Hit points in intrigue/murder mystery/horror?

So, I was recently inspired by a game called The Sexy Brutale, and I started imagining a murder mystery one-shot based around the game. However, I thought about hit points and came up with an idea for a house rule that makes intrigue or murder mystery games perhaps more interesting, but I think it may need some hard criticism to develop.
The idea is that hit points are significantly lower. You calculate your hit points with 2 x Fortitude+1 (or if you’re cruel, 1+Fortitude). A reason for just fortitude for hitpoint calculation is to make the setting and the characters more realistic, in a way. If you are coming into a murder mystery as a southern belle singer, giving yourself 10 + 2(Fortitude+Will+Presence) probably means you now have 26 hit points (10 +2(0+3+5) Perhaps it’s just me, but 26 hit points for a singer seems like a lot.
The reason for low hit points has to do with the idea that it becomes easier for people to die, therefore encouraging players to avoid fisticuffs or fights unless they are fairly certain of their success. This then puts a focus on intrigue or set-ups, since a player is unfit for a direct approach. Perhaps instead of fighting the knife wielding murderer in the next room, a player will try to trick him into the room he is in and then drop a church bell on him.
On that note, it also makes murder much easier, since now dying may only require one hit. For example, a character tries to kill a npc with a solid blow from a lead pipe, and they roll one above his guard, dealing only three damage to the npc, who has 12 hit points and now has nine. It is still a blow, but if you have the murderer struggling to kill a victim, especially if it’s the first victim, I think it might take out from the story a bit, especially if you have a mysterious yet effective killer who doesn’t make mistakes, always plans ahead, etc. Perhaps if this was an NPC on NPC murder, this would not have to be mentioned, since you could fudge the rolls in a narrative sense. However, if the murderer is trying to kill a PC, and if you want your one-shot to have a degree of focus on death, it would be better if people had low HP to begin with. If you are willing to embrace the idea of death being more likely or even a regular occurrence, you could perhaps even rule that being surprised will always deal damage i.e. if you didn’t see the laser sight on your head or the guy who is taking the shot, you will take at least three damage, perhaps more if your guard is thoroughly beaten.
A suggestion for an exchange for the low hit points is simply the narrative idea that death is not necessarily the end. Perhaps if people die, time rewinds to an earlier point, say 10 AM that day, allowing the players to learn from their mistakes and perhaps prevent other people’s deaths. Another idea is that they come back as ghosts and try to fix things as a specter so that they can move on. If you don’t like the idea of death, perhaps they merely become unconscious. Any thoughts? perhaps more forgiving?


It sounds like you are saying this is mostly a one shot, which would make sense b/c a murder mystery would only last for that one instance.

So a big thing about HP is what level are the players in this murder mystery? If they are starting at Level 1, then HP is already going to be much lower, and I’m not sure it is as needed to change the calculations.

The problem with only having fortitude is, that doesn’t represent what is happening very well. Your Will and Presence would be even more important b/c of the stress of trying to figure out who the murderer is.

You could take away the 2x in the calculation I suppose, or just take away the flat 10. Both are going to change things a lot though, and I’m not sure if it is really needed.

I don’t know that there is really enough information provided yet to really answer your question though. I’m not entirely sure the need to drop someone to 0 HP easier is that needed either.

I helped run a test module at GenCon for the Open Legend Team for a murder mystery in which you were figuring out “who done it”. It worked perfectly fine, and there were threats on the players life. No modifications were made to the system, but there were some specific items relevant to the game.

Also, default, 0 HP isn’t dead, it is just “unconscious”. I wasn’t entirely sure if you were aware of that with how you were writing, or if you were saying initially that is how you envision it for the one shot?

If you are wanting things to be more deadly, have lethal damage and look at the Death Blow feat (combined with Lethal Strike).

Remember this about HP and “Hits”

When you “hit” someone, that doesn’t mean you actually physically made contact with them. It means you bypassed their natural defense enough that they have to strain or stress their bodies/mind to avoid the blow. It is the “hit” that drops them to 0 HP that actually makes that final connection.

This is why it is easier to recover your HP, b/c really, HP would be better worded as “Stamina” in several regards. HP is just another Defense along with Guard, Toughness, and Resolve. So that lead pipe swinging at the persons head? Well it didn’t hit, b/c their “sixth sense” kicked in and they happened to dodge, or shifting enough to not be hit, but as a result, the strain to do so caused them a minor “heart attack”, basically straining their reserves so they have that much less stamina to last future attacks.

What are you trying to simulate

What is it you are really wanting to accomplish with the one shot?
What sort of feel are you going for with the one shot?
What do you want your players to feel during the one shot?

Those are just a few questions to be asking. Right now what you have is really rough and thoughts are swirling in your mind from what you read. Spend some time thinking it over, chewing it, digesting it, and then come back and try and figure out what you WANT from the one shot which will help you better direct your thoughts and figure out the mechanics to achieve that.


sounds cool I would love to see a murder mystery module for open legend.

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Reduced hitpoints like this will mostly just make combat shorter, “encouraging players to avoid fisticuffs or fights” isn’t an assumption I’d ever make :rofl: Even if making combat shorter is your intent, this may be too far. With such low HP you’ll likely make it so that whoever wins the initiative roll wins the combat, which isn’t much fun. I’d suggest a minimum of something like 5+(Fort+Will+Pres), the static +5 is important because otherwise you’re seriously punishing anyone who doesn’t invest in hitpoints.

A house-rule I’d suggest to capture the feel you want for a murder mystery is to expand “Finishing blows” to be applicable to surprised foes; if you’re not expecting the lead pipe then you can’t defend yourself against it; if you are expecting the pipe then you get a few rounds of fighting to either overpower your foe or call for help, remember that each round is only 6 seconds so normal combat is done in less than half a minute in-universe.


I like your suggestion, because that is more of what I am aiming for. One aspect of the oneshot I am thinking of running (I would have to plan it out and see if there are any interested players) is that getting murdered is almost expected (not entirely, a player could completely avoid it throughout the adventure). What happens though, is that time rewinds to 12 PM the same day, so that the players can try to avoid death or save other people from horrible fates. What I might also add to put a bit of pressure on the players is that they regain all their health, but take 1 lethal damage, which represents scarring from moving your soul or consciousness back in time. This lethal damage can’t be healed, even by rewinding time, unless by extraordinary means, like someone figuring out how to do some crazy voodoo spell that heals the spirit.