This entry is part 4 in the series All Wounds Are Not Alike

On Monday, I attempted to post the third part of the current series on alternate damage-handling systems for 3.x. Unfortunately, time ran out when I was only half-done…

A quick refresher on where we stand. There are flaws in the system of progression for healing spells that result in an unacceptable degree of overlap, especially when it comes to higher-level healing spells like Cure Critical Wounds. To correct and overcome this, a revised progression structure was created that does far more healing per spell – with promises that this would make sense by the end of the article.

This revised progression can be summed up in these tables:
 

Caster Level CMnW CLW CMW CSW CCW
0 1d4 - - - -
1 1d4 d6 - - -
2 1d4 d6 + 1 - - -
3 1d4 d6 + 2 d8 + 5 - -
4 1d4 2d6 + 2 d8 + 6 - -
5 1d4 2d6 + 3 2d8 + 6 d10 + 12 -
6 1d4 2d6 + 4 2d8 + 7 2d10 + 12 -
7 1d4 3d6 + 4 2d8 + 8 2d10 + 13 d12 + 27
8 1d4 3d6 + 5 3d8 + 8 2d10 + 14 d12 + 28
9 1d4 3d6 + 6 3d8 + 9 3d10 + 14 d12 + d6 + 28
10 1d4 4d6 + 6 3d8 + 10 3d10 + 15 d12 + d6 + 29
11 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 10 3d10 + 16 d12 + d6 + 30
12 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 11 4d10 + 16 2d12 + d6 + 30
13 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 4d10 + 17 2d12 + d6 + 31
14 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 4d10 + 18 2d12 + d6 + 32
15 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 18 2d12 + 2d6 + 32
16 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 19 2d12 + 2d6 + 33
17 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 20 2d12 + 2d6 + 34
18 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 21 3d12 + 2d6 + 34
19 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 22 3d12 + 2d6 + 35
20 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 3d12 + 2d6 + 36
21 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 3d12 + 3d6 + 36
22 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 3d12 + 3d6 + 37
23 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 3d12 + 3d6 + 38
24 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 4d12 + 3d6 + 38
25 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 4d12 + 3d6 + 39
26 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 4d12 + 3d6 + 40
27 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 5d12 + 3d6 + 40
28 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 5d12 + 3d6 + 40
29 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 5d12 + 3d6 + 40
30 1d4 4d6 + 6 4d8 + 12 5d10 + 23 5d12 + 3d6 + 40
…and so on.

 

Caster Level Results Range (Min / Ave / Max)
CMnW CLW CMW CSW CCW
0 1 / 2.5 / 4 - - - -
1 1 / 2.5 / 4 1 / 3.5 / 6 - - -
2 1 / 2.5 / 4 2 / 4.5 / 7 - - -
3 1 / 2.5 / 4 3 / 5.5 / 8 6 / 9.5 / 13 - -
4 1 / 2.5 / 4 4 / 9 / 14 7 / 10.5 / 14 - -
5 1 / 2.5 / 4 5 / 10 / 15 8 / 15 / 22 13 / 17.5 / 22 -
6 1 / 2.5 / 4 6 / 11 / 16 9 / 16 / 23 14 / 23 / 32 -
7 1 / 2.5 / 4 7 / 14.5 / 22 10 / 17 / 24 15 / 24 / 33 28 / 29.5 / 39
8 1 / 2.5 / 4 8 / 15.5 / 23 11 / 21.5 / 32 16 / 25 / 34 29 / 30.5 / 40
9 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 12 / 22.5 / 33 17 / 30.5 / 44 30 / 38 / 46
10 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 13 / 23.5 / 34 18 / 31.5 / 45 31 / 39 / 47
11 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 14 / 28 / 42 19 / 32.5 / 46 32 / 40 / 48
12 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 15 / 29 / 43 20 / 38 / 56 33 / 46.5 / 60
13 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 21 / 39 / 57 34 / 47.5 / 61
14 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 22 / 40 / 58 35 / 48.5 / 62
15 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 25 / 46.5 / 68 36 / 52 / 68
16 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 26 / 47.5 / 69 37 / 53 / 69
17 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 27 / 48.5 / 70 38 / 54 / 70
18 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 28 / 49.5 / 71 39 / 60.5 / 82
19 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 29 / 50.5 / 72 40 / 61.5 / 83
20 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 41 / 62.5 / 84
21 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 42 / 66 / 90
22 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 43 / 67 / 91
23 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 44 / 68 / 92
24 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 45 / 74.5 / 104
25 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 46 / 75.5 / 105
26 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 47 / 76.5 / 106
27 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 48 / 83 / 118
28 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 48 / 83 / 118
29 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 48 / 83 / 118
30 1 / 2.5 / 4 9 / 16.5 / 24 16 / 30 / 44 30 / 51.5 / 73 48 / 83 / 118
…and so on.

