In 4e, damage is healed immediately overnight. This fits what HP is in 4e – it’s basically a defeat gauge, the closer you are to defeat, outside your physical condition, the more damage you have taken. Many people don’t like this aspect, and some have come up with their own injury mechanics. Usually modeled after the Disease system, which is the one most accessible way to have a long-lasting penalty in D&D 4e. Thus injury is removed from HP entirely but still there.
I like injury as an RP device. This is probably because of my extensive love for anime and manga, in a sense. In anime and manga, characters can get really hurt and have to fight with a handicap because of it. In Eichiro Oda’s “One Piece”, this pretty much exemplifies the character of Roronoa Zoro, who seems to get stronger the more beat-up he is during a fight. Despite his enemies gaining advantages over him from his injuries, Zoro draws on his inner strength and grit and pulls through heroically in battle.
This feels like a really dramatic situation, but in most RPGs, injuries are negators to action, not enablers of drama. They don’t facilitate drama much because they tend to put you out of it. They make you avoid encounters and danger because they are penalties obviously put on you. Realistic? Sure. Fun? I don’t think so.
I myself came up with some injury rules that have you recovering over time using Endurance checks in a skill challenge fashion (making a single check in the skill challenge each day you spend injured, until you are okay). You can still fight and adventure.
I liked my take on them at first, because analyzing 4e, I found that penalties to damage are less painful and restraining to characters than penalties to attack rolls, and using that, and the bloodied state (and the convention of becoming “first bloodied” in an encounter) you can have penalizing injury without having helpless characters.
As long as a 4e character has its full attack bonus and can connect, it can fulfill some function in combat and the player still feels good. To this system, I added using Endurance checks to gain benefits from overcoming injury, like extra action points. This, I thought, allowed me to use that trope I liked so much.
But lately I’ve been looking at it a different way.
In D&D 3.5 edition, “combat advantage” in the sense we know it now was a penalty upon the enemy. The enemy lost its Dexterity bonus to AC. In D&D 4th Edition, “combat advantage” is a bonus for the player. The player gains a +2 to attack rolls. Both of these simulate more or less the same thing. They just flip around who gets what. A penalty to AC and a bonus to attack rolls, in this situation, can both represent more or less the same thing.
So I was thinking – why are injuries penalties to the player? Why not have them be bonuses…to the enemy?
Here’s some ideas:
•Instead of the player losing a healing surge for a certain amount of time to represent being injured, enemies could gain a +2 bonus to damage attacking that player.
•Instead of the player taking a penalty to defenses from being injured, enemies could gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls against him/her.
•Instead of the player being dazed upon being bloodied, an enemy could make a free basic attack against it when the player first becomes bloodied. Rather than the player losing actions, the enemy gains actions against the player. Or maybe the enemy gains the ability to deal its static damage modifier as a minor action attack against the player (save ends).
•Instead of the player being slowed due to being injured, the enemies can make opportunity attacks even if it shifts or would otherwise not draw them from movement, or get an immediate interrupt to shift away from that player, or a small defense bonus.
•Instead of the player having a penalty to damage rolls, an enemy could have Resist 1 to all damage by the player. It is functionally worse than a damage penalty sometimes, depending on the nature of the first penalty…but it sounds better than a penalty.
•The creature could gain +1d6 or +2d6 damage if it has combat advantage against the player, this extra damage representing how the enemy is taking advantage to attack the player’s weakness (an injured arm or something).
So what do you think? Regardless of whether or not you think injury mechanics are a legitimate device (I know your pain, I myself don’t really like them as much as I like what they represent), do you think framing them in this different way makes things more dramatic and enabling than penalizing the players directly?
Do you think players would be more encouraged to play with the handicap if the handicap were this abstract and indirect? Do you think a mixture of direct and indirect effects to represent different injuries might be a better way to go, or that penalties should be excised entirely?