View Full Version : Examples of various health/stress/defeat/toughness mechanics.

2017-06-13, 10:59 PM
Hi guys, can you help me rounding my knowledge on rpg systems by listing about the different, for lack of better word, "health mechanic" or "ways to decide winners in battles" that you've seen in rpg systems? You can list variants or additions that you think interesting or different enough or relevant as well. You can add comments on what you think those mechanics are good for/bad for/represent/why it's interesting, etc, as you want :smallsmile:

Example that I know:

- Standard dnd "hit points" mechanic. Your attacks deplete the number of hit points and simply put when your hit point is zero you're defeated. There are variant additions, like you get bonus/penalty depending on your hp percentage and whatnot, but basically it's simple math of "your attack damage decreases enemy's hit points."

- MnM style "toughness" roll, where everytime you're attacked your roll a toughness check and if you fail the check you're defeated. In theory you could fail the roll anytime, but practically it's hard to fail the roll early on. But attacks that hit you will plink your toughness save bits by bits, making it harder and harder to succeed a toughness check as the battle goes on.

- Fate's "stress box" where you tick a numbered stress box depending on the damage you received. If that box is already ticked, you have to tick a higher numbered box, and if there's no box you can tick, you're defeated. In Fate, usually those boxes are refreshed after every fight, but you can choose to get a permanent/semi permanent injury for your character in exchange for stress boxes, if you decide you really _don't want_ to lose this current fight for whatever reason.

Anything you can add? Or comments on what do you think those mechanic listed above are good for in gameplay? (I'm less interested in what those mechanics represent in character, but more on what it means out of character, in play. Like "this mechanic is simple to use" or "this mechanic make combat faster" or "this mechanic makes it less clear on who would win a battle until the end and it's good/bad" etc, but what you think those mechanics represent in character is interesting too.

Koo Rehtorb
2017-06-14, 12:24 AM
I'll describe Burning Wheel's system in some detail because I love talking about Burning Wheel. In BW you have a bunch of numbers which dictate how hard you have to get hit for each discrete hit to cause a certain level of wound, derived from your power and forte stats. For example my current dwarven character has:

5 power and 6 forte, rounded up because he has the Tough trait. From there you arrange the meaningful wounds on a scale based on a formula.
B1-3 = Bruised
B4-6 = Superficial
B7-8 = Light
B9 = Midi
B10 = Severe
B11 = Traumatic
B12+ = Mortal

Each wound degrades your ability to continue to do just about anything by subtracting dice from your healthy amount. A light wound is -1 die, a traumatic wound is -4, a mortal wound kills you (obviously). If you take enough penalties to reduce one of your stats to 0 you're incapacitated. But you track each wound independently. So taking four light wounds would be equal in penalty to taking one traumatic wound. But taking four lights wounds is still much better for you because all your light wounds will be healed inside a day, where a traumatic wound will take 2d3 months to heal.

2017-06-14, 01:33 AM
There's wound systems - Fudge uses something like Fate's Stress-Consequence, except for you only fill in one box (so it's not really a hit point system), and the different boxes correspond to different wound severities.
There's penalty accumulation systems - instead of a Toughness roll, if Attack-Defense is high enough you're just out. If it's not high enough, you take a penalty instead, and these tend to stack.
There's state + HP mechanics - Savage Worlds is the obvious example here, where everyone has exactly 3 HP, but you can only be damaged if you're hit with a Shaken condition first and you can lose the Shaken condition in a bunch of ways.
There's wound card systems - These are incredibly niche, but you generally have a core mechanic of drawing stuff. Wounds go in the deck, and get in the way, where drawing too many at once tends to represent being taken out.
There's location specific HP - ORE is an obvious example, but anything where you have seperate HP for your various limbs, head, torso, etc. fits this.
There's The Riddle of Steel - I don't remember exactly how it works, but you've got shock, bleeding, and about three other different wound traumas, all of which are tracked seperately. It's a bit of a mess.

2017-06-14, 03:05 AM
Noitahovi uses a betting mechanic for solving conflicts. First all parties in a conflict roll dice. The one with most successes wins. However, each character has a pool of points (somewhat similar to HP or Courage points in other games) that they can bet a point from to stay in the game and force another round of rolls using a more favorable stat. This can continue untill they're down to the last stat. Along the way, people can forfeit if they can live with the consequences or spend a point to opt out with only partial consequences. Otherwise, a conflict continues untill no-one has points left to bet. The winner of the conflict calls the consequences, which could be anything from physical injury to loss of face or money. When death is on the table, it is presumed most characters are willing to use all points to avert it.

