I’m toying (again) with the idea of getting rid of HP.

I’m toying (again) with the idea of getting rid of HP.

I’m toying (again) with the idea of getting rid of HP.

So, I’ve analyzed some of the numbers (here for those interested):


Basically, the only thing HP allows is granularity (a 2 dmg hit VS a 12 dmg hit). The cost is a bit slower gameplay (you have to roll damage, subtract armor, then subtract the total to your remaining HP).

But that granularity really has not much incident if in the end it doesn’t allow you to survive at least 1 more hit. For e.g., if you have a character with 15 HP, there’s no difference between taking a 10 dmg hit followed by 9 dmg hit than a 8 dmg followed by 7 dmg. In both cases, you’re down with 2 hits. And your still down in 3 hits for 1, 7, 7 VS 2, 6, 7 or … well, you get the point.

The number of permutations is not that wide if you think about it, even more so when you consider that the average damage done by monsters is around 6 (all monsters considered). From there, you can safely say that, on average, a character with 24 hp will get dropped after 4 hits.

Maths gets funky with Armor and Piercing/Ignore Armor, but let’s pass for now.

Another point I’ve taken into consideration is with HP, really, the only 4 states that your characters goes through is: Full HP, But a Scratch, Need Healing, Down.

So I came up with the idea of “Hit Boxes”. While not novel, I think it covers for characters that can take more hits than others, while not fiddling with the details (at the cost of granularity).

Considering the average damage and average/most likely HP that a character gets, I’ve come up with these numbers:

Nb. of Hit boxes

Barbarian 4

Bard 3

Cleric 4

Druid 3

Fighter 5

Immolator 2

Paladin 5

Ranger 4

Thief 3

Wizard 2

So a barbarian can take an average of 3 hits, the 4th will drop it down.

If you have a bonus to CON, add 1 hit-box.

If you have -1 to CON, remove 1 hit-box

Most monsters will make 1 hit-box worth of damage.

Strong monsters like Earth Elemental, Goliath, Purple Worm, Sauropod, Treants and the like (they all do d10+5, d8+7 or B[2d10]+2 or more) will make 2 hit-boxes worth of damage.

Dragons do 3 hit-boxes worth of damage.

Now Armor is tricky. At average damage (6), Armor 1 would give you consistently 1 more hit-box, but at armor 4, you can take as much as 8 more hits! The more you increase average damage, the less effective armor gets. At low level of damage (goblins, bandits, worgs, and such that do ~d6 dmg), at Armor 4 they virtually can’t damage you, at Armor 2 it’s as much as 4 more hit-boxes.

For sake of simplicity, each pts of Armor gives you an additional hit-box. It works with the math for 2 hit-boxes worth of damage monsters (Armor 4 protects you vs 2 more hits from those monsters, which is consistent with the maths)

Piercing trait allows a monster to ignore that number of extra hit-boxes.

Ignore armor ignores all extra hit-boxes.

Now you have 2 options for PC damage.

1. Either you keep it (because let’s face it, rolling dice is fun!)


2. All characters do 1 hit-box of damage or 2 hit-boxes if they can manage to do d10+5/d8+6/d6+7/d4+8.

Monsters have HP/6 in hit-boxes (round up).

Add 1 box for each pt of Armor (which are ignored same has explained above).

(it’s easy to remember, feeble creatures will have 1, most enemies will have 2, strong creatures will have 3, and the rare creatures with more than has 19+ HP have 4) + Armor.

Finally, to add gravitas to this, the GM can also attach a tag to any hit-box that you just checked off. A tag is a way to give narrative impact to the hit you received, much like the weapon and item tags. It is usually a single word, like “Bleeding”, “Blinded”, “Winded”, “Lame”, “Dazed” and such. Not all wounds warrant a tag, but the last 3 hit-boxes should most likely have one to represent increasingly serious hits.

For healing, when the game says you heal half your HP, you heal half your boxes (round up).

Poultices and Healing Potions heal 1 box.

Cure Light and Arcane Art heal 1 box.

Cure Mod heals 2 boxes

Cure Crit heals 3.


Instead of HP you have boxes that you check each time you’re hit and you can add a tag next to one for narrative effect.

Overly complicated, most probably. But it does work. Maths aren’t too much off from what you expect. People that are bad at math (me) appreciate the no-brainer (you’re hit, check off a box). Fans of Torchbearer, Fate or Indie Hack will surely feel at home.

I’m open to critique!

26 thoughts on “I’m toying (again) with the idea of getting rid of HP.”

  1. It seems to me that you’ve essentially added something akin to the Harm system from Apocalypse World, though modified, into Dungeon World.

    For a parallel approach to AW-style harm, which incorporates your idea of attaching tags/effects to hit boxes, i’d recommend you look at another PbtA game – Legacy: Life Among the Ruins.

    I really enjoyed how that worked out in Legacy. It could be fun in Dungeon World; however, i don’t think the Hit Points system is a problem. The math involved is pretty simplistic and has never been a burden to any of the many folks i’ve played with. Moreover, Hit Points are a throwback to DW’s roots in D&D. It was a thematic decision, and i like Hit Points there, just as much as i like Harm in Legacy or Apocalypse World.

  2. “Diceless Dungeon World”

    I dig it. Will need a nice “Monster Builder” cheat sheet, and some nice little charcater sheets and you could easily play in the car!

  3. Now that you mention it, yeah lolol. I guess it’s almost exactly Harm. Although it is based on actual DW stats to make sure to be as close as possible to what you’d expect + it takes into account Armor and Piercing and doesn’t need a move to “take a hit”.

  4. Oh, yeah, the idea doesn’t come from trying to “fix a problem” more than trying to come up with a variant.

    I’m curious, any words on how Legacy does it, the elevator pitch version?

