A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

The RPG Epistles of Paul T: Quantum Hit Points

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 05, 2023

Tagged: osr epistles

The #TorontOSR posse met up recently and Paul ran a game of D&D for us using his tweaks and house rules. When I run games, I have players re-roll their hit points at the start of each session. This is something I picked up from Brendan. This mitigates how overly impactful a poor dice roll when rolling your hit points can be. Paul takes this idea further, with a scheme that reminds me of the hit dice mechanics from Carcosa, but a little less bananas.

When your character is healthy and unhurt, you don’t have a Hit Point total, just your Hit Dice. When you get attacked, hit, wounded, or otherwise in danger of dying, roll your Hit Dice. Keep the best result. That’s your HP total, from which you subtract the damage taken. So, a character only has an HP total when they are wounded. When you heal again, erase your HP total. Next time you get hurt, that’s when you’ll roll your Hit Dice again.

Some people in my game call this “quantum hit points”. Getting hit is always scary - you never really know how many hit points you have! And it evens out over time, so characters are never effectively crippled by starting the game with a really bad HP roll (Imagine being that 2nd level Fighter who rolled a ‘1’ at first level, and again at second level! Ouch!).

You get a new Hit Die every level. (Roughly speaking; there are some exceptions.) Following the old idea of the Hero and the Superhero (from Chainmail, and/or Arneson), at level 4 you get to keep two Hit Dice (you’re now a Hero!), and at level 8, you get to keep three Hit Dice (you’re a Superhero!).

But we can also do some fun things, like a long-term crippling injury: this means you lose a Hit Die for good. I’ve used this for “gambling away parts of your soul”, as well, when I adapted the “ghost” in the Tower of the Stargazer to something more to my liking than pausing D&D to play Chess for an hour. — Paul T, July 5th, 2023