Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Freehold: Rests and Wounds

To see what I'm talking about with my Freehold 5E project, go here: Freehold

One of the early concepts I wanted to work into Freehold was a longer term downside to combat.  My design goal is to make combat something players enter into only with great consideration; violence is something you use to solve problems when nothing else will do, not something you use casually to solve problems because mechanically you suffer no drawbacks for doing so after sleeping it off for eight hours.   Thus far, this design goal took two main mechanical forms, changing the rest mechanics and introducing a more persistent wounding system.  The changes to the rest system I think are more straightforward, so here those are:


To take a long rest, characters must make a Survival check to successfully complete the long rest (alternately could do it as individual Con saves).  If they are in a group one character can make the roll for everyone.  The difficulty is generally 15.  Characters get advantage on this check for any of the following reasons:
  • Staying in a maintained building like an inn or house.  
  • Magically enhanced food or water (lembas bread).
  • A ranger is making your party’s roll and you are in that ranger’s favored terrain.
Characters get disadvantage on this check for any of the following reasons:
  • Lack of food, water, or shelter.
  • Staying in hostile territory (sleeping in a dungeon).
  • Severe weather.
  • The Majority of the party is sleeping in medium or heavy armor.  
Alternately some things may provide bonuses instead of flat advantage/disadvantage in order to make more things important (since advantage cancels out any amount of disadvantage), but that seems to be getting away from the design of 5E.  

If this check is failed the party does not complete a long rest and gains none of the benefits for doing so (though they are considered to have carried out a short rest).  If the party does complete the long rest they gain the normal benefits of a long rest except they do not regain all their hit points (but they do regain their hit dice).  Thus players will have to be more careful about expending resources and picking fights as their recovery from these fights is far less certain.  

Short rests remain the same.  

That all seems relatively straight forward.  

Originally I had planned on something for wounds where if you ever were reduced to 0 hit points, you had a chance of suffering a wound, maybe with a Con save to resist.  Wounds would be things like permanently losing a hit point off your total or maybe a roll on some table like in the DMG for specific injuries.  This works in that in makes injuries something to be feared and a reason to avoid combat, but I also fear it makes them too punitive and random.  In thinking about this I was reminded of how much I like the Health/Injury/Wound system from the Song of Ice and Fire RPG, where effectively Health = Hit Points and players can take Injuries and Wounds when they choose to reduce the damage of an incoming attack at the cost of taking a long term injury that penalizes all their rolls.  Thus players do take long term injuries (not permanent though, Injuries generally require days to heal and Wounds weeks), but only when the player decides they need to really stay in a fight at the cost of long term effectiveness as opposed to random chance.  

Along those lines, I worked on the following system where players could choose to suffer wounds to heal damage.  

Whenever a character is struck in combat they can choose to take a wound, reducing the damage from the attack that just hit them by their Constitution+Level.  If a character is already at 0 hit points or below, they can take a wound to heal a number of hit points equal to their Constitution+Level.  Each time the character takes a wound, the player may select one of the following effects of the wound; each time the same option is taken the effects get worse, so characters over time will want to spread their wounds around.  Each additional wound effect is cumulative, so if you take a Dexterity penalty from two wounds you suffer -3 Dexterity total.  
A character can take at most four wounds per combat.  Taking a fifth wound is automatically a lethal wound (see below).  

1st Wound
2nd Wound
3rd Wound
4th Wound
-5 Movement
-5 Movement
-10 Movement
-1 Strength
-2 Strength
-3 Strength
-1 Dexterity
-2 Dexterity
-3 Dexterity
-1 Constitution
-2 Constitution
-3 Constitution
-1 Intelligence
-2 Intelligence
-3 Intelligence
-1 Wisdom
-2 Wisdom
-3 Wisdom
-1 Charisma
-2 Charisma
-3 Charisma
Injured Hand*
Injured Arm*
Injured Hand*
-1 Hit Point
-2 Hit Points
-3 Hit Points
-4 Hit Points*

Hit Points: You can always choose to lose more hit points and the loss continues at one additional hit point per wound.   
Injured Arm: You lose of one of your arms.  You cannot use any items with that arm.  Injured Hand: You lose use of one of your hands.  You cannot use two-handed items, but you can use one-handed items of you strap them to your arm.  

If the wound is not healed before the character next takes a long rest, the losses become permanent.   

At any point a character can choose to suffer a lethal wound and go out with a blaze of glory.  He immediately regains full hit points and any Glory spent in the combat is not considered lost when determining the Glory of the character’s heir.  At the end of the combat the character immediately dies if he is not dead already.  

