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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Bluve Oak on November 23, 2005, 02:21:13 AM

Title: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Bluve Oak on November 23, 2005, 02:21:13 AM
Crazy thought #509234. Most RPG’s have a mechanic that tells you if your character is alive or dead, or somewhere in between; Hit Points, Health, Injury… What if this measure was based on ‘how important your character is to the story’ and had nothing to do with actual skill or physique?

So combat comes a long and the rounds proceed as usual: roll for thrust of sword, parry, check for armour, blah blah blah then when the damage time comes it is reduced from their ‘story significance health bar or something’, and so the character who is most important in the story is harder to kill, and those who are playing the supporting roles or the extras are slain immediately.

This is what we see in movies after all. Take horror for example: We just know that snivelling, greedy little kid is going to be the first to get eaten, then the annoying back stabbing bitch will be next, heck even the macho bully jock who has a molto ‘kick your ass factor’ is often the first to go – despite his assumed ability to hold a fight.

Combat can be gritty, realistic, whatever, but in the end it’s not the fittest character who will win but the one that is most needed for the plot to progress. Indiana gets the bejeezus beaten out of him by ‘stereotyped great hulk wrestler man with moustache’ but then wrestler man gets wound up in the propeller of a plane and Indiana runs free. Why? Because we don’t give a stuff about ‘wrestler man’, it’s Indiana we want to see save the day.

Really, it would be more appropriate to base life/health/hit points etc. on the coolness or significance of a character rather than their ability.

Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Victor Gijsbers on November 23, 2005, 03:59:43 AM
Several games already incorporate something like this.

In Universalis, players can spend coins to give characters traits. If a character has more traits, that means he or she is more important to the story; it also means he or she is harder to kill, because to kill a character you must spend as much coins as the characters has traits.

In The Mountain Witch, characters are either 'weak', 'able' or 'strong', but these aren't really objective measures of their strength - its how important they are to the story. If a player character is 'taken out', that doesn't mean he's dead: it means he can no longer engage in conflict, hence, has no control over the story anymore.

In The Shadow of Yesterday, there is no difference between damage you get by being hit with an axe and damage you get by failing to seduce someone, or by failing to impress someone with your cooking skills. Damage simply reduces your ability to turn the story the way you want it.

And so forth, actually.

Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Arturo G. on November 23, 2005, 06:57:02 AM

I think you may be also interested on reading "A Small Thing About Character Death plus a mini-manifesto". You can find it here: [url][]


Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Arturo G. on November 23, 2005, 06:59:21 AM
Sorry! I didn't use the Preview, and I didn't notice that I pasted the URL in the wrong place:
The correct link:


Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 23, 2005, 08:55:45 AM
Interestingly, from one POV D&D's Hit Points actually fit the bill from early on. Well, sorta. In fact, this is the problem with them generally, they're supposed to be both an in-game gauge of health, and a metagame guage of importance. All explained in-game, however. That is, if you have a lot of HP, and you take a few points of damage, the narration is supposed to explain in-game that the wound was not so bad. A character with few HP taking the same blow takes a much worse blow in the narration. Thus it's explained that characters don't take superhuman amounts of damage to kill - they're actually taking less damage.

Hero Quest does precisely the same thing, just making it more explicit by calling them Action Points. In both systems characters have no impairment at all until they actually reach zero. Meaning that the narration of being hurt is merely color. In HQ's system, you can therefore make this color anything. In most cases, in fact, it's narrated in terms of position changes, or other advantages being gained.

The problem with D&D hit points, however, is that subsequent to a fight, they revert to working like you'd expect a damage guage. A cure light wounds spell that heals the same wound above is healing a minor wound for the high hit point character, and a major wound for the low hit point character. Which really makes no sense - so people largely revert to thinking that the HP system is a health guage system.

In HQ, only the result of the contest tells the characters health state (or other impairment), which means that these are all of proportional difficulty to deal with. The health mechanic is separated from the dramatic importance mechanic, and the contradictions (like falling damage) go away. So we've always had this "coolness points" concept around, it's just often been implemented pretty badly.


Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Michael S. Miller on November 23, 2005, 09:42:57 AM
Not a crazy thought at all, Bluve. Extreme Vengeance, an action-movie RPG, did this kind of thing with differing levels of Guts and Coincidence (the power to edit the movie script) for different types of heroes.

My game, With Great Power... is centered around taking on Suffering (i.e. damage) to different Aspects of your character. Depending on which Aspect (your superpowers, your motivations, your relationship with your aging aunt) is made to Suffer, and how that Suffering comes about, the description of the damage will change each time. For instance, sometimes taking Suffering to Aspect: Girlfriend would manifest as her being struck by falling debris during a fight. At another time, the same Suffering might be described as her going out with someone else because you stood her up.

Additionally, since taking more Suffering increases the tension of the story, players are rewarded for it. The more Suffering you take, the more cards you get ... until you push it too far and lose control of the Aspect to the GM.

Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: jerry on November 23, 2005, 06:15:24 PM
Yeah, its an issue I have to (or try to) deal with for Gods & Monsters. Before adding injury points, I rambled a bit about it on the Biblyon Broadsheet:

I used "deeply embedded into the story" rather than "important to the story".

I think that there are lots of games that do provide better measures of story importance; those that provide "cogs" or dice for doing things that bring them closer into the story (or that convince other players that this new direction should be embraced), for example, are very close to such a measure.


Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Bluve Oak on November 24, 2005, 12:15:49 AM
O.K. nice responses, but I may need to be a little more specific.

Your examples are not exactly what I’m talking about but I can see the obvious correlations, and in the end they may indeed serve the same purpose -  as most of the examples given are to do nore with player story power then what I mean -  but how it is implemented, there they all differ, and my suggestion is an approach for more traditional games:

The health gauge is still there, a pure measure of your physical health, but there is another mechanic that bumps this up or down according to a characters significance to the story. (Actually I shouldn’t even say coolness, sometimes it is the coolest and most interesting characters that play minor roles and/or die.) But it is the character who is the most essential for the story to fold out that stays in the picture until the end.

So whatever this mechanic is (based on essentiality to story) it affects a characters physical health.

P.S. hey Michael I like the sound of your game! I'll give it a look in.

Title: Re: Coolness Hit Points
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 28, 2005, 08:16:50 AM
So, to clarify, you're saying that if a character gets a new girlfriend, and is thus more important to the story, he should get cool points, and his health should get better?

It seems to me that what you're thinking is that character death is the only way to lose a character, so loss of character significance has to equal loss of character health so that if they get totally uncool that they'll die and be out of the picture.

OK, actually I'm pretty sure that the above is wrong, but in correcting me, perhaps we can understand better what you're getting at.