  5. Robert Doe Oh, yeah! That’s a cool (unintended) boon 😛 Or around the campfire! Although to be fair, you still roll plenty of 2d6+stat for all checks. You just don’t roll for damage.

    I could make up a small table for monsters, but really, it’s pretty simple and could be improv. In all cases, I’m mostly never using stats as is, or monsters from the book.

    Your gut is never wrong.

    Giant frog? It’s friggin huge but doesn’t have nasty natural weapons. I guess it has 3 hit boxes and do 1 damage.

  6. Addramyr Palinor

    Going from memory here, i don’t have Legacy playbooks in front of me.

    Each Playbook has its own set of Harm boxes. More robust Playbooks have more total boxes to check.

    Each box is associated with a fictional and/or mechanical effect. One might be “Scared” another might be “Blinded” and a third might be “Bloody Mess (-1 Stat)”. For each playbook they are different, although each has one box marked “Dead.”

    When a PC takes Harm, they check a number of boxes, depending on severity/tags of the attack. They get to choose which boxes to check, in which order.

    During healing, moves might allow the player to accept a permanently ticked Harm box to represent a permanent injury. They might instead get the opportunity to rewrite the effect of that Harm box that doesn’t have a stat penalty AND add a stat penalty to that box.

  7. Andrew Fish That’s pretty cool! I though about pre-chosen status effect for boxes as in Torchbearer for example but wasn’t much fan of it. To me, it doesn’t make sense that a knife stab makes me Confused or something along those lines.

    But then again, I’m wondering how much can you keep the creative train coming as the GM after which you start handing over the same tags again and again.

    Does the rules keeps you from checking a status that doesn’t match narratively? Like, a physical hit from a creature can’t make you Hungry, for e.g.

  8. Addramyr Palinor i think the rules leave it solely up to the Player to check whichever box they wish. Including being able to check “Dead” before checking the others, if they wish.

    If a player marked “Hungry” when being hit with a bat, i’d ask them to explain how that worked, and roll with the explanation. By farming this out to a group conversation instead of GM-fiat, i think the rules provide lots of room for creative solutions to that issue.

    Also, i’d need to check Playbooks, but i can’t recall any of the effects being that far removed from what you might normally expect from a source of damage, though players can end up with the authority to change it to anything else, later.

    Something to point out about players being able to choose “Dead” on the first Harm – each Playbook has a death move that the player might want to trigger when the fiction feels right. Also, each player is controlling both a “family” and a single character. When a character dies, they get to make another character from within that family.

    Game play flows between zoomed in on players and zoomed out on families, with moves appropriate for each, and after story arcs, focus switches to another age that could be seasons, years, or generations later.

    Legacy doesn’t seek to attach players to a single PC, but rather the legacy of a family surviving in some apocalyptic waste.

  9. HP isn’t how healthy you are. It’s just a symbolical count of your fighting capacity. Being at one health doesn’t mean you’re covered in cuts and bleeding heavily. It just means you’re almost out of steam.

  10. I don’t have a problem with this idea ( and indeed it might feel more in keeping with the PbtA system) except that it doesn’t feel any simpler to me. And it would mean changing other systems too, how tags affect damage for instance.

  11. Also it takes DW a step further away from the OSR modules I often use for base material. And from the dice themselves (using different sizes for damage and healing) Not insurmountable issues but…

  12. Addramyr Palinor I meant damage tags like the ones you mentioned, e.g. piercing or ignores armor. And while tags are indeed more narrative, as the good book says “everything in Dungeon World is both descriptive and prescriptive.” 🙂 But don’t let any skepticism on my part slow you down.

  13. Addramyr Palinor It’s not even that. It’s how the player wants to interpret it. If you want to play a samurai who can never be hit in combat, you taking 4 damage doesn’t break his narrative, he just had to break his flow to avoid the attack. It’s not till he actually hits 0 that you have to say he has been hit finally.

  14. Patrick Schenk Yeah, well my view allows for this 😛

    Taking off HP (or checking hit-boxes) isn’t synonym to actual physical wound. It might be stress, strain, running out of luck, divine intervention, parries, dodges, scratches, actual wounds, live to will, destiny or whatever suits your fancy.

    I agree in that sense that it’s probably far better if the players have a say on tags you stick on their hit.

  15. BTW Addramyr Palinor, I have used a no-roll default damage system in the past. I just compiled data on all the different damage steps and then calculated a hi-middle-low roll for each and put it into a bookmark sized table for myself to use. That way I didn’t have to roll damage. But I missed the drama, so I went back to rolling. 🙂 That is something worth mentioning too. Even though it doesn’t make much difference in the aggregate, there is some drama in each individual roll! A beast that does huge damage, e.g. b[2d12], can still roll 1,1.

  16. Back to that camp fire idea. If you added boxes to check off for 6-, 7-9,10-11, and 12+ you could allow for story telling and require the players to pick a roll result in that moment. Then when all the boxes are checked off, start fresh again.

    The number of each boxs and it’s result would be equal to the probability curve of 2d6 (stats may alter this)

    Just spit balling.

    Diceless DW

  17. It doesn’t affect weapon tags. A piercing 1 ignores 1 armor hit box (meaning you can’t check out 1 of your armor hit box forcing you to check a “health” box)

    A forceful weapon still knocks back or possibly down, etc

  18. This reminds me a bit of damage in Slade Stolar’s The Indie Hack; where PCs and Monsters both have a select amount of Hard Details they can take until they are Fallen. For instance, a Veteran has (0/4) health, meaning that they can take 4 Hard Details (things like, the Goblin stabs you in the stomach, it’s real painful) before they are out for the count.

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