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[Strain-Injury Variant] A Minor Change to Hit Points


Suggestions/House Rules/Homebrew

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The Strain-Injury Variant is an optional rule for Hit Points in the Pathfinder RPG. It was created with the help of more than two dozen regular posters here on the Paizo forums, and it addresses some of the common complaints about the Hit Point mechanic while preserving the combat balance, ease of use, and classic feel that Hit Points bring to the game.

The rule text proper is hosted on GoogleDocs so that we can update it as needed:

Strain-Injury HP Variant Rule

If you're curious about how the variant rule was developed, feel free to check out the original discussion. Warning - it is over 500 posts long, contains some dead-ends, and only settles into its current form on page 8 or so.

The basic premise of the rule is to separate the Hit Point damage that represents "physical punishment" from the Hit Point damage that represents various active defenses, or "turning a serious blow into a lesser one" as the Core Rulebook phrases it. In this way, Strain-Injury is very much like Vitality And Wound Points from the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana rules. Unlike Vitality and Wound Points, Strain-Injury requires very little change to the existing rules to use, and creates fewer consequences within the system.

There are two important elements of the Strain-Injury rule that are worth announcing up front:

Firstly, this variant is actually a rule about hit point recovery rates. All it does is set specific rates for the recovery of different types of damage. The rule does not include damage penalties (although that is a popular addition enough to merit its own thread), nor does it create a new damage type with special effects that will alter the outcome of combat (such as Bleed). Using this rule, 99% of your battles should resolve exactly as they would with unmodified HP rules.

Secondly, the Strain and Injury damage types are a property of damage received. A weapon or attack form never deals Strain damage or Injury damage consistently. Rather, Strain damage results from avoiding a potentially lethal attack, and Injuries result from failing to avoid potentially lethal attacks. In very extreme cases, a GM might alter damage from one type to the other, but if you have a grasp of how the system works such cases should be extraordinarily rare.

This thread exists for the discussion and refinement of the rule, in addition to clarification and answers to any questions that may arise GMs and players using it. Thanks to everyone — past and future — for contributing to this idea and making my game better.


Can I get a rundown of how the use of this rule changes the way the game plays? I'm not talking about what the modifications themselves are, I'm talking about how the game plays in response to those modifications.


Zoe Oakeshott wrote:
Can I get a rundown of how the use of this rule changes the way the game plays? I'm not talking about what the modifications themselves are, I'm talking about how the game plays in response to those modifications.

It doesn't change combat. The players and the bad guys still drop when they have taken the HP in damage.

All this does is split the damage into strain(which is easy to heal) and injury(which requires the heal skill or magic to heal).

I most cases it will speed up recovery for the players or allow them to get by with less magical healing until they start taking actual injuries.


Strain-Injury does change the amount of healing resources used by the party. That's the most notable balance issue.

In the other thread we observed that most game groups bend over backwards to start each encounter at full HP (or near it) so we didn't discourage that. Parties might end up with a little more money from not having to invest as heavily in healing. GMs should be aware of this and change to accommodate.

Adventures that heavily rely on marathon consecutive encounters to challenge the players (5+ encounters of APL or lower CR with no full night's rest) will now be a lot easier (on hit points, anyway). These adventures are quite rare in my experience, because design changed in response to the 15-minute-adventuring day. If you used to get players into new encounters with half or less HP pretty often, this will change under Strain-Injury. If your party usually only rests for the casters to regain spells, not much will change.

This does decrease the amount of cure wand math, which we thought was a good thing.

Nonlethal damage is a little more or less effective in certain situations, but more realistic and easier to track in my opinion. (Basically it stacks with "lethal", so if a nonlethal attack puts you below zero you're unconscious, and if a lethal attack puts you below zero you're dying. This is a necessary extrapolation from the rest of the rules, but you could change it easily enough.)

That's about it. Much care was taken to avoid changing the balance of combat. I've been using the rule for months, and all it has really changed is the way that I describe damage as a GM, and the rate at which some damage heals.


Ok, so here is my critique.

Disclaimer, I like Shadowrun for its much grittier system of damage. I also like how they do a really good job of modeling healing. The more damage you have taken, the harder you are to heal in general. I know that system doesn't really translate to PF, but I would love to see some of the better parts of it, so here are a few points.

First, I don't like how save based injury is so all or nothing. Failed saves against spells happen all the time. Criticals from weapons don't happen nearly as often. I would change it to 10% of the damage is converted to injury for each point you fail the save by. Otherwise, you a lessening the impact of weapon strikes and touch spells relative to damage spells with saves.

Second, at some point, really large amounts of strain should translate into injury, even if you were not forced to take a save. Falling damage is the most obvious example. I would propose taking the death by massive damage rule and repurposing it for this. Any strain damage over X amount forces a fort save based on the amount of damage(say DC = half the damage dealt). If that save is failed, the damage is converted to injury as if you had failed a save(see first comment). The minimum amount is to keep lots of little hits from slowing the game down(imagine taking a fort hit for each save), but it needs to be between 20 and 50(probably 30). It should be hard to get immersed in lava or hit the ground at terminal velocity, and not trigger the massive damage rule. Also, if you get hit by a nasty enough spell, you could be forced to make a massive damage save even if you make the original save aainst the spell(for example, a maximized cone of cold deals 45 damage on a successful save, which could then force DC 22 fort save to avoid injury)

Third, I hate how magical healing of any sort completely short circuits the need for the heal skill and the healing process. I have 100 max HP, I take a 99 point injury(translates to "You take a scythe critical that nearly cleaves you in half"). Whip out the wand of cure light wounds. 2 minutes and 18 charges later I am back to perfect condition. It seems to me that severe injures should be harder to heal than that, but this is probably a good place for an optional rule rather than something that is part of the base system.

