Content of the article: "Reminder: Hit Points are not a measurement of your health"
Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.
It's a subtle but important distinction that is often overlooked and HP is simply treated as a damage bar, with characters being bloodied, barely-alive messes when they get down to 0.
Treating hit points more holistically is particularly helpful from a roleplaying (and simply sense-making) perspective. A 10th level wizard isn't twice as beefy as a 3rd level barbarian. They are, however, more battle-hardened. So when a trap blows up in their faces, the barb stares dumbly at the big boom while the wiz knows enough to look away from the flash, turn around to let the backpack take the brunt of the explosion, and pull up their cloak to avoid burns. They both take the same damage, but one is down with 3rd-degree burns while the other is calmly brushing soot of their sleeves.
The reverse holds true as well. Healing doesn't always have to be about mending wounds and setting bones. Sometimes it can be as simple as infusing someone with a magical "second wind" that spurs them on just a little bit further. Or even just a comforting touch. If players can receive nonphysical (ie, psychic) damage, the same goes for healing. And by that token, the same Cure Wounds spell can take on very different forms depending on who casts it. From a Cleric it might be a holy light that fills the target with renewed vigor; from a Druid it might be a splint of vines that wrap themselves around a limb; from a Bard perhaps a rousing song.
Along the same lines but taking things outside of rules-as-written territory, getting down to 0 doesn't have to mean being rendered unconscious. Indeed, that can get boring after a while. It might be more interesting to have a character get shell-shocked in the middle of battle, curling up into a ball and rocking quietly right there on the floor while the battle rages on around them. They're still prone and incapacitated, they still autofail str/dex saves, they're still unable to perceive or respond to the world around them, and they're still very much in jeopardy. Three death fails? Don't have them just drop dead; instead, they snap and throw themselves off a cliff or pull out their gun and shoot themselves in the head. Three successes? They calm their freakout but are too fatigued to do anything and still out of the fight.
Hell, take it a step further, nix the "unaware of its surroundings" part of unconsciousness and have the KO'd character be very much aware of the battle going on but unable to do anything because they're pinned against the wall by a spear they're too weak to pull from their chest and instead have no choice but to watch impotently as their party falls one by one. That's a lot more engaging for the victim PC than just "Welp, you're out. Go make a sandwich. I'll yell if someone Goodberries you."
Making combat entertaining and engaging can be more than just coming up with creative killing blows. Treating Hit Points as a measure of Will to Live than just a health bar opens up so many avenues for fun combat RP and makes it much less of a boring slog for both players and the DM.
- Hypothetical homebrew situation regarding character health and wellbeing.
- Character is more charismatic than I am… help.
- An Alternate Hexblade subclass I am working on. Would love input.
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