Hit Points + Constitution

(Note: The lack of recent posting here is due to the amount of D&D I’ve been getting in lately. I’ve played more in the past six weeks than I have in any 6-week period since the mid-80s. No joke. It’s been amazing. I have a huge backlog of stuff to write about but I’ve been too busy playing and preparing to play to get any of it posted. It’s a wonderful problem to have. I’d apologize for the dearth of blogging, but I’m not sorry at all. Not one tiny bit.)

Like many, I’ve tried various methods to improve survivability in my D&D game, particularly for low-level characters which can be taken out with one or two good hits. I already implement a few things to tip the scales a little more in their favor, most notably 4d6-drop-lowest/arrange-as-desired (which helps increase the characters capability a bit) and giving maximum hit points at first level and re-rolling 1s for hit dice at every subsequent level.

My standard house rule for the past five years has been a combination of a typical “0 hit points is unconscious not dead” and a “save vs. death if below 0.” This has worked out okay, but I’ve never been 100% happy with the results and have been looking at various alternatives all along.

However, I’ve recently been using a new system on a trial basis:

  1. Hit points down to 0 represent fatigue, luck, heroism, and minor injuries
  2. Damage beyond 0 hit points reduces the character’s constitution score
  3. Character can save vs. (reduced) constitution to remain up and active
  4. Must save each time damage is taken with 0 hit points
  5. If constitution is reduced to 0, character is dead (no save)

This is a significant boost to survivability and gives the character a chance to get themselves out of trouble (or even keep fighting) even with no hit points left. It might be too significant, but I’m okay with giving characters the benefit of the doubt. The saves get increasingly harder as the constitution hits accumulate, but that should give most characters the opportunity to bug out before they pass out.

As far as healing goes, characters who haven’t taken any constitution hits recover their hit points with a night of good rest as long as they’re able to eat and drink properly. Characters who have taken constitution damage recover only half of their lost hit points. 1-3 constitution points can be healed per day of complete rest. Healing magic affects constitution before hit points.

Initial results have been good. I’ll stick with it for a while before deciding for sure.

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