Should D&D Keep Hit Points Scalable, Make Them Static?

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by Michael H. Olson

One thing I really like about D&D Next, so far, is that it gives player characters a much lower starting point for hit points, similar to first-edition D&D and second-edition Dungeons and Dragons. However, I'm not sure hit points needed to be lowered from what was presented in the first D&D Next test packet. 

The benefits of lower hit points are that magic items actually mean something now (that was something that always bothered me about 4th edition) with a +1 to hit and damage being much more important when enemies have only 10 hit points as opposed to 30 and when an enemy has static armor class as opposed to level-improving scaling armor class. 

On the other hand, I don't want D&DNext to return to the old broken mechanic of wizards getting killed every time someone grazes them with a weapon at first level because they only start with one or two hit points. Really, I think a happy medium is in order in this case, at least for low level play. That means designers should bump the starting hit points back up to where they were in the first D&D Next test packet. This solves the fragility problem of wizards AND the hit-dice mechanic problem mentioned by some people for healing at low levels (right now, each class has one healing hit die at first level, but it basically has the effect of PCs waiting until they have zero hit points or only one before suddenly "springing back to life," going from one hit point or less to full hit points. With a few more hit points, they would still retain at least a little bit of damage even after using a hit die).

After setting the starting level of hit points back to a slightly higher amount, though, I think the real problem with hit points is not in how many PCs start with, but in how they SCALE. Time and again, in past editions of D&D, game-play has bogged down at high levels because everyone has a ridiculous number of hit points and it takes too long to beat down an enemy’s hit points to nothing. Perhaps, for this reason, D&DNext should completely eliminate the idea of increasing hit points when you level up, or at least reduce the amount gained per level by a drastic amount (i.e. maybe only one hit point per level for non-fighter types and two hit points per level for fighter types)?

Anyway, what do you think about starting hit points? Are they not enough, too many, or just right? Also, are you like me and think the designers should instead concentrate on limiting or eliminating the number of hit points gained per level?

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Comments

Jean da Silva
10/25/2012 12:15pm

I agree with you but maybe the hit point per level could be something like it was before. Let's say my character is a fighter and it receives 2 HP per level, or the Constitution mod if it is higher. It is a simple rule and valorizes players who spent points in constitution, but don't penalize the ones who don't.

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10/29/2012 3:07pm

That's certainly a possibility to think about, but don't forget that PCs already get a starting bonus to hit points if they choose a high constitution score, so they ARE already rewarded for that high CON. If you do it your way, it may unbalance the game significantly when PCs get to high levels because PCs with a high CON could feasibly obtain double the normal number of hit points for level advancement (50 extra hit points at 25th level, for instance, instead of 25).

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Thaseus
11/04/2012 1:03pm

I think that If you have an increasing amount of hit points of one plus your constitution modifier (for example, if a wizard had a con modifier of 2, the wizard would get 3 hit points per level). Then you would gain a smaller amount of hit points each level and still get rewarded for high constitution.

09/01/2013 11:50pm

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