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"Campaign injury system without a death spiral" Topic

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Thunderman14 Jan 2013 12:27 p.m. PST

Hi all, I'm trying to work out a structured campaign system for my tabletop skirmish game Dinosaur Cowboys. Basically a posse of 5 cowboys and 1 dinosaur would travel around a campaign map (hex based) solving problems, fighting enemies, etc.
So far I think I can handle overland movement, encounters, and all the rest. But what I foresee as my biggest hurdle is post combat injury.
I worry that if flat stat reductions are used (such as -1 Movement from a leg injury) the character can enter a "death spiral". Basically losing stats makes defeat in the future more likely, which means more injuries and more stats lost, until the character basically becomes useless.

Some solutions to this that I can see:
- Have "positive" injuries, such as "This guy became so tough from getting shot a ton that they have +1 Armor Rating". Obviously rarer to roll, but still a chance.
- Have easy access to inexpensive medical healing that can fix up injuries. This makes injuries less dangerous, and more a tedious exercise in book keeping.
- Have temporary injuries, which is what I'm tending towards. Basically "for the next battle the leg injury gives -1 Movement" instead of a permanent condition.
- Have fun injuries instead of flat stat mods. Maybe "Knock in the head, so the character moves a random direction at the end of their normal movement". This would probably be combined with temporary injuries so you're just negatively affected for one combat.
- No injuries, so losing combat is just a bummer.

What does everyone think?

Chef Lackey Rich Fezian14 Jan 2013 12:32 p.m. PST

Temporary injuries are the best way to go IME. You might have being injured give a significant experience boost "Purple Heart Awarded" or "That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger" perhaps in exchange for a more lasting injury penalty. You want to make sure the bonus XP is enough to make retiring a crippled character less attractive than hiring a new guy.

MajorB14 Jan 2013 12:35 p.m. PST

Injuries take TIME to heal.

So why not give the players the option of resting and recuperating from injuries or risking another encounter while injured. Given enough tine resting then the effects of the injury will disappear. Of course they will have to survive, so will need enough food… They might even have medical facilities that will speed the healing process.

Or they can just carry on and face the consequences (and the posssible death spiral)…

With one member of team injured, do the others leave him to die, or stop and look after him until his wounds heal, or leave him somewhere safe and get help, or attempt to get him back to a safe place or medical facilities … decisions, decisions!!

Meiczyslaw14 Jan 2013 12:36 p.m. PST

Mordheim had a fairly good injury system. If you're not too proud, you can steal some from them.

Obviously, you'll want to tweak things a bit, because Mordheim runs towards the Lovecraftian.

Thunderman14 Jan 2013 12:46 p.m. PST

Interesting ideas so far, I appreciate the feedback!

@Chief Lackey Rich: I like the idea of having an option to take a permanent injury for bonus experience (in my case Improvement Points). Anything that gives the player more choice is good in my mind.

@Margard: Hmm, the problem I see with resting is when there is no time pressure. Sure food may cost money, but then injuries basically become a financial loss compared to combat effectiveness loss.
In addition most of the time the characters would be out in the jungle so resting for 3 or 4 days seems unlikely. But if they are forced to return to a safe town after each injury they would tend to do a single expedition, get wounded, and have to limp back to town.
…Actually now that I've typed that it's sort of appealing. Really gives a sense of danger to the outside world. Almost like D&D's "points of light" idea where civilization is safe in a world of danger.

@Meiczyslaw: My Mordheim rulebook is at home, but I looked at the Coreheim injury table because I think it was similar? But from what I see it's mostly flat stat penalties? Aside from a few unique ones like "Sold to the Pits".
Am I off base with this or was there something specific you thought would avoid the death spiral while still presenting a neat mechanic?

Meiczyslaw14 Jan 2013 12:56 p.m. PST

Am I off base with this or was there something specific you thought would avoid the death spiral while still presenting a neat mechanic?

I might be confusing flavor text of the improvements with injuries you could sustain. There was the one that would make you ugly (and therefore fear-generating), one that would addle your brain (and give you frenzy), and so on.

Thunderman14 Jan 2013 1:01 p.m. PST

Ah I see, so sort of along the idea of the "fun injuries" I had? I'm kind of tending towards temporary fun injuries, because I think they would subtly change play in unique ways that can't really be achieved with stat reductions or traits or anything. Plus they can sometimes be beneficial with downsides, as compared to flat out downsides which really promotes the death spiral.

wminsing14 Jan 2013 1:07 p.m. PST

For a campaign some sort of risk versus reward mechanism makes sense and should be fairly easy; give players the chance to rest up and remove injuries, but at some opportunity cost (trip back to town, cost of medical care, etc). The players can always choose to forgo this and have the character operate at some penalty.


elsyrsyn14 Jan 2013 1:48 p.m. PST

Basically losing stats makes defeat in the future more likely, which means more injuries and more stats lost, until the character basically becomes useless.

Sounds kinda like life to me. If you want to retain some sense of realism then I would recommend applying some hand waving and giving access to medical treatment that can remove injuries. You can even make the getting (or maintaining or replenishing) of that access part of the campaign ("Uh oh, boys, back to base for more band-aids and bactine!"). This will definitely require more record keeping. If you want to abstract it out, then the temporary injury idea could work, particularly if you make the effects of some injuries linger longer than those of others.