Edit: Reorganized to keep the important stuff on top.


I, too, love Shadowrun.

Charender wrote:
First, at some point, really large amounts of strain should translate into injury, even if you were not forced to take a save.

This point (and the examples of falling and lava) has been discussed at length in the other thread. I will respond to it here (or let one of the other frequent posters respond) but I need to consider my wording for a bit.

Charender wrote:
Second, I hate how magical healing of any sort completely short circuits the need for the heal skill and the healing process.

Personally, I'm with you. However, making the Heal skill relevant was not part of our defined problem, and so it's outside the scope of this rule. I really hope to see some interesting results on that from the Damage Penalties thread. Even so, the Heal skill did get a little boost in healer-free campaigns. It's the only way to get rid of Injury damage without magic now, no more sleeping off deep tissue damage.

We've had a number of good suggestions that would alter combat balance. Jason Nelson suggested only healing an individual instance of wound damage if the cure spell roll were higher than the damage, and only allowing one cure spell per Injury instance. That would certainly lead to nasty, persistent Injuries at all levels.

The problem here is that you simply can't address this issue without changing the combat balance of healing magic. I'm happy that the variant rule can be a good starting point for house-rules that change that, but changing combat balance is off the table as far as documenting Strain-Injury is concerned*.

* That is, unless the change deals directly with the defined problem, like nonlethal damage does.


Would anyone like to look into making the Strain-Injury Variant OGL-compliant?


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Would anyone like to look into making the Strain-Injury Variant OGL-compliant?

I really like these rules. I like to run low-to-no-magic campaigns, and this really helps with healing issues in such a game. However, I don't understand. I could start a game and apply these rules effortlessly in 3.5 or Pathfinder as it stands? So, how do you mean "make it OGL compliant"?


I'd like for people to be able to reprint the rules legally if they give credit, in the manner in which the OGL does.


Evil Lincoln wrote:

I, too, love Shadowrun.

Charender wrote:
First, at some point, really large amounts of strain should translate into injury, even if you were not forced to take a save.

This point (and the examples of falling and lava) has been discussed at length in the other thread. I will respond to it here (or let one of the other frequent posters respond) but I need to consider my wording for a bit.

Before you respond, let me be a little more clear.

I don't have a problem with a 200 hp point fighter diving into lava or falling from the sky and walking away with no injury. Most of the other thread covered the hows and whys of explaining the lack of injury, and I am ok with that. I do however have a problem with the fighter being able to do this consistantly. If a character takes a 100 damage hit, by every objective measurement, that was a huge hit. There should be at least a chance that some or all of that damage is in the form of an injury.

The absurd corner case for these rules in my mind is that a level 10 fighter with 130hp can jump off a 200 foot cliff(20d6 damage, no save, all strain), take a short rest to recover all their strain, then do it all over again. The fighter could manage jump off the cliff 60 times in 10 hours with no ill effect. I can buy that the fighter managed to land just right once or twice, but not 60 times in a row.


Cases that disallow any saving throw vs hp damage to indicate supreme nastiness are a bit problematic under the current rule. I'm open to change on this, and I've been considering it for some time.

One thing I am considering is that all sources of HP damage should be attack rolls or allow saving throws for half damage. In the case of falling or lava, that half damage would be Strain, and some kind of deus-ex-machina explanation (a sudden updraft or an unmelted stepping stone) is the reason for survival. Otherwise, yes, the full lava damage gives you charred stumps in the form of 20d6 (≈70) Injury and a save vs......... death.

A Save. Vs. Death.

Save Vs. Death.

Could the rule be that the Save from Massive Damage determines Injury or Strain? This would work for falling too. It would allow for short falls or very limited lava exposure to be less instantaneously nasty, but generally it would cause Injury if the save was failed rather than death. Something to thing about.


I like that set the Massive Damage threshold as maybe an Injury threshold with a decent DC which would allow for falling/lave/acid/Really big hits or spell damage to still mean something if it happens to a player.

Maybe even set it so a close failure DC-5 only turns half the damage into injury and the rest strain?


Evil Lincoln wrote:

Cases that disallow any saving throw vs hp damage to indicate supreme nastiness are a bit problematic under the current rule. I'm open to change on this, and I've been considering it for some time.

One thing I am considering is that all sources of HP damage should be attack rolls or allow saving throws for half damage. In the case of falling or lava, that half damage would be Strain, and some kind of deus-ex-machina explanation (a sudden updraft or an unmelted stepping stone) is the reason for survival. Otherwise, yes, the full lava damage gives you charred stumps in the form of 20d6 (≈70) Injury and a save vs......... death.

