Friday, February 3, 2012

(More) Thoughts on Hit Points and Wounds (Again)

First, a warning: this is another post about Hit Points’ variants.

Like this one, and this, and this and this. I’m probably repeating myself here.

Ready? Ok.

Just yesterday I was reading this house rule for Pathfinder, called Strain/Injury Variant.

It’s very nice and – like many others – it attempts to address the famous issue: should Hit Points be an abstract indicator? Should they reflect (literally) health? Should he do both things but separate your pool of HPs?

The Strain/Injury Variant has a clever answer to these questions.

It doesn’t separate Hit Points in things like Vitality/Wounds or Grace/Hit Points. It deals solely with recovering rates.

Basically, Strain is caused by your usual “cinematographic” wounds, while Injuries are provoked by things like critical hits. The former can be healed quickly, in just a few minutes; the later doesn’t heal naturally. It’s a simple premise and one that I don’t remember have seen before.

In the end it got me thinking again about Hit Points and the result is the following subsystem of Wounds.

I stole the idea  from the old Babylon Project RPG – I guess, because I never actually read the book (just a review about it). It works like this: Wounds are dramatic consequences that affect a character only once the combat is over. In other words, it’s all about mechanic about recovering rates.

How can this be used in Pathfinder?

My design goal here is to simulate the dramatic toll of wounds over a longer sequence of encounters, eventually forcing the party to retreat or change their strategies. While this is eventually accomplished by the rules as written (when the party can’t heal anymore), I want to increase the granularity.

I believe that drama comes not from increased difficulties, but essentially from player’s choices. This house rule will, consequently, work not as some add-on death spiral mechanic, but as a new tactical element available to the player.

As I said, it doesn’t change anything during combat, only after it.


The minute following any combat encounter becomes is now called the Breath-Catching phase (actually I would prefer something like “Battered But Unbeaten phase”… but that may sound ridiculous to English native speakers).

During Breath-Catching any character can choose to recover an amount of Hit Points equal to their highest Hit Dice plus their Character Level in exchange for a Wound.

Each Wound inflicts one of the following penalties:
-2 to attack rolls and CMB rolls
-2 to AC and CMD
-2 to one save throw or a -1 to all save throws
-2 to [choose one Ability Score] checks and skill checks based on that Ability Score

These penalties increase to -3 at 9th level and to -4 at 18h level.

Each Wound can be removed by lesser restoration (or any spell capable of recovering 1d4 or more Temporary Ability Damage). Each wound can also be healed by 1 day of rest, plus a successfully Heal check (DC 20); or naturally in 1d4 days. Restoration removes all Wounds.
Wound recovery is independent of Hit Point recovery.

You may have noted that I mentioned Wounds. Your character can accumulate Wounds, with the following restrictions and rules:

  • You can’t have more than 1 Wound over the same “slot” (for example, two Wounds over attack rolls, inflicting a total penalty of -4, are verboten);
  • Acquiring 3 Wounds leaves your character automatically Fatigued. This condition works different here and can only be removed when the character has 2 Wounds or less.
  • Acquiring 5 Wounds leaves your character Impaired. This is a new condition. A impaired character doesn’t heal naturally and requires long-term care of a healer for 2d4 days to heal each Wound. Lesser restoration reduces this time to 1d4 days; restoration heals only one Wound.

Instead of acquiring a normal Wound, a character may acquire a Maiming Wound. This is usually something like missing fingers, missing a nose, a lost ear, a horrible scar, a crippled foot (this one could reduce his Speed by half) etc. The penalty here is permanent and can only be removed by regenerate or stronger magic. The Maiming Wound counts normally to your total number of Wounds. The good side (?) is that accepting a Maiming Wound allows you to recover your Character Level x10 hit points (until your maximum).

Most of the complications above about multiple Wounds and Maiming Wounds are just ideas that I had while writing this variant. If you would like to keep things simple, ignore them and decree only that 2 Wounds leave your Fatigued and 4 Wounds leave your Exhausted (character can’t have more than 4 Wounds with this rule).

Or you can add further complications. For example, you can decree that 4 Wounds leave your character Bloodied (allow me to borrow this name from the 4E). Bloodied characters are so injured that they’re more susceptible to critical hits. You can either increase the confirmation roll by +4 or the damage multiplier by +1. What I mean with this it’s very easy to fiddle with this type of rule.