Thunderman14 Jan 2013 2:12 p.m. PST

I was thinking a mix of temporary and permanent injuries could also work.
For example you might have a "Wounded Leg", that gives -1 MV for the next encounter. But if you are injured again the Wounded Leg becomes an Injured Leg which applies a permanent (until healed) -1 MV. That holds off the death spiral a bit.
This could be an automatic effect, basically "If the character has an existing Wound that becomes a permanent Injury". Or a smaller chance like "Roll on the wounded table, if a Wound would be applied to an existing Wound it becomes an Injury instead".

Maybe a mix of this AND "fun" injuries on the wounded table roll. So you can have flat stat reductions but also something that affects combat (like "Frenzy", or "Crazy", etc.). That way you can even end up permanently Crazy if you roll it twice.

Personal logo Jlundberg Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2013 2:12 p.m. PST

Like D and D, there were times when you bail on a dungeon due to injuries and generally lost capacity. You chuck what you have accomplished, but come back wiser.

Fun injuries – when I spent 3 months on crutches due to ACL/MCL repair in college (early 80s) I built up upper body and stamina that stayed with me through the recuperation.

You might learn to focus hearing if temporarily blinded – focus stays with you.

If you go with multiple posses, then time spent healing is an opportunity cost. if you are solo, then areass that have not been cleared or swept in a while become more dangerous over time.

I would think that the more inteligent of the carnivourous dinosaurs would learn to hunt the roads as a source for food.

I would also include a mechanism for building "up" rahter than "out." If your band represents security from predation, it may be in a group's interested to park on great food producing terrain and keep it secure. Spending money on fences and NPC type guards. The risk is that you make your territory ripe for takeover.

If you have a timed healing system, you might lose the services of Frank, trying to heal from a bad dino bite, but pick up Joe redshirt for the mission

Pedrobear15 Jan 2013 12:27 a.m. PST

In a team game, injuries are perhaps not as "death spiralling" since you can still rely on the other team mates to cover your weaknesses.

In Blood Bowl players gain stats and skills from experience, but also lose stats due to injuries, so they are still useful.

You may try to have a mixed blessing kind of injury too, like "blinded in one eye – minus 1 to shooting but opponent minus 1 in melee due to your disconcerting appearance".

AndrewGPaul15 Jan 2013 5:29 a.m. PST

A simple fix to the injury rules in Blood Bowl, Mordheim, Necromunda, etc, is for permament stat decreases to reduce the cost of the model. For instance, in Blood Bowl, gaining +1 Agility means a player costs 30,000 GP more (from a starting point of 70,000 GP or thereabouts). If the model loses a point of AG, his cost doesn't go down.

(Phil Dutre)15 Jan 2013 7:21 a.m. PST

To keep the balance within the party, you can also reward characters which did not suffer any injuries.

In my skirmish SF campaign, we do not track injuries to a detailed level (each player has 5 figures, 4 players total), but an injured figure has a 50% to heal for the next mission, and figures which have no injuries have a chance of gaining some special ability.

If all of your figures are wounded or injured all the time, your scenarios are probably too difficult.

In the end, it all depends on what you think is the most fun :-)

AndrewGPaul15 Jan 2013 9:25 a.m. PST

The other balancing mechanism is the players themselves; if one gang or team got mauled, they starte agan with a new one. if one player started getting a runaway lead, then the others would team up on them, or the "super-gang" would get retired and only brought out on special occasions.

Thunderman18 Jan 2013 1:28 p.m. PST

Just to follow up with this thread, I wrote up the preliminary post battle injury system for my game. Really helpful advice here.

What I ended up doing is for every person taken out of action (aka killed) in an encounter, they roll a D12 afterwards. If the result is less than 8 they will be wounded. Leaders and dinosaurs get a bonus on this roll to represent them being a bit tougher.
Then they roll on the injury table, that looks like this:

Full size picture

Seems pretty standard so far. But the approach I did that I really like is the tiered Wound and Injury system.

Wounds are temporary, and are applied after you roll on the table. So you might have a "Busted Leg Wound" that reduces your Movement by 1 for the next encounter.
If you survive the next encounter the Wound heals on it's own. Or you can visit medical facilities beforehand and pay $10 USD to get it patched up right away.

The Injury tier comes in if you are taken out of action again. If the new roll on the table is in the same location as your existing Wound, it will move to a permanent Injury. Using my example if I had a Busted Leg already (clearly in the "Legs" location) and I roll a "Broken Hip", then I'll be taking an Injury instead. To give the player a bit more control they can either choose to make the old Wound (Busted Leg in this case) or the new Wound (Broken Hip) a permanent Injury.

So most of the time people will just have a single Wound effect on them, but there is a chance it can progress to an Injury.
Injuries are simple enough to fix, just $20 USD at a medical station.

Anyways that might all sound complex, but in my initial tests the process is pretty smooth. As talked about in this thread I added some "fun" results beyond just stat deductions.

If anyone is interested, here is the full blog post detailing what I ended up with: link

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