Static Health and Damage

Alternative Health and Damage

The hope of developing a decent alternative health system is to provide grittier combat scenarios, more realistic in the route to the end results, and more reasons to avoid combat and use abilities which disable or hinder your foes rather than outright damaging them (ex. Disarm). This is an exercise in changing the combat system to something more akin to Blade of the Iron Throne, or another system that doesn’t use hit points in the traditional sense. By first establishing static values, we can then look into other ways of altering the static values to a non hit point system.

This variant rule seeks to replace the RNG components of D&D 5e combat with small, static numbers, and reducing the overall health of players. While this rule removes some of the randomness of combat, this rule allows for quicker and more gritty combat as players face challenges with less health.

The purpose of this rule is primarily the latter: deadlier combat. By that my intent is for challenges and combat to be more streamlined, easier to determine a proper challenge, and with less room for combat to be survivable. A weapon attack should be felt not as just a reduction in a pool of health, but a reason to alter the way someone interacts with the facets of combat. This may not necessarily make a player decide that performing a disarm or a sunder are the best use of one’s turn, but it should make things more reasonable to determine what is the best course of action. This does allow for a rethinking of damage without altering every ability and spell’s damage to match some new system.

Other systems proposed could alter this further. (Some of these examples are found in this forum thread from Enworld http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?469082-Vitality-Dice-A-damage-variant, this Unearthed Arcana http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/UA5_VariantRules.pdf, and the DMG’s variants for Massive Damage and the like.)

This system ultimately boils down to the same basic system as the base game but without RNG and less overall health. Some people may prefer this as well as the removal of dice rolling can speed up combat. Planning encounters can be easier due to static numbers. This rule would change little from something as similar as a change in the HP system that removed bonus hit dice rolls at levels beyond first when determining max hit points.

Dice to Static Numbers

D&D makes use of various dice which need to be reconciled for this system. Instead of many dice being rolled, the dice are reduced to a specific number. The dice and their values are as follows.

Die New Value
d4* 1
d6** 2
d8 3
d10 4
d12 5
d20*** 9
\* _**NOTE:** This lowering value effectively negates a Monk's level 1 bonus to unarmed damage since all characters can deal 1 damage with unarmed strikes. It is recommended to change a Monk's monk weapon damage from x+1 in this system, meaning whatever the die value should be, add 1 to it._ \** _**NOTE:** A greatsword and maul, given their 2d6 damage dice, deal 5 damage instead of 4._ \*** _**NOTE:** This is only for calculating gargantuan creature's HP._

New Hit Point Values

With this change, hit point rolls and damage rolls are changed to static numbers. Following suit, hit points are calculated in a new manner. A character’s hit points are determined by the following formula.

Class’s Hit Point Die’s Max Value* + (Constitution Bonus * Level) + Extraneous Bonuses

* NOTE: Multiclass characters use the value of whichever class they have the most levels.

This means that a 6th level Fighter with a 14 Constitution Bonus would have 22 (10 + (2 * 6)) HP. If he were a Hill Dwarf, he would have 28 HP. The Toughness feat could grant him 12 extra HP. If he should take 7 levels of Rogue, his hit points would drop their class’s health from hit die to an 8, making his level 13 HP a total of 34 (8 + (2 * 13)).

Bonuses to Die Values and Bonus Dice

All static bonuses are still calculated the same. Bonus damage dice, such as Sneak Attack, replace their die value with the appropriate static number times the number of dice. A 9th level Rogue would deal 2 (because Sneak Attack is a d6) x 5 (because of the number of Sneak Attack dice), or 10, damage on a successful Sneak Attack.

Spells are handled in the same manner. Fireball would deal 16 (2 * 8) damage with a 3rd level slot and 8 on a save to anyone caught in the blast.

What kind of results would this have?

