I mentioned in my last post that I had my players for our campaign roll their hit points at 1st level—no automatic maximum HP. Sure enough, two players—our thief and our cleric—will be starting our Castles & Crusades game with 1 HP.
What pleasantly surprised me was how well both players took it. Knowing you have 1 hit point has to cause some adjustments in the way you play. Certainly the thief will have to put even more emphasis now on skulking and stealth if he wants to see 2nd level. As for the cleric, I look at it this way: for this specific campaign, it opens with the group having just survived a tremendous shipwreck, and have made it to an unknown shore. They’re bruised, battered, cold, and wet. They may have some cracked ribs for all we know. It’s going to take some time to recover from that, especially if you happen to be the guy who took a stray boat oar in the back or upside your head.
And I have to think if they manage to contribute and still make it to 2nd level on that one hit point, that’ll be a point of pride in campaigns and sessions yet to come. If they gave out gaming merit badges, the “Got To 2nd Level On 1 HP” badge would be one of honor.
I know some people dislike starting play with that vulnerable a character, feeling if their character is that less survivable, they shouldn’t put any effort towards developing them. I know gamers who have tried to purposefully kill low-HP characters to start anew, and others that find that entire concept in play abhorrent. That's fine; it isn't some hard-lined doctrine, just personal preference.
I look at it this way: rolling hit points is a lot like life. We’d all like to be on the right side of the bell curve, but most of us aren’t, and are on the undesirable end of a few statistics. The only thing to do is to hang in there and work with what we have for now.