DnD without Hit Points, Damage without Math (Part 3)

Picture of Hitpoints

This is part 3 of 3 in a series discussing an alternate way to track damage in 4e DnD. You can find Part 1 here and part 2 here.  ~ Haze

I know, it’s been 3 weeks since my last post. Real life caught up on me. Also Minecraft. Terrible, terrible game but oh, so divine! Many of you have already guess some of my solutions, which enhances my belief that this is a very intuitive and easy-to-grasp system – mission accomplished! But I’m nonetheless delivering on my promise and finishing this series with part 3!

Are you ready? Let’s go!

The Many Roles of Monsters

As we all know, monsters have two types of roles: group/main roles (Minion, Standard, Elite, Solo, etc.) and specialty roles (Artillery, Brute, Controller, Lurker, Skirmisher, and Soldier). Role is a determining factor in monster hit points – a hulking elite brute is sure to have a few more hit points than a measly standard lurker.

Group Roles

Looking at the hit point formulas for creating (or leveling) monsters in the Dungeon Master’s Guide update, a couple of things are quite clear. Brutes have a greater baseline of hit points (10 + Constitution score) than, let’s say Skirmishers (8 + Constitution score). They also gain more hit points per level (10 compared to 8). At the other end of the line we find Artillery and Lurkers (baseline 6 + Constitution score, +6 per level).

The damage threshold for a hard hit is meant to represent 1/8 of a monsters hit points, so let’s look at a 5th level skirmisher as an example. The threshold is 8, which means it should be able to suffer 8 hits of 8 or more damage for a total of 64 damage. A 5th level skirmisher with a somewhat high Constitution score of 16 would then have (16 + 8) + (5 x 8) = 64 hit points. This means the damage threshold is spot on the money for this skirmisher. However, how does this work for Brutes and Artillery/Lurkers that have higher or lower hit points than the average?

My initial idea was to have different formulas for calculating the thresholds, but this would lead to it being significantly more difficult to damage Brutes with low damage effects and way too easy for Strikers to drop Artillery or Lurkers. After looking at the average hit points of monsters of different roles, it struck me that Brutes have about 25% more hit points (ergo 125%, or 5/4 hit points) while Artillery/Lurkers have about 25% less (ergo 75%, or 3/4 hit points). By looking at these numbers as a whole, a solution dawned on me.

For every 4 hit boxes a standard monster would have, a Brute would have one more (5/4), while an Artillery/Lurker would have one less (3/4). So Brutes then have 10 hit boxes (becoming bloodied after 5 have been checked off) and Artillery/Lurkers have 6 hit boxes (becoming bloodied after 3 have been checked off). Simple, right?

Specialty Roles

This part is even easier. The rules for creating Elites and Solos state that hit points are doubled or quadrupled respectively, and it doesn’t make a difference when it comes to hit boxes. Elites have twice as many hit boxes, and Solos have four times the normal amount. This also works out pretty well on graph paper by stacking the rows of boxes under each other, like this for an Elite:

O O O O | O O O O
O O O O | O O O O

And two more sets of rows for a Solo. Then check off each box on the left side of the divider, and the monster becomes bloodied when you’ve done that.

If you are going to adjust the amount of hit boxes (due to the monsters group role) remember to do so before you double up or quadruple the monsters hit points. For example, a solo artillery would look like this:

O O O | O O O
O O O | O O O
O O O | O O O
O O O | O O O

This means that an elite monster has 12, 16 or 20 hit boxes and a solo monster has 24, 32 or 40 hit boxes depending on group role. Easy-peasy. But there’s one more specialty role: Minions.

Minions as One or Two-hit Wonders

This might seem pretty straight forward: minions have one hit box and that’s it. What that suggests though, is that they might become two-hit wonders. Remember, a soft hit is not enough to check off the box – and if the damage dealt is really trivial, it wont take any damage at all. This might not be what you want out of your game. You could leave minions as they are, and not bother with hit boxes for them.

Alternatively, you could say they always take damage and a soft hit will kill them outright. Or you could do as I do, and have them be a bit tougher. I make them bloodied upon taking a soft hit, so I can track which ones that have taken damage (Tip: I use small rings made of red pipe cleaner to keep track of which mini is bloodied, might be useful if you have loads of minions in a fight). A hard hit is still deadly to them, but this means they won’t just wipe out due to just an incidental point or two of damage, and creates room for synergy with traits that depend on creatures becoming bloodied.

Dr. Hit Box, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Traits

On that subject, I better get on with it. I’ll begin with the resistances and vulnerabilities.

Resistances and Vulnerability

This is actually a no brainer – just apply them as you normally would. Then compare the adjusted damage value to the damage threshold and presto – you’re done! It might seem harsh at first and make damaging highly resistant creatures nigh impossible but it works.

Insubstantiality

I pondered long and hard on this one. At first I wondered if it could modify the damage thresholds, but that ended up being too fiddly. Then I figured insubstantiality technically works out as about 25% more hit points, which means I could just add two more hit boxes and be done with it. But somehow, that didn’t feel right either. So I went back to scratch and thought of having it just work like it normally does, although I’ve never been a fan of it.

Then it hit me: insubstantiality is really just a variable resist all, which is boring. What it does is take out some of the punch of the blows since the target is incorporeal in some way. So why not just turn every hard hit into a soft hit? Thus if you score two hard hits against a creature, they are instead turned into two soft hits. I won’t bother turning soft hits into trivial damage, since I picture insubstantiality working more like shear thinning: the more energy you exert against the insubstantial creature, the less damage it takes as most of it passes through it. I guess it really does the same thing as it would otherwise, I just think this solution is more aesthetic in some way.

Regeneration

This is another easy one. Compare the rate of regeneration to the damage thresholds for a hard and soft hit. Depending on which value it is closer to (DM’s call), you simply untick a checked box (if the regeneration was close to the hard hit threshold) or remove a soft hit (if the regeneration was close to the soft hit threshold) at the start of the monsters turn.

And that’s it!

At least I think it is, off the top of my head. If you have any more suggestions or ideas about hit boxes (maybe some rules elements I’ve missed), feel free to post a comment or send me a tweet (@hazemond)! Also, I’ll post a follow-up on this series later on detailing my experiences from playtesting the system.

And before I forget, I’ll attach a table and a spreadsheet of the damage thresholds across the levels for easier reference.

Hit Box Damage Thresholds by level

An image is to the side, and an Excel version is here.

Thanks for reading!

/Haze

About Haze

Full-time D&D-nerd, part-time student/worker and regular human being. Disc Golf Enthusiast. May contain trace amounts of sarcasm.