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Norman Barrows

RPGs: strength, health, and hit points

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whats the difference between strength and health?

 

if we take strength as an indicator of body size, and it governs encumbrance, then what is health when it governs hit points? is it body size as well?  or how healthy you are? if its how healthy you are, most characters ought to be 100% health, with only a few having some chronic condition which permanently reduces their hit points (less health = less hit points).

 

hit points as a function of body size makes pretty good sense.  a 3/4" deep laceration across the shoulder on a petite 110 lb female would be a more serious wound than it would be on an Arnold Schwarzenegger type, just based on arm size.

 

but "strength" based on body size also makes sense, unless you model "getting fit" to increase your base strength. then body size would determine your base strength.

 

so instead of strength, health, encumbrance and hit points, maybe it it should be body size, strength, encumbrance and hit points.

 

body size governs base strength, you can "workout" to increase strength, but it goes back down over time. strength governs encumbrance and damage done, body size governs hit points.

 

but maybe strength should affect hit points as well. someone in better shape can survive things a less fit person might not - such as six pack abs vs dagger or claw attacks.

 

so that would mean you have a base strength, which goes up through use, and you can also train up, but its goes back down over time. and encumbrance, hit points, and damage done are all governed by/affected by strength. and the health stat goes away - assuming everyone is relatively healthy. in most RPGs your character doesn't have some crippling disease that leaves you with just a handful of hit points the whole game.

 

caveman currently uses strength and health. strength is fixed and governs encumbrance and damage done. health is also fixed and governs hit points, and perhaps healing rate, disease recovery chance, chance to get sick, that kind of stuff.

 

maybe strength should be variable as described above, and govern hit points, with health just affecting healing and sickness? IE health would be an indicator of the strength of your immune system.

 

thoughts? comments? suggestions?

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Typically, in a game, "strength" is what you can carry and how much damage you can deal (encumbrance more or less directly relating to it), and "health" is how much damage you can take before you drop dead. It does not necessarily relate to size.

but "strength" based on body size also makes sense

The strongest man whom I've had the honor to meet in my life, Karl-Heinz Fechter, 12 times German champion in weight lifting, was 25cm shorter and 50kg lighter (and over 30 years older!) than me.

I was never, and still am not, what you would call a weakish computer nerd, having done athletic sports all my life beginning as a child. But this guy... could literally lift twice as much as I could. Kind of like an over-sized ant.

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Ultimately, it sounds to me like you're getting confused by the old "hit points aren't damage" problem. HP representing injuries is tricky and conceptually broken.

The difference is not that a laceration is less severe on the big guy. The difference is that a cut 2 inches long is a small laceration on the big guy and a major wound on a petite individual.

Hit points don't model what you want them to model.

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I also tend to think of HP as something that you might be able to see physically on a character. But my understanding, game design wise, is that it's supposed to represent a character's ability to survive after failing to defend against an attack.

Edited by kseh

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maybe it it should be body size, strength, encumbrance and hit points.

I've had the same/similar types of thoughts in the past when exploring "realism".

 


Part of this is the numbers-escalation nonsense of many games

Some people find this fun.

 

I suppose it depends if you're going the "simulator" route or not... I take it this has to do with your caveman game.  I think some people like things they are familiar with, others like simplicity, others like what makes sense for with there expectations for the game or what works with the "experience", and finally I think there is a niche who explicitly go out for a simulation for realism.  I think its about your target audience or what direction you want to take it.  I don't really know what your game is about so I don't have any specific advice.

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In sports, some players are injury prone and others seem slightly indestructible. There is some body size to this (very light, speedy baseball players seem injury prone, as do exceptionally heavy individuals) but you can't look at an athelete and reliably predict their injury predilection.

 

In caveman times, the immune system would have been vitally important. It doesn't matter how small a cut is if it ends in infection.

 

Bio-mechanics are important, as are your effort level: Athletes who always give 110% seem more injury prone then those who conserve themselves.

 

All of which is to say, you can probably make a case for health being totally orthogonal, or totally dependent on size/strength. As such, I'd suggest seeing what balances your game best and then defending it ad-hoc afterwards. If size-based health makes the game too dominated by brutes, separate it out. If there's already enough advantages for a light, spry caveman go for it.

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In caveman times, the immune system would have been vitally important. It doesn't matter how small a cut is if it ends in infection.

 

Not only in Caveman times... until humanity discovered peniciline and other modern vaccines, the most common cause of death in wartimes (apart from getting unable to move on a battlefield and being "rounded up" by the winner if you where on the loosing side) was injuries that got infected.

