[NGDM] It gets ugly (system accretion – wounds)

To use an analogy: our dice system is the bit of sand around which the rest of the game systems will build like nacre. While it’s fine to have independently-developed systems cohabiting peacefully in your game, I’m going to make the conscious decision to make this the central point from which everything else branches. Thus, in thinking about how we’re going to handle that inevitable consequence of being involved in conflict – namely, suffering damage – I’m going to explicitly tie the process to the central mechanic.

First, we need to define what “damage” means. I don’t want it to just be a set of abstract hit points. I like using a “damage” mechanic to simulate both mental and physical distress, and I think taking a hit should come with some kind of negative condition, even if you’re not completely out of HP. “Death spirals” are problematic, though, if you want any kind of cinematic action feel, which is something I decided earlier in the discussion was important. If possible, we want to ride a fine line: don’t de-protagonize the characters by making them incompetent if they take a hit, and encourage them to still mix it up in the face of possible injury, but don’t molly-coddle them either.

Looking at the modified chart of the dice layout, I see a potential model emerging: we posited earlier that a character could spend from a pool of points to buy their dice. Advancing as a character means, in part, gaining more points to buy more dice and become more generalized/specialized/whatever. It’s treated as given in many games that an experienced character can withstand more punishment than novices. What if we tied a “damage track” to this character point total? I’m not sure, but I think adding a little grittiness to the system by having characters retain the same level of wounds as they progress wouldn’t hurt. Instead, let’s see if we can make those wounds

The brainstorming starts up right away: you start as a 20-point character, say, so you can take 20 wounds. Let’s put that alongside our dice chart, like so:

If we work from the assumption that a wound equals a -1 penalty to die rolls, we see an interesting mapping going on: as a character becomes more injured, the lower dice start to become basically impossible to roll. Consequences: starting characters and characters having spread out their expertise over lots of small dice may be able to take as much damage as a veteran, but they become more or less incapable of acting at a lower damage threshold. Bug or feature? We could even say that damage that exceeds the maximum on a die causes that die to be lost in some situation: that is, you are free to still roll the die, but regardless of success or failure, you pull a muscle/break a component/make a faux pas, and have to discard that die. This could be a way to model long-term injury as opposed to temporary flesh wounds. The idea has some kinks in it still, but we’ll see how it develops.