Recently, I watched a video by Matthew Colville on YouTube where he brought up a point about Hit Points in Dungeons and Dragons that gave me a whole new paradigm, a whole new way of thinking about Hit Points that I had never before considered. Instead of using them as markers of purely physical damage to a character, he suggested that they can be thought of as something akin to a “strategy” point or “willpower” point; that is, instead of losing HP as a marker of physical damage, they are points that represent a character’s will to live. When a character is hit in combat, they actually would have been killed outright if they did not sacrifice those HP. Every hit would be fatal if the character did not use up some of his will, some strategy, or just plain luck to dodge the blade.
When a character finally runs out of Hit Points and hits Zero or lower, that means that their luck has run out; exhaustion has made them unable to dodge effectively, and the enemy weapon finally spears them through the heart. This one attack is actually the only one that did mortal damage; all the earlier ones had simply been cuts or bruises, or blocked or deflected, or otherwise offset by HP lost.
I really like that way of thinking about it.
This morning, something occurred to me that might use that thought process to add something to a character’s abilities. What if you could sacrifice Hit Points for other things? What if you could sacrifice them for bonuses to hit, reflecting the extra effort and the fatigue that comes with it? What if you could sacrifice HP for extra movement, using up some strength to push yourself even harder?
Would the cost of HP per bonus point increase as your levels (and therefore total number of HP available) increase? If not, that would mean higher level characters could pull of even more spectacular feats of combat or skill… but at the same time might mean that they become a bit too overpowered. That’s something an individual Dungeon Master would have to decide.
Here’s a possible method of Hit Point use, one that I haven’t play-tested or anything like that. I just thought this up this morning when I woke up, so it’s probably way off and would need tweaking.
For bonuses to hit, it would be 5 Hit Points per +1, possibly multiplied by your character’s level. A 3rd level character would then need to spend 15 points for a +1. For movement, it would cost 1 Hit Point per extra foot of movement, again possibly multiplied by character level. I say possibly in both instances because I’m not sure if the costs should scale up with level. For bonuses on skill rolls, I’d say probably 5 or 10 HP per bonus point, again possibly multiplied by level.
If you read this and think it’s an idea worth working on, please let me know in the comments block below.