Thursday, February 15, 2018

Hacking and Slashing: Player Characters Removing Monster Limbs in Combat

Tyr the One-armed

"Called Shots" as Enemy HD as Meat Points. 

So one thing I have become conscious off is the tendency of players to try to kill low HD enemies by brute force and to try to dismember and disfigure enemies of HD as a means of reducing their "killing ability". A few games offer rules for called shots, but not in a meaningful way of utilizing them in tandem with HP. Usually called shots deal instead of damage a "debuff" or an instant kill to an enemy, and work as a death and dismemberment table for enemies.

In most of my games, humans and human-like entities have 1 or less HD. Which implies that after taking 8 damage they die. Most weapons deal 1d8 damage and as such most violence is ended by a singular potent sword blow. Because the HP of these entities is so low, there is little difference in treating their HP as meat-points rather than a measure of "fighting spirit and vitality". Generally HD scales with size so larger entities like dragons or undead giants have 8+ HD, this means that they cannot be killed in a singular sword strike and there is little difference in treating their HP as meat-points rather than a measure of "fighting spirit and vitality" because they are so large.

The issue of HP as meat-points or as a measure of "fighting spirit and vitality" arises from is from small entities with large HD, such as elite fighters. For them and for high level PC's HP as meat-points turn them into men capable of taking a sword through the neck and walking away. Further there arises a disconnect as they would be able to take three axes to the face, but then get stabbed by a dagger and suddenly fall dead. A more "realistic" or better yet authentic take of HP for them is to view it as a measure of "fighting spirit and vitality" and the blow that takes them down to 0 HP is the one that actually deals "meat-points" damage.

My solution for "called shots" is then to assign a full HD (8hp) to a limb which can then be disabled. If a character deals 8 damage to a limb it is then disabled and can no longer be used. In order to abstract targeting a singular limbs rather than a general attack which distribute its damage along the whole body, we can increase the difficulty of hitting that target by a singular factor of roughly 10%. Assuming an ascending Armor Class system we can assign limbs having and armor class of +2 of the entire entity. Now let's consider a 1 HD bandit, a 3 HD ogre, a 8 HD undead giant, and a 8 HD knight and how this system would work in the "authenticity" of play. Lets assume average rolls of HD for each entity which means the bandit has 4 HP, the ogre has 13 HP, and both the undead giant and knight have 36 HP. Let's assume that our hypothetical fighter rolls well enough to hit the enemy's arm and further deals 8 points of damage to their target and assess how it would emerge narratively in the fiction. The bandit's arm could be chopped off at the shoulder, blood spraying outwards as they collapse dying. The Ogre's hand could be sliced off at the stump as they grasp at it with their other hand attempting to stave their loss of blood. The Undead Giant's hand could be sliced off but it would hardly notice and continue combat. The Knight could have their hand split in twain their ring and pinky fingers branching apart from the middle and pointer fingers of their now bifurcated hand. However, they would still be full of fighting vigor as a consequence of their training and press forward. I feel this is a authentic means of merging the two views on HP as it uses the best of both. This would work regardless of damage type as we can consider a bludgeoning weapon to crush the bone beneath rather than hacking off the limb entirely.

A referee would easily be able to adjudicate the effects of such a dismemberment, and could simply view the effects of a dismemberment table to see the effects of such a blow. I would limit limb disablement to only weapons.  In my games HP is purely "vigor and vitality measure for PC's as they need fatal wounds to die", but I have no issue with the difference in between HP for characters and monsters to be different as the rules are player facing instead of the players being rule facing.

Art by Gareth Hinds

Fatal Wounds for PC's.

In my games a Fatal Wound is a dying state like being poisoned. At 0 hp, you roll on the death and dismemberment table if you roll a 11+ you gain a fatal wound. If you are at 0 hp and have a fatal wound you must save vs death when you take further damage.

My current rules for poison have you attempt to roll under constitution or take listed damage every turn, similarly I want my fatal wounds to work the same way. I want these wounds to cause a slow death

My new rules for fatal wounds have you attempt to roll under half constitution or take 1d3 points of constitution damage every turn. Rather than a successful roll under constitution to stop the fatal wound causing damage, first aid must be applied. Using a first aid skill (X in 6 chance) takes 1 turn and if successful stops the fatal wound from causing further constitution damage and heals a number of HP equal to the number rolled for the patient. However, if one rolls over their skill in first aid, they deal that much damage and may kill their target.

You can only remove fatal wounds with a week's rest.


  1. This is really good. Have you tried it?

    1. Any mechanics I post have been used in at least two sessions of play.

    2. Aww yeah. That's the way to do it. This is great!