Favorite Non-HP Health/Damage System?

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
From Alternity's wound track, to Apocolypse World and it's derivitives' Harm, to many other systems, there are a decent number of ways to model getting hurt in a TTRPG.

One thing I admire about Harm is that it more smoothly allows modeling things like psychological strain using the same model and getting stabbed.

Alternity, on the other hand, complicates HP by turning it into two separate values, one more vital than the other.

My own TTRPG is currently getting a new iteration playtested soon, after I finish working on a sort of damage threshold health system where you have Stress and Trauma, and both build up over time and threaten to take you out of the fight, but Trauma lingers while Stress is much easier to "heal". It is also a system in which meeting a god can cause the same level of Trauma as getting stabbed, but with differing specific effects if the Trauma gets to be too much. We'll see how well it works during playtesting. It's possible we will go back to HP style health. Well, much less bloated than any dnd's HP has ever been, but whatever.

What are some other systems? What are your favorites?
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Fate's Stress and Consequences are kind of fun. Getting badly hurt is a problem, but one that doesn't impact you all the time in a huge death spiral.

My group hasn't gotten to work with it yet, but Sentinels Comics RPG has a damage system with hit points BUT, as you lose hit points, you get access to more character abilities, which is cool.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Fate's Stress and Consequences are kind of fun. Getting badly hurt is a problem, but one that doesn't impact you all the time in a huge death spiral.
I haven’t played Fate in a long time, but I do seem to recall it being pretty interesting in this regard.
My group hasn't gotten to work with it yet, but Sentinels Comics RPG has a damage system with hit points BUT, as you lose hit points, you get access to more character abilities, which is cool.
Oooo. One more reason to check Sentinels out. I love in 4e when a character or enemy gets Bloodied and unlocks new abilities.
"Pulls" and the increasing .... dread of the Dread RPG.
Someday I’ll check out Dread. What is it you like about it’s system?
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I haven’t played Fate in a long time, but I do seem to recall it being pretty interesting in this regard.

Quick overview - for the rusty, or those who haven't seen it before.
A character has two or more Stress boxes. Your first box can absorb one stress, the second up to two stress, the third will absorb three stress, and so on. When you take a hit, you can check off only one box, and it will absorb that much of the hit. All Stress boxes clear at the end of a Scene.

If you don't have a box, want to save what box(es) you have, or have leftover stress after checking the box, you may take a Consequence. A consequence can be Mild, Moderate, or Severe. A mild consequence will take up to two stress, Moderate will take four, and Severe will take up to six stress for you. Consequences are named, (like, "Broken Ankle" or "Bruised Ego"), and are Aspects that opponents can invoke for bonuses against you. Depending on which Fate game you are playing, they generally take longer to clear than Stress.

If combining Stress and Consequence, you cannot absorb the hit, you are Taken Out - not necessarily dead, but effectively removed from the current scene. The player (or the GM) who took you out gets to decide your fate.

In Fate Accelerated, you have one set of stress boxes, that take any kind of incoming stress. In Fate Core, you have separate Physical and Mental stress. In other variants you may have other stress tracks (like, Physical, Mental, and Social, or whatever)

But you only ever have one set of Consequences.

Oooo. One more reason to check Sentinels out. I love in 4e when a character or enemy gets Bloodied and unlocks new abilities.

Yes, in Sentinels, you have statuses - Green, Yellow, Red, Out (GYRO). You get access to more abilities as you go towards Out, and the dice you are using may change (like, some characters use shift up in dice as they get closer to out, others shift to smaller dice).

It is important to note that. being Silver Age comic book characters, in Sentinels, a character can be taken Out of the scene, but they CANNOT die, unless the player decides that it is appropriate.

The GYRO status also moves along during a scene - the scene may be Green for two rounds, Yellow for four, and then Red for two - the character gets access to powers and dice by whichever is more severe - their hit points of the scene. If the characters don't resolve the scene before the tracker is Out, the scene ends, and is reframed with the consequences of whatever they didn't resolve. If you don't finish off Baron Blade by the end of the scene, he switches on his Machine of Doom! and the next scene is dealing with the machine, for example.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Fate is a good one. I tend to favor Savage Worlds in large part because it's extremely easy and I don't have to keep track of a lot of numbers.
Savage Worlds is one of my biggest blind spots. There are just too many games!
Quick overview - for the rusty, or those who haven't seen it before.
A character has two or more Stress boxes. Your first box can absorb one stress, the second up to two stress, the third will absorb three stress, and so on. When you take a hit, you can check off only one box, and it will absorb that much of the hit. All Stress boxes clear at the end of a Scene.

