Thursday, 26 July 2012

D&D my Cyberpunk; or, Hit points? We don't need no stinking hit points!

Some of the comments on yesterday's post got me thinking. It would be perfectly possible to run a game of D&D and using its core themes (bunch of adventurers seeking glory, wealth, fame and fortune through exploring ancient tombs and ruins and hexcrawling) in a setting with more up-to-date technology - taking inspiration from, say, the American Wild West, Brazil in the era of the bandeirantes, the exploration of Australia's interior by whites, the Russian conquest of Siberia, Livingstone's journeys in to "darkest Africa", and so on - but with dragons - were it not for the fact that D&D as a system just doesn't model guns very well. You can explain away the fact that 9th level characters have so many hit points by abstraction in a normal game of D&D, but the abstraction gets stretched to breaking point once it comes to bullets (this is part of the reason why I loathed my experience playing d20 Modern, despite perfectly good DM and players).

There is a simple solution to this, of course: as characters gain levels they don't gain hit points. A 9th-level character has the same number he started out with. (The DM might want to be generous and give starting characters max hit points for their class.) So an ambush of 9th-level characters by shotgun wielding goblins would retain the sense of fear and danger that a real gunfight would have, and make things suitably concrete.

Another thought occurs, however: Cyberpunk 2020 is a surprisingly robust and effective generic system if you want something that is easier to learn than GURPS while retaining a decent level of grit and crunch. I know this because I ran a WWII-era zombie game with it and thought it worked very effectively. (The only complaint would be that dice rolls are irritating and fiddly when it comes to damage - if you get hit by a 7.62mmx54mmR round you have to roll and add up 6d6+2 damage, which is clearly enough to render an unarmoured target dead in almost all cases but not quite enough to justify saying 'a hit is a kill', so in big gun fights you are constantly rolling and totalling up fistfuls of d6s.)

I also think that, the more 'modern' ones D&D becomes, the more it needs to have skills. In a low-technology world, people are not particularly specialised, because adventuring skills are not hard to learn: everybody can swim, use a rope, climb, pick locks, look for secret doors, etc. But the more technologically advanced a society becomes, the more career-type skills become necessary - it's more plausible to imagine somebody would have to sacrifice learning other skills in order to become a train driver, or astronomer, or demolitions expert, or whatever. A system that wants to model this would have to have a skill system, and Cyberpunk 2020 has a simple and reasonably effective one.

You would probably need to have some sort of wealth-for-XP mechanic on top of it, of course, but that would be easy to cobble together. As characters gained levels they would become more skilful, and the magic-users would get to use more powerful spells, but their basic physicality - their attributes and hit points - would remain the same and they would be as frail as ever in combat. I think this would be an interesting marriage between adventuresome exploration and hijinks and the constant risk of sudden death.

65 comments:

  1. I run sci-fi and gunfights with "hitpoints" very easily and quite well.

    Specifically they are "luck points". When the guns are going off and you are "taking damage" it represents the storm-trooper like inability to hit you.

    When you "run out of luck" then the hits become long term injuries that quickly kill you and leave you with seeping wounds.

    You should pop into my Monday night Sci-fi game if you want to see how bullets work out.

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    1. I've thought about that, but it always struck me that it would be super awkward in practice.

      "The goblin with the elephant gun cocks his weapon and blasts away at you -- he rolls a 17 -- a hit! You take 15 damage as you ... uh ... dodge to the side and the big elephant slug ricochets off the boulder behind you. So I guess he actually misses."

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    2. Ivan,

      Think of it instead as "The goblin blasts away, he's going to get a hit for 15 points of damage unless you chip in HP to lower the damage"

      "I have 14 to chip in, so I'll still take 1 damage"

      "Ok, as he's lining up a shot he squints in the sun and the bullet grazes your arm."

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    3. Cool system, Zzarchov.

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    4. I still think Cyberpunk's guns give a more satisfying result. HP as luck is just not very gritty!

