Hit + Die: A 1 page, 1 HP RPG

I found out about the One Hit Point jam pretty late, but I loved the concept: All characters in your game must only have one hit point, and must never gain any more. So, with only a few hours here and there to whip something together, I created a very brief game about very brief adventuring careers, Hit + Die.

I’ve had a lot of ideas over the years of how I might design a fantasy game without using “points” to track injury, but most have been more on the narrative-focused end of the spectrum, borrowing concepts like “conditions” from Fate and Lady Blackbird. I’ve been playing so much Knave and Into the Odd lately, though, that I wanted to try something a bit more old-school in feel. The resulting game is effectively a reimagining of the “hit die” and “save vs. death” to make for extremely fast-paced, highly consequential conflicts. Every roll is effectively a roll against 3 or against an opposing roll, and if you fail when death is on the line, roll a save vs. death: 1 means instant death, 5+ means just a minor complaint, and the results in between represent a range of potentially grisly wounds.

To be honest, I’m not sure how well this game will work yet. The game as designed actually represents a major departure from what I originally intended: a mix between a “super-simple D&D variant” I dreamt about and D&D homebrew rules based on hit dice as a currency fueling special abilities. I realized partway through that the latter concept was too wordy to fit into the former concept, so I started designing in two different directions in parallel. Then I freaked out when I realized I didn’t have nearly enough time to do that, and ended up designing a third game entirely only loosely inspired by anything I’d done previously. And in retrospect, I realize now that the dice rules are a simplification of one direction under consideration for the “Exploiting Details” system I’ve been pondering on and off for over a year, so maybe this will lead to something even bigger in the long run.

For now, I hope Hit + Die might provide me and/or friendly internet strangers with a quick pickup game as needed. My recommended approach is to use it for a short module (like a Trilemma map), include spellbooks and scrolls from Knave or Wonder & Wickedness as loot, throw in some lightly magic weapons with simple effects (e.g., “bards can use their HD to fight with this singing sword”), and do some quick and dirty monster conversions by mapping traditional monster HD to dice sizes (1–2 HD = d4, 3–4 HD = d6, etc.). And I’m a tinkerer at heart, so I’ll definitely be looking for things that need fixing up. If you give it a shot sometime, please let me know how it goes for you!

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