This is a set of optional, untested, experimental rules to introduce a more traditional damage system to FU. This is quite a departure from the standard FU rules, as it is more prescriptive in how things work, and has a list of tags that should be used in specific ways. Try it out, share your opinions and discuss in the comments or over on the Facebook group.
Some assumptions to begin
If using this system, players and narrators must be clear when a scene has moved from standard narrative play to “combat”. In other games a declaration such as “roll for initiative” might flag this for players, but in FU that is not always going to be the case. There are no rules for initiative and players / narrators should continue to describe actions and complete them in a logical order.
Characters might also be injured in non-combat situations. Narrators should always make it clear when the threat of injury is on the table.
Stamina is a representation of a character’s health, willpower, endurance and general staying-power. It is FU’s version of hit points. The amount of stamina a character begins a game with depends on the style of story you are telling. In gritty, realistic games, give each player character 6 stamina. In super-heroic games, each character begins with 18 stamina. Everyone else has 12 stamina.
Enemies, monsters and adversaries should have stamina relative to their general size, experience, threat level and the logic of the story. Big scary stuff will have 18-24 stamina (or maybe more), while little, weak or annoying opponents might only have 3-6 stamina. Consider giving groups of enemies a pool of points, rather than tracking damage for individuals.
Some example enemies and their stamina:
- A small band of goblins – 6 stamina
- An orc – 6 stamina
- A group of street thugs – 9 stamina
- A few soldiers – 12 stamina
- An ogre – 12 stamina
- A cyborg from the future – 20 stamina
- A great dragon – 36 stamina
When a character suffers damage they lose stamina. When their stamina total is reduced to zero they are out of the scene and their life may be in peril. Stamina will often be lost when a character suffers damage in combat, or is injured because of some failed (or partially successful) action. Stamina might also be reduced when a character over exerts themselves, is magically weakened, or poisoned. It is also possible for a character’s stamina to be reduced due to psychological damage that impairs their willpower.
This system does not replace conditions. Conditions are an integral part of FU and remain. It is always okay for a narrator to inflict a condition on a character if it makes more sense than actual physical damage. It is also possible a player to choose to suffer a condition instead of losing stamina.
Whenever a player character would lose 1 or more stamina points, they may choose to instead suffer a condition. The character does not lose any stamina but the player and narrator work together to write an appropriate condition, using the below guidelines.
Stamina lost / type of condition suffered
- Just a few points of stamina / The character suffers a minor condition that will likely heal at the end of the scene or shortly after.
- More than a quarter of the characters starting stamina / A moderate condition that will continue to impair the character after this scene, until rest or medical attention is administered.
- More than half the character’s starting stamina / A major condition that will continue to impair the character for several scenes, if not days.
- The stamina loss would have taken the character out / A major condition that will continue to impair the character for several scenes, or until appropriate medical attention or rest is had.
If a character loses all their stamina they are taken out of the scene and can play no more part. Player characters must also immediately suffer an appropriate condition, based on the injury suffered or the nature of the attack. As a guide, such conditions should be serious enough to be a problem for several scenes, or to case the character some other grief. Rather than a physical injury they might instead suffer some psychological condition, have equipment lost or taken, or be captured.
When characters (and their enemies) engage in combat, they are seeking to inflict damage on their opponent.
When a character succeeds at an attack they will inflict damage based on the type of weapon they are wielding.
- If the roll is a “Yes and…” result, they may choose to double the damage instead of adding a positive detail.
- If the roll is a “Yes but…” result, they may choose to reduce the damage inflicted to 1 instead of adding a negative detail.
Any “No” result means the attack missed and damage is not inflicted. Details, conditions etc may be applied as normal.
When a character is attacked, they must make a roll to avoid being injured.
- If the roll is a “No but…” result, the narrator may choose to reduce the damage suffered to 1 instead of adding a detail.
- If the roll is a No and…” result, the narrator may choose to double the damage suffered instead of adding a detail.
Any “Yes” result means the character avoided the attack. Details, conditions etc. may be applied as normal.
Having a weapon does not automatically provide a bonus to a die roll. Weapons might have tags that will affect the roll.
Weapons can be light, medium or heavy.
- Light weapons include hands and fists, daggers, clubs, bows, small pistols and most improvised weapons. They inflict 2 points of damage.