 
So, if everyone has caught up, let’s plunge onward…

Photo by Sura Nualpradid, provided free by FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Healing Differential

The key principle of all the alternate damage handling systems has been to make the significance of the different healing spells to something more substantial than a simple numeric variation on the amount of damage healed. This is achieved by setting in place definitions of “Light Wounds”, “Moderate Wounds”, “Serious Wounds” and “Critical Wounds” so that the lesser healing spells cannot cure greater injuries.

One of the consequences of this proposal is that a cleric is obliged to stock more healing spells – at least one of each variety to which he has access. But this has an unwanted consequence – that of making the cleric, more than ever before, nothing more than a “Walking Drip Bottle”, as one of my friends used to describe it disparagingly. By consuming more of the cleric’s spell slots with healing spells, the variety and depth of clerics is arguably diminished.

(There is a counter-arguement that suggests that by leaving clerics less scope for flexibility, they are forced to make choices as to which spells to carry that actually result in greater distinctiveness from one to another. While there is something to that, it presupposes that all clerical magic has equal utility and hence that there are no ‘ideal choices’ for the remaining spell slots – an assumption that I would dispute.)

It follows that the best way to redress the balance and restore flexibility to the cleric is to make each healing spell more effective, so that the cleric doesn’t need to pack as many of them, leaving spell slots free for other varieties of spell. This should counterbalance the need to carry more healing spells because some of them won’t work in any given post-combat situation, resulting in a relatively unchanged game balance.

The only alternative that comes to mind is a slightly more generous rewording of the rules governing Spontaneous Casting to permit any clerical spell to be Spontaneously Cast as a Cure spell of equal or lesser spell level. But that has other undesirable consequences, since such spells inflict damage on creatures harmed by positive energy, fundamentally weakening an entire class of creature relative to one character type only – without reducing the xp value of such creatures. This represents a fundamental shift in the balance of power between heaven and hell. Either such creatures receive some compensatory ability that only affects clerical spellcasters or the GMs campaign must factor that balance-shift into its background and setting. Of course, if that sort of change in balance is appropriate to the campaign that you want to run – I could argue that the results are more suitable for younger players – then no such rebalancing is needed. But, in general, the solution that has more limited consequences and fewer impacts on game balance is the ‘more powerful healing spell’ solution.

The Healing Imperative: General Principles Of Wound Differentiation

There are four main variations under the umbrella of “The Healing Imperative” system (and innumerable sub-variations). There is also a fifth approach that doesn’t completely fit these general principles, which I’ll describe at the end of the article, and which was a compromise adopted in the Shards Of Divinity campaign when the full Healing Imperative rules could not be completed in time for play to commence.

The four variations all rest on the principle of setting the thresholds that indicate the different wound types according to the healing power of their namesake cure spell. In other words, “Cure Light Wounds” is used to define what a Light Wound is, “Cure Moderate Wounds” is used to define what a Moderate Wound is, and so on.

Each has deeper implications for the look-and-feel of combat, for the consequences in combat readiness (especially at low-to-medium character levels), and for the relationship between wound levels and for the “reality” that they supposedly reflect.

The four variations are:

  • The ‘maximum of the minimums’ variation;
  • The ‘minimum of the maximums’ variation;
  • The ‘average of the extremes’ variation; and
  • The ‘average of now’ variation.

but I prefer to use the less mechanically-descriptive and more colorful titles,

  • The ‘You look like you’ve been in a fight’ Variation;
  • The ‘Exceptional Wounds for Exceptional Blows’ Variation;
  • The ‘Only A Flesh Wound’ Variation; and
  • ‘The Proportionate Response’ Variation;

respectively.

