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Old 02-25-2021, 11:07 AM   #1
Lameth
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

I just watched an interesting video on D&D and the concept of perhaps "are hit points outdated?"

In the video it brought up examples of things like:

The party is given the choice of the crime boss's knife against the throat of the young hostage and they leave, or she dies. Or the possessed nobleman being forced to kill himself in front of the crowd with a crossbow to his own head. Or the hero waking to a knife to his throat and if he moves, he dies. Or that rogue sneaks behind the sleeping guard and slits hit throat.

In most RPGs the Hit Points are a factor of how much you can live through, and how much you can take. So to often the heroes may look at the crime boss and just attack, knowing that they can take him out, and then get to the girl well before she takes enough damage to die. Or that nobleman can only take maybe 1d4 (its D&D in this case) to the head, and then even if you x2 it or x5 it!!, the odds that 10th level fighter noble will die instantly as the story says he should is very low, and with a simple healing spell of a few points its "oh hes fine, no problem everyone!".

Yes in GURPS there are critical hits, vitals, and so on, but even with that things can go off the story and come down to numbers., which is against the purpose of a story, tension, drama, and role playing.

If you needed that PC to know that if you do this, that NPC woman's throat will be cut and no matter how fast you think you are in combat, she will die. Yes she has a HT of 8, and yes she can go down to x5 before auto death, and yes she will be making health rolls for death, but no...if you press the bad guy blood will flow. Or when the PC walks into the dark room and from behind they hear the light click of the gun to their back...if you move you will not just take 2d6 to vitals, no, you may take maybe x4 or x5!!, and its automatically a major wound and stunning and so forth, due to you not being prepared for the attack and are at a disadvantage in this.

If there is no sense of danger or automatic crippling or death in those rare movie drama moments, and a simple healing spell or a fast compress to the throat can stop any tension, then what is the best middle ground?

No im not looking for auto death of the PCs, but to give a higher sense that there is true danger outside of your hit points pool totals, and the death rolls with a 16 that you will always make. Giving more sense of danger to dangerous dramatic situations and a sense of dread and allowing PCs to see past "well I have a potential pool of 55, and that arrow can only do 8 or maybe 16, and my HT is a 15, so ya ill charge the guy and take the arrow aimed at me by the sniper, if needed, screw it, ill be fine". Where these are not my players most times, im sure in any game this happens.

So as a die hard GURPS GM for decades I was wondering do any of you have rules built in for when the story says death, or near to it should just happen, period, and hit points have nothing to do with it? Or if that PC is shot from the back by surprise they are going down, or that sleeping guard getting his throat cut is dead, period.

Last edited by Lameth; 02-25-2021 at 11:10 AM.
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:19 AM   #2
Anders
 
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Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

In situations where it would be ridiculous for someone to survive (like bathing in lava, which does 10d burning and you could roll all 1s) I just say "you're dead" or "he's dead, Jim."

Edit: Isn't there a conditions-based injury in one of the Pyramids? For some reason Douglas Cole springs to mind.
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:25 AM   #3
Fred Brackin
 
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Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lameth View Post
I was wondering do any of you have rules built in for when the story says death, .
I don't let stories determine outcomes for me and I'm definitely not there to tell stories to my players.

I'd tell them what the npc was trying to do and if they asked I'd tell them what their characters estimated were the odds of preventing it. I would not go an inch out of my way to try and make sure that Nyx the Barbarian wouldn't be able to move that far under a Great Haste Spell and send her Flaming Morningstar through the npc's skull before his hand could finish twitching.

The situations you're theoretically trying to set up aren't that realtistic when talking about a highly competent set of PCs and if the rules say that isn't what would happen then the "story" can go suck lemons.
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:28 AM   #4
Anaraxes
 
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Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

On the other hand, source fiction has plenty of examples of heroes that take a beating, and keep on going, gradually getting worn down.

I was struck back when I saw Taken, with Liam Neeson, for example. It seemed like a classic D&D dungeon to me. In one early fight scene, he starts a fight in a tiny interrogation room with half a dozen mooks. Sure, they're in arm's reach -- but in a realistic game, there's no way he wouldn't have been dead on the floor. All it would take would be one of them (even if he's the last of six) to pull a trigger. But, our hero takes them all out, because they're mooks. But he does get a little beaten up. There are a few more encounters, leaving him more tired and bedraggled looking after each, which of course just serves to make the final boss fight that much more dramatic. That progression would be well modelled by wearing away an ablative hit point resource, hoping not to run out before you finish the dungeon.
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Old 02-25-2021, 11:50 AM   #5
Lameth
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
I don't let stories determine outcomes for me and I'm definitely not there to tell stories to my players.

I'd tell them what the npc was trying to do and if they asked I'd tell them what their characters estimated were the odds of preventing it. I would not go an inch out of my way to try and make sure that Nyx the Barbarian wouldn't be able to move that far under a Great Haste Spell and send her Flaming Morningstar through the npc's skull before his hand could finish twitching.

The situations you're theoretically trying to set up aren't that realtistic when talking about a highly competent set of PCs and if the rules say that isn't what would happen then the "story" can go suck lemons.
Sorry Fred, that's not what I meant. I meant, lets say the thug has the knife against the woman's throat and the PCs press the attack. The thug does the deed and rolls 3 points of cutting, and even to the throat that is not enough to kill the NPC, let alone bring her near a serious death... therefore "some" PCs knowing the math would not be that concerned with the stand off all that much. Its not a matter of just killing someone...its a matter of when the concept of HPs is not realistic to real life nor what would happen and to rev up the sense of danger in some rare'ish situations.

