I’m wondering how people think about hit points in DW.

I’m wondering how people think about hit points in DW.

I’m wondering how people think about hit points in DW. I realize that “What do hit points represent?” is a very old debate point in RPGs. But DW is its own special case. We all know about the 16 hp dragon. 

I’m inclined in my next game to just tell the players that HPs are a measure of how much time you have left–a measure of will to live, or vitality, or even narrative immunity–and not directly tied to physical condition. When you get hit, I don’t see the damage roll and then describe it. I describe a wound appropriate for the situation, and then the dice tell you how much closer to death that puts you.

But maybe people have other ideas, or a different perspective.

12 thoughts on “I’m wondering how people think about hit points in DW.”

  1. Well, I feel DW uses HPs in a different way than the AW Harm clock. While in DW I think that HPs can represent “stress”, so an enemy could almost rip apart your arm, while making 0 (or very few) HPs, in AW I never described a 1 Harm damage like “He shoots you in the head, from point blank distance, you lose almost a quarter of face, 1 Harm”. I always adapted the fiction to the Harm, ie. “He shoots you in the head, from point blank distance, but for a miracle you see it coming, and turn your head away… It’s an half miracle, the bullet rip your skin, you lose blood, but you’re quite ok”.

  2. I always find this difficult because for DW because the “you nearly dodged it and it didn’T actually affect you” plays funny with things like traps or also messy attacks. 

  3. I let the player roll damage before narrating the effects of the attack. <4 = a scratch. <10 = flesh wound. >10 = dismemberment (If there is a messy tag). If a “messy” monster does not do enough damage I ignore the tag. Ripping off an arm for 1 HP does not make sense. (OK maybe a finger or an ear)

  4. Please, notice that a Monster can have a move that says “Rip something (or someone) apart” or “Turn a body part to stone with a look” or “Bite off a limb”. You can easily find them in the book.

    These moves have nothing to do with HPs. An hero rolls a 7-9 while Hack&Slashing? or a 6-? Then you can reply with a monster move… and VOILA’, the arm (or the leg… or the head 😀 ) is no more! 

    Is this cruel? Is this gritty?



    (here we can start a debate about soft moves and hard moves… however I think DW doesn’t incorporate this useful part of AW rules, if my memory serves me well)

    EDIT: also, in movies, anime, etc. you often see people fighting while beated to the limit, with disabled limbs (maybe not detached, however usually “incapable to move ro wield a weapon”). So you can easily reproduce this kind of fiction, trying to like HPs to “vitality” “stress”, not to “blood liters still inside your body”. 

  5. And when you rest, you get back a LOT of hp. Enough that you might well be healed to full. But that can’t mean that your broken arm recovers fully overnight. So I see several places where HP and physical condition aren’t automatically the same.

  6. My point is, I do match the “rip something apart” move with hit points damage dealt. It makes more fictional sense. A carniverous gorilla won’t succeed in ripping your arm off every time he hits you. He’ll slap you around untill he can finally get you in a half nelson and then rip your arm off. That is reflected in wether he rolls closer to the minimum or maximum on the damage die. My players would also find it unfair if they rolled a 1 on the damage die and then broke a thigh bone for that 1 HP loss.

  7. I do something similar to Wynand Louw but much less formal.  I consider the following:

     – Fictional inputs leading up to the damage roll (of course)

     – Whether this is a hard move or a soft move 

     – The damage roll itself (and I roll it, not the players, for speedz)

     – The PCs’ armor (if any) and how much damage they actually take

     – The tags on the damage (messy, forceful, etc.)

     – Whether the PC is still standing (1+ hp)

    From all that, I’ll describe the injuries in varying levels of detail.  

    A forceful attack will almost always involve getting knocked around. A messy attack will usually involve a vivid, bloody description–even if it’s just a flesh wound.  An attack that’s both and does a lot of damage will likely tear up gear and inflict lasting harm.  A four-armed goblin pounces at you and you miss your H&S roll?  Even if you take no (or little) damage, you’ve got a vicious four-armed mutant banging away at you and pretty much forcing you to react to it.

    After the fact, yeah, they just sorta heal up.  _Messy_ wounds tend to have lasting impact (or at least get referenced again later in the fiction), and any monster moves like “tear a limb off” certainly would be an ongoing problem.

    But aside from that, they apply bandages or drink healing potions or cast some healing spells or make camp and the HP come back, sure.  They’re ready for another fight.  They look like hell, sure, but that’s mostly just flavor.  

    Because what’s the other option?  Real injuries sustained in combat SUUUCK.  Even minor sports injuries can take days or weeks to recover from.  You don’t want to track all that.  It’s no fun.

  8. Jeremy Strandberg Have you tryed having them roll damage? Its worth a shot for the simple horror on the look of the characters face.

    Sometimes, they can’t do it and you get to hand it off to another player to do it. Either is fantastic.

    The horror.

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