In ages past, when the worlds were young and the cement of Castle Blackmoor’s basement was still wet, magic users had a d4 hit die. There were no second chances. You rolled that d4, prayed to Lady Luck not get get a nat 1, and tried like hell to survive to Level 2.

Things have changed somewhat since then. Now your eager young magician gets a d6 hit die. Even better, you automatically get max hp at first level. You add your Constitution modifier. You include bonus hit points from your race. You tack on hp from your class. You do everything in your power to try and avoid that massive feels-bad of dying at first level due to being an anemic dork in a bathrobe.

Be honest now: Do you like playing first level characters? If you answered “no” (and if recent experience is anything to go by, many of you did), then I think that original D&D design choice might be the reason why. Magic users had to earn their phenomenal cosmic power by starting the game as fragile little toothpick people. Ever since, the low-level experience of trying to survive an errant crit long enough to feel like a “real adventurer” has haunted the hobby. If you ever meet a GM who prefers to start campaigns at second or third level, this is the reason why.

So for today’s discussion question, why don’t we compare notes on “the first level experience.” I’ve already linked to a number of systems that try to address the problem. Does one of them get it right? Should third level be the new first level? Or is there some other way to solve the problem of extremely-fragile low-level mages? Tell us all about your preferred version of starting hp down below!


ARE YOU AN IMPATIENT GAMER? If so, you should check out the “Henchman” reward level over on The Handbook of Heroes Patreon. For just one buck a month, you can get each and every Handbook of Heroes comic a day earlier than the rest of your party members. That’s bragging rights right there!