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  2. Actually, I think high HP are a perfect abstraction for why veteran troops, even modern troops including fighter and bomber pilots, survive longer than green troops... as long as you don't try to interpret a "hit" that reduces HP as being actually getting shot. In the real world there does seem to be something that actual experience in combat bestows that makes those that survive not just slightly but many times more likely to survive their next battle, and this something does seem to be cumulative (the more battles you survive, the better your odds) but exhaustible (the longer you are in the field in a continuous stretch the worse), and which requires substantial (days or weeks, not hours) R&R to replenish once it's started to run out. Moreover, it has little or nothing to do with the accumulation of actual physical wounds, since it's still true of soldier in wars where the wounded got shipped away from the fighting.

    In modern settings using HP, I'd interpret a "hit" as just being a miss close enough that the character had to (or at least thought he had to) take action to avoid it. Something that caused a jolt of adrenaline and reduced the character's alertness/combat readiness. In a situation where that doesn't make any sense (shot at point blank range in the head, or in a plane that crashed), it would be a save vs. death, not a roll to hit, then roll for damage vs. HP.

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    1. I understand how that works theoretically, but in practice it seems deeply unsatisfying for me, and hard to suspend my disbelief. I don't like the idea of rolling 'to hit' when it isn't really to hit, it's to see how successfully you impact on an abstraction of a number of different factors.

      It also doesn't represent 'misses'. What is a 'miss' roll, if a 'to hit' roll is not really a hit, but a reduction in an exhaustible amount of luck and experience? Shouldn't all shots fired in anger by the enemy have some impact on that exhaustible amount of luck and experience? In which case why have a 'to hit' roll in the first place?

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    2. Abstraction has always sort of broken down in the case of ranged weapons in D&D. So an OD&D and AD&D round is supposed to be 1 minute long, right? And during that time, there are many dodges, feints, swings, and thrusts with a sword. But an archer only gets one shot, and only uses one arrow. It's really the ammunition that breaks the abstraction here, and the same thing happens with guns.

      To be honest, a gunshot wound is not necessarily more gruesome or deadly than an axe to the head, so I'm not sure exactly what the problem is (though I totally recognize that it is a matter of taste). Bullets can "hit" and still graze or be a flesh wound.

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    4. Joshua wrote: _Something that caused a jolt of adrenaline and reduced the character's alertness/combat readiness. In a situation where that doesn't make any sense (shot at point blank range in the head, or in a plane that crashed), it would be a save vs. death, not a roll to hit, then roll for damage vs. HP._

      This is exactly how I would do it. It's also how I currently handle falls of greater than 50 feet.

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  3. Good post. As Joshua suggests, it may help to define "HP" before continuing with your conclusions. Either way, though, I agree that Cyberpunk 2020 is a simple and effective system. I, personally, love Friday Night Firefight mechanics precisely because gunfights can turn deadly at any time during a fight.

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    1. FNFF is a really cool system.

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    2. YES! FNFF is a great system. i have long dreamed of running this as a dungeoncrawl. isn't FNFF based on the same system as Mekton?

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  4. Why not OpenQuest, or it's gun happy descendants - Renaissance and The Company?

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    1. With 'Improvement Rolls' tied to wealth gained in an 'adventuresome' manner, of course.

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    2. I had no idea what that was, but just googled it. Interesting! Am going to download it and see what I think.

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  5. In D&D, "skills" are implied by Class, thieves have thieving skills, magic users can cast spells, etc. In a "modern" setting, you either need a skill system of some sort, or some kind of class system that includes/implies the necessary skills for the job you are trying to do. Gunner, driver, dirigible pilot, maybe have a primary profession and two or three secondary professions that include the range of skills necessary for the adventure. I find skill systems to be somewhat cumbersome and frequently too specific, a specialty using the Webley revolver doesn't necessarily mean a penalty in using a Smith & Wesson revolver. If you make the skills more general, like "firearms" would include both pistols and rifles, but maybe not 50mm canons. I like to keep things simple, complicated rules do not add to the realism, but rather, detract from it.

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    1. Sure, having skills being specific but not too specific is a fine art. Skills for things like "swimming" are ridiculous because they are ubiquitous, and for things like ".38 special" are too restrictive.

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  6. I'm with Joshua, don't see the need for grossly inflated firearm damage numbers. If hit points of PCs are a resource that lets you dodge and luck your way out of certain death then why shouldn't 30 hp of gun damage on your 40 hp character be a Pulp Fiction moment where you're left standing with bullet holes in the wall all round you?

