Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Of Orcs and Evolution

Recently another blogger put forth the claim that monsters with only one hit die should generally be assigned 7 or 8 hit points, as opposed to the standard range of 1-8 generated by rolling for them. (Obviously we're assuming the  eight-sided die standard of Greyhawk and AD&D as opposed to the six-sided standard of Monsters & Treasure, but the same sort of considerations would be applicable in the latter case.) Essentially the argument is an evolutionary one-that for any community of one-hit die creatures where its members lead dangerous and violent lives, creatures with fewer than 7-8 hit points would inexorably be weeded out by a sort of social-darwinian process. I'm calling it "social-darwinian" as opposed to "darwinian" partly to stress that the argument has nothing to do with reproductive chances (though I suppose one could add that consideration to it if one chose) but rather simply looks at what would happen to the same group of, say, Orcs over a period of time in which they fought a set of battles containing multiple attack rounds. Probability analysis shows that after a relatively small number of combat rounds, the overwhelming majority of surviving Orcs would be those that started out with 7 or 8 hit points. So the typical Orc from a tribe that did a lot of fighting would presumably be one of those Orcs. The Orcs with fewer hit points would have already fallen off the treadmill, so to speak, in this tough and unforgiving world.

If you're like me, you probably find the conclusion annoying, though it may not be clear precisely what if anything is wrong with the actual argument. Various commentators on that blog and elsewhere proposed various "solutions"-maybe low hit point Orcs are actually high hit point Orcs that are just having a bad day, perhaps the low hit point Orcs have just come from another fight, etc. J.D. Jarvis at Aeons & Augauries has a series of three quite useful posts ending here where he considers the issue from a number of angles.

In my view, the original argument is perhaps valid. But it is certainly unsound. This is because one of the premises is false. Which premise is that?

I'll say in a moment. But to first digress slightly: When various theories of evolution were proposed by Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and others in the late 19th century, some felt that while evolution in some form was probably true, it was imprudent to, so to speak, make too big a deal of it, especially to the scientifically untrained "masses". Darwinian evolution had the potential (so went the argument) to shatter people's most cherished beliefs.

So to get back to that false premise. I'm going to say something that arguably may shatter one of the most cherished beliefs of many OD&D players (I'm sort of kidding, of course). Or at least it may appear to attack a key metaphysical pillar of the game. Just to be careful, I'm going to whisper it. Here goes:

Hit points don't exist.

"What was that? What? I didn't quite catch that. Could you really have said what I think you said?" Okay, I'm going to whisper it again:

Hit points don't exist.

Now, it's important to understand that I'm not making the claim that because we are talking about a fantasy game, nothing in the game really exists. No. That would be an extremely trivial and thus silly claim. Within the context of the fantasy world referenced by the game (which is what we're of course referring to when debating theories of Orcian evolution) all sorts of things exist. For example, Orcs exist. Orc lungs and muscles exist. Orc brains (such as they are) exist. In Orcs and most other humanoid creatures, fast-twitch muscle fibers (for better sprinting and other short energy bursts) exist, as do slow-twitch muscle fibers (for better endurance). And if the deep anatomy and biology of our fantasy world is remotely similar to ours, then even Orc genes exist.

But hit points do not exist. The point is not that that they do not exist because they are abstractions (although they certainly are abstractions) but that they are abstractions whose only purpose is to help resolve combats and similar dangerous situations that involve players. They have no meaning and indeed no reality beyond that. "Offstage", hit points have no reality. None.

So, while you are and your group are exploring that dungeon, it's true that there are all sorts of violent episodes raging in that same fantasy world-from minor one-on-one muggings to vast battles involving multiple armies. And, yes, creatures are dying and being killed (and surviving and killing), probably in very large quantities. But in any particular case, that creature going to its creaturely reward is doing so not because "its hit points have been reduced to zero", but because it had its head cut off or was stabbed in the heart, or (to use a different level of analysis) it didn't have enough fast-twitch muscles or the right selection of useful Orc genes, or whatever.

So, I have no problem going along with some theory of Orcian evolution that posits the weeding out of wimpy Orcs (though that would seem to be sort of self-evident, and why anyone would want to spend more than a few seconds pondering such a theory is beyond me). No doubt evolution in the somewhat more civilized human communities of our fantasy world would have a tendency to weed out people that aren't attractive to the opposite sex, or aren't very good at sucking up to the Man, or whatever. But if there is any evolution going on, it has nothing to do with hit points.

