Hey Logan, how do you do Hit Points?
Hit Points up to class starting Hit Die + Constitution modifiers measure the character’s ability to withstand injury before passing out; let’s call them Flesh. Hit Points gained beyond that measure the character’s ability to avoid injury; let’s call them Grit.
For example (using LotFP classes):
Brutus the Shamed, Deserter of the Travelling Arena (…a Fighter) rolls max Hit Points (8) and a Constitution of 17 (+2) at 1st level. At 10 Flesh he’s a strapping young specimen.
At 2nd level he rolls for Hit Points and gains 1. He already has his full class Hit Die so this goes towards Grit, and his Constitution mod pushes his Flesh up to 12. Seems like he’s been too focussed on re-living that last match with the Travelling Arena and crushing skulls to learn much about avoiding fireballs, but the scorching doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.
Maggie Calhoun, Undisputed Mistress of Misappropriation (Specialist) rolls 4hp (2 below max) and a Constitution of 16 (+2) at 1st level. Maggie’s a sprightly lass but her starting 6 Flesh shows that pickings have been a bit slim in the slums of Brackenholm, hence skipping town with the buff yet daft Brutus after that fateful night in the arena tent.
At 2nd level she rolls for Hit Points and gains 6. This fills out her class Hit Die and leaves 4 points for Grit, while her Constitution mod gives her another 2 Flesh. Maggie now has 10 Flesh plus 4 Grit. Seems like she’s been pilfering rations from Brutus while he’s brooding, and watching from the shadows enough to learn quite a little bit about not getting stabbed.
Arnestus Rutherford, Bookwyrm (Magic-User) rolls 3hp (3 below max) and a Constitution of 10 (no mod) at 1st level. At only 3 Flesh Arnestus is looking rather sickly since Brutus and Maggie convinced him to leave the Hall Between the Walls.
At 2nd level he rolls for Hit Points and gains 3. Arnestus now has his maximum 6 Flesh, but has spent too much time coming back to grips with food to learn much about the outside world.
Damage affects Grit first, which to the character will mean near misses, stunning blows, generally getting worn out by all this ducking and weaving, superficial wounds that can simply be strapped, so on and so forth. When Grit is gone the character is too worn down to ward off real physical harm, and starts taking Flesh wounds.
A character loses consciousness if reduced to 0 Flesh, and dies if reduced to negative half the class advancement Hit Die. An enemy attacking an unconscious character automatically disembowels them and feasts on the goods within.
When a critical hit is rolled against a character with Grit, the attacker has anticipated the character’s foolish jumping and stabbed them square in the chest, bypassing Grit and damaging Flesh (or in either case doing something rad that makes sense in the situation with any damage affecting the appropriate thing; read more on Playing D&D With Pornstars’ thoughts on Simple Combat and Called Shots).
[Edit: I’m now using my own take on this instead of Called Shots. The problem with Called Shots is that characters that are actually good at fighting are no better at them than those who aren’t, and because there’s such a high potential for success I’ve found them being used more often than normal attacks. With this mechanic, if you want to do something special instead of a normal attack you make two attack rolls. If they’re both successful, it happens, if they’re not, you miss. If both rolls are misses you fumble, and the fumble range of both rolls can be increased depending on how ambitious/insane the special thing is.]
Attacking from behind or by surprise bypasses Grit and damages Flesh, and any single attack that deals either maximum damage or half of the character’s total Flesh worth of damage directly to Flesh causes a serious wound. This can mean losing a limb, an eye, being wounded so deeply that it will never heal properly and therefore reducing stats, blah blah blah figure it out. Suffering a serious wound will also mean the loss of any remaining Grit; finesse is hard to maintain when the gushing blood from your shoulder stump has slicked the floor around you.
Brutus the Shamed, Deserter of the Travelling Arena has had too much to drink at the Withering Apple (good cider) and insulted the local swordmaster’s trousers. And if there’s one thing Swordmaster Reginald cares about more than swordplay, it’s fashion. Reginald lunges at Brutus’ head with his rapier, scores a hit, and deals 2 damage. Brutus stood statue still but leant his head to the side, avoiding being stabbed in the face by losing his 1 point of Grit and taking 1 Flesh damage after most of his left ear comes away with the rapier.
