I recently got to thinking about HP loss versus fictional damage.

I recently got to thinking about HP loss versus fictional damage.

I recently got to thinking about HP loss versus fictional damage. Now, HP loss is not traumatic. It’s just a number on a sheet, and fixed by a first level spell or a potion. No big deal. (I like Robert E. Howard’s explanation of how HP works: https://www.reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/5663wv/read_robert_e_howard_if_you_want_to_understand/ )Debilities are significantly worse, since they both give you a penalty to a stat and require downtime to heal. But what about fictional damage? Goblin arrows put out your eye. A razor boar’s tusks cut off your arm. What tools do we have to deal with such things?

Fictionally, the effect is obvious; you’re down an eye or a limb. but what can be done about this type of fictional damage? Does the loss of a limb cause death by exsanguination? (It should, but that’s another argument.) The player might resent that their character has been irrevocably crippled. What tools do you use to represent treatment/healing of a maiming injury like the above? Obviously, it would be preferable for such things to feel dangerous, enough that most PCs would react more cautiously to going into battle against such a foe if they knew there was a good chance they could be maimed. But at the same time, we want to be fans of the characters and see them succeed. Getting maimed shouldn’t feel like spine or a consequence of bad luck. What can be done?


16 thoughts on “I recently got to thinking about HP loss versus fictional damage.”

  1. What I’ve done so far is offer crippling as a possible risk in Tell the requirements or consequences and ask or put someone in a spot. Heroes getting randomly crippled for no fault of their own doesn’t feel particularly satisfying. But getting crippled due to a selfless heroic act or as a consequence of greed? That can contribute to a story arc.

    Say the party is fighting a tough monster with the messy tag. I would try to allude to this reasonably early in the battle, but I’d probably start with damaging equipment or the environment. For instance, the giant demon picks up a nearby NPC and tears his body in half. From there I can offer a direct warning when an action might result in serious long-term disfigurement, especially if it’s a character risking life and limb to save another character or perhaps threatening life and limb of one character to inspire another character to intervene. This way you have drama, but you also have player buy-in to the possible consequences.

  2. Fictional damage is awesome, but you need to fully communicate the risks before they take them. If you say “OK an orc jumps out of the shadows and rips your arm off” it’s not fun. If instead you say “you come upon a group of orcs assaulting a family in a wagon. Just as you round the bend you see one orc rip the father’s arm clean off. One of the lot turns to you and says ‘I call the big ones left arm'” then the risks are more apparent. But you should still let them defy danger with str if it comes to it.

  3. Yeah, random or unnecessary dismemberment would violate the “Be a fan of the character” principle.

    As far as story arc is concerned, a character who does find himself missing a limb can start a whole new story thread as he searches for a Cleric to “repair” his missing arm.

  4. Ritual is a great way to get an arm back and turn it into a mini-quest. Magical or mechanical arms and eyes are easy to imagine. Your local necromancer can probably help.

    Also you can go with it. A hook, peg leg and eyepatch can add a lot of flavor to a character. Maybe you can’t use a shield anymore but you

    might gain a reputation.

    Also a lot of compendium class opportunity for the player that experimentally slaps a troll arm to his stump.

  5. I would generally give some warning as other posters have described but I have rarely seen a DW player complain after it is explained how little handicap his character actualy suffers. I’ve even seen players start off with a “blind” character who gets around through training or magic. It just means a diferent set of obstacles

  6. You read my mind, Daniel.

    When you treat a major injury, such a broken limb or a damaged eye, the GM will tell you “sure, no problem, but…” and then 1 to 4 of the following:

    * It will take days/weeks/months to heal

    * You’ll need help from ___

    * It will need treatment with ___

    * It’s going to leave one heck of a distinctive scar

    * The best you can do is a replacement, either quirky, unreliable or with less functionality than the original

    The GM might connect them all with “and,” or might throw in a merciful “or.”

    Once you’ve accomplished the necessaries, the injury heals.

    I’d like to add one or two more options to that list, any ideas?

  7. I tend to give warning also, but I also almost always have a plan ahead of time for a way the player can get a replacement. I’ve had the idea for a fighter to replace their lost hand with their signature weapon using the blacksmith move stashed away in the back of my mind for a while now. Never got to implement it yet though. I also saved and slightly modified s9me text from another post that mentioned 2nd edition AW having a prosthetics entry.

    How to create prosthetics:

    Strengths (choose 1 or 2): fine-tuned, responsive, comfortable, formidable, easily maintained, interchangeable components, integrated with the meat, strong, untiring.

    Looks (choose 1 or 2): handbuilt, golemech, smooth, utilitarian, grotesque, ornate, straps & buckles, showy, scars, startling, fragile, organic.

    Weakness (choose 1 or 2): slow, heavy, itchy or hot, complicated harness, needs constant tinkering, slips, locks up, insensitive, requires fuel, loud.

    I will probably edit it into more of a move using INT later. But for now it’s a good reference.

  8. I always like to give the players a choice when the possibility of fictional damage arises, its usually a choice with consequences yeah? So if they choose the consequence of fictional damage, then that’s a HUGE flag that they’d enjoy roleplaying that change and making it part of their character and hopefully leading to further adventures.

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