Hit Points

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Hit Points

Postby Okk » Sun Mar 11, 2012 9:27 am

The Mastermind's Manual presents a set of optional rules for implementing the use of Hit Points in a Mutants and Masterminds campaign. These rules, however, are little more than a footnote and don't seem particularly well constructed. I'm looking for clarifications and suggestions on how to work with these rules, as well as any feedback offered by those who have experience working with them. Any help is appreciated.

First, the Hit Points rules as presented in the Mastermind's Manual are somewhat unclear, particularly in regards to Toughness. The implication seems to be that the Toughness save does not take place, making the Toughness bonus primarily superfluous. If this is the case, then does this mean a Toughness/Defense trade-off is no longer a viable option?
But what of characters who have a nonability in Constitution? The book says that they will have Hit Points equal to five times their Toughness. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, such characters do not seem to have Toughness. They get no ability bonus, and any would-be Toughness obtained through powers is converted to Damage Reduction. Or, if a construct (which is an unliving minion) is allowed to buy Toughness alone, then could an unliving player character do the same?
Furthermore, how would the use of Hit Points rules effect the formula for calculating Knockback? If powers such as Protection no longer augment Toughness, then I would expect resisting Knockback to become more difficult.

My second concern is in dealing with costs and the fact that Hit Points and Constitution are eternally wed. First of all, it's simply impossible to have a character with high HP and low Con, or the other way around. The formula itself (HP = Constitution + Con Modifier * 3) has its own quirks. The average is 2.5 HP per Con, but the distribution is rather unusual: An odd increment to Con yields one HP, while an even increment to Con yields four HP (though this is at least similar to the distribution of saving throw bonuses when increasing Con.) Additionally, it seems that a character who's constitution ranges from 1 to 6 does not get to have any Hit Points.
Nonliving characters are an oddity as well. If you drop your Con to a nonability, then the average (for the purpose of reimbursement) changes to 1 HP per Con. However, if such a character can buy Toughness (as mentioned above) then they can build their HP back up at a rate of 5 per Power Point. The upper limit to Hit Points for an unliving character, though, will always be ten less than that of a living character. This doesn't strike me as entirely balanced.
But why shouldn't a character be allowed to augment their HP without altering their constitution? In most other D20 RPGs, a character's Hit Points are likely to improve dramatically over the course of their career, whereas their Constitution will improve little if at all. A single point of Toughness bonus seems to be the equivalent of five Hit Points, so why not simply allow a player to purchase more Hit Points at a rate of five per Power Point? Like the Toughness bonus, should this be limited to feats and powers? And how would Power Level Limits factor in? Temporary Bonus Hit Points could even be granted through a Boost effect.

Another concern of mine is how the Hit Points system actually plays out during combat. Obviously, it's going to alter the flow of combat. But how dramatically does it change? How dramatically should it change?
Let's work this out with an example: Captain Hero is getting the hurt laid on him by The Crimson Villain. The Power Level is 10, and Cap's Toughness bonus is maxed out at +10 without a trade-off, as is Crimson's damage bonus.
If Captain rolls an average roll (10) on his Toughness save, this results in a total of 20. The DC for a Toughness save is 15 + the attack's damage bonus, making it 25. Thus, Captain Hero fails his Toughness save by 5 points, leaving him bruised and temporarily stunned.
Assuming The Crimson Villain's attacks continue to hit, and if Captain Hero continues to roll perfectly average on his Toughness saves, he will continue racking up Bruised conditions for the next four turns. Then, on the sixth turn, he will fail his Toughness save by ten points, leaving him Staggered. Finally, on the seventh turn, he will suffer a second Staggered condition, which will result in an Unconscious condition and his defeat.
Now, let's try this same scenario under the Hit Points rules: Captain Hero's Constitution is maxed out at 30, again without trade-offs, giving him a grand total of 60 Hit Points.
This time, Crimson Villain is doing the rolling. His damage bonus of +10 is converted to 8d6 damage dice. A perfectly average roll results in 28 points of (subdual) damage. At this rate, it takes him only three turns to defeat Captain Hero.
It should also be noted that if Crimson Villain isn't so courteous as to deal nonlethal damage, he only needs to roll three points above average in order to force Captain Hero to make a DC15 Fort save to prevent dropping to -1 HP in a single turn.
The conclusion: 8d6 is a lot of damage.

