Yesterday, The Dragon’s Flagon had a post about using hit points as spell points. One of the common (though not insurmountable) problems of a system like this is that it increases the utility of healing effects, which are already potent. In addition to allowing adventurers to take more punishment, healing would also allow magic-users to cast more spells. I call this the “mana battery” problem.
When thinking about this, the following idea came to me: what if each hit point of magical healing aged a character by one day? I have PCs recover one HP per day when tracking natural healing, though hit dice are re-rolled between adventures. Thus, there would be a symmetry between magical and natural healing. At one stroke, healing magic becomes problematic while still being available, a reason is given for why healing magic is not used frivolously, and magic gains a greater sense of enchantment. I am considering implementing this even in games that don’t use HP to power magic.
Also, this morning while reading John’s answers to my 20 rules questions, I came across this:
Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
No. Monsters that would normally drain levels instead age you.
This is much better, in my opinion, than ability score damage (the 3E method), which is both not very scary (because it recovers quickly) and a hassle (because you need to recalculate several other derived statistics). Aging is irrevocable without being catastrophic in most instances. And, you have adventurers returning from raiding barrows strangely aged, which fits the atmosphere of undead. 2E (and maybe AD&D, I’m not sure) sort of did this with the restoration spell which restores drained levels at the cost of aging. I might even use level drain and aging together if I was running a game using a proper traditional rule set (as opposed to the 4E hack I’ve been playing recently).
There are some other spells that traditionally age spell casters as well. Gate, for example, ages the caster five years, as does wish. I’m sure there are more.
The downside is that you need to track an extra number per character (effective age). This was sort of true before, but it has come up so infrequently in games that I have played in as to basically not be required.