    And yes, a point blank shot in the head is similar to a dagger across the throat while sleeping.

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    1. See my reply to him. How do you rationalise what a missed roll is in that framework? It's a shot that you didn't need to be lucky to avoid? Well yeah, by definition, because it's a miss. That's tautologous and weird. The hand-waving and counter-intuitive nature of imagining combat that way seems really unsatisfying to me.

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    2. The same strain exists in D&D with arrow fire. You can't abstract an entire round of melee into one roll on the one hand & then take ballistic combat rolls as applying to only a single projectile each without breaking the abstraction.

      To maintain abstraction the single roll must stand in for an entire round of gun fu, dodging, using cover, &c just as it does for blades. There needn't be anything strange or different about guns. In fact, if you are using abstract combat, there can't be.

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    3. You can just about forgive arrows, is my point (although I always hated that D&D didn't model arrow use properly at all beyond level 2 or so) but it becomes even less possible to forgive the breaking of abstraction when it comes to guns.

      Partially this is because of the effects of guns and arrows. We know that decent armour, and certainly shields, could deflect arrows a lot of the time, so it isn't a huge stretch for the DM to describe arrows pinging off armour, pinioning into shields and what have you, and reducing this entirely notional value of "hit points" in doing so.

      That doesn't work with guns - at least, before modern body armour was invented. The DM has to counter-intuitively and implausibly describe all hits as misses if we use the abstract system, until characters' hit points run out, where suddenly their enemies (hitherto incompetent ninnies) become expert marksman and score hits.

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    4. I suppose the way I handle ballistic fire in D&D is heavily influenced by Risus and, to a lesser extent, Feng Shui. It's all, even the armour & swords, basically FX. I start with 'it's abstract' and work down from there. Like, if they lose HP, the description for unarmoured PCs might be "a hail of gunfire pins you behind the laboratory table. You lose 3 HP, roll your Save", whereas for armoured PCs it might be "They strafe the laboratory, with a lucky round striking your torso as you dive behind a table. You take 3 damage, roll your Save." On a miss I just drop the statement of damage/saving. Shattering glass, a spray of scalding steam, whatever, can all be applied when hit points are lost, & if the loss is fatal or the Save is blown, I usually get the Player to describe how they go out: "As I hit the floor behind the table my head slams into the cold tile and the world goes dark," or once, quite memorably, "As my Dwarf struggles with the hatchway his beard becomes trapped in the valve mechanism. Water continues to flood the compartment until he drowns."

      Not for every group, obviously, & hardly either RAW or old school. But there it is.

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  7. I really liked your idea of hexcrawling in Brazil's Bandeirantes era. Makes sense. I'm brazilian, and sads me not having good games set with our folklore in mind. With your permission i like to link this post to my blog, and discuss this idea. Good post by the way!

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    1. Sure, feel free. I don't know much about Brazilian history, but I have done a bit of reading about the bandeirantes, and also the quilombos. I think there is a lot of potential for a game in that setting.

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  8. That's exactly what Clinton R. Nixon did with Owl Hoot Trail: Wild West, D&D tropes and fixed HP from the start. You find it within the Microlite20 RPG Compendium.

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    1. Hmm. I'll check it out, thanks.

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  9. Dave Arneson's proto-D&D game used to make higher level characters harder to hit instead of harder to kill. There was a table that compared the attacker's Fighting Value (similar to BAB) with the defender's to determine the chance to hit. Armor gave the wearer a saving throw to avoid the damage. It all worked similar to Warhammer Fantasy Battles.

    This type of system could still be used with hit points, it's just the hit points wouldn't have to go up as fast. Plus, you can have some weapon bypass the armor saves but still allow armor to work against more primitive (or monstrous) opponents.

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    1. Is that ruleset available online somewhere?

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    2. Check "Dragons at Dawn", by DH Boggs or his new "Champions of ZED". Both are games derived from his research on Arnerson's system. HPs (called HPV) don't have a lot of progression, while damage tends to reflect a character's skill and precision, instead of the weapon he's using.