- Medium weapons are most swords and other melee weapons, crossbows, handguns and light rifles. They inflict 3 points of damage. Medium weapons must have at least one negative tag.
- Heavy weapons are most two-handed weapons, huge clubs, heavy firearms and crossbows. They inflict 4 points of damage. Heavy weapons must have at least two negative tags.
Weapons can have tags, just like characters can. They can have any number of “positive” tags, so long as they make sense. Medium weapons must have at least one “negative” tags and heavy weapons must have at least two.
Players and narrators are free to make up any type of tag that is appropriate for weapon. Here are some suggestions:
Positive weapon tags
- Long – the weapon is long and useful at keeping an enemy at a distance.
- Ranged – the weapon can be fired / shot at a distant target.
- Sharp – great at slicing through things, severing ropes and straps and tree limbs and tendons.
- Small – the weapon is short, small and probably easy to conceal.
- Thrown – the weapon can be thrown at a target a short distance away.
Negative weapon tags
- Heavy – the weapon is hard to hold up, lug around and/or swim with.
- Noisy – using this weapon makes a lot of noise.
- Obvious – the weapon is large, glows, has a inconvenient or recognisable shape or is otherwise difficult to conceal.
- Two-handed – the weapon requires two hands to use effectively.
Example weapons and tags
- Dagger (Light) – Small, Thrown
- Long sword (Medium) – Heavy
- Pole axe (Medium) – Long, Obvious
- Revolver (Medium) – Small, Noisy
- Battle axe (Heavy) – Two handed, Obvious
- Machine gun (Heavy) – Ranged, Obvious, Noisy
Magic weapons can have tags that would not normally make sense (a small two-handed weapon…) or less negative tags than usually required (so a magic heavy weapon might only have one negative tag).
Characters may wear armour, or might have a tough de or some magical artefact that works like armour. Armour reduces the amount of damage suffered from attacks. Armour does not automatically add or subtract dice from rolls, but all armour has at least one tag that might.
- Light armour – reduces damage suffered by 1 point. Choose 1 tag.
- Medium armour – reduces damage suffered by 2 points. Choose 2 tags.
- Heavy armour – reduces damage suffered by 3 points. Choose 3 tags.
Armour tags are compulsory – they must have at least that number of negative tags.
- Cumbersome – the armour is bulky, tight, uncomfortable, awkward to wear and impedes movement, affecting a character’s ability to perform acts of dexterity and grace such as dodging, rolling and dancing.
- Heavy – the armour is particularly heavy, hindering swimming, climbing and other physical acts and becomes more problematic the longer you wear it.
- Noisy – the armour creaks, squeaks, rattles or clinks making acts of stealth challenging.
- Obvious – there is no hiding the fact you are wearing this armour.
Magic armour (or highly advanced armour) can have one less tag than normally required (so magic light armour would have no tags).
Natural armour can also have one less tag, at the narrator’s discretion, however it can never be removed by the wearer.
Shields reduce the damage suffered by 1 point, but only if the user is aware of the attack and they are in a position to place the shield between themselves and the attack. Shields require one hand to wield, so cannot be used in conjunction with two-handed weapons.
There you have it – weapons, armour and (gasp) hit points. What do you think? Is this something you would use in your games of Freeform Universal? Let me know in the comments.
Those are interesting ideas! Let me present my thoughts:
What I liked the most:
1. Ideas such as “double the damage instead of adding a positive detail” can be extremely helpful to GM and players when they are out of ideas about those details and conditions. However, it might be tempting to use this very often and that would make FU look less like FU and more like typical RPGs.
2. Introducing the division of weapons might be very satisfactory to players who complain that in FU “there is not much difference whether I use a needle or a rocket launcher”. Same with armours. Now, there is much difference!
What raises my doubts:
3. Your ideas about weapons and armour may lead to situations where characters wearing heavy armour are almost absolutely safe when facing enemies armed only with light or medium weapons. And a character that uses heavy armour and shield is safe even against heavy weapons! The only exception is when enemy scores “Yes, and” and chooses to double damage he inflicts, but even then those with light weapons are in hopeless situation. Maybe increasing damage dealt by weapons (e.g. light weapon – 4 damage, medium – 6, heavy – 8) would improve this? Or perhaps using dice instead of fixed quantity of damage: light weapon – d4 damage, medium – d6, heavy – d8?