A Save. Vs. Death.

Save Vs. Death.

Could the rule be that the Save from Massive Damage determines Injury or Strain? This would work for falling too. It would allow for short falls or very limited lava exposure to be less instantaneously nasty, but generally it would cause Injury if the save was failed rather than death. Something to thing about.

Actually, I was pondering something on the way home, but this would be a complete overhaul of the system.

In short, dump the failed save and critical to injury conversion. Any hit which drops a character to 0 or lower health is still treated as an injury.

Any hit that does 30 hp or one quarter of the characters maximum health, whichever is lower, has a chance to cause an injury. The character makes a fort save equal to 10 + half the damage amount. If the save suceeds, the damage is all strain. If the save is failed, 10% of the damage per point by which the save is failed becomes injury.

Make injury vs strain entirely based on the size of the hit rather than the source of the hit. Not sure it is the right way to go, but it is another way to get the same results.


It's a logical enough idea, and I would love to see it playtested if you're up for it. I've been using the saving throw because it has a very low cost of effort (it's a number we're already comparing for). It seems like a damage threshold wouldn't be too bad, but it isn't a number we're already checking for, so I think it would be more complicated. Also, I'm just used to the saves now. It feels right to me.

I thought about starting yet another thread for nascent house rule ideas, but I think that would be a little much. We should be able to discuss such things here.


The other thing I was thinking about was that the save to avoid injury system could be expanded easily to allows for multiple tiers of damage.

For example, lets say I want 3 tiers of damage, strain/injury/severe injury.

You have a 100 hp fighter with a +15 fort save, he gets hit for 50 damage.

He has to make a DC 35 fort save or take an injury. He rolls a 12 which gives him a 27 -> failed by 8 -> 80% of the damage is actually injury damage. So he takes 10 points of strain, and 40 points of injury. Since the injury is in excess of 30, he needs to check for a serious injury. The DC is 30, he rolls another 12, which means that 30% of the injury damage is actually a severe injury. So the fighter take 10 strain, 28 injury, and 12 severe injury.

Now I can make it so that severe injuries require a heal check AND magical healing if I want that more gritty feel.

The biggest problem I see with this method is that it puts way to much emphasis on fort which is already a critical save.

Grand Lodge

Charender wrote:

The other thing I was thinking about was that the save to avoid injury system could be expanded easily to allows for multiple tiers of damage.

For example, lets say I want 3 tiers of damage, strain/injury/severe injury.

You have a 100 hp fighter with a +15 fort save, he gets hit for 50 damage.

He has to make a DC 35 fort save or take an injury. He rolls a 12 which gives him a 27 -> failed by 8 -> 80% of the damage is actually injury damage. So he takes 10 points of strain, and 40 points of injury. Since the injury is in excess of 30, he needs to check for a serious injury. The DC is 30, he rolls another 12, which means that 30% of the injury damage is actually a severe injury. So the fighter take 10 strain, 28 injury, and 12 severe injury.

Now I can make it so that severe injuries require a heal check AND magical healing if I want that more gritty feel.

The biggest problem I see with this method is that it puts way to much emphasis on fort which is already a critical save.

Too much additional Faffing around. The strength of the Strain/Injury (I still call it HP/Injury) system is there is nothing new added - all damage is damage, just some sticks around longer than others and the stuff that doesn't stick around goes away quick.

A one line rule can be added to the effect of GM should feel free to add a simple save vs. death with save resulting in injury (worked for Darth Vader) for extreme circumstances as diving into lava etc.

It works as is... what you want (and to be fair, it is a good thing) is variants on the base rule above. Some variants would include persistent conditions (adding in fatigued or exhausted), reduced healing efficiencies etc but locking down the base rule is where its at. Once the Doc is finalised (its been going on for how long Linc?) we should add variant rules to the document as appendices.


Helaman wrote:


stuff

I was pushing for the same basic system with just strain/injury with the same recovery rates. All the stuff in the document about that as well as the stuff on explaining how different types of damage can end up as strain or injury is fine IMO.

Where I have a problem if the actual gameplay method for determining whether damage is strain or injury.

One system uses critical hits and failed saves to determine injury vs strain. The 2 problems with this are
1. It changes the current balance between spells with saves vs anything with an attack roll. If 1 in 10 attack rolls results in a critical, and 1 in 3 damage spells results in a failed save. This rule will cause 90% of the damage generated by attack rolls to result in strain. Meanwhile, only 66% of the damage from spells with saves results in strain. Attack rolls are now inherently 3 times easier to recover from than spells with saves. Now factor in that a lot of spells with saves can hit multiple targets, and things like fireballs are significantly harder for a party to recover from than a greataxe wielding barbarian.
2. Large hits that have no save allow for consistant and quick recovery. See my earlier example of a fighter jumping of a cliff and consistantly recovering in 10 minutes. There needs to be at least some chance that falling from the sky or jumping in lava causes an actual injury that cannot be walked off.

The system I am proposing uses a damage threshhold and a fort save to determine injury vs strain. It simplifies everything, because every form of damage regardless of source has the same chance to become an injury or not. Now the DM just takes the result of the fort save and weaves it into the combat narrative.

