Double Hearts



Double Hearts

Longer combats, more turns, harder enemies, sturdier characters…

While doubling the Hearts of the players and monsters does make the game into a meat grinder of turn over turn over turn, I found it makes converts from D&D (especially 5e players) more… comfortable.

And I don’t know why…

There were more turns and actions, making combat a little more deadlier with some enemies, it gave me some time to compound traps/monsters/effects for more complex fights… Just an observation I made from a game last night converting a few over from 5e to ICRPG.

Maybe they liked doing the math that was similar to the 5e they are used to??? idk anymore…

I just thought I would share … C&C appreciated.

Game On


I could see that. D&D 5e some characters start with 10 or fewer hit points, but a lot of characters have more, once you factor in hit die, constitution bonuses, racial modifiers, etc.

Even if your 5e wizard had 6HP at level 1, they normally hit Level 2 after the first game, and it’d be rare to have 10 or fewer hit points from that point on. So you spend most of your game with a bigger pool of points.

5e math is definitely ‘bigger’ than ICRPG math.

I have to say, I really like 1 heart ICRPG.


I totally agree… I like the 1 heart hero as well… but D&D players were adamant they would die too fast… but they were not used to the math, I think.

I have used hit dice in ICRPG as a hack from 5e.

Game On!


I have found that 1 Heart works very well in my ICRPG games. I feel that 2 Hearts is too much and takes away a level of stress that is important to have during gameplay. I also find it a little harder to balance threats when some characters have 1 Heart and others have 2 Hearts (due to Heartstone milestones/loot). One of my game hacks is to eliminate Hearthstones from the game but I have been considering “Half” Heartstones that give 5HP.

In my opinion D&D players should be concerned that their characters will die too fast! I think this opens some opportunity for alternate problem solving. A little fear of character death is a good thing in my opinion, otherwise there is no risk or tension.


I can maybe see 1 heart working if the Armor would ignores the damage the armor provides. If not then I want 2 hearts. I know that is the first thing I get is a extra heart when I get a milestone or reward.


I believe in starting all new ICRPG characters with just one heart—with the exception of “battle royale” scenarios and certain other one-shot adventures. (More on that in a moment…)

One heart of hit points engenders the game with that palpable old-school feel, and savvy players (regardless of gaming background) quickly understand that life can be “nasty, brutish, and short” for freshly rolled characters in ICRPG.

That said, in my Alfheim campaign, heartstones that grant an extra heart (20 HP total) are not an uncommon loot item on dungeon delves and as early milestone rewards. I make them virtually impossible to find for sale from both legitimate commercial sources of magic items and the black market; their universal utility and significant power make them too valuable from a practical standpoint for people to give up for coin, as there is always a loved one or a minion to give an extra heartstone to in my world. Player characters at my table always have to earn their heartstone, which increases the perception of their worth.

My heartstones do not stack. This means that many heroes and most humanoid villains in my world have 20 HP, but practically no good guys and relatively few humanoid bad guys have 30 HP. When I want to beef up an antagonist who is a member of a playable bio-form, beyond a single heartstone I typically outfit the character with armor class buffs (making them harder than the encounter target to hit), damage resistances and immunities (that are non-transferable to the PCs as plundered loot), armor items that “soak” damage on incoming attack (e.g., the mithril vest), and access to healing magic and abilities.

My table enjoys an occasional “battle royale” player-versus-player one-shot on special game nights between our regular campaign session, usually to try out a new character type or setting. We generally roll up these gladiators characters with a heartstone (20 HP) and a couple of milestone or mastery rewards to avoid the “swing-y” nature of the dice on big hits and stretch out the fun over the length of a typical session; it sucks to put energy into min-maxing a new character about which you’re excited, only to have your cool PC get dropped in the opening round because an opponent spanked you with a lucky crit in the early stages. A heartstone helps insulate our battle royale characters against this contingency even when we start them with some extra rewards and abilities to open up our options for in-game mayhem.


My reasoning as to why more Hearts is not a good thing is because of HP Bloat and artificial lengthening of combat and some sort of assumed “balance”.

If everyone has 10 HP, it’s easier to keep track of and you know how much more the character can take before taking a mortal wound and they start dying.

Characters that are supposed to be tougher will end up having more armor or defenses that will allow them to ignore damage. Squishier characters that are more damage oriented or magic oriented do not wear as much ARMOR and end up getting hit more often and wearing down faster if they are not careful.

Occasionally, you may grant LOOT that gives armor and shields some damage reduction and even 1 point of Damage Reduction is bad ass for a Paladin.

If you want to give out special Heartstone loots, I would make it Temporary boost for those heavy tanks. After they take their first 10HP, it breaks and he’s back at his own HP.

Monsters don’t need to follow the strict rules of players and don’t need to have a lot of HP. 3 Hearts is already freakin’ tough, plus you increase the danger by upping the room difficulty to 14+. Then make them have multiple actions that interrupt the player flow of combat and attack multiple characters with one action! That’s BRUTAL!

But it becomes faster and more intense.


