Below we will be discussing a topic of much debate – hit points.
Everything in Pathfinder is based on one static number versus one variable number except hit points.
What do you mean?
Armor class vs. to hit roll
DC vs. save/skill check
DR vs. damage roll
SR vs. caster level check
Hit points vs…
Wait, hit points are a static number!
The static portion of hit points is determined by using a variable number, hence the variable versus variable. It is possible that a 10th level wizard could have more hit points than a 10th level barbarian. And because of this phenomenon, hit points are broken more often than the game system would like. Let’s do the math.
First, we explore the belief that randomly rolling a d6 will eventually produce an average of 3.5 ((1+2+3+4+5+6)/6). This is true proven by the empirical evidence provided by the Law of Large Numbers, but our problem occurs when only a small number of dice are used. In most cases at least 400 dice need to be rolled to observe the 3.5 average. A player rolls only 19 dice, a much smaller number than the minimum required. The average does not occur consistently.
Secondly, if you get a low roll on your first die, your character’s chances to reach the average are much lower. Take a look at this example of a fighter’s hit points:
Your first roll is a one out of ten.
This outcome means your next roll must be a ten to get back to par.
What happens if you don’t? The next roll has an equal chance of ending up as another one as much as a ten. Maybe you roll another one. Now you have to roll a ten twice in the next 2 rolls just to reach the average. You can see how the numbers are able to snowball.
Understanding that each hit point roll directly affects your total hit points is crucial to understand the failing of a rolling for hit points system. We believe this phenomenon is one of the reasons why Pathfinder Roleplaying Game grants characters maximum hit points at level one. You will have at least average hit points by your first roll. Unfortunately, this approach does not fix the problem. You could still roll a few ones in a row and be right back in the same boat as before.
We understand the joy of rolling hit points, but we also know that very low hits points can be a major frustration for a player. As such we offer our best two solutions to give your players the static number they desire.
Accept the fact that rolling hit points is an unnecessary risk. A character gains average hits points each level. At second level the fighter would get 5 hit points (the low end of the average since he got max at first level). At third level he would get 6 hit points. Rinse and repeat.
Or adjust hit point rolls if a low number is rolled:
A d6 gets no adjustment
A d8 gets a 2 if a 1 is rolled
A d10 gets a 3 if a 1 or 2 is rolled
A d12 gets a 4 if a 1, 2, or 3 is rolled
This approach slightly increased the chances for higher hit points than average, but not as drastic as other methods. This approach still has the possibility of below average hit points, but there is a much smaller chance of a wizard having more hit points than a fighter of equal level.
Sadly there is no system that is both fun and flawless.