The second part was pointing out how the alternate system I proposed has the option to be easily extended into multiple tiers of damage if someone wants more than just strain/injury. That was an optional rule, but where I come from, making things flexible and extendable is a good thing.


Your proposal adds additional rolls and calculations to the existing system, where the Strain-Injury only adds a conditional check. I'm sorry, but it's not simpler.

I understand you want more realism in the system, but Pathfinder is not realistic. Shadowrun (which I played extensively, altough it was... 3rd Ed ?) is much more realistic, but it also has excruciatingly slow combat round. Pathfinder, like 3.5 before, attempts to reconcile streamlined combat mechanics with decent suspension of disbelief.

The Strain-Injury rule tries to alleviate some of the harder points of the suspension of disbelief part for narrative GMs without breaking the streamlined mechanics, while also trying to solve the 15-minute workday problem by changing the way healing works. That's a tall order already. Trying to push realism into the system will either break it completely or lead to a vast subset of house rules, inevitably more complicated than the actual proposal.

As for your very good point about more strain from melee than spells, I take it you postulate then that the sword blow is more dangerous than the lightning bolt jolt and burn ? Why would it be so ? I can easily see a trained man-at-arms having a much easier time to dodge and parry a sword, even wielded by a guy foaming at the mouth, than a sudden bolt of lightning coming out of nowhere. This would be the exact reverse of your implication in your earlier example, but it's a difference in how we see the lethality of combat, and perhaps how we would narrate it. But what you and I think of how combat should work is irrelevant because the cursor was already set by the designers of 3.5, and it's somewhere around "decently fast, not very realistic at its core, but hopefully believable enough".

Strain-injury reconcile the meaningfulness of hit points with descriptions by providing a clear cut, simple, and fully integrated within the existing ruleset of what's injury and what's not. Therein lies its true strength and elegance. I'm all open to bouncing other ideas back and forth and expanding the current system with additional rules, but the core idea of strain-injury should say as it is, or mutate into something as equally instinctive than the current proposal.

That said, I agree we need to find an acceptable solution for the potential abuse of environmental damage other than GM's call. Massive Damage sounds like a solid bet. If we were to use this rule as a basis, would we want to make it a save vs Death or a save vs Injury ?

And rereading myself before posting, I come off maybe a little harsher than I'd like. Sorry Charender, I think I just mostly disagree whith where you're trying to push the current proposal.

Grand Lodge

Valfen wrote:

Your proposal adds additional rolls and calculations to the existing system, where the Strain-Injury only adds a conditional check. I'm sorry, but it's not simpler.

I understand you want more realism in the system, but Pathfinder is not realistic. Shadowrun (which I played extensively, altough it was... 3rd Ed ?) is much more realistic, but it also has excruciatingly slow combat round. Pathfinder, like 3.5 before, attempts to reconcile streamlined combat mechanics with decent suspension of disbelief.

The Strain-Injury rule tries to alleviate some of the harder points of the suspension of disbelief part for narrative GMs without breaking the streamlined mechanics, while also trying to solve the 15-minute workday problem by changing the way healing works. That's a tall order already. Trying to push realism into the system will either break it completely or lead to a vast subset of house rules, inevitably more complicated than the actual proposal.

Strain-injury reconcile the meaningfulness of hit points with descriptions by providing a clear cut, simple, and fully integrated within the existing ruleset of what's injury and what's not. Therein lies its true strength and elegance.

+1 - you said what I wanted to say earlier and failed to do.

If Charender or any one else wants to harshen-up/gritty-up the system, then we merely add these to the back of the doc as options, but the CORE system needs to be clean and simple - no additional die rolls etc.

That said I am tying the above to negatives at 50% and 25% of total hps. If its strain? It goes away... if after strain is restored, Injury damage holds the character at under those thresholds then the penalties still apply... but thats MY optional extra on top of the core rule (I also call strain HP still but thats just me :) )


I think that what you wrote up is excellent and a very intuitive execution of what HP was meant to represent. Even though you claim it's an extra number to keep track of, it really isn't the case since nonlethal damage becomes strain. (which relieves players from the duty of adding lethal to nonlethal). As far as regeneration goes, I think it should work normally, with the heal DCs for injuries to be lowered by whatever their Regeneration rate is.


Zoe Oakeshott wrote:
Can I get a rundown of how the use of this rule changes the way the game plays? I'm not talking about what the modifications themselves are, I'm talking about how the game plays in response to those modifications.

As far as I'm concerned, it's easier to explain in terms of damaging HP and damaging Max HP. Strain damages HP and can heal at normal (or accelerated) rate. Injury damages HP and Max HP, so it prevents you from healing fully until you find a way to deal with the injury damage.

That's it basically, and I like it because it changes nothing about the original dynamics.

[Houserules with heavy tweaking incoming]
I'm going to use it, but in my houserules I'm tweaking the healing rates. Magical healing is going to be rare (or expensive) and the Heal skill will become more important. Both magical healing and Heal skill are aimed at restoring max HP; aimed at healing injuries.

Strain healing is going to be both easier and more difficult. Easier because you can regain HP by resting. More difficult because I want to see what happens if I make HP a limited resource in a day. No more wands of healing to top up the current HP. Strain is only recovered by resting; full 8 hour rest restores HP fully, and I might add a partial rest to restore a lower number of HP.

