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Vitality and Wound Points
An OGL 3.x Conversion Guide

Copyright © Bradley D Thompson 2000

Edited by Jamie "Trotsky" Revell for The Guild Companion



The ‘standard’ OGL 3.x rules uses the concept of Hit Points to handle wounds inflicted on creatures and characters. Below is an excerpt from the System Reference Document regarding the meaning and purpose of Hit Points:

All characters (and some items) have a certain number of hit points. Hit points represent a character’s luck, health, and basic physical condition.

Each class level a character has provides some number of hit points, depending on the class. In addition to the hit points added for each class level, a character also gains a number of hit points equal to the character’s Constitution modifier for each class level as well.

By combining the health of a character with abstract concepts such as luck and basic physical condition, the d20 System creates a simple, playable system by which all damage a character receives can be handled with a minimum of effort. Unfortunately this approach has certain limitations. As a character gains levels, they earn more Hit Points. By 10th level it is not unusual to see a Fighter with 75 or more hit points. Since the levels are more a reflection of experience rather than an actual change in the physical aspects of the character, one must assume that the added hit points are mostly ‘luck’ with perhaps a small aspect of ‘basic physical condition’. However, the net result is that this 10th level Fighter has nothing to fear from the first several blows from any normal human, even if they score critical hits. A special rule called ‘Death from massive damage’ is designed to minimize the distortion of reality that the Hit Point system causes, but even so the character must suffer 50 points from a single attack to invoke it.

Common sense tells us that human beings are fragile creatures. No matter how skilled the defender, a trained but less-experienced fighter is capable of landing a telling blow, perhaps even a mortal one. Critical hits are designed to reflect this reality to a certain degree, but they too suffer from ‘hit point distortion’ at higher levels- our 10th level fighter has little reason to worry about a critical hit from even the most deadly weapon. Again, this requires a substantial suspension of disbelief to accept. The abstract system also obscures actual wounds to characters, as opposed to simple fatigue or uncanny luck. There is no way to know whether a character that as lost half their hit points is bleeding profusely or merely exhausted. This again leads to confusion and disagreement between players and game masters as to the actual condition of the characters and monsters.

The solution is to separate hit points into two new categories that more accurately tracks damage to characters and creatures while maintaining balance within the game. The concepts of "luck" and "basic physical fitness" make up the first category, called "Vitality," and "health" becomes the second category, called "Wounds". This system should seem familiar to some; it was inspired by and borrows heavily from a current Science Fiction role-playing game that is also based on the d20 System.

My primary goal in writing this module was to develop a more realistic system of assigning damage to d20 System characters and creatures, without placing an undue burden on the game master or players, and without significantly altering the existing balance of the game. I believe this conversion system has achieved this end. This system grants no new hit points to creatures or characters, and it does not alter the damage that creatures, weapons, or spells inflict on characters or monsters.

This article provides guidelines for converting the Hit Point system of damage used in the basic d20 System to the new Vitality and Wound Point system for both Characters and Monsters. It modifies as few rules as possible, so if a particular rule is not mentioned here it remains unchanged. It begins with an explanation of the new terms, continues with changes to the combat rules, and finishes with a conversion guide for existing creatures.

New Terms and Definitions

The d20 term "Hit Points" can be used to refer to Vitality Points, Wound Points, or both as appropriate. This is not a redefinition of "Hit Points", but rather a reflection of the fact that Vitality Points and Wound Points are essentially sub-types of Hit Points. The d20 term "Damage" can be used to describe Vitality Damage, Wound Damage, or both when appropriate. Damage that is applied to Vitality is called Vitality Damage or Lost Vitality, and that which is applied to Wound Points is called Wound Damage or Wound(s) (thus, an attack might cause 8 points of Vitality Damage or an 8 point Wound, but one wound not say "8 Wound Points Damage". The original terms Hit Points and Damage should be used when there is no need to distinguish between Vitality Points or Wound Points, Vitality Damage or Wound Damage. The term "character" is used throughout this work to describe player characters, non-player characters, and monsters.


Like the Hit Points they replace, Vitality Points and Wound Points represent the amount of physical damage you can absorb before collapsing. Vitality Points are based on your hit die type and Class Levels, rising as your character grows in power and experience. Wound Points are initially based on your hit die type but are limited by your Constitution, and your Size.

If a character’s Vitality Points are reduced to 0, that character becomes Fatigued. They remain Fatigued until they receive 8 full hours of complete rest. Furthermore, there is a chance that they may become Exhausted. They remain Exhausted until they receive 1 hour of complete rest, after which point they revert to being merely Fatigued.

If a character’s Wound Points are reduced to exactly 0, that character is Disabled, conscious and able to act but horribly wounded. Characters who’s Wound Points are reduced below 0 are Dying, and will continue to lose Wound Points unless their condition is stabilized. A character who reaches -10 Wound Points or less is Dead.