Variation #1: “You Look Like You’ve Been In A Fight”: The maximum of the minimums

In this variation, the maximum healing result that can be achieved with a given healing spell at the level it is first bestowed defines the threshold for the next higher wound type, and each individual attack is resolved separately. If a fighter has 3 attack rolls in a combat round, he can inflict three wounds in that round. The thresholds are:
 

Wound Type Damage Range Typical Description
Bruise 1 – 3 Bruising
Minor Wound 4 – 5 Nicks & Abrasions
Light Wound 6 – 12 Cuts (Stitchable) & Cracked Bones
Moderate Wound 13 – 21 Wounded Limbs & Fractures
Serious Wound 22 – 38 Torso Wounds & Compound Fractures
Critical Wound 39 + Deep Torso Wounds,
Head Wounds, & Shattered Bones

 
Most wounds will be bruises, minor wounds, and light wounds, with the occasional moderate wound from a weapon that does a lot of damage. A serious level of magic in a weapon (+3 to +5) will usually carry its damage up one or two categories when coupled with an appropriate strength modifier, but the really dangerous wounds will only result from a critical hit. The result is a plethora of bruises, nicks, cuts, abrasions, and cracked and fractured bones. At low character levels, serious and critical wounds will tend to linger and accumulate, slowly eroding the character’s capacity to engage in combat.

Combat with a more powerful opponent becomes far more serious, and knowing when to back away from a fight becomes a survival trait. Hit-and-run tactics by stronger opponents can be effectively used to wear down an opposition until they can no longer defend themselves against even a weaker foe. Life becomes much more dangerous for an adventurer.

Under the surface, there is a lot going on here. It takes account of the combat effectiveness of both attacker (attack, damage) and the defender (AC). Alter just one of these – by wearing better armor, for example – and the wounds that are received in battle from the same opponent will change in pattern, frequency, and character. This variation has a lot of “Die Hard” feeling to it, and yet at the same time there is a flavor reminiscent of very old-school game mechanics in the resulting behavior.

By providing the above table to the players and having them interpret each attack that they make, it forces them to use more narrative terminology to describe the results of their attacks – instead of “I hit for 14 points”, a player would announce “I inflict a moderate wound for 11 points” or (even better) “I hack at his arm for 11 points”. The defender simply keeps a tally of the number of each type of wound received and the total damage that has been inflicted to date (for reasons that will become clear a little later).

The downside: because each attack must be interpreted, this choice can slow combat down even if that interpretation is quick and easy.

Variation #2: “Exceptional Wounds for Exceptional Blows”: The minimum of the maximums

This brings us to variation number two, in which the minimum healing result for the maximum effectiveness of a healing spell defines the threshold of the wound type received, and in which the total damage inflicted in a round is compared to this total.

The logic runs like this: if each attack roll represents a vast number of attempted blows, as described in the rules, most of which fail but some of which succeed, then all the attacks carried out in a round collectively can be used to indicate the severity of the sum consequence of that attack.

The thresholds, accordingly, are:
 

Wound Type Damage Range Typical Description
Bruise 1 – 3 Bruising
Minor Wound 4 – 8 Nicks & Abrasions
Light Wound 9 – 15 Cuts (Stitchable) & Cracked Bones
Moderate Wound 16 – 30 Wounded Limbs & Fractures
Serious Wound 31 – 48 Torso Wounds & Compound Fractures
Critical Wound 49 + Deep Torso Wounds,
Head Wounds, & Shattered Bones

 
This makes more damaging wounds rarer until characters start getting multiple attacks in a round, when the cumulative damage inflicted can begin to really ramp up. It results in more frequent serious wound types, but fewer overall wounds to keep track of. It takes into account all the combat factors listed earlier AND the number of attacks in a round overall. At low levels, a character can only expect to inflict light wounds, except on a critical (and often even then). As they learn (i.e. gain multiple attacks, each of which gains in likelyhood of success), first moderate and then serious wounds become routine.

It makes weapon enchantments even more significant – consider that a character with 2 attacks in a round using a +2 weapon effectively gets both an increased likelyhood of success on any given blow and an increased quantity of damage inflicted by each blow.

Once again, it is presumed that this table will be attached to each character sheet to make interpretation quick and easy. This approach is something of a compromise between Variation #1 and Variation #3, and is relatively flavor-neutral in most respects. It might seem that there is too large a jump when a character gets another attack in a round, but this is actually balanced by the unlikelihood of succeeding with those additional blows (at least at first).

