Combat Luck

By | January 7, 2017

One of the elements of Forthright we’ve not been satisfied with up to this point is the use of two different hit point mechanics in the game: Resolve for living beings and Durability for objects and equipment. We’d kept them separate because we didn’t want Durability of living beings to imply that each attack against a person hurts them physically. Eroding a character’s Resolve could be as simple as a near-miss with a laser shot to the head, for instance. We’ve found a solution that allows us to use the same term for both characters and objects: Luck.

We have a hit point system in Forthright because we want combat to be a fun and available option for players.  What we’ve been looking at in this most recent system analysis is, what does losing hit points bring to the game dramatically?  The Injury / Wound / Crisis Roll system we’ve had to this point is actually something we originally implemented as a Pathfinder House Rule to keep players whose characters had died still in the game and interested, while also giving lasting consequences for “dying.”  We liked what that gave us dramatically, but was there a better way to do it?

While we were examining Skill use in repairing vehicles, Ray hit upon a lovely idea (originally intended just for vehicles): once the hit point pool is exhausted, the vehicle takes damage to a subsystem (propulsion, power, weapons, etc.) and the hit point pool is restored to full.  The vehicle has an injury that must be dealt with from that point forward in the combat.

We liked this idea because it simplified the rules (no more specific targeting of subsystems) and allowed us to do something that’s been on my mind: namely, reduce the massive number of hit points vehicles would have due to their size.  I liked it so much that I decided to apply it to characters, too, and get rid of the whole “you have a Wound and it becomes permanent if you get another Wound while you still have it” mechanic.  It also allowed us to get rid of the Crisis Roll altogether (an interesting mechanic, for certain, but much more suited to a different game).

So now, in combat, characters and vehicles both have a certain amount of Luck.  Luck can be increased through armor, preternatural reflexes, a smile from the gods – thanks to the Cosmetic Rule, the source of Luck doesn’t matter and can be described as the player chooses.  When Luck reaches 0, the character or vehicle suffers an Injury. Injuries do not heal on their own – they need to be repaired either by seeing a doctor or a mechanic, or by buying them off with Boosts.  Once an Injury is taken, Luck restores to full – it now represents how much you can get away with before being permanently hurt.

Characters still cannot die unless their players wish it. Characters can be pushed as far as a player is willing, with the number of Injuries ever-increasing and making the character more and more difficult to play.  Larger creatures and vehicles will be handled identically, and will have smaller Luck pools allowing for faster, more engaging play even at scale.

We’re big fans of unified mechanics, and this finally unifies the character and vehicle mechanics in a way that is consistent and logical.  It also simplifies the rules, reduces the tracking required of players, and provides immediate dramatic consequences for taking on too much.

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments below!