[NGDM] Damage track, round 2

I had mentioned in the last post that I’d like to model different kinds of character trauma, of which physical damage is only one type. Some sort of psychic damage track would also be interesting, although it perhaps would need to be more clearly defined than physical wounds – pretty much everyone can agree on what constitutes bodily harm, but not everyone has the same notion of what things emotionally or mentally hurt a person, nor what the effects are.

For symmetry’s sake, I’ll arbitrarily assign 20 points to this track as well, just as we put 20 points on the physical wound track. We have a space across the top of the grid, and putting the mental damage track there suggests that there may be a correlation between it and the five roles we have laid out: an even spread of four blocks per role. Riffing on this for a moment in my head, it seems to suggest that each role has an “occupational hazard” that comes with the territory. Interestingly, I’m thinking of so many different possibilities for labels on these categories that it may be fruitful to simply leave them unlabeled – each player defines the trauma their character might suffer in that category. One combat dude might “have seen too much bloodshed” while another “gets callous after a while”; one diplomat suffers “serious insecurity” while another starts to see people as “just things to manipulate”.

It’s worth thinking at this point of how characters would acquire this damage at all. Physical damage is pretty easy to understand, again, but we need to figure out what the mechanical implementation will be. It seems pretty straightforward to make the fighting mechanic opposed Fight rolls, but that puts a lot of emphasis on that stat. Going back to our initial rationale, players get to narrate what they do and then throw in the dice they think will help them. It’s easy to imagine a frustrated doctor using his knowledge to strategically place a needle or a scalpel for maximum effect, or a talented con artist saying just the right thing to get someone’s swing to falter. In other words, there is no fixed “combat roll”: choose what works for your action. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll say then that the high roller inflicts the difference in the total of their roll as damage in either case (mental or physical). I think it’s important for the defender to have the right to decide what kind of damage is done, though.

So what does this “mental damage track” do, anyway? Physical damage puts penalties on dice and possibly removes them if the penalty is greater than the maximum on the die; as we think about mental damage, though, let’s say it reduces the die itself: take a point of mental damage, and your D10 becomes the next lower die, a D8. Again, this has greater impact on those who are focused on smaller dice, meaning less experienced or broadly generalized characters. I’m not entirely on board with that: I like jack-of-all-trades characters with a bunch of different dice to bring to bear on a problem. And remember: the number of dice you have is potentially the number of actions you can take, so there’s a reason to go that route. We’ll think more about this and come back to it. I also have the idea that, for tactical depth, we need a way for clever maneuvers to come into play, and I’m thinking “canceling dice” as a potential implementation, which means having lots of dice is helpful in that way, too.