4. It’s much easier to track the quantity of Stress Points (using your ideas in previous posts on this blog) of all participants of the combat when most NPCs have just one (so it takes just one successful attack to take them out), stronger NPCs have two and bosses – three, than “18-24 stamina (or maybe more)”, isn’t it?
5. If we have “A small band of goblins” who collectively have 6 stamina, what happens when the band lose some stamina?
6. How to assess quickly and smoothly how many goblins are still alive?
7. Shouldn’t their attacks become weaker as there are fewer of them? How much weaker exactly?
8. When this band attacks, should they be treated as one NPC? Should the damage they inflict be multiplied by the number of goblins or not?
Thanks for the feedback! I will try and address your points as best I can.
1 & 2: I totally agree!
3: Good point. I went back and forth a few times with weapon damage between different numbers and random rolls, and missed the fact it was impossible to damage a character in heavy armour and shield. On the flip side, it gives players a reason to take non-combat actions to place conditions on the enemy or create favourable situations in order to roll with more advantage. It won’t be possible to just walk up to that monstrous devil-knight and start stabbing! On the FaceBook group someone pointed out that shields are better at deflecting damaging than “soaking” it up, so another alternative is to let shields provide a bonus to rolls, rather than reduce damage.
4: I totally agree, my personal preference is for as few numbers as possible. 🙂 However, hit points are a common enough trope of RPGs that most GMs are familiar with the use and tracking of them. The stamina range is a guide for GMs to build monsters and obviously lots more examples would be needed to make this easier!
5/6/7/8: In my minds eye I would treat groups like “a band of goblins” as a single monster. I would probably not be very specific with the numbers (“You see a group of goblins rummaging through the garbage. There is at least a half dozen, but they’re in and out of everything and it’s hard to tell exactly how many.”). “Track” how many goblins are left by using the stamina – when they have lost half their points, half are dead or run off. It might be easy to say each goblin has 1 stamina, or 2 stamina, which would help you track their numbers. I personally wouldn’t reduce the groups effectiveness unless a tag is applied in some way – just like if fighting a dragon, it’s effectiveness won’t be reduced through the loss of stamina alone. This is probably a significant abstraction in the face of the increased detail of the rest of the weapon/armour rules, but keeps things simple.
I hope this answers some of your questions. Keep the feedback coming!
Thanks for quick answer and explanations!
Ad 3: Do you see any disadvantage of random roll for damage? In most games I know the damage dealt by weapon is at least partly random, while the armour protection is fixed. Taking non-combat actions to place conditions on the enemy and creating favourable situations in order to roll with more advantage is great, but in my opinion both player characters and their enemies should be ,,stabbable” 🙂 I like the idea that shields provide a bonus to rolls, rather than reduce damage! By the way, it might be good idea of a negative condition that armour is damaged, for example a crushing blow damages a plate armour so that it no longer reduces 3 damage but just 2. Of course it can be repaired after the battle… unless it was damaged three times and gives 0 protection what might mean that it’s completely ruined.
Ad 4: It would be absolutely wonderful to have a system that uses 1-3 Stress Points as in your older ideas but at the same time allows for these variations of weapons and armours, as in this post!
Maybe the solution is extreme reducing of damage e.g. light weapons deal d2 damage (or just fixed 1, what is enough to eliminate weaker enemies that have 1 Stress Point), medium d3 (or fixed 2) and heavy d4 (or fixed 3) and armour gives 1-3 (depending on its type) bonus to rolls instead of soaking damage? Well, I don’t like this latest idea very much, so I hope you will come up with some better!
Ad 5/6/7/8: I agree that establishing that each goblin has 1 or 2 stamina will help make things clearer. It’s worth considering to establish that each of them deals 1 or 2 damage (depending on the weapon they use), so that calculating their total damage would be quite easy.
New question 9: Does the rule “Whenever a player character would lose 1 or more stamina points, they may choose to instead suffer a condition” apply also to NPCs controlled by GM? I think it might 🙂
Please check out also my other comment under your older post, “Conflicts and Stress” 🙂
Ad 3: I don’t see a disadvantage. It comes to preference at this point I think. Rolling does mean one more dice roll, but that is hardly a big issue.
Ad 4: I agree. Flexibility and options! Those are good ideas for reduced damage and worth thinking about further.
9: Totally! I pretty much see “character” as interchangeable between player and non-player in most instances.