Spot Hidden, Perception, Notice

Spott hidden in Call of Cthuhlu, perception in Dungeons and Dragons, maybe it’s notice in other games. Some game masters will find these skills to be a royal pain in the ass. You tell the player that they need to roll the skill to see or hear something. What if they fail the check, and the failure brings the game to a brick wall? The likely answer is to not have the player roll. Sure. Ok. Fine. When is it appropriate? “If the roll makes things interesting.”

Join Sean as he goes solo in this episode and talks about spot hidden, perception, notice parts of rpg’s. 

Thanks to Clevername (Wayne) for the topic suggestion!


Screaming Womp Rats, Age of Rebellion, game is underway. If you’re interested in playing, check out Sean’s Basement the forums.

Random Encounter

Voicemail from DM Cojo

George Sedgewick writes in to us about Healing

Gentlemen, I hope this email finds you well. 

In response to your episode about healing, I have added a house rule in my OSE game that has mitigated PC death a little, though I still favor a deadly game. As you probably know, rules as written, in Old School Essentials, you die at 0 hit points. On top of that, you probably don’t have many hit points to begin with. With wandering monsters, traps, save or die situations, and occasional dental problems (that’s a joke), it’s not hard to die. 

I don’t offer lots of healing potions, either–items like that are tough to come by. And our first level cleric has very few healing spells to toss out. So, to make things less brutal, and to accommodate several of my players who are a little more 5e-oriented, I allow the following: 

Once (and only once) in the life of a character, when he or she would typically die, the player may narrate a fantastic escape from death. The character survives the experience with 1 hit point, and this escape from doom is used, gone, finished–you don’t get another. 

I intend this rule to represent the character’s drive to survive or maybe the hand of fate. So far, this has worked wonderfully. We’ve been playing for months, once a week, and in general, everyone has had to use the escape and/or is already on a second character. The players know that death is lurking, but if there’s a surprise “save or die” situation, or one bad decision, the player can choose to keep his character alive by a slender thread. Good times. 

I’d also like to respond, with critical eyebrow raised, to one of Brett’s comments about Call of Cthulhu. He said something like “In Call of Cthulhu, if you lose an arm, it’s gone. The end. You’re not getting that back.” To this specious comment I have a brief retort: “Tentacles, Brett. Tentacles.” 

As always, great show. Thank you for your creativity and thoughtfulness. 

Happy holidays. George

Blaine comments on healing, episode 320

I introduced some altered rules around hitpoints, damage and healing to add a little more tension to combat and address some of the things raised on the podcast. As said on the pod, players approached fights with a certain amount of recklessness knowing they had a big cushion of HP, and also took for granted violence was always the answer. It felt like a video game. So I added a little spice to the normal 5e rules.

Health points.

While hit points are an abstraction of fatigue, morale, getting battered, endurance etc, Health points are physical health. Characters only get 10+CON, and it never changes. When you run our of Hit Points, it piles onto to Health points. Also, critical hits do not to double damage or anything, it simply gets applied directly to Health points. That means combat can go south at any time with a good hit, which really added tension to combat.


Healing spells work as normal on hitpoints, but only heal the spell level in damage to Wound points during combat – so they are far less effective. Outside of combat, healing spells do normal healing to Wound points, but it takes as long as a ritual.

Since these changes rely on the existing 5e rules it was easy for everyone to adapt, and it really added tension! The players approached fights with a bit more thought knowing that their huge numbers of HP wouldn’t matter against a skilled (ie. lucky) opponent.

However – it only lasted two sessions. The players decided they actually liked the recklessness and video game feel that comes with 5e, and preferred it to the more tense approach!


Harrigan comments on Healing

This topic was a weird one for me, because it seems pretty dialed in on just the D&D experience. I like all sorts of damage / healing systems, depending on what game I’m playing and what fiction or genre I’m trying to emulate. (Magic healing is frankly one of the things that drove me away from D&D, decades ago. I’m a low fantasy grunt at heart.)

Anyway, some of my favorites:

Barbarians of Lemuria has an excellent, fairly gritty system that models the hit points abstraction that D&D goes for in a more sensible way, IMHO:

Characters have a Lifeblood score of 10 + Str (0-3)

Weapons deal, on average, 1d6 damage. Armor reduces damage.

After a combat, participants can take a knee and recover up to half of the Lifeblood that they lost.

Each night of good rest, get back 1 Lifeblood

Death is at -5 Lifeblood, and if you’re below 0, you’re losing 1 per round. You’re dying, and this can only be prevented by your friends helping, the Gods intervening, or spending a Hero Point.

Into the Odd and it’s offspring (Electric Bastionland, Mausritter, etc.) have very cool mechanics where characters have relatively few HP… and where the “HP” actually means “Hit Protection” in the latest incarnations of those games. Once those are gone, damage goes straight to your STR attribute and you have to make a save to avoid a critical injury every time you take a hit. HPs return right after the battle, but it takes a long time to heal attribute damage. (A week, if memory serves.) So you have a buffer, then is gets serious, fast.

In general, I don’t think any system can touch Fate for realism, since ‘Consequences’ can model any kind of injury – mental, physical, social or spiritual, and it can take a long time to recover from these, depending of if they are Mild, Moderate, or Severe. Mild clears after one scene, Moderate after one session, Severe only after a milestone, which might mean “the whole adventure.” I also highly recommend the optional Extreme Consequences, which forever change the character (and one of their aspects). Basically, “you live, but…”

If you limit the conversation to D&D-styled play, I agree with Warden and a few others upthread – ask how do you want the game to feel? Dangerous but heoric fantasy vs. gritty OSR play vs. epic heroes bristling with healing magic who never need to worry about injuries. Very different styles, even within the same overall game.

Die Roll

  • GBS pull-over hoodies now available in our merch store
  • Review Encounters with the Dark Powers by Jared Rascher
  • Vote for most anticipated RPG for 2021, on Enworld
  • Mayday Plays, Delta Green rpg podcast

Next Episode

About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.