In the ruckus Maggie has crept around the edge of the crowd, hoping to lift whatever that shiny thing in this old bald man’s pocket is. Unfortunately for Maggie this old bald man is a Digestive Servitor and much more aware than she gave him credit for. As Maggie draws near he turns to face her, milky-eyed and utterly hairless as his jaw drops and a torrent of yellow filth spews from his gullet. Maggie makes to roll out of the way across a table but he’s scored a critical hit and dealt 8 points of damage. Maggie leaves a sickly orange mess across the table as she rolls and by the time she hits the floor on the other side her gams are nothing but blackened bone. The critical hit bypassed Maggie’s Grit, and the serious wound causes her to lose all of said Grit as she drags herself across the floor on splintering fingernails, struggling to remain conscious on her remaining 2 points of Flesh.
Arnestus is still in the corner trying to tackle his Sheep’s Heel Pie.
Outside of combat, characters can roll to regain their class advancement Hit Die worth of Grit for every 10 minutes spent resting or sleeping (so Arnestus can regain 1d4 every 10 minutes). During this time they’re patching up superficial wounds, bragging to regain their confidence or just generally calming the fuck down. This does NOT have to be done in a safe place, but dropping down for a nap right after you’ve gutted the Plague Prophet in front of his congregation may not be the best idea.
Note that if the character has less than half their Flesh they can’t regain Grit until that’s dealt with via sorcery or surgeon; they’re a little too preoccupied with their spilt intestines to be practising feints.
MAGICAL HEALING IN A BOTTLE?!
Yeah I don’t buy in to a vial of liquid that has been infused with the same power as the Devotee of the Corpulent One who keeps trying to convert us.
In place of Healing Potions I like a nice flask of Cuckold’s Courage.
The (allegedly) original brew comes in a bottle printed with a woman’s face blowing a cheeky kiss and wearing stag horns, which by popular lore was first brewed for an apothecary’s brother unable to deal with his infamously unfaithful wife, but its like can be found almost anywhere. Other names it has been found under include Deadbeat’s Draught, Slattern’s Ruin, and the always subtle Hang The Harlot.
It is a mixture of booze, narcotics, and some other things you probably don’t want to know about prepared by your local alchemist or apothecary. Being lucrative as all hell, the preparation of Cuckold’s Courage is fiercely guarded by those who’ve had the knowledge passed on to them, so good luck figuring out how to brew your own.
Cuckold’s Courage costs 50 silver groats (or whatever your standard currency is) per d6 it is brewed to restore, plus a 50sp tip of the hat to the brewer. Cuckold’s Courage can ONLY be used to restore Grit, not Flesh. It can, however, be used to increase Grit above normal limits for d6 hours, and will immediately end stunning effects.
If the character drinks more than 2 bottles within 24 hours they run the risk of adverse affects and addiction.
WHY WOULD YOU DO THIIIS?!?!
Well I guess it depends on what you feel makes more sense.
Option Number One being that the longer a character adventures around the more injury they are able to sustain, until they can walk around with arrows sticking out of their spines and flaps of flesh hanging off like it ain’t a thing.
Or, Option Number Two being that while they do become somewhat hardier, the longer a character adventures around the more they learn about avoiding injury, whether it be sidestepping a sword thrust they would have been too clumsy to avoid when they first started out, or where best to hide when a wizard starts mumbling and his eyes get all glowy.
Me I’m all about Option Number Two.
It makes sense in terms of progression; at 1st level the characters are fairly inexperienced regarding the things they’ll be facing, but the more they learn the better they get at not losing body parts. So the longer they’re around the more competent they become but remain human rather than turning into demigod battlewagons.
It also does away with a lot of resource-management healing. When pretty much every fight is going to mean flesh wounds there’s going to be a lot of magical healing being thrown around before we make it out of this hellhole. But when sliding the last cultist off your sword with 1 point of Grit left means that you fought with everything you had to avoid being cut by their filth-encrusted blades, you can have a bit of a rest on a bed made of their corpses or neck a bottle of Cuckold’s Courage and you’re good to go.
It also means that combat is ALWAYS a dangerous option. Brutus can reach 7th level and have let’s say 40 Grit on top of his (thanks to Constitution mods) 22 Flesh, but a critical hit in the second round of combat can mean his opponent managed to anticipate his next move and cut his legs out from under him. Or that a peasant got reeeeeally lucky with his pitchfork.
[Addendum: some dying and infection mechanics have been added to this in The House of Rules]