• Justin Handlin

How Hit Points Work In D&D

Main Topic: How Hit Points Work in D&D

In this post Crit Academy discusses the details of D&D hit points. They are joined by the awesome crew from Inter-Party Conflict! Using the Full NerdolopediaArticle: By Jacob Waterman as a jumping-off point. Read the blog below, or watch the show above.

What are hit points in DnD 5e?

According to the PHB, "Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck." When it comes down to it, hit points basically determine how much abuse a creature can take before being knocked unconscious. Many GMs often treat hit points as a sort of meat point. An attack that hits is treated as a landing blow. We don't agree with this, at least not in its entirety, and the rules support that. Otherwise, why is there no penalty for low hit points? If the characters are truly taking solid hits, they would be slower, struggle to hold items, have their vision blurred, etc.

If we treat hit points in D&D like meat points, like we often do. It sounds a lot like this:

“The fighter swings their hammer into the skeleton, shattering it to pieces. From behind another skeleton raises its sword, catching the fighter by surprise and landing a blow. A large gash is cut across their back, similar to the nine other near-fatal wounds they received in that combat. Later that night the party rests as they talk about their encounter with the undead. In the morning all their wounds will be healed and they are ready to clear the next crypt.”

D&D Hit Points: Fantasy vs Realism

“Well, that’s not how it works in the real world!”

While there are some basic assumptions about the world you’re playing in, such as gravity, weather patterns, it's important to note that the game world is not an analog for the real world! In my experience, this argument is often used to delegitimize a DM ruling or grant a player some sort of advantage. (Discuss any examples). As for fatal wounds healing overnight, it’s worth noting that the recovery of only HALF your Hit Dice during a long rest is supposed to represent this.

Player’s Handbook Gives details on utilizing downtime for recuperating.

You can use downtime between adventures to recover from a debilitating injury, disease, or poison. After three days of downtime spent recuperating, you can make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. On a successful save, you can choose one of the following results:

• End one effect on you that prevents you from regaining hit points.

• For the next 24 hours, gain Advantage on saving throws against one disease or poison currently affecting you.

Health and Damage in Dungeons & Dragons

Hitpoints isn’t a perfect system, but it's simple enough to follow and understand, which is why Hitpoints represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck. Creatures with more hit points are more difficult to kill. Those with fewer hit points are more fragile. DM’s describe hit point loss in different ways. When your current hit point total is half or more of your hit point maximum, you aren’t really showing any signs of injury. When you drop below half your hit point maximum, you start to see combat wear, such as small cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.

“When you take damage it does something to the character, whether that is losing blood, winding them, or depleting an energy barrier(temp hit points).” As a DM you can play with this. A great example is a fight between Westley and Inigo Montoya. Both begin to get exhausted and make more mistakes as the fight goes on. IMO this is a great example of the loss of Hit Points.

“I altered the way health recovered to give a sense of permanency to damage. This was to attempt to increase the amount of thought put into long trips, deep dungeon delves, and to force some downtime. Losing twenty health suddenly means a lot more when it takes a few days to fully recover as opposed to sleeping it off the next night.” While I see where he is going with this, I do think that if you’re sufficiently draining the resources (hit dice), and properly applying the only recovery half your max hit dice per long rest, this becomes a moot point.