I aim to supplement this by adding spells and potions which give an "energy boost"; giving you non-stacking temporary HP which go away first when hit. This is a replacement of the "cure" line of spells; these do not give permanent restoration but can give characters a boost in survivability.
[/houserules]

Maybe someone can salvage something from this.


After reading the document, I have two questions I don't know if answered already:

1) In-Combat Healing
If I receive healing in a combat situation, can strain damage be healed or only injury damage?

2) Killing Blows
If I have 30hp and took 24 strain damage so far and an additional killing blow for 9 injury damage, I'm practically dying. If I stabilize, do I heal my strain damage in 5 minutes but retain my 9 point injury? I stand up, effectively with 21hp, but ready for combat?

I'm thinking about the PCs, making their way out of a dungeon just to see that most monsters recovered and are good to go (if not killed properly after combat per coup-de-grace of course).


Puma D. Murmelman wrote:

After reading the document, I have two questions I don't know if answered already:

1) In-Combat Healing
If I receive healing in a combat situation, can strain damage be healed or only injury damage?

Combat is exactly the same as before. Any healing effect can heal both strain and injury, healing injury first.

Quote:

2) Killing Blows

If I have 30hp and took 24 strain damage so far and an additional killing blow for 9 injury damage, I'm practically dying. If I stabilize, do I heal my strain damage in 5 minutes but retain my 9 point injury? I stand up, effectively with 21hp, but ready for combat?

I'm thinking about the PCs, making their way out of a dungeon just to see that most monsters recovered and are good to go (if not killed properly after combat per coup-de-grace of course).

You're correct. 21hp, and a broken rib or somesuch that represents your lingering 9 point injury yet to be healed. (*) The mechanic is mostly intended for PCs, but if you were to apply it to opponents, yes, they would also get strain back the same way.

You raise an interesting point, you know. Do we want and should we include a clause saying that strain-injury only applies to PCs and major characters, a bit like Hero points, or do we want it to be absolute ? (As a GM, I almost always let mooks die if they're taken below 0hp, and care only about the fate of important opponents, but I understand not everyone will run it like that.)

Edit : (*) Or rather, that is the way I read it anyway. Only Lincoln can tell if it's what he intended with regard to negative hp. But it's certainly way easier to track that way.

Grand Lodge

JrK wrote:
stuff about wanting grittier healing

Use strain as non lethal damage that heals at that rate. The heal skill becomes critical then as it essentially doubles the rate of recovery.


The problem with strain healing at the non-lethal rate is it's another thing to keep track of. Not often a consequential thing either. That's why the rule in its current form moved away from that.

I think I should also say that since this rule is intended to make more believable descriptions of damage and treat recovery in a way that matches those descriptions, applying it only to PCs makes no sense. It models what is already meant to be happening with slightly less abstraction, rather than granting an additional super power to heroic characters.

I have a big suggestion for the document. I think it starts in completely the wrong place. I'd put a big title and "the short version" on page one, with the contents on the next page. I think that would deliver the message much, much more clearly.


Valfen wrote:

Your proposal adds additional rolls and calculations to the existing system, where the Strain-Injury only adds a conditional check. I'm sorry, but it's not simpler.

It is one extra roll IF you exceed the threshhold.

If your threshhold is 10, and you take a 15 damage hit, make a fort save, check the result, then move on. If you take a 9 damage hit, it is strain, mark it down and move on.

Quote:


As for your very good point about more strain from melee than spells, I take it you postulate then that the sword blow is more dangerous than the lightning bolt jolt and burn ? Why would it be so ? I can easily see a trained man-at-arms having a much easier time to dodge and parry a sword, even wielded by a guy foaming at the mouth, than a sudden bolt of lightning coming out of nowhere. This would be the exact reverse of your implication in your earlier example, but it's a difference in how we see the lethality of combat, and perhaps how we would narrate it. But what you and I think of how combat should work is irrelevant because the cursor was already set by the designers of 3.5, and it's somewhere around "decently fast, not very realistic at its core, but hopefully believable enough".

No, I don't. My point is more along the line of an axe blow is currently X dangerous, a fireball is Y dangerous. These rules make the axe blow equal to .05X while they make the fireball .5Y. Whatever the current balance between an axe and a fireball is, good or bad, these rules drastically alter it. It is to the point where if you have a DM who like to use lots of high DC AoE blasting effects, the rules won't play any different from the normal rules because you are going to be taking lots of injury damage all the time, and thus rarely get the benefit of the strain rules.


Helaman wrote:

+1 - you said what I wanted to say earlier and failed to do.

If Charender or any one else wants to harshen-up/gritty-up the system, then we merely add these to the back of the doc as options, but the CORE system needs to be clean and simple - no additional die rolls etc.

You keep misunderstanding me.

Everything I have proposed to harshen up/gritty-up the system are my proposed OPTIONAL rules, and I can find a way to do that with either system.

My core problem is that the system currently is not clean and simple. for the 2 reasons I mentioned. Having a single method for determining strain vs injury is simpler because it leaves less odd corner cases.

