Saturday, September 5, 2009

How Real Do You Like Your Damage?

I'll break this blog into three categories of playing out wounds for characters.

#1: There are no hit locations. Characters have a lump sum of hit points and damage is subtracted from that pool. When healed it is added to the whole. It's the easiest system. This version allows your players to last longer in a fight and go deeper into dungeons.

#2: The attacker targets a specific hit location. Each location has different crippling effects. Damage to the leg can either reduce the move of a character or cause a fall. But when it comes to healing, it's a general effect. Potions and spells of healing raise the total of the entire health, not just a specified area. Some GMs will house rule that a healing must be done for each area damaged.

#3: The attack hits a specific location and does damage to that location. Healing must be done not only the location, but a specific wound. If a character suffers two wounds to the chest, two separate healings must be done.

Depending on your style of play and system you use will determine the level of realism you want to create. I like #2 because it's a good balance of strategic hit locations and the simplified healings. In my campaign a potion or spell of healing is developed to find the damaged areas. After one area is healed the remaining healing will go to the next wound. The exception is if a limb was crippled during the fight. The wound can be healed to full health, but until the leg is restored, he'll have a bum leg.

Version #1 is the D&D way and there is something great in its simplicity. It keeps the game moving along without having to consult a table for hit locations, what the penalties are or how much damage each appendage can tolerate before becoming crippled. Just roll to hit and roll your damage. But there is no strategy involved. In video game terms, it's a button masher.

Version #3 is too much work for me. I don't like balancing my checkbook let alone calculating and keeping track of each scratch I've suffered. It takes the heroic aspect out of the game. Dungeon delving is nearly impossible. Each wound accumulates until your character is useless. Having to journey through twenty levels of critters is not gonna happen my friend.

All the versions have advantages that make a game more interesting. As a GM you have to decide which version fits your style and what your players will enjoy. And if all else fails throw a big-ass fireball and let the gods sort'em out.


  1. While #2). seems the best overall for those that like a tactical angle, I have used a combo of #2). & #3). which linked to Abilities themselves.

    Each location had a tier/cascade effect as to which Ability was affected, and then, once the series was fulfilled, the cycle began anew.
    --In this way, the effects became apparent; directly affected gameplay (weakened, hobbled, dazed, etc.); and could be chosen for immediate medical concern, as well as benefiting from overall healing.

    I'm going to include it as an option in the URUTSK Referee's Manual to use in place of #2). which simply describes the effects to each location and by damage type a la Gamma World 3rd Edition's Sprained, Exhausted; etc.

    I ran into a problem last night with damage to location based on the Terminal Threshold, while the target still had DP remaining, and it was not a Critical Strike. I had to abandon it in mid-play, and conceded that it had been flawed.

    #2). or #2.5) is/are my preferred method(s).


  2. I'm all for version one, since I figure it's not a wound until your last couple of hit points anyway (seeing as how many people feel the rest of your hit points, after 1st level, are luck, skill, fatigue and so on).

    I like Magic Realm's mechanic for damage, as "fatigue" is recovered at a faster rate than true "wounds".

    But I also like the OD&D approach, with it's one-minute conbat rounds, which considers your successful attack to be at the best body location possible, therefore, no called shots (in effect, your successful hit was at your called shot location anyway).