A critical hit! Whether you approach Hamlet’s Hit Points as a writer, as a critic, as a film buff, or as a gamer, you’ll find that Robin Laws is there ahead of you, pointing the way. An unparalleled game designer and best-of-breed game master, Robin reminds us that narrative is worth it: worth creating, worth studying, and worth nurturing in any format, with or without dice.”

— Kenneth Hite, author of Tour de Lovecraft


Hamlet’s Hit PointsHamlet's Hit Points

by Robin D. Laws

ISBN: 978-0-9818840-2-8
6×9 inches • 196 pages • softcover
$20 (US)

…if you want to get one (or more) copies of just this book.
…if you also want to pick up The Bones: Us and Our Dice or Things We Think About Games.

About the Book

See Your Stories Like Never Before

Hamlet’s Hit Points presents a toolkit that helps make storytelling in any RPG easier and more fun by classifying story beats and letting you track their ups and downs from hope to fear and back.

Armed with these tools, you’ll be equipped to lay compelling track for an emotional roller-coaster that will keep everyone at your game table involved, excited, riveted.

In these pages, you’ll find definitions of nine critical story beats. You’ll read about the relationships between those beats. You’ll also find complete analyses of three stories you know already—Hamlet, Casablanca, and Dr. No—to show you how the system works.

Written with roleplayers in mind, Hamlet’s Hit Points is an indispensable tool for understanding stories, in games and everywhere else.

OA_Nominee_SealA 2011 Origins Award Nominee, Best Gaming Publication

ENnies_LogoA 2011 ENnie Nominee, Best RPG Related Product

Ordering Information

Orders for Hamlet’s Hit Points placed on the Gameplaywright web site ship directly from us, processed and mailed by our own hands. Check out our shipping and handling rates!

In addition to ordering the book from us, you can also…

Gameplaywright books including Hamlet’s Hit Points are available to retailers through hobby game distribution channels via Atlas Games. For orders or inquiries, call Atlas at 651-638-0077, or email sales at atlas dash games dot com. An ePub edition of Hamlet’s Hit Points is planned, but we’re hesitant to suggest a release date because we’re not sure how long it’s going to take us to create that file, given the graphic complexity of the book’s layout. If you’re sick of waiting, we’d probably find a gentle e-mail request to get a move on motivational. (Check the sidebar for e-mail addresses.)

The Story Beats Web App

Check out the Story Beats app online to quickly and easily create your own beat maps like those you see in Hamlet’s Hit Points. Share them or keep them private, as you prefer. Story Beats is a labor of love by a brilliant crew — free to use, with no ads, and they don’t sell your data. It works great in any modern browser on a desktop, laptop, or tablet. (Unfortunately, phone screens are too small to make editing or viewing beat maps practical.)

The Beat Icons

The beat icons and arrows illustrated by Craig S. Grant and used in Hamlet’s Hit Points are licensed for use under a Creative Commons license.



  1. Mad Mister Pete Figtree
    July 7, 2010

    How can an English teacher/gamer pass up this title? He can’t.

  2. Christian Lindke
    July 14, 2010

    Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio, a man of infinite hit points…

  3. Review – Hamlet’s Hit Points - Gnome Stew, the Game Mastering Blog
    August 2, 2010

    […] Thursday I read about a new book by called Hamlet’s Hit Points coming out through Gameplaywright Press. Their book Things We think About Games is a carry […]

  4. Bruce Baugh
    August 3, 2010

    For those of us who do our reading that way, will there be any kind of electronic edition?

  5. Bruce Baugh
    August 3, 2010

    Never mind, I missed the paragraph about that. 🙂 Consider this an expression of interest, particularly in ePub format.

  6. Dominic Amann
    August 4, 2010

    Need an e-version – please! I am out of space for books about creating better games.

  7. Jeff Tidball
    August 6, 2010

    I’m about halfway through laying out the HHP PDF. In order to make sure it makes sense to look at the thing as a single page rather than as a two-page spread (as you would the physical book), a bit of image pushing is required.

    Thanks in advance for being patient. It shouldn’t be too long. (On the PDF, at least. I haven’t built an ePub document before, so I’m hesitant to guess about an ETA, there.)

  8. Bruce Baugh
    August 6, 2010

    You know, if you wanted a guinea pig to look at working specimens and experiments… 🙂

  9. Deconstructing Film for RPG Adventures | UncleBear Media
    August 11, 2010

    […] I’m really looking forward to Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws, which breaks down the beats of stories down for use in roleplaying games, […]

  10. Andrew Luther
    August 11, 2010

    Here’s another guaranteed sale of the electronic version. I’m happy with pdf, as I haven’t delved into e-pub yet. The sooner this is available, the happier I will be.

