Lethality in Blood of Pangea


One of the great things about Olde House Rules’ Blood of Pangea is how remarkably easy the game is to hack.  The rules are simple and elegant without a lot of moving parts, so one can easily see how everything fits together and consequently what the overall effect of any new house rule would be.

For example, player characters in Blood of Pangea are clearly designed to be capable of grand and heroic feats of arms, such as one would find in the pulp sword-and-sorcery tales (think Conan) that are the game’s inspiration.  Characters begin with 10 Might, which functions both as a measure of physical health and a resource for the expenditure of effort.  Weapons in the game do from 1 to 3 points of damage per hit, depending on one’s attack roll and the weapon type; most often, only one point of damage is scored (large beasts and creatures can do more).  Damage is offset by expending Might to keep from dying.  Therefore, the average player character facing a human enemy with a one-handed weapon (and choosing to conserve Might rather than spending it on other tasks) will be able to take about ten hits before going down.  By the standards of starting characters in RPGs, this is very sturdy!  One thinks of Conan facing down a horde of attackers and emerging alive.

However, if one wishes to place one’s starting PCs in more peril, the rules are easy to fiddle with.  On this blog I’ve suggested a simple system for traumatic injury that serves to speed up combat.  But there are other options:

First, a Judge could choose to start his or her freshly-minted PCs with less than 10 Might.  For more fragile characters or more lethal combat, 8 starting Might could be a good number.  Such a PC would still be tough, but he or she would have to think a little more carefully about how and when to spend Might, or might have to reflect on the wisdom of charging into a mass of lesser enemies.

Second, a Judge might separate weapons into three categories rather than the two (normal and two-handed) of the original game.  In Blood of Pangea, normal weapons score 1 point of damage or 2 on a critical hit; two-handed weapons score 2 points of damage or 3 on a critical hit.  This system could be changed so that small weapons like daggers score 1 point of damage (2 on critical); medium-sized weapons like swords and maces score 2 points of damage (3 on critical); and two-handed weapons score 3 points of damage (4 on critical).

I suspect that this second option might prove to be a little too lethal, especially if combined with the first; a starting character facing an enemy with a two-handed weapon could go down in two or three hits.  However, it would be a simple and easy option if one wants the PCs to adventure in a world where death is around every corner and character loss is expected.