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Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #5: Please DM, may I have some more?

Written by MythicParty - Published on May 6, 2013

Tales From the Other Side of the Screen’ is a weekly response to Darkwarren’s DM Dispatches column, providing a Player perspective to my DM’s viewpoint.”  Today we’re rebutting his article about hit points that because of a technology SNAFU, I’ve had to rewrite.

I was having a great night.  No, scratch that- a mythic night.  My character, a halfling monk called Lem the Magnificent, had performed not just admirably but truly heroically.  This session I took some risks yet the Dice Gods had been kind, with my Jumbo polyhedrals coming through in the clutch.  Then after some witty banter with an enemy monk, Lem initiated a grapple. After a quick struggle my little guy knocked the big bad NPC into unconsciousness for later questioning- despite a fellow player almost shooting our only lead to death.

Now that would be almost forgivable except that this same player had been on his phone most of the night, Facespacing or whatever.  Not to mention frequently burping or breaking wind like we were in the middle school cafeteria.  And at some point his side conversation about Lotro became so distracting that Darkwarren had to pause reading box text from the adventure to stop & chastise him.  Literally, the game came to an abrupt halt.

However despite these shenanigans we did so well as a group that we still leveled up.  Everyone was pumped.  Then it came time for the ‘public roll for hit points.’  And you don’t have to be a Beholder to see where this is going.  Darkwarren had a House Rule that any 1’s could be rolled over.  So Mr. Unfocused rolled his d10 first.  ’10.’  The other guys went, all above average.  Then I get to go, holding my d8 tightly I let it fall onto the table to reveal a…’2.’  The worst not only out of everyone, but the worst I could have made.  A craptacular reward.

I left the basement early & unhappy.

Star-wipe to a discussion via our campaign’s messageboard on Obsidian Portal.  I made the case that low HP from random rolls make the game unfun & that everyone should just get Max HP when they advance. Dying from failing a Saving Throw or getting a Critical Hit is one thing. Dying because your Barbarian has less HP than the Thief because of unluck is just bad game design.  I also pointed out that it made no sense to roll for HP when everything else about character advancement was pre-determined: skill points, save bonuses, BAB, spell slots, etc.  Lastly I advocated that allowing characters to have the most health they can have helps the DM who then never has to ‘pull any punches.’ It takes away the need to fudge; us PCs have a solid a cushion & we know it.

Basically my argument was that randomness during play keeps you wondering & is fun.  But that randomness during character advancement is totally subjective & isn’t.

Star-wipe to the next session.  The other part to Darkwarren’s House Rule is that good roleplaying on the boards/through emails let’s you have a makeup HP roll. Since I had earned that with my online halflingness I had a second chance.  Clutching that same d8, I chucked it down to show…an ‘8.’  Lem was back to being Magnificent.  It may not have been maximum HP by design, but the effect was the same.  More HP equals more Lem, & more fun for me.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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3 Responses to “Tales From the Other Side of the Screen #5: Please DM, may I have some more?”
  1. francesco says:

    So you basically threw an hissy fit about being unlucky with a chance roll and ruined yourself one of the best session you had?

  2. Deerough says:

    Sometimes chance can ruin a game. I’ve been running dnd games for close to twenty years and I have almost always employed the house rule of re-rolling hp of anything below half. This allows some chance to keep things interesting but helps preserve my conscience when a couple of bad rolls takes out a character. I agree with your post. A dm should always award players who actually give a damn.

  3. Eric The Greek says:

    Players should be rewarded with EXP. The concept of HP is flawed when it allows such a wide range in values between classes and races. The randomness resulting from actually rolling for hit points balances out the predetermination of ability scores that are often min/maxed out by players for every possible advantage.

    Don’t get upset because you rolled low HP. Don’t let it ruin one of the best role playing sessions you have had. Your character survived the encounters of the previous level with less HP. Play well and your character should make it to their next random HP roll.

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