Hacking HP: Buckle Up
If you're reading these words, you're probably just like me: a GM who has at least one small group of friends tricked into thinking you know what you're doing. You've been playing RPGs for ages, gathering your bag of tricks and classic scenes. You're a bit of a game designer, hacking and homebrewing a game that can barely use its own rule books anymore. You answer to no one, so you can experiment with truly innovative changes in your game with no repercussions besides an occasional 'oops' or 'that was awful.'
Last year, our Old School Essentials group got tired of asking "what's my attack roll?" So we ditched them altogether. We adopted roll-under-stat as our attack and stat check paradigm. Nat 1's are crits. At first, I felt like a mutant heretic, but now it's a core of our table. It just works. I toss the occasional penalty in (Take 3 off your STR then roll it!) and life goes on without pesky modifiers.
Despite a lot of skipping happily and back-patting, our work was not yet done. We needed to hack the gorilla in the corner: Hit Points. Lo, how I have watched through the ages as players and GMs both bemoan HP bloat, huge HP pools in monsters, drawn-out 'grind' style tank-and-spank monster fights, and all the mathematic blah that comes with large numbers of HP in play. No more. We're gonna fix it.
At the end of the last OSE season (30-some sessions in a year or so), we fought a gigantic green dragon called Bloodwing.
Bloodwing forms from masses of smoke and attacks!
Rather than giving him 500+ HP, I simply gave him 6 'hits.' To inflict a hit, players needed either A) a crit or B) some wildly successful attack using the environment or something unforeseen. The fight was bloody wonderful. A real hoot. So, coming into season 2, we decided to adopt that system for everything.
After a little digging, I found this great article over at Gnome Stew by John Arcadian. The threshold concept in John's article unlocked our new damage system. We keep super fun damage rolls, but healing and HP are vastly cooked down.
So, we just use class Hit Die as the threshold. Exceed that threshold with damage to inflict a single hit. (see the new OSE PDF link below for more). All PC's start with 3 hits until killed. Easy Peasy.
Now, if you're like me, you should be thinking "Hold on, how would an attacker doing, say D4 damage ever injure a D6 HD or higher target?" A fine question, and its answer lies in this hideous chart:
Green? Roll under you stat to hit, and beat target threshold to land a single HIT.
Yellow? Once an attack succeeds, roll max damage to inflict a HIT, nothing else can get through!
Red? Only a critical success on your attack roll can land a HIT.
This chart only shows single-die attacker damage. Toss in a creature doing 2D4, 2D6, etc? Well, the chart gets a lot more green! In simple weapon-weapon combat though, let's say everyone is using a short sword (a D6 weapon), this chart shows you how critical HD are in such a fight, and how fast and simple it can be to determine hits!
As mentioned in the PDF below, you'll need to get some attention on healing and rest mechanics to complete your hits hack. Healing magic, in general, should never heal more than 1 hit. A short rest, if you play such things, recovers a single hit. Only in terribly rare circumstances should 2 or more hits be recovered, by magic, potion, rest, or other means. How often did you find a faerie fountain in Zelda? Yeah, not often enough. :)
Give it a try! I know for our table, this rocks.
Oh yeah, here's a drop box link to my latest hack PDF (normally for Patrons only, but aren't pay walls annoying?) OSE HACKED SEASON 2
Ha'Baka my friends.