Friday, 28 June 2013

On Damage Abstraction, Story, and Rules

Are hit points really this bad?

In my humble opinion: No.

I've already talked about Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 2e and its Wound mechanic in direct relation to the D&D Hit Point mechanic and the associated story pacing that both provide to RPGs in W is for Wounds.

Now, for some new thoughts properly fed with player and play experience.

Mordrin's great warhammer slammed into the hastily re-erected wooden doors on the entrance to the ruined remains of the lost elven arcane academy. The doors fell inward. Mordrin barely had time to consider his next action. A guttural roar crossed the tangle of overgrown brush and vine covered trees that stood behind him. The roar precluded everything around him as something in his slayer mind screamed, "A worthy death in the maw of daemons!" 
Around him his companions screamed and dived for cover as crossbow bolts exited the now open doorway. Mordrin could not be bothered by simple crossbows, a daemon was charging into battle less than 100 yards away. Mordrin turned on the Druchii and their crossbows and gripped his warhammer high in right hand, readying to break into a run. 
Clarity returned for a brief moment, something was in his left hand. 
He looked down, nothing. Wait, red blood poured from his palm, soaking his fingers and falling in large drops to the dry dirt. Had he seen the cruelly fashioned head of the crossbow bolt, its razor sharp barbs and fletching crafted to resemble the teeth of a terrible saw blade, then the amount of blood would be explained. His slayer voice cried, "It's only a flesh wound, you're not dead yet!"
Mordrin winced as he made a fist to staunch the blood of the wound and charged toward the daemon and the Druchii line that was collapsing even now.

This little narrative tells a story about a Giant Slayer and how the mechanics of a game can aid immersion by player and GM.

On the table as the session played out--and the GM worried he just delivered a critical hit that killed the PC literally while his back was turned--Mordrin's player took it in stride focused on a goal for the character. The WFRP combat rules work like this:

  1. Roll to hit under a skill value (%-based)
  2. Reverse the numbers to determine the hit location
  3. Roll for damage on a d10, if the d10 result is 10, the die "explodes" for more damage.
  4. Roll to hit again, if you hit, explode once.
  5. If you explode on this second roll, you explode again automatically.

Mordrin took 23 points of damage to his left arm. Ouch. After reducing for wounds, toughness, and armor, he took a +2 Critical Hit and an Insanity Point (for the critical hit). Mordrin was at zero wounds, or "heavily wounded." As a +2 critical hit could result in a chance death or the loss of the hand, I as GM, was sweating a bit. Rolling a 72 on the result table showed that Mordrin only suffered a "Flesh Wound." As he wasn't holding anything in the hand he didn't drop anything, yet at the same time his hand was useless with two-handed weapons like his great warhammer.

Yet Mordrin's player, looking at zero wounds, took it in stride and charged forward. All in character. As GM, I knew the threat and secretly rolled Mordrin's Toughness, succeeding, I waved the "medical attention is necessary before use of the hand is possible" outcome. Mordrin was a slayer on a mission. At zero, another hit was going to likely drive Mordrin a little more insane and likely kill him as well (at which point being insane may not really matter). The player fully accepted this fate in the RAW, in play and in character. Pacing be damned.

Immersion achievement unlocked!

In the end, if all you have for an argument dismissing the Hit Point mechanic of choice in a demotivational poster hoisting the Monty Python flag, you really don't have an argument. Go find another game...maybe one that seeks realism though crippling, war wound sourced tables and accompanying die rolls and quit whining about the abstraction and hand waving of Hit Points (or Wounds).

Posted by caffeinated at 1:45 PM in d10
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