Moving outside and above the fantasy world to the level of game playing, the standard implication of OD&D that when fighting one-hit die creatures there will be an average spread of hit points from 1-8 is perfectly reasonable given the assumptions of the combat resolution mechanism, in the same way that "hits" doing an average spread of 1-6 points of damage is perfectly reasonable. The combination is just a way of creating a satisfying and interesting set of possibilities influenced by multiple levels of randomness, not an attempt to construct a realistic combat system based on identifying hit points as some essential physical or metaphysical feature of Orcs, humanoids, monsters or anything else.

That really would be silly.


  1. Pretty interesting points. Over a year ago I had a post talking about how HP were a measure of bad_assery (I'm pretty sure a couple of the kind folks who commented back then didn't understand what I was shooting for). HP are a definition of signifigance on the battlefield. Less signifigant combatants have less HP.
    Signifigance isn't a genetic trait either.

  2. If hitpoints don't exist, then why does Constitution, an ability score that measures physical fitness, endurance, and bodily aptitude, add to them? Why can they be restored through rest? Why is someone dead (or unconcious) when they no longer have them?

    Or, more to the point, do you play D&D with the hitpoints hidden from your players? Do you keep them wholly offstage, and have your players guess how they are doing? Do you ignore the HP totals of your NPCs and monsters until some impartial record keeper says that a given creature is dead?

    If you don't then both players, and creatures in the world, are aware of hitpoints. They make tactical decisions based on them. They decide when to rest, when to push on, when to beg for mercy, and when to retreat on this number. Hitpoints are a visualization of things that we don't know about our characters. We can't tell when they are tired, or hungry, or weak, or sick, or feeling down, or anything. We do know what their hitpoints are.

    To only let the players capitalize on this knowledge is to say to the players "You are the only people who are real in the world! No one else gives a crap about their lives!"

    In my opinion, that is a crappy world to play in.

    1. Well, the players (and the GM) ARE the only people who are real in OUR world, or at least the only people who are real in the room where the game is being played or whatever. And in our world hit points, while abstract entities to be sure, are also real because they are part of the game mechanic the players are using. The potato chips the players are eating are also real.

      But in the fantasy world that the game is referencing, there are no players, no hit points and no potato chips. However, I assume the people in that world--the Wizards, Orcs, peasants, torchbearers, etc. care very much about their lives. And most (except perhaps the peasants) would disagree that they lived in a "crappy" world.

      Sure, Orcs don't know what their hit points are because in their world, there are no hit points. But by the same token, the player-characters are in exactly the same position. On the other hand the PLAYERS (as opposed to the player-characters) know how many hit points are written on their character sheet. Character sheets don't exist in the fantasy world either, by the way.

      Basing a theory of the evolution of species in the fantasy world on hit points is a bit like basing it on potato chips. It's what in the philosophy of language we might call a category mistake.

    2. I feel I may not have expressed my point as well as I should have. No one in the fantasy setting of a world has any idea what a hitpoint is. In this sense, yes, hitpoints don't exist. But there are things that do exist in the fantasy world that we don't see.

      We don't see a characters day-to day health. We don't see how clumsy they are, how often they scrape themselves or stub their toes or fall in the mud. We don't really see height at weight unless we are explicitly told these things. Even if we are, we don't see the breadth of the shoulders, the muscle groups that have developed, whether the person carries the healthy fat of someone who wants not for food, or whether they have simply gorged themselves in a time of feast and will starve again during famine.

      We don't see which people have trouble seeing, or which ones have trouble hearing. We don't see which people have flat feet, or who have bad luck. We don't see the people who physically and mentally can't take the stress of combat. We don't see the squeamish soldier who vomits every time he smells blood.

      We only see hitpoints. This is the only value we have to describe the ability of a person to survive combat. This value represents an assessment of all of the things I mentioned above, and more. It is an assessment that the world reports to us, the players.

      So, do you play a game where these other factors are worked in to the descriptions of characters are worked in and interact with each other, providing bonuses and penalties in real-time? Or do you play a game with just hitpoints?

