Health and Stamina
Health reflects the player's life and ability to sustain injuries from animal or hunter attacks and at least temporarily tolerate the consequences of harmful or reckless behaviour (such as falling from great heights or suffering from malnutrition or freezing). Losing all their health will result in the player's death.
Stamina reflects the player's ability to run for an extended amount of time. Depleting all their stamina will force the player to move at walking speed. However (with the obvious exception of emergencies), it is generally advisable and, with experience, possible to intermittently walk and run in a manner preventing noticeable decreases of the stamina bar throughout the day altogether.
Provided sufficient nutrition levels, lost health points (HP) and stamina points (SP) are gradually regained. Whenever deliberately keeping from running in order to recover SP, the player may still walk, swim, dive, gather wood, and generally continue working on personal tasks, as these activities don't function as a drain on the player's stamina.
As a metabolic consequence of healing or prolonged running, nutrition levels (protein, fruit/vegetables, satiation, hydration) will drop proportionately to the amount of HP/SP lost and regained. Conversely, the lower the player's nutrition levels, the slower their HP/SP will regenerate. Maintaining health and stamina (and the capacity to regain either) while out in the wilderness is therefore paramount to assure one's ability to engage in fights with or run from threats.
Players start with a specific amount of max HP and max SP dependent on the selected difficulty mode (90 on Easy, 80 on Normal, 65 on Hardcore). Small red and blue progress bars under the HP and SP meters, respectively, visually indicate the player's progress towards gaining an additional point for these values.
Different food items and dishes boost these progress bars: while basic food offers very little increase, more elaborate dishes (cooked at the oven) add substantial boosts. Each time either progress bar reaches the end of its meter, the corresponding stat will gain one full point. The current max HP/SP cap is 125.
This system puts great emphasis on farming crops, raising animals, and cooking high-quality dishes in order to instill in the player a sense of gaining physical strength and agility by learning to live and eat well and healthy. (It makes sense, for example, that a hot homemade tomato soup is more beneficial to one's wellness than a handful of raw kelp straight out of a pond).
Losses / Penalties
Dying will immediately reduce the player's max HP/SP (–2 on Easy, –4 on Normal, –6 on Hardcore), while an infection will immediately limit their available max HP/SP (to 60 on Easy, to 55 on Normal, to 40 on Hardcore). Moreover, suffering from an untreated prolonged infection or freezing will, for as long as those states persist, gradually undo achieved max HP/SP gains (visually indicated by shrinking progress bars).
- Switching from Normal or Hardcore to Easy with a constitution of less than 90 max HP/SP will raise both to the Easy default of 90. Switching from Easy to Normal with a constitution of 90 (or more) max HP/SP will, however, not lower them to the Normal default of 80. In conjunction, these mechanisms can thus obviously be exploited.