Praedor has multi-level hitpoint system ("blood") but it also has location specific "deep wound" system. So, for example, if weapon damage hits you in the leg and exceeds your deep wound score, you will roll and look up a result on a table for the specific effect. It might be loss of limb, permanent injury or bleeding. You may also die or fall unconscious if you lose all your blood. Each level of blood you lose causes penalties.

MERP and Rolemaster have similar systems, where you have some hitpoint analogue, but most injuries are looked up from critical hit tables.

CODA Lord of the Rings Roleplaying games has multilevel hitpoint system. F.ex. you have 14 hitpoints per level, when you lose them you drop down to a lower one. Each level of hitpoints lost causes penalties to rolls and has different rules for recovery - hitpoints on the higher levels are faster to recover than lower ones. The same system has a similar track for exhaustion. After demanding action, you make a stamina roll to see if you drop down a level, and lower levels cause penalties to rolls. Higher levels again take less rest to recover from than lower ones.

D20 hates you has multiple injury and defeat conditions in addition to HP. First, all abilities are tracked and can be damaged separately, causing penalties to tests particularly associated with each ability. Abilities also have different effects when they hit zero: Strength and Dexterity causes paralysis, Con causes death, mental stats cause unconsciousness. Second, there are two kind of damage your HP defends against, lethal and non-lethal. When lethal damage exceeds your HP, you first become disabled at 0, then dying at -1 .. -9, and finally dead at -10. When non-lethal damage equals your current HP, you become staggered first, and then unconscious when it's exceeded. Then there are multiple loss effects which don't directly care about abilities or HP, agaist which you make a saving throw, suffering no or partial effect if you pass and whatever arbitrary penalty if you faim. Finally, you can become fatigued/exhausted/unconscious by taking specific prolonged actions which follow this track.

2017-06-14, 03:15 AM
Original Traveller:
Characters have three physical stats (on 2d6 each), weapon damage is applied against those stats, I think one stat reaching zero caused unconsciousness. The interesting twist was how damage was applied - all dice were d6s, most weapons doing 1 to 3 d6 damage; the first hit in a combat all damage was taken off one stat determined randomly, subsequent hits (if conscious) the player got to choose which dice came off which stat (so 3d6 = 10 wasn't how it worked, 3d6 = 4 + 3 + 3 so you knew what you had to absorb).

Mark Hall
2017-06-14, 09:22 AM
Palladium uses two separate types of HP... HP, and Structural Damage Capacity, or SDC. SDC was usually depleted first and returned faster, similar to later Wound Point/Vitality Point systems.

Earthdawn had a concept called "Wounds". While any hit would cause damage, a sufficiently severe hit would cause a Wound, which actually impede you... ten 1 point wounds were qualitatively different than one 10 point wound.

Similar, Hackmaster tracks individual wounds, and has the "Threshold of Pain" and a Trauma save. The ToP is about 30-40% of your HP. Taking that in a single blow requires you to make a Trauma save, which is to roll under 1/2 your Constitution on a d20p. Roll over, and you're incapacitated for 5 seconds to several minutes. Roll over, and you're injured, but not incapacitated. Each individual wound is also tracked, and takes a number of days equal to its current value to heal normally. Got a 10 point wound? In 10 days, it will be a 9 point wound. In 9 days, that will be an 8 point wound, and so on. If you have ten 1 point wounds, you'll be ok in a day or so. This makes armor, and its damage reduction, very important.

2017-06-14, 11:38 AM
Some systems you die when you take enough ability damage to kill you and nothing else, usually coupled with a kind of wound table or deck.

In Athesia, you can take up to 21 "Marks" and your character takes a new flaw for every three marks they take, with the type of flaw depending on whether they were wounds, taint or infamy. Taking your 21st instead kills you or otherwise ends your career as a player character. You don't gain marks from being hit though - they can only be taken if you're trying to pass a check you shouldn't normally be able to pass. They also never go away. Other than marks, you're defeated if you aren't able to pass a check against an enemy to stop them killing you horribly. Two players trying to kill each other would technically be a show of how many resources they have left, followed by the winner being drained to the difference and the loser dying, which is only part of the reason why no-one ever does that.