Using the d8 as an average weapon damage die and a 16 as the base ability score, the average damage swing would be a flat 6 damage. A 1st level Wizard with a 14 Constitution would have 8 HP, or the ability to survive to average attacks. The same would go for a 1st level Cleric and Fighter with a 14 Constitution, but a 1st level Barbarian could take 3 hits. At level 2, the Fighter and Barbarian can survive 3 hits while the Cleric, Rogue, and Wizard could survive still two.

This makes combat easier to determine what kind of punishment a character, and his enemies, can take. A player might not be as willing to engage a foe knowing just two hits could cost him his life. A character would be more determined to get the surprise on other characters and to do what he can to avoid damage at all costs.

Frighteningly, high level play becomes a matter of life and death, and can easily mean a quick end for many combatants. With all this power, combat may not always be the right move for these high level players. A Warlock with the Patron of the Fiend’s level 14 ability “Hurl through Hell” would deal 50 damage on a successful attack. A level 20 Assassin Rogue could deal 101 (3 (Longbow) + 80 + 5 (Dexteirty 20) + 3 (Magic Weapon) + 10 (Sharpshooter) damage on a Sneak Attack against a surprised creature.

These sorts of abilities are not something to be trifled with as a combatant.

To discuss this even further, a level 20 Fighter could deal 92 damage by landing four weapon attacks, and he could then initiate an Action Surge (4 x (Extra Attack) (6 (Greatsword, Maul, or Greataxe with Great Weapon Fighting [see Extraneous Changes below]) + 5 (Strength 20) + 3 (Magic Weapon) + 10 (Great Weapon Master))). A spellcaster using the 9th-level spell Meteor Swarm would deal 40 Fire + 40 Bludgeoning damage (per meteor) on a failed save to each creature in the area.

As a comparison, such a 20th level Hill Dwarf Barbarian with Toughness could have 207 (12 + (7 * 20) + 60) HP, and it only gets lower from there.

Defense and the New Values

This reduced HP makes Armor Class even more important. Static bonuses to damage are even more important and Barbarians should feel that kind of power during Rage, allowing them to statically reduce weapon damage die while increasing their own, though not negating it. The Heavy Armor Master feat now reduces weapon damage dies by 3 while Resistances only halve the damage taken from a source; while Resistance may prove useful in some cases, Heavy Armor Master has the chance to completely negate damage.

Following suit, I believe using Armor as Damage Reduction is a very important rule to this new health and damage system. Since the options for a player are take or avoid damage, reducing that damage becomes even more appealing. I would recommend the following values and a special ruling that Armor as Damage Reduction cannot reduce damage below 1.

Armor* Value
Light 1
Medium 2
Heavy 3
Other** 1

* *NOTE: Shields and enhancement bonuses should not add additional reduction.
** NOTE: Monks, Barbarians, and Draconic Sorcerers shouldn’t feel like they are missing out on something or are in some way not optimized, nor should those using Mage Armor or other spells for armor and those relying on natural armor. This would express that creatures with hard carapaces are no better off than those with no natural armor. These values are low enough that most attacks should be able to overcome them, but those utilizing various forms of armor should have some compensation. I would recommend that these various magical and natural armors should receive a damage reduction of 1. This would also mean a Warforged would always benefit from a 1 damage reduction over his fleshy counterparts, along with the array of options listed above.

Healing

Healing magic and potions utilize the dice values as attacks do.

Expending Hit Dice

Hit dice expended to recover hit points simply use their die value + Constitution instead of a roll. Abilities which max expended hit dice values such as Durable double the dice’s value, rather than maxing the roll. Since players have less Hit Points, these expended dice do not need to max the die value.

Extraneous Changes

Abilities which allow characters to change damage values on dice from 1s to 2s, such as the Great Weapon Fighting fighting style, should increase the damage value of an attack by 1 with their appropriate weapon. (Given the wording of the Great Weapon Fighting style, this would also apply to Smites and the like.) A Sorcerer with the Wild origin should increase his damage dice on his spells as if he rolled an extra die each time, since no dice are rolled.