      Because if it is the later, then yes, an orc can see its hitpoints. Rather, it can see all of the things that contribute to hitpoints. They see the runt who can't keep his stomach down in a fight, and we see the orc with 1hp. They see the muscled, well fed, sturdy warrior, and we see the orc with 7 hp. The smart army is going to kick as many of the people that they have assessed as "weak" to the least important positions. They are going to be peeling potatoes, not guarding treasure or ambushing adventurers.

      Now, I don't care if this is a crappy world to live in or not. I don't plan to live in it. I said this is a crappy world to play in. That is, if I am playing in your game and cannot make the reasonable assessment about the military structure of the orcs I am fighting based on my knowledge of real world forces, then I do not want to play in that world.

  3. You completely missed the point.
    The reasoning behind the fact that they should be assigned 7 or 8 hit points is that HPs exist as game mechanic. In game, orcs have 1-8. When any orc fights, he's gonna get hurt, and if he has 6 HPs or less, he is VERY likely to die in a hit or two, because "hits" do a perfectly reasonable (as a game mechanic) spread of 1-6 points of damage. Orcs with 7 and 8 HPs, are - probabilistically speaking -more likely to survive an encounter. Which means that, in the long run, in any world that use these game mechanics, you are most likely to encounter an orc with 7 or 8 HP.
    And it's not about a civilization eradicating the wimpy and dumb. It's not a social issue or a philosophical dispute. It's probability at its finest, natural selection. And Hit Points are a factor of natural selection: individuals with a lot HPs may survive and reproduce more than individuals with less. Therefore evolution has A LOT to do with Hit Points.

  4. Agravain, your assetion only has meaning if you consider hit points an inherited trait like blonde hair or resistance to the plague. The blog wirter's assertion is probably that you shouldn't.


    What this debate has really done is driven all corners of this tiny corner of universe to absurdity. Alexis, Oakes and J.D. altogether. Better for everybody to just say "I like one-hit die creatures having ____ hit points" and leaving it at that. All of the "logical" justification is just a load of bull.

    1. I believe that's obscurantist. It's an interesting philosophical question that has right and wrong answers, I think. And the arguments of Alexis, JD and myself have nothing to do with the question of whether the evolutionary units in question are inherited or not (see line 9 of the initial blog post, above).

    2. I think what's obscurantistis is the aforementioned parties insisting this debate has some externally founded resolution. However you conceive of or measure hit points is irrelevant. It's a game mechanic. What makes for a better game mechanic and therefore game experience is what is relevant. As that relies on the tastes and goals of its participants, you guys might as well be trying to catch smoke unless you can first agree on right and wrong answers to those.

  5. Its all wide open for me as the DM. 1-8 hp orcs are mooks like 1-8 hp goblins or bandits. Mooks are the bad guys the epic sword swinging hero is meant to cleave through with one or two hacks of their mighty blade as they smash their way through a chamber while the movie soundtrack thunders away with pounding drums like something out of Conan the Barbarian. Orcs have their leaders or mighty warriors even in old versions of the game. These tough enemies have more than a single HD. Some even have spells to command. What is worse is they can have deadly traps, pitfalls, swinging tree stumps impregnated with iron spikes and a dozen frothing, slavering hungry wolves to hurl at the hero. For me a 1 or 2 hp orc is merely a mook that is going to go down with a single hack of Conan's mighty blade while an 8 hp orc is one that may survive for two hacks if Conan's damage dice are having an off night. 1-8 hp orcs are still tougher than 1-6 hp zero level humans, to be sure. They survive in the world simply because they are part of a horde, they are mean, crafty, brutal and violent. The hit points only come into play when the player characters encounter them and enter the room. When the player characters are off adventuring elsewhere hit points cease to exist and orcs are simply orcs doing what orcs do...pulling the ears off of bunny rabbits for sport, burning down farms, ambushing caravans...all the good stuff.

  6. One could argue about the extent that hit points represent factors that are constant over time, or factors that are variable over time, and one could argue about whether PC hit points represent something different to monster hit points, but why bother? Isn't it easier to just accept that hit points are a game mechanism for resolving the question of whether a being lives or dies in a potentially fatal situation, in a way that allows for an element of randomness, and leave it at that?

    I think of hit points as being just a randomly generated number, so from that point of view, saying that evolution will lead to orcs all having 7 or 8 hit points makes as much sense as saying that evolution will lead to orcs rolling d8+12 to hit, instead of 1d20 (because the orcs that don't always roll high will already have been killed).