Finally, the HP rules are hardly exhaustive. Since the entire game was created with the damage track in mind, and the option for Hit Points was added as an afterthought, certain hiccups are bound to arise. In some of these cases, the solution will present itself after a bit of thought (Eg. The Vulnerable drawback increases an attack's damage dice, while Weak Point allows a critical hit to bypass Damage Reduction.) However, a lot of these problems are not so clear.
In the case of the Anatomic Separation power, the functions of the detached body part needn't change, as Staggered and Disabled conditions still exist. However, when the part is reattached, how would the resulting Bruised or Injured conditions be quantified in terms of Hit Points? According to Ultimate Power, Gestalt doesn't involve sharing damage by default, but if the Feedback flaw is applied, things can get messier. Duplication with the Feedback flaw is also an unusual matter, as it calls for a save against damage, with the usual Toughness save replaced by Will. And how does Power Level limit apply to the new usage of Protection as Damage Reduction?

Thanks again for any help.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby FuzzyBoots » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:14 pm

Personally, I don't have anything invested for or against hit points, but there's a lengthy discussion [url=atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=42355]here[/url].

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Re: Hit Points

Postby Okk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 10:33 am

Thanks for that link. It looks like Cinder's been working with a homebrew HP system based loosely on the rules presented in Mastermind's Manual. I don't much like the idea of HP being determined randomly in a game that's otherwise entirely point buy, though. Then again, I don't like any random elements during character creation in any RPG. The idea of using a Toughness save alongside Hit Points also seems unusual to me. The Toughness damage seems to me like an alternative to Hit Points; even though their mechanical functions are completely different, conceptually they seem to be the same thing.
What does interest me, though, is using the campaign's Power Level as a factor in determining Hit Points. In most RPGs, your Hit Dice increase as you gain experience levels. We don't have experience levels in Mutants and Masterminds per se, but Power Level might be just close enough.

I wonder what Cinder's solution to Regeneration was; applying Hit Points to Regeneration seems just a little bit sloppy. The Recovery Bonus option seems to become either a rip-off or entirely useless, depending on whether or not Dying qualifies as a damage condition. Altering Recover Rate seems more straightforward, but the starting points are different, and the conditions covered are changed. I'm not entirely convinced Regeneration is worth the same point value.

Upon a bit of rumination, I think I understand why you can't simply purchase Hit Points under the Mastermind's Manual: I think the intent was a set of rules that could be dropped into an ongoing game. The idea is that you can use the same character under either set of rules, without having to reallocate any of his Power Points. This seems like an admirable goal, but it cuts into flexibility a bit. I think the addition of Hit Point feats and/or powers might still be in order. The HP formula itself might need adjustment even. There's still the matter of characters with less than one Hit Point (living characters with a Con score under 7, or unliving characters without a Toughness score.) Besides, if certain applications of powers (such as increasing Recovery Bonus through Regeneration) become useless, players may want to shift their Power Points around anyway.

It might be worth note that my previous combat examples assume Captain Hero's entire Toughness bonus was granted by his Con modifier. If we shift that into Protection, though, it could change matters.
Dropping Cap's Con by a single point to 29 will reduce his Con modifier by 1, and give him four fewer Hit Points. But the rank in Protection gives him Damage Reduction 2. This will reduce Crimson Villain's average damage to 26. At this rate, it still only takes three hits to bring Captain down.
If we continue from there, though, dropping Captain Hero's Con by two more points will bring his Hit Points down by five more points, but allow for two more DR. The situation doesn't change until Cap's Con is reduced to 21: At 36 HP and 10 DR, Crimson is dealing an average of 18 damage per hit, taking Captain Hero down in exactly two hits. The situation has turned worse for Cap. Going down from there, Crimson Villain will continue to defeat Captain Hero in two hits all the way down to a Con of 11 and 10 ranks in Protection.
If Captain's protection is impervious, on the other hand, it grants DR 3 per rank instead of 2. Crimson still gets a three-shot victory down as far as 21 Con, but when Cap is at 19 Con and 31 HP, with 6 ranks in Impervious Protection, Crimson Villain's average damage drops to 10, requiring a fourth successful attack to defeat the Captain. The same number of hits are required when Cap is at 17 Con, but at 15 Con he has 21 HP, and his DR reduces Crimson's average damage to 4, meaning Crimson needs a fifth AND sixth hit to win. When Captain has 16 HP, Crimson's average damage is only one single point, and when Captain has a lowly HP score of 11, Crimson Villain has to roll three points higher than average to damage him at all.

