As we transition from 4e D&D to 5e D&D we have seen significant changes to the way D&D works. The new edition has cherry picked some of the very best aspects of all previous editions to bring us into a D&D sweet spot called 5e. To make this work some things were left out, even things we felt made the game better. For example, the bloodied condition.
For those who may not have played 4e or who are so immersed in 5e they’ve completely forgotten what 4e was like, a creature is considered bloodied when it is reduced to half its maximum hit point. So a monsters with 40 hit points is considered bloodied when it’s down to 20 hit points or less.
I realize that conditions were streamlined and eliminated where possible for 5e so I understand the rationale for not including it as part of the initial base rules, but personally I liked knowing when monsters and PCs were bloodied.
During combat situations most players decide how they’re going to act based on what they know or can deduce about their opponent. Using the bloodied condition helped players get a better understanding of how powerful the monsters facing off against their characters were. A monster that needed five hits before becoming bloodied was clearly tougher than a monster who was bloodied with a single hit. Knowing this, a players could better judge when a monster was nearing death and could plan their turn accordingly. Why use a spell that deals 6d6 damage against a monster who went from full hit points to bloodied after taking one stab from a dagger?
Some may argue that this is just meta-gaming and removing bloodied is an improvement. I challenge this stance. Your character would be watching the battle and would see visual clues that would indicate how badly injured a monster might be at any given time. Mechanically they behave the same way with 1 hit point as 100 hit points, but the reality is that a monster who’s lost 99% of his hit points would likely be bleeding, staggering, wheezing, limping – all clear signs that it’s really, really hurt. So letting the player know when a monster drops below half its maximum hit points shouldn’t be seen as meta gaming.
Another good reason for using the bloodied condition is so that players know what’s going on with their allies. When we used the bloodied condition a player could look around the table, see which of their allies was bloodied, and quickly determine who was hurt and how badly they need help. Characters with healing powers or healing spells can better prioritize their actions when they know who’s on death’s door and who’s just got a flesh wound. Most players will announce when they need healing, but in-game there may be times when characters can see each other but can’t talk to one another or can’t hear one another.
Old habits die hard. In the few 5e sessions I’ve played with my home group (a hard-core 4e group) they still announce when their PCs are bloodied. As the DM I have not been announcing when the monsters are bloodied, mostly because the majority of monsters they’ve faced have only had about 10 hit points and dropped very quickly. However, when the party faces monsters with more hit points I think I will likely announce when the bad guys are bloodied. It’s a familiar convention at our gaming table and I think it will make things run faster. But that’s just the way I’m choosing to handle bloodied in 5e.
What do you think about using the bloodied condition in 5e? Do you think it gives away too much information that players shouldn’t have? If you’ve come from 4e do you think you’ll keep using bloodied as a house rule since it’s familiar?