Alright, yet another HP alternative.

Alright, yet another HP alternative.

Alright, yet another HP alternative.

This is a WIP, so I want your feedback to see what you think of it and what you’d modify.

This time, I got inspired by the Fate Core conditions mechanic.

I always loved how each injury had a narrative impact and the small tactical choice you have to take each time you receive damage. The big advantage is that you don’t need to get rid of the damage system to make it work.

So, the gist of it is that you have 6 Injury boxes (I’ve attached a mockup of how it could look). To each injury is tied a number (from 1 to 6). This is the number of damage that box can “absorb”. When you receive damage, you HAVE to check one or multiple boxes to absord equal or more of the damage received. For example, if you receive 3 damage, you could check both the 1pt and the 2-pts injury boxes, or the 3-pts alone, or even a higher than 3-pt box. Each time you check an injury box, you can also write a short description of the wound for narrative flare. When you check the (6) Fatal injury, you immediately make a Last breath move. These boxes correspond to 21 hp worth of damage, although you can only ever sustain 6 injuries, so you’d still go down after getting 6 injuries of 1 damage each. Armor still works the same.

Scars are optional mechanic (inspired by Uncharted Worlds) where you’d write a few words to describe an injury that left a visible mark, again only for fluff (but still has narrative weight as anything in a pbta game).

Here’s the moves I’ve added/modified to make this work:


Patch up

When you patch untreated injuries, treat all your injuries then roll +Supply (+WIS if you don’t use Supply rules).

On a 10+, choose 1.

On a 7-9, choose 1 but suffer -1 Supply (or -1 Adventurer’s Gear).

Heal both Minor and Trivial injuries.

■ Lower the severity of your less severe injury by 1 degree (slot must be empty).

When you treat a wound, mark a star in its checkbox. A treated wound cannot benefit from the Patch Up move again.

When you heal a wound, clear the checkbox of this wound. When you do so, you can mark an appropriate scar.


You’d also replace the line “Heal half HP” from Make Camp by:

Lower the severity of all treated injuries by 1 degree, then heal your Minor or Trivial wounds.

When you do so, you can rewrite the wound description to match its less severe state.


I think it sounds actually way more complex than it actually is, though. In all cases, the wording is not final. I’ll also probably make a move to explain the mechanics. Something like :

Receive damage

When you receive damage, check a number of unchecked injury boxes whose sum equals or exceeds the damage received. If you check the Fatal injury box, roll Last Breath.

So whaddya think?

15 thoughts on “Alright, yet another HP alternative.”

  1. I presume the strike-through in the Patch Up move is G+ formatting getting in the way again?

    It all sounds quite workable, although I worry that if you have some mix of treated and untreated wounds and then Make Camp, it’s going to be awkward doing the “lower the severity of all treated injuries” thing… the marks in some boxes will move down, but others won’t.

    Perhaps you could work around that specific problem by making the move give you two options: if you have any untreated injuries, automatically mark them all as treated. If you have only treated injuries, (original Make Camp effect).

  2. Sounds a bit like Blades in the Dark–which is fine, it’s a good game.

    This is a problem that I’ve been thinking about too. What are the arguments for keeping HP, other than the appeal to tradition?

  3. Really no argument to keep hp other than rolling dice is fun I guess. Static damage feels less fun to me and too predictive. Like you know your next hit WILL kill you VS next hit MIGHT kill you.

  4. Addramyr Palinor

    Couldn’t the same be said about a Character at 3 HP being attacked by a creature that does 1d6+2?

    Grainularity, that i could understand. And id back you on that. Plus, dice are fun

  5. There’s no mock-up provided, so I’m guessing it looks like this?

    [] Trivial (1) __________

    [] Trivial (2) __________

    [] Minor (3) __________

    [] Serious (4) __________

    [] Critical (5) __________

    [] Lethal (6) __________

    So I take 5 damage from a gnoll’s spear and have 2 armor, that’s 3 damage. I could mark both Trivial injuries and maybe say “sliced shoulder” and “bruised knee.”

    Then I take 3 HP of incidental damage, say from falling down a slope, less 2 armor. But now I’ve got to mark one of the 3+ boxes. Obviously I’m going to chose Minor (3) and I guess maybe I’ll twist my ankle and be limping. Or maybe I gashed my forehead.

    Later in the fight, I suffer 5 damage (after armor). It has to go in Critical or Lethal; obviously I’ll choose Critical. It’s described as, oh… a broken arm.