    I don't read Alexis's blog very often, but he has a "simulationist" approach to the game, doesn't he? He enjoys analysing the rules and the setting and takes pride in the realism of his game world. Personally, as a player, I enjoy the "role-playing" aspect of D&D more than anything else - I see D&D primarily as an opportunity for people to enjoy mentally "dressing up" as a heroic paladin, unscrupulous thief, boorish half-orc or whatever. Introducing game elements that would require a lot of mental effort would just get in the way of "lets pretend" which is why I prefer the vibe of OD&D and Basic D&D (Alexis plays heavily house-ruled 2e AD&D I believe).

    I do see the appeal of thinking about aspects of the game in a simulationist way. I just can't be bothered with that kind of thing in actual play. I can also see the appeal, in the abstract, of hiding hit points from the players or of having everyone re-roll hit points in each new situation, as in Carcosa. But again, it sounds like it would be a bother. It's a matter of personal play-style preference. Yes, I am explicitly renouncing logic in favour of just doing what I like!

    However, having said that, I also think that if the referee has house-ruled a "floor" to the PCs hit points, such as that the first hit die always has at least half maximum hit points, then it might not be a bad thing to apply the same rule to NPCs and monsters. If it's only the first hit die, it will have the effect of flattening out the power-curve and making weaker opponents like orcs that little bit more scary and "monstrous".

    Incidentally, I've never understood the logic behind listing monsters hit points in modules with the highest hit points first like this:

    Orcs (1-4) – HP: 6, 4, 3, 1; #AT: 1; D: 1-6; AC 7/12; SA: None

    Is there a reason behind that?

    1. Please get your facts straight. I play a heavily house-ruled AD&D 1e. And the fact that my world has simulationist elements does not mean that I am anti-role-play. How did this get started that a DM is one or the other? I am BOTH, thank you very much, because both are part of the game and I eschew no element of the game for the sake of any other.

      Educate yourself before making gross generalizations about me, my world, my campaign or anything about what I'm doing. You might try reading more of the blog than my last post. You might also try reading my five year online campaign, which is available at Tao's Campaign, link on my blog.

  7. So I agree with Alexis. Why do I agree with Alexis, because as someone has said, 1d8 hit dice orc is a bit player in someone's wish fulfiment, it exists only to make a group of players feel powerful. It doesn't matter how the orc came to be on one hit point, in fact it usually doesn't even really matter why it was there in the first place. What matters is someone at the table got to roll some dice and the imaginary orc isn't there anymore.

    What he 7-8 hitpoint orc represents to me is a very small cog in a game where things matter outside the view of the player. It matters why the 7-8 hitpoint orc has that many hitpoints, it definately matters why it's there. In this world someone has sat down and thought, assuming a world where each orc gets 1d8 hitpoints at birth, and orcs are violent creatures then most orcs who have 1-6 hitpoints probably wont a survived long enough to encounter any group of PCs (note that no evolutionary theory is implied, in societies with little medical care and perpetual violence the weak die- I would argue this isn't analogous to any real world society).

    The argument goes that a world that exists independant from the perception of the players is more satisfying because overcoming obstacles, surviving and succeeding in a world that doesn't care whether you do those things is an achievement. In a world where orcs are 1d8 hit dice I know that the DM means for me to overcome the orcs, they don't exist for any other reason, and if I fail to overcome them I can't move on to the next group of things the DM intends for me to experience. Success is empty because success is expected. In a world where orcs a 7-8 hitpoints, these orcs are here for a reason, they exist independantly of me. That we happen to meet is a consequence of both their actions and mine. They might be a walkover, or they might be too many of them to handle, it depends on what each group did to get here. I am not expected to win, if I win it is an achievement, either I have planned my actions up till now so that I have an advantage on the orcs, or I'm lucky when I'm fighting them or whatever. The short stroy is success or failure is my responsibility, not the DMs. I'd like to think that means something.

    So you are strictly correct, in a world where the orcs exist as a challenge, where the DM is responsible for the obstacle being challenging yet possible to overcome, where the point of the game is to make player feel powerful (and/or feel like they have adequetely expressed the role they have chosen) then hit points only exist for the benefit of the players, and don't really matter outside this combat, in the same way as pretty much nothing else aside from a few things that the DM is planning on springing on the players or offering as plot hooks really matters either.

