Friday, July 10, 2009

Falling Damage, Burning Buildings and Rolling Down a Rocky Hill

Yesterday I was skimming through the Urutsk: World of Mystery RPG Referee's Manual over at The Grand Tapestry. Early on, before real life intruded and I had to put it down for the night, I noticed the rules for falling damage and thought on how I handled that in Piecemeal.

Urutsk uses a slight variation on the very familiar 1d6 per 10 feet fallen mechanic. Now I see flaws with this mechanic, but the mechanic is still solid in many games. If falling isn't something that happens a lot, this is more than adequate. Why do I consider it a flaw? Well it all boils down to what you need the system to do. In my case once I ran a game involving a large number of thieves and repeated rooftop chases through Arabian cities, the flaws became evident. Jumping onto wagons, or through windows, or onto hard tile streets versus into the river. A lot of on the fiat (which leads to inconsistent mechanics sooner or later) was required.

So I decided to roll in the mechanics with another system I hated, the fire doing 1d6 damage mechanic. A character shouldn't be able to escape prison by setting his cell on fire and waiting for the flames to destroy the building so he can walk out. Yet at high levels (1 round being 1 minute) he could, easily.

Thus we get to Piecemeal's "Unplanned Damage" system (rolled into the combat guide) works as follows. In any odd or unplanned occurrence (such as falling, house fires, rolling down a hill covered in jagged rocks, being covered with scalding oil, poison) damage can be assessed by two factors: The damage from exposure and the amount of exposure.

The damage from exposure is a die size, the amount of exposure is a number and a method of increase (linear or cumulative).

Thus falling 20 feet onto soft earth might be a damage of d4, and an exposure of 2 cumulative. Thus we would roll 3d4 damage. Falling onto stone tile might be a damage of d10 (thus 3d10)

A simple bonfire might only be a linear d6 (1 d6 per round) but an enclosed building with little air and increasing smoke might increase cumulatively, and if the materials are particularly hot burning the die size could increase to a d12, thus being stuck inside a roaring inferno of an alchemists workshop for 5 rounds could do 15d12 damage (assuming nothing is done for safety)

Which is the next benefit, Damage Reduction. With various armours and spells in Piecemeal you gain a reduction of damage per die. Falling onto soft earth in a thick padded vest is alot less dangerous, a spell of fire resistance makes the alchemist's workshop far less of a deathtrap. In short it creates a lot more opportunities for characters to plan ahead and lower the risk to them when taking certain actions. Someone who plans two weeks ahead of time to go into a burning building is probably going to be in a lot less danger than someone who stumbles into one after all.

So why is this good?

1.) It allows more variety in environmental dangers
2.) Players can take precautions to minimize risk
3.) It provides a much more versatile framework for dealing with new and unplanned dangers.

1 comment:

  1. It's so funny. I was just laughing, yesterday, at the 32d6+1d4+32 rule. How Simulationist can one get?! Ha. Yet, it does matter on a larger than character falling scale, which, likely, won't feature in too many games, yet, I like to include the atmospheric denisty v. gravity stuff since I first saw it in GURPS Space.

    As for your fire rule: good move. :D
    I just let the characters start taking radiant heat damage first, then see what they do from there. Not until it is in true conflagration do i star asking for Health Tests v. unconsciousness and asphyxiation.

    Thanks, for reading the Beta. :D