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2/04/2018 1:21 pm  #1


Hit points and healing magic

Hit Points (hp): An evaluation of the ability to withstand and minimize physical damage through a combination of experience, fitness, physicality, skill, and no small amount of luck. To simply associate hit points with health is a misconception. Jeffrey Talanian, AS&SH 2e 

The humble hit point mechanic is one of the strengths of classic D&D.  Using the guidelines set by Gygax and Ghul, hit points are simple, easy, and fun without breaking immersion. There are a few corner cases that crop up from time to time using hit points but any DM worthy of the title can adjust for them. Hit points in one form or another have been copied by just about every video game RPG for the simple reason that they work and work well.  

My concern is an issue baked deep into the DNA of D&D- healing magic. A cure light wounds brings a peasant back from the brink of death but barely heals a scratch on an experienced fighter. This is where the abstraction breaks down for me and it drives me crazy. I know I should let it go and move on. No player of mine has ever pointed it out or complained about this. My rational mind tells me that I shouldn't let this ruin an otherwise good mechanic but I cannot let it go. Are there any solutions to this conundrum, or at least a mental band-aid I can slap over it and move on?

It is implied that healing magic not only repairs physical damage but restores vigor and vitality like the golden lotus wine in Howard's Xuthal of the Dusk.  This helps a little but doesn't go far enough to resolve it.

The only solution I can think of is either making healing magic restore a set % of hit points (e.g. cure light wounds restores 10% of the target's hp) or base the amount recovered on target's hit dice (e.g. cure light wounds restores 2hp per HD or somesuch). I'm afraid that either solution would require so much work to implement and balance that the cure is worse than the disease. 

Last edited by Brock Savage (2/04/2018 1:24 pm)

 

2/04/2018 4:06 pm  #2


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Probably you are right about it being more work than is necessary. To justify your point of departure from the in-game fiction, think about it this way... Yes, a cure light potion will bring a peasant from the brink of death. Yes, it will seem to only repair a bruise on a barely injured 9th level fighter.
But! That same potion can also bring a critically injured experienced fighter (0 hp) to around the health of a regular soldier.


"Role-playing isn't storytelling. If the dungeon master is directing it, it's not a game."  ~ Gary Gygax
 

2/04/2018 4:10 pm  #3


Re: Hit points and healing magic

The Heroic Fantasy Handbook from Autarch introduces what they call "Base Healing Rate", which addresses your concern. E.g., a CLW heals "one day's worth" of natural healing, where a "day's worth" scales with the absolute amount of HP.


"My virtue is of the quintessential sort, being distilled from the erudition of the ages. How can I be other than virtuous? I am dispassionate to the ordinary motives of mankind."
Jack Vance, The Eyes of the Overworld
 

2/05/2018 1:42 am  #4


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Jimm.Iblis wrote:

a cure light potion will bring a peasant from the brink of death. Yes, it will seem to only repair a bruise on a barely injured 9th level fighter. But! That same potion can also bring a critically injured experienced fighter (0 hp) to around the health of a regular soldier.

I like your take on this and thank you very much for the trip into the wayback machine. Your quote reminds me of a long term D&D campaign I played nearly 20 years ago where "real" or "meat" hit points were equal to one's Constitution and called "body points". Damage to this pool of hit points or "body points" were serious- pierced flesh, broken bones, etc. Regular hit points were abstracted in the classic manner as minor wounds, bumps and bruises, endurance, etc. 

At first glance you would think the extra pool of "body points" made characters more durable but in practice it turned out to be quite deadly as critical hits, certain spells, and various other effects went straight to body points. Characters died frequently enough to keep things exciting but so much to be a pain in the ass which is just how I like it. I lost two dudes within a year before I got the hang of things (which to me is a lot).  I'm not sure I'd bother trying to recreate this system from memory but it was a really elegant solution. 

rhialto wrote:

The Heroic Fantasy Handbook from Autarch introduces what they call "Base Healing Rate", which addresses your concern. E.g., a CLW heals "one day's worth" of natural healing, where a "day's worth" scales with the absolute amount of HP.

Hey Rhialto this sounds really interesting but apparently I failed at Google when I tried to find out more. All I can find are links to a Kickstarter, playtesting, or forums; is this material published and if so where can I take a look or buy it? Thanks a ton.   
 

Last edited by Brock Savage (2/05/2018 1:45 am)

     Thread Starter
 

2/05/2018 8:41 am  #5


Re: Hit points and healing magic

I might be able to offer a perspective that solves the apparent contradiction.

Say, a 1st level character has 5 hp and a 5th level one has 25 hp. A successful attack roll and the damage roll are both abstractions. Surely, when the 1st level character takes 10 damage they get chopped in half, while the same damage to the 5th level one might only represent some mispositioning, losing balanse, or maybe some muscle strain.

