Random Level Increases

As the GM, I don’t really have that moment of anxiety when it’s time to roll for hit points on a level-up.  That one roll can be make or break for a character.  If you’re playing strictly to the rules (or in Nightmare mode), a few 1’s for a couple of levels can doom your character.  So the question is, is there really any good reason to be doing this?

I think this question is similar to the starting ability score question, and I basically come out on the side against randomizing.  The game is full of important and tense moments that are actually in-character and based on the results of choices the player makes – I don’t see much need to create an artificially tense moment for the player by randomizing on a single roll something so important for the life of that character.  Randomizing starting ability scores at least gives you a sense of creativity in molding a character out of the primordial chaos you’ve been given to deal with.  That kind of randomization is the good kind of randomization, the kind that can introduce new elements to the game that are provided by the system, elements that would never have been there otherwise.  Randomizing a hit point roll does nothing except randomize whether your character is going to be able to survive as higher levels.

I may push this onto the player to choose when they choose a difficulty mode, but I’m not even sure I want Standard and/or Nightmare mode characters to deal with it.  There’s really nothing else that gets randomized when you level up in dungeons and dragons, although theoretically one could justify randomizing all sorts of things.  In fact, randomizing other aspects of a character build makes more sense from a story perspective and gives the player more raw material to role-play with.  You could randomize feats a character gains and attribute it to the skills the character happened to pick up.  You could randomize spells and attribute it to the epiphanies and breakthroughs the spellcaster has had in the depths of a spellbook.  Still, the game doesn’t force this level of randomization on the character, and I think we’d be treading on some pretty awkward ground by going this direction.

I wouldn’t want to deny players that thrill of a roll though, which no doubt is one of the most tense moments at the game table for each level (although I’ve allowed custom training rules to drain some of the drama from this roll already).  What are your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Random Level Increases

  1. Pingback: No Random Level Increases | Lost Worlds

  2. Andy

    I agree with you that a full random result is dumb. Having one second level fighter with 11 hit points and one with 20 hit points is a random result that creates a HUGE power gap (especially near the beginning of the game). If we want to preserve hit point rolls, how about something like Fighter – 10 +1d4 hp. That kind of gives the best of both worlds. Otherwise, I’m totally good with each class getting a different amount of hit points. Also nice because then you can use the odd numbers to space out the hit points a bit between classes. Wizards get 5. Rogues get 6. Archers get 7 (or whatever the numbers are). In D&D all 3 of those classes might have rolled a d6.

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