If you don't have a box, want to save what box(es) you have, or have leftover stress after checking the box, you may take a Consequence. A consequence can be Mild, Moderate, or Severe. A mild consequence will take up to two stress, Moderate will take four, and Severe will take up to six stress for you. Consequences are named, (like, "Broken Ankle" or "Bruised Ego"), and are Aspects that opponents can invoke for bonuses against you. Depending on which Fate game you are playing, they generally take longer to clear than Stress.

If combining Stress and Consequence, you cannot absorb the hit, you are Taken Out - not necessarily dead, but effectively removed from the current scene. The player (or the GM) who took you out gets to decide your fate.

In Fate Accelerated, you have one set of stress boxes, that take any kind of incoming stress. In Fate Core, you have separate Physical and Mental stress. In other variants you may have other stress tracks (like, Physical, Mental, and Social, or whatever)

But you only ever have one set of Consequences.
There’s stuff I dislike about fate, but the health/damage system is pretty sweet.
Yes, in Sentinels, you have statuses - Green, Yellow, Red, Out (GYRO). You get access to more abilities as you go towards Out, and the dice you are using may change (like, some characters use shift up in dice as they get closer to out, others shift to smaller dice).

It is important to note that. being Silver Age comic book characters, in Sentinels, a character can be taken Out of the scene, but they CANNOT die, unless the player decides that it is appropriate.

The GYRO status also moves along during a scene - the scene may be Green for two rounds, Yellow for four, and then Red for two - the character gets access to powers and dice by whichever is more severe - their hit points of the scene. If the characters don't resolve the scene before the tracker is Out, the scene ends, and is reframed with the consequences of whatever they didn't resolve. If you don't finish off Baron Blade by the end of the scene, he switches on his Machine of Doom! and the next scene is dealing with the machine, for example.
That is extremely cool.
 

RobJN

Adventurer
Alternity, on the other hand, complicates HP by turning it into two separate values, one more vital than the other.

What are some other systems? What are your favorites?
I rather liked the durability tracks in Alternity (the old one, not the new one). Stun and Wound tracks based on your hero's CON score, Mortal and Fatigue tracks half that. I like that durability was grounded in your hero's stats, rather than decided by career choice, and then further modified by a stat.

It side-stepped the "well, see, you track subdual damage like your hp, but they're not really your hp, and then if they exceed your current hp -- not your total hp, mind you, but your current hp -- then...."

Accumulating damage actually wore down your hero. Armor actually worked like armor: sure, it might stop a bullet, but your hero is still going to feel the mule-kick of it. Pile on enough bruises/scrapes/grazes, and that stun damage cascades over into the wound track.

Barring a few "buy an extra stun/wound/mortal" achievements, or raising your hero's CON stat.... that was all the HP your hero was ever going to get. No Endlessly Escalating HP. A knife was just as (or maybe only slightly less) dangerous at tenth level as it was at first.
 


AOieiosle

Explorer
I haven’t played Fate in a long time, but I do seem to recall it being pretty interesting in this regard.

Oooo. One more reason to check Sentinels out. I love in 4e when a character or enemy gets Bloodied and unlocks new abilities.

Someday I’ll check out Dread. What is it you like about it’s system?
Dread couples the physical anxiety of having to pull jenga blocks instead of rolling dice to see if something succeeds. A conflict can be one or multiple pulls by a player to get what they want. All that matters if the tower falls, either the player is removed or effected in some dramatic fashion. Since it's best for one-shots, injuries are just recorded and enforced by the GM/group (affecting pulls, etc).
 

ART!

Legend
Cortex is of course a very modular system, but some iterations have an array of stress tracks.

Smallville had Afraid, Angry, Exhausted, Injured, and Insecure. Each of those starts at a d4 (traits in Cortex are rated in die type, not numeric values), and the die "size" goes up (from a d4 to a d6, d6 to d8, etc.) when you take "damage" to that kind of stress.

When you're in conflict with someone, they can use one of those stress dice in their dice pool roll against you, and them rolling larger dice is bad for you.

When one of your stresses gets to a d12, if you take stress to that track again, you are out of the scene in some way or aother appropriate to that kind of stress.

If you get someone to help you recover from stress (which I think is the only way to recover - Smallville is one of the Drama versions of Cortex, so it's all about the relationships), you get to add the die type they helped you recover from to your growth pool, which you use to "level up" later.