Distributing Hit Points

Every creature has a maximum number of wound points that it can sustain, based on its Constitution and Size category. To determine this maximum, add the Size adjustment for Wound Points (Table 1) to the character’s current Constitution score. Thus, a Huge creature with a Constitution of 20 can have a maximum of 24 Wound Points. No creature can have less than 1 wound point. Creatures without a Constitution score have no Vitality points – all of their hit points are wound points.

All hit points a character receives up to their Maximum Wound Points are considered Wound Points, and all hit points they receive beyond their Maximum Wound Points are considered Vitality Points. Temporary ability score losses to Constitution may affect both the character’s Vitality and Wound Point totals. Spells such as Reduce and Enlarge, Change Self and Alter Self do not affect Maximum Wound Points, though spells such as Polymorph Self, Polymorph Other, and Shapechange do adjust a character’s Maximum Wound Points. Spells which adjust a character’s Maximum Wound Points do not alter a character’s total hit points, rather any difference is balanced by a corresponding gain or loss of Vitality Points. The Toughness feat is a special exception. Hit points gained through this feat are always Wound Points, regardless of modifications due to Size. Thus a Pixie with Toughness still has 4 Wound Points despite its Diminutive size.

Table 1: Size adjustment for Wound Points


Wound Points

Massive Damage




























Distributing Damage

Normally, when a character receives damage, it is subtracted from the character’s current vitality points. However, there are several situations where damage is applied to wound points directly.

Vitality reduced to 0

When a character’s vitality points are reduced to zero, any remaining damage, and any further damage inflicted after that point is applied to their wound points.

Character is Exhausted

Characters who are exhausted for any reason may not use their vitality points to absorb damage. All damage received is applied directly to wound points.

Critical Hits

Whenever a character is damaged by a critical hit, the character must make a Reflex check vs. a DC of 15. If the character fails this save, all of the damage is applied directly to wound points. If they succeed, only half of the damage is applied to wound points. If a character with the Evasion ability makes their save, only 1 point of damage is applied to wound points. In both cases the remaining damage is distributed normally.


A character that receives damage while Flat-Footed must apply at least ¼ of the damage towards wound points. Characters with the Evasion ability may make a Reflex check vs. a DC of 15 to reduce the amount of wound damage to 1 point. All remaining damage is distributed normally. This effect does not combine with a Sneak Attack, and is superceded by or a Critical Hit.

Sneak Attacks

A character that receives damage from a Sneak Attack must apply at least ¼ of the damage towards wound points. Characters with the Evasion ability may make a Reflex check vs. a DC of 15 to reduce the amount of wound damage to 1 point. All remaining damage is distributed normally. This effect does not combine with being Flat-Footed, and is superceded by a Critical Hit.

Subdual Damage

Subdual damage is treated as Vitality Damage until the character reaches 0 vitality points. After that point, the character suffers normal subdual damage to their wound points. A character that reaches 0 wound points due to subdual damage is Staggered. A character that is reduced to negative wound points through subdual damage is Unconscious and Helpless. It is not possible to bring a character below -9 with subdual damage.

Massive Damage

If a character ever sustains damage greater than their Massive Damage rating (see Table 1) in one deduction, and the character isn't killed outright, the character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15). If this saving throw fails, the character dies regardless of current vitality or wound points.

Injury and Death

Vitality and Wound Points replace Hit Points as an abstract measure of how hard it is to kill a character. Although there are many special attacks that can incapacitate or kill a character outright, the most common effect is simply to inflict damage in the form of Lost Vitality or Wounds. This damage accumulates with every blow, reducing your Vitality or Wound Point total, to 0 or perhaps below. At that point the character is pretty much out of the fight, and probably in deep trouble. Fortunately simple rest will restore Lost Vitality, and given sufficient time most Wounds will heal. Spells and magic items can greatly speed the recovery and healing process.

What Vitality Points Represent

A character’s Vitality represents the luck, skill and physical fitness that allows them to avoid the worst effects of damage, effectively converting a telling blow into a glancing one, or a miss altogether. An Owlbear’s bite or a Dragon’s claws don’t necessarily pierce or rend the character; rather the character is able to bend and twist to avoid the worst of the attack. As a character’s Vitality drops, the character becomes tired and thus less able to avoid the damage from these blows. Powerful, high-level characters have great reserves of Vitality to draw on, making them much more able to avoid mortal wounds.

What Wound Points Represent

A character’s Wound points reflect their ability to endure physical damage. A loss of wound points always means that the character has been struck and injured in some way, ranging from a nasty bruise to lethal organ damage.

