This variant gives each character a capacity to recover quickly from injury. This capacity, measured as reserve points, replenishes lost hit points quickly after a fight. Thus, characters may be wounded and near death by the end of a fight but then recover to full strength (or nearly full strength) before the next fight begins.
Reserve points work particularly well in low-magic campaigns or any game in which healing is rare, expensive, or otherwise hard to get.
Using Reserve Points
A character's quantity of reserve points equals his full normal hit point total. A character with 17 hp, for example, has 17 reserve points as well.
After a character becomes injured (i.e., loses hit points), reserve points begin automatically converting to hit points at the rate of 1 per minute of nonstrenuous activity (such as resting or hiking, but not climbing, swimming, or fighting). Thus, for each minute of nonstrenuous activity, the character regains 1 hit point and loses 1 reserve point.
For example, Tordek has 22 hit points, so he also has 22 reserve points. In a battle with orcs, he suffers 6 points of damage, dropping his hit points to 16. After the fight, Tordek's reserve points begin to "convert" to hit points. Over the course of the next six minutes, his reserve point total drops by 6 and his hit point total increases by 6, up to his maximum of 22. During the next fight, Tordek suffers 24 points of damage, dropping him to -2, and is then dying for five rounds before stabilizing, leaving him at -7 hit points. Over the next 16 minutes, his remaining 16 reserve points convert to hit points. After seven minutes he's conscious but disabled (0 hp). After the eighth minute he's back on his feet (1 hp), and after all 16 minutes he's up to 9 hp and 0 reserve points.
Nonlethal Damage: Reserve points can also reduce a character's nonlethal damage total. For each reserve point that converts to a hit point, the character also subtracts 1 point from his nonlethal damage. In addition, a character can take a standard action to "spend" a number of reserve points equal to or less than his HD to reduce his nonlethal damage an equal amount. (If a character has the Endurance feat, the DM might choose to make this only a move action, to reflect the fact that such characters can more easily persevere through exhausting situations.)
Replenishing Reserve Points
Characters naturally regain lost reserve points at the same rate that they naturally heal lost hit points (see Healing in Chapter 8: Combat in the Player's Handbook). If the character receives any magical healing, that healing is applied first to the character's lost hit points. Any excess healing left over after the character's hit points are restored to normal is applied to increase the character's current reserve point total (up to its normal maximum).
For example, Tordek normally has 22 hit points, but he's down to 9 hp and 0 reserve points. He drinks a potion of cure moderate wounds, rolling 2d8+3 to get 15. The first 13 points replenish his hit points; the remainder go to his reserve points. He now has 22 hp and 2 reserve points.