This post (with the exception of the small part on Resting) is entirely based around a post made by The Angry GM – for full details and very amusing detail, see here for his post.
(NOTE: This House Rule Affects PCs Only).
Let’s take an example; here’s a Bard called Dyzterbd. He’s a Halfling. He’s short. But he ROCKS!! (That’s what he thinks anyway).
All PCs and NPCs have Hit Dice (HD), and they are used, in this instance, to help determine their health. The Bard has a HD of a d6. A level 1 Bard has an HD rating of 1, a level 2 Bard has an HD rating of 2, a level 3 Bard has an HD rating of 3… And so on and so forth.
Dyzterbd has a Constitution Ability score of 14, this translates into a CON bonus of +2.
This means that at first level Dyzterbd has Hit Points (HP) of:
- his max HD value (all starting characters get their maximum value at level 1)
- + CON bonus.
So Dyzterbd, with a d6 as his HD, gets a 6 and then add in his CON bonus of +2, and you get an 8.
Now, everything above is standard and it’s from this point that I want to change things up.
Now like a great many DMs (or should that be, ‘like many great DMs’?), I’m not happy with the standard HP system in Pathfinder. You have your Hit Points and once you hit zero, you lie there… Unable to do anything at all, until someone heals you. So basically you become utterly useless. Of no consequence. Not helpful at all. And yet, you’re not actually dead…
Doesn’t feel particularly ‘Heroic’ does it?
If your Players are the stars of this story, shouldn’t they feel more awesome?
I’m glad you agree.
So let’s get into it shall we?
Take your HP, and multiply it by two. Half of that sum will be referred to as your ‘Vigour’, and the other half as your HP.
Now, here’s what happens when a character gets hurt. When a character gets hurt, if they have ANY Vigour at all, they take the damage to their Vigour only. It is assumed they mostly defended themselves or dodged or turned it into minor injuries or can ignore the pain or magic. They took a hit, but it wore them down more than it hurt them.
If a character has NO Vigour remaining, the damage is applied to their Hit Points. They didn’t defend themselves. They are too exhausted. They are now starting to take serious injuries that are tangibly affecting them.
NOTE: All damage must be applied completely to Vigour OR Hit Points; there is ZERO spill over.
E.G. If a PC has 3 Vigour left and takes 7 damage, they now have 0 Vigour and the spillover damage is ignored.
Any form of magical or mundane healing can be applied to EITHER Vigour OR Hit Points but not both. The Healer must pick one or the other.
Vigour AND Hit Points are fully recovered during a Long Rest – as long as the PC has been stabilised – with a successful Heal Check.
When a Character is Out of Vigour – Shaken / Exhausted
When a character has 0 Vigour, they suffer a condition called, ‘Shaken‘. Basically, pain, exhaustion, and lost morale is affecting them now. They are beginning to lose their ability to fight effectively and can no longer ignore the pain of the injuries they have.
- > -2 to Attack Rolls (includes spells that use Attack Rolls).
- > -2 to all Saving Throws.
- > -2 to all Skill and Ability Checks.
- > 1 HP Bleed damage is taken every turn that you are not at your maximum HP value.
- > A creature that has at least 1 Vigour is no longer Shaken, but continues to take 1 Bleed damage to its HP until either, all the creature’s HP is healed to “max”, or is stabilised via a successful Heal Check / spell.
And there you go.
Simply put, the PC can’t attack effectively. When you make an Attack Roll, you’re at a disadvantage. When you have to make a Saving Throw you’re at a disadvantage. When you have to make a Skill or Ability Check you’re at a disadvantage.
Now, when your HP is reduced to half or less, your situation is getting dire.
Death is rapidly approaching and that damage is really starting to take its toll. As a result, you move from ‘Shaken‘, to ‘Exhausted‘. You retain all the Shaken penalties, and also gain the following:
- > Your movement is halved.
- > You cannot run or charge.
- > -6 penalty to STR and DEX.
- > Once your HP is healed above half, you move back to being Shaken; unless the Healing maxes out your HP.
Offensively, the PC is suffering from his/her wounds. It is far harder for them to make attacks, and lots of other actions become much harder as well.
NOTE: Actions that don’t require attack rolls, saving throws, or skill/ability checks are unaffected. So healing spells, and standard/class abilities that allow for defence, buffing, or tactical cleverness are unaffected. Defensively, they can still protect themselves. Offensively, they are hurting.
This creates an emergency state in which the character can still do stuff defensively, but not offensively. Essentially, the character is very close to death.
Also notice that Hit Points DO NOT recover during Short Rests (more on that below!), only Vigour damage does.
At Higher Levels
At each level, characters gain Vigour according to the way they would gain hit points under the normal rules. So, a Bard would gain 1d6 + CON mod in Vigour for every level.
At 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, characters gain more Hit Points as well. They gain a Hit Point increase equal to their normal, level by level increase of Vigour.
So, at 4th level, as well as the usual Vigour increase, a Bard would gain 1d6 + Con modifier to its HP too; and then again at 8th level, and so on.
Roughly speaking, once the PCs get beyond roughly third level, their Hit Points will be approximately one third of the Vigour. Why? Because this guy did some mathematics.
The average PC can expect the average monster of their level to take 30-50% of their HP in a single, successful hit but that’s a high estimate. That means that, with HP equal to one third of your Vigour, once you’ve been Shaken, the WORST CASE SCENARIO is that the next hit will be deadly but usually, you can survive two more hits.
And that’s exactly what I want. I want that emergency scenario that demands defence, healing, retreat, or a change in tactics to be just enough that the PC can only ignore it once, at MOST. I want to create a situation where the Player is actively involved in their Character’s life right to the very end.
I want to get rid of the situation where the Character hits 0 HP and the Player disengages from the game or gets angry/frustrated due to them not being able to do anything.
A Short Rest
I really want to avoid the ridiculous situation around PCs resting in the middle of a dungeon crawl or during a castle raid. I HATE that! I mean seriously! Do you really think the bad guy is going to sit there for eight hours playing Knucklebones until you’re back to full health with all your spells and ready to fight him again?
Don’t get me wrong, I know WHY the Player’s want to do it, they want all their spells/abilities available! I understand that desire, I really do but it’s simply unrealistic in the realms of this fantasy world that we play in.
So, in a rare flash of (potential, but untested) brilliance, I’ve decided that once per day, you can take a Short Rest and regain the following:
- Regain all your Vigour.
- Regain half of your spell per day uses.
- Regain half of your class feature per day uses.
- Regain zero Hit Points.
- NOTE: the ‘per day uses’ of your Spells and Class Features above are always rounded DOWN; minimum of 1.
We’ll see how these two things go while we play, and I reserve the right to change this if necessary, all in the spirit of making the game exciting!