Saturday, 12 January 2019

Thinking about Hit Dice

For multiple reasons (one of them being my incorrigible tinkering tendencies) I keep refining the way Lunchtime Dungeons handles damage. Hit points are gone and gutted, but I want to keep hit dice. I  think hit dice can be a fun mechanic.

"I thought I'd always be given a chance to avoid combat?" (D. Trampier)
Currently: the Wounds System

This is how I've been running damage after the system I was using proved to be inelegant over the Christmas playtest.

Characters have the one hit die, d4 to d12 depending on class and progression. For simplicity's sake, damage in Lunchtime Dungeons is a fixed number. A long sword does 6 damage, an musket 10, a dagger 3. A modified attack roll of 20 or more doubles that. Note that I've kept hit points for monsters. Fights can be over very quickly if the players are lucky.

Damage is measured in wounds. You die if you have more wounds than your level. Every time you are hit, you roll your hit die. If the result is equal or over the damage, you're fine. Not even a scratch. If you don't, you take a wound and we look at the difference (damage minus HD result) on this table:
1-2: Maybe a scar
3-4: Painful blow. Save to stay conscious
5: Bleeding. Roll your HD, you will take another wound in that many turns. Keep doing this until bandaged or healed.
6-7: Lose something, -d on some tasks. Roll d6: 1. Fingers (d4); 2. Hand; 3. Nose; 4. Ear; 5. Eye; 6. Looks.
8: Leg useless. Save to keep it when healed. Can't run. -d on agility tasks
9: Arm useless. Save to keep it when healed. -d when needing both arms or if it was the dominant hand
10-11: Head wound. -d on all rolls. Save or lose 1 prepared spell
12: Dead man walking, 1 turn + Constitution roll to live
13+: Vital organs destroyed, instant death
You recover wounds with healing magic and rest.

This version is highly lethal, as even a high level fighter with a HD of d12 can roll a 1 and be insta-killed (a mere mace does 7 damage, and a crit is always a possibility). I like it on paper, but I'm only human and I'd be heartbroken if the badass Viking lady in our campaign got offed that way.

"I knew I'd roll a 1 sooner or later" (M. Gröber)
The Hit Dice Pool System

Another way would be to dump the wounds. Instead, I'd give characters a pool of hit dice - one per level makes sense, maybe with a maximum number of dice that depends on class.

Whenever you're hit, you roll as many HD as you want and add the results together to beat the damage (still a fixed number). The hit dice are then lost. When you're out of dice, any damage taken kills you unless you make a CON or WIS save (your choice).

The wounds table above is optional. You can play a lighter game where it's all flesh wounds until you drop if that's what you're into. I like my combat gritty and dangerous, so I would keep using it (maybe tweaked a little to make sure it's worth rolling a single d4 against a battle axe or blunderbuss).

You recover your HD with magic and rest. I might use the 5E rule: get back a number of dice equal to half your level for a night's rest.

Now that's on paper, I do like this better. As a player, you have more control over your health as a resource. A mid-level fighter can pretty much guarantee they'll get out of the first scrap unharmed, but they'll have to be careful after that. Also, this doesn't introduce another concept in a game that's supposed to be light and beginner friendly.

Any thoughts, or should I go edit my manuscript and print out yet another batch of character sheets?

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