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I'm a fresh new player of Pathfinder, thanks to a coworker of mine who's basically my hero at this point for ending my search for a local RPG to join!

Anyway, we're one session in using the Starter Kit and it's going great, I'm getting into my Rogue character really well, cold and calculating and not above stealing some of the loot before the rest of the party notices! (Hey, palming that Ring of Protection saved my life when the +1AC let me avoid a powerful attack!)

But yeah... calculating. While the rest of the party were content with "Well, that Goblin has been hit already, so I'm going to try and finish it", I find myself thinking "let's see... that last Goblin took X damage before being killed, this one has taken Y damage so far... if I move to flank then I might be able to inflict X-Y damage and finish it..."

Does mathing damage calculation like this come under metagaming? Or is it fair for a Rogue to make such calculated movements in battle? Is it even reliable to count HP like this?

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3 Answers 3

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Metagaming

In general, no that wouldn't be considered metagaming. (As always, check with your DM!)

As you deal damage, you are injuring your opponent in ways that are often visible. Many DMs will give you updates on the status of the enemy after you deal damage anyway. Examples: "He seems to have barely felt it. He's clearly hurting, but not slowing down. He can barely stand. Etc." Even if your DM isn't doing this, it makes sense for your character to have a rough idea how the fight's going.

It would probably only be a problem is you started getting too precise.

Probably okay: "We hit him really hard, I bet he'll go down easy now."

Probably not: "Okay, we've done 8 damage so he's got he's got a max of 3 health left."

Reliability

You can get a rough estimate of how much health a monster has based on it's Hit Dice, but there's a pretty wide range of health it could have. For example a goblin has 1d10+1 HP. That's between 2 and 11 hp. That's a huge range of potential outliers that only gets get bigger with higher level monsters. Although as Zachiel pointed out, extremes become less and less likely. Just be prepared for the unlikely possibility a monster could have much more health than you expect. But at low level monster health is at it's most unpredictable.

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Actually, the law of large numbers says that the more HD you add, the more it's probable that low and highs even up and the total HP is close to the mean. True, a 10 HD goblin could have 20 to 110 HP, but it'ss a bell curve and the probability of his HP being in the first 10th of the distribution is less than the 1/10 it was when he was first level. –  Zachiel Jul 18 at 22:33
    
@Zachiel Good point, I will clarify that average HP normalizes but the possible outlier distance increases. –  DrewS Jul 18 at 22:34
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@Zachiel Hit points are as often chosen as rolled, so the mean isn't reliable at all. Rolling is more common for random encounters, choosing is more common for planned encounters where "tough" or "weak" specimens are desired. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 19 at 0:30
    
@SevenSidedDie do really DMs say "ok I want a tough encounter, let's add some HP"? I would rather cast a bear's endurance on the guy or find out other ways to add to his HP, while rolling (and accepting poor results) or using the mean HP. To me, choosing HP would be akin to cheating on my players. Anyway, choosing usually has all the similar monsters in the encounter get the same HP, isn't it? –  Zachiel Jul 19 at 16:38
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Sure. It's just another part of encounter design. And no, there's no reason all the similar monsters have to have the same HP. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 19 at 21:33

Sure, it is metagaming, but then what isn't? Isn't choosing your class metagaming after all? What we need to know here is if it's the kind of metagaming that's accepted in your gaming group or not.

Fairness:

This is a thing you need to sort out with your gaming group, but maybe you can deduce it yourself from how the game is run.
If combat is just as a tactic exercise, like a wargame, counting HP is probably as valid as everything else.
If you're supposed to decide everything in character, then it's probably not

Reliability:

Let's face it: even if it was, there's no way one could stop you from making these calculations (if you really wanted to keep using the really useful info you get from them), except by hiding the monster's HP and how much damage eac of your attacks dealt - menaing the DM rolls everything, which is usually too much for DMs - or by having monsters with individually rolled HP, which is more usual.
So, reliability of the method depends on how much your DM uses standard HP for each monster or rolls them individually.

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HP

HP are an Abstract game concept. They do not necessarily represent physical wounds. It can be anything from luck to dodging capability to stamina to wounds to magical protective aura's that is being stripped away. The higher damage dice of a Greataxe can be seen as the greater amount it knocks one off balance compared to a dagger, rather than the gaping wounds it inflicts.

However, most games run it as physical damage to someone's body. Although how you get hit with a crossbow and 'barely feel it', as a human, I am unsure.

Anyway, calculating hp is a grey area. If the DM is describing nicks and cuts and nonfatal wounds, and then the last strike is the one that 'lops off a head' or 'pierces it's heart', then trying to calculate damage is clearly out of character and metagaming. If it's more of a steady progression, it's more reasonable. Plus, it's fairly easy to say that your character's intuition about who is more easy to kill (low hp remaining) or 'battle instinct' or whatever is responsible for the decision (as you are not a battle hardened stealth warrior who regularly takes on ogres, so you as a player have to find other ways to represent that level of skill).

So overall, try to think about what your character is experiencing and base decisions on that, but keep in mind that as the player you don't have the same skills or knowledge or situational viewpoint that the character does - if the character could or would know something and you don't, find a way to fudge it. Just as it's perfectly fine to say that your silver-tongued thief 'seduces the barmaid with witty banter' when you yourself are not silver-tongued, it's fine to assume that witnessing a low roll hit means your Barbarian has deduced that the enemy is poor at dodging and decides to power attack.

Just use out of game knowledge to model your character's behaviour, rather than to try to 'win', and you are probably doing fine.

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