Monday, April 12, 2010

[CLASSIFIED]: Damage Redux

I've never written anything quite this... uh... math-intensive before. It's not especially math-intensive in play -- there's a table lookup, a d100 roll, and the multiplication of two single-digit numbers -- but figuring out everything on the front end has been a challenge. I knew I had a solid concept with the way I wanted to do damage, but sorting it out so it all makes sense, and works in a way that makes sense to provide results that make sense, has taken a lot of trial, error, and math.

Most of the original idea is still there. On a successful attack, there's a roll for hit location that doubles as a damage roll -- every location has its own damage rating. Multiply that number by the weapon's Damage Factor (DF) to get the total damage dealt. Compare that number to the target's Toughness:
  • If it's less than his Toughness, he shakes it off. No big deal. This is only likely to happen with run-of-the-mill unarmed attacks. Bullets, knives, clubs, etc. can't be dealt with as easily as fists.
  • If it's between Toughness +1 and three times Toughness, the target gets a 1st-Degree Injury (1DI). The exact effects of this vary by hit location, but in general these are single-round effects: a penalty to actions (something like -4 skill -- modifiers always affect the skill, and never the roll itself), or dropping whatever that hand was holding, and so on.
  • Between three times Toughness and five times Toughness, it's a 2nd-Degree Injury (2DI). These are more serious: broken bones, ruptured organs, severe bleeding, and the like. Penalties associated with these injuries are longer-lasting, usually for the length of the scene, if not longer.
  • More than five times Toughness and it's a 3rd-Degree Injury (3DI). These are debilitating, up to and including death. They're scene-enders for the victim, more or less, but still location-specific. A 3DI to the hand is a lot different than one to the head, but either one's going to ruin your day.
That Toughness score? It's the total of the character's Brawn and Focus. That means it's likely to range between 2 at the minimum and, say, 7 at the maximum. A Toughness of 7 would be remarkably high. You'd pretty much have to devote your entire character to just being "the tough guy" to get that.

Yeah, exactly.

It's important to remember -- I had to keep reminding myself, in fact -- that we're not dealing with anything along the lines of hit points here. All we care about is how the hit location times the DF compares to the target's Toughness score. That's it. Thus, it's not as easy as saying "A shot to the head is almost always going to be worse for you than a shot to the hand." In fact, that's almost an irrelevant consideration.

What happens when you stab someone in the head? It's real bad for them, sure. What happens when you stab them in the hand? It's not as bad for them overall, but it's still going to jack up that hand. In mechanical terms, hands should take 2DIs about as frequently as heads do, but the difference is that injury's holistic effect. The head injury has a greater effect on the target's ability to function and even stay on his feet, whereas it's not totally inconceivable that he could completely lose that hand and still be in the fight (albeit distracted by the bloody stump where his hand used to be).

Another issue is that I can't ignore the different threats posed by fists and blunt weapons and those posed by edged weapons and firearms. Keeping in mind the above stuff re: head and hand, being punched in the hand is highly unlikely to be a big deal, but a fist to the face is another story. Even a club to the hand won't be a huge matter -- you can break it, sure, but odds are slim that you'll render it useless forever. However, a .45-caliber round to the hand is going to be pretty devastating as far as that hand's future is concerned. So's an axe blade. You might lose the hand altogether.

There's some cinematic-type consideration here, too. Yeah, sometimes the most mundane and unlikely attacks will totally incapacitate a person, or extraordinary circumstances will intervene when double-barreled death looks like an absolute certainty, but I'm drawing inspiration from movies that aren't exactly sticklers for realism. This is Connery and (God help me) Moore, not Brosnan and Craig. I don't want every tire-iron to the arm to result in a broken limb, nor do I want every head shot to mean instant death for everyone. I want fists and clubs to have the potential to cause serious injury without guaranteeing they will, and I want bullets and blades to tend to be brutal without losing the possibility that they won't be. It's a fine line to walk, I've found.

So blunt and -- for lack of a better word -- "lethal" attacks have different location-specific damage ratings. Same probabilities, same basic table, different associated damage numbers. Likewise, instead of DFs ranging from x1 to x5, as I previously had wanted to do, now they go from x1 to x8, roughly following these guidelines:
  • x1: Unarmed attacks using the Brawl skill.
  • x2: Unarmed attacks using the Martial Arts skill.
  • x2 to x4: Bludgeoning weapons.
  • x4 to x6: Edged weapons.
  • x5 to x8: Firearms.
So edged weapons and firearms will always do greater minimum damage than blunt weapons' minimum damage, but a blunt weapon's maximum damage can be equal to or greater than their minimum damage, depending on the hit location.

For example, on the non-lethal hit location table, the head is 8 damage and the hand is 4. You hit someone in the hand with your bare fist and he's likely to shake it off -- his Toughness would have to be 2 or 3 to take an injury from that. However, you punch him in the face, and he'll feel it, because an 8 Toughness is highly unlikely. It'll only be a 1DI, of course, but it's something. Hit him with a crowbar (DF x3), though, and it's another story: 24 damage to the head means a 3DI (i.e., unconsciousness) for anyone with a Toughness below 5, but that 15 damage to the hand is usually going to result in a lesser injury. You might break that hand (a 2DI), but it'll heal.

Compare that to lethal damage. If that attack were with a knife or a pistol, for example, the head would mean 6 damage and the hand would mean 5 -- the difference between the two is much less, because the hand is more vulnerable to these types of attacks. With a pistol, typically DF x6, that's 36 to the head or 30 to the hand. That'll disable the location in question unless your Toughness is 6 or more (you'll still die to the head shot, but at least the hand will still be partially usable).

Yes, it's brutal. I don't have a problem with that.

That's where some resource or other comes in. I've been calling it Cool, but it might be something different. I dunno. Anyway, spend Cool to reduce the DF of an incoming attack. If you can get it down low enough, you can turn a 2DI into a 1DI or even into a "0DI" -- and just shrug it off.

After a bunch of test rolls, I have to say... it works. I'm utterly convinced there's an easier way to do it, mathematically speaking -- surely it isn't really necessary for lethal attacks to have both higher DFs and different damage ratings, for example -- but I'm satisfied with the system as it works now. I may be the only person who'll ever say that about [CLASSIFIED], but that's another issue altogether.

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