    (If I’d taken 6 damage after armor, I’d have had to mark both the Serious and Critical wounds (or Lethal), using up 9 HP capacity instead of 6.)

    Fight ends, I look like this:

    [X] Trivial (1) sliced shoulder

    [X] Trivial (2) bruised knee

    [X] Minor (3) gashed forehead

    [] Serious (4) __________

    [X] Critical (5) broken arm

    [] Lethal (6) __________

    I get patched up… we get a 7+. Now I look like this:

    [] Trivial (1) __________

    [] Trivial (2) __________

    [] Minor (3) gashed forehead

    [] Serious (4) __________

    [] Critical (5) broken arm

    [] Lethal (6) __________

    No point in Patching Up again, because those starred injuries aren’t getting better.

    We manage to get through the rest of the day without me getting hurt again. We Make Camp.

    My “gashed forehead” becomes a Trivial wound and then gets erased. Maybe I write a “scar on forehead.”

    My broken arm becomes a Serious injury. So now I look like this:

    [] Trivial (1) __________

    [] Trivial (2) __________

    [] Minor (3) __________

    [] Serious (4) broken arm

    [] Critical (5) __________

    [] Lethal (6) __________

    The adventuring day starts and I suffer 9 damage from an ogre’s club. That’s going to fill up Critical, Minor, and Trivial. Probably like this:

    [X] Trivial (1) scrapes & bruises

    [] Trivial (2) __________

    [X] Minor (3) black eye

    [] Serious (4) broken arm

    [X] Critical (5) broken ribs

    [] Lethal (6) __________

    I’m a mess. My ribs are broken and my arm is in a sling (still broken). I’m probably Defying Danger to do almost anything. Barring magical healing, my best bet is to get the hell out of the dungeon and spend a few days recuperating.

    Is this about right?

  6. Yeah, it’s there now.

    So, my assessment: I don’t like it.

    First because of design priorities. I’m not a fan of death spirals, and this seems to bake a death spiral into the game. The more you get injured, the more bad injuries you get (even from relatively small amounts of damage). And every time you get an injury, there’s a defined fictional badness that comes out of it. That’s going to mean making the player Defy Danger a lot more just to act in the first place. I’m totally down with doing that sometimes but definitely not always/automatically.

    Second, it results in some non-obvious, fictionally jarring outcomes.

    Imagine a tiny monster that does 1 damage, 1 piercing (e.g. a sprite with a 3-inch stiletto). 3 hits and you’ve taken a serious wound. 3 more and you’re dying. Really?

    It’s a problem on the other end, too. The troll drives that longspear right into you! Take d10+4 damage… oooh, 12? Yikes. That’s a critical, a severe, and a major wound! 3 separate injuries from getting impaled with a spear. Do I write down “stabbed in gut” in all 3 slots? Do I come up with 3 separate injuries?

    Third, it’s fiddly and punishes bad metagame tactics. Which… maybe you want that, I dunno. But I dislike the fact that when i take 3 damage, I might think “oh, I’ll take a Trivial and Minor wound, natch” and then I take 1 damage later and it’s like “oh, now I’ve got a serious wound. That sucks.” Like, they took 2 more damage because they made a semi-obvious choice.

    Unless you’re confident that you can “Patch Up” or “Make Camp” before you risk getting injured again, the best play is to always fill the highest slots you can (aside from Lethal). Otherwise, if you fill smaller slots first, a low damage roll is going to be magnified into a more serious damage result because you don’t have anywhere to “put it.”

    Fourth, the 5 non-lethal injuries are too fine-grained to be useful in play. Like… when I check a “Minor” injury, what are my guidelines? Where’s the line between “Trivial” and “Minor?” Between “Minor” and “Major?” Between “Major” and “Critical?” What sort of fictional hinderances/outcomes can I expect from each?

    Fifth, how does messy play into this?

    Sixth, how does this apply to NPCs/monsters? Do they keep getting to fight at full capacity until 0 hp? Or do we need to track this sort of thing for them, too? Do we need to re-evaluate all of their HP?

  7. Your design goals seem to be:

    > Force fictionally compelling wounds into the game (based on dice/player choice, rather than GM fiat)

    > Make the game deadlier/grimmer/bloodier

    If so… seems like you’d be better off with just cutting HP in half (for PCs, maybe for monsters) and at 0 HP, a move (and/or player choice) determines if:

    > you’re out of the action

    > you’ve suffered a significant wound (getting worse, gets in the way)

    > you’ve suffered a permanent (or at least long-term) loss (eye, finger, limb, broken limb, etc.)