Variation #3: “Only A Flesh Wound”: The average of the extremes

This variation is a little more artificial, averaging the minimum healing when the spell is first bestowed and the maximum possible healing when the spell caps out to define the thresholds. These are, once again, compared to the total damage inflicted by an attacker in each combat round. The threshold table that results is:
 

Wound
Type
Working Damage Range Typical Description
Bruises &
Minor Wounds
<5 Bruises, Nicks
& Abrasions
Light Wounds (1+24)/2 = 12.5 –> 13 6 - 25 Cuts (Stitchable) &
Cracked Bones
Moderate
Wound
(6+44)/2 = 25 26 - 42 Wounded Limbs &
Fractures
Serious
Wound
(13+73)/2 = 43 43 - 72 Torso Wounds &
Compound Fractures
Critical
Wound
(28+118)/2 = 73 73 + Deep Torso Wounds,
Head Wounds, &
Shattered Bones

 
Under this approach, wounds, and especially big wounds, become a lot less frequent. They are still possible, but only at high levels, or when there is a serious discrepancy between the power level of individual opponents. The result is an amplification of the consequences of individual power levels, a more epic feel as characters approach epic levels. At lower levels, even a critical hit is often not going to be enough to get out of light-wound territory – it will take two or more in a combat round.

A key difference is that it defines anything less than a light wound as being a minor wound. The result is a shorter, neater table. But this variation doesn’t work well at lower levels – most mages can be killed by “bruising, nicks and abrasions” for the first few character levels! Heck, even at 12th level, a mage with a -1 CON Bonus who has only average rolls for his hit points – something that becomes more likely with more dice rolled, remember – will only have 18 hit points!

The only way to rationalize this – and it IS rationalizing it – is to assume that low-HP characters are so weak that even a light wound or a collection of bruises and minor cuts can so impair them in combat that they cannot effectively defend themselves against a killing blow, effectively a coup-de-grace in the middle of a combat round. This starts to move us back into the territory of “wounds as a measure of helplessness”, which is where we started.

Variation #4: “The Proportionate Response”: The average of now

All three of the variations presented thus far reduce the effectiveness of an encounter with many creatures of lesser capabilities, to a somewhat varying extent – least impact to greatest – while increasing the effectiveness of encounters with fewer opponents of greater individual effectiveness. While this may be desirable to a GM, it may equally be undesirable; this thought prompted me to look outside the box and find a fourth option that does not suffer from this potentially undesirable consequence.

The resulting approach is seriously metagame, in some respects: it links the degree of wounding to the ability to heal of the party cleric – assuming the party have one. If they don’t, use their average character level as though they DID have a party cleric. By setting the thresholds to what the cleric can heal, which are – at least in theory – proportional to the damage the party can inflict and the damage they can absorb, wound categories remain relevant throughout the adventuring life of the party. No rationalizing of “bruises, nicks, & abrasions can kill a mage” required.

Here is a compendium of the resulting tables (running across the page and not down for practicality reasons):
 

Cleric Level or equivalent Damage to achieve wound type
Minor
Wound
Light
Wound
Medium
Wound
Serious
Wound
Critical
Wound
0 <4 4 – 9 10 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
1 <4 4 – 9 10 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
2 <5 5 – 9 10 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
3 <6 6 – 9 10 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
4 <9 9 – 10 11 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
5 <10 10 – 14 15 – 17 18 – 29 30 +
6 <11 11 – 15 16 – 22 23 – 29 30 +
7 <15 15 – 16 17 – 23 24 – 29 30 +
8 <16 16 – 21 22 – 24 25 – 30 31 +
9 <17 17 – 22 23 – 30 31 – 37 38 +
10 <17 17 – 23 24 – 31 32 – 38 39 +
11 <17 17 – 27 28 – 32 33 – 39 40 +
12 <17 17 – 28 29 – 37 38 – 46 47 +
13 <17 17 – 29 30 – 38 39 – 47 48 +
14 <17 17 – 29 30 – 39 40 – 48 49 +
15 <17 17 – 29 30 – 46 47 – 51 52 +
16 <17 17 – 29 30 – 47 48 – 52 53 +
17 <17 17 – 29 30 – 48 49 – 53 54 +
18 <17 17 – 29 30 – 49 50 – 60 61 +
19 <17 17 – 29 30 – 50 51 – 61 62 +
20 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 62 63 +
21 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 65 66 +
22 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 66 67 +
23 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 67 68 +
24 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 74 75 +
25 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 75 76 +
26 <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 76 77 +
27+ <17 17 – 29 30 – 51 52 – 82 83 +
Typical Description: Bruising, nicks, & abrasions Cuts & cracked bones Wounded limbs & fractures Torso wounds & compound fractures Deep torso wounds, head wounds, & shattered bones

 
The strength of this approach is also its weakness: the table of thresholds has to be updated every time the cleric goes up a character level (or the average level of the party increases by 1, if they don’t have a cleric). Admittedly, this won’t happen all the time, but it will happen often enough to be a pain in the posterior.