It requires an extra die roll about 10-25% of the time. If you don't like that, then get rid of the die roll and make it where any hit that exceeds 10-20% of your max hp treats the damage over the threshhold as injury.

I want the die roll because I think if should be possible for a heroic character to turn even a critical hit into strain if they are tough and/or lucky, and I don't think that all failed spell saves should automatically be turned into all injury.

A level 20 fighter with 300 HP gets hit with a 1d4 burning hands for 1 damage, fails his save by 1 point, and takes injury damage. He took a third degree burn to the tip of his pinky? That seems just as wierd and wonky as a fighter falling from the sky repeatedly and being able to walk it off every single time.


Remember folks, parallel evolutions of the rule are awesome, especially if they get play-tested and reported. I'll only update the doc with the ideas that have the widest consensus, but we should all be keenly interested to hear about every variation that people seem to enjoy.

If we can all bear this in mind, we can keep the conversation constructive.


I concur!

Charender makes some interesting points which bear thinking about. I must ask, however, that if a great hero can turn critical hits into strain, what exactly ARE critical hits, beyond a meta-gamy mechanical process?


Mortuum wrote:

I concur!

Charender makes some interesting points which bear thinking about. I must ask, however, that if a great hero can turn critical hits into strain, what exactly ARE critical hits, beyond a meta-gamy mechanical process?

They are still lucky or skillful hits. Hits that the hero must spends a much larger reserve of strain to negate(as decided by the damage multiplier). You get hit with a 60 damage maximized fireball which you make the save and take 30 strain damage, but a halfling crits you with a dagger for 2d3-2, and that damage MUST be an injury. You are ok with 30 damage being all strain, but you have a problem with 2 damage from the critical hit being strain?

Since critical hits also do more damage they will be more likely to result in actual injury. The more I think about this, the more convinced that the size of the hit should be the deciding factor between strain and injury.


Charender wrote:
Mortuum wrote:

I concur!

Charender makes some interesting points which bear thinking about. I must ask, however, that if a great hero can turn critical hits into strain, what exactly ARE critical hits, beyond a meta-gamy mechanical process?

They are still lucky or skillful hits. Hits that the hero must spends a much larger reserve of strain to negate(as decided by the damage multiplier). You get hit with a 60 damage maximized fireball which you make the save and take 30 strain damage, but a halfling crits you with a dagger for 2d3-2, and that damage MUST be an injury. You are ok with 30 damage being all strain, but you have a problem with 2 damage from the critical hit being strain?

Since critical hits also do more damage they will be more likely to result in actual injury. The more I think about this, the more convinced that the size of the hit should be the deciding factor between strain and injury.

It's hard to overlook that additional complexity.

Personally, I'm okay with 2 point injuries. Remember, the original goal was to separate abstract and literal damage, and severe strain/minor injury does exist. I think it adds something to the description, rather than being a cognitive dissonance as you imply.

Even though it's not for me, I'm very happy to see any actual play results you get from this method. I'd love to know if players are willing to cope with the additional complexity.


I agree that there should be minor injuries and severe strain, but I also think critical hits should mean more than some extra damage. They should also mean that the target is hit. Critically so, in fact. To change that would be to reduce critical hits to a mere game mechanic, de-coupled from whatever passes for reality in a game of pathfinder and very poorly named at that.

By the book, it's generally assumed that crits strike true and strike hard, but there's no real rules consequence to that beyond higher damage. Once you start distinguishing between real injury and the ability to avoid it though, crits have to injure. Otherwise it'd be like "You hit him amazingly well, harnessing your talent to drive your weapon home! Except-not-because-he-blocks-you-but-you-doubt-he'd-manage-to-pull-that-off -again-so-moving-swiftly-on".

In short, If I crit, I want my attack to work. I don't want to cause minor flesh wounds, bruised ribs or worried expressions. I want to poke holes in people. I want to hear screaming and the scraping of metal on bone.

Also, I don't mean to belittle the importance of playtesting, but I for one don't much care about how any given group of players react to the introduction of more complexity.
Different groups have radically different thresholds, after all. I know people who are madly in love with game systems where it seems to take weeks to resolve an explosion. I'd love to hear if something actually works or not, but I think one has to tailor complexity to the tastes of one's group.


strolls into the new thread
Woah Evil Lincoln, I love what you've done with this place!

Mortuum wrote:
I agree that there should be minor injuries and severe strain, but I also think critical hits should mean more than some extra damage. They should also mean that the target is hit. Critically so, in fact.

That could work well with a damage penalty mechanics; not necessarily one triggered by a hit point threshold, but based on first blood (i.e. injury damage) or plainly on the number (and severity?) of critical hits.

'findel


Evil Lincoln wrote:


It's hard to overlook that additional complexity.

Personally, I'm okay with 2 point injuries. Remember, the original goal was to separate abstract and literal damage, and severe strain/minor injury does exist. I think it adds something to the description, rather than being a cognitive dissonance as you imply.

Even though it's not for me, I'm very happy to see any actual play results you get from this method. I'd love to know if players are willing to cope with the additional complexity.

Probably a better example would have been a max fireball generates 30 strain on a successful save while a level 1 burning hands generates 1 damage injury on a failed save. It just feels so arbitrary.