In any case, Mastermind's Manual's Hit Points rules might benefit from some adjustments: allowing players to purchase hit points, altering the base HP formula and perhaps rebalancing damage dice are some that I've mentioned.
Even as written, though, the rules still have some quirks that ought to be addressed. Anatomic Separation, Feedback Gestalt, Feedback Duplication and Recovery Bonus Regeneration are the ones I've noticed just so far.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby XLS » Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:25 am

In the comic book genre, Hit Points don't seem to fit-- at least, not as they function in AD&D or in other games such as MSH (replaced, there, by "health points", I think).

In AD&D, classes fill specific niches, and therefore having someone who could sustain more punishment filled a nice niche. But in trying to replicate a comic book-style world, that becomes less viable. Otherwise, a PC like Batman (a normal human with a bit of armor) would always be KO'ed (or worse) much faster than someone like Superman. And indeed, in the original MSH game, someone like Cyclops never lasted as long in a fight as someone like Colossus. And while we can debate whether that makes sense or not, it certainly didn't reflect a comic book reality-- if you read enough comics, you knew that people like Cyclops, Batman, or Captain America were just as likely to survive a fight as were Superman, the Thing, or Colossus.

The M&M 2e system works well to replicate the comic book world quite well, as it gives advantages to both styles of PC. The more statistics-oriented here have shown that ultimately, Defensively-shifted characters lose out in a fight against Toughness-shifted characters, but it's not as dramatic as one might find in a traditional 'hit points" structured game.

I could be wrong about all of this, but it's the sense I get from both playing and reading what others have had to say. Thus, before you delve into trying to make the M&M 2e mechanic something it wasn't really designed to be, you might want to ask if it makes sense given the genre you're trying to imitate.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby Okk » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:46 pm

It is true that the rules of the game are intended to reflect a specific literary genre. This is actually a point of fascination for me.

For example, Dungeons and Dragons is based primarily on the genre of fantasy novels. The most iconic fantasy novels that I know of focus on a rather average and unimpressive character who, over the course of his adventure, transforms dramatically into a hero fit to save the world, and often collects mystical items that make a significant difference in the story. The character advancement system in Dungeons and Dragons reflects this change by allowing characters to level up from zero to hero, growing stronger and better, with a partial focus on the exotic magical artifacts they pick up along the way.

The most iconic superhero comics, on the other hand, are periodicals. Writers can't really assume that they will have the same audience from issue to issue. Thus, a strong sense of status quo is established. Superhero characters tend to start off spectacular (once the prologue of their origins story is out of the way, that is) and from there they typically show very little sign of growth and development from there. They also don't tend to collect exotic new items, as readers are more likely to just be confused about where they came from. Mutants and Masterminds thus puts a great deal of focus on character creation, but very little on character advancement; a small number of Power Points are given out here and there by default, which are likely to be used to subtly augment existing abilities. Loot is barely considered at all.

However, when my group first played Mutants and Masterminds, as long-time fantasy RPG players, we found the rewards system to be somewhat unrewarding. Before modifying any rule in a tabletop game, it is important to understand the reason the rule was made, of course. But if a rule isn't working for your group, the GM has the right to change it. That's what the Mastermind's Manual is all about in the first place. And I think that, of all of M&M's rules, the damage track is likely to be the most confusing and alien rule to players familiar with other games.

What really makes Mutants and Masterminds exciting in my mind, though, is how astoundingly flexible it is. Almost any kind of character imaginable is a potential option. In that light, there's no reason why the game couldn't easily represent virtually any literary genre as well, with superhero comics merely being the default. In the hands of an inventive GM, the game can become a less bloated brother to GURPS. And in different kinds of settings, the damage track may not always be a good fit.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby FuzzyBoots » Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:59 pm

{nods} Although, you also have to consider that hit points were a built-in part of D&D because they were a built-in part of wargaming, which D&D was an offshoot of. Personally, I think that Toughness saves actually do a better job of modeling the average fantasy hero who might shrug off dozens of solid hits or might succumb to a lucky thrust early on and then have to recuperate. D&D... basically the hit points have inflated so much that there's this guaranteed attrition that varies more on how well optimized your opponents are more than how your own character is built. *shrug* It's one of those things that's to taste, obviously and, as I noted in the thread I linked you to at the top, people are contentious about it here for a variety of reasons.