In theory, I like this approach very much. In practice, it won’t wash – at least for me. Other GMs might disagree.

I would certainly like this variation a lot more if it were married to an XP-system variant such as the one I described in Objective-Oriented Experience Points which completely removes the direct connection between success in combat and xp earned, because this would enable the GM to directly control when the tables change.

And yet, there is something philosophically profound about this approach. It is based in part on the (subtle and hidden) premise that the total separation between life and death doesn’t change as characters advance in levels, it just gets subdivided into smaller and smaller pieces (this is another of those eternal debates that have been cropping up since the early days of D&D – usually in discussions about falling damage – and never resolved). I say in part, because this is the situation that the table trends towards and eventually achieves; but at early levels, it implies that there are some demonstrable improvements in the ability to survive at lower levels, but that these soon come to an end.

Healing Old Wounds

It may have been noted that earlier I said to simply keep a tally of the number of wounds of each type and the total hit points lost, rather than tracking the damage associated with each wound. Not only is this simpler to perform during battle, minimizing unwanted delays in combat, but it ties in directly with the way wounds are healed.

Any wound can seemingly be healed with any healing spell. Apply enough Cure Light Wounds and you will heal the hit point loss; but healing the wound itself requires a bit more.

  • A Heal spell heals all wounds of any type as though the character had spent the time to fully recover with appropriate medical support. See also the section on Lost Limbs & Organs below.
  • A Cure Critical Wounds Heals one critical wound, 2 serious wounds, 4 moderate wounds, 6 light wounds, and 8 minor wounds (without healing the cosmetic effects of such wounds, which will disappear in time as they would, normally, or until the target is the subject of a Heal).
  • Cure Serious Wounds Heals one serious wound, 2 moderate wounds, 4 light wounds, and 6 minor wounds (without healing the cosmetic effects of such wounds, which will disappear in time as they would, normally, or until the target is the subject of a Heal).
  • Cure Moderate Wounds Heals one moderate wound, 2 light wounds, and 4 minor wounds (without healing the cosmetic effects of such wounds, which will disappear in time as they would, normally, or until the target is the subject of a Heal).
  • Cure Light Wounds Heals one light wound, and 2 minor wounds (without healing the cosmetic effects of such wounds, which will disappear in time as they would, normally, or until the target is the subject of a Heal).

Unhealed wounds that have been Cured heal naturally over time. 1 day heals all minor wounds (1 week removes all cosmetic effects). Light wounds heal at the rate of 1 per day, a Moderate wound becomes a Light wound in 2 days, a Serious Wound becomes a Moderate Wound in 4 days, and a Critical Wound becomes a Serious Wound in 8 days. Except for Minor wounds, which can heal concurrently with any other type of injury, these effects do not occur concurrently, but happen in order from Light to Critical, and happen one wound at a time.

Unhealed wounds that have not been Cured (except for Minor wounds) require twice this time. This healing is concurrent with the recovery of hit points each day.

Reopening Old Wounds

Until a wound is Healed, strenuous activity may partially reopen the wound, while combat-level activities may fully reopen the wound.

A strenuous activity is designated as any activity taking up more than 8 hours in a day, or more than 2 hours at a stretch, or requiring a roll of any kind, other than those listed as combat-level activities. The intervals between such activities must be at least half as long as the maximum, and the character will still require their usual amount of rest each night.

A combat-level activity is any activity involving a weapon or something that can be used as a weapon – whether that’s scything wheat, digging a hole, chopping down a tree, repairing armor, or actual combat. It doesn’t matter how long it persists, a single round is enough.

Partially reopening a wound inflicts damage as though the character were the subject of an Inflict [x] Wound spell of one lower category than the wound, with a Caster Level equal to the character’s level. In other words, roll for the damage as though it were a healing spell of one lower wound type.

Fully reopening a wound inflicts damage as though the character were the subject of an Inflict [x] Wound spell of the same category as the wound, with a Caster Level equal to the character’s level. Note that this can cause more damage than the character originally received.

The Significance

It is therefore no longer enough for a character to swallow healing potions and receive multiple Cure Light Wounds spells to recover after combat. On the surface, the character may be healed – but the sinews are still weak and poorly bound together. Even the march back to town, unless carefully managed, with adequate time to rest, can leave the character as weak as he was at the end of combat – despite having been fully healed.

At the same time, Cure spells are not a waste of time. They not only replace lost hit points and accelerate the healing process, they Heal outright a certain number and level of Wounds so that the character does not need to worry about reopening those wounds.

