## Sunday, October 24, 2010

### Meditation on Hit Points

So, in LBB OD&D: does a character automatically die when he takes damage equal to or greater than his hit points? Does a character go into a death spiral as wounds accumulate, or does he stay at maximum ability all the way to the end? Consider this quote from Vol. I, p. 17:
Dice for Accumulative Hits (Hit Dice): This indicates the number of dice which are rolled in order to determine how many hit points a character can take. Plusses are merely the number of pips to add to the total of all dice rolled not to each die. Thus a Super Hero gets 8 dice + 2; they are rolled and score 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 5, 6/totals 26 + 2 = 28, 28 being the number of points of damage the character could sustain before death. Whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character is left to the discretion of the referee. [ Emphasis added. ]
I can see interpreting that last sentence at least two ways, hinted at in the questions I asked above. One may be the GM's option to rule that the amount of damage a character has suffered, or even the kind of damage last suffered, has caused some additional effect. The other is a suggestion that death isn't always the outcome of taking more damage than the character's hit points can sustain. Certainly, the rules for subduing a dragon, which could be generalized to other enchanted beasts or to intelligent foes, could be taken as a sign that "death" isn't always death.

1. Interesting. I like the idea that hit points might be more versatile.

2. A number of people have suggested using hit points for more than just tracking death, but I think it's interesting that there's a suggestion of this even in the very first edition of the game.

3. Given that characters can be raised from the dead in the context of the game, I take "whether sustaining accumulative hits will otherwise affect a character" to refer to whether those hits might indicate drastic mangling/mutilation of the corpse that might complicate or even prevent said revival.

4. Addendum: Or leave the successfully revived character crippled in some way (missing or maimed limbs that could affect movement or dexterity, charisma penalizing scars, intelligence and/or wisdom hindering brain damage, etc).

5. @Will: that's what I meant by "the kind of damage last suffered". I think it's included in the possibilities of that LBB quote, but the rules on subduing dragons suggest other uses as well.

6. I don't know. PC "death spiral" rules have been around almost forever, but I think reading them into the original rules is stretching things quite a bit. I just don't see it.

7. The crippling injuries you mentioned would be the death spiral stuff.