View Full Version : First Level Hit Points

08-15-2009, 10:07 AM
3E uses max hit points at first level. Pathfinder Alpha offered five different ways to start hit points. 4E decided players can never have enough hit points, so it gives them regular, innate ways to gather them back.

My take is that giving low level characters too many hit points gives them an excuse to avoid defending themselves. Combat results in death. That's why it's a last resort tactic in the real world. Players should both understand that their characters are mortal, and enjoy the thrill of living on the edge. And for those who don't live on the edge so well, there's healing magic, benevolent deities, and lenient DMs.


What's your stance on Fragile-Level hit points?

08-15-2009, 10:20 AM
Well I think you would have to becareful about having fragile HP, cause if the players are not, thet be spending half of your game time making new characters. Personally I like the first full then doing this formual for after.

even lvls players get half their hit die +2 +con modifer
Odd lvls players get half their Hit die +1 +con modifier

08-15-2009, 10:24 AM
unless the game is very combat light or the characters have AMAZING defenses, it is difficult to go through an encounter with so few hp. Even when we played 1st ed, we would give max hp at first level.

08-15-2009, 11:18 AM
You have quite the misconception on 4E. Normal people are minions.... 1HP, straight 10 stats and defenses. So that starting Fighter and his 15+Con HP? He is FAR beyond just a normal mortal. 4E characters are heroes among their people. They are the Aragorns, the Luke Skywalkers, the Drizzts and the Captain Reynolds of their worlds... not immortal, but far above the common man.

Fighting may be a last resort tactic in the real world, but it's not in a fantasy world. Often it's also the simplest or the best way. For instance, say the local watch sends your party in to deal with a group of thieves who've made a nearby cave their base. A fight is GOING to break out here, probably sooner rather than later. In fact, I think it would be a fallacy of some anti-combat GMs to assume that the leader of this band of brigands is willing to negotiate at all... combat is likely the only option. But if your characters are so weak they'd stub their toe too hard and be out for days, how could they handle such a situation?

Combat does result in death. But under 4E, many enemies you face will be minions... normal everyday folk, who present very little challenge, resulting in THEIR death, not YOURS. It'd be like 2 dozen of us P&PG folk being unarmed but guarding a location from, say, Anderson Silva (http://www.ufc.com/AndersonSilva). I give us about 10 seconds. 4E characters KNOW that they are powerful, and stronger than the legion of normal folk they'll face. To attack those who mean them harm but can't rightly win is well within what the characters SHOULD be doing.

08-15-2009, 01:23 PM
most people enjoy the combat experience in role playing so here what i follow: if you know the campaign will be combat heavy then give them max hp at 1st lev or as dm go higher if feel it is right, but if little combat then make them roll the hp. hell you the dm you do what you feel is right for the campaign you running.

08-15-2009, 07:26 PM
The reason I give double max hit points (yes double!) at first level is I don't like the ratio at which they increased at low level. I don't like my level 2 guys being twice as good as my level 1. By level 5 or 6 this becomes less of an issue. It also cuts down on the rouge/X problem in multiclassing with 3.X as min maxers who multi class rouge always take rouge first for the extra skill points.

08-15-2009, 07:26 PM
syllander - good point about rolling up characters. It slows the game down and isn't fun. That's why I use a house rule: a character gets negative HP up to his CON score. The hope is that when good-guys start dying, they can grab a buddy and bug out before new character sheets are needed.

korhal - I like the heroes to rely on a few factors other than HP to determine heroicness: class, level, and attitude.
Class: most NPCs, non-heroes, are limited to NPC classes (adept, aristocrat, commoner, expert, warrior). The heroes, on the other hand, get to take the cool, more powerful classes.
Level: I limit my NPCs to 3rd or 4th level. So PCs are automatically heroic once they get up to 5th and 6th level. Villains, curse them, are occasionally allowed to break the 3-4 barrier.
Attitude: Luke Skywalker wasn't the only farmhand on Santragineous 6 (okay I forget where he's from). What made him a hero was the decision to adventure after his adoptive parents were killed. Most other farmhands, the non-heroes, would have just complained, cried, or ignored the call to adventure. PCs become heroes by choosing to do the adventurous thing.

08-15-2009, 08:14 PM
Sure. Heroes rely on all kinds of things, such as class, level, and attitude.
Class- Having a class in the first place makes you a hero beyond the normal populous in D&D, and that's hardly new. I know for a fact it said that in 3.5 as well.
Level- It's called the Heroic tier for a reason. Being in it makes you a hero and you should be acting accordingly.
Attitude- Having the confidence and mental and physical fortitude to step up and solve problems affecting others is what makes you a hero. Even if that means violence. Going "Hey guys can't we work this out as friends?" sometimes is the exact opposite of what a hero should be doing.