In PLACEHOLDER, which is one of my pet systems and doesn't exist yet, you have a certain number of "Injury" boxes, a certain number of "Wound" boxes, a certain number of "Harm" boxes, and incidentally the same for stress/trauma/affliction and flux/taint/corruption. If you're injured, mentally assaulted or you cast a spell, you take physical, social or magical damage respectively; you start with injury/stress/flux boxes, which do nothing, but when they're all filled you move on to wound/trauma/taint boxes and roll on the relevant table, which does nasty stuff. If all those are filled you start filling harm/affliction/corruption boxes and roll on a table which can seriously damage your character for a long time, and when you run out of those you roll on the death, insanity or possession table which means that you have a bad day.

Some systems have two separate pools of hit points, one which recovers quickly and represents all the wishy-washy things that defenders of the D&D HP system claim they represent like luck and stamina and vim and vigour, and one which represents what they actually represent like how many axes you can safely have in your skull at once, which is quite a lot fewer than in 3.5.

Alea Iacta Est uses standard hit points but you take stacking penalties for each fifth of your total you lose.

Only War has essentially hit points, but when you go below 0 you check your negative hit points against a table rather than dying outright.

2017-06-14, 11:45 AM
Legends of the Wulin has a two stage system - hits that do enough damage to get through toughness cause Ripples, which add up over a fight. At the end of the fight (or any time you get hit fairly hard) you make a Ripple Roll, which gets worse the more Ripples you have. Results can be nothing, a Chi Condition (which can be anything from a broken rib to being terrified of your opponent), or even being Taken Out of the fight.

Runequest uses non-inflating hitpoints, and hit locations. Losing limbs if going into a fight without enough armor is terrifyingly easy.

Tenra Bansho Zero has Vitality, which is quickly-restored ablative HP, but it also has Wound Boxes which can be checked instead. Going to zero Vitality takes you out of the fight, but not dead. Wound Boxes heal slower, but you get a dice BONUS for checking them. Checking the 'Dead' box takes all the damage from one attack, and provides a hefty dice bonus, but if your character goes to zero vitality, they're going to die.

Nechronica has hit locations, each containing parts like bones, cybernetics, & organs - each hit damages or destroys these. If all your components are destroyed, you're effectively dead. ("Effectively" as the PCs are zombies.)

White Wolf/Obsidian Path games use wound boxes - get hit for enough to get past Soak (determined by toughness, armor, etc), and you check off boxes, which give you an increasing penalty on all dice-rolls. ("I am now on Health Level: Annoyed.")

2017-06-14, 01:52 PM
Cortex Action uses a Complication mechanic. When you get hit in a fight, you develop a Complication associated with the hit. It's a die that people can use against you by exploiting it. You can keep spending plot points to stay in a fight with each hit, but you develop new complications each time, so there's incentive to declare that you've been beaten and stop getting long-term injuries.

Chuubo's Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine gives you Wounds whenever someone gets the narrative drop on you, which give you increased narrative currency when your injuries cause you trouble, or even benefits if you can swing why your injury is useful.

Some Powered by the Apocalypse Games use Scars - when you take a hit, it reduces one of your stats until you heal. If too many of your stats are reduced, you die.

2017-06-14, 02:23 PM
SIFRPG (Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game) has the following:

1. Each major character has an Endurance between 2 to 6 points.

2. The Health pool of a character is equal to three times that score. Those health points work like hit points. If you lose the last one, you are defeated and your enemy decides your fate (whether you are killed, maimed, knocked out, taken prisoner etc.). Health points are regenerated in a matter of minutes.

3. Apart from Health points there are Injuries. You decide whether you want to take an Injury when you are hit. If you do, the Health damage is lowered by your Endurance score, but you suffer a -1 to all dice rolls. You can accumulate a number of Injuries equal to your Endurance. Injuries are regenerated in a matter of days.

4. Apart from Health points und Injuries there are Wounds. You decide whether you want to take an Injury when you are hit. If you do, the Health damage is completely negated, but you lose a full die from every roll. You can accumulate a number of Wounds equal to your Endurance -1. Wounds are regenerated in a matter of weeks.

5. Nameless extras don't get to use Injuries and Wounds, only player characters and important NSC can (meaning that Outlaw #14 can still be killed in one hit). This system also enables training fights: the assumption is that a sane loser won't take more than perhaps a single Injury before giving up and that a sane winner doesn't pick a fate worse than "slight humiliation". Of course, Westeros has a distinct lack of sane people.