The idea would be that players take on wounds over the course of the campaign as they encounter battles that are important and difficult enough to make sacrifices to win, and characters would eventually get a point where they would retire because they can no longer function as adventurers.  I went with ability score damage instead of specific injuries (aside from the Injured Hand/Arm options) as those seemed simpler than saying "Head wound, disadvantage on some skill checks" and it used mechanics that were already part of 5E.   

I like the idea of wounds being a player instigated sacrifice rather than a randomly inflicted punishment, but I also worry that without a significant change in the encounter design of 5E it would never happen.  Part of my plan for Freehold was to scale fights towards the hard side of things, having lots of valiant stands against overwhelming odds and such.  I also want to make most of the major, difficult fights be situations where there is something majorly important to the players at stake aside from their lives, such as defending their village, saving a relic of their faith, etc.  I really want minimize the "combat for loot" incentive and focus more on combat for self defense, territory control, religious/cultural conflict, taking prisoners for ransom (and thus minimize looting corpses as a income stream), etc.  

I also worry that without the forced taking of wounds via a system without player control, I can't make the wounds punishing enough to be impactful while also making them an attractive option in battle.  Given the above mechanics, a wizard could take a bunch of Strength wounds, representing muscle damage or some such, and not really suffer much loss of effectiveness.  I could group things, such that any wound comes with a hit point loss in addition to ability score loss, and losing hit points permanently is a fast route to retirement.  

I've come up with some additional mechanics so players can choose to expend other resources to get advantages (Weapon and Armor Damage Mechanics), in addition to mechanics to encourage players to take on more dangerous odds than they normally would (Glory), but I will post those later this week so avoid having one massively long blog post for the week.  


  1. "Majority of the party is sleeping in medium or heavy armor" is a really weird restriction, as the main choice-point there comes at character creation. Medium or heavy armor characters could choose to wear light armor... or they could choose to play Dex builds and wear their normal armor. Because it's "most" of the party, the party composition is the other pressure point, and no individual player has any control over that.

    Like I mentioned in chat, short rests being unchanged _really_ cranks up the power of Second Wind and a paladin/warlock or cleric/warlock multiclass (any way to get healing moved to the short rest cycle). Life clerics also get a huge boost, but I'm okay with that part.

    My suggestion for magical healing is that gritty gameplay should push nonmagical healing as the "main" healing. I've always wanted to try making magical healing a little bit bad for you, so that nonmagical healing still has a point as the game proceeds and access to magical healing proliferates. Maybe you can only receive one magical healing effect per short rest, or per long rest, or whatever. There's still a danger of the spellcaster needing to dump all of their slots on healing each party member, but it diminishes as play continues.

    Thinking about encounter design, I wonder if you might be better off increasing the damage output of NPCs, so that you don't have to run a greater number of NPCs (because greater numbers slow down combat) and, when the PCs are victorious, hand out the NPCs' personal gear. Greater damage from individual attacks also pushes your Wounds system a bit more - a larger number of smaller attacks makes wounds a permanent penalty for a *minor* damage avoidance.

    If you're going gritty on treasure, looting armor and weapons from a greater number of foes starts to look pretty appealing, but I don't think that's what you want.

  2. Yeah, the armor one doesn't work so well with making a check or save as a team rather than individually. Individual checks does sort of help those characters that rely more on long rests to recover abilities (or at least the arcane ones) since they don't wear much armor, but I really wanted a way for the ranger to give the whole party some love. Maybe a ranger gives the whole group advantage for being in the ranger's favored terrain. I worry though that individual checks would mean some people are raring to go, while others are not, so you have a weird conflict between players...which now that I think about it is the more troublesome result. So I think I would just take the armor thing off, or just say you can't take a long rest in heavy armor.

    Overall my plan would be to move healing abilities that are currently short rest to long rest and have more of a resource game for healing kits and potions such that they are available in the player run village at some cost or resources or time. I do like the idea of magic healing being a little bad, like it's a short term fix to a long term problem. Maybe magic healing is only temporary hit points? You have to recover the real things naturally (maybe a small number, like your level in hit points, per long rest), or through healing kits.

    I was thinking of possibly working on a "minion grouping" system where you treat five orcs as being one creature that has the stats of one orc with bonuses to hit, damage, and hit points. It may be a bit odd, but I want to do large unit battles eventually and it would flow more easily into that system. Which would be similar to what you're suggesting, only the fiction is slightly different.

    Items and treasure will get touched on more in a future post, but initially players are going to be very limited in their gear: only leather, hide, and ring mail initially, weapons limited to simple weapons plus one martial for classes that do martial things, etc. More armor and weapon options would be loot or gained from upgrading your village smithy, woodshop, etc. Also I've got player activated rules for weapon and armor damage where you can damage your gear for rerolls, which should create some gear churn and place more value on those ten axes you took from those bandits.