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Saph
2013-02-28, 09:12 PM
Another in my series of game design queries, this time on the relationship between lethal damage and consciousness. If a wound might kill you, should it also knock you out?

It's realistic that a traumatic and life-threatening injury can incapacitate a victim and render them unconscious. On the other hand, that doesn't always happen, and there's an argument for the position that if a player's character is bleeding to death then they should at least be allowed to try and do something about it.

Here are some of the ways existing systems deal with the issue:

1. Dying = Unconscious

This is the way D&D handles injury. Your character basically has two states: healthy/conscious if your HP are positive, and dying/unconscious if they're negative. Barring edge cases like the disabled condition and certain feats and spells, there's no way to be dying and conscious. You're either up and ready to fight, or on the floor and bleeding out.

The main advantage to this approach is that it's simple, and there's no tracking of wound penalties. The downside is that it's impossible to have a life-threatening injury that doesn't also knock you out (which eliminates a lot of interesting story options) and there's no middle ground between 'healthy' and 'dying'.

2. Wounded, More Wounded, Incapacitated, Dead

This is the way systems like White Wolf and L5R do it. You take increasing wound penalties the more damage you take, then there's a final narrow band where you're incapacitated, then any further damage kills you.

This gives a more graduated system than D&D, and is more realistic as wound penalties go. On the downside, the penalties are extra work to track and tend to produce a 'death spiral' effect where you can't effectively fight back or get away, and the 'incapacitated' band is narrow enough that once you're seriously injured the next hit is usually an instakill. Also, like D&D, they system has no provision for being mortally wounded but still upright, conscious, and fighting.

3. Dying != Unconscious

This is the way systems like GURPS do it (or they did the last time I played). Taking damage gives you penalties, forces checks to stay conscious, and eventually forces checks to stay alive, but doesn't automatically knock you out. This means it's possible to have multiple fatal wounds and still keep fighting for a while (though you'll probably still die eventually unless you get some really impressive medical care).

This gives more variety than the first two systems, but means you have to track two separate things whether you're conscious and whether you're dying have nothing to do with one another.

Which do you think works best?

oxybe
2013-02-28, 09:27 PM
this ignores the most important factor:

does it fit with the genres and tropes the game is trying to go for?

it's the main reason why what works for one system might not work for another.

the only way one method can be better then another is if it works better for the genre then it's peers.

a game where the PCs are supposed to be action-hero types would suffer from a wounds as penalties system since action-heroes are supposed to still be at fighting capacity when wounded. the only hit that matters is the one that's supposed to knock them out or kill them.

Mark Hall
2013-02-28, 09:40 PM
In Hackmaster, wounds over a certain threshold of your HP (30% +1% per level for most classes, +2% per level for fighters, and a flat 40% for monsters) have a chance to cause incapacitaiton for a certain number of seconds. This is not strictly unconsciousness... we usually portray it as on the ground, screaming in agony.

So, a 1st level human wizard has 21 HP (10 for being human, 10 because his Con is 10/96, 1 because his HD roll sucked). His Threshold of Pain (ToP) is 31% of this, meaning any wound of 7HP or more (above 6.51) will force a Trauma Save. A Trauma save involves rolling lower than half his Con on a d20. So, if he rolls 6 or higher, he's incapacitated for 5 second per point the d20 is above his half Con... so, if he rolls a natural 20, he's incapacitated for (20-5)*5 seconds. 75 seconds is a LONG time in Hackmaster combat; a normal person (or even a goblin) can coup de grace you in 10 seconds; thieves can do it in 3 seconds. Assassins can do it in 2 (or, as they say in Klingon, qaStaHvIS wa' ram loSSaD Hugh SIjlaH qetbogh loD).

Now, when the wizard goes up in level, he adds a bit to his Con, bringing it up to 11/01, and he rerolls that sucky HD, getting a 4. New HP? 10+11+4, or 25 HP. New ToP? 25*.32, or 8. He needs to take 9 HP to worry about a Trauma Save, but it's still only 5 or greater.

This doesn't include criticals, which can cause permanent damage or other debilities.

Stubbazubba
2013-02-28, 10:04 PM
this ignores the most important factor:

does it fit with the genres and tropes the game is trying to go for?

it's the main reason why what works for one system might not work for another.

the only way one method can be better then another is if it works better for the genre then it's peers.

a game where the PCs are supposed to be action-hero types would suffer from a wounds as penalties system since action-heroes are supposed to still be at fighting capacity when wounded. the only hit that matters is the one that's supposed to knock them out or kill them.

