Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A God At First Level (Or “A Crap-Ton Of Hit Points”)

A few weeks back, I posted a new 3HD critter here at The Savage AfterWorld. Carl (blog-meister of Mutagenic Substance) remarked that he thought the creature had far too few HD. He wrote:

They seem more in line with D&D conventions - 3 HD in that context is respectable. In Mutant Future on the other hand, the puniest player character possible, with a 3 CON, is going to be roughly comparable to this large horse-size creature in terms of damage absorbing capacity. Not to get into a debate about what exactly HP mean, but even the most nebulous of HP definitions would be hard pressed to explain this discrepancy.

Carl got me to thinking about PC hit points in Labyrinth Lord versus their hit points in Mutant Future. Here it is in a nutshell: Mutant Future characters are powerful behemoths from the get-go, whereas Labyrinth Lord characters aren’t. Let’s compare, assuming that you’re miraculously maxing out all dice rolls:

Labyrinth Lord – I’m rolling up a Fighter with a CON of 18. So, at first level, I have 8 hit points plus 3 points bonus due to CON, for a total of 11 hit points. End of story.

Mutant Future – I’m rolling up a Pure Strain Human with a CON of 18. I roll an 8 for each point of CON, and so I start with 144 hit points.

11 versus 144. No contest.

At first glance, it would seem that Future Mutants would be able to roam the wastelands with impunity - after all, they have hit points to spare. But upon further examination, Mutant Future has some interesting built-in factors that makes having a huge hit dice pool more balanced.

  • There are no clerics standing ready with a Cure Light Wounds spell, nor magic markets with plenty of healing potions. In Labyrinth Lord, instantaneous healing magic is fairly plentiful. No PC party is without a few healing elixirs, and the party’s cleric always has some kind of Cure spell at the ready. However, healing in Mutant Future may come by way of an occasional StimShot or a beneficial mutation, but gratuitous “fixer-uppers” are rare. You get hurt, you stay hurt for a while. 144 hit points is not that much if you’re down to 12 hp without any way of repairing your injuries.
  • The odds are stacked against a player gaining more hit points upon leveling up. In Labyrinth Lord, you get at least 1 hit point with each new level. In Mutant Future, it's not automatic. You only get more hit points if your CON goes up. Well, upon leveling up, you have an 80% of having an attribute go up. And even then, you only have a 1 in 6 chance (17%) of receiving a CON increase. So the Labyrinth Lord Fighter is guaranteed to get more hit points with each new level, but your typical Mutant Future mutie will probably keep his or her original hit point totals for many, many games to come.
  • The Mutant Future world is a savage place right from the start, so Mutant Future characters need to be able to tackle these threats head on. A first level Labyrinth Lord character may be challenged by weaker creatures the first time they wander into a dungeon: orcs, skeletons, giant rats, and other dungeon fodder. But those kinds of 1 or 2HD creatures would be no challenge at all to a character with an assload of HPs. Therefore, Mutant Future characters are fending off 9HD mansquitoes their first day out into the blasted lands.
  • Mutant Future weapons are powerful and do a LOT of damage. Both Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future characters can be armed with maces, swords, and clubs. But Mutant Future also has advanced weaponry like laser pistols (5d6 damage), blaster rifles (7d6), and inferno grenades (10d6). You wouldn’t encounter an army of wizards hurling fireballs at you in Labyrinth Lord, but you very well may have a small army of pigmen firing plasma pistols at you. So you’d better have more than 11 hit points in your reserve.
So if you feel the need to "pump up" your Mutant Future encounters so that you can offer your PCs a challenge, keep in mind that there are plenty of challenges already built into the system. No need to punish your PCs even further. ;)


  1. One feature of the "god at first level" syndrome that I really like about Mutant Future is that you can have a wide range of character levels in a party. If someone dies and starts up a new character, their 1st level character can be just as effective as some one elses 10th level character. They won't have as good of a chance to hit in melee, but with the right mutations and a good willpower score, they might even be MORE powerful!

  2. That's an incredibly good point! A brand new player can start at 0 XP but hold their own with a well-established group without penalty.

  3. This is the single biggest issue I encounter while trying to run LL and MF simultaneously. I am leaning towards adopting the MF rule for D&D type play in general and easing way the heck up on healing magic.

  4. I play fast and loose in terms of letting characters come and go from the party, so right now there are several characters resting up back in Skinny Butt because they were reduced to a handful of HP and it is going to take them weeks to recover. I allowed their players (at their request) to roll up a new character to play while their old one heals.

    I really like the lack of healing magic in Mutant Future, it makes avoiding combat whenever possible a high priority and it makes for some really gritty moments when you escape from a firefight and jump straight into a mutant frying pan with few HP to start out with.

    @Jeff - I like the idea of moving toward a more MF style HP in D&D. Would you also eliminate the auto-HP increase associated with D&D leveling up and go to a more Mutant Future style random chart for leveling?

  5. Great points all. MF is not so much about advancing your character in level as it is about surviving! LL seems to be more about leveling up, getting x.p. etc. Both games are about finding and getting stuff though!

  6. Obviously to some extent hit points are related to body mass, but in the end they are meant to symbolize the damage a creature can take until they are mortally wounded. Consider that many injuries that would not be fatal to your average human would be a death sentence for a horse.