06 July 2008

Damage Systems

Something that never occurred to me until I played Blue Planet: Humans don't have a sliding scale of damage. If you shoot a person in the hand, then the other hand, then the foot, then the other foot, you're not really bringing that person any closer to death. Perhaps the person is more likely to die from shock, but generally, if that's likely, then they would probably die from shock after being shot once in the hand. There are documented cases of that happening.

On the other hand, a single shot to the torso is quite likely to kill a person, especially if it hits lungs or the heart. A head shot is most likely of all to kill a person. But the weapon isn't doing more damage, it's just hitting in different places.

Sure, you could say that rolling more damage indicates that the bullet strikes a more vulnerable spot. For example, in D&D with its flat scale of a certain number of hit points, a sword strike that does one point of damage might be described as hitting the person in the finger, while a hit that did ten points could be said to have struck the ribcage. And maybe that works, but I still find I'm not overly fond of that idea.GURPS has a bit more depth. They still have a set scale of so many hit points, but the advanced rules system (which is optional, for those who want this level of complexity in their rules) includes hit location. A normal attack is rolled on the hit location chart, and certain areas have limitations. For example, a hand can only take damage equal to one third of your character's total hit points before it is disabled, and can take no more damage. Further points of damage to that area, from the original attack or any subsequent attacks, are ignored. Contrariwise, damage done to the vital areas is doubled, and the victim must roll to remain conscious. And so forth. An attacking character can choose to target a specific area (like the head), with a penalty to their attack roll dependant on the area being attacked (-2 to the roll, for example, to attack the torso, but -5 to attack the hand or -8 to target the vital organs; I may be misremembering the exact penalties, but you get the idea).

That system works better, in my opinion, although it's a lot to think about, a lot to keep track of, and a lot of die rolling for each combat action. Granted, combat is the core system out of which role-playing games grew, but that's a rant for another time. Here, I wish to describe a system that I found that I think works very well: the system in Blue Planet.

The basic idea here is that each weapon is given a "lethality rating." Each time you are attacked, you roll 3d10 with a target number equal to the weapon's lethality rating, minus your constitution bonus and any armour that you may have. If one die comes up as a "success" (that is, has a result lower than the target number), you suffer a light wound, which is a -1 penalty to all rolls until that wound is healed. If two dice come up as a success, then the wounded area is disabled. If three dice come up as a success, then you are going to die unless you receive immediate medical attention (and sometimes, even that won't help).

This elegant system emulates real life damage much better than the Hit Point system, I think. It's possible (although unlikely) to die from a single knife wound to the foot, and it's also possible (although again unlikely) to suffer multiple major gunshots to the torso and still stand to keep fighting. Both of these scenarios have been seen in real life.

No more worrying about "I'm on my last hit point! If I take any more damage, I will die!" I personally like this system. I would worry about the wound penalties piling up after a while (i.e., what happens when you've taken fifteen light wounds, and are rolling at -15 on a d10? I mean, sure, if you're taking that many wounds, you're likely to have suffered a critical wound already, but it is possible, you know!).

Anyway, that's my thought on damage systems. I'll see you back here next time, and until then,

Game on!

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