Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wheel! Of! Dismemberment!

Been thinking a lot about the nature of Hit Points recently, in part from seeing Akrasia's house-rules whereby HP's do NOT represent actual injury--once you lose HP's, then you start suffering the "real" damage to your CON. I like that. I like it a lot. Except, that is, for the fact that this effectively gives every character 10+ extra Hit Points. I'm not too crazy about that. I've had a few thoughts one this subject.

One idea is specifically in the context of
Spellcraft & Swordplay, which is an entirely 2d6-based game. Entirely except for attributes, which are 3d6 as per usual. I have been playing with the idea of making S&S all 2d6 (I may post more about this later). With 2d6 CON, that's a significantly smaller kicker.

But, let's leave that idea aside for a moment. Because I've been rather excited lately about dismemberment. Not for myself, of course, but for foolish adventurers. This is, really, just an extension of
my thoughts on hurting characters as worse than killing them. And, nothing says hurting like getting your sword-arm lopped off. What fun!

In addition, I have been noodling around with thoughts of tactics in combat. Before visions of battle-mats and square-counting swim before your horrified eyes, gentle, hypothetical readers, fear not. I don't mean anything like that. I mean players making meaningful choices about their character's actions in combat.

Here's the idea: a player may choose to avoid the damage of any one attack by choosing, instead, to spin the Wheel of Dismemberment. The results of the Wheel will NOT result in hit point damage (which would make the whole thing pointless). With a little luck, you get knocked down or stunned. With a great deal less luck, you lose an arm or leg and suffer attribute damage. Losing a limb would reduce DEX, having muscles damaged would reduce STR, a chest wound might reduce CON, while horrible scaring would hurt CHA.

Where is this mighty Wheel of Fun, you ask? I don't know yet. There is a perverse part of me that wants to use this:

(that's a classic critical chart from Arms Law for the uninitiated)

But that's really way too fiddly in truth, bloody fun though it may be. I think I would, instead use something more like The Major Wounds Table from Stormbringer/Elric! or Robert Fisher's Classic D&D Injury Table. What I like about this idea is that it works along the principle of Trollsmyth's Shields Shall be Splintered! -- giving a strategic option that helps with the "Argh! Cleric!" Syndrome without just adding more Hit Points to the pile (a self-defeating strategy).

Plus, I love systems that make players choose to have nasty things happen to their characters. It's so much more entertaining to watch.


  1. This also reminds me of Mr Maliszewski's cleric:

    I've had a similar idea for Akrasia's Wisdom as sanity variant -- instead of taking permanent Wisdom damage on a bad roll, the player can opt for a roll on the mental disorder chart.

    Another idea would be to conflate Trollsmyth's shields rule with the injury table. The axe would have lobbed off your arm, but instead it splintered your shield. The sword would have spilled your guts, but instead it scraped across your breastplate. The hammer would have bashed your skull in, but instead it knocked off your helmet. It gives armor something to do besides lowering you AC (which is a kind of odd abstraction without a proper weapon vs. AC table (which is too fiddly (like nested parentheses))).

  2. Ah, but I do use Weapon vs AC! I quite like it, actually.

  3. The Wheel is very cool idea! I may have to use it (or something like it) in a future game. :D

    Re: "Except, that is, for the fact that this effectively gives every character 10+ extra Hit Points. I'm not too crazy about that."

    I've been pretty happy with it, in practice. For one thing, it makes starting characters tougher and more competent (which, I believe, is a feature that you associate with protagonists in the S&S genre). For a second thing, it helps reduce somewhat PC mortality (obviously), which I consider to be a good thing in a setting that lacks "raise dead" or "resurrection" spells (as mine does).

    I can see why it's not for everyone, though.

  4. Aren't you supposed to be on a honeymoon or something? :)

    We don't need to rehearse the S&S thing: since I don't think D&D really works for S&S, I want my 1st level PC's fragile. But I can see why it works for your game.

    I think I'm going to try out the Wheel in this Dark Sun conversion/reinterpretation I'm working on. Seems suitably unpleasant.