While re-reading the 1e AD&D books, I came across this in the Players Handbook section on hit points:
In some campaigns the referee will keep this total secret, informing players only that they feel “strong”, “fatigued” or “very weak”, thus indicating waning hit points. (PHB, 34)
I remember reading this back in the day and I think I may have even tried it for a game or two, though I can’t remember for sure.
In concept, there are things I like about the idea. Players would be less certain about the exact condition of their characters and would be more likely to play their wounded as such due to moving the 1-hit-point-perfectly-fine-but-0-hit-points-means-dead issue “behind the screen.” The story/role-playing element of the game would probably be enhanced by this approach.
However, the book keeping burden on the DM would increase and damage rolls for monsters would probably have to be rolled behind the screen. Plus, and this is no small point, IT’S A GAME. Game-isms are allowed.
After all, if I do this with hit points, why not with ability scores? I could simply roll up PCs’ ability scores for them and tell them if they are “weak”, “average”, or “strong” and “dumb”, “typical”, or “smart”. And when they buy armor I could just tell them to write “unarmored”, “moderately protected”, or “well armored” on their character sheet while I keep track of their actual AC. In fact, I would probably have to keep their character sheet for them. They could just have a piece of scrap paper with a couple of notes on it.
Okay, that’s getting a little extreme. Even with a perfectly fair DM who was capable of keeping up with everything, I think most players would be frustrated with that style of play, at least in a game like AD&D or even the basic versions of the game. For an ultra-simple intro-type game for new gamers, maybe something like that would work.
Anyway, has anyone ever tried the keep-hit-points-secret method?