Friday, December 18, 2015

Longer Living (possibly) with HTK

A complaint about old-school RPG is how gosh-darned lethal it is at low levels and while I completely understand the and even appreciate the brutal campaign model that helps establish there are other ways game play can go with minor adjustment to rules and in this case what HP are.

Here on out in this post HP are going away  as the definition of a charter and monsters durability in combat  to be replaced with an old time alternative of HTK (Hits to Kill), Hit Points are the degree of damage a blow, effect, or situation inflicts upon others.

Alternative HTK based Combat
HTK serves to measure two things: durability and a threshold for being defeated in a single blow.

Whenever a character, NPC, or monster suffers damage equal to or in excess of their current HTK score said charcter, NPC, or monster is Killed.

Whenever a character, NPC, or  monster suffers damage under their current HTK score they are Hit and theHTK score is reduced by 1 point.

Natural Healing occurs gradually, 1 HTK is restored per day of rest. This might seem slow but it is an entire hit thus a wound that is being shaken off and recovered from.

Magical Healing works as normal with 1 HTK being restored per traditional HP that would be restored by a spell. Magical healing is a bit more magical as it isn't just healing portions of wounds but entire wounds, likely multiple wounds.

So a massive blow will still eliminate a combatant but minor blows will wear away slowly at combatants.  This gives Pcs a little more room to be heroic at lower levels as (by example) 2 successive blows for 3 pts of damage each do not vanquish  a character with 6 HTK but instead inflict 2 hits that reduce the HTK score to 4.   Protracted combat becomes more and more dangerous but the threshold from living to dead may take longer to be breached.

It should also be obvious that higher HTK characters and monsters are going to be around longer in fights unless some really big guns are brought into play. Clever play and tactics should involve combats that are more than simple attrition on abstract HP abd maybe even encourage non-combat resolution to potential threats in a game. A 44 HTK dragon under this alternate combat variant would be be pretty fearsome if there was no way a party could deliver 44 or more pts of damage in a single blow.

Possible Elaborations

Non-lethal combat-
Non-lethal damage. Non-lethal damage still wears a combatant down in the same manner as potentially lethal blows and makes it possible for lethal attacks mixed in to slay combatant but if the blow struck that overcomes a combatants HTK is non-lethal they are knocked out instead.

Recovering from non-lethal damage is quicker with 1 HTK being restored by 10 minutes of rest or incapacity.  Once a character has regained 3 HTK or more while knocked out they may make a saving throw to recover their sense and function again.

Note: knocking your ally out is not an option to save their life when they are down to 1 HTK  only ht non lethal damage is restored at 1 HTK per 10 minutes. 

Serious Wounds-
When ever a character is wounded once HTK are reduced to 1/2 HTK or less previously they must make a saving throw or suffer from a Serious Wound.  Serious wounds could either be specific effects like broken hands, severed arms, or more generic like the temporary loss of ability points.

Serious wounds should typically be recovered when HTK are recovered in excess of 1/2 HTK but some campaigns may be well served by longer lasting grievous injuries which while someone hasn't suffered enough Hits to Kill them they are still in a very bad state.


  1. Interesting idea. How do you determine HTK and do characters gain more as they level?

    1. HTK could pretty much be determined the same as HP in the classical range. 1D4 for fragile characters,1d8 (or1d10) for the hardcasess. I'll have to some math on the topic and post it.

  2. Interesting idea. How do you determine HTK and do characters gain more as they level?

  3. Interesting idea. Seems like it would work well at low levels, but would make vanquishing a 44 HTK opponent in combat a very protracted die rolling exercise lasting dozens of die rolls or rounds, maybe even a hundred or more rounds.

  4. Hmm...this IS interesting. I'm familiar with the term "HTK," but can't remember ever seeing it in practice. However, I used something similar in 5AK for monster combat, though without the attrition factor.

    I suppose in D&D armor would effect the attack roll? An HTK system would seem an ideal place to model armor as "damage reduction" by increasing HTK depending on armor worn.

    1. D&D style AC would work as is but it does seem to invite armor as extra HTK to rules tinkerers (such as you and I).