In medieval times, a small cut from a sword could already mean you would die in weeks.

 

The human body can actually take quite a lot of damage and still keep going if wounds are treated properly and quickly. There always have been exceptions... It is amazing to read the stories of how much the spanish conquisidators in southern america got injured on their mad search for gold, they where literally outnumbered 1 to 100 and gotten beat up pretty badly often, and still managed to continue thanks to the very high quality of their medical knowledge and treatment (which in turn they got from the arabs)... the natives of course where not so lucky.

 

 

So IF you want to use HP, health points most probably will represent a combination of stamina (can your character still stand after having had to fight for his life for 10 minutes?), resistance to pain, fear and trauma (again, sometimes it is amazing how some people can carry on with severe wounds, while others loose consicousness at the mere sight of blood), and how effectively the immune system can react to all the microorganisms that will enter any open wound. 

 

A clean sword hit to the stomach should kill the character every time... a cut to the shoulder not so much. Wounds to many parts of the body are only severe when an artery is cut. If not, blood loss might still prove to much over time, but will not outright kill a character. Bacterial infection is a real problem, but that will kill you in days, not instantly. Any hard hit to the head is extremly dangerous of course.

And then there are other factors that can cause the nervous system to "shut down" immidiatly, for example getting shot with shotgun pellets... the individual small pellet wounds simulate a much larger wound in the brain which causes some trauma reaction, or so I heard.... which is why shotgun shells apparently are used for hunting animals often (smaller wounds, big effect).

 

just because somebody got stabbed doesn't mean they will instantly die... though the chance that 10 stabbing wounds didn't hit any vital organ or artery are rather small, and anybody having received 10 non-critical stabbing wounds will most likely not fight at 100% effectivity anymore.

 

 

 

As much as I hate the HP system for its unrealistic portrayal of health and getting wounded, there is one strong point in its defense:

 

Reality is russian roulette. You either dodge the sword, or you most likely die. You either are in hard cover when the MG Salvo hits, or you are certainly death. There is no "hitting each other until someone runs out of HP", there is "avoid getting hit until someone f*cks up".

Realistic, yes. Is it fun though? Seeing how people whine about one-shots in many games like getting killed by snipers in shooters or getting hit for full damage by artillery in certain tank games, an unrealistic yet predictable HP System can improve player satisfaction a lot over more realistic, russian roulette style damage systems.

 

I am pretty sure, if you actually "build your game around the unpredictability" the more realistic approach can work. I fondly remember Bushido Blade (I think it was this game), where you fought pretty realistic samurai duels. Most of the game was around getting in a good position to strike, when blows where exchange, the game was over quickly, as many hits killed or downed the enemy instantly.

 

Still, the numbercrunching predictability of HP will appeal to greater number of players most likely than a more realistic insta-death system.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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whats the difference between strength and health?

 

caveman currently uses strength and health. strength is fixed and governs encumbrance and damage done. health is also fixed and governs hit points, and perhaps healing rate, disease recovery chance, chance to get sick, that kind of stuff.

 

maybe strength should be variable as described above, and govern hit points, with health just affecting healing and sickness? IE health would be an indicator of the strength of your immune system.

 

I recommend thinking about the functions of HP and Strength within the game over simply simulating reality. HP and Strength can be combined into one trait, but consider how this affects the gameplay. In Banner Saga, Strength is the amount of damage your character does, and the amount of life they have left. Characters also have Defense, which reduces the damage they take. If you choose to attack a characters defense, you make them more vulnerable to another attack. If you choose to attack their strength, you reduce the damage they can do against you, and bring them closer to defeat. Sure, this works well thematically, showing how a character that's been wounded can't hit as hard as he could at the start of the fight, but more importantly this makes for an interesting choice every time you attack an enemy.

 

Combining HP and Strength can be tricky though, as you make characters less and less effective as the battle goes on. I think one reason this works well in the Banner Saga is because it's a tactical game where you control multiple characters. When one of your characters is wounded and ineffective, another is still going strong. By the next fight, most of your characters will be at full strength, and you can swap out a character that's still wounded. 

 

I don't see much reason to lump these in with body size. It doesn't really do anything for the game mechanics, and thematically some people have lean muscle. Being big doesn't automatically mean better survivability. 

 

The idea of health affecting healing rate and disease resistance is interesting. If Strength is your hit points, health/endurance/stamina could be the rate that your strength heals. Maybe health is reduced over time, and you recover it by staying well fed. Focus on the mechanics first, then work on the names of things to work well thematically.

Edited by DifferentName

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