  11. Jeff Tidball
    August 12, 2010

    I finished up the PDFs last night and sent them off to Robin and Will for review. I can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t be available by next week.

    (I will almost certainly take you up on your offer of ePub guinea pigging, Bruce. It may be a bit longer on that, though—other work’s been suffering while I’ve been beating these PDFs into shape.)

    Thanks for your patience, everyone!

  12. Dominic Amann
    August 12, 2010

    I have just bought a KOBO e-reader, and would love to see this book in e-pub. The trouble (on my device) with pdf is that it won’t “reflow” the lines, so it would kind of suck to read it in pdf unless I shrink the page size until I can’t see the tiny font.

  13. Yet Another Gen Con Review - Gnome Stew, the Game Mastering Blog
    August 13, 2010

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points– Robin Laws newest book on story pacing; reviewed here on the Stew. […]

  14. Dave’s Gen Con 2010 Wrap-up : Critical Hits
    August 14, 2010

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points – examining classic story beats through an RPG lens, written by the great Robin Laws and produced by Gameplaywright (makers of Things We Think About Games and The Bones), making it a no-brainer. […]

  15. Tim White
    August 19, 2010

    Flipped through the book at GenCon, looks awesome! I’m waiting for the PDF/ePub version so I can read it where ever I go!



  16. Gamer’s Haven Special Edition – Gen Con 2010 Coverage Part 7 « Vorpal Network
    August 20, 2010

    […] Wrapping up our coverage of Gen Con 2010, Ethan managed to sit in at the Hamlet’s Hit Points Seminar hosted by Robin Laws, Jeff Tidball, and Will Hindmarch where they talked about the genesis of the book, Hamlet’s Hit Points. […]

  17. Robert W. Calfee
    September 8, 2010

    Read the book, enjoyed it very much, but was looking for the full maps in my dead tree version (thinking: ‘ahh, but where are we now in the grand scheme?’)

    Is there a way for me to get the maps? I only got the real book from gameplaywright.

    Reading through, there were a few places where the diagram and the text did not match. The fact that I noticed them did show the level of involvement with the text.

    Lastly I would have loved a little more on the usage in the RPG chapter at the end. More examples.

    But do not take this criticism as anything other than a rave review. If the book was not excellent, it would not warrant my time to comment.

    I am considering doing beat analysis of a few movies that seem to speak to gamer culture (a classic sci-fi like Blade Runner, and a high camp like Big Trouble in Little China would be where I would start). Are there other beat analysts out there? Other films that were analyzed?

  18. Jeff Tidball
    September 9, 2010

    Hi, Robert: I wanted to put huge maps in, but there just wasn’t any sensible way to cram them into a 6″x9″ book. In the PDF edition, we’ve provided large-scale maps suitable for 11″x17″ printing that give the view you’re looking for.

    Will and I are planning to look into ways that we can offer direct sales of PDF, and print+PDF bundles, but we’re both swamped with other projects at the moment. We’ve been offering any direct print customer of ours who asks the opportunity to pick up the PDF edition for an extra $4 (since the print edition retails for $20 and the bundle is offered for $24, $4 is the incremental cost of the PDF edition).

    We plan to make that offer to everyone who’s purchased the print book from us at some point, but again, we’ve just been swamped with our regular work in the wake of GenCon.

    But anyway, if you (or anyone else who’s purchased the print edition directly from us) is interested in picking up the PDF on those terms, drop me a line at jeff at gameplaywright dot net.

    Another alert reader has recently sent us a list of errata of the kind you caught. We had something like eight sets of eyes review the layout before printing, and still, the stuff sneaks through. There will be a revised edition that fixes the errata in one of the coming months.

    Glad to hear that you loved the book, overall! I’m thinking of doing an Inception analysis if I have time in the fall or winter. I haven’t seen any other analyses yet, but lots of people have been talking about doing them. If you do one, be sure to drop a link in the comments thread here!

  19. Lowell Francis
    September 10, 2010

    Posted a review of HHP on my blog (http://ageofravens.blogspot.com/2010/09/hamlets-hit-points-review.html) and RPG Geek (http://rpggeek.com/thread/562027/reading-hope-and-fear-at-the-game-table). Sorry–I would have done a trackback– but I couldn’t figure out how to make that work.