But I think Saph's point is that within action-hero tropes, there are a variety of incapacitating injuries; there are ones that just knock you out, then there are ones that leave a big stab wound, but you're still able to fight on until the end of the climactic battle, at which point your adrenaline runs out and you start bleeding out. These things happen in the exact same instance of source material (the same show, movie, or novel, for instance). So, which one do we try to model, or do we do both?

Jack of Spades
2013-02-28, 10:07 PM
There's also a few systems which give the character HP or similar, and then base the question of unconscious or dying on the nature of the final blow-- physical damage killing, mental/psychological making one unconscious.

I've always found the way NWoD deals with damage to be pretty worthwhile as well.

Any more, I find that systems which don't have some sort of wound penalties just feel silly and too MMO-ish to me. When doing threat calculation, a hurt character should be much less threatening than an equally skilled healthy one. In DnD and the like, it's generally more tactically sound to whale on whoever has the highest damage/round until they're gone, no matter how close anyone else is to death.

Slipperychicken
2013-02-28, 10:11 PM
#3. Because it allows a lot more interesting dramatic and narrative stuff.


So that the dying man can fire off one last shot, which may result in a tragic "both sides died of their wounds" scenario. Or make an epic last whisper (revealing a secret, giving his last will, making a bittersweet joke out of the situation, or even "Tell... [name]... I love her"). Tearful defeated eyes also work.

Also allows for an incapacitated guy to squirm around trying to stifle his screams of pain while his opponent mocks him.

EDIT: And torturing the half-dead for vengeance or information. No, I'm not a dark morbid person, stop judging me :smallbiggrin:

Jack of Spades
2013-02-28, 10:13 PM
#3. Because it allows a lot more interesting dramatic and narrative stuff.


So that the dying man can fire off one last shot, which may result in a tragic "both sides died of their wounds" scenario. Or make an epic last whisper (revealing a secret, giving his last will, making a bittersweet joke out of the situation, or even "Tell... [name]... I love her"). Tearful defeated eyes also work.

Also allows for an incapacitated guy to squirm around trying to stifle his screams of pain while his opponent mocks him.

L5R actually has the last-moments thing written into the rules, from what I've heard... After lethal damage you have a chance to take an action or two, I think.

That being said, if your DM doesn't allow things like that because they're not RAW, then your DM is an *******. The rules do not allow RP, RP allows the rules.

oxybe
2013-02-28, 10:29 PM
But I think Saph's point is that within action-hero tropes, there are a variety of incapacitating injuries; there are ones that just knock you out, then there are ones that leave a big stab wound, but you're still able to fight on until the end of the climactic battle, at which point your adrenaline runs out and you start bleeding out. These things happen in the exact same instance of source material (the same show, movie, or novel, for instance). So, which one do we try to model, or do we do both?

most media is rather consistent in how it portrays a certain type of damage/injury/death.

for example, in a Die Hard movie, you can expect John McClane to get shot and shrug it off for the most part. if i were to play an action hero in a John McClane TTRPG, i would expect to have the same narrativistic privileges as the aforementioned character, rather then a doom spiral type system where every injury makes me worse off.

while some exceptions do occur in a narrative to a character or selection of characters, it needs to be understood that those are the exceptions UNLESS the character (or characters) in question is meant to be a subversion or lampshading of the trope.

but again, we're dealing with the exceptions, just kind of in reverse.

the one you should try to model is the one that generally fulfills the goals of the genre better: if your game is meant to emphasize direct action and the rules make it so getting injured slows down the character and overall gameplay, it would follow that those rules are bad for the game.

even if there are many ways to handle injury within a genre, that doesn't mean all those ways fit well in any given expression of the genre since they'll cause the players to react at things in different ways.

figure out the type of gameplay that fits the genres and tropes of your game and how it handles injury should follow.

TuggyNE
2013-02-28, 10:40 PM
That being said, if your DM doesn't allow things like that because they're not RAW, then your DM is an *******. The rules do not allow RP, RP allows the rules.

