HPs on PCs

  • 10 Replies
HPs on PCs
« on: February 29, 2012, 12:01:00 AM »
This was previously touched upon here:


So, we just played our first Dungeon World game. Yey! That was fun. I'm into it. We're doing the $5 version. However, HP is odd.

One player leveled up, so we're in that situation where one person has about double the HP of another. I can see that in the Beta, this is assuaged a bit by the fact that PCs start with more HPs. However, the gains will still be big.

I love the way Foe HP is done. It doesn't get much higher, but also PC damage doesn't go up either. This is great.

I wonder why the same philosophy isn't applied to PCs. It seems that it would make it easier to balance everything. Also, PCs of different levels could play together better. The breadth of the high level PCs would expand out, they could do lots of different cool stuff. But, a dragon's claw would hurt a similar amount.

Currently, as PCs get more HPs, I just need to throw more or bigger monsters at them and up the damage. This seems a strange hoop to jump through.

I would suggest HP being based on a formula like this: Constitution + Flat Class Amount + LV. HP still goes up, but just one per level (no rolling, or rolling decides between 0-2 HPs). "Flat Class Amount," would probably be something around the current class base times 2-4. Balance monster damage appropriately and voila, we have a more stable system that doesn't get too mathy as it goes up.

Thoughts? Are there advantages to the current system I'm missing?



  • 17
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2012, 06:30:18 AM »
I like the system proposed by you, Quizoid. Smaller differences in HP between levels would be better.

The way it is now is derived from Dungeons & Dragons. , I suppose, authors don't want to stray too far from it.



  • 777
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2012, 07:47:19 AM »
Monsters are far, far more than just HP and damage dealt. There is no 'scaling'. Monsters have no level (any more). The monster's instinct, moves and their attacks (not damage dealt) are the key to their malignancy and unique appeal.

In your Dungeon World, A Dragon is simply a large scaly beast of  suitable HP and damage dealt to challenge the increase of HP on a higher level character.

In my Dungeon World, Dragons are NAMED ancient wyrms that lurk in places deep and long forgotten by civilised folk. They forge despotic alliances, hoard treasure, eat maidens, sleep deep, offer duplicitous bargains and seek greater magics.
When roused into fighting they isolate their chosen prey, pin with their talons, scorch with fiery breath, buffet with leathery wings and smash with quivering tails.
When threatened they cast ancient magics of protection, terrorise the countryside, seek the safety of the skies and ponder fearsome and intelligent retribution.
They have supple, wondrous bodies, covered with armoured scales that offer 4 armour, and only weapons quenched in the heart's blood of another dragon, or made with dragon tooth, bone or scale will harm them at all.
Though I wonder (as a stake) if legend speaks truth and each beast has an 'achilles heel' to breach their potent defence - to wound their strong, emotional heart.

Oh, and if you care to know they have between 40-60HP, deal 40-60 Damage and have + messy, +3 Piercing, + Reach, + Far, +Long.

I am a fan of the characters, truly I am.

Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2012, 08:51:42 AM »
We were talking about PC HP here, and I share the feeling that they climb at too steep a rate as characters level.  Even in D&D you have to roll your hit points and you might wind up gaining 1 hp at 2nd level. In DW you still roll, but you're guaranteed to gain "base" hp.

Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2012, 09:53:36 AM »
What I like about keeping all the HP low is that it works against drawn out slogfests.  I want my DW combat to be, while rich in narrative, pretty short.  If any one player has hack'n slashed more than 3 times, the combat has probably gone on too long (3 moves x 4 characters = longer than I want combat to last).



  • 777
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2012, 04:04:05 PM »
I was talking about character HP too. Well ALL HP actually. It isn't an isolated component of the game. What exactly are HP for (mechanically) in DW? How do we manage that resource and why?How potent / overriding / important is that concept VS the narrative power of moves / attacks / GM's principles?

I get that the character's HP is their 'measure' of how many 'hits' they can take against 'base' monster damage before they have to make the last breath move. Is the scaling math that 'balances' this with character level and 'powerful' monsters the measure of the 'encounter'? Not for me.

But for my two cents? When you level, Con bonus only increase to HP.

Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2012, 05:40:24 PM »
>>I was talking about character HP too. Well ALL HP actually. It isn't an isolated component of the game. What exactly are HP for (mechanically) in DW? How do we manage that resource and why?How potent / overriding / important is that concept VS the narrative power of moves / attacks / GM's principles?<<

I think they are very important to many players, otherwise we wouldn't have such lively discussions about them here :)  They represent the mechanics of the game that determine when PCs roll Last Breath and when Monsters are killed.

Imagine playing a DW game without HP and damage.  The PCs and Monsters still have their cool moves, and the game(?) still proceeds along as a shared narrative, but quite a bit of the actual "game" is not there any more.

>>But for my two cents? When you level, Con bonus only increase to HP.<<

Hmmm ... CON bonus might be zero or negative ... a PC might lose HP when they gain a level.  I guess that would reflect the character's declining health as they age and get stressed out from too many crazy experiences in the dungeons :)

So, since HP and damage numbers really are important, we care about their values in the game system.  There's alot of good feedback on this thread, one of the great points was that a "weak" monster should be able to get whacked by a single hit even from the wizard.  Although I think the numbers and levels are better now, I'd be happy seeing an overall compression in the range, such that creatures at the low and high end of the spectrum are closer in terms of their numbers, rather than spread so far apart.



  • 549
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2012, 07:40:27 PM »
The reason for scaling player HP: your HP is how many mistakes and how big of a mistake you can make. The players get more HP so that they can make mistakes against bigger more dangerous things. (Yes, most of danger comes from their moves, but some of a monster's danger is from the fact it can just whap someone's head off by dealing damage).

We've already adjusted player HP to something pretty similar, but with more per level. Characters start with Constitution+Class. At each level they get class, class+1, or class+2 based on their roll.

We messed with just +1 HP per level but it didn't really feel like a noticable difference. A big part of making the game click is making going up a level both a big deal and not a big deal in the right ways.

The other big part is that having more HP is like a class feature of some classes, we don't want to flatten it out too much. Part of being the fighter is being able to keep going when the wizard would be dying.

Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #8 on: February 29, 2012, 09:21:54 PM »
Wow! Apparently this is an active board! Yey! Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments.

Just a few comments:

~ I too am a narrative junkie. One of my favorite games is Boy X Girl to give you a hint. However, this relates to narrative. If combat goes on too long, etc... it hurts the narrative. Having a system that works and works well doesn't make my goblins less toothy, or my dragons less grandiose.

~ I feel like 1 HP per level wouldn't take anything away from the Fighter and other classes if the "starting amounts," were comparative. So, to put on my nerd glases and crunch some numbers for two characters with 10 strength who always roll 7-9 on a level up:

LV 1 Fighter: 17 HP
LV 10 Fighter: 89 HP

LV 1 Wizard: 14 HP
LV 10 Wizard: 59 HP

At LV 1, a Wizard can take 82% of the damage a Fighter can take. I think this is too high.

At LV 10, a Wizard can take 66% of the damage a Fighter can take. I think this is about right by this point.

If HP starts high, and doesn't go up much, it could be more stable. Here's another comparison for two characters with 10 CON if starting HP is:

(Con Modifier x 4) + (a new base that's four times the original base) + 1 per LV

LV 1 Fighter: 28
LV 10 Fighter: 38

LV 1 Wizard: 16
LV 10 Wizard: 26

At LV 1, a Wizard can take 57% of the damage a Fighter can take. I think this is just right.

At LV 10, a Wizard can take 68% of the damage a Fighter can take. I think this is high, but not too bad. If needed, we can lessen this by increasing the difference between the Fighter and Wizard bases. Also, it can be kept flat by not increasing HP.

Other methods to increase Fighter / Wizard disparity: Roll for HP each level, getting +0/+1/+2 depending on how the roll goes. This would reward high CON characters.

Of course, the best effect of low-scaling HP is the fact that it keeps later battles from potentially being drawn out if you ever want to use low-damaging foes.

Anyway, thanks for the food for thought, everyone!



  • 777
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #9 on: February 29, 2012, 11:04:49 PM »
Sorry Glitch, you are quite right! I meant my suggestion for HP gain would be CON + Class (as determined) on level up. I was focused on the CON vs Constitution side of the equation.

Oh and I did play around with replacing HP with a health 'hourglass' (like the AW health clock) in the early ideas of the game, it worked quite well but lost the 'feel' of D&D. But that's all I think we need. A 'taste' of the mechanic from BX / AD&D, not the whole sub-system with all its relative scaling issues.