As regards loot, yeah, not really a genre thing. The power points handed out are assumed to go towards accruing what the loot would otherwise get you. A few pp spent on equipment gets you all kinds of neat stuff. The main difference between M&M and D&D in terms of loot, in my opinion, is that in D&D, loot carries you over your caps. In M&M, it helps you reach them, or expands your horizontally. It's a difference in systems. Most of the "loot" in M&M which isn't modeled by people spending their pp are in side benefits like renown, contacts, and support things like headquarters.

By the by, you might also check out Green Ronin's True20 system, which is M&M with levels, races, and classes so as to be closer to D&D. They maintain the Toughness saves (among other things, to maintain the design aesthetic that everything is done with a d20), but I believe the leveling progression and use of loot is closer to D&D.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby Okk » Wed Mar 21, 2012 2:13 pm

While I will concede that Hit Points do not necessarily represent the Fantasy genre accurately, I feel that Mutants and Masterminds can be used to depict any sort of setting, and there are other settings where they would apply excellently. A while back, I was considering creating a Mutants and Masterminds setting based on the Mega Man video games. I think Hit Points would be appropriate in a setting like that.

In any case, this has become more of a scholarly concern than a practical one; if optional rules for Hit Points exist, they should function. Even if no one uses them, the same holds true philosophically, based on the theoretical proposition that some day, somebody might.

I don't know that I'll get much help with this endeavor, as very few Mutants and Masterminds players are at all interested in Hit Points. This may simply be because the Hit Points rules are somewhat sloppy, although it may be because the Damage Track simply works great. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that I'm versed enough in the nuances of the game's rules to sort this out on my own.



Here are a few easy fixes that I propose, for using the rules as-written, to cover a few of the blind spots:

-A characters Constitution modifier is only used in determining Hit Points if it is positive. Thus, a character with Con of 11 or less will have Hit Points equal to their Con score.

-The Toughness save still exists, and is still modifed by powers such as Protection for the purposes of Alternate Save, Knockback and so on.

-As the Toughness save still exists, Toughness/Defense trade-offs may limit the amount of Damage Reduction a player can attain.

-Characters with a non-ability in Constitution can purchase Toughness as a construct, and are required to purchase at least one point. Toughness bonuses resulting from Powers and Feats are not considered when determining Hit Points.

-The Full Power drawback does not have any effect on the result of die rolls (if I thought of it, any self-respecting munchkin could.)



There are still some issues that I don't know how to resolve, which may require some finesse. Here are the ones that I know of so far:

-In the case of Anatomic Separation, the functions of a separated part can remain the same. However, when a damaged part returns to the body, converting the bruised and injured condition condition to Hit Point damage is an issue. It seems obvious to apply some amount of nonlethal damage instead of a bruised condition and lethal damage in place of an injured condition. However, I am unsure whether or not this should scale with the character's Hit Points; the Damage Track is static and universal for all characters, but Hit Points are not. Though it could be argues that the value of the Toughness save is analogous to the number of Hit Points. Furthermore, it is important to note that a single bruised or Injured condition cannot render a character unconscious, while even a single point of damage can; That is, if reattaching a separated body part can inflict any amount of damage, then doing so could cause your defeat.

-I'm unsure how to handle repairing damaged objects, and I can't find the rules for handling it by the Damage Track to use as a basis for comparison. My initial impulse was to allow a successful Craft check to restore 1D6 HP, plus 1D6 for each five points by which the check exceeded the DC, not exceeding the objects maximum hit points. However, the rules for repairing Devices (Ultimate Power) indicate that a successful Craft check will fully restore a device, and the severity of the damage alters the DC.

-Applying the No Saving Throw or the Alternate Save modifiers to a damaging attack is another muddy matter. Since the Hit Points rules seem to already assume that no Toughness save is made to resist damage, No Saving Throw might augment the damage of the attack to some extent. If Alternate Save adds a saving throw, it augments the defender's ability to resist damage, making the modifier less of an advantage; perhaps some kind of DR based on saving throw bonuses could work. Of course, the simplest solution is to just prohibit the use of these modifers on damaging attacks.

-Feedback is an issue. It doesn't help that sources aren't entirely consistant on its effect. In the books it allows a Toughness save with the manifestations save bonus; In terms of Hit Points, the implication is that you take the same amount of damage as the object. Errata allows a Will save against damage, though, which is an issue similar to the Alternate Save modifier.

