Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hit Points and the One Minute Combat Round

I was watching Troy this afternoon. It led me to the following train of thought.

Many aspects of OD&D (and, by extension, the more modern titles based on it) are much maligned. Of course, on of the hot-button issues is hit points. It has been discussed ad infinitum what hit points actually represent, as well as what their loss represents.

Another aspect that isn't particularly maligned, but is probably one of the most house-ruled is the one-minute combat round. It is quite often said to be completely unrealistic that combatants could swing swords at each other for five or six minutes straight, or longer. There is another aspect to the hit point/combat round that had completely eluded me until I was watching the movie.

It was the big showdown between Achilles and Hector. They swung, they dodged, they dipped, dodged, and dove. Hector tripped over a rock. Achilles narrowly avoided a sucking chest wound. Obviously, all of this was wearing down their hit points. I may have even posted about it before. I know I did a movie-hit point post, but I can't remember the movie and I'm too lazy to go back through my posts, so there. Anyway . . .

I'm currently hip deep in Delving Deeper, a most excellent OD&D clone, and freely available here. It finally clicked with me that there is a distinct correlation between the rather modest number of hit points and the one-minute round. An 8th level fighter is a fearsome opponent in OD&D, but still only has, on average, 28 hit points, lacking any adjustments. With a CON bonus, he would have a whopping 36 hit points. He could conceivably be smacked down, by a comparable opponent, in 6-8 rounds.

My point here is that I think the one-minute combat round started getting a little hoary when hit point inflation started taking hold. An 8th level fighter with an 18 CON would have the aforementioned 36 HP in OD&D. The same fighter in B/X would have, on average, 60 HP (8 x 4.5 per d8) + (8 x 3 CON bonus). in AD&D the same fighter would have 76 hit points on average. That's more than double the OD&D fighter.

Now, I know somebody out there is saying "But what about variable weapon damage and monsters' attack schemes?" Sure, an AD&D fighter faces more damage potentially than the OD&D fighter, but I seriously do not believe the damage threat doubled right along with hit points. So, it is my contention that the one-minute combat round is perfectly acceptable in OD&D, where there just aren't enough hit points to drag fights out for too long.


  1. Slightly odd comment to add here, but you've just - probably inadvertently - given me some inspiration for a problem I've been struggling with recently: describing damage effects without getting repetitive. Half way through writing my own post about it now, and I'll link back here as my point of inspiration. Cheers man, and great post.