Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've looked this up on several sites, including Wiktionary.com, Dictionary.com, and etymonline.com, but the results in all three are the same: no results.

I was just wondering, where did this term come from? Who coined it? When did it come into use? Does anyone have information regarding this word?

Edit: The only context would be in gaming, where the hitpoints of a character are shown.

share|improve this question
    
Can you give us a context? –  Colin Fine Jul 31 '11 at 23:21
1  
The link you provided for Wiktionary.com did have an entry: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hit_point en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_(gaming)#History –  Spare Oom Jul 31 '11 at 23:29
    
But does it tell about its origin? –  Thursagen Jul 31 '11 at 23:30
1  
If there's no good site about it, maybe the folks at Gamers.SE would know of some history. –  simchona Jul 31 '11 at 23:52
    
On that, I do seem to remember some discussion on gamers regarding the origin of hit points as a game mechanic. –  Joseph Weissman Aug 1 '11 at 0:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Hit Points as a way of referencing the general remaining health of a person is taken from the game Dungeons and Dragons, originally published back in the '70s. It was the first really popular stat-based role-playing game, and became kind of a touchstone for geekyness.

The idea was that you had a given number of hit points, based on your character class, constitution, and level. When attacked, you lose a certain number based on the power of the attack and a die roll. When/if your "HP" drops to 0, you die.

There are other games that use a "hit point" system these days, and probably were before D&D, but that is the game that popularized the concept. If you hear someone talking about "hit points" in real life, they are making a nerdy D&D reference.

share|improve this answer
    
Clearly D&D was the beginning of "HP's" popularity, if not the origin of the idea, but I'm not willing to search through the rules for the plethora of wargames put out by Avalon Hill years ago for the pre D&D era geeks. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon_Hill –  Spare Oom Aug 1 '11 at 21:48
    
Can you please provide a definite link that clearly states that "hit point" actually was invented by D&D? –  Thursagen Aug 1 '11 at 23:38
    
Thursagen - I can't because it wasn't. As I said in the answer, D&D didn't invent the concept, so much as popularize it. IMHO that is the more important activity, and thus D&D deserves the lion's share of the credit. Nobody is thinking "that wargame called Ironclads" when hearing a snarky reference to hitpoints. –  T.E.D. Aug 2 '11 at 16:24

The terms defense strength points and attack strength points, which were used in old board games or war games, could have eventually been shortened to hit points and then used in other categories, such as role playing games like D&D. Alternatively, the term may have been coined at the time of D&D and then began to be used for the older games for short.

From BoardGameGeek.com:

Naval wargames are notorious for the many-hit-points feature. One of the cool things about tactical naval games is that a ship can take (or inflict) so many different kinds of damage.

Whether the term in reference to games is old as Battleship, can't be determined merely from the quote above, unfortunately.

I don't know if it is significant that the NGram shows the use of the phrase went up shortly after D&D's invention in 1974.

share|improve this answer
    
You might be interested in the short history here: <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_(gaming)#History>; –  simchona Aug 1 '11 at 0:56
1  
According to this interview with Dave Arneson (co-creator of D&D), he used "hit points" based on a game he'd developed earlier called Ironclads. The addition of "hit points" and "armor class" appear to be innovations to role playing introduced by D&D (Ironclads seems to be unpublished?). –  KitFox Aug 1 '11 at 0:56
    
Would have voted this up, rather than make my own answer, but popular "HP" references are all references back to D&D (or more modern games modeled after it). I realize Gygax didn't invent the concept from whole cloth, but he's the parent source for everyone else. –  T.E.D. Aug 1 '11 at 12:28
    
@Kit, boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2800/ironclads was published in 1979. Wargames were popular in geek circles even before D&D. –  Spare Oom Aug 1 '11 at 21:54
2  
@T.E.D. Gygax didn't invent the concept, Arneson did. If you read the interview, he came up with it so that the individual battles would last longer. It was an innovation to the classic matrix-style wargames that were popular prior to that. At least, that it how it seems to me, but I may be misinterpreting it. –  KitFox Aug 2 '11 at 0:30

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.