Is Toughness Worth Incorporating?

image from Dr Jack Singer

For anybody who took a glance at it in 13th Age, Toughness is almost a waste of words on a page. To burn a feat for an extra three (or so) hit points seems kind of ludicrous. Even to me, as someone who normally plays humans and gets two feats anyway.

But, if memory serves me well, and it does because as a writer I can look things up before I blab, Toughness pretty much sucks in every system ever. So this begs the question; Why does this keep getting published over and over?  To be honest, at this point, I think it’s just a rigorous and unfortunate tradition. Originally, in, say, a classic edition of D&D, an extra three hit points could be a huge deal breaker. PC’s were a lot more fragile and monsters a lot more brutal back then.

So in a classic gaming sense, sure, I get it. But with a game like 13th Age, where starting HP values can be around 30, is it really worth the three hit points for a feat slot? No, certainly not, especially considering the mechanics behind recoveries and healing being handed out like candy. Even in later editions of D&D (3rd-4th ed) and Pathfinder, it only makes a striking difference at lower levels. Of course, that latter part is my opinion solely, other people may argue that over time it may be somewhat favorable. I say boo to that, I’d rather have a bunch of proficiencies and focuses, but that’s just me. I can’t speak for 5th ed D&D simply because I haven’t played it enough. With that, it would be interesting to hear what the community has to say on that subject, Tweet at me or put a comment down below, I love a good debate.

To get to the point here, all this means that we basically have two options for Toughness; Chuck it into the deepest voids of space or refine it and turn it into something actually useful. With 13th Age being my flagship system to run/play, obviously I’ve come up with my own house rule to remedy this issue and make players feel like they’re getting enough bang for their buck. Depending on the tone of the game I’m running (gritty vs. fluffy) I may invoke one of two Toughness rules, if a player is interested in it.


  1. Toughness gives you half your base HP value (as original to the feat) but also double your Con mod. At 5th and 8th level, keep the original rule for base HP value scaling.
  2. You get a third of your first level fully calculated HP. At 5th you get half of 5th level HP and at 8th you get half of 8th level HP


As we can clearly see here, both of those rules are drastically different in both value and tone. The grittier method is the first one, seeing how it doesn’t make much of a difference in comparison to the written rule but 10 hp at first level for a fighter is pretty darn cool. The second one I usually use for shorter games (2-3 sessions) simply because it encourages reckless behavior creating some really epic moments. 13th Age as a system already has that in spades, but why not turn it up to eleven?!

What do all of you do? Ignore Toughness flat out or try to augment it?

Stay Metal \m/

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