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The various tenacity levels all include being damaged as a trigger event, from 50 to 25 per cent damage. (Or, in the case of cowardly, any damage; and in the case of brave, ‘suffer enough for ToP check’). I cannot, however, see it specified whether this is supposed to be n per cent of total hit points or n per cent of current hit points.

I have always assumed the latter to be correct; here’s why: Let’s say the party meets a greater crocodile with 100 hit points. Its tenacity is usually brave, but I’ll up it to fearless, because its nest is just nearby, demanding a tenacity check whenever it receives ‘50%+ damage in one hit’ (HoB p. 12). At second one, it suffers a 48-point hit to its back in one huge blow, reducing its hit points after applying DR by 40 % to a total of 60. This is less than 50 % damage, so no tenacity check is required. The next hit is just as powerful, in fact to the number, inflicting another 40 points of damage. However, this time around it is already severely hurt, so the same numerical damage proportionally does greater damage; 40 points damage out of 60 points remaining is far more devastating, since it actually reduces its health by ⅔. It checks for tenacity, fails, and flees back to its nest to protect its hatchlings.

Am I reading the rules as intended (it is not in fact ‘as written’), i.e. should tenacity checks be done by current health?

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This is up to the GM

Anything that is not clearly spelled out in the rules is left to the GM to adjudicate in Hackmaster. Hackmaster is leaning heavily on the "GM is always right" side of things. The GameMaster's guide says in the introduction:

Remember at all times that this is your game…YOUR game. Not mine and certainly not your players’, though they share a part in it to be sure. You need to run your game as YOU see fit.

And the Player's guide advises players as rule One (p. 9):

In HackMaster, any rule ambiguity related to character creation and PC powers is construed against the player character. If you, as a player, find yourself arguing that a rule is ambiguous, your GM must simply weigh both side's benefits to your player character and choose the most logical choice in his opinion. If one choice seems too heavily in favor of your PC and not directly stated in the rules, he has no choice but to rule against your character.

The text in the Hackopedia of Beasts that you refer to is all we have to go by. It just says (extra columns and rows left out):

Tenacity/[Morale Level] Trigger Event
Fearless 50% in one hit
Steady Suffer 25% dmg in one blow; flanked on 2 sides; [...]
Nervous Suffer 20% damage in one blow; flanked; [...]
Cowardly Any wound; [...]

It does not clarify if that damage is relative to full hits, or to current hits, so it will be up to the GM. If you are asking for intended rules, then in the context of Rule One, interpreting it to be based on full hit points seems more likely, because interpreting it to be based on current hits would be favorable to the players: they can rout these monsters more easily, rather than having to fight them to the death. But it is not clear cut if this is "too heavily" in favor of the PC, so its really up to the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your final paragraph is what nails it, in my opinion. I have taken the liberty of formatting that part of the answer to make it clearly visible to anyone just skimming through it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Canned Man
    Oct 18, 2023 at 16:08

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