Howsomever, all else being equal, a system that doesn't support/encourage RPing this nicely is inferior to a system that does. That is, increased accuracy of simulation is a good thing! :smallwink:

valadil
2013-02-28, 11:36 PM
What about unconscious as a status effect? You have HP until dead, but certain injuries or effects may cause unconsciousness.

In Game of Thrones d20, each character had a shock threshold. Can't remember the exact game term, but I'm pretty sure it had shock in there. Any time you took a wound greater than your shock threshold, you had to make a fortitude save to avoid unconsciousness.

In MERP (and other Rolemaster implementations, but this is the only one I really ever played) critical hits were rolled against a table. The results gave colorful descriptions of the damage inflicted. In addition to HP damage, you could cause temporary stun, full on unconsciousness, etc.

Rhynn
2013-03-01, 12:25 AM
My choice would be for a system where unconsciousness/incapacitation and death are separate, rather than joined OR consecutive. That is, you aren't dying once you get knocked unconscious/incapacitated, and you don't get knocked unconscious/incapacitated before you get killed. So basically #3.

The separation both allows for more and better stories: you get a mortal wound but still do your hero thing; rather than getting killed, you were just knocked unconscious and left for dead; etc.

This is, IMO, best accomplished by requiring some kind of roll (save, resistance, test, check, whatever) when you take a bad enough wound (or, if you want to get really nitty-gritty, just about any kind of wound), to avoid being rendered unconscious or incapacitated. GURPS does pretty much this.

Death is handled separately, with hit points (if you care about easy playability more than any semblance of realism), rolls against shock, instant death from massive damage, or some combination thereof, etc.

Also, instant death (which many, many, many RPGs have) should be really rare - basically, it requires significant damage to the brain, or really massive (or specific) damage. In most cases, death would come as a result of hypovolemic shock (bleeding out), which would usually (but not always) be preceded by incapacitation or unconsciousness. Such fatal bleeding can be very slow, too, especially if it's a puncture wound (bullet, stab, etc.).

The ability of the human body to take punishment is incredibly varied and unpredictable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1986_FBI_Miami_shootout) (warning, descriptions of a pretty gruesome shootout).

Related essay about sword etc. injuries based on reading old accounts:
Part 1 (http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/bloody.php)
Part 2 (http://www.classicalfencing.com/articles/kill2.php)


By way of comparisons & examples:

Cyberpunk 2013 used a system (oddly far superior to CP2020, and very elegant) where the damage rolled determines whether a wound is Flesh, Serious, Critical, Mortal, or even Instantly Deadly. Wounds worsen without treatment, Serious and Critical Wounds can have permanent consequences, and Mortal Wounds require death saves every turn. Multiple wounds stack into worse wounds.

Twilight 2013 has a similar system - each wound level has its own effects, wounds stack, etc. Somewhat more elegant.

GURPS requires HT rolls to stay conscious (below HT 1 or 0, I think?) and to stay alive (below -HT I think?).

The Riddle of Steel has wound tables (by location, wound levels 1-5, and type of damage), rates injuries in Shock (penalties to your dice pool for the next turn), Pain (semi-permanent penalties that determine how long the wound takes to heal, and act as penalties until healed), and Blood Loss (which is the main cause of death, other than massive damage). Pain and Blood Loss stack; Pain from most wounds is reduced by your Willpower, and you roll Endurance tests against your total Blood Loss to avoid loosing Health; at 0 Health, you die from blood loss (you may or may not be conscious/incapacitated, depending on your Pain and dice pools).


Edit: Also, death spirals are a matter of the precise balances of each system. In TROS, striking the first wound gives you an advantage - but it's not conclusive by far. If your opponent has a large dice pool, they may still have an advantage over you; and with good tactics and use of maneuvers (or plain recklessness and/or luck), a wounded opponent can still reverse the situation or deal a sudden lethal blow. In CP2013, being injured doesn't make your gun less deadly (well, okay, a little less deadly because your attack success adds to your damage, but it usually adds much less than the average weapon's damage roll).

Jack of Spades
2013-03-01, 01:24 AM
Howsomever, all else being equal, a system that doesn't support/encourage RPing this nicely is inferior to a system that does. That is, increased accuracy of simulation is a good thing! :smallwink:

I agree, which is why my favorite RPGs are the ones with piles of extremely granular and realistic rules.