For the record, I don't have a problem with 1 point injuries. I just feel the size of the hit should have some effect on the chance to cause an injury.

Grand Lodge

hitpoints are an abstract - as is damage. 10D6 fireball is going to roast a 10 hitpoint creature - and mildly annoy a 300 hitpoint creature.

Its not the size of the damage, its the ratio of damage to hitpoints.

Unfortunately that same set of creature stuck by a creatures stuck by a dagger that does 4 hps on a crit, is gonna react a lot differently because the ratio is so different.

If you want to keep injury as real and meaningful then you need a seperate mechanic for that all together, ala the old Vitality system where crits applied directly to a number of points no more than Con so that Injuries are a big deal, or prehaps a condition track like Shadowrun/saga.


I'd been checking out the original thread (lurking I guess), since earlier last year. Lost it for a while, since I never dotted it, and only saw it again with the flurry of activity recently.

I really like the idea, and it runs similar to the ideas I've had to downplay healing necessity in low magic (or just non-cleric centric) games.

Now on to comments...

Charender wrote:
(...) at some point, really large amounts of strain should translate into injury, even if you were not forced to take a save. Falling damage is the most obvious example. (...)

Falling damage is something I made a comment on in another thread, and it got me thinking.

While falling damage may feel like getting hurt physically, the effects are more similar to other environmental effects, like drowning/suffocation.

I had proposed in my comment (off the cuff, no real math behind it) something closer to an effect based result, using an exploding series of saves as a way to survive.

Basically, the height of a fall dictates the DC and minimum level of injury, modified by conditions (such as harder or softer ground, falling through something that slows you down like Indiana Jones falling through awnings). Finally, your saving throws reduce the damage up to the minimum effect.
Class abilities and skill checks might surpass that minimum (allowing no effect, essentially a perfect landing).

The longer the drop, or more deadly, the more saves you have to throw. At the top end, I'd go with a maximum of 5 saves.

Here's my reasoning: a 1st level commoner, while unlikely, could roll 5 20s in a row. What are the odds? 3.2 million to one.
Now we have an extremely rare, but possible chance that a flight attendant, or parachuting enthusiast, could fall from terminal velocity, and still survive landing virtually unscathed.

While gaming doesn't have to be a perfect analogue to reality, I like it when you can make a rule that accepts those crazy outliers of statistics.

*EDIT*
Oh, and with the strain/injury delineation, we can incorporate them into the grades of falling damage.
Something like...
Stage 1: prone + staggered (until healed)
Stage 2: reduced to 0 hitpoints (strain damage)
Stage 3: reduced to 0 hitpoints (injury damage)
Stage 4: reduced to negative Con-1, unconscious
Stage 5: death
Effects are cumulative.

So, a terminal velocity fall deals the whole shebang. Taking the Nicholas Alkemade example: terminal fall so 5 saving throws, minimum damage is death. Falling through pine trees, landing onto a softer surface (snow), brings the minimum damage up to stage 3 (0, disabled, injured, prone and staggered until healed). He would have to roll 3 saves vs outright death, followed by 1 save to "only" suffer stage 4, and then another save to "only" suffer stage 3 and up.

Success on all of them would mean he would be at 0 hitpoints (injured damage). He had a sprained ankle that couldn't support his weight (taking a long while to heal), and he basically sat there until caught by the Gestapo.

This is just a rough draft idea, thought up on spur of the moment.


It seems we reached the point where people either are satisfied with the strain-injury rule as it is, or want it to work differently (or do more). Since I'm still concerned with tying loose ends of the current draft, bear with me while I make an attempt at it.

The line between strain and injury is mostly determined by crits and saves. Thus, we need an attack roll or a saving throw to have the possibility of one or the other. This quite logically leaves damage without saves or attack rolls as a problem. Of those, we solved heat, thirst and the like by adding a clause for ongoing damage. This leaves us with things like lava or falling, whose treatment in Pathfinder weren't particularly realistic to begin with.

We have several options, more or less already explored in some way :

  • All strain. Leads to breaking of suspension of disbelief, since you can repeateadly hurl yourself to the ground (*) or take a lava bath without lasting consequences.
  • All injury. While probably the simplest solution, it conflicts with the notion that injury shouldn't be determined solely by the professed deadliness of a damage source. (lava is not mechanically more damaging than a dragon breath, and the latter can already be strain or injury)
  • Additional mechanic, ideally as simple as the rest.

We know the first two options aren't really satisfying, so let's see what we can come up with the third one.

First, I'm more and more convinced that we should add the helpless condition to the list of injury sources. It is a one word solution to a slew of corner cases, such as the chucking of a tightly chained dwarf in a vat of acid, already provided as an example in the other thread.

Second, I propose to simply use the massive damage threshold as a secondary dividing line between strain and injury for damaging effects devoid of attack rolls or saves. This make a cave-in strain to any mid-level adventurer not already battered, and restores a dip into lava into something that will always be inherently dangerous. (unless you get literally lucky by rolling less than 50 on 20d6 - if I read anydice.com correctly, a ~0.33% chance !)

Would this solution seem to be an acceptable compromise to everyone under the current draft and the ideas surrounding its core mechanics ?

(*) While not trying to miss it.


