Friday, June 10, 2011

Hit Points, Hargrave, and Me

I have a love-hate relationship with D&D style hit points. On the one hand, they are ridiculously easy to use and track. Also, the low hit point totals of low-level characters enforce a certain grittiness I like, and hit points are a good implementation of the idea of managing limited resources. On the minus side, high level characters' hit points make them seem invulnerable to normal threats, make it hard to mix on characters with large level differences, and often lack verisimilitude.

Dave Hargrave thought the same back in the 70s and early 80s. His solution was an alternate hit point system for PCs he elaborated on in the (second?) volume of his Arduin trilogy. His system set up a much higher starting total based on things like race, class, and (going on memory) Constitution. This total increased each level, but by small, fixed amounts. This seems on many levels to be the early forerunner of 4e's system.

While this brings down high level hit points and prolongs low-level characters' survival chances, it also removes the fear of sudden, brutal death. Apparently, Dave already had that covered with some brutal critical hit charts.

This tome demonstrates a major challenge of house rules-- that one change may beget another, adding complexity to solve a seemingly simple problem.

Every time I think of ways to address my hit point concerns, I keep reaching for rules changes rather than tweaks (Arduin style hit points, Star Wars d20 hit points and vitality rules, AD&D style negative hit points) and each leads to more changes.

Which all makes me think I may just be trying to fix something that isn't broken, and that maybe I need to embrace the rules for what they are.