Cortex is pretty complicated in some ways, but it's kind of amazing how it all makes sense.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
I'm not a massive fan of Fate in general, but I do love their stress system, and would love to adapt it into a crunchier game. I prefer it to hit points in pretty much every instance. I'd love to see it in a d20 system ala Shadow of the Demon Lord, but hit points are such an integrated mechanic in most games that changing them out pretty much means rewriting massive chunks of the system.

In order of preference:
1. Fate's Stress & Consequences
2. Savage World's Wounds & Fatigue
3. Genesys's Toughness & Hit Points
4. D&D Hit Points
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I rather liked the durability tracks in Alternity (the old one, not the new one). Stun and Wound tracks based on your hero's CON score, Mortal and Fatigue tracks half that. I like that durability was grounded in your hero's stats, rather than decided by career choice, and then further modified by a stat.

It side-stepped the "well, see, you track subdual damage like your hp, but they're not really your hp, and then if they exceed your current hp -- not your total hp, mind you, but your current hp -- then...."

Accumulating damage actually wore down your hero. Armor actually worked like armor: sure, it might stop a bullet, but your hero is still going to feel the mule-kick of it. Pile on enough bruises/scrapes/grazes, and that stun damage cascades over into the wound track.

Barring a few "buy an extra stun/wound/mortal" achievements, or raising your hero's CON stat.... that was all the HP your hero was ever going to get. No Endlessly Escalating HP. A knife was just as (or maybe only slightly less) dangerous at tenth level as it was at first.
Yeah Alternity has a pretty great set up, though I prefer something simpler these days.
Cortex is of course a very modular system, but some iterations have an array of stress tracks.

Smallville had Afraid, Angry, Exhausted, Injured, and Insecure. Each of those starts at a d4 (traits in Cortex are rated in die type, not numeric values), and the die "size" goes up (from a d4 to a d6, d6 to d8, etc.) when you take "damage" to that kind of stress.

When you're in conflict with someone, they can use one of those stress dice in their dice pool roll against you, and them rolling larger dice is bad for you.

When one of your stresses gets to a d12, if you take stress to that track again, you are out of the scene in some way or aother appropriate to that kind of stress.

If you get someone to help you recover from stress (which I think is the only way to recover - Smallville is one of the Drama versions of Cortex, so it's all about the relationships), you get to add the die type they helped you recover from to your growth pool, which you use to "level up" later.

Cortex is pretty complicated in some ways, but it's kind of amazing how it all makes sense.
Needing another person in order to heal is brilliant. I might Jack that, since my game is partly about how people working together are more than they could be by themselves.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Cypher System and their ability pools!
This is a cool system. It's nice to see a character's durability diminish in more ways than one. Further, there are actually consequences for taking damage. What still doesn't sit well with me, though, is using damage to power one's special abilities. It's actually a great idea, but it feels like attacking your own character to my Final Fantasy-trained mind.

My (Modos RPG) damage system has some similarities - pools and different damage types - but it's up to the PC to start climbing the Death Tree, and filling (emptying) one pool is enough to knock a character out, unlike Cypher's draining from one pool to another.

Thinking about it, the Modos system also uses damage to power abilities, but this draws a line between physical and metaphysical damage - casting spells doesn't physically hurt the caster. I should probably use the similarities to reconcile my feelings for the Cypher system...
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This is a cool system. It's nice to see a character's durability diminish in more ways than one. Further, there are actually consequences for taking damage. What still doesn't sit well with me, though, is using damage to power one's special abilities. It's actually a great idea, but it feels like attacking your own character to my Final Fantasy-trained mind.

My (Modos RPG) damage system has some similarities - pools and different damage types - but it's up to the PC to start climbing the Death Tree, and filling (emptying) one pool is enough to knock a character out, unlike Cypher's draining from one pool to another.

Thinking about it, the Modos system also uses damage to power abilities, but this draws a line between physical and metaphysical damage - casting spells doesn't physically hurt the caster. I should probably use the similarities to reconcile my feelings for the Cypher system...
My system also has a pool of resources, and I've thought about tying health directly to them as well. This is sparking a lot of ideas!

What I'm vaguely think is, there are at least 2 levels of damage from an event, determined by what you roll on a check or what the attacker rolls, etc. Checks are 1d12 + a pool of d6, usually determined by skill ranks, though something like an environmental hazard would simply have a pool based on how difficult to deal with it is meant to be. Damage is equal to the result of the 1d12, plus 1d6 per level of success. There are only 3 levels of success, so max damage will always be 1d12+3d6.