    However if you are attempting to create a living breathing world for your players to make their own way in, come hell or high water. Then hitpoints are a crude way of understanding the health of the people in this world. Yes it is an imperfect standard but since it is the standard we use in the system we're running the game in the least we can do is to make sure it complies to the same internal logic the rest of the world does, and that means not ignoring it until the players roll up to the next obstacle.

    1. Okay, I like arguing . . . :-)

      1. " . . . assuming a world where each orc gets 1d8 hitpoints at birth . . ."

      But some of us are assuming that 1 HD monsters have 1d8 hit points in the same way that swords do 1d8 damage. That is, a creature's hit points is a variable range, not a fixed number.

      Personally I prefer this interpretation than one which concludes that all orcs have 7 or 8 hit points, because I like randomness and the elements of mystery, surprise and serendipity that randomness can lead to. If you know in advance that all orcs have at least 7 hit points, then you know (for example) that you can't kill them in one blow with a dagger.

      2. " . . . 1d8 hit dice orc is a bit player in someone's wish fulfiment, it exists only to make a group of players feel powerful."

      The danger posed by a 1-8 hp orc is relative to the power of the party isn't it? The danger posed by orcs depends on so many things other than their hit points, I can't possibly list them all here. And who's to say all orcs are 1 HD monsters anyway? Personally I would have no problem in saying "these orcs are level 3 assassins" or whatever. I would also have no problem in a having a group of mid-level characters slaughter a bunch of normal orcs if that's what they want to do. What's the point in getting XP and levelling up if you can't act like a "hero" every now and then? I don't see anything wrong with that.

      3. "In a world where orcs are 1d8 hit dice I know that the DM means for me to overcome the orcs, they don't exist for any other reason, and if I fail to overcome them I can't move on to the next group of things the DM intends for me to experience."

      Well, if you can make this sort of assumption about your DMs motives, then that is something to do with your DMs style of play, not something to do with the rules. Monsters don't have to be viewed as obstacles that have to be killed in order to reach the next step in a linear plot.

      4. "However if you are attempting to create a living breathing world for your players to make their own way in, come hell or high water. Then hitpoints are a crude way of understanding the health of the people in this world. Yes it is an imperfect standard but since it is the standard we use in the system we're running the game in the least we can do is to make sure it complies to the same internal logic the rest of the world does, and that means not ignoring it until the players roll up to the next obstacle."

      No, I would say that it is HIT DICE that are the crude way of understanding monsters, not in terms of their health but in terms of their general combat effectiveness, and I don't see the point in determining hit points in advance. I think that "creating a living, breathing world" is a great thing, but for the DM, determining too many small details in advance (such as monster hit points) is wasting time that could be better spent on other, more interesting or important things.

  8. I'd also like to point out that the game rules don't say that monsters have 1-8 hit points per hit die at birth. According the rules as written, monsters have 1-8 hit points per hit die at the point at which the players encounter them.

    Of course, if someone wants to rule that all orcs in their game have 7 or 8 hit points, that's up to them. If Alexis says "I want orcs to have 7 or 8 hit points and be more of a challenge for my players", that's fine. But to argue that orcs SHOULD have 7 or 8 points as a logical consequence of the rules, when the rules in fact clearly say that they have 1-8 hit points . . . I can't tell if this is really how Alexis's mind works or if he just enjoys winding people up.

  9. 1) The viarable factors argument has been argued to death. But so long as monsters are semi-aware of how likely they are to die if they get hit anything walking around with one hit in any battle is a suicidal idiot. That's fine, it just suggests that more than 10% of orces in any give encounter turned up to a fight are willfully ignoring the fact that as soon as anyone lands any kind of blow on them they're going to be on the floor. Of course this assumes a vague awareness of one's hit points. An assumption that is important in a setting where players want to make decisions in character, if hit points are totally invisible to all characters any tactical decision making due to hit points comes from the player not the character. Weighting the game more towards the players decisions rather than the characters. Does this distinction make sense?

    2) I don't have an issue with making orcs whatever the hell you want them to be, however I don't see how it is relevant, could you enlighten me? The part about letting players be heroes, if all you want from the party is for them to feel heroic then that's fine, give them something that makes them feel like heroes, it's functionally the same as putting an obstacle in their path. But this serves the players and/or the story. Put it another way, if the DM wants me to be heroic and the DM controls the world, what have I actually achieved when I am inevitably heroic?

    3 and the p.s.) I am a strong believer in the DM shaping the rules, Alexis is not suggesting that this is what rules as written is. What he's suggesting is that given some assumptions (well at minimum one, people know their hitpoints) no 1 hit point orc would want to fight. A DMing style where the world makes sense, in order to get the players to believe that they are part of world that isn't wholly centred around them or there story. D&D rules don't really consider that people would want to do something like this so they have to be scrutinised. Alexis is not telling you what the rules should be, he is telling how you need to look at the rules in order to play the game his way. It is his opinion that his way of playing the game gives you more and is a lot more work than the way the game is usually played. I happen to agree.

    As for the last part of the 3) no monsters don't have to be viewed as obstacles (it doesn't matter whether it is part of a linear plot or not) they are either there for the benifit of the players or they are part of a larger breathing world. If they are there for the benifit of the players, as they are in most games then it doesn't matter what their hitpoints are so long as they provide whatever the DM wanted to provide to the players effectively. If they are part of a living breathing world then their hitpoints along with everything else about them needs to make some sort of sense.

    4) A hit dice is a range of hit points. And as a measure of combat effectiveness it is singularly poor, not only does it ignore the other information about combat effectiveness you mentioned in 2, it also ranges (in this case) from you hit me and I'm out, to you hit me four times and I'm still going. I don't understand the whole bit about pre rolling hit points. What Alexis is suggesting is that you think about what hit points it makes sense for a creature to have before you roll the dice. The dice still get rolled at the same point.

    I hope this goes some way to making the discussion clearer. These rule tweaks go part and parcel with looking at the game in a differant way.

    1. On that theory no human being has ever gone to war unless totally convinced that through magic or favor of God(s) he will emerge unscathed. It seems much more reasonable to me to assume that most warriors in most cultures throughout history were perfectly aware that a single dagger wound could be fatal and what they counted on is through skill and luck they could get through battles and campaigns without getting solidly hit *not* that they were guaranteed to be able to shrug off at least one stabbing.

    2. However, in DnD there's plenty of other orcs around who are presumably also perfectly aware that they can shrug off a single dagger wound.

      And if we're going with the whole variable hp thing, those orcs who would be put out of action with a single dagger wound today will be able to take multiple dagger wounds in a week or so.

      Still since human beings have been able to pick who fights in their battles they have demanded a minimum level of health and fitness. And perhaps there is an argument to be had for orcish societies not being able to select their fighting cohorts, but this presumes that those more predisposed to getting taken out by a single dagger blow a) can't be given tasks they are more suited to b) aren't worth trying to keep around, despite their higher chance of dying c) assuming fixed hitpoints from birth, haven't already been killed, through violence or say a particularly nasty shaving accident.

  10. I got to wonder how humans survive in a lot of folks worlds. AD&D monster manual Men have 1-6 hitpoints most of the time. Berserkers have 2-7 HP, surely berserkers live a rough and tumble lifestyle, Cavemen have 2HD, Tribesmen have 1 HD but otherwise Men have 1-6 Hit Points. (Yeah the DMG gives stats for sub groupings of men but I'm talking Monster Manual stats here).
    100 Men couldn't fight off 100 orcs by the raw math, unless Men had an edge, some sort of group of more powerful individuals that the game revolves about...someone like the PCs. Monster Manual stats are in place for monsters to face the PCs or be minions of the PCs not to face each other. Why isn't your dungeon full of green slime and ocher jelly? Why haven't wraiths drained or converted whole dungeons full of creatures that have no chance against them (well at least thise under 4HD)? Becasue monster are written to reflect the challenge they pose to the Player Character and the ocs like all 1 HD creatures are going to have 1 to 8 HP because that's the rules as written, that's what the game is about. Now as the rules are guidelines people can stray further, I almost never roll HP when I'm doing a set-piece I only roll with random encounters. set-piece encounters will have HP I choose to define the challenge I want to present in that encounter, the HP really have no place in the game outside that challenge factor. Orcs consistently having 7-8 HP out of the 1 HD is presenting orcs is more dangerous on a consistent basis than stated within the rules (where the median HP is 4.5). An orc will fall to a d6 weapon with a 40% chance of hitting only about 20% of the time at 1-8 HP. Put them at 7-8 hp consistently and they have no chance of going down in round one vs a d6 weapon, the 7-8 hp orc just isn't the same critter as the 1-8 hp orc.

