Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"

  • 3 Replies
Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"
« on: February 22, 2017, 12:27:59 PM »
One of my biggest beefs with Monsterhearts is that your characters can die in such easy and ridiculous methods. Harm is inflicted FAR too easily and there is little differentiation between a light punch and getting mauled by rampaging werewolf. Pretty much every PC ends up in what I call the "One Punch Man Death Spiral" where a single hit can easily kill a character, weather the hit is from having your throat ripped out by a werebeast or being hit by a Dodgeball in gym class. In Monster of the Week, they've already addressed this problem by making most minor injuries and unarmed attacks do 0 harm, instead inflicting penalties or ongoing conditions instead. Thus most "Harm" in the system should be treated as either Conditions (Such as getting winded from a punch to the gut) and/or Stings (getting leverage by giving someone a beatdown). Now weapons should be life threatening and getting hit by a Baseball Bat, Stabbed with a Knife or Shot with a Gun should do harm, but not all confrontations should.

The way to curb the "One Punch Man Death Spiral" in Monsterhearts is to change basic harm for minor things such as getting punched, stubbing your toe, twisting your foot and the like as 0 harm effects. So if you lash out physically you really only can inflict harm on a 10+ and chose "Cause Terrible Harm" or use a weapon or something obvious lethal (like a werewolf/vampire/ghoul claw/bite or some ability that lets you do extra harm). For a 7-9, you could "Trade Conditions" rather than having your opponent inflict harm on you. Also take out "Inflict 1 harm for free" as an option for a sting, unless there is a supernatural way of inflicting the injury by spending the string. This should allow more "Narrative" injuries through Conditions. like Winded, Sore Ankle, Bruised Ego and the like. Most school yard fights don't go lethal with a single punch and a lot of people can brawl it out and walk it off in a few hours or a day of recovery/treatment. Only when the fight gets serious (such as picking Inflict Terrible Harm, weapons or deadly supernatural powers) should harm come into play. So what do you think of this fix to the system?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 12:38:34 PM by Darkenfire »

Re: Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2017, 10:05:56 PM »
I think there's definitely potential to improve how harm works in Monsterhearts. I've never understood why it got "ported over" from AW, when a hit point system really just isn't right for Monsterhearts.

That said, death and coming back the next day/a week later is very much "in-genre", and so I would advice people not to steer away from death - it's an excellent plot device.

Re: Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2017, 11:17:55 PM »
I am not saying eliminate death from the game but have some means of separating a mere punch to the gut or a schoolyard brawl from an actual lethal conflict. Honestly giving 1 harm for a twisted ankle, getting hit with a dodge ball or a minor scrape from a trip dosen't make sense to me. Harm should be for only things that are life-threatening injuries. For any other kind of injury, Strings and/or conditions would be better used. Of course this isn't the most lethal system I've seen. The Hood, for instance, you have 3 health levels, Up  (Healthy), Down (Dying) and Out (Dead). Most physical harm just does conditions to those effected and has game effects but when someone busts a cap in your ass your character is pretty much either on the ground bleeding out or dead. It may be laugable for a vampire to die from a gunshot wound but monsters in this game are barely more competent than normal people and that's the theme I suppose.

Re: Migrating the "One Punch Man Death Spiral"
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2017, 12:39:42 AM »

I mean, as you say, all of this can mostly be accomplished by simply calibrating your harm effects in a manner that seems reasonable to you and your fellow players. Conceptualizing it as adding a '0 harm' result seems solid -- after all, Lash Out Physically just says 'you cause them harm', and presumably the amount of harm is fictionally determined. There doesn't really appear to be any need to change the moves; just don't say something does 1 harm if it doesn't do 1 harm.

1 harm examples from the book include ramming someone with a car or pushing someone down a flight of stairs (though to be fair, they also include kicking someone in the groin.) I don't feel like it's really that far off from the world you are imagining.

Personally, I've never had this problem in the game, but in general my games don't tend to have a lot of low-level/incidental violence -- when violence does happen it is intense, and so people being mortally wounded easily has rarely seemed like a drawback. This is particularly true because the sort of default response to going to 4 harm is to enter your Darkest Self, which is something most players are excited about, so you really have to be taking a lot of harm (and doing so fairly regularly) before that sort of fictional switch starts to feel repetitive or forced. In my experience, the 'Darkest Self' reaction is especially appropriate for the sort of slow-accumulation-of-1-harm that you find frustrating -- where being kicked in the groin and thrown down some stairs and generally battered by the world may not lead naturally into 'and then you die!' it leads very naturally into 'and then you can't take it anymore and you become a monstrous Werewolf/evil Witch/hungry Ghoul' or whatever.

This contrasts with injuries that seem to fictionally justify the possibility of death, or at least serious bodily consequence -- when that kind of injury triggers 'death', the 'Darkest Self' out becomes less of a given, and other choices (including actually dying) naturally become more likely.

That said, I can see how the Harm track actually secretly being a 'trigger your Darkest Self eventually' countdown clock as well as a 'maybe you could die now if you want' measurement could be frustrating, especially in a game where violence is occurring more regularly.