When the 1st level character at 1 hp is healed for 4 hp, the touch of the cleric literally fast-heals the wounds. But the 5th level character at 21 hp hasn't suffered any actual wounds, so healing them for 4 hp only restores confidence and removes some fatigue.

If the abstraction really bothers you, though, you can make the healing die equivalent in size to the recipient's HD plus some amount per level (+1 for CLW, +2 for CMW, etc.).
 

 

2/05/2018 11:14 am  #6


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Making cure light wounds potentially restore dozens of hit points for a high level recipient (instead of a flat 1d8) is a huge leap in power for a first level spell. If that doesn't bother you, go for it. Personally, I think the cure is definitely worse than the disease in this case.

Last edited by Blackadder23 (2/05/2018 11:15 am)


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

2/05/2018 11:37 am  #7


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Blackadder23 wrote:

Personally, I think the cure is definitely worse than the disease in this case.

Yeah, you're probably right. I was hoping someone might offer a different solution or even just a different way of looking at healing.

     Thread Starter
 

2/05/2018 1:14 pm  #8


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Brock Savage wrote:

Blackadder23 wrote:

Personally, I think the cure is definitely worse than the disease in this case.

Yeah, you're probably right. I was hoping someone might offer a different solution or even just a different way of looking at healing.

A few years back someone raised this same issue on the odd74 boards, and Michael Mornard, one of Gary's original players, remarked along the lines of "Gary called it 'cure light wounds' because he thought it was more evocative than 'restore a small amount of an abstract resource'." I think that's really the crux of the matter. Hit points are an abstraction that work perfectly fine as written. The mechanical aspects of curing spells are abstractions that work perfectly fine as written. The names of curing spells are intended to be evocative, not descriptive. At the end of the day, and no matter how real our fantasy worlds may hopefully seem to us when we're sitting at the table, it is still a game.

At least, that's the way I see it. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png


Michael Sipe 1979-2018
Rest in peace, brother.
 

2/05/2018 1:49 pm  #9


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Brock Savage wrote:

Regular hit points were abstracted in the classic manner as minor wounds, bumps and bruises, endurance, etc.
 

Also, luck. Hit points represent the stakes an adventuring hero is wagering for the sake of adventuring or hero-ing. For most of the world, cure light is a miracle that saves injured peasant children and gives wounded soldiers another day on the battlefield. Heroes fight for higher stakes, though, so they need greater, rarer "healing" magic, more expensive potions or spells cast by even more blessed (higher-level) priests to keep going.
 


"Role-playing isn't storytelling. If the dungeon master is directing it, it's not a game."  ~ Gary Gygax
 

2/05/2018 4:18 pm  #10


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Blackadder23 wrote:

Brock Savage wrote:

Blackadder23 wrote:

Personally, I think the cure is definitely worse than the disease in this case.

Yeah, you're probably right. I was hoping someone might offer a different solution or even just a different way of looking at healing.

A few years back someone raised this same issue on the odd74 boards, and Michael Mornard, one of Gary's original players, remarked along the lines of "Gary called it 'cure light wounds' because he thought it was more evocative than 'restore a small amount of an abstract resource'." I think that's really the crux of the matter. Hit points are an abstraction that work perfectly fine as written. The mechanical aspects of curing spells are abstractions that work perfectly fine as written. The names of curing spells are intended to be evocative, not descriptive. At the end of the day, and no matter how real our fantasy worlds may hopefully seem to us when we're sitting at the table, it is still a game.

At least, that's the way I see it. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/happy.png

I would agree.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

2/05/2018 8:22 pm  #11


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Thanks for the insight, guys. I don't know why I'm getting all OCD over the healing thing after all these years and multiple editions of D&D.

     Thread Starter
 

2/05/2018 9:08 pm  #12


Re: Hit points and healing magic

Brock Savage wrote:

rhialto wrote:

The Heroic Fantasy Handbook from Autarch introduces what they call "Base Healing Rate", which addresses your concern. E.g., a CLW heals "one day's worth" of natural healing, where a "day's worth" scales with the absolute amount of HP.

Hey Rhialto this sounds really interesting but apparently I failed at Google when I tried to find out more. All I can find are links to a Kickstarter, playtesting, or forums; is this material published and if so where can I take a look or buy it? Thanks a ton.   
 

It is a Kickstarter, and not yet published: I'm on the fence with the rule (for similar reasons folks have brought up here), but it is something I'm considering.


"My virtue is of the quintessential sort, being distilled from the erudition of the ages. How can I be other than virtuous? I am dispassionate to the ordinary motives of mankind."
Jack Vance, The Eyes of the Overworld
 

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