Luke wasn't a hero because he left Tatooine, he left Tatooine because everyone he knew was dead, and more importantly, he'd been chosen by the Force. Sometimes heroes choose to set out on their (mis)adventures, sometimes it is thrust upon them. But that doesn't matter in the scheme of things.

In 4E, by the time you take control of your character at 1st level, he's already quite skilled and powerful.... no playing the scrub in training to be had here. Obviously he has a long way to go to be a true hero remembered through the ages, but he's not going to wiped out without anyone even noticing as was apt to happen to characters lower leveled characters in other editions or games.

08-16-2009, 01:52 AM
A few extra hit points at 1st level are not going to keep them from never dying. However they might keep them from dying the first encounter.

The Rogue/X problem is an issue with the skill system. It basically rapes every class but the rogue. The double whammy of not getting any skill points a level, plus cross class skills which half the skill points you don't get. Then the game requires that you have skills, which you do not have the skill points to have.

08-16-2009, 07:44 PM
I do con score + con modifer for 1st level hitpoints. Example con 15 is +2 mod so 17 hp for a first level character. This helps lessen the effect of a crit on a character. It is not a pancea but works ok.

08-16-2009, 08:17 PM
If you throw caution to the wind because you get max die at first level, then you deserve to die.

Even a first level dwarf barbarian with toughness is fragile. 20/22 hp is hardly going to protect you from much.

08-17-2009, 01:39 AM
A little off topic, but when you have very few hit points at 1st level, it really boils down to whether or not you deserve to live. If you're a spellcaster, and you've spent all of five minutes of your career learning how to take a punch - it's probably best for you to stand WELL behind the fighters, and have a spell readied, just in case. You can cast one of your few spells for the day (or encounter or what have you) offensively, but make it count! If you don't, you really deserve to die.

With the fighters, well, you're mortal. Getting stabbed by a sword is probably going to kill you. So you'd better have good reflexes, thick armor, a shield, a defensive posture, and even a dirty trick (like a hidden spellcaster or archer) on your side. If you don't, you really deserve to die.

Or maybe the author of your story likes you, so he writes in the most pathetically trained enemies, luckiest events, and most hit points to keep you alive through anything.

08-17-2009, 07:58 AM
I think playing hit points at first level to the max will allow your players to be a bit more willing to be adventurous. I found that my players were hesitant to do anything for fear of losing half of their meager starting points.

08-17-2009, 08:21 AM
For 3.5 at 1st level and sometimes even 2nd level. I use Max hp + free Toughness feat.

08-18-2009, 05:15 PM
My two cents, not that it is even worth that much.

When GMing 3/3.5 I just gave max hp+con mod+what ever bonuses they got from fats, class abilities, what ever. Frankly, it made a lot of things easier. You could always tell a character's max HP easy, no having to roll every level and risking your front line fighters that roll badly end up with only gaining 1 hp, and it helped to sell the idea that the reason the PC's are heroes are that they are just plain tougher, smarter, and better than the common folk.

I picked up doing this from the first people that I played under, they gave max HP because they liked it, and often enough you needed it.

Of courtse, everyone has a different experiance and oppinion on how to do things. Your milage may vary. The managment is not responsable for your enjoyment or safty.

08-20-2009, 11:05 AM
For your 1st level, 3.5E consideration:

Average orc damage (falchion): 9 (2d4+4, excluding crits)
Average orc AC: 13
1st level fighter HP (dwarf package): 13 (max HP, 16 CON with dwarf modifier)
Ratio of PCs to members of CR 1 orc party: 2:1

James Ruglia
08-25-2009, 11:00 PM
Combat results in death. That's why it's a last resort tactic in the real world.

This. Adventurers don't seek out Goblins and Gibberlings just to kill, they fight them in mortal self-defense.

I prefer to leave the huge amounts of Hit Points and Mortal Kombat-level bleeding to video games... "Flesh wound-flesh wound-flesh wound-SPONTANEOUSHEALINGLOL!-Flesh wound..."

... And using PnP games to be more realistic. "Miss-miss-miss-miss-AGH! They got me! Agh..."

08-26-2009, 09:13 AM
In almost all editions, those first few level were so deadly that i always gave max HP as a GM. Of course, over time, as players got better and smarter, i had them generate them randomly or take an average. Of course by then, i was giving out just as much XP for avoiding monsters as for having to fight them. Its gotta be a balance - if XP was gained by killing, there's too much incentive to enter the foray and if you don't have the "moxie" to back it up... death. People want to progress, not just survive, so the impetus for combat as well as the reasons for staying out, have to be balanced.

08-26-2009, 09:44 AM
This. Adventurers don't seek out Goblins and Gibberlings just to kill, they fight them in mortal self-defense.

Now that depends on the adventurer.

08-26-2009, 07:39 PM
Good point about incentives, temple. I'll have to remember to inform my players about story awards and role playing awards, in addition to the defeated-monster awards.