The Bullet Sponge

This post is kind of a continuation of the last one, so if you haven’t read it you can click this -> A lesson learned about mass combat (Almost shameful self-promotion). Today’s topic is:

DnD Hit points

Discussed from a D&D perspective.

A problem I had with the encounter I mentioned in my last post was that it was a bullet sponge. Hit points in D&D work by an “all-or-nothing” principle. If you have any hit points, even if you were burned to cinder or lost a limbs, than you are good to go and kick all the asses in the world (poor mules). On the other hand, as soon as your hit points go below 1, you can’t do anything, you become useless. Of course, you can house rule or as the GM say that the players injuries are to sever for them to kick ass, even though they have some hit points left, But as the rules are written (as I have comprehended them), you don’t really get affected by the loss of hit points till you go below 1. This is nice and good, since it allows your players to be heroic till they drop dead. It might also lessen the severity of being stabbed by a sword…

But the title of this post isn’t “Hit Points”, it’s “The Bullet Sponge”. The bullet sponge is the concept of having a character, friend or foe, which can take a ridiculous amount of damage without breaking a sweat. ‘Cause guess what? The players aren’t the only ones benefitting from the “all-or-nothing” hit points principle.

A bullet sponge can easily become boring, since they eat damage to the face like breakfast cereals. But it can also be a highlight of an encounter/adventure/campaign. To make a bullet sponge into a chore, make sure it isn’t a real threat to the players but at the same time it is mandatory to kill it. It will then become a waste of time, since it can’t really do anything to the players but it is still an obstacle which can only be beaten by the most uninteresting action, attacking. (Attacks can be interesting, but when only done to lower a number enough it isn’t cooler than simple deduction)

However, if the bullet sponge is a serious threat it can be fun. For example, your group of adventurers is being hunted by a giant and very strong bullet sponge, which creates tension. The players can’t just stop and fight, they would be killed if they did, but if they slowly wear it down or are able to lure in to a trap for massive damage it could become a memorable encounter. Another way to do it is if you introduced a bullet sponge early in a campaign, a sponge which they can’t possibly beat, but they face again later in the campaign, when they are strong enough to beat it. It could serve as proof of how much the players have grown in power. Or you could just have a bullet sponge as the final encounter of a campaign, which “forces” the players to use everything they’ve learned and acquired during their adventures to best it in combat.

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