-When the Feedback flaw is applied to Gestalt, it becomes further complicated. By standard rules, the Damage Track is universal to all characters. When using Hit Points, though, the Gestalt form and its Components do not necessarily have identical HP values. This could create an issue similar to that of Anatomic Separation. Whether damage should remain static or scale appropriately may be the question (scaling damage seems like a hassle.) Alternatively, a rule could be enforced indicating that Gestalts and Components have identical HP values, or perhaps that the Gestalt's HP be the sum of its parts.


The above issues are concerns that arise when using the Hit Points rules as-written. For the purpose of balance, it may be appropriate to modify the rules further. Here are my own concerns:

-It may be appropriate to modify the formula by which Hit Points are determined. A suggestion is that it be based off of the campaign Power Level, perhaps, for PCs and based off personal Power Level in the case of NPCs. A static value could be granted, augmented by a value equal to the character's Con modifier, and then multiplied by Power Level ((X + Con) * PL). In the case of Negative Con modifiers, the character still has a minimum Hit Point value equal to Power Level.

-Furthermore, the conversion from Damage Bonus to Damage Dice might be modified for balance. I don't have any recommendations for this change, as my Captain Hero vs. Crimson Villain examples are hardly exhaustive. They do not account for trade-offs and are only concerned with Power Level 10. I'd like to note, though, that as-written, a point of Strength bonus enhances the damage dice, adding as much as a D6. In other games, the same quality offers only a single point of damage.

-It may be in order to allow characters to purchase additional hit points at character creation. The Mastermind's Manual implies that 5 HP for 1 PP may be appropriate. This kind of purchase should be limited by Power Level limits, one way or another.

-It seems that Recovery checks are now made only to recover from the Dying condition or to make use of the Resurrection effect of certain powers. A Recovery Bonus is not used for other damage conditions, which may effect the value of purchasing such a bonus through Regeneration. Alternatively, making such a change my be inappropriate, as Dying and Dead are generally considered the worst damage conditions.

-A few more quirks arise when dealing with non-living characters, particularly if the HP formula is unchanged and purchasing HP is not allowed. For these characters (assuming they buy Toughness as a construct) Hit Points cost only half as much; this is because they do so through Toughness directly, and a Con bonus is more valuable than Toughness alone. However, such characters ordinarily take Immunity: Fortitude Effects, making the weight of this trade-off arguable. Furthermore, it seems unusual that the upper limit for Hit Points (as determined by Power Level limits on Toughness) will always be 10 less for non-living characters than it is for living characters.



Any suggestions on dealing with these issues would be appreciated.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby Tryptic » Tue Mar 27, 2012 4:59 pm

I don't know how well it applies, but I'm developing my own Extended Combat system to make combat more about wearing down the opponent and less about lucky hits and misses. Instead of using multiples of 5, I use 9,13, and 19 to determine the outcome of damage saves.

So instead of the Core probability:
[No damage]
[20% chance - Bruised]
[25% chance - Stunned]
[25% chance - Staggered]
[Unconscious]

You get this:
[No damage]
[40% chance - Bruised]
[20% chance - Stunned]
[30% chance - Staggered]
[Unconscious]

Now, make bruises and injuries inflict a DC penalty of 2 instead of 1 and you have a much better system where damage actually matters and characters usually need to receive several blows before they go down.
"The most important thing is that nobody was hurt. Except your opponents."
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Re: Hit Points

Postby Okk » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:26 pm

That's a good point. I'd like to see a working Hit Points system, as a scholarly endeavor. However, if a group is having problems with the damage track, a lot of issues could probably be solved simply by adjusting the damage thresholds of the Toughness save DC.

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Re: Hit Points

Postby rando1000 » Thu May 17, 2012 1:19 pm

I've played 2e both ways, and prefer using a variant of the HP system. It actually works pretty well for my group. One thing we did change, which might solve some of your "No Toughness" issues, is to take the formula in the rulebook, then add a reasonable amount to it, say 20 HP. This gets low Con characters having at least 30 HP, which I think is reasonable (if someone actually manages to shoot Zatanna with a gun, she's not going to handle it well).

You could add some variant of the Toughness Feat from D20 srd, such as "1 additional HP per PL," or some such, but allow multiple expenditures (maybe 4 ranks at most). Keep in mind, with protective super powers granting DR, a lot of damage is simply not going to happen anyway.


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