keep this old abstraction around on top of skills for dodging, blocking, finesse PLUS player control for these things.

That 3 redundancies right there.

For simulation purposes, leveling hitpoints should go away.

BillSeurer July 16th, 2012 22:21

What is sad is that there was a paper set of rules for very realistic gunshot wounds from back in the 70s. We used to use them along with the little plastic army men and it was a blast. It took forever to figure stuff out but you could get things like getting your ear shot off or losing a finger and not "-1 hit points". This would be trivial with computers.


Thrasher July 16th, 2012 23:18

Cool! That rule book even predates my interest in roleplaying. Hard to find that nowadays. ;)

Zloth July 19th, 2012 02:49

That predates most everyone's interest in roleplaying! D&D didn't take off for another three years or so.

CountChocula July 19th, 2012 04:21

Interesting idea, Zloth - I think certain modern videogame features like locational damage, wounds, infections, real time blocking, etc., are somewhat in keeping with the same spirit of what the HP system and THAC0 mechanics were supposed to represent.

Still actually have my 1st edition DM's guide handy as well. It's fun to read once in a while and I ran a 1e campaign as recently as the beginning of this year.

Thrasher July 19th, 2012 05:10

As soon as ADD came out, I gave up up DMing, as the new books and rules became too expensive and time consuming to learn.

fadedc July 19th, 2012 07:04

If your going old school pen and paper, there's always the Rolemaster system. Every time you hit, you had to roll on a damage table based on the type of damage (ie slash, blunt) and the severity of the hit, to see exactly where the hit was and what was the effect. It could be very graphic and dramatic. It also could be confusing and often took forever (it's nickname was chartmaster).

Ultimately it depends on what type of game your trying to run. The damage tables in rolemaster made it more gritty and realistic and made combat scary. It was great in a campaign where battles were intended to be uncommon, tense, and deadly; but not so great for a more combat focused dungon crawl.

Maylander July 19th, 2012 11:22

Why shouldn't computer games use the same system as PnP? Adding an animation for dodging a blow is a lot more work than simply adding a "you have now reached level 5, rolls between X and Y will now be dodged".

In PnP you can describe almost any scenario, so it makes no sense to demand a more advanced system in a computer game than in PnP. It will always be the other way around: Some PnP rules and scenarios will be too advanced for computer games.

Anyway, hit points represent an easy way to describe how tough someone is. A master swordsman has a thousand ways of defending himself compared to a novice swordsman. Trying to animate or describe it all through various skills, abilities and animations is quite a challenge.

If PnP can't do it, computer games certainly can't.

Alrik Fassbauer July 19th, 2012 16:12

I still prefer text-based C-RPGs, simply because words can often deliver what graphics cannot.

BillSeurer July 19th, 2012 16:22

The Bio One system used a grid base hit location chart down to the inch IIRC. So if you got hit in the chest it might clip a rib, take out your spine, rip through your heart, or just "wing" you on the side. Then it had rules for what the result of that was including bleeding. Many wounds didn't kill or incapacitate you but bleeding ultimately was the real killer. It would make a fantastic computer game wound system.

Fnord July 19th, 2012 21:34


Originally Posted by Maylander (Post 1061153637)
If PnP can't do it, computer games certainly can't.

I've actually seen PnP games do this really well, and the systems that I've seen used could be transferred to a PC game (take a look at the Swedish RPG Eon if you have the chance, it is very detailed & realistic). But the question is, do you want to? The more realistic & deadly a system gets, the more things that can go wrong for the character, the less you want the character to fight a lot of monsters & other nasties (because getting injured is not something that has an easy fix). And we know from experience that such games don't sell as well as games that lets the player live out their power fantasies.
I would actually welcome a more realistic system in a game such as Jagged Alliance (which already has lasting injuries) more than I would welcome it in a regular CRPG.

Zloth July 20th, 2012 03:47

Thanks Count!

Rolemaster - I've got a bunch of those rules. I only got to play it a bit but it was quite fun. Combat was definitely something to avoid in that one. One lucky swing from a sloth could take off even the mightiest warrior's head! (Though it's also not hard to simply ignore the nastier crits for player characters.)

BioOne sounds rather on the deadly side, too. I'm afraid if they make the combat system too realistic it also becomes too deadly and is no longer fun. Getting killed by a ricochet that wasn't even aimed at you may be realistic but it isn't so fun. When you've invested a lot of time and heart in a character, you don't want him/her/it killed off by dumb luck.

Hmm, or maybe not. As Fnord said, it was pretty good to have in JA. If you've got several characters, a more realistic combat system might work a lot better. XCom might do that sort of thing, too. But with lots of characters you can't get as emotionally attached. Hmmmm…. Paranioa's instant clone system, perhaps?

Thrasher - Pah, that ain't nuthin! Ever see Star Fleet Battles?

fadedc July 20th, 2012 04:08

I was looking at Natuk again recently, it was a game where you played orcs and it did a pretty good job with a reasonably realistic combat system. But I think you had 8 characters, which helped a lot, so if one got taken out by a lucky headshot it wasn't the end of the world, and you could ressurect them after the fight. There were still hit points, but you could still take an arrow to the eye, lose a leg, etc. It could make difficult fights pretty tense as you not only worried about hit points running low, but getting more and more injuries.

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