  11. "100 Men couldn't fight off 100 orcs by the raw math, unless Men had an edge..." True, but based on the assumptions of the "evolution" paradigm, it's OBVIOUS why men rule the world and orcs don't. Orcs it seems like to fight. They meet and fight a lot, and every time they meet and fight, within no more than 3 minutes and perhaps within no longer than 30 seconds HALF OF THEM ARE DEAD!!! Note that even if the orcs are 8 hit point orcs, they die off at the rate of 20% per three round battle. So it would only take no more than 9 minutes or as little as 90 seconds to kill off 50% of even the toughest. Imagine a mutated strain of "peaceful" orcs. Wouldn't they quickly overwhelm their more bloodthirsty comrades by just, well, doing nothing? Unless of course the "offstage" fights and battles are different from those involving player-characters...

  12. "What he's suggesting is that given some assumptions (well at minimum one, people know their hitpoints) no 1 hit point orc would want to fight."

    But does the 1 hit point orc have a choice to fight or stay home? Do the orcs come and say, "Hey Gruk, you only have one hit point. You stay home." Or do they take them in the hopes that they take those blows, maybe getting a lucky slice in before they die, weakening their enemies before the stronger orcs come in and mop up? If they were a less violent society with longer lifespans that could take advantage of only selecting the best they have to fight then maybe the raiding party is only 7-8 hp orcs. But it seems to me they take what they have. Which is why I feel the 1 - 8 range works best as a representation of not only their health and fitness but how their society works. They just don't have the time nor inclination to do better. Just keep breeding and making new warriors. That is their way of life.

  13. This would be a valid argument assuming rolled hit points are variable and assuming that orc society is something like that. At this point a 1d8 hit dice orc says something about orc society. However this is a society with no concept of ideas of staying back and guarding the children, or one so desperate that it is willing to send its weaklings, its ill and its injured to fight. Does this reflect the way you run orcs in your games? Or is this just another reason thought up after the fact to justify what you've been doing without thinking about since you started playing the game?

    In my mind the idea of the hit points rolled representing the current state in a variable scale rather than an absolute leads to more needless complexity than just thinking about the range these hit points should inhabit in the first place. Do you reroll the hit points for recurring villians every time they appear in front of the party to check if they're having a bad day or a bit under the weather or whatever else you would normally use to explain a way that an orc only has 1 hitpoint today?

  14. Will orcs leave members of the tribe to stay back and guard the women and the children? Yes. Will these be members that are weak, injured or ill? Sometimes. But orcs have a patriarchal society. They are brutes and bullies who intimidate and dominate the weaker. So sometimes they look at the weaker orcs and say, "Live or die it's time to be an orc." And so you get one hit point orcs in combat. That's how Orcs roll in my world. In your world that may differ. And that's fine. The problem with this discussion is not that one way is right or wrong but that some people feel the need to say my way is the truth. And all who disagree are just justifying what they do because they have never thought about it.
    As to reoccuring villains, as with most questions, the answer is it depends. If the antagonist has access to healing spells, if they have an intelligence that denotes forethought, then they are probably going to get a bonus added to the dice when I roll up their hit points. If they are not, if they are chaotic in nature, to the degree that they are the type that would drink all night before a planned assault, then maybe they get a negative to that roll. Again, that's how I do it. You may find otherwise. If it works for you, have at it.

    1. So every humanoid society whose membes roll hit dice operate under the same basic assumptions? The strong rule over the weak. Do 1 hit dice human mooks share the 1d8 or is that only revserved for societies which do not care about who's being sent into battle?

  15. I did not read all the replies however the original post entirely ignores the convention already established by the game. Hit points are not merely a physical representation of the monsters or characters' ability to absorb damage.

    Only a small portion of hit points are physical ability. A bigger portion represents the creature's or character's skill, experience, general 'grit' etc. The example that is like four decades old is that while a person might have fifty five hit points. Anyone can be killed by stabbing them when they are unconscious etc. If you have someone at your mercy and you decide to cut their throat they die, regardless of hit points.

    As to why some orcs have more and some less. Well some are physically tougher, some more experienced, and some just have more 'grit' or all three.