Helpless? Yes. Massive damage for attacks without rolls? Still a maybe. I'm considering it.

Grand Lodge

Mortuum wrote:
Helpless? Yes. Massive damage for attacks without rolls? Still a maybe. I'm considering it.

+1


Helpless should fail reflex saves. That's a blind spot in the RAW.

I'm happy to suggest that in the Strain-Injury documentation. However, a blanket Helpless = Injury clause undermines coup-de-grace, and that's not something I want to do. If an enemy doesn't take the time to slit your throat, but instead takes a quick swat at you before the guards show up, you should still get your armor and dumb luck protecting you narratively.

Like Mort and Helaman, still chewing on the massive damage idea. It does give the GM a decent guideline for when to introduce the possibility of Injury.


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Like Mort and Helaman, still chewing on the massive damage idea. It does give the GM a decent guideline for when to introduce the possibility of Injury.

It altogether is consistent with your rule. Since Massive Damage is an optional rule by RaW, give it an optional ruling in your houserule as well.

The way I see it, the frame for a massive damage exist already and provides an opportunity for you to built upon it. Keep it optional and you can expand upon massive damage without a guilt trip of needlessly complicating your ruleset.

'findel


So, what I am considering adding is a warning about Helpless and Reflex saves (along with a suggested revision) and an optional suggestion about massive damage.


Evil Lincoln wrote:

Helpless should fail reflex saves. That's a blind spot in the RAW.

I'm happy to suggest that in the Strain-Injury documentation. However, a blanket Helpless = Injury clause undermines coup-de-grace, and that's not something I want to do. If an enemy doesn't take the time to slit your throat, but instead takes a quick swat at you before the guards show up, you should still get your armor and dumb luck protecting you narratively.

Like Mort and Helaman, still chewing on the massive damage idea. It does give the GM a decent guideline for when to introduce the possibility of Injury.

Helpless is still more likely to fail reflex saves due to the effective dexterity of 0. I am ok with it not being an autofail.


Interesting point. Well, that's good news.


I'm honestly uncomfortable with it not being an auto-fail with helpless condition. It means that, however unlikely, the 2nd-level rouge lying unconscious on the ground could take no damage from the dragon standing right above him as he breaths on him. I think surviving such things should be the area of hero points (not that we use them, but I know you do, Lincoln). But then, it would only be reflex and maybe will, and that's a little complicated. Your Fort isn't affected by being unconscious.

...Honestly, this is a tough call. On the front of strain vs injury, I can't help but go back to the GM's involvement in it. If you're worried about people just jumping down 1000 ft. cliffs only to walk it off 5 minutes later - who put the cliff there in the first place? Honestly, if the system was designed for post-battle healing, just stipulate to your players that they don't abuse it - you have to actually climb down the cliff, or find a way around.

As for massive damage, I would want it simple - half HP, rounded down. Something static you can right on your sheet and change easily when you level up, or even calculate easily on the fly when necessary.

Grand Lodge

Half HP really REALLY hurts at level 1.

Take a level 1 fighter, 14 con? 12 HP... a single sword blow could take them to massive damage.


I use a custom Luck Point rule that wouldn't help at all in that scenario. My Luck Points can only swing rolls, not obviate conditions, etc.

The writeup of the Dexterity Ability says that a character with a dex of zero cannot move. All descriptions of the reflext save describe reactive movement. I'm going to have to say, this seems like a GM judgement call, and I personally don't know of a GM who would rule that a save is allowed at all.

This is a problem with the RAW, not with our rule. And I think even the RAW gives you enough to deny the save — just not explicitly.


Helaman wrote:

Half HP really REALLY hurts at level 1.

Take a level 1 fighter, 14 con? 12 HP... a single sword blow could take them to massive damage.

That's not such a bad thing if you replace the save vs. death with a save vs. injury. Plus, isn't that how the optional rule works already?


Evil Lincoln wrote:
Helaman wrote:

Half HP really REALLY hurts at level 1.

Take a level 1 fighter, 14 con? 12 HP... a single sword blow could take them to massive damage.

That's not such a bad thing if you replace the save vs. death with a save vs. injury. Plus, isn't that how the optional rule works already?

Yeah, I was actually thinking 25% of max health was the threshhold for massive damage to injury saves to start. A normal sword hit should actually be fairly likely to cause an actual injury to a level 1 fighter.


TheRedArmy wrote:
I'm honestly uncomfortable with it not being an auto-fail with helpless condition. It means that, however unlikely, the 2nd-level rouge lying unconscious on the ground could take no damage from the dragon standing right above him as he breaths on him.

Well, not quite because...

PRD wrote:
A helpless rogue does not gain the benefit of evasion.

... but your point isn't less valid: a dragon could breathe right over a helpless rogue and only deal strain damage (i.e nothing more than blisters whose incomfort would go away after 5 minutes of rest).

Mechanically, I don't have a problem with that since a successful save against a CR-appropriate dragon breath with a Dex of 0 (-5 instead of + whatever) is highly unlikely. Also the rogue could have an item providing defection or resistance bonus that could take credit for the successful save.

Conceptually, I'd find it more believable if helpless meant Relfex save auto-fail.

'findel

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