      While I love CP2020, I think that reworking HPs as 'Luck' (including allowing characters to "burn" Luck to affect their rolls) is a viable idea. Check Sabres & Witchery for a more modern taken on D&D (Swords & Wizard specifically). Its a free PDF (in Lulu I believe).

      Hope that helps.

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    3. Thanks for that. I want to stress that it's not that I don't think HPs as luck is workable, it's that I don't think it is plausible: for me it would really hurt my suspension of disbelief.

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  10. ". . . [T]he more 'modern' ones D&D becomes, the more it needs to have skills. In a low-technology world, people are not particularly specialised, because adventuring skills are not hard to learn: everybody can swim, use a rope, climb, pick locks, look for secret doors, etc. But the more technologically advanced a society becomes, the more career-type skills become necessary - it's more plausible to imagine somebody would have to sacrifice learning other skills in order to become a train driver, or astronomer, or demolitions expert, or whatever. A system that wants to model this would have to have a skill system . . ."

    I like using ability checks for skills rather than a formalized skill system like the third edition of Dungeons and Dragons had. Your abilities have a rather flat curve of inflation and as a referee you're able to quickly adjust your difficulty class by reacting to the player's background and the action involved.

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    1. In standard D&D I absolutely agree. But I think there has to be something different in a setting with more modern technology - for instance, it doesn't matter how intelligent you are, if nobody has taught you how to fly a plane, you just don't know how to do it. Rolling against INT to see if you can fly a plane just seems implausible.

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  11. I enjoy the way Villains and Vigilantes handles this sort of thing. You have HP which is generally pretty low and you also have power which expend by using various superpowers but also when you take a hit.

    If you're active and alert you can 'roll with the punch' this represents the hero or villain reacting to getting punched or shot at or whatever. They move in a way that reduces the actual damage they take. But you can only roll with damage equal to one tenth of your current power so it doesn't last long before you start taking damage to your hit pool which is often less than 10 points.

    I find this to be sort of a blend between abstraction and realism. The players are still getting hit they're just expending physical energy to make their wounds less severe. Fights are still dangerous but at the same time they won't get blown away by a single bullet or energy blast.

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  12. If a modern weapon suggests the potential for a 1 hit kill, I call for a saving throw ("Poison or Death Ray" in the case of small arms) on every successful hit, with superior weapons having penalties to the save rather than higher damage dice.

    That way I can have my hit points and ignore them, too.

    Players take every gun seriously under this regime.

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    1. I guess so, but once characters reach high levels their saving throws become so good it becomes much less of a problem, doesn't it? Have you encountered that yet?

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    2. I haven't encountered that problem, and here's why. Once characters have reached high levels, players have become that more invested in them. Even if the saving throw target is something really easy like 3 (thinking in D&D d20 saving throw terms), do you really want to gamble that 10% chance of final death? HP are closer to fate points, a resource to be spent, a buffer before the real danger sets in. Saving throws are always one step from the end.

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  13. In the WWII Cyberpunk Hack I've been running I use a very simple experience system(the system in Cyberpunk rules was too complex for my taste):

    Whenever the players pull-off a particularly successful session, I tell them to add 1 skill point to a skill they used during the session.

    If there wasn't much combat that session, then I say that it has to be a non-combat skill.

    So far I'm pretty happy with the system--it's simple and gives slow advancement. But there have only been 6 sessions so far--for longer campaigns you might want something more formal.

    http://billygoes.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/polish-resistance-session-6.html

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    1. Yeah, the CP2020 experience system is idiotic.

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    2. Sure, CP2020 is a nice little system once you drop XP, Cyberware, Classes, Late-Modern/Futuristic skills.

      Someone should really put together a rulebook for running late early-modern set games with lightweight CP2020-like rules.

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  14. Oh, also: I agree, DnD has nothing on cyberpunk guns or WFRP crossbows!

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  15. I've had success using fixed hit points in a d20 Call of Cthulhu game I ran many years ago. The characters only had 6hp + their CON modifier and were only able to up their HP if they took the Toughness Feat at higher levels. This kept the HPs low enough that a well placed club strike could knock you out and firearms were deadly.

