What is HP? Of course we are all familiar with it just being a numerical value that counts down when you take "damage." But, how much of your HP is fighting spirit or the will of a character to stay active, and how much of your HP is actual "meat points"?

Am I supposed to believe that these fights happen where everyone is just taking hit after hit from all manner of weapons and they just keep going? I know these characters are supposed to be "heroes" but how many sword blows can Urist Ubermensch actually take before he falls down?

What does gaining for HP when you level really mean?

I am trying to represent a more accurate combat system where HP means more than a nummerical value. How can this be accomplished?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: How do interpretations of Hit Points vary among D&D editions? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 12, 2018 at 5:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should probably find a way to rephrase your question so it's not 4 different (if related) questions. The last paragraph certainly should be a separate question by itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


Hit points are a general abstraction of your ability to continue to fight (PHB 196):

Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.

While in real life, your mental fortitude and will to fight is separate from your bodily durability, 5e does not make that distinction. However, as you level up, you do become more powerful, whether that's willpower or sheer strength, which means that you can take more punishment before going down.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer rings true for how I DM. When PCs are subject to effects that takes HP directly from their max HP I always describe the effect on the character as "You feel generally weaker than you did before, feeling strange and like you have had a piece of your energy drained away" with a clarification afterwards to the player to what that means mechanically. \$\endgroup\$
    – GPPK
    Commented May 12, 2018 at 7:56

Hit Points are a abstraction of a few factors

According to the Player's Handbook...

Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.

Essentially, it is the rough estimate of how difficult a creature is to kill. Not every damage value is purely physical, but might wear down other aspects of a person's hit points until they are too weak (physically or mentally) to avoid that lethal blow.


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