Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hit Points and Consequences

Risus Monkey wrote recently about the utility of using consequences as a component of games. While he was talking specifically about Risus, it’s a useful tool that can be used in a wide variety of narrative games, and one that I’ve incorporated into my own “D6F” house rules.
The way I’ve chose to do it, however, is a bit of an experiment, so I’m excited to see how it flies in game play. While the standard options for gameplay are usually either use a stress scale with consequences or use hit points, I choose both. I want to have my hit points and eat them, too. Here’s how it’ll work:

All characters have hit points. But whenever a character takes damage, her player will have the option to take that damage as a consequence comparable to the amount of hit point damage, rather than as actual hit points. So, for example, she could opt for either “Stunned” or 3 points of damage, “Busted arm (Wounded)” or 7 points, “Incapacitated” or 20 points, etc.

Consequences are taken as a temporary Aspect, but the severity of the consequence determines how long the Aspect persists. I haven’t worked out an exact scale yet, but something like “Stunned” will only last a round or two, whereas “Incapacitated” could last several weeks or months of game time. It could even lead to a permanent Aspect, such as “Gammy leg” or "Hook" if it were serious enough.

Buster should have taken the damage...
I anticipate that players will choose to take light consequences early in the fight, since they will wear off quickly, and more serious consequences only when their characters are truly threatened with death. Effectively, this will give players a way to avoid death by a thousand paper cuts and hopefully lead to bigger, more dramatic climactic battles. At least that’s the idea.

There may very well be good reasons why system designers give the option to do either a scale or hit points. Maybe it gets too complicated during actual play. Who knows? The only way to find out is game testing. It seems totally manageable, though, and should bring some interesting, imaginative, and fun choices to the table.

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