Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boo Hit Points, Boo-Urns Luck Points

This is a common flaw in a lot of peoples games. What is a hit point? Why is anything more than none equal to ready to rock? etcetera etcetera etcetera. Now a few weeks ago Troll and Flame linked to these wound and vitality rules. I had never seen them before, but they did share a lot of similar traits.. but also some major design differences.

Onto Mechanics!

First off, luck points work exactly the same as hit points when its time to mark off the damage (or cash in poker chips). The major difference here is that luck points are explicitly luck and avoiding the damage. When push comes to shove you can keep thinking of them as hit points, the more damaging an attack would have been (less armour to slow it, poison added to it, the arrows on fire etc), the more luck it uses up to have it miss at the last second. If you have ever seen an action movie, you know that even trained stormtroopers or Nazi panzer elite seem to miss the hero with every bullet. Those are luck points.

The major differences with luck points over hit points or "vitality points" are that they are scalable, transferable and only rarely by-passable.

Scalable: As mentioned earlier , piecemeal uses a damage divider mechanism. This means that as the heroes (or villains) shrink or enlarge, the luck points scale with them. This seems a minor element and not really important until we cover...

Transferable: This is so common its become its own trope. If you see a high level hero riding a horse, kill the horse. Want to have bodyguard games? Don't bother, want to see the PC's try and rush off with the princess over a should sword fighting an army of evil monkeys , don't bother since a stray blow spells doom. We also get into the fact that once a hero gets onto a boat, all of his heroic statue means naught for keeping the boat from sinking. All of that gets addressed with transferability.

Basically a hero (or villain) can use his luck points to knock off damage to those under him, or any vessel he is operating (from a chariot to a star-fighter). So a knight could keep his squire, steed or favourite hound alive..but the plucky squire could not use his luck points to keep the knight alive (unless say the squire was carrying the unconscious and wounded knight on his back). A high level captain can have his ship pull off all kinds of heroic acts of daring in the same manner as a high level warrior can shrug off a platoon of lizard people.

Note again, this is a one way transference. The fearless hero may be able to keep his horse from being vapourised in a stray fireball..but he now has to chip in luck points to cover damage to both of them. Of course if the hero is riding a dragon, the heroes 20 luck points spread a lot further when shielding a monster with a damage divider of 12.

And last we get to: Rarely By-passable

As mentioned earlier, Luck points are not 100%. Unlike vitality rules you don't have to worry about random goblin #242 killing Elric the Godslayer with a lucky thrown rock. Luck points are usually only bypassed by very specific means, in this case the exceedingly rare "Destiny Point".

So if the BDH's have a run in with the BBEG then people might die in a single, dramatic sword blow (or thrown spear etc). But even in those extreme circumstances its a gamble.

The other time Luck Points get bypassed is by player choice, if a player does not attempt to avoid damage, luck won't save him. So he ends up grappling someone in spiked armour..if the moment he realises its spiked armour he doesn't try to get out of the grapple..the damage from the spikes bypasses luck points. So while Lo Pan could tackles a robed figured in spiked armour and take only luck damage...if he then chooses to keep trying to hold on (rather than get away) it bypasses luck. If he tries to escape the grapple but the armoured figure (or the environment) keeps that from occurring then luck is not bypassed. Basically the only time your supernatural luck won't save you is if you choose (and continue to choose) to purposefully injure yourself.

Now what happens when you "Run out of Luck"?

Then you start taking "Body Points". Now in piecemeal luck points (per level) are based on the luck stat, and body points are based on your strength (and never go up). In other games you could change this to be class based, its not truly important.

But body points represent the actual, physical grueling wounds that take weeks or months to heal. And when you start losing body points you start taking universal penalties (a negative to every die roll from to hit, to damage, to ability checks etc). This applies equally well to machines (say a fighter craft) or a ship as its damage starts crumbling it.

Your penalties accrue from -1, to -2, to -5 and then -10 before death (or obliteration). Living creatures normally pass out at the half-way mark. So if a starting character has 10 strength, he has 10 body points, and once he loses more than 5 he passes out.

Why is all of this good?

A lot of the "Sacred Cows" of D&D combat tropes don't work, you can keep your horse alive, pets aren't useless at high levels and you should bother giving your squires a name. These sacred cows are good for slaughtering because people generally don't like them. People can get used to them and stop minding them, but that's not the same thing.

It allows for more game styles, all of a sudden you can be an epic captain of a pirate ship or a Dhow looking for the Ruhks nest without it being a death trap. And if you like sci-fi..this is a FANTABULOUS mechanic for star-fighters and mechs. Its also great for bi-planes and other "Great War" era dogfights.

It keeps characters grounded at high levels, there is always that slim chance (Albeit it not random and arbitrary) that their number could come up, when that gypsy said the half-blind son of an orc is destined to kill Elric the Godslayer..he panics and starts keeping an eye out for half-blind orcs.

Its also good when dealing with creatures and opponents that aren't heroes. When you start hacking that dragon to bits, it only gets easier and easier as its body point total drops. This is "pendulum" gameplay, its hard to start hurting the dragon..but if you live long enough to cut off its wing and stab it in the eye its going into a death spiral. Just hope its not a heroic/villainous dragon with its own luck points.

This was a rather long article, but it is a rather large concept in Piecemeal, expect this article to be linked to A LOT in other posts.


  1. I came for the Boo-Urns and stayed for the as usual innovative concepts.

    I missed the transferable part on my first read through of Luck Points in Piecemeal. That is an elegant mechanic. For heroic and / or character focused play.

    It almost seems that luck points would be more important than body points. Run out of luck to protect the princess / spaceship your goals are probably hosed. All that's left is to determine if you personally survive (body points).

  2. The loss of luck points is always optional, if you choose to, you can take the hit against your body points (For situations just like the one you described).

    This supports tropes such as the hero throwing himself overtop of the small child when an explosion goes off. The hero uses his luck points to protect the child while allowing his damage to go straight to body points.

    Its a very versatile mechanic that supports popular tropes.

  3. I like. It's a nice way to bypass the full HP total when you do something like try to stab yourself. And you don't need a special auto-kill rule for sleeping or paralyzed people if you say they don't get to use their Luck Points.

    But I think the DM saying that he can bypass what amounts to the bulk of your HP in such an arbitrary way as a random gypsy curse is bad form. I can see a bad DM using it too much, and even if a good DM uses it the player would be intensely dissatisfied with it.

    Can the PCs hire gypsies (or play one) and curse all their enemies on the first round of a fight? Or is it simply a thing that the DM gets to do to a PC?

  4. Anytime the players have a destiny point they can use it in the same manner as the GM, the GM throwing destiny points around can be a problem, but at that point its moot. It is like a GM throwing endless tarrasques at a player or saying rock's fall everybody dies at that point, i'd reccomend reading the piece on re-rolls (fate and destiny) to think about how rare these "destiny points" should be.

  5. My apologies, here is the link: