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Crossroads: Character Health, Getting Hurt, and Dying


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, here's some ideas, that I want to bounce around and see how folks like them.

No HP as a depleting resource. Like many other games, what I'm working on right now has no HP, instead you have a Toughness score that acts as a damage threshold. If it is surpassed, you mark either injury or stress. Both are limited, and when you fill either one, you're out of that scene, and might even die or get retired.
WHen you defend against anything dangerous, it will have a number of dice called it's Hazard Pool, which you are rolling to reduce. Reduce it to no dice, and the hazard simply misses you utterly, no worries. Any other result, however, the remaining dice are rolled, and the result -any armor your have against that type of attack, is compared to your Toughness. When you attack, your level of success determines how many of the dice dice you rolled are counted toward how well you mess with the enemy. (players make nearly all rolls)
Critical success can sway things a bit, and there are abilities that let you temporarily increase your toughness, gain armor, or simply reduce the dice pool of a hazard.

Social (and maybe physical challenges like a chase or exploring an ancient tomb) challenges might have a total stress track, rather than each creature doing so. A bit like Cubicle7's Doctor Who 5e game having encounter HP rather than individual HP, you succeed well enough, enough times, and the enemies lose. Haven't tried to port this to combat, but it would fit with how some other stuff works, like commander type enemies being able to take actions that cause their allies to do things, like a lazy warlord, how swarms or hordes work, etc.

Dying is more in the player's hands. So, it's up to the player to decide what happens when they get taken out. Is it temporary with some sort of cost? Is it permanent but not the end of your story? Or is it truly permanent ?
If you choose the last one, you get 2 benefits for doing so.

Firstly, you can choose how you go out, your last words, and any reasonable arrangements you made in the case of your passing. This also allows you to use character resources, and automatically succeed at something as you die or otherwise get permanently removed from the board.

Second, during downtime you can work with the GM and the rest of the group, but with you in the lead, to determine what your Legacy is. How do folks remember you? What do you leave behind? Who? Do you have a protege or even a kid that one of the other PCs might be inclined to take over teaching?

Alternatives for dying. You can choose to be injured such that you don't feel you can go on these jobs anymore, and fade into a support role, instead, or even a teaching role, or just plain leave the life behind. You can also just be knocked out of the scene, and subsequent scenes until something is done to bring you back in, like major magical healing, finding a safe haven to rest and recover in, etc, and you gain a Scar. Scars usually come with narrative weight, and a new vulnerability. You can also sacrifice something other than yourself, if it can fit the story. You might burn a contact, lose an Ally trait or a Signature Gear trait, or make another similar bargain with the GM to explain how the situation didn't kill you, and what consequence there is for what happened to save you.

Getting wore out over time works different. Pretty much all special abilities, and your ability to push a check up one step on the success ladder, cost Attribute Points. These are limited, and only partially replenish in the field. To fully replenish, you have to take several days or longer to rest in a safe Haven. Injury and Stress also replenish more the longer you rest, but aren't that hard to get fully replenished in a day, as they mostly track what's happening in the moment. AP is how you can see on your sheet that you are getting worn down by days on end in the field.

One thing I am working on how to do is to leave room for injury and stress to linger without coming close to death. Maybe injury and stress recovery should cost AP? Like, you get to erase 1 any time you rest, but to erase more you have to spend 1 AP per mark you're erasing? This establishes a cost for being totally fresh for the fight 2 hours after the last fight.

So, basically, does that strike y'all as a coherent system for getting your butt kicked a bunch of times and eventually dying in a heroic blaze of glory? I don't actually want it to be super brutal, but it's not hyper pulp superhero adventure fiction, either. Assume the math probabilities will have most characters get through a job without gaining a new scar, but most PCs will eventually have scars and a few stories about near misses. It's the kind of action adventure where in the third movie one of the ensemble has a prosthetic arm because his meat arm got bit off by a rampaging void beast, another is a behinds the scenes support character now due to the stress of that time he had to stare too long into the Void in order to pull another character out of it, and another spent the second movie as a bad guy,- but everyone might very well still be alive.
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Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yes, it does to me. Dying or retiring is cool. How many tracks are there that can lead to that outcome?
Sweet! I'm glad!

So right now there are two tracks that can force a character to make that decision, Injury and Stress. Injury is physical, and stress is mental or spiritual. Some stuff is ambiguous. If you and the GM can't easily agree, you use a simple method. If the damage of the hazard is half again or more your toughness, you mark whichever track has more marks already. If it doesn't, you mark the one with less. For example: Imagine you have marked 1 Stress and 3 Injury, and the hazard is arguably both. So, if your toughness is 10, and the hazard rolls 12, you mark 1 Stress. If the hazard rolls 15 or more, you mark one Injury.

As written right now, you can take 5 Stress or Injury without being taken out.

Injury is mostly relevant to combat and physical challenges, while Stress can be brought on by loss, seeing things that shouldn't exist or strain the limits of the mind. Don't think cthulu so much as just imagine actually seeing a guy throw a lightning bolt at a monstrous werewolf in the Target parking lot. That wouldn't be a huge Hazard, but it would be a Hazard.

Although, there is an infinite Void called Ginnungagap that exists outside of and between (and before ideas like "before" could exist, before the First Thought brought light into the void and one voice became many voices creating worlds and dreams and life) the other worlds and...you don't want to stare into it. There are non-things that anti-exist in there, and they want you to join them. As they say when traveling between worlds, mind the Gap!

Aaaaanyway, feel free to fire off any other questions you have!


Heretic of The Seventh Circle

My group was discussing these mechanics, and we figured out a way to dial the lethality vs pulpiness of the game.

Twist of Fate. When you are taken out of a scene, if you have a Twist of Fate available, you can spend it to describe what unlikely thing occurs that saves you at the last second, brining you back into the game in the next scene without any negative consequence. Once spent, you do not regain a Twist unless something happens in the game to give you a new one, such as gaining the favor of a supernatural creature that can bend luck or fate, finding a mysterious artifact, or some other event that your GM feels is appropriate. You can only have one Twist of Fate at a time.

By default, PCs begin play with a Twist of Fate.

Dialing the Tone of The Game. For a more pulp heroics based game, all PCs might gain a Twist every time they take an extended rest. This allows for regular near misses and close calls, landing in a pile of something soft, being shielded from an explosion by a heavy door, having a thick metal object in your shirt pocket when the assassin takes a perfect shot straight for your heart, etc.
To dial the tone the other way, you might make Twists much harder to gain, and no one starts with one. Another alternative that will change how the game plays is to allow PCs to regain their Twist by spend 3 Attribute Points +1 point for every 3 levels above 1st. This allows for regualar use, but also accelerates the depletion of AP dramatically if taken advantage of.


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Ran a test with the proposed system last night. It went pretty well. Biggest hurdle was that I didn't print out a primer on all the combat rules.

Another hurdle was a completely separate rule that I need to get more detailed feedback from my playtesters on, but I'm curious what folks here think, as well. The rule relates to the beginning of a conflict scene, and is part of how the game incentivizes thinking about conflict as something to prepare for and try to find ways to stack the deck in your favor.

Preparation Checks. Every PC that is heading into the conflict scene, assuming they aren't being ambushed, has a chance to make a single skill check to prepare for the conflict ahead. THis can be research, making something within reason, scouting a place or area, or anything else that fits the fiction and might be helpful. If it succeeds, it adds 1 die to the initiative pool, and grants a benefit based on the skill used and the action taken.

So, last night Teddy the Bridger painted sigils of protection on everyone's face using using Alchemy (Sigils), and got a Mixed Success. So, because in the current rules a Mixed Success gets 1 die of effect, she gave every 1d physical armor, meaning when attacked physically, after making their defense check, they could reduce the result of the hazard roll by 1d6. (I'm probably changing this to Mitigated Failure being 1d (when applicable), Mixed Success is 2, and Total Success is 3. This would apply to basically all effects.

George the Benedante attempted to contact some spirits using Animism (Trance) to get a clear idea of the layout of the area and where the enemy was, and got a Mitigated Failure, and chose to set up an ally while getting none of what he was trying to get, and we agreed that a fairly small spirit chose to cling to an ally of Gearge's choice, giving that ally 1d forward and once in the conflict scene that ally could mitigate a magical attack by letting the spirit help, after which it would go away. This did not add a die to the initiative pool.

Elodie the Warlock tried to do some research with Investigate (Research) and rolled a mixed Success, and chose to just get part of what she was trying for rather than Push the check by spending an Attribute Point or taking a Complication. So she added 1d to the initiative pool, and learned just enough about the area to negate the home field advantage the enemy would otherwise have had. Add 1d to initiative pool, for 2 so far.

Finally, Garrett the Alchemist used Evocation (Invocation) to call minor spirits of wind into a collection of stones, causing them to have greater range, deal extra damage on any Success, and release the spirit on impact, causing an area of violent winds to form. He rolled a Total Success, adding 2d to the initiative pool for a total of 4d, and getting to make 6 wind stones.

So, the team has an initiative die pool of 4d6, meaning they roll 1d12 + 4d6, and compare it to the eother side's check. The enemies had a slightly higher pool due to there being more of them and the void wolves having a special trait to add 1d ( to the initiative pool. Unfortunately the enemy won the initiative and got to the set the turn order in each phase of the first round.

What I'm not sure about is...the prep roll takes a decent chunk of time, and I don't know if they're worth it. I think they're fun, and add more dimensions to any given conflict, but it does mean that there is basically a round of conflict before the first actual round begins.

IDK, thoughts?


Heretic of The Seventh Circle
So, the feedback so far.

Success rates are too low for skills that aren't specialized, meaning that characters that are well rounded, or not focused on combat, suffer in combat. (we can extrapolate that the same is true for other types of challenges)

This is because it's normal to have only 1 skill rank and 1 specialty rank in many of your skills. You'll be rolling 1d12
+2d6, which averages around 15, which is a mixed success. Most characters have 1 or 2 skills with 2 ranks, which means 2 specialty ranks under that skill, so at most you roll 4d6, but more likely is you roll multiple specialties at 3d6. I think really the system just needs a little bit more specialty ranks. Maybe the first skill ranks gets you 2, and after that it's 1 to 1.

The goal was exactly to have low level PCs rely heavily on their Attribute Points to succeed at skill checks. If the average is Mixed Success, it costs 1 AP to bump to Total Success, the next step on the ladder. The idea is that you spend your AP on skill checks and staying alive early on, and on special abilities later on when you have enough skills that you don't get mixed results as often, and you have other resources to use when you do, like favors and assets.

I wonder what folks think about that dynamic. I might start a new thread for it.

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