Lost/Shattered Limbs & Organs

A Heal spell restores function to any damaged organ, but cannot restore one that was fully lost or destroyed. Such loss or destruction usually means that the character has died during the inflicting of injury. Even a critical hit will not fully destroy an internal organ, that would require the character to experience something ‘special’. Arms and legs are not critical to survival in this way. Nevertheless, a Heal spell will restore a limb so damaged – if the limb is still available to be reattached with a Heal skill, or if a replacement can be salvaged from another body – even if it has begun to rot and decay.

Of course, grave-robbing in this fashion is – at best – morally questionable, and may be an alignment violation. Such healing tactics are generally decried as immoral and repugnant – but for those without scruples and the wherewithal to fund the treatment, it’s often a valid – and desirable – choice.

Impure Healing

Another nasty wrinkle that can be contemplated is the notion of Impure Healing. Potions contain biological elements, and these constituents can be poisonous or carry illness. Those that are poisonous are obvious after the briefest tasting – real poisonous potions (ones that can be used to poison food etc) don’t give the game away with an obviously foul taste. But those which carry illnesses and disease can be harder to detect.

In most such potions, the active biological agents will eventually die for lack of nutrients, leaving the potions safe to consume. Characters would have to be unfortunate indeed to become ill after using one. For this reason, potions are normally not ‘brewed fresh’ but are left in storage for a period of months or years. None of that is true in the case of Healing potions, which Heal the illness just as they will the character who consumes them; they can remain infectious for decades, perhaps centuries or millennia.

For the record, I got this idea from the 5th season episode of Stargate SG-1, The Tomb.

The Fifth Solution

As I explained earlier, all of the above wasn’t quite finished when the time came to start play in the Shards Of Divinity campaign. As a result, I had to come up with an interim solution, and that solution may suit some GMs better than the ones I have described already. In the interests of completeness of discussion of the topic, I therefore present this fifth solution.

A Critical Hit Inflicts A Critical Wound

I started from the premise spelt out in the subsection title above. I then redefined a critical hit as “any hit that exceeds the target required to hit the opponent by an amount equal to or greater than the critical hit range, or which has a natural roll within the critical hit range.”

That in turn permitted a definition for a serious wound (“results from a hit that succeeds by an amount 5 less than that required for a critical hit”), a moderate wound (“results from a hit that succeeds by an amount 10 less than that required for a critical hit”), and a light wound (“results from a hit that succeeds by an amount 15 less than that required for a critical hit”).

That all sounds complicated – it’s not.

If you have a critical hit threshold of 20, then:

  • You inflict a critical wound on any hit that succeeds by 20 or more, or that is a critical hit;
  • You inflict a serious wound on any hit that succeeds by 15-19;
  • You inflict a moderate wound on any hit that succeeds by 10-14;
  • You inflict a light wound on any hit that succeeds by 5-9; and,
  • You inflict a minor wound on any hit that succeeds by 1-4.

If you have a critical hit threshold of 19, then:

  • You inflict a critical wound on any hit that succeeds by 19 or more, or that is a critical hit;
  • You inflict a serious wound on any hit that succeeds by 14-18;
  • You inflict a moderate wound on any hit that succeeds by 9-13;
  • You inflict a light wound on any hit that succeeds by 4-8; and,
  • You inflict a minor wound on any hit that succeeds by 1-3.

…and so on.

In every other way, this variant operates exactly the same way as the others. I suspect that this option might appeal to GMs who desire a bit of elegance in their games :)

The impact on play in Shards of Divinity

To date, the impact on play has been minimal. That’s a consequence of the adventures that I’ve been running, which haven’t had a lot of traditional “fight the monster” encounters, and of the fact that I started the other characters at a higher character level than the starring character (who has been given other advantages in compensation). What combat there has been has been more metaphor and mind-game in the land of the Fey, battles of wills and illusion, submission and domination, than traditional in nature. In theory, the characters should now be approaching 11th or 12th level; in practice, they are about 18th. That’s not a consequence of this combat variant, that’s the result of a number of other circumstances. Unfortunately, the combination of these facts and the interim rules above means that there will be minimal opportunity to test these combat variants properly, ie at low-to-non-epic levels.

All those caveats notwithstanding, the PCs have evidenced a relative reluctance to engage in direct combat, avoiding it whenever possible in preference to non-combat solutions – is that the consequence of these rules? I don’t know – but if so, it’s a good one.

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