Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts on Hit Dice, Hit Points, and Doing Damage.

I was rummaging through some of John's older blog posts over at The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms and stumble upon 'an oldie but a goody', entitled Quick & Dirty Monster Hit Points

It got me to thinking about using a number of dice equal to the monster's HD, as HPs and rolling them out when the Players come into contact with a monster, leave them on the table, and remove them as the Characters do damage. For an example, the party encounters a 4HD monster and decide they must defeat it to continue on. I roll out four dice; 6, 5, 3, 1. Sure, I could use some scrap paper and right down 15 and cross it off as they do damage, or use tick-marks as John suggests. But, meh, I hate writing stuff down during a fight and now I could just pick them up as damage exceeds one of them.

But then another issue came to mind...

This is all well and good for a small encounter with one or two monsters, but what about an encounter with a mob of monsters? I didn't want to have to have a mason jar of d6s (all monster's HD in S&W:WB are d6s BTW) and I didn't want several piles of dice around the table representing different monsters. Not to mention, how to remember what pile was for which monster, especially after some have taken damage?

The thought of how HP are often referred to as being abstract, not actual physical damage, and changed periodically (don't have a link to that discussion / mind set at the moment) snuck into the equation somewhere along the line. Someone, somewhere (and I forget where) said they had their Characters re-roll every morning in game to simulate things such as a bad night's rest, having a bad day, etc. That coupled with how S&W:WB Characters re-roll their HPs at every level advancement, which I like, made me have an epiphany. The next logical step, for me at least, was to think, 'What if monster's HPs, but not HDs, change from round-to-round?' Interest...

So every round I could roll out a new set of HD, before or after the Player determines if they hit or not, and if they hit and roll a damage value over one of the monster's HD, that die is removed. But, the original problem rears its nasty head, how to keep track of individual monsters and how many HD they each have left accordingly? My answer, more dice. This is what I envision, in a nutshell...

The party encounters four 3HD monsters in their travels and engage. On the table in front of me I place four d6s turned to 3s to represent the monsters and their 3HD each. Now, as an aside, I have had a back and forth love hate relationship with the idea of whether Players should know how many HD and HPs monsters have, but what follows might just swing it for me. I am starting to think of the dice laid out on the table as physical representations of the monsters, if you will, FWIW. The Fighting-man describes closing on the monster to the left and attacking, scoring a hit, he rolls damage, a 4+1 for 5. All the monsters are at full strength so I grab three dice and roll; 6, 5, 4. The Player equaled or beat one of my die (the 5 or 4) so rakes his blade across the monster's shoulder. I pick up the three die I rolled and flip one of the d6 'miniatures' (the one on the left he mentioned) to a 2 so I can remember to only roll two Hitdice for that monster next round if it gets hit. And sure enough, it does. The Player rolls a 3+1 for 4 and I grab two d6s, rolling; 4 and 5. Another successful attack by the Fighting-man so I flip the 'Die Miniature' from a 2 to a 1. Now that we are down to a 1:1 roll with the next successful attack by the Player, things seem to become more... erm, dicey. With, typically, one die of damage being rolled by the Player and a single die rolled by me for HPs round-to-round, I might just beat him for a few rounds, whittling him down. This, I think, would make for a nice abstract representation of a desperate monster. It realizes that it is on it's last leg and goes all out. Could this make S&W:WB more precarious for the already lethal rules set? Maybe, but it might just be something I want to playtest.

I just thought I would share something that is probably poppy-cock, is not play tested, and might not fit into the 'Old School' mindset. But, there it is, none-the-less.



  1. Oooh, I actually consider that one of my worse ideas. Not the basic idea, but the juggling I had to do to keep high-HD monsters and large monster groups manageable.

    incidentally, I think it was either Geoffrey (of Carcosa fame) or Jason Vey 9of Spellcraft & Swordplay fame) who said he rerolled hit points daily.

  2. I don't know about "worse ideas". It did get me to thinking, so no idea is a bad one. I think with 'dice as monster miniatures' I could track a mess of monsters or even high-HD ones (using d20s or d12s), assuming rolling HPs every round is viable and doesn't break the game by making them too good.

    In retrospect, I realize I wouldn't want to go with my default house rule of max HPs at first level either. I wonder too, if I do this for monsters, should I enforce it on PCs? What if a PC rolls a 1 for HPs? All the monster would have to do is roll a hit and the PC is vapors, adding even more fragility to an already lethal S&W game.

    Thanks for pointing me to where I might have read the part about rerolled hit points. I do like to try and give credit where it is due.