Rerolling Hit Dice & Healing

Ian over at Magician’s Manse has an interesting house rule for healing:

Rerolling hit points at the beginning of each adventure represents healing. Roll all your HD, if the total is greater than your CURRENT hp, use the new roll. Otherwise, you current hp is retained.

This is a great rule and I am going to adopt it. This has old school pedigree: in Empire of the Petal Throne, hit dice were rerolled upon gaining a new level. Such rerolling has a number of advantages:

  1. Simplified healing math: no need to bother with exact downtime
  2. Healing and gaining a new hit die are mechanically identical
  3. PCs are not stuck with low rolls forever (or even for a level)
  4. It reflects variation in health and preparedness
  5. Healing and recovery are diegetic explanations; this is not “just” a game mechanic
  6. Promotes a reversion to the mean in HP totals
  7. Record hit dice on the character sheet and hit points on scratch paper
I would only change Ian’s rule to allow 1 HP worth of healing for every night of rest during an adventure. It also might be appropriate to heal 1 HP per level per night, if you don’t like higher level characters to regain HP at a proportionately slower rate [12 March 2012 edit: this sentence].
Also, I kind of like the idea of players having a stable of PCs available at the beginning of each adventure and then picking one to go out on the adventure. This reminds me of games like Final Fantasy VI where all the characters you have accumulated hang out on the airship and you construct an active party from those PCs. I think this style is very amenable to a hexcrawl or West Marches game, as the choice of who goes and where is totally up to the players (most of the time).
There is always going to be an incentive to not have more than a few such PCs, as experience will end up divided between them. I’m fine with players picking the PC that gets the best HD reroll, as that represents some PCs having an off-day. If you were feeling out of it, would you choose that day to go after the dragon’s treasure? I don’t think so. And of course sometimes the real adventure might involve the PCs left behind to hold down the fort…

See also:

3 February 2012 edit: added link to “In defense of the original HD system” thread
12 March 2012 edit: added link to “Healing and Hit Points” post at Aeons & Augauries

9 thoughts on “Rerolling Hit Dice & Healing

  1. Ian

    I’ve also been considering allowing 1 HP regained every night during adventures, and think it’s a fine addition to rerolling HP as healing.

  2. The Bane

    I’ve thought of similar, where you could voluntarily choose to re-roll your HD daily or after eight hours of rest. But, you would have to keep the new roll. This would put the pressure on the Player. This could work with the above rules I suppose. You can re-roll before the adventure and keep the best, or during but you keep the roll even if it is worth during the adventure…



  3. Christopher O'Dell

    I’ve been using the rule that all HD are rerolled when a character levels, but I think this is a very nice complement to that… It also has the interesting aesthetic characteristic of having HP increase gradually instead of in spurts when they level. I’m going to talk this over with my players and see if they want to start using it; I can’t see why they wouldn’t. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  4. rjbs

    I want a rule something like this, but by my reading, this is too generous. If a character manages to avoid damage over and over, his hit points will keep going up. A second-level thief who starts with 2 hp might avoid damage for one entire adventure, and when he rolls next, he can only move up. The longer the character can survive combat without losing hit points, the higher his total hit points will go. Of course, maybe this is actually a really good thing! After all, eventually that thief is going to get hurt by *something* and then he’ll have to start climbing that ladder again…

    I’ll definitely be doing *something* like this, though.

    1. Brendan

      Yes, I actually consider this a feature, because it incentivizes cautious play! And, to be honest, I’ve never seen a PC go that long without taking any damage. But I would love to see any variations you come up with (the obvious variation would be that it is required to take the re-roll, even if it is lower, but players would hate that).

  5. Brendan

    Interesting variation from that above JDJarvis link:

    It takes longer for your 6th level character to heal than it does for his 2nd level henchman becasue most people aren’t going to pay attention to the henchman for as long as they will their actual PC… no really, more important characters tend to have more HP, it’s only reasonable that paying attention to the results of them being wounded would get more camera time.

    Still don’t like that answer? Have characters heal according to their level, 1 hp per level per day of rest after the first would do the trick nicely for quicker level based recovery.

  6. Pingback: & Yore | Rerolling hit points, OD&D, and Empire of the Petal Throne

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