Hit Points

  • 11 Replies
Hit Points
« on: March 02, 2011, 10:44:00 AM »
Dear Vincent,

I've noticed that both Storming... and AW use "hit points" to determine what happens when characters get hurt. The "hit points" function a little differently in those two games but they are still very definitely hit points in both games (at least as far as I can tell).

Could you tell us more about that choice? Is it because you want the games to appeal to a certain audience, or is it because "hit points" do exactly what you want the game to do? If so, how? What features of "hit point" design do you find a perfect fit for these two games?



  • 1293
Re: Hit Points
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2011, 07:34:44 PM »
Hit points are mechanical script immunity. They tell you that you can do a totally stupid thing or two and still be just fine, and so allow you to do risky things when you want to do them.

Re: Hit Points
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2011, 12:55:50 AM »
I like that about hit points.

Here's what I don't like (I know! There's something about AW I don't like). I don't like how we suddenly get abstract and removed from the fiction when someone gets hurt.

Before the harm, we're all involved in where everyone is standing, and how the gun is pressed into his neck, and the click of the hammer pulled back and all that.

Then, blam! "2-harm."

We don't need to say more than that for the game to go forward. The person taking the harm just needs to know how many pie-pieces to fill in on their clock. "2-harm" we say, and that's enough to get on with it, so odds are that's all we say.

This is why everyone forgets to make the harm move, too. The game doesn't crash if you forget. Which is a real shame, since the harm move is so good.

You don't need to say how the bullet smashes into the collarbone and sprays blood in Dremmer's face, so it's easy to forget and gloss over it. The immediacy of the fiction collapses and we go out to the abstract layer; the hit points. The burning, bleeding bullet wound becomes "2-harm." It takes an act of discipline to stay concrete and visceral.

Been on my mind lately. I may have an idea or two about tweaking things. Not sure yet. It's still percolating.



  • 1293
Re: Hit Points
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2011, 01:06:12 AM »
If your hack wants less abstract damage, but you still want to keep hit points, put the harm roll substantially between the harm you take and the hit points you lose. Make it so you don't know how many harm countdown segments to mark until the harm move tells you, and be sure to leave the good narrative stuff in the harm move too.



  • 23
Re: Hit Points
« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2011, 03:57:44 AM »
I disagree here based on our experience: we've had multiple problems with the harm rolls. They are not enforced by the procedure, that's true. But our main reason for not rolling them is coming from a different angle. Suffering harm is usually a byproduct of doing something, a side effect or collateral damage, really. Doing a harm roll strongly shifts the focus to the harm procedurally: you have to roll; this roll is complicated compared to the others; then comes the consequences and choices and then dealing with it in the fiction. All this comes at the very moment we really want to do something else: namely worry about the primary action and it's resolution. Interrupting it with a lengthy process of assessing harm is tedious with little benefit on the average, so we usually "forget" about the harm roll. Also the harm roll options are generic complicatons and seldom spark creativity with us. I remember a Vincent post (on Poison'd probably?) that players are evading negative consequences instead of embracing them, and that is a factor as well; but I don't think that's the full picture.
I think that modifying the procedure to require a harm roll would only deepen this dissatisfaction. On the other hand, my players were complaining that harm really is very abstract if we do no rolls, so we're considering an alternate damage system based on the wound track in Agon combined with actual wound descriptions, but no harm roll. I'd be very interested in your tweaks, John! in another thread probably...

Re: Hit Points
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2011, 11:37:58 AM »
Script immunity is a good point. However, AW-style lists can accomplish much the same effect as hit points. I'll post a version of what I mean in my next post. Just keep the harm move but get rid of the hit points.

However, the "harm move" does, as way points out, shift a whole lot of focus on the fictional moment of being injured, which is not necessarily what is desired.