In my Alfheim campaign, I make it relatively common for a player character who braves the dungeon on several adventures to get to two hearts (20 HP) but extremely difficult for PCs to get more hit points. Heart stones are frequently the first milestone reward my players see, and at my table they do not “stack”; every PC needs one, but one is all they need. This matches my humanoid (“non-monster”) bad guys and other significant NPCs, who frequently have two hearts of HP but then rely on healing, armor, and other buffs if they need to be tougher mechanically.

They way I see it, RPGs are a balance of drama and agency within a story narrative. There have to be stakes, and the decisions that players make for their characters need an opportunity to matter in game.

Early in the campaign, when PCs have only one heart and little to nothing in the way of buffs or bonuses, they know and accept that their characters are squishy and that sometimes the dice will do them a dirty deed. Two good weapon strikes or a single critical hit from a lucky foe will take a PC down with little to no agency if they put that character in harms way—which is what they are supposed to do—even if they don’t make a “tactical error” or other blunder. That situation is definitely dramatic but can offer little or no player agency because things happen so fast. The players’ only solace when bad things happen is that they haven’t invested too much in these still-new characters. They will get chances to roll death saves, which is certainly dramatic, but often when PCs go down, the real agency shifts to other players’ characters making daring “don’t die on me, man!” runs to stabilize them.

For the player who has made the good calls, gotten through a few adventures, and kept his/her squishy one-heart character alive through sound tactics (and some good luck), I think a heart stone is a just reward. With such a piece of loot, the player has now opened a space in the game to fight bigger, nastier, more plentiful opponents while widening the dramatic zone of uncertainty that makes turn-by-turn decisions in combat really count and makes the changing narrative of a fight more exciting. Two and a half percent of all successful melee weapon hits (1 in 40)—without benefit of magic, abilities, or effort bonuses—will straight-up drop a one-heart character (D6+D12 averages 10 HP). As an alternative, instead of going from hero to zero with a single devastating hit, a fully rested PC is more likely to get badly bloodied with the bad guy lands a big hit, and it’s decision time on the next turn: retreat, risk losing time to pull back to heal (with or without help) and return to the fight, or tank the damage and hope to drop the bad guy first; these are generally exciting choices that maintain player engagement and agency while still keeping the stakes in combat encounters.

Especially when facing powerful magicians or monster foes who can deal out even more damage, the eventual acquisition of a few heart stones for PCs with 20 HP seems to have worked pretty well at my table so far.


I never really understood ‘Hitpoints’, still don’t understand the concept of how they increase and how you could be fine with just 1 Hitpoint - and suffering no disadvantage. But then, I did not grow up with D&D - the game Kult and CoC were my first RPGs.

Maybe that is why I still never have Heros with more than ‘1 Heart’. Things are deadly and combat is deadly. Don’t get into combat, do not get hit. Sometimes there’s no way around it, so make sure your healer is there where you need him and these potions are ready to use.

I like games like Alien, Vaesen, Tales from the Loop and Symbaroum - they all share the deadliness and combat can be over in one round.

If Hitpoints wouldn’t be that integrated into ICRPG, I probably would have them replaced already with some kind of Wound Conditions.


Frankly, everything’s a Hit Point to me if it allows you to take more hits. Doesn’t matter if you call it Health or damage tiers. The other ones just have mechanics hooked to them and for some games that’s appropriate.

10 HP is good for starter characters, but I would recommend more since it’s not that great a buffer against even a D4 and bonus modifier. Besides, I’ve always liked to assume that ICRPG didn’t go farther than six Hearts: that’s the number on the character sheet and, to my knowledge, even the mightiest entity in the Magic book doesn’t go beyond six Hearts.


I call Hitpoint systems ‘Death by paper cuts’. I know it works and yes, there is nearly no quick way around it, but … I still do not like the artificial inflation they create. It just leads to monsters with even more HPs to make combat interesting or long enough for them to have a chance to strike.
I rather go with 'harder to hit, although that leads to longer combat as well. :confused:

Putting a cap on HPs is a valid option, although there is a beast with more than 6 Hearts in the Master Edition book :wink: - but it is something unstoppable anyway.


I don’t think that the solution has to be quick but rather not add any complexity to the table while being appropriate and representative of the kind of game you play. Hit Points represent action movie Health where characters get cut but can still fight until someone is stabbed in the belly to have one last conversation with his enemy.

By complexity I am referring to your thread Replacing Hitpoints and the Godbound way of doing damage. In Godbound, there is a table that allows the GM to bring in monsters from other D&D editions:

Damage roll Damage taken
1 or less None
2 - 5 1
6 - 9 2
10 or more 4

And monsters don’t have Hit Points but Hit Dice, which is why you can bring in pretty much any monster from any edition and they translate very well to Godbound.

When something is complicated in a game, it refers to the mental load for the GM and players at the table: we found ourselves referring to the table too often.

I don’t think HPs need mechanics added to them to simulate injuries: that’s a thing that a GM can add easily with a bit of gumption, in appropriate situations. HPs don’t need to evolve, I think we just need to learn to use them well.


One hidden advantage to monster encounters versus opponents with lots of hit points is that an extra heart or two for the bad guy gives the party of PCs a little time to decipher a complex monster AI and adapt to exploit it in combat—which, if you’ve ever had this happen at your table (on either side of the screen), is hard to ague about as something other than rewarding play.