Friday, April 25, 2008

d20 UTH: Hit Points

Hit points have always been a weak point of the d20 system. Under the old rules your Level 1 wizard could get put down by a kobold with a rusty dagger while a high level fighter could have a castle dropped on him and laugh it off. And regardless of how 'wounded' your character was, he was in top fighting form until knocked out.

There was a sweet spot, more like a zone, where characters had enough hit points that a single lucky shot wasn't going to take them out of the game but that they couldn't laugh off a half dozen guards with swords.

In 4e, they are making some interesting changes to hit points, including changing the formula that has been in the game from the beginning.

First, let's look at the current "curve". We'll compare characters with d8 hit dice, one with no Constitution bonus, the other with a +2.

Level +0 +2
1 5 7
4 20 28
8 40 56
12 60 84

The character with the +2 bonus always has 40% more hit points. By 12th level, the second character has 24 more hit points than the first.

Several tinkerers, myself included, have looked for ways to improve the durability of low level characters while lessening the curve. As an example, in my D&D campaign a character starts with 1/2 Constitution plus max hit points for their hit die, plus a set amount based on hit die plus Constitution bonus each level after that. In my system, assuming Constitutions 10 and 14:

Level +0 +2
1 13 15 +2 (15%)
4 28 36 +8 (29%)
8 48 64 +16 (33%)
12 68 92 +24 (35%)

So my system, while making low level characters more durable, still has a curve that closes on the original at higher levels. I should point out that there are other ways in my system to affect characters than raw hit points, but that is a different article.

The 4e methodology is Constitution plus a set amount based on class at first level. Hit points gained as levels go up are *not* modified by Constitution or Constitution bonus, which means the value of the difference between two characters of differing Constitutions but same class will remain static and the percentage difference will actually decrease.

Hmmm... I have to chew on this crunch. The question is now has Constitution been undervalued? There are new mechanics in the 4e that Constitution affects, but this will be a big paradigm shift for some players. Until they see things like healing surges in play, they may feel ripped off.

And right now a couple of my players are probably reading this and thinking "oh no."

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