Monday, March 3, 2014

Hard-to-Kill: Figuring out Healing

This post is in response to Keith Davies' article On Hit Points and Healing, as well as his follow-up. I'll be approaching from a BRP standpoint, as I'm currently converting 2e AD&D Dark Sun to a BRP system, and am willing to take whatever help I can get to create a unique feel to the conversion while retaining the cinematic edge that I so enjoy infusing into my games. I'll be aping some of the format of the original articles, to hopefully add cohesion for those who want to read them all.

The original blogs create the concept of Hit Points as Hard-To-Kill points, a measure of when a character has taken so much minor physical abuse that the next attack would strike a vital spot on them. It's a unique way of solving the issue of the massive amounts of hit points higher-tier D&D characters obtain through level bonuses, and I was curious to see how it converted to BRP.
To summarize: in theory, there are two types of damage; described as 'normal' and 'real' damage. Because my most recently played videogame was Resonance of Fate, I'll be calling them 'scratch' and 'direct' damage.
Normal/Scratch damage is light, superficial injury that hinders you and wears down your ability to defend yourself effectively from attacks. This can take the form of unarmed strikes (being punched in the face), armed attacks (a leg gash from a sword, a ringing blow on your shield arm from a mace, etc), or even energy attacks (being singed by dragon's breath). Your hit points, in this case, aren't just a buffer of meat or fat for soaking hits, they also represent your ability to turn lethal strikes into grazes. You still bleed, but your organs remain intact. For the time being.
Real/Direct damage is what happens when your Hard-To-Kill runs out or is circumvented somehow, whether through a critical hit or an attack that you are particularly vulnerable to. In BRP, I'd argue that impaling attacks, critical hits, and attacks dealing enough damage to cause a major wound would fall under Direct Damage.
In most games, you'll be taking Scratch damage more frequently than Direct damage, and the argument posited by Keith Davies is that with each short breather you recover your Scratch through rest or light care, but Direct damage requires actual healing to be performed (or in-game healing mechanics to take over) to recover hit points.
Those are the basics, let's jump in!
Out-of Combat Healing in BRP
Now, there are three 'normal' ways for a character to be healed in BRP outside of combat: First Aid, Natural Healing, and Medicine.
-First Aid: For each separate wound, a character can attempt a First Aid roll to immediately heal 1d3 points of damage.
-Natural Healing: At the end of an in-game week, a character recovers (potentially another) 1d3 hit points.
-Medicine: Each week as the in-game healing is rolled, a character can use Medicine on a wounded character to give them an additional 1d3 hit points recovered that week.
Therefore, the first week after the injuries are sustained, a character can regain 3d3 hit points, followed by a further 2d3 per week until fully healed.
This method of healing is workable for protracted campaigns where there can be a goodly amount of downtime between combats, but in high-battle systems like D&D (or Dark Sun), you'll be taking consistent wounds and needing to track the days between healing rolls, creating a significant amount of crunch not only for the player to track, but the GM as well. Incorporating Scratch damage that heals during one's first breather outside of battle is an concept that's been touched on in systems like 4e, where a short rest and expenditure of healing surges gets you back to full health.
But at the same time I hate 4e, and the way it incorporates healing is stupid, because I hate it. Nyah.
Recovering Hard-to-Kill (or Scratch Damage)
In all seriousness, 4e's short rest is decent-enough mechanic blanketed under convoluted terminology, and I want to make it better. Luckily, with enough house-ruling, anything can be made better. So let's look at this scratch damage, and this resting time frame. Obviously, a person needs a goodly amount of rest to catch their wind when they're wiped. You don't fully recover from a 400 meter sprint or 3 minute round of intense boxing in just five minutes. So let's change that to a minute of rest per Scratch damage HP being healed. There isn't much worry to be had there in terms of time-constraints, as hit points don't increase in BRP like they do in D&D, and therefore the time it takes a person to get their second wind (groan) shouldn't change much over the course of their career.
Taking Hits (Scratch vs. Direct Damage)
So if we have a mechanic to separate types of damage and how each are healed, we should have a set of qualifiers for when a character would take each type of damage.
Scratch Damage: A character potentially takes scratch damage any time an attack connects with them. Whether that damage is registered as Direct Damage is determined by a series of qualifiers.
Direct Damage: Attacks that should deal direct damage are as follows:
-Critical Hits; the attack was either executed skillfully or your character botched their defensive roll. A blade slips between the plates of your armor or you accidentally weave into the strike, instead of away from it.
-Impales; similar to above, except only with piercing weapons. Your armor/technique is ineffective and did not prevent the weapon from driving into your innards. Heh, innards.
-Major Wounds; attacks that deal damage equal to half a character's total hit points. These attacks, if they had a little less force behind them, could have been Scratch Damage, but the inertia behind the blow transfers so much power that it slams into a shield arm or through a barrier of armor, severely damaging the body part beneath.
-Kryptonite; Not literally, of course, but attacks that deal damage that a particular character is vulnerable to obviously deal direct damage.
Moving on.
Hit Points as Mana
Now this is a gem in itself, perfectly lending itself to the Dark Sun setting (and even to BRP a bit, as well). The original descriptor was of a mage using his own life force to fuel his spells, and to be fair, the original D&D games don't have a "Mana" mechanic. But BRP does. Magic Points are equal to your POW, but what if you expend all your MP and still want to cast spells? Well, then you dredge them from your life, of course. And, of course, this always causes Direct Damage, because you're eating into your life essence to do so.
This works even more amazingly with the concept of Defiling in Dark Sun, because casters can drain the life from others around them to fuel their spells. A POW vs POW on the resistance table can represent who successfully resists being defiled, but the rest of the surrounding figures take damage. This has the potential to be overpowered because you could drain HP from enemies with the casting of the spell as well as the spell itself, but on Athas, everyone wants to kill mages. You might get one spell off before everyone in your immediate area swarms you under or pincushions you with arrows. Hell, your own group might murder you.
Final Thoughts
Obviously, this type of modification to the hit point rules requires a re-think of how much fluff you want in your games, because you'll need to describe in more detail what's happening with each attack. However, I'm optimistic about its use, and don't mind going the extra mile, especially when, say, you can use hit location dice to assist in your descriptions. It's likely there will be some things to iron out during gameplay, but chances are they won't be too strenuous, and the new hit point system won't make BRP too easy. Because if it does, well, I'm just going to have to post again and fix that, wont I?

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