Sage (as usual since he thinks about his game more than all of us!) has nailed the resource of HP as a measure of mistake and how 'big' of a mistake a character can make before making the last breath move. Maybe that should be in the rules Sage? It certainmly makes the intention of HP much clearer.

So if we continue your crunching Quizoid and say that as the current iteration stands: @ Lvl 1 a Wizard can only make 82% of the 'mistakes' that a Fighter can, whereas at Lvl 10 that 'mistake ratio' is even lower at 66%.... This is in line with Sage's vision of a resource management that accurately reflects the class distinction between Fighter and Wizard. (or any class for that matter) Th classes have areas in which they shine as adventurers, not 'roles' that they have in combat 'encounters'. Fighters are good at fighting, wizards are good at casting magic. It only stands to reason then through the resource of HP, that a wizard's ability to make mistakes in potentially lethal 'combat' encounters is less that of the hardened Fighter.

You also still need to take into consideration the potential 'wallop' of damage dealt by monsters that Sage mentions and the moves (and their fictional potential) available to these characters as they level!

The high level Wizard has a huge array of magical offense and defense if they decide to go down the route of 'battlemage' or not. If so, they can choose to protect their 'mistake resource' magically, whereas the fighter, through their inate class prestige and prowess is reflected with a higher margin of 'error' in HP. They don't need to protect their HP resource as much, unless of course they take on monsters that can deal a fictional 'wallop'! They also have many powerful 'narrative' moves at higher levels (as well as purely +1damage & +armour moves) that will reflect this.

I can't help (when we play) but lead with the fiction and naturally flowing conversation that takes turns as moves are authored into the game first, not the damage dealt or the HP lost.

Hack and slash is not the only way a player can deal damage or lose HP, likewise there are many more opportunities to 'defeat' monsters or fictionally overcome a challenge.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 11:10:12 PM by noofy »



  • 549
Re: HPs on PCs
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2012, 12:49:22 PM »
Here's the actual math based on Base+Constitution at first level and base, base+1, or base+2 per level dependent on roll. These numbers take into account the expected value of the level up roll so there are (rounded) decimals involved.

1st Level 13 Con Fighter: 20 HP
1st Level 17 Con Fighter: 24 HP
1st Level 9 Con Fighter: 16 HP

Of these three the 9 Con Fighter is something of a corner case: good to consider, but its not the choice we're designing for. Taking that into account I'm going to suggest 22 HP as the average first level fighter HP for comparison purposes.

1st Level 9 Con Wizard: 13 HP (59% average fighter)
1st Level 11 Con Wizard: 15 HP (68% average fighter)
1st Level 17 Con Wizard: 21 HP

Just like with the fighter list the last entry is an abnormality: the Wizard who has chosen HP over +2 to casting spells. While that's playable I'm not going to include that in my comparisons since its an outlier.

The important thing here is we're designing for the case where the Fighter says "I want to be tough!" and the Wizard says "I want to be smart!" If someone wants to play another way that'll work, but they may end up with a Wizard who has more HP than the fighter. Their choice.

Now to look at how they advance. At 10th level we have:

10th Level 13 Con Fighter: 92 HP
10th Level 17 Con Fighter: 98.25 HP
10th Level 9 Con Fighter 83.5 HP

So we'll call average 10th level Fighter 95.125 HP.

10th Level 9 Con Wizard: 53.5 HP (56% average fighter)
10th Level 11 Con Wizard: 57.75 HP (60% average fighter)
10th Level 17 Con Wizard: 68.25 HP

You'll notice that the Wizard:Fighter ratio goes down as Constitution is a smaller part of the whole. I actually think this is ideal: the wizard gains many more ways to avoid danger, so they lose out on HP a little. The fighter gains more ways to kill stuff, so they still need all the HP they can get.

(A quick math note: these numbers do not take into effect stat changes, which would tend to be in favor of the Fighter since the Fighter is more likely to change Con than the Wizard.)

You'll also notice that high level HP is about 4-5 times low level HP. This again is ideal: monsters stay relevant for many levels. An attack that took a quarter of your HP at first level (pretty typical) might take 1/16 or 1/20 at high level. That's no longer an immediate threat, but not unnoticeable either.

Anyway, that's a peek into our HP/monster damage spreadsheet. Hopefully it explains why we have the HP we do.