Effects of Damage

Losing Vitality or Wound points from damage has no effect on a character’s capabilities so long as they don’t lose them all. If a character’s Vitality Points are reduced to 0, that character is at least Fatigued and must make a Fortitude save vs. a DC of 10 to avoid becoming Exhausted. Characters who Vitality Points are reduced to 0 through Subdual damage are also Staggered.

Characters who are fatigued cannot run or charge and suffer an effective penalty of -2 to Strength and Dexterity. Doing something else that would normally cause fatigue Exhausts a fatigued character. After 8 hours of complete rest, fatigued characters are no longer fatigued.

A character whose is staggered is so badly weakened or roughed up that he can only take a partial action when he would normally be able to take a standard action.

Characters who are exhausted move at half normal speed and suffer an effective penalty of -6 to Strength and Dexterity. After 1 hour of complete rest, exhausted characters become fatigued.

If a character’s Wound Points are reduced to exactly 0, that character is Disabled. He is conscious and able to act but horribly wounded. He can take only a partial action each round, and if he performs any strenuous action, he takes 1 point of Wound damage after completing the act. Strenuous actions include running, attacking, casting a spell, or using any ability that requires physical exertion or mental concentration. Unless the strenuous action increased the character’s wound points, he is now Dying.

Unconscious and Subdued (-1 to -9 Wound Points)

A character that reaches 0 wound points through subdual damage is unconscious. While unconscious, a character is helpless.

Each full minute that a character is unconscious, a character has a 10% chance to wake up and be staggered until the character’s wound points exceed a character’s subdual damage again. Nothing bad happens to a character if the character misses this roll. Spellcasters who are rendered unconscious retain any spellcasting ability they had before going unconscious.

Unconscious and Dying (-1 to -9 Wound Points)

A dying character has negative wound points. She is unconscious and near death. At the end of each round (starting with the round in which the character dropped below 0 hit points), her player rolls d% to see whether she stabilizes. She has a 10% chance to become stable. If she doesn’t stabilize, she loses 1 wound point.

Stabilization and Recovery

A character who was dying but who has stabilized and still has negative wound points is Stable. The character is no longer dying, but is still unconscious. If the character has become stable because of aid from another character, then the character no longer loses hit points. He has a 10% chance each hour to become conscious and be disabled (even though his hit points are still negative).

If the character stabilized on his own and hasn’t had help, he is still at risk of losing hit points. Each hour, he has a 10% chance to become conscious and be disabled. Otherwise he loses 1 wound point.

First Aid

First aid usually means saving a dying character. If a character has negative wound points and is losing wound points (at 1 per round, 1 per hour, or 1 per day), the a caregiver can make her stable by making a Heal check vs. a DC of 15. The injured character regains no wound points, but she does stop losing them. This is a standard action.

Natural Healing

A character recovers 1 vitality point per character level per hour of rest. A character recovers 1 wound point per day of rest. They may perform light, non-strenuous activity during this period, but may not engage in combat or cast spells. If the character undergoes complete bed rest (doing nothing for an entire day), the character recovers both wound and vitality points at 1.5 times the usual rate. If tended by a character with the Heal skill, this rate can be increased to 2 times the usual rate by making a Heal check vs. a DC of 15 once per day. Characters may not recover vitality points while they are Exhausted.

Magical Healing

Special abilities, spells, and devices that normally restore hit points now restore lost wound and vitality points. Magical healing won’t raise a character’s current vitality or wound points higher than a character’s wound point or vitality point total. Regardless of the spell or spell-like effect used, magical healing will not restore more than die (plus modifiers) of wound points. The remaining points must be applied to vitality points. Thus, a Cure Critical Wounds Spell (4d8+caster level) would heal 1d8+caster level of wounds and 3d8 of lost vitality. The caster may, at their option, apply all of the healing to vitality.

Temporary Vitality Points

Certain effects give characters temporary hit points. These are always considered vitality points. When a character gains temporary vitality points, note the character’s current vitality points. When the temporary vitality points go away, the character’s vitality points drop to that score. If the character’s vitality points are already below that score at that time, all the temporary vitality points have already been lost and the character’s vitality point score does not drop. Temporary vitality points cannot be restored the way real vitality points can be.


Appendix A

This article: Vitality and Wound Points, An OGL 3.x Conversion Guide, Copyright © 2000 by Bradley D Thompson, is an OGL 3.x article.

This article is covered by the Open Gaming License. "Vitality and Wound Points, an OGL 3.x Conversion Guide" and the Introduction section is Product Identity, all other material in this article is Open Gaming Content. Permission is granted to distribute all Product Identity provided as the entire document remains unchanged. Portions of this work are derived from the d20 System Reference Document, Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Wizards of the Coast, and are used with permission.

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Open Game License v 1.0 Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc. System Reference Document v1.0 Copyright (C) 1999,2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc, Vitality and Wound Points, An OGL 3.x Conversion Guide, Copyright © 2000 by Bradley D Thompson

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