  20. Lowell Francis
    September 11, 2010

    I posted my first attempt at doing a beat analysis of a session here (http://ageofravens.blogspot.com/2010/09/applying-hamlets-hit-points-changeling.html)

  21. gameplaywright.net // story, games, together
    December 19, 2010

    […] want to subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginHamlet’s Hit Points uses Dr. No as one of three working examples that demonstrate the book’s taxonomy of dramatic […]

  22. Hope and Fear : Critical Hits
    December 20, 2010

    […] I read the excellent book Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D Laws. The book provides game masters with tools to analyze the narrative structure of […]

  23. Diagramming the New Hero | Stone Skin Press
    February 23, 2011

    […] Instead I found myself balancing by genre, and by writing scene. The New Hero books are based on a structural premise, not a generic one. Each concerns an iconic hero who is not changed by the world, but instead restores order and changes the world by remaining true to his or her essential values. (I’ve talked about this before on my personal blog and in Hamlet’s Hit Points. […]

  24. Hamlet’s Primetime Adventure Points « Berin Kinsman's Dire Blog
    June 21, 2011

    […] you play Primetime Adventures you should definitely acquire a copy of Hamlet’s Hit Points. The book walks you through analyzing story beats using a system of icons and arrows, showing how […]

  25. Ten! Ten Nominations, Ah Ah Ah! » Deadly Fredly
    July 8, 2011

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points (Gamplaywright Press) […]

  26. Read Hamlet’s Hit Points
    August 23, 2011

    […] I am just going to endorse it: Read Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws. His analysis of Hamlet, Casablanca, and Dr. No using the beats analysis method […]

  27. Hamletin hiparit « Mythopoeia
    August 23, 2011

    […] tuossa taannoin Robin D. Lawsin kirjan Hamlet’s Hit points, jossa hän olennaisesti analysoi kolmen klassikkotarinan juonenkuljetusta ja tekee sitten muutamia […]

  28. The Skills List Project: Plot Units at SF Novelists
    August 25, 2011

    […] together to make “beats” within the story. My version of beats is based on the one in Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws. […]

  29. A Deeper Look at DramaSystem from Pelgrane Press « Roleplayers Chronicle
    September 29, 2011

    […] you’ve been following this column, my blog, or my book of narrative analysis, Hamlet’s Hit Points, you are already well-versed in the distinction between procedural and dramatic scenes in […]

  30. The Skill List Project: Scene Design at SF Novelists
    November 25, 2011

    […] is chopping off Thomas More’s head. (For some interesting case studies of beat analysis, see Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. […]

  31. A Recommendation « Mythusmage Opines
    January 1, 2012

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points. […]

  32. Mike Sugarbaker Tackles the Definition of an RPG | gameplaywright
    January 17, 2012

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points […]

  33. Interview: Robin D. Laws (@RobinDLaws), designer of Ashen Stars (and a bunch of other things)
    July 30, 2012

    […] Although some techniques work in one form and not at all in the other, both fiction and RPGs are expressions of the story tradition. Understanding how the source material ticks helps to spot stumbling blocks in gaming and find ways to address them. I’ve written an entire book on core narrative techniques as seen through the roleplaying eye, called Hamlet’s Hit Points. […]

  34. Six Questions: Robin D. Laws |
    October 22, 2012

    […] that arose while creating the beat analysis system for understanding narrative rhythm, as seen in Hamlet’s Hit Points. The basic building blocks of story mostly divide into two main types of scene: the procedural, in […]

  35. Oh, What a Noble Mind Has Here Failed Its SAN Check | JDC's Little Hill
    December 8, 2012

    […] an exciting, thought-provoking, and most importantly, useful approach to narrative analysis, Hamlet’s Hit Points by game designer Robin D. […]

  36. Hillfolk: First Impressions - No Ordinary Obsession
    December 10, 2012

    […] Dungeon Master’s Guide II. Hillfolk and the DramaSystem in general draw from another book of his, Hamlet’s Hitpoints, which takes apart literary works such as Hamlet and Casablanca and then applies that analysis to […]

  37. Less Rules, More Tools – Scene and Summary | JDC's Little Hill
    December 29, 2012

    […] taught in nearly every secondary school, and a more flexible system outlined by Robin D. Laws in Hamlet’s Hit Points. I argued (brilliantly, of course) that besides the issue of accuracy, on which we have reason to […]

  38. Everybody To Their Limits | JDC's Little Hill
    April 24, 2013

    […] first, which I’ve mentioned at the Little Hill before, is Hamlet’s Hit Points by Robin D. Laws. This book helps answer the question “What do I write?” Seeing each possible […]

  39. Player Investment | Play On Target
    September 11, 2013

    […] Hamlet’s Hit Points […]

  40. DramaSystem SRD en Fanzine Rolero
    October 1, 2013

    […] Laws desarrolló a partir del método de análisis dramático expuesto en una obra anterior, Hamlet’s Hit Points, y que obtuvo un impresionante respaldo durante su mecenazgo, consiguiendo más de 93.000 dólares […]

  41. Long Term Campaign Design, Part 1 – Arcs | Shared Weave Games
    January 17, 2014

    […] want to say that when it comes to designing story arcs, there is no better guidebook out there than Hamlet’s Hit Points, by Robin D. Laws. Seriously. Go buy […]


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