2017-06-14, 02:55 PM
Exalted 3e has an interesting take that feels vaguely like an evolution of Fate's Stress/Consequence tracks. Attacks fall into two categories, Withering and Decisive. Withering attacks are modified by things like weapons and armor, but they don't damage health-- instead, they steal initiative. Your initiative count goes up, your opponent's goes down. If you drive someone into negative initiative-- Crash-- they take a bunch of penalties, but they can escape and reset by surviving for a few rounds (or smacking someone else around). But if you want to kill someone, you need to make a Decisive Attack. Charms aside, your Decisive damage is based purely on your current initiative-- you roll pure unmodified stat+skill to hit, and then your current initiative count for damage. Every success on a Decisive attack ticks off a point of your health track, with attendant penalties.

I haven't done enough combat encounters to really get a feel for its strengths and weaknesses, but from a design perspective I find it neat that it merges common-but-abstract concepts like "Initiative" and "Stress" into a single unified, relatively concrete mechanic. It also allows you to have combat with both "safe" back-and-forth struggles and supremely lethal hits.

STaRS (my homebrew game) uses a simplified version of Fate's Stress/Consequence track: you have Grace equal to your stat, and attacks subtract from that. If it hits zero, you're out... or you accept an Injury, a lasting debuff, at which point your Grace recharges. But only three times; if you've already got three Injuries and you get smacked down to zero again, you lose. I like it because, in keeping with the rest of the game, it's very quick; it also lets you both soak a few hits without needing a healing mechanic and take very serious, lingering shots if you're overpowered.

Jay R
2017-06-14, 02:56 PM
In Chivalry and Sorcery, there are Fatigue Points and Hit Points. At first, attacks only do damage to Fatigue Points, unless it's a critical hit. When you run out of Fatigue Points, then all attacks reduce Hit Points. Casting spells also uses up Fatigue Points.

Also, you begin losing one Fatigue Point per round after a certain number of rounds of combat, determined by Constitution and level.

Fatigue Points regenerate quickly, but Hit Points take time to heal.

Chivalry and Sorcery was the most lush, vivid, realistic, complete, compelling unplayable mess ever written.

2017-06-14, 04:14 PM
Chivalry and Sorcery was the most lush, vivid, realistic, complete, compelling unplayable mess ever written.

To be fair, it WAS first written 40 years ago. OH GOD I FEEL OLD

2017-06-14, 04:32 PM
Torchbearer has two health systems: disposition, which is used in conflicts, and conditions, which are used the rest of the time.

Disposition is closest to hit points. At the start of a conflict, each side picks a captain, who rolls based on their Health or Will stat (for PCs, depending on the type of conflict) or Nature stat (for enemies) for their side's total disposition. That total then gets divided evenly among all members of the group. Attacks deplete the target's disposition; when yours goes to 0, you're out of the conflict, though an ally can bring you back by taking a defend action, which restores the team's disposition. If your attack does more than enough damage to take out your target, the extra rolls over to other targets. A conflict ends when everyone on one side is taken out, at which point the winner gets what they wanted or accomplishes their goal (kills the enemy, drives them off, persuades them to agree, or whatever the agreed stakes were). However, if the winning side lost a lot of disposition, the loser gets to force compromises, like killing some of them or taking something valuable as they flee.

Losing certain conflicts, or winning at cost, can also give the PCs conditions. Conditions are lasting health effects that carry penalties both in and out of conflicts; they also get applied automatically as time passes in an adventure. They exist on a continuum from "hungry and thirsty" to "dead", with more and more severe penalties for each step. They also get harder and harder to cure--you can remove hungry and thirsty by eating or drinking, but everything past that normally requires a roll while in camp or town. For "sick" and "injured", two of the most severe conditions before death, you can skip the roll by "sweating it out" or "sucking it up", respectively, which removes the condition immediately, but the DM gets to reduce one of your skills. The same thing also happens if a healer rolls to treat you and fails.

2017-06-14, 04:35 PM
Thanks guys for all your posts so far. They're exactly the kind of things I thought I need and are very useful.

Lvl 2 Expert
2017-06-14, 04:42 PM
For my current idea I'm leaning towards having three stats. (This is a system with a slightly daunting amount of substats/subskills grouped into a much more manageable number of base skills, which kind of take the place of base stats. Protection is one base skill, and you can get gear for that base skill that improves these stats.) Two of these stats are toughness and stamina, or some synonyms. They're what someone rolls against when they attack you, or what you roll against when encountering some sort of hazard. large drops would be toughness, for instance, while an obstacle like a "hole" in a river that keeps you underwater would make you roll stamina. (Extreme sports system.) Both of them lead you to losing points on your HP meter (I don't have a good word for that yet. Endurance? Cool?), the maximum value of which is set by the third stat.

I'm not sure I actually like the idea yet, I haven't run any simulations yet for how this will play out.

