Monday, January 7, 2008

Con Bonus to HP

Here's a thing that irritates me, especially about 3E: the Constitution bonus to Hit Points. It makes monster hit dice listings really complicated. Why can't the natural "toughness" of a creature be entirely reflected in a number of hit dice? Why do they get to "double-dip" with both multiple HD & Con bonus in 3E? And also, how can you ever tell what part of PC hit points are raw physique when the Con bonus changes over levels?

Consider the original rules from OD&D (white box). Everyone gets the same dice -- d6's. Different PC classes get their d6 dice at different rates. All monsters get a simple integer number of dice. Only if PC's have Con 15 do they get +1 benefit (very minor). Monster hit dice merge perfectly with PCs if you choose to interchange the two. Very elegant.

Keeping that in mind, here's a possible variant rule for the 3E d20 System; in fact, it really based on the "Variant: Vitality/Wound Points" from UA. Say PCs start with a base hit points equal to full Constitution -- that's their raw physical durability. Add to that hit points from class -- their Vitality, or quasi-dodge/roll ability (in the UA system, you get bonus points from Con, but I'd strike that out). Now, switch monster "hit dice" to actually be a number of d6's rolled for Constitution (and hence base hit points).

To wit: Orcs get 3d6 Con (base hit points), the same as humans. Hobgoblins get 4d6. Gnolls get 5, ogres 7, trolls 8. Giants get 10 and up, etc.

So, this system has the following advantages: (a) race-based hit points are the same as Con dice, represented by just a single integer; (b) it makes explicit the difference between raw physical damage and dodging-exhaustion; (c) it triples starting PC hit points for survivablity & granularity, which seems to be all the rage these days; (d) it makes the power increase from 1st-2nd-3rd class levels a lot less steep; (e) if PC hit dice revert back to all d6's like in OD&D, it becomes trivial to add class levels to any base monster; (f) no special rule is needed for unclassed humans, they just have 3d6 base hit points like everyone else.

However, now you probably have to re-evaluate reams of existing rules, possibly like weapons, spells, and monster attacks, to make sure that things are at least somewhat balanced. Nontheless, it's an attractive proposition (hearkening back to OD&D) to have these kinds of things be a simple, raw number of dice for base racial characteristics.

Of course, I'll never have time to completely work out all the implications of a system like that. I suppose I can go back to the regular d20 System and make my peace by saying that PCs learn better how to use their natural physical endurance as they advance (and hence get re-investing Con bonus every level). But man, I wish I could torpedo the monster Con-bonus hit points, and just say the raw Hit Dice number encapsulates how tough they are.


  1. Interesting idea, but like you say, it would take a bit of work to get it happening.

    And I think you are drawing a long bow to make too much of a comparison to OD&D - don't forget that all weapons did d6 damage, which was enough to kill any normal man (even one with 18 CON).

    Still worth some thought though...

  2. Sure, the granularity is a lot different from OD&D (i.e., people can take several more hits in this system).

    But, the main comparison and attraction of OD&D to me is how simple the monster listings were: namely just single-digit integers for most everything. In OD&D a gnoll has "AC 6, MV 9, HD 2", whereas in 3E it has "AC 15, MV 30, HD 2d8+2". It's the utter brevity of the OD&D monster stat listings that I'd like to revisit. Something the DM can totally memorize on the fly and not have to look up in a reference.

  3. I've created a OD&D/Holmes Homebrew that we currently use. Yep, d6's for everyone following the OD&D M&M guidelines for increasing as they climb through the levels (if they live that long). And ONLY +1 for CON as you mentioned.

    OD&D has a lot to offer (esp. if one mixes some house rules to give it a unique spin for one's campaign world).

    I still think back to the old days when we didn't have all the books, and worked from scraps of handwritten notes hurriedly scribbled from some rich kid's books during study hall. Yes, it was possible to play with just some notes, dice, a few charts and a knack for remembering simple Monster Stats...

    Which brings up another point... We played in the flux: when OD&D, Holmes Basic and the Monster Manual was all that was available (and no one was sure which version was the true Authoritative Text). Nonetheless, we sure had a blast.

  4. "To wit: Orcs get 3d6 Con (base hit points), the same as humans."

    How did you get to 3d6 Con for Orcs? Did you set it as such, or did you derive it in some way and coincidentally it is identical to the 3d6 of humans?

    In case of 3E you could in principle convert all Con bonuses to HD, by dividing the total bonus by 4.5 (exp. value for d8). From it follows then:

    Orc 1d8+1 becomes 1d8
    Hobgoblin 1d8+2 becomes 1d8
    Gnoll 2d8+2 becomes 2d8
    Ogre 4d8+11 becomes 6d8
    Troll 6d8+36 becomes 13d8
    (Hill) Giant 12d8+48 becomes 22d8

    So, you have to go over all the monsters and the final result is not a nice progression of integers. Not sure if that is worth the effort.

    1. Yeah, the orcish 3d6 was just to replicate human 3d6 Constitution rolls (i.e., the idea would be a radical break from legacy hit dice).

  5. Your suggestion is actually close to the system of the German RPG 'Das Schwarze Auge' (translated as the Dark Eye, if I remember correctly).

    You start with 25-35 hp depending on class and with each level you would gain 1d6 hp (regardless your class!).

    Weapon damage is similar to D&D, but armor reduces damage, rather than increasing your AC.

    This results in a funny dynamics: The battles take quite long and many blows are typically exchanged. For every hit (fully determined by the stats of the attacker, so no AC), the defender rolls for his defense and when this succeeds, there is a chance that your weapon breaks! For a club even 1 in 6.

    So, quite often you will stand mid-fight empty-handed.

    1. Sounds interesting, it seems like someone was just telling me about Dark Eye in another venue? But I must admit that long drawn out battles would be a disadvantage for me, as I like my fight scenes to be so fast that it freaks out a lot of conventional D&D players when they sit at my table the first time.

  6. It was my very first RPG in the 80s, before I encountered D&D proper. So, I have warm feelings for it. But, I would not play it again.

    Battles take really long although the (relatively) high chance of breaking a weapon gives interesting situations.

    Maybe I will implement that in my (A)D&D games by asking for an item saving throw after a fumble.

    1. What I do is use these critical/fumble tables that have some possibilities for weapon-loss or breaking (only on 70-74 on the last table). I do think that should be possible but pretty rare:

  7. 2012 ... I have almost finished 2011. Will soon turn to 2012!

    1. Ha! So glad you're reading and commenting!