In Deadlands Classic, whose system I like LOVE, the system is essentially #3. A character can take damage in the form of Wind and Wounds (usually both). Too much wind and you're knocked out. Too many wounds to a location and you're either dead or permanently maimed. Take wounds from a blow, roll to make sure you're not reeling. If your wounds are bad enough, you're bleeding Wind every round. Bleeding out takes the form of extra wounds bled away after you're unconscious. Also, wounds dealt cumulative penalties based on their severity.

Tengu_temp
2013-03-01, 09:37 AM
Mutants and Masterminds has two kinds of damage - lethal and nonlethal. They cause different effects as the target's condition worsens, and the worst nonlethal damage can do is knock you out. And it's worth noting that, since it's a game about superheroics, damage is nonlethal by default.

Arbane
2013-03-01, 02:59 PM
HERO system tracks Stun (too much and you're KO'ed) and Body (too much and you die) damage separately. "Normal" attacks do about 1/6th as much Body as Stun, Killing attacks do equal amounts, and there's some Stun-only attacks. (Hero started as a superhero system - having people get KO'ed with no lasting harm is a genre thing.)

evildmguy
2013-03-01, 03:24 PM
Alternity tracks stuns, wounds, mortal and fatigue.

Stun and wounds are equal to CON score and when either are gone, the character is knocked out. Further, when a character is over half stun or wound damage, there are penalties to all actions. Wounds can actually be pretty bad, in terms of description, in that they can be broken bones but not fatal.

Mortal is equal to half CON and is exactly that. Without help or treatment, they will eventually die from even one point of mortal damage, no matter how many mortals they have. Each point of mortal is a penalty.

Fatigue is also half CON and also gives a penalty for each point. This is exactly that, being tired after exertion.

What I like about this system is that one point of mortal is bad but it still lets the character do something. For me, the scene is Mal in the episode Out of Gas. He's in very bad shape, one point of mortal damage, but is still able to get the part down to the engine. He probably ended up taking another point before he made it there.

Having said that, I let drama decide things more. And I rule that player characters don't go down when all their stuns are out, it's just another penalty. At first, I thought the system would be too lethal and not heroic enough for me but it has worked very well as heroic.

edg

Rhynn
2013-03-01, 03:33 PM
HERO was turned* into Fuzion by RTG, wasn't it? Most Fuzion games (Sengoku, Bubblegum Crisis) use Stun and Hits, and Stun and Kill damage.

The Fuzion-based (but heavily modified) Artesia: Adventures in the Known World doesn't, though. Artesia just uses a BODY score; at 0 you're KO'd or incapacitated, and at -BODY you're killed. Wounds cause bleeding (impact wounds bleed slowest, punctures next, and cuts fastest; the slower a bleed is, the harder it is to notice). Critical hits deliver Grievous Wounds that inflict characteristic penalties (affecting related skill tests) based on the location hit - a Grievous Wound to the face penalizes APPearance or PERception, for instance. (If the wound is horrible enough, a part of the penalty becomes permanent.)

So that's D&D-like - first you get knocked out, then die - with extras (penalties for critical hits).

Fun, related fact: both Cyberpunk 2013 an Artesia: AKW (as well as TROS) add your relative success on your attack to the damage you deal - quite directly, you add your weapon's base damage to your margin/degree of success to get damage dealt, then deduct armor. This can result in pretty horrendous damage in Artesia; an average BODY is 25, but a skilled fighter attacking an unaware opponent with a longbow/crossbow/two-handed weapon and rolling well could easily deal 30-50 damage in one hit (and it'd be a critical, too, inflicting a like characteristic penalty - when characteristics are measured from 1 to 10 for mortals). That's just working as intended, though.

I really like that system, because I think a really good attack (either lucky or made with a great advantage) should deal more damage. In Cyberpunk 2013, there's also a large random component - often the variation of the weapon's damage roll from the average is greater than the bonus added by the margin of success. I like that, too...

* Edit: Well, fused with Cyberpunk 2020's Interlock...

evildmguy
2013-03-01, 03:52 PM
Alternity bases the damage (amount and type) on the skill roll of the attacker. If they roll well, they do a better damage type. Without getting into too many details, an Ordinary result might do d4s(tun) damage, a Good result might be d4+2s and an Amazing result might be d4+1w(ound) damage.