Would it be possible to make the harm move *after* the action is finished, like Fallout in Dogs? That would be interesing, but I'm not as sure how to make it work (you lose out on fun options like, "you miss noticing something important" or "you drop something", at least unless you're willing to do some serious editing).

Re: Hit Points
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2011, 11:40:23 AM »
You know, you could also change the countdown clock into a series of 6 lines or boxes where you write in the actual wound you take whenever you take harm. Then you know how much harm you've taken by looking at what wounds you've taken.

So if you get shot and take 2 harm, then you fall off your bike and take an additional 2-harm from road rash and a broken arm, your harm would look like this:

which is bleeding   
broken arm         
road rash           


Or maybe you just put "shot" in the second slot and leave the first slot blank (and just assume it is filled in).

Say you heal 1-harm, you could erase road rash. Or maybe you erase bleeding and move broken arm and road rash down one. Maybe you erase road rash and move the broken arm into the first slot which you left blank. Whatever, as long as you are keeping track of the wounds in the fictional narrative. This also allows the MC to easily determine how fast you heal. "Oh, the road rash? Yeah, no big deal, erase that after a day or two. The broken arm? Oh, ha ha. That harm'll be with you for a while. You gonna use the arm? Acting under fiiiiiire..."

Re: Hit Points
« Reply #7 on: March 03, 2011, 11:58:47 AM »
[cross-posted with Johnstone]

So, here's an example of a harm move that eliminates the need for hit points, while retaining the "script immunity" feature. I'm just typing this off the top of my head, so the implementation sucks. This is not even a "first draft". But I could see improving this with some thought and turning it into something that works well.

Hypothetical Harm Move

When you take harm, roll+harm taken.

* On a 6 or less, nothing major happens: choose one minor effect and keep on going.
* 7-9: choose one minor effect, MC chooses one minor effect
* 10+: choose one major effect, MC chooses two minor effects
* 12+: choose two major effects, MC chooses one minor effect

Minor effects

o You lose your footing.
o You lose your grip on whatever you’re holding.
o You lose track of someone or something you’re attending to.
o You miss noticing something important.
o You are bloodied/bleeding (not life-threatening, but shows you've been in a fight, attracts sharks, that sort of thing)

Major effects

o Out of action: unconscious, trapped, incoherent, or panicked.
o Bleeding heavily/mortally wounded
o The damage won't heal naturally
o A limb is broken/maimed/disabled
o Shattered (-1 Cool)
o Crippled (-1 Hard)
o Disfigured (-1 Hot)
o Broken (-1 Sharp)

So, you take harm, then you start checking off these things on the list. Once a thing is checked off, you have to a different thing next time. (You could add "dead" as an option on the list, if you want.)

You take a gun shot, roll 10+, and it turns out you're bleeding heavily, you're knocked down and you drop your gun. The next shot, you roll a 12+: now you have to choose "mortally wounded" or "out of action" or something similar unless you're willing to take a debility or lose the use of a limb or something similar.

This particular implementation would suggest some possible changes to the AW rules, like expanding the harm scale from -1 for relatively harmless things, to +5 to seriously deadly stuff.

I would probably also add a new category to make it more deadly:

15+: choose two major effects, MC chooses one major effect

Again, the details suck here: I'm just making this up off the top of my head. But something like this could work, yeah?

So, let's chat about the potential benefits of abstract hit points! They're a resource, right?

"way" suggests at least one, which is the ability to mark something off that's meaningful to gameplay (even if it's not directly meaningful in the fiction) without slowing down the game. What else?



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Re: Hit Points
« Reply #8 on: March 03, 2011, 12:10:23 PM »
[cross-cross post]
Johnstone that's similar to what we envisioned. It's from a fantasy setting.

