Wednesday, November 25, 2009

"I feel better!" -- Full up on HP

One thing that has longed bugged me about D&D style attrition based HP systems is the relative ease at which it is to get to full-up status. I.E., it bugs me that characters go from the brink of death to hale and hearty very quickly. Of course, players always want to be at 100%. It maximizes stamina in combat and odds of success. However, making such top-off healing easy does much to remove the gritty wearing of a long day, and it removes strategic choices from the players.

In 1E, clerics get enough bonus spells even at level 1 that taking a day or two off from adventuring is enough to slap Cure Light Wounds (CLW) onto everyone (a 5 hour break should be enough to rest and memorize up 3 x CLWs...) and get everyone topped off. It is rough only if you have very limited downtime, which causes problems for low level parties in many ways in any event.

In addition, once you hit level 7, scrolls of CLW start to proliferate like toilet paper. Potions are soon to follow. This problem is even worse in 3.5, where the Infamous Wand of Cure Light Wounds (or Lesser Vigor) is the FIRST item any party pools money to buy. 50 charges for 750 GP -- a bargain to ensure that everyone is topped off!

This problem is mitigated in OD&D as level 1 clerics have no spells. Plus, its mitigated by the lack of bonus cure spells. That brings its own issues though in that more downtime is basically mandated.

In 4E, healing surges are often anticlimactic. After a fight, folks do some math, cross off the healing surges, and are magically at 75-100% again. There is a little bit of a choice if above 75% but below 100%; do you "waste" some of the spilled over HP from a surge or risk being at less than 100%? Other than that, there's no real thought involved. Once people are out of surges, the day is over. It only gets exciting once at least some members of the party get very low on surges and start entering fights at <100%.

Here's a few ideas I have to make it a bit harder to be "topped off."


Several systems have a HP model where some damage is physical and some is only metaphysical. For example, in a hypotehtical example, say a fighter has HP equal to their CON score + vigor points equal to 1d10 x level. Vigor points are easy to restore but HP are hard and slow. Damage comes off the vigor points first. Thus, after a bruising near-death experience, the fighter can top off their vigor points but will still bear the scars of the physical wounds for some time.

In 4E, you could do this by saying that healing surges may only be spent to bring you up to your bloodied value, AND letting a player burn surges to gain temp HP equal to their surge value (perhaps in some ratio -- say, burn 3 surges, gain temp HP equal to 2 surges that persist until used up but do not stack). Only with daily magic powers or consumables can you recover HP above your bloodied value.


You could also increase the "cost" to heal up the top 10-50% of a character's HP pool. For example, maybe once you get above a certain cutoff, every HP healed "costs" 2 HP of healing. So, if you're trying to top off, that Cure Light Wounds spell that would have healed 8 HP only heals 4 HP. This could also be done with random chance to decrease granularity. Perhaps a healing spell only takes hold if you roll equal to or under the current HP status on a D100 (so if you are at 80% HP, 80% of healing spells used on you fail).

Am I the only one that is bugged by this? Anyways, just some brainstorming.

1 comment:

UWS guy said...

You could rule you could only be healed so many times per day? Maybe even once a day.

Firstly, this saves the cleric from having to be a full time medic especially at high levels (no need to memorize more than 5 heal spells). Secondly it limits the use of potions/scrolls etc.

nice topic that doesn't get discussed often.