Thursday, September 20, 2018

Narrative Combats & the Buckets o' Blood Syndrome

Combat: Before & After
It's going to be very messy.  Very, very messy.
Combat.  It's what's for dinner. 

It's what you're going to get where we are going, in one shape or another.

Today's beef stew has to do with narrative description in combat...namely, the practice of giving every loss of hit points a bleeding wound.  A nick, gouge, slash here...characters really come out of the fracas feeling it, if only for a moment before the healer makes it all better and you don't have to worry about it anymore.  Every time you roll a hit, there seems to be blood.

That works for some games, yeah, fine.  D&D you'll be changing the HP register so many times you'll erase through your paper before your 5e character finally dies.  You don't really have to worry about your ACTUAL wounds as the system of damage is abstracted.  You don't track how many fingers a character has, or if they can even use their gimped up, arrow-transfixed hand again.

Every day you must love your fists.
Inspirobot will get your training underway.
Gallons of blood are fine, you know...for that kind of thing.

However, in some scenarios you WILL have to worry about things like losing fingers and eyes.  Toes and hands.  You'll be wearing peg-legs and waving hook hands about in no time, and most likely there won't be any socialized medicine to help you.  In those games, sometimes the give and take of "hit points" or "health nuggets" or what-have-you tends to be a lot slower, especially on the mending side of that.

Losing your footing in combat can lead to all sorts of permanent consequences.  This is how it is in real-life, in my experience.  Little nicks and gouges that hardly bring the blood are going to be rare, especially between two experienced warriors.  Rather, it will go back and forth until someone gets knocked off their game or misses an