Wednesday, 27 April 2011

W is for Wounds

If ever there was a hot topic for discussion among role players of any pedigree, it's Wounds, or Hit Points, or Health, or insert favorite damage abstraction mechanic here.

I do want to make sure that you read the topic in context of what you know from your game. This is how I feel about Wound mechanics:
  1. Wounds are an abstraction, until a Critical Hit
  2. Wounds are a pacing mechanic used to elicit role play
To understand my position, an example is necessary: a character taking a hit of 5 Wounds (out of a total of 10 Wounds) to the Left Leg is how hurt?

Generally speaking, in WFRP, this character is lightly wounded. The abstraction is that the rules do not speak about how 5 Wounds to the Left Leg is translated to actual pain, bleeding, torn clothing, or damaged armor (though there are "after market rule supplements and tables that help players and GMs alike lift the abstraction).

The player is encouraged to express what the character experiences or the GM should offer something about how the "goblin's rusty halberd bites into the chain mail of your left leg. The blow dampened by the leather padding beneath, but cutting into flesh. Split chain mail links bite into the skin around the cut. Blood begins soaking your leather."

In practice this is not debilitating damage to the PC, or NPC. But you can immediately see how these 5 Wounds set the tone of the fight in the next round. At what point do the players retire from the fight to heal? At 3 or less Wounds (to zero, 0) the character is considered Heavily Wounded. Heavily Wounded characters take longer to heal, the abstraction being that cumulatively speaking the bruises, cuts (and sutures), along with hairline rib fractures are painful. Alcohol is a good remedy, but it slows the healing process. One more hit like that and the player begins taking critical hit damage. And critical hits pile on maiming wounds that actually add character to characters, that in turn begin to affect the mental health of the character.

WFRP is a deadly game. PCs are often brash heroes, but getting in a fight should be a second course of action. Damage is a simple mechanic of Weapon or Strength + 1d10 (one 10 sided die) - Toughness - Armor (at the location). As PCs, the most wounds a human can start out with is 14 Wounds (with the Free Advance taken on Careers offering a Wound advancement). A Goblin can maim or kill such a human in two successful hits (or one for a weaker human). Thus Wounds become the player's pacing mechanic (and tension meter of 3e...I think).

I believe the mechanic as presented in the WFRP Core Rules works as written. It is well balanced and follows what many will recall from WFRP 1e. For those that argue abstraction is not enough, the WFRP community provides concrete work instead of abstraction, e.g., you can get that Role Master feel, if you so need it.

Cam Banks of Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd and designer of the Cortex System, recently expounded at great length with the hosts of the Dragonlance Canticle podcast (episode #40) on abstraction and pacing mechanics in games, especially Hit Points. I highly recommend listening to the episode.

In conclusion, the grim and perilous nature of WFRP is anchored in the deadliness of game play. Heroes are often not long lived, but a well role played character may survive long enough for greater things, especially given the gods often smile on each PC's Fate, and are known to bestow Fortune.
Posted by caffeinated at 7:00 AM in d10

 

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