It also has secondary damage where you take some amount of stun if you take wound. The net effect of that is that you might have armor of some kind protecting you from wound damage but still get knocked out (or just more penalties) because of the secondary stun damage. Again, it has the dramatic effect of someone being knocked out but not killed.

Just mentioning this based on what Rhynn said above.

Further, in some instances, an Amazing result might force the defender to roll a Stamina->Endurance check or be knocked out right then, regardless of how much damage that attack does. Again, to me that makes sense. The hit was just done perfect and dropped them, even if only for a few seconds or a couple of minutes.

I like Alternity.

edg

Rhynn
2013-03-01, 04:06 PM
And that reminds me... The Riddle of Steel also has secondary knock-outs: in addition to certain damage table results (blows to the head, mostly) requiring knock-out rolls, there's an optional rule that any blunt hiw to the head requires a knock-out roll (this one, unlike the wound table result, is easier the better the armor on your head is). They're mostly pretty easy anyway. There's a similar system of knock-downs (caused by some wound table results, and by any attack where the shock and pain reduce your dice pool to 0).

So, you might get knocked out by a blow to the head without actually suffering any damage (thanks to your helmet).

Synovia
2013-03-01, 04:15 PM
Howsomever, all else being equal, a system that doesn't support/encourage RPing this nicely is inferior to a system that does. That is, increased accuracy of simulation is a good thing! :smallwink:

I disagree that increased accuracy of simulation is a good thing (its not necessarily a bad thing). The goal shouldn't be to simulate the real world, it should be to create a GAME that is fun to play, and feels real.

There's a lot of things where improving the simulation actually makes the game feel less immersive, because they take more time than they're worth.

TuggyNE
2013-03-02, 01:51 AM
I disagree that increased accuracy of simulation is a good thing (its not necessarily a bad thing). The goal shouldn't be to simulate the real world, it should be to create a GAME that is fun to play, and feels real.

There's a lot of things where improving the simulation actually makes the game feel less immersive, because they take more time than they're worth.

It's not necessarily obvious from my post, but I actually meant "simulating the genre fiction/story", not "simulating the real world". If you can make a game that feels closer to the sorts of stories you like, how on earth is that not a good thing? (If it comes at the cost of some other problem, of course, the net might be negative, but I don't think that's necessarily going to be the case at all.)

Saph
2013-03-03, 10:27 AM
Mortal is equal to half CON and is exactly that. Without help or treatment, they will eventually die from even one point of mortal damage, no matter how many mortals they have. Each point of mortal is a penalty.

That one's interesting. How do you get mortal damage, as opposed to wounds?

evildmguy
2013-03-03, 01:49 PM
That one's interesting. How do you get mortal damage, as opposed to wounds?

If an attacker rolls an Amazing result on a to hit, some weapons will cause mortal damage. Also, when wounds are out, two wounds convert to mortal damage.

It's tough to get that amazing, though, but if it happens, it's potentially bad!

edg

Jack of Spades
2013-03-03, 01:52 PM
Burning Wheel, which I'm in the process of reading through, is weird.

Basically, each hit you take is marked down individually. Based on the damage it dealt, it will give you some sort of penalty to all your stats. If a stat would be reduced to 0 this way, you're down. If it's a physical stat, you're writhing in pain on the ground. Mental, and you've fainted. Neither necessarily means you're in danger of dying, because you have to be hit hard enough before you start bleeding out. At that point you've probably been hit hard enough, though.

Synovia
2013-03-04, 10:29 AM
It's not necessarily obvious from my post, but I actually meant "simulating the genre fiction/story", not "simulating the real world". If you can make a game that feels closer to the sorts of stories you like, how on earth is that not a good thing? (If it comes at the cost of some other problem, of course, the net might be negative, but I don't think that's necessarily going to be the case at all.)

I think we're at an odds of terms here. When I talk simulation, I mean process simulation. Encumberance is a good example; it simulates reality, but isn't really something most people enjoy working with. Its too fiddly for the amount it improves the game.


If you're trying to get the same results as the fiction, thats not really a simulation thing. Trying to copy the processes from the fiction would be, but in most of the fiction, the processes aren't really expanded enough for you to know.

Its funny, most people seem to want more "realistic to the fiction" stuff, and then go and hand wave it all away (like spell components, encumberance, etc. It seems like what people really want is something that matches the end results of the fiction, and that is definitely not simulation.