Yes its a game, yes there is magic and monsters, but there is still reality, physics, and biology.. and most importantly drama, intrigue, stress, danger, tension, and Story. We are not just game referees, but also story makers and tellers as well as entertainers in my opinion.

So maybe that defenseless woman, having the knife against her throat, no hope of fighting back, would not take just listed damage but maybe something like an extra multiplier or 2 or "double" whatever she should be at for being defenseless, or at a true disadvantage? Therefore her rolls are worse, so would her recusing by the PCs in the nick of time would be all the more fantastic due to her being so close to really dying and not just having a scar.

That is what i am talking about.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:01 PM   #6
Gnome
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Cambridge, MA
Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

I don't know if this helps, but here's what's on B423:

Instant Death
Decapitation, a cut throat, etc. can kill anyone, regardless of HT and HP. If a helpless or unconscious person is attacked in an obviously lethal way, he’s dead. Don’t bother to roll for damage, calculate remaining HP, etc. Just assume that he drops to -5xHP.

The GM is left to define what "helpless" means, but if a strong thug has an ordinary person grappled with a knife held to the person's throat, you could as a GM rule the person is helpless.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:11 PM   #7
Lameth
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnome View Post
I don't know if this helps, but here's what's on B423:

Instant Death
Decapitation, a cut throat, etc. can kill anyone, regardless of HT and HP. If a helpless or unconscious person is attacked in an obviously lethal way, heís dead. Donít bother to roll for damage, calculate remaining HP, etc. Just assume that he drops to -5xHP.

The GM is left to define what "helpless" means, but if a strong thug has an ordinary person grappled with a knife held to the person's throat, you could as a GM rule the person is helpless.
very good point thank you Gnome.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:13 PM   #8
Anthony
 
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Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

Hit points have never been a very realistic representation of how wounding actually works, but realism isn't really the goal of most RPGs and PCs dying in one hit will result in a lot of PC turnover in any game that involves combat.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:15 PM   #9
talonthehand
 
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Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lameth View Post
Yes its a game, yes there is magic and monsters, but there is still reality, physics, and biology.. and most importantly drama, intrigue, stress, danger, tension, and Story. We are not just game referees, but also story makers and tellers as well as entertainers in my opinion.

So maybe that defenseless woman, having the knife against her throat, no hope of fighting back, would not take just listed damage but maybe something like an extra multiplier or 2 or "double" whatever she should be at for being defenseless, or at a true disadvantage? Therefore her rolls are worse, so would her recusing by the PCs in the nick of time would be all the more fantastic due to her being so close to really dying and not just having a scar.

That is what i am talking about.
I'd need to check the math on how often it comes up that they don't die - in reality people do occasionally survive having their throats cut or even getting shot in the head. If it's a rarity enough in GURPS, I'd just call it their lucky day, or that in this case the mugger with the knife didn't have their heart in it and botched the job.
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Old 02-25-2021, 12:19 PM   #10
Varyon
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Default Re: Hit Points...to be, or not to be?

At least in 3e, part of the text explaining HP in DnD (I forget if it was in the PHB or DMG) had a phrase along the lines of "A dagger to the face is still a dagger to the face!" This implied that the GM was meant to ignore HP in cases where a character would "obviously" die, and just say "He's dead, Jim." Failing that, there was also the Coup de Grace option against helpless targets (which would apply to a bound hostage or suicide attempt), which meant an automatic critical hit as well as the target having to pass a Fortitude save (DC equal to 10+damage) or die outright.

In GURPS, unless using rules or Advantages that make characters particularly hardy (in which case the character not dying outright is Working As Intended*), the situations you describe are indeed quite likely to result in the character's death. There is a chance of survival, of course, but that's not terribly unrealistic. The girl with the slit throat is unlikely to die instantly (even with a high damage roll, 6 cut to the Neck Veins/Arteries will deal 15 HP of Injury, which can't instantly kill anyone with HP over 7), but is going to be bleeding rapidly, and will require Surgery or magic to save. If the noble with a crossbow to his head rolls low damage, that may mean the bolt went through a non-critical portion of his brain (normal people have survived worse). GURPS may overstate the probability of survival, due to it tending a bit toward cinematic "heroic realism," but you'll rarely get impossible results, unless in a setting where the impossible is possible... which again would be things Working As Intended.


*I was recently rereading some of The Zombie Knight Saga, and there's a somewhat humorous scene there where an enemy Servant commits suicide by repeatedly shooting himself in the head with his sidearm, emptying the magazine before finally dying. For context, Servants are basically undead that are bound to an incorporeal Reaper, and that become more resilient as they age (in an earlier scene a fairly old servant gets shot in the temple with a high-powered rifle; the bullet smashes itself against his skull, leaving only a small bruise). They can only be "killed" by destroying their brains, but doing so allows their Reaper to remake them from nothing. A common strategy in warfare is to capture Servants by decapitation and freezing and/or extracting the brain (the Reaper can't remake the Servant if the brain is still intact), so Servants in a losing battle will often destroy their own brain to escape (provided their Reaper is elsewhere).
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Last edited by Varyon; 02-25-2021 at 12:24 PM.
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