Have a list on the character sheet:
0. ..................
1. ..................
2. ..................
3. ..................
4. ..................
5. ..................
6. ..................
7. Dead

And have another list in the rules, like:
Light wounds(0-1):     scratches, pain
Serious wounds(2-3):   sprained limb, bleeding flesh wound, fever
Critical wounds (4-5):  broken bone, chest damage
Lethal wounds (6+):      missing limb, bleeding main artery

Whenever you suffer x-harm, check if x is already filled. If it is, pick a larger number that is not yet filled. Pick a wound from the second list or just make one up. Write the harm type there. If the fiction determines a specific wound instead of x-harm then go the other way around: choose the level by using the second list, and continue from there. It is also expected to be very specific about the damage, is it your head, arm, or something. In the future whenever you do something that your specific wounds would easily prevent, you act under fire.
Wounds in general are expected to get worse. Serious wounds would cause additional harm in a matter of days, critical wounds in a matter of hours, and lethal wounds in minutes or seconds. This counts as announced badness :), so expect the GM to bring these up as hard moves. What we really like that this approach unifies the handling of dealing a generic x-harm and specific harms and statuses explicity. It is especially easy to say in other moves or that you are exhausted as 2-harm or cursed by a priest with tremor as 0-harm.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2011, 12:15:16 PM by way »

Re: Hit Points
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2011, 04:30:56 PM »
@Paul: For the Dogs-style after-the-fight move, you could do something like John Harper's check-your-gear-after-battle move on page 270. Or, something like the move you proposed, which actually could be rolled at any point after taking harm, right? You can roll that sucker right away, or you can roll it at the end of the battle. You can even add up the damage and use it all on one roll, which would be pretty brutal.

@way: So, in your system, if I break my arm and take 4-harm, I write on line 4 "broken arm." And then if I break my leg and take 4-harm, I can't write it in line 4, so I write "broken leg" in line 5, right? And then if I get stabbed for 2-harm, I write "stabbed" in line 6? And then if I get harmed again I die? Is that how it works?



  • 23
Re: Hit Points
« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2011, 07:27:09 AM »
Well not really, a 2-harm goes into slot 2 (becoming a 2-wound) if it's free, and not slot 6. But if it's already filled, you die eventually, yes.

However, thinking through all this I come to appreciate the original rules more and more. I am still pondering about the harm roll and it's effects, and still have my dissatisfaction with the particular procedures. Based on lumpley's advice above, I think putting the option to roll into the player's hands would solve a lot of things for us, especially if the positive result is more valuable.

Whenever you would suffer x-harm, and try to pull yourself together, roll+hard. On a 7+, it's 1-harm instead, you shake it off. On a 7-9, the MC chooses one from the list.
  • you pass out, get separated or get trapped
  • you miss noticing something important
  • you lose something important
On a 6-, the MC can choose to make a hard move instead.
Also delete the section that makes you crippled etc, and some other minor tweaks for sure. 0-harm makes no sense with this setup, for example. The nice thing is that the MC should ask, like, cool, how do you do that? and then we really get to know more about the injury in the first place. I'll try this in practice and see how it works.



  • 23
Re: Hit Points
« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2011, 07:55:59 AM »
This is about the advantages of a very abstract, very simple HP system in more detail.
It is of interest is that hit points in D&D for example are really immunity, like, nothing substantial happens when you lose some HP. It's only important as you approach the limits there, which basically is nearing 0 HP. This is in contrast with AW and your suggestion Paul, because even a 0-harm can knock you unconscious at the decision of the MC and the dice.
What I really do not like with the immediate serious effect (pass out, trapped, drop something etc.) is that they close options instead of opening them up. When you are low on HP, you consider fleeing or a truce, but you are still fully capable.
Also immediate effects are really "tactical", instead of being longer term, interpersonal and complicated. I would prefer to have a system that introduces the needs later, like the need for healing or avoiding medical complications by dealig with other characters. A classical HP system is also capable of this, by forcing you to purchase healing services or stuff.
I haven't gotten my head around this, but it might be interesting to come up with lists of requirements for a harm system, and see how the various solutions compare. I wonder if there was something like that for AW.