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  16. Regarding the problem of large numbers of dice: could you use bigger dice instead?

    For example 2d20 has the same average result as 6d6, but a higher chance of very high or very low results.

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  17. "In a low-technology world, people are not particularly specialised, because adventuring skills are not hard to learn: everybody can swim, use a rope, climb, pick locks, look for secret doors, etc."

    I think that, as well as ancient vs modern technology, realism vs adventure fiction emulation is also a factor.

    For example in a lot of SF a 'scientist' knows everything about science. In real life a geologist might not know much more about chemistry than an accountant would.

    I think most people in medieval Europe couldn't read or swim, and I'm not sure about riding either.

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  18. This is my hillbilly argument all over again.

    Take people living in the American Appalachian mountains in 1860. These folks could ride horses, maintain and fire guns, build houses, carry on mining and lumberjacking operations, etc. They operated at a relatively high level of civilization - while not expert craftsmen in general, it was good comfortable frontier living.

    As technology advances, people need to spend more time learning and practicing a trade to get good enough at it to work effectively. You need higher-quality, more expensive tools. The hillbilly simply remained at the same technological level his ancestors had 6 generations ago. That means you see a dude trying to make a homemade refrigerator and the results are spectacularly, laughably bad.

    Take a Reniassance Man of 1500 Venice. He can learn all there is to know of medicine by studying an armload of books over the course of a couple years. Give him a few years of experience and he's at the top of his field. He could know everything there is about a dozen academic fields.

    Today, medicine is so specialized that our generalists have to specialize: internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, etc. Our most specific and least-researched specializations require too many books to carry and a decade of study before you can practice. It's not possible for anybody to know everything about human medicine!

    A side effect of rampant specialization is that specialists outperform generalists in their specialty. For example, a person could train as a multi-disciplinary athlete, running, swimming, acrobatics, skiing, skating, luging, surfing, wrestling, boxing, fencing, archery ... but I guarantee he would never win any of them against an Olympic specialist who had the same genetic background and put in exactly the same number of hours.

    Our complex systems today require specialization because they're so difficult to work with and demand more knowledge.

    That said, I could write up a cyberpunk rule set that had classes like Merc, Hacker, Medic, Scientist, Spy ... I find various benefits and detriments to skill vs. class systems and no one is objectively better. People have different tastes too. Ideally you'd have a skill system with archetypes that combine those skills - like Shadowrun - so the group can decide to use archetypes or free skill choice. Classes are just made of skills and feats anyway.

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    1. The 'hillbilly rule' is something that I need to constantly remind myself about when thinking about the granularity of my skill lists in fantasy games.

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  19. As for bullet damage, a handgun round doesn't cause any more harm than someone running you through with a sword or chopping your shoulder in with a big old axe. Guns are popular because they attack accurately at a distance, require little maintenance, can attack very quickly, are very light, and do not rely on the strength of the wielder. They're an equalizer that makes a pointless douchebag as dangerous as a hulking strongman.

    I think the problem stems from visualization. When we say a hit is scored in D&D, and damage is caused, we envision a stab or smash that staggers the victim but he can keep on going. The comparable bullet wound would be a strike that missed any organs or major blood vessels and didn't break any bones. People sometimes drop when hit by a bullet and sometimes take several and keep going, just like being stabbed.

    You can say HP represent willpower, the soldier's heart that keeps him going after a precious little man would have fallen. It could also be skill, such that he is better able to deflect axes and present a smaller profile for shooters. Maybe there's a big segment out there who likes to think of HP as toughness, and the thought of a high-level Fighter duking it out hand-to-claw with a dragon is just plain awesome.

    But I see no problem with the following weapon stats:

    Axe, Sword, Mace, etc: 1d6 damage, rate of fire 1 shot per 1 action, Range 5' max

    Handgun: 1d6 damage, ROF 3/1, Range 100' max
    Shotgun: 1d8 damage (1d6 vs. armored), ROF 1/1, Range 100' max, +10% chance to hit
    SMG: 1d6 damage, ROF 10/1, Range 200' max
    Assault Rifle: 1d8 damage, ROF 10/1, Range 1,000' max
    Scoped Rifle: 1d8 damage, ROF 1/1, Range 2,500' max, +10% chance to hit

    Those are entirely better than basic melee weapons, such that one guy with a handgun is equal to 3 with swords, and one with an SMG is equal to 10 with swords.

