RPG combat without injury and healing rules

pemerton

Legend
One thing I like about the Prince Valiant RPG is that it's combat rules are more-or-less independent of its injury rules. And its injury rules are a modest variant of "GM decides".

Combat in Prince Valiant is just a particular application of its general conflict-resolution framework: opponents roll their dice (or, technically, coin) pools, and the winner's margin of success is subtracted from the loser's pool. This produces a "death spiral" effect, although I've seen the spiral reverse from time-to-time.

When a pool reaches zero, the conflict is resolved, the loser has lost, and the GM narrates the consequences.

From pp 19-20 of the rulebook:

Often during Opposed Resolution a character will be brought to zero coins: He is defeated. What does this mean? As a general rule, whenever a character is reduced to zero coins he is incapable of successful action. More specific effects depend on the situation.

*Zero coins in personal combat, brawling, or tests of strength and agility (footraces, arm-wrestling) means helplessness, due to exhaustion or injury.

*In social situations, such as a debate, zero coins means the character has been humiliated; he is no longer capable of making a good impression or communicating effectively.

*In a duel of intelligence or observation (usually based on Presence), such as a game of chess, zero coins means the character has lost control of the situation, and is stymied.

*In a test of will, zero coins indicates that the loser is cowed.

*In a challenge focusing on specialized skills or knowledge, such as an archery competition, zero coins indicates that the character’s level of competence has reached its limit, and has been overmatched.​

Recovery from zero depends on the situation and the whim of the Storyteller.​

This is followed by some advice on the in-game rate at which recovery from zero should take place, including the following about injury and death (pp 25-26):

All physical damage is taken to Brawn, in increments of one or more coins lost. . .

If your Brawn is reduced, you throw that many fewer coins for Brawn until recovered. . . .

If Brawn is reduced to zero, the results are more serious. The character is temporarily helpless and incapable of further successful action. He is out of the story, for a long time or a short time depending on the circumstances, and may have suffered a serious injury.

Usually being brought to zero means the character is simply stunned or exhausted, not seriously wounded, but the Storyteller decides this. . . .

The Storyteller is also in charge of determining the longterm consequences, if any, of injuries. Use common sense, and refrain from maiming characters. . . .

If the Storyteller feels it necessary, he may state that a character at zero Brawn is severely injured, not just exhausted or stunned. The character may even be dying. This is where the Healing skill becomes critical. . . . [Rules follow about stabilising and treating serious injury.]

The Storyteller always decides whether or not death occurs in a given situation (and it should only occur when absolutely necessary). If the Storyteller wishes to kill your Adventurer, he has the power to do so, but this sort of behavior violates the cooperative spirit of the game. Normally death is not an important part of Prince Valiant.

Being brought to zero Brawn in personal combat or battle never means death, but if a ruthless enemy is around and actively takes the trouble to finish the helpless character off, death logically results. Storytellers are advised to give enemy characters more important tasks than going about finishing off helpless Adventurers.​

Are there other RPGs that take a similar approach to mediating the relationship between combat and injury via GM adjudication of fiction, pacing, etc? I can think of systems that don't have injury mechanics at all (eg Cthulhu Dark) but at least at the moment can't think of any that do have injury mechanics but leave it up to the GM to impose them.

Does anyone else have experience with this sort of system?
 

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RivetGeekWil

Lead developer Tribes in the Dark
Cortex Prime contests. Once a contest is initiated, each side rolls to beat the difficulty set by the other side, until one side loses or gives in. If one side gives in, they narrate how they did so but don't take any mechanical consequences. Generally speaking, this means they give up whatever it is the other side wants - they walk away, stand down, reveal information, agree to something, whatever. If they lose and the contest is "low stakes", the winner gets what they want and the loser takes a complication or stress based on the winner's effect die. In "high stakes" contests, losing means being taken out of the scene (with the winner narrating what happens), and the loser has to pay a plot point to take stress or a complication instead. Cortex has no "injuries" - it's all stress or complications, and stress is basically just predefined complications. While stress or complications can be physical, it does not have to be. Along the same lines, Cortex does not have a combat system, all of the mods for the various methods are conflict resolution.

Tales of Xadia makes a refinement though that I prefer. There are no high or low stakes - losing a contest just results in stress, but doesn't necessarily mean the winner got what they wanted. The goal of a contest is to get the other side to give in. The only thing you can do by winning a contest is to grind the other side down.

Also, in Forged in the Dark consequences resulting from bad rolls are completely up to the GM, based on the fiction. The player can always resist a consequence, which may only reduce it vs eliminate it.
 
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pemerton

Legend
@RivetGeekWil

The only Cortex version I know is MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic. In that version, there are prescriptive rules for recovering stress, and for when stress leads to trauma, and for when trauma leads to death or some functional equivalent. So it doesn't have the same structure I described.

I gather that the version you're describing drops/changes some of these features?
 

RivetGeekWil

Lead developer Tribes in the Dark
Cortex Prime, the latest version. Sure there are mods for stress, trauma, and recovery, but it's a toolkit. Without using the stress mod, you are using complications and by default complications automatically recover at the end of the scene. "Taken out" also != death. There is no prescribed combat system, injury rules, or death in Cortex Prime (although individually Cortex Prime builds may have such).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Cortex Prime, the latest version. Sure there are mods for stress, trauma, and recovery, but it's a toolkit. Without using the stress mod, you are using complications and by default complications automatically recover at the end of the scene. "Taken out" also != death. There is no prescribed combat system, injury rules, or death in Cortex Prime (although individually Cortex Prime builds may have such).

And Cortex P{rime seems to have cribbed a lot of this from Fate.
Fate has Stress. If you lose in a Conflict roll, you take some prescribed points of Stress. If you run out of Stress, you are Taken Out.
If you are Taken Out, the GM narrates the results, much as with Cortex.
If the player chooses, they can Concede - then the player narrates how they are out of the picture.

The player has a buffer for this - instead of taking Stress directly, they can take a Consequence. The Consequences get removed with prescribed amounts of time, but what they are, exactly, is typically a matter of quick negotiation between player and GM.

Note, this is Conflict resolution, not Combat resolution. Mechanically, Fate does not recognize a difference between a knife fight, two kids playing the dozens, or two financiers having it out in a battle of stock market manipulations. The Consequences and narration of being Taken Out does not have to be physical damage. They merely have to be narratively appropriate.

In Fate, it is an entirely acceptable resolution to a physical fight to say that your downed opponent is physically fine, but they are so embarrassed by the beat-down that they can't show their face in town again for the shame.
 

RivetGeekWil

Lead developer Tribes in the Dark
And Cortex P{rime seems to have cribbed a lot of this from Fate.
Fate has Stress. If you lose in a Conflict roll, you take some prescribed points of Stress. If you run out of Stress, you are Taken Out.
If you are Taken Out, the GM narrates the results, much as with Cortex.
If the player chooses, they can Concede - then the player narrates how they are out of the picture.

The player has a buffer for this - instead of taking Stress directly, they can take a Consequence. The Consequences get removed with prescribed amounts of time, but what they are, exactly, is typically a matter of quick negotiation between player and GM.

Note, this is Conflict resolution, not Combat resolution. Mechanically, Fate does not recognize a difference between a knife fight, two kids playing the dozens, or two financiers having it out in a battle of stock market manipulations. The Consequences and narration of being Taken Out does not have to be physical damage. They merely have to be narratively appropriate.

In Fate, it is an entirely acceptable resolution to a physical fight to say that your downed opponent is physically fine, but they are so embarrassed by the beat-down that they can't show their face in town again for the shame.

Fate Core was published in 2014. Contests in Cortex were introduced in Smallville in 2010. Stress was introduced in Marvel Heroic in 2012. Not that any of that matters, Cam Banks is old friends with Fred Hicks and Rob Donoghue. Rob worked on the Leverage RPG (which is Cortex, and had flashback mechanics 7 years before BitD and of which John Harper was a big fan). There was a lot of cross-pollinization conceptually in the late '00s/early '10s.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Fate Core was published in 2014. Contests in Cortex were introduced in Smallville in 2010. Stress was introduced in Marvel Heroic in 2012. Not that any of that matters

Fate Core is the 4th Edition of the Fate engine. Spirit of the Century, which is the embodiment of the 3rd edition, uses the same basic stress and consequence structure, and was published in 2006.
 

RivetGeekWil

Lead developer Tribes in the Dark
Fate Core is the 4th Edition of the Fate engine. Spirit of the Century, which is the embodiment of the 3rd edition, uses the same basic stress and consequence structure, and was published in 2006.

For some reason I thought SotC was a bit later than that, but yeah it was 2006. SotC had conflicts for combat and contests for when characters weren't trying to hurt one another just like Fate Core does. So the terminology is the same between Fate and Cortex in some respects, but the implementations have fundamental differences. And, of course, they were all very familiar with what the others were doing during all of this so Cortex and Fate exist in very similar, but distinct, conceptual spaces.
 
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