    > you’re dying/dead

    Anything less than those effects, and it’s basically just getting “roughed up”… scratches, bruises, flesh wounds, strains, etc. IMO, not worth tracking in detail.

    Like… everyone has ~8-12 HP. When you take damage, reduce the damage by your armor (if any) and then lose that many HP. When you suffer more damage than you have HP, you’ve been seriously hurt! Reduce your HP to 0 and roll +CON: on a 10+, pick 1; on a 7-9 pick 1 and the GM picks another:

    > You’re out of the action, right now

    > Mark a debility of the GM’s choice

    > It’s going to take a long time to heal

    > It’s unstable and going to get worse quickly if it’s not treated

    On a miss, pick 1 from this list, and the GM picks 1 from the 7-9 list:

    > You’re dying (roll Last Breath_)

    > It’s somehow permanent (lost eye, crushed knee, severed limb, etc.), tell us how (GM can veto)

    (You can’t pick something that already true. E.g. if you’re already out of the action, you can’t pick that again.)

    Work with the GM to come up with the specific nature of the injury, and write it in the space provided with a check box next to it. When the wound is treated and stabilized, check the box. When the wound finally heals, cross it off (but leave it there as a scar). When you run out of room to add new injuries, maybe it’s time to retire?

    Important NPCs could get to roll this move (maybe with a bonus, maybe just straight), but most monsters/foes would just be out of the action at 0 HP and GM fiat as to how/why.

    Messy attacks against a PC could apply a penalty to the CON roll, or make you roll it even if you still have HP left. Or maybe they always make you pick 1 extra choice from the 7-9 list… I dunno. There’s room to play with it. (Against NPCs, it’s still just GM/player derived carnage).

    The presence of an unhealed wound would either be fictional justification for GM moves, or cause you to Defy Danger to ignore the wound.

    Healing could restore HP, stablize an unstable wound, treat a wound, get you back in the fight, and/or keep you from dying. “Long rests” could let you actually heal a (treated) wound, as could magical healing.

  8. That reminds me a bit of Rifts, where you have some ablative points to spend before you dig into your health.

    Maybe there are ideas that could be poached from AW’s Endure Harm move?

  9. Thanks for the feedback!

    Jeremy Strandberg Have you read Uncharted Worlds? It uses a similar mechanic without rolling damage. Instead, the GM basically decides how lethal an attack is : it’s a minor wound, that’s severe injury, etc. If a spot is taken, another wound of the same degree rolls up to an higher severity.

    How does that stack up? Do you also dislike it and if so for the same reasons?

    For clarifications, in my WIP system, the wound description is not mandatory. It’s added only as a flair from time to time when it’s cool. Most your arguments still applies, but knowing this, do you like it better (… or hate it less, I guess lol)?

  10. How would the Uncharted mechanic transfer over to DW? How do you translate monster attacks into wound severity?

    I ask because I have an idea along a similar avenue.

  11. +Peter J In UW enemies dont have damage dice. They do damage according to fiction. Improvised shiv? That’s probably only minor damage. Laser repeater? Probably severe. Jeremy Strandberg in UW enemies dont track damage. They get taken out whenever it makes sense in the fiction.

  12. Addramyr Palinor read, not played it. I’m not a huge fan of that harm system either, but it’s definitely a better fit for UW.

    For starters, an entire combat is generally resolved in a single roll (Open Fire or Launch Assault), and an injury happens on a miss (if the GM so chooses) or a 7-9 (again, only if the GM chooses). The level of damage is determined entirely on the established fiction, with a pretty clear guidelines, plus a “soak” roll to add randomness. So the sheer amount of instances of harm is a lot less than in DW or a similarly “zoomed in” sort of game.

    I’m not a huge fan of the 6 levels of granularity in UW’s system, but it’s scale tends to be pretty “chunky.” A phaser is doing a Severe injury by default; an explosion in the engine room is going to be Critical. Critical is pretty much “you’re fucked but still alive.” Being seriously outnumbered increases the injury level. It’s not hard, and it’s pretty appropriate for the different scales the game is working on.

  13. Oh and…if the wound descriptions are optional, I’m left wondering what the design goal is. “Grimmer/bloodier/more dangerous” is more easily achieved in other ways, I think.

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