I’m setting up a dark sword and sorcery campaign for one player using the Blood of Pangea rules from Olde House Rules. My player has requested a very light rules system, and since she will be the only player, I need a system in which starting characters are fairly sturdy. Blood of Pangea fits the bill on both counts.
However, I’d like my campaign to be a little bit more lethal than the basic Blood of Pangea rules allow. With that in mind, I’ll be introducing the following simple rules on traumatic injury:
- Whenever an attack roll results in a value of 12, either by rolling two 6s or by spending Might to reach 12, the target suffers a traumatic injury. This may be roleplayed however the Judge thinks best: a deep gash, a half-severed limb, internal bleeding, a broken bone or a concussion, with an attendant level of shock and whatever disadvantage to movement or action the Judge chooses to apply.
- At the end of the following turn, any target suffering from a traumatic injury loses one point of Might. The target will continue to lose one point of Might at the end of each subsequent turn until he, she or it is able to stabilize.
- In order to stabilize, the traumatically injured target must spend one combat round gathering her wits, shoving a sleeve into a bleeding wound, tightening clothing to hold broken bones in place, etc. This will stop the loss of Might due to traumatic injury on that round and all subsequent rounds.
- If the target is attacked while stabilizing, whether the attack hits or not, then the stabilization effort fails; the target is simply too hard-pressed to recover.
- If the loss of Might due to traumatic injury reduces the target’s Might to 0, the target is unconscious rather than dead. However, any subsequent physical damage will kill the target.
- A target can only suffer one traumatic injury. Further rolls of 12 do damage as per the normal rules.
A brief example of these rules at work:
Thorvald the Lakeland Raider is locked in mortal combat with Aluz il’Irinos, a dangerous assassin from the great city of Noi Kiriye. Thorvald has a Might of 10 and is using a great sword; Aluz has a Might of 15 and is armed with a dagger. Neither is armored, and both are considered trained fighters (hit on a roll of 9 or better).
Thorvald throws 1d6 for initiative and rolls a 4, while Aluz rolls a 5. The assassin strikes first. Aluz rolls 2d6 to attack and gets a 10 for his attack roll. Seeking to press his advantage, Aluz spends two Might in order to push this roll to a 12. Thorvald takes 2 points of damage and suffers a traumatic injury. Then Thorvald attacks and rolls a 4, which misses.
At the end of the first round, Thorvald has 8 Might remaining, and Aluz has 13.
In the second round, Aluz rolls an 8. He could push this to a 9 by spending one Might, but having thrust his dagger deep into his opponent’s gut, he chooses to conserve his energy and let the wound do its fell work. Thorvald rolls a 9 and strikes Aluz with his great sword, doing 2 points of damage. At the end of the round, the traumatically injured Thorvald loses another point of might.
Therefore at the end of the second round, Thorvald has 7 Might remaining and Aluz has 11.
In the third round, both Thorvald and Aluz miss with their attack rolls. However, Thorvald is still engaged in combat and has not had an opportunity to stabilize his wound. Therefore he loses another point of Might, and has 6 remaining while Aluz has 11.
The combat continues from here. Time is on the assassin’s side; if he can keep his opponent engaged in combat and avoid taking too much damage himself, loss of blood will cause Thorvald to pass out. Conversely, Thorvald must either press his attack before he collapses from trauma or must find a way to escape from Aluz so that Thorvald can stabilize his wound.
These optional rules have the advantage of rewarding an aggressive approach to combat. A player may choose to fight defensively, conserving his or her Might in order to be able to suffer more damage, or the player may choose to spend even multiple points of Might for a ‘mortal wound’ that will pay dividends as the combat proceeds.