I've been taking the month off of this blog and G+ gaming, to recharge and take care of some real life stuff like finding a place to live over the summer. While I haven't been thinking about gaming much at all (most of my home game players are out of town on weekends right now or otherwise engaged), a few idle thoughts have gained some traction and I want to toss these ideas out there and see what other people think.
THE HIT POINT STOPWATCH
Hit Points are at best an elegant handwaving of the combination of robustness and luck that keeps anyone mobile after being wounded - as has been pointed out by many greater philosophers of the game before me. The sameness of having full HP, half HP, and 2 HP has frustrated me the in past, though - the fight ends, and if healing is rare in your game, people are trudging around for days at half mast with no ill effects. There are a lot of ways to improve this, here's one I thought of this weekend.
Like normal, HP doesn't really matter until you get hit. Then, your remaining HP is how many rounds you are active in the fight - when that many rounds is up, you're too busy staying conscious (or not) to be an active participant. Getting hit again, thus reducing you more HP, means you'll be dropping even sooner even if you don't get hit again. If the fight ends before your HP clock runs out, it resets - out of combat you're counting turns. Sleeping 1-6 hours gets you 1HP and sleeping 6 hours stops the clock until your next fight - but unless you're at full, the clock starts when you're doing any stressful activity - fighting, climbing, lifting heavy things, etc.
For example: Bruce the Fighter has 7 HP total, and Morty the Wizard has 4. They are bum-rushing a patrol of enemy warriors who have cover and a guy mounted on a Roc. Bruce and Morty are both hit with arrows for 3 points of damage by the ground troops. Bruce has 4 rounds until that wound temporarily gets the better of him, while Morty only has 1 round. Morty's player has to make some quick decisions. He casts Sleep on the Roc before Morty is down for the count. The flying mount lands on some of the ground guys, and Bruce manages to get some good blows in on the remaining in the next 2 rounds. Now Bruce has 2 rounds to act. He leaves the guys under the Roc and drags Morty to cover. They hide successfully and so are no longer in combat. The clock resets - since Morty wasn't actually at 0 HP, he's conscious, and since the clock has reset, that's a turn of regular action. If they don't get to a safe resting place in that time, Bruce will have to carry him after a turn - Bruce has 4 turns of mobility total, 3 more than Morty.
This requires players to keep track and be honest, etc, which won't fit all groups. It's an attempt to mash a kind of wound system into an HP-based system. You can tack all sorts of other things onto it - the amount of HP you're down is a penalty to all rolls, etc. It makes being hurt scarier, and moves toward the feeling of Grot some of us want in our games.
NO SAVING THROWS
I was listening to a podcast that brought up Odysseus and the Sirens, and how he knew that hearing them meant you crashed your ship and died but wanted to hear them anyway. If you forgot or haven't read The Odyssey: he has his crew stuff their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast. He gets to hear the sirens, his crew doesn't and aren't affected - and also can't hear him begging them to crash the fucking ship to be nearer to the sirens. And I thought, well, that's a lot more interesting because he had to figure a thing out and come up with a strategy rather than leave his fate to, uh, fate. That motherfucker didn't get a Saving Throw.
So, like, in a world where at least some of the supernatural elements are known and information can be actively and successfully sought before encountering them, do we need saving throws? As a player, I love investigating shit and then seeing if my strategy works based on the information I get. As a DM, I love seeing the players work things out based on the amount of info they actively seek. If they want it random and are tired of investigation, they can still charge in and leave it to improvisation and dice.
Anyway, Odysseus - that motherfucker didn't get a saving throw, he seduced a witch who gave him the what's what and had to use his brains to make use of the information. And me? I, too, want to know what the sirens sing.
(A later thought - neither of these seem suitable for introducing to a game already in progress, they'd have to be well-thought-out integrations to a one off or new campaign. If you try either one or have thoughts or modifications, I'd love to hear about it.)