Each character has a Health score that acts like the damage threshold in Star Wars Saga Edition. You gain fatigue from getting hit, failing a check to handle the strain of seeing something impossible or too big to encompass, losing a friend, etc. If the damage exceeds your Health, you also gain a Trauma related to the source of damage.

Now, what I haven't figured out, is how to track fatigue in a simple and satisfying way. Perhaps it is tracked per attribute. There are six, but it might get shortened to 3 eventually. they range from 1 to 4 at CharGen with around 13 total points spread over the attributes, and you gain 1 point per level to put where you want. In this case, hazards would target an attribute, and your Health would be a number + the attribute in question.

Any successful attack gives you 1 fatigue in that attribute, and there are consequences to your pool of Attribute Points falling below the fatigue in that score. Hits that exceed your Attribute Health just also give you a Trauma, and you have to roll to avoid Trauma any time your AP pool falls below your Attribute Fatigue?

I think I'm going to run with that for the next playtest, and see how it feels.
 

Marc_C

Solitary Role Playing
The original Cortex had condition two tracks. One for physical damage and one for stun damage. You can fall unconscious from stun damage even if you are uninjured. Very good for gritty games. Fortunately stun damage is recovered from quickly.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
If combining Stress and Consequence, you cannot absorb the hit, you are Taken Out - not necessarily dead, but effectively removed from the current scene. The player (or the GM) who took you out gets to decide your fate.
Really excellent description of Fate health, but I need to add one bit for the others:

If you can't absorb the hit you are Taken Out, and the enemy controls the narrative of what happens to you.

However, up to the point you are taken out, you can instead Concede. You lose the scene, but get to control the narrative of what happens to you, as long as it doesn't undermine what they wanted. (You also get a Fate point, plus an additional one for each Consequence you suffered in this scene.)

For instance, you're in a battle on a bridge trying to hold back foes from crossing. If you are Taken Out, you might wake in chains as their prisoner - their choice. If you Concede, you can describe how your body drops from the bridge and is swept downstream, presumably dead. In both cases the foe gets what they want - to be able to cross. But in one you can wash up downstream, alive, free, and potentially without them expecting you. In the other you pushed to the very end and they have you.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Really excellent description of Fate health, but I need to add one bit for the others:

If you can't absorb the hit you are Taken Out, and the enemy controls the narrative of what happens to you.

However, up to the point you are taken out, you can instead Concede.

And, by the way, the decision point on that is before the dice are rolled. If you see the BBEG take a big wind up to smack you, you can concede before the hammer falls, but not after you see what they dice say.
 

pemerton

Legend
In Burning Wheel, injury takes the form of debuffs. (The severity of the debuff depends on the toughness of the victim. The worst debuff is death, if the injury exceeds the victim's Mortal Wound threshold.) Healing takes in-game time based on rolls on the Health score, but it it possible for permanent debilitation to result from severe wounds. The main effect of magical healing, if available, is to boost Health rolls.

In Rolemaster most injury also takes the form of debuffs, various specific injuries generated on critical charts. There is a very detailed magical healing system (many many variants on the D&D Cure Blindness and Regeneration-type spells). There is also a detailed system for calculating natural healing times, and again there is the risk of permanent debilitation.

These systems tend to generate a lot of grittiness.

Prince Valiant resolves all challenges via a "death spiral" system - the winner of each round of opposed checks deducts their victory margin from the loser's dice pool. The GM adjudicates the in-fiction meaning of being reduced to zero - in physical conflict, injury is a possible adjudication. Recovery depends upon the GM's decision. The rules state that death of PCs is not normally a big part of Prince Valiant play.

This is quite non-gritty!

Cortex+ Heroic/MHRP is also pretty non-gritty. It uses Stress as a debuff similar to Smallville described above (emotional, mental, physical); a character who is stressed out takes Trauma instead, which works like Stress but is more difficult to recover. Beyond Trauma, lingering debilities would need to be expressed via other aspects of the PC-development/change rules.
 

Argyle King

Legend
I'm not sure if this counts as different, but a few games sorta have 2 different types of HP.

FFG Star Wars has wounds (physical) and strain (mental stress, fatigue, etc).

GURPS has HP, but they represent "meat" far more than D&D HP. Being at different thresholds of GURPS HP can have tangible effects. GURPS also has FP (fatigue points).

In both of the above-mentioned systems, armor mitigates damage rather than helping to avoid being hit. Star Wars has soak values for armor; GURPS has DR values for armor.
 

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