Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shock Recovery

As I mentioned in my review of the fine Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets, I really liked the idea of Shock Recovery after melee. Essentially, it was suggested that after a melee encounter, the wounded could take a moment to recover some light damage, by way of binding wounds. A simple 1d4 roll would reflect the amount of lost hit points which could be regained right then and there. Only then, and only there, in such a way that is a restrictive bonus, and reflected shock or light damage done in that fight, and that fight only. The assumption being that if allowed to stay open, those wounds might become permanent.

At 1st Level, such a rule would be immensely helpful to the players. Some might argue, too helpful. I’m familiar with binding wounds in D&D, it’s an old house rule I used to encounter quite often, and normally used by DM’s to allow low level Clerics to be useful by having a first aid type skill, which allowed small heals during the course of an adventure.

The actual wording of this rule system, as presented, is what actually struck a chord with me, though. Shock Recovery.

Given the abstract nature of D&D melee, where it is accepted, or assumed, that the actual hit points gained through experience are a reflection of the higher level character’s ability to avoid damage somehow…whether that might be by blocking, parrying, dodging, cunning or just, well, experience, the higher level characters end up being able to take more of a beating.

Realistically speaking, we know that a 1st Level character, and a 10th Level character still take the same amount of actual physical tissue damage to kill. If either of them is impaled through the heart with a spear, a weapon which causes 1d6 damage, they will both perish. D&D’s abstract nature doesn’t deal with such specific tissue damage, though. It just gives the more experienced characters the benefit of the doubt, and assumes that until such a character is damaged to a low enough hit point total, that spear isn’t going to kill him outright.

Once he’s within the same hit point range as a 1st Level character all bets are off. A single spear attack can now become lethal.

The abstract nature of hit points and damage also explains how a higher level character might somehow be able to stand amidst a dragon’s fiery breath and survive. It is assumed that the higher level character is more aware, better prepared, or just plain lucky. Falling damage is a hard one to explain in such terms, but one might argue that the higher level character was able to react faster, sliding down the wall for a distance, landing and rolling at the bottom, and luckily able to withstand the damage that would slay a lower level character.

What might actually represent these extra hit points gained by experienced characters? Shock damage of course. Shock is an effect of violence, not necessarily just the Shock associated with Shock Trauma. In the context with which I am using it, think of it in terms of fatigue, durability, quickness of action. The kinds of things that a prolonged melee might reduce. If a particular melee encounter results in no damage to a character, it simply was not challenging enough to take a toll on this Shock value.

What I am getting at, in a roundabout way, is that aside from actual physical or vital hit points, these extra experience granted hit points are not representative of tissue damage, not all of them anyway. Hit points over and above the beginning six are simply not a measure of actual tissue damage. As such, these hit points could be easier to ‘heal’ or regenerate back.

I’m not sure where I am going with this yet. It’s food for thought at this point. I don’t want to stray too far a field from one of the most basic D&D conventions ever, that of hit points and damage. Maybe I’ll just use the RRS rule as is, up to 1d4’s worth of melee damage may be immediately healed by binding wounds, regardless of character level. It’s a rule that loses some steam at higher levels, but by then the Clerics can afford to cast more Cure spells, and further magical options for healing might be in the hands of the characters, whether it be potions or staves or other miscellaneous items.

After all this musing, I might simply house rule that Clerics can perform the 1d4 binding procedure. I think it’s a nice rule. It’s not too powerful, and won’t necessarily save the party from an untimely death at the end of a Goblin’s spear. It just might allow them to press on one or two more rooms before heading back to town to heal up, and that’s not a bad thing in my opinion.

I’ll save the Shock Recovery idea I have in mind for some future project, along with my goal of a 2d6 combat system based on Chainmail.

~Sham, Delinquent DM


Philotomy said...

Along these lines, you might want to look at the morale healing thread on the OD&D boards. (I never did anything with those concepts, but I agree that the abstract nature of hit points suggests this kind of thing might be workable.)

Sham said...

Thanks for the link, Philotomy. Who knows if I will tinker with this idea or not. I still think it has great merit, but maybe as I mentioned only as a heavily house ruled side project.