Damage models and excitement in [SF] RPGs


As Roger notes, this is the sort of thing that is there because players want their PCs to be relentless. I’ll add that many GMs end up modling adversary behavior after this PC behavior, and often everything fights to the death. Also an amazing number of GURPS folks forget about knockdown rolls. An average HT 10 human is 50% out from even a light blow to the head, or any major bodily injury.

If I was going for high realism, I’d double GURPS shock penalties, apply the normal shock penalty as a long term penalty until the wound was dealt with, use the realistic injury rules, and give most NPCs some disad along the lines of “If injured or threatened, make a fright-check like roll but failing makes you run, surrender, pass out, or similar”


I think it is also that players don’t want to be bored rigid. If combat rounds are fast, being denied your go for a turn or two is mildly annoying. If combats are less speedy than a glacier advancing, then being denied your go for a turn or two means sitting around doing nothing for 15 to 30 minutes, while other people have fun.

These days, I guess the bored people could spend the 15 to 30 minutes messing about with their smartphones. Lacking a smart phone, I’d have to remember to take a book with me! :roll_eyes:


That in turn opens up the question of “what does a failure mean”. In Savage Worlds it is indeed dull: you’re shaken, you spend your action becoming un-shaken, which is effectively “miss a turn” (one of the things that modern boardgame design has accepted is generally bad even if turns are relatively short).

If your mates in the battle line are starting to waver, your best bet for survival is to waver right along with them, and to flee slightly before they do. But that’s not a heroic act, and nobody feels good about it afterwards


One RPG that did interesting things along these lines is Neoclassical Geek Revival. There is basically one conflict resolution mechanic that applies to all conflicts (physical, social, military, whatever), and IIRC the raw mechanic is very death-spirally. However, PCs and other important characters get “Luck,” which is basically ablative hit points, which are spent by the PCs when they decide it is important enough. So a PC might lose a haggle with a merchant and accept the higher cost, lose a bar fight and get scuffed up, bruised, and spend a night in the clink, but then still have all their Luck to reduce the negative effects of the trial conflict from “sent on suicide mission” to “two days of community service.”


I ran into that “one conflict resolution mechanic” in one of the Gloranthan games—not RuneQuest, but one of its successors. Basically you played a tactical game of rolling the dice and using up some resource or other, and at the end, when the conflict was resolved, the winner got to narrate how they had won. It seems designed to take every possible bit of flavor out of the actual play and make it as dull as could be imagined. And I didn’t like the assumption that the same underlying process of agon was going on in a fistfight, a clash of cavalry forces, and courting one’s true love; I entirely avoided it when I worked on GURPS Social Engineering. So that point about NGR has negative sales impact for me, I’m afraid.


That’s Hero Wars. I played a test session, and we found we could make story out of the events within the contest. However, you had to do this deliberately, and it’s more work than doing so from the classic RQ combat and spell systems. It’s possibly appropriate for the kind of highly mythic evens it’s meant for, but feels wrong for mundane events.


I think the Hero Wars (action point bidding) mechanism probably worked well if everybody was concentrating on the story telling/“description of what they were doing” part and was able to assign bids accordingly, but in practice what they tended to do was look at the action points available, try and work out the “mechanically best” bid and then come up with a description to justify that. Heroquest works much better in this regard!


It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at it, but the mechanics as presented seemed to call for the latter approach. In fact it seemed to call for doing the entire description after you’d completed the entire combat.


There certainly are games that work that way – and one can see why it might seem tempting. After all, with basic I-roll-to-hit you-roll-to-hit D&D, an inventive player can build a narrative out of who hits in what order…