In a previous post, I talked about my love-hate relationship with HP mechanics. Here, I sketch a possible solution. It’s definitely a work-in-progress and definitely not as simple a modification as I originaly anticipated, but here it is anyway!
Before starting, I’ll just say that the term HP itself should probably be changed to something that does not convey the meaning of “health” or “capacity to withstand punishment”. We want a word that instinctively means “capacity/energy to dodge/deflect/parry attacks” or something like that. I don’t have a gret idea, so I’ll go with “Stamina Point (SP)” for now, since it’s often used in videogames to name the “energy” used to do act (Dark Souls 2, I’m thinking of you!) I’m open to suggestions!
The last problem I presented (any trying action should deplete SP, not only defending) is in my opinion the easiest to fix : make every trying actions “cost” SP. Numenera uses this idea (there is no HP, only pools of Might, Speed and Intellect points that you can use to fuel powers and lose when hit).
The second problem I presented (dodging, evading and armor protection are represented by other mechanics, like AC in D&D) is a bit more complex to solve because it is more deeply rooted. In games like D&D (and most games), damaging opponents is a two-step process : first you need to know if your attack is successful (roll to hit), then if it is, you evaluate how successful it was (roll HP damage). So some defenses were incorporated in the first defense stat (in D&D, most defenses raise AC, making the character harder to hit) and others were incorporated in the second (in D&D, damage reduction and temporary HP do that). To use SP instead of HP, we need to reconsider how, exactly, all those defenses help (do they increase SP? do they lower the SP cost of some defensive actions?)
But more radically, we need to reconsider how to understand the “roll to hit”. With SP replacing HP, it cannot be “roll to determine if attack connects with target”, but more “roll to determine how hard this attack is to evade”. On the top of my head, poor rolls could reduce SP damage (easier to evade) and excellent roll could raise it (harder to evade), but other effects could be used (poor roll cost more SP to the attacker, for example.)
The first problem I identified (describing a success by describing a hit that mostly misses the target is counter-intuitive and anti-climactic at best, and at worse is fictionnally the same as a miss) is probably the hardest to deal with. I’m going to point out that with the reconsidered “to hit roll”, it’s not as important a problem : replacing a clear-cut distinction between sucessful and unsucessful attack with a continuum between least and most successful attack can live with all of them being fictionally more similar. One way to differentiate would be to describe the effort needed by the defender : a less successful attack is effortlessly sidesteped while a very successful one leave her off-balance for a second. Furthermore, by removing completely the idea that SP represents general health, it’s not as counter-intuitive as I thought it was. Well narrated, it does not have to be more anti-climactic than describing another solid hit that do not put the defender down, after all.
Still, none of that really tackles the problem. Maybe it’s not as much a problem as I first thought?
I’ll leave it like that today (a very anti-climactic conclusion, I’ll admit!), but food for thoughts (mine, at least!)