    Isn't that enough?

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    1. No. There's a plausibility gap. We know that armour and a shield was decent protection against swords, axes, maces, etc. We also know that being skillful in combat markedly improved your chances of deflecting blows or avoiding them. So we can envision "hit points" as being an abstraction of those qualities - a character's chances of deflecting, absorbing, and avoiding blows, his determination to keep going, his capacity to take on subdual damage from blows to his armour that don't get through, etc.

      This isn't true of firearms. You don't get better at deflecting gunfire the more skilful you are in combat. Armour is no real protection against a serious bullet. They're an equalizer, as you yourself put it.

      In the context of firearms, if you want to use hit points as they are in standard D&D, you have to resort to bizarre and implausible hand-waving which isn't necessary with axes and swords. Imagine a high-level character with 60 hit points: going from your figures, he could survive, what, about 11 assault rifle 'hits', which we would have to explain away as "lucky misses" (and by the way, to go along those 11 hits that are really misses, there are going to be a host of genuine 'misses' by dice roll) - giving his enemies an air of gross incompetence - before suddenly, as he reached 8 hit points or lower, a 'hit' becomes a genuine 'hit' and actually causes harm. It makes no real dramatic sense, let alone mechanical sense. The whole thing collapses the moment you start to think about it.

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    2. This could fall under the "Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy" rule. When a dozen stormtroopers aim for Han Solo in a 10 x 10 feet corridor, they don't manage to harm him seriously once.

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    3. It could, which cuts two ways: if you like that about Star Wars, you'll like the rule. If (like me) that's one of the things you hate in Star Wars, you won't like the rule. ;)

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    4. Most people (even PCs) don't have 60 HP though, right? That's like action hero Arnold, Rambo, whatever level. The vast majority of play will probably be lower level, and you can always slow down progression or play an E6 style variant if you want to keep HP to reasonable levels.

      An OD&D "hero" with max constitution will have on average 18 HP (4d6 + 4). And that's after a lot of adventuring. Controlling the level of HP is within the control of the referee and players.

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    5. Brendan, that's what I was arguing you could do in the post - limiting HP growth.

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    6. I read the original post as advocating that characters never gain hit points, and that for you such limitation is needed to preserve the verisimilitude with firearms. That's not really the same thing as E6 in spirit (though I suppose it might be considered E1).

      Again, subjective preferences and all... I'm really not trying to change your mind, just understand the position. I just don't see what's is qualitatively different between swords, dragon bites, and lightning bolts when compared to M-16s and shotguns.

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    7. It's the plausibility gap that I explained above. The "hit points are abstract" thing works fine in melee combat. With ranged combat and the use of arrows it starts to unwind, because suddenly specificity gets mixed in with the abstraction, but you can sort of forgive it because D&D isn't perfect and it's still easy to imagine arrows thudding into shields or just barely penetrating armour and causing trivial damage. Firearms a bridge too far for me.

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  20. The whole thing collapses the moment you start to think about it.

    I feel somewhat accused. Some of us are here because that's not true for us, discussing this with you so that it doesn't "collapse" for you specifically.

    As Brendan says, 60HP PCs are a corner case... I don't have a module on my shelf with a 60HP pregen in it (they even gave Warduke just 58!), so you might want to burn this bridge when you come to it, though I don't believe in the bridge.

    As we say:
    "It is not in the best interests of an adventure game, however, to delve to deeply in cut and thrust, parry and riposte (&, we imagine, 'fire and dodge'). The location of a hit or wound, the sort of damage done, sprains, breaks, and dislocations are not the stuff of heroic fantasy.... Damage scored to characters or certain monsters is actually not substantially physical—a mere nick or scratch until the last handful of hit points are considered—it is a matter of wearing away the endurance, the luck, the magical protections."