2017-06-14, 05:30 PM
Thanks guys for all your posts so far. They're exactly the kind of things I thought I need and are very useful.

People are covering the basics. Here is an odd one from I believe a wild west game system.

Check boxes.

Mortal Wound: [ ] [ ]
Major Wound: [ ] [ ] [ ]
Minor Wound: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]

Forget the wound naming as I can't recall the exact name. When someone get hit you pull a chit out of a bag. The chit gives the result of the wound. Ex: 1 minor wound, 2 minor wounds, 1 major wound, 1 mortal wound, FATAL (head/heart/etc). You tick off the boxes. If you run out of boxes to check at a given level, you tick off the same number of boxes at the next higher level (don't reduce it). After all boxes are ticked, you die. FATAL is instant death. Also, if you have both mortal wounds ticked off and you get 1 more box, you die.

Example 1: Character has all minor wound boxes checked and draws 2 minor wounds. This will check off 2 major wounds. If one of the major wounds had been ticked, then it would be 1 major and 1 mortal.

In other games, your damage output is reduced at you take damage. So at 50% damage you deal only 50% damage to opponent.

2017-06-14, 05:42 PM
Warhammer: You suffer wounds (after soak) that are abstract, 'Hollywood' wounds that heal relatively quickly.

However, once your health is depleted, any successful hit causes a roll on a critical hits table, which causes specific, narrative injuries, on a row depending on how far that blow would have brought you into negatives. Your health doesn't go beyond zero, but even a -0 crit could cause lasting damage if it rolls high on a d100, and -6 is pretty much certain death.

Also, an addition to the World of Darkness wound levels described above: wounds come in three broad categories:
- bashing: can be resisted by being tough enough, and generally will knock you unconscious (being punched, clubbed, tased, etc.) heals quickly.
- lethal: can only be resisted with armor, and will kill you (being stabbed, shot, deliberately clubbed in the head, etc - also dealing bashing damage to someone who's already beaten unconscious) heals exponentially longer depending on how injured you are,
- aggreviated: lethal damage that is hard to heal ( silver for werewolves, fire for vampires, really obnoxious curses for mages) heals only by spending valuable resources.

Jay R
2017-06-14, 08:32 PM
To be fair, it WAS first written 40 years ago. OH GOD I FEEL OLD

True, but I first said that about 37 years ago, so it's not like I'm making an unfair comparison to games thirty years later. It's all right - we really ARE old.

2017-06-15, 06:54 AM
Smallville RPG has a system close to Cortex plus.
It's a system focus on conflict resolution more than fight, so health is not a major part of it.

There is 5 different stresses: Afraid, Insecure, Injured, Exhausted and Angry.
Each stress has 5 boxes : from d4 to d12.

Mainly (it's a little different for fight), each time ones (let say it's Pete) initiates a confrontation (and rolls), the other one (and it's Mike) can give in (in that case, the conflict is resolved and the situation evolved toward Pete's wish.) or maintain his position/way/action. Then Mike rolls too:
If he's better than Pete's roll, He's gaining advantage in the conflict. It's time for Pete to choose between give in or continue.
If he's under Pete's roll, Pete get leverage. Mike gets a stress, adapted to the situation. He ticks a box of this stress, to the value of the margin of rolls, or a value higher if already ticked. If he can't tick a box, (For example, if he needs to tick d10 but he had d10 and d12 already ticked), he's out and can't play anymore for the scene (he passes out, or storms outside the office in rage, or curls up and answer for nothing for at least one hour). The conflict still isn't resolved, as each one camps on ones positions. So they can go further in the conflict, or delay it for a later (and more dramatical) moment.

But that's not all. An opponent (DM or other player), by choosing the good actions, can add to his dice pool for a roll the dice of one of your stress, using that unresolved stress to his advantage in this conflict.
So being stressed can put you in great peril!
(In fewer cases, you can use the stress dice at your advantage, and using you d8 of Afraid to roll to run away of the monster)

To heal stresses, the mechanic is a bit tricky, with the idea you can't heal them yourself but need someone for it (preferrably another player). It can be having a nice night with buddies in a bar to lose anger, running in the arms of a loved one to deal with insecurity, having a day off with someone cooking your breakfast to rest and deal with your exhaustion,...
At you "heal" one stress between session.

The mechanic is interesting, but complicated to play IMO. It slows down the pace of the game, when it's suppose to be a quick and dramatic moment, full of tension. In my group, we used thoses rules on the run, with a lot of liberties, using more verisimilitude than fixed rules