13 August 2010

Houserule: Wounds

Lord Chivalrous suddenly wonders whether
he left the kettle on.
One of the things that's bothered me for a long time is the treatment of hit points in D&D; specifically, how hit points are simultaneously health and not-health. They represent your ability to not get killed, luck, divine intervention, and sheer pluck. They also represent your ability to take hits, roll with punches, and sheer stubbornnes.

And there's nothing innately wrong with that. There's no real reason that you can't be the final arbiter of your character's skill, that two Fighters with 10 hit points can't be narratively different, with one not even noticing the stab wound in his arm as he kicks the orc in the chest, and the other skillfully dodging under the minotaur's clumsy, overhand hack and body-slamming the brute. Mechanically, according to D&D, there's no difference. And that's pretty cool, actually.

But there is something innately dissatisfying with the idea that this abstract representation takes so long to heal up. 1 hit point a day? Seriously? What am I "healing", anyways? Conan famously requires nothing more than breathing room and a swig of wine to ignore his wounds, and that's the sort of thing we should emulate, not Final Fantasy time and money drains.

In short, I've been considering adding Wounds to Labyrinth Lord, and they'd work fairly simply. You keep track of your Wounds separately, with each one reducing your maximum hit points by one. You take a wound whenever you get damaged by something. (Alternately, you could take a Wound for every 4 damage you take. Or, if you like, damage equal to half the class' hit dice size- so every 2 points for wizards, 3 for clerics, and 4 for fighters. This helps your tougher classes stay in the fight longer, if you're so inclined.) In this way, a hit means a hit, and Wounds represent real, physical damage. Whether you get hit by a stray arrow, an orc's sword, or the like, Wounds hurt, and they need to be healed.

To make up for your rapidly dwindling health, you regain all of your Hit Points by simply catching a breather of a minute or two. But not your Wounds. Your Wounds disappear at a rate of 1/level every time you get a good night's sleep. So, in other words, your Wounds represent the very real scrapes, cuts, bruises, gashes, concussions, and other sundry ailments that a life of hardship and pain brings. It represents the fact that even a knife cut hurts.

Clerics and other sources of healing magic can heal Wounds at a rate of 1 Wound per 5 HP healed, if they so choose. Of course, their healing is still useful, as it keeps a man from dying in combat, and is extremely useful for bringing a man up from the prone position, so to speak.

So you're tougher, and you can fight for longer in a day, but you still can't fight forever like some adventurers in "other games" can. But you're not any stronger in a straight fight than generic LL, so it's not like you have to redesign fights, encounters, or any sort of adventures. It puts a higher cap on what you can accomplish in a day, and that's always a Good Thing.


  1. I had a similar idea at one point. You can see it here:

  2. A flat healing rate does penalize the characters with more HP. When I'm starting out and I'm nearly killed, it takes me less than a week to heal. When I'm a mighty hero, it would take me months. (I know, I'd get magic - but even there it should be a cost for your percentage of hits restored, not per HP.)

  3. @ Dave: To be fair, you're getting beaten down much worse. For example, if you're 1st level, a couple of arrows in a day will beat you down pretty good. At 8th level, maybe it'll take you ten or twenty arrows, and you'll still be able to take much more damage.

    To do the math:
    A 1st level fighter takes is hit twice by a dagger, taking two wounds. His HP, assuming an average constitution, is on average a 4. So he rests two days and gets his health back to maximum.

    A 10th level fighter has on average 40HP, assuming an average constitution. If he takes twenty wounds, he's sustained an unholy amount of beatings. He's taken a couple of arrows, daggers, maces, spears, and bites to the face. In real life terms, this guy is running ragged. He's sustained wounds that normal men can't even comprehend. The beating the UFC guys take for a living is nothing compared to the day this guy has had.

    I don't think making him rest for a week is uncalled for. Especially if you go with the other part of the houserule I listed, where it's one wound/level per rest. In that case, he'd rest for two days to recover from *twenty arrow wounds*. That's some serious healing.

  4. I'd go with tying recovery rate to level, I think that's fair. It needs to represent, after all, not only the huge tank of a guy who can soak up massive beatings, but the wiry fellow who dodges the brunt of the blows.

    Incidentally, I forgot to say before that I *really* like your Wounds and HP rule. It's nice and simple and adds something interesting to the game. I'll be using it.

  5. Thanks, Dave. Let me know if you have anything to add about the rule- I haven't gotten a chance to playtest it just yet. :)

  6. In my endless quest to make the ultimate homebrew rpg, I am leaning towards a system where characters have a relatively low amount of health.

    Taking damage really means something, because damage causes penalties to a character's actions. A few games use this concept, and it still allows the GM and the player's to use colorful descriptions in combat.

    No more fighters jumping out of a 3 story window, because the player knows that the character can take the damage!

    And it solves the healing issues.

  7. @windmark: the game I was working on for a good while had fighting-class characters with three health. you essentially made a constitution check with a penalty on how much you got smacked to see whether you lost a wound or not.

    it was more complex than that, but it's essentially where the idea came from.