    So I've always run it. Blows to armour are misses, not a means for banishing the real wounds one thinks should occur on a successful hit. What's hit or missed is the Hit Points, not the character. In D&D real "wounds" have only occurred when your character is incapacitated. That's one of the reasons that Saving Throws with binary outcomes are implemented at all. Hit Points are a game mechanic that adds a feeling of progress & expanding power for players, & tension & suspense to the final rounds of important combats. They don't map to wounds (as you've shown) & that's all there is to it. To try & force them to do so creates the problem.

    If you can't play with abstract combat & won't use Saving Throws, just raise the die type on the weapons until a 1 or 2 shot kill is possible. Use small numbers of large dice (like 5d12, say) so that a Normal Man could theoretically survive in your imagination, or just imagine that those souls in the real world who survive gunshots were actually "missed" in D&D terms.

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    1. Some of us are here because that's not true for us, discussing this with you so that it doesn't "collapse" for you specifically.

      Thanks for trying to elevate me from my poor benighted foolishness. However, as I hope I've made clear, I understand the rationale for abstract hit points perfectly well, and I accept them in the context of ordinary D&D - but I happen not to like them if guns are becoming involved, for what I think are justifiable reasons. This post really wasn't supposed to be an open invitation to be dissuaded out of a position I've arrived at after careful thought.

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  21. Limiting HP (even for above average heroes) is a good way to deal with firearms ... it's been my experience that PC's get too brazen at higher levels (especially in the 3.5 days) ... and if you are playing a D20M game, or any game with limited healing abilities, putting the "fear of god" into your PC's is a good way to go - "Great, you have guns, so do they ... one shot can kill you" that's going to slow down even your most gung ho hack & slashers. Sure, you can get shot and survive, but there also has to be the "fear" of death in one fell swoop.
    Definitely going to use that in the "walking dead" campaign I am starting up shortly (with a few of newbie gamers and a couple experienced gamers).

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    1. I agree. I find modern D&D combats unbelievably dull.

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    2. Since the back and forth of melee functions on a different time scale than pinging away with a weapon, why try to come up with a system that encompases both?

      What if melee combat was vs. hit points (abstraction of the vagaries of the struggle) and missile attacks vs. constitution (direct damage to the body?

      In ODD, missile and melee took place at different phases of the round, so there's already a sense that they don't mix. Even in 3e, you generally wouldn't use a missile weapon in melee combat as it would draw attacks of opportunity.

      In this context, d30s suggestion re: multiple attacks in a single round for modern firearms would shift into multiple attacks in a given missile phase of a round versus one for a bow, or less than that for a crank crossbow

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    3. That's actually not a bad idea.

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    1. ed. pinging away with missile weapons, above.

      Of course, one odd consequence of the above at the lowest levels would be the case where one's survivability is higher as a missile target than as a melee combatant. I'm tempted to say that for the ordinary schmoe that may actually mmake a sort of sense as ordinary people may be especially prone to melee blunders, but I'd be tempted to limit that case by, say, giving 0-level hp so that 1st level characters still generate random hp, but probably won't be much less than constitution, if any

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  23. I doubt it would solve your problem, but I just treat hit points as the actual amount of damage a character can take. Levels were sometimes referred to as life levels, so I just take it literally. A 4th level character has four times the "life" a 1st level one does, so a sword strike that woud take off the arm of a 1st level character only delivers a cut to a 4th, because their bodies are that much more resiliant. So a shotgun blast to the chest might crack a rib or two on a 4th level character, while a 20th would be brushing shot off its skin.

    In other words, levels are supernatural, which is why normal humans are all 0 level.

    Does change how the game is visualized though, so like I said, probably won't work for you.

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  24. runequest - skills + low seldom changing hp

    "exploration of Australia's interior by whites"
    one of of depressing invasions ever
    http://www.sbs.com.au/firstaustralians/
    no gold loot!
    my librarians grandma was first permanent residing woman in northern territory
    an an Australian fantasy fan im very troubled by any fantasy in australia - ill blog about it one day. our history is mostly boring or horrible and our populace deny it

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  25. How about if the firearm does more damage than the pc has in Con they make a save vs death and for each hp damage over the Con it penalizes the save by that same number. Otherwise the damage just comes from the pcs Hp total.
    I just totally made that up btw...

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