Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Permanent and Lasting Injury

The 2nd Edition AD&D books specifically discourage players from tracking specific injuries, which I generally agree with. After all, I'm not a kid anymore and I don't get a giggle over the fact that every hit has a 1-in-6 chance of whacking some poor shmuck in the jewels, or neck, or whatever. It's just not necessary and is, in many ways, puerile. It also adds a whole lot of "all the time" complexity that the game just doesn't need.

After all, one of the biggest draws of the D&D type systems for me is the level of abstraction. Whether or not hit points represent purely physical punishment, or a mixture of luck, near misses, and minor wounds sapping a PC's will to go on or something else entirely really isn't all that important. The system is an abstraction for the sake of gameplay and, in the end, it's a completely self-referential one. It's only there to provide a numeric system to govern when your character can no longer function. It makes no real appeals to realism except in that more physical and martial classes get more HP while more "bookish" or "crafty" type classes receive fewer. It's verisimilitude, not realism.

The same goes for the 1 minute combat rounds (of which I am still a strong supporter by the by), the class and level system in general, armor class, and much of everything else in a lot of ways. Everything there sets an acceptable (to us at least) comprimise between realism and abstraction for the sake of game flow.

However, one of the alures of D&D is the loosness of its framework and the ability of the players to "hang on ornaments" so to speak. That's, I think, one of the greatest and most marvelous lessons that TSR learned during the run of AD&D 2ed: that the only thing that separated the core AD&D system from being something else was ornamentation and decoration. Dark Sun, one of the wierdest settings for the game, is little more than AD&D 2ed with a few moderate rules tweaks thrown in (i.e., retooling the attributes charts to account for the concept of Survival of the Fittest run amok, everybody's got psionics, an insanely harsh environment, and so on). That's the strength of 2nd edition, in my mind, it's chameleon like ability to change on the face to

That's a long way to go, I suppose, to get to the purpose of today's post.

Thylia, though I know I've put so little of it up here owing to life going absolutely berserk of late, is at present a bit grim, dark, and gritty. Those phrases have largely lost meaning, especially in WOTC's wake of using them to apply to their new material (one imagines purely in a humerous intent). Things in that world are going badly: monsters lurk in the wilderness, petty warlords claim control over wide expanses of land or just city states, cats and dogs living together . . . But of course, whisper me the difference between that and just about any bog-standard D&D setting?

In order to reflect the darker, somewhat grittier nature of things in Thylia, I'm employing both the modifications to the Vancian spell casting rules I talked of earlier, and a minor system for lasting and permanent injuries.

Simply put, while employing the "at death's door" rule (i.e., you have until -10 hp before you actually die for good), any character or monster/NPC that is reduced to -7 HP or less must make a system shock check or be forced to roll on the chart below to determine what, if any, lasting consequences are assessed.

1. Injury to the face/head. Suffer -1 to WIS/INT/CHA (equal chance of any of them).
2. Torso/Abdomen. Suffer -1 to CON, max HP reduced by 1d20%.
3. Fore/Upper Limb (includes arms (all if multiple), wings, and any other appendage other than a head above body midline). Determine which randomly. Limb is useless unless successfull save vs. death. To-Hit and Damage are -1 with that limb. If quadraped or limb otherwise used for mobility, see Lower/Hind Limb entry below.
4. Lower/Hind Limb (includes legs and other mobility appendages, tails, etc.). Save vs. death else limb is useless. Suffer -1d4x10% loss in movement rate. Limb is -1 to-hit and DAM if appropriate. May require crutch, cane, or other assistave device at DM's discretion.

All effects persist for 1d3 weeks at the end of which the character must make a System Shock check or the effects become permanent unless powerful healing or regenerative magics are applied successfully. At DM's option, surgical arts may be attempted to repair such damage, though they obviously carry significant risks of their own.

I think this will help to bring across the brutality of combat just a little more, and leave open my options open for when truly greivous wounds need inflicting.

Example: Hamlet the fighter is snatched up by a Roc intent on making the hapless adventurer its next meal. Through pure piss and vinneager, Hamlet is able to land a few telling kicks and bites on the bird before too much altitude is gained and the beast drops him. The fall reduces the fighter to -8 HP where he is luckily discovered by a friendly band of elves who bandage his wounds before he bleeds out. Rolling on the chart above nets him a result of 3 and the DM determines that his left arm has been severely broken when Hamlet fell on it. He has failed his saving throw and so the arm is useless for anywhere from one to three weeks. If he fails a System Shock test at the end of that time, the arm is permanently lame and of no use to him at all: a dangerous vulnerability to say the least.



  1. I've run AD&D 1st. ed, Champions, and CoC for decades. I think Champs and Call have some kind of optional rules for hit areas, but I never use anything official. In my latest AD&D, I might try to judge where it might be depending on the weapon, damage, and person's armor. A blow that does a lot of damage and comes close to all the victims hp is probably in the torso or head. Those piddly little 3 or 4 point hits might be arm shots (quickly roll a d6 to figure out which one), or in a higher hit point PC it might just be that "luck" factor in hit points that uses up some of them. Yeah, I'm a wing-it man. It usually only matters if the player wants to know.

  2. I employ something similar in my games for injuries sustained after hit points have been reduced to 0. In retrospect, I realise that it was probably cribbed from Warhammer Fantasy, where critical hits are rolled once wounds are reduced to 0. So... that is a note of approval from me. :D

  3. This rule is in AD&D. Except there is no table that defines the injury. Going into negative hit points is a bit more complicated and actually doesn't happen that much in AD&D, you die usually. My point being, the way 2e does deaths door you might get alot of use out of your table. In our 2e game we don't use death's door because we feel it leads to metagaming.

  4. The groups I play in do use death's door and we find that, for the most part, it doesn't lead to too much meta-gaming. Yes, there's the understanding that there's a rule functioning there, but nobody starts talking about hit point totals or anything like that.

    I realize there's a similarly intent rule in 1e somewhere (been a long time since I've seen it though), but this one I designed to fit into 2nd edition to work with its version of death's door. One of the primary motiviations behind it was to prevent people from treating the -10 death's door as just another 10 hit points (or, in Kenzer's terms, a "kicker").

    It also, I think, will add just a little fear to getting smacked hard instead of just adding another day's healing time. Bob the fighter who gets thwacked near to death might not gain the use of his left arm back, or might come out of a vicious battle sporting a distinctive ugly scar or cracked skull that disorients him from time to time. Just a simplex way of adding a little color and danger to things without going overboard.

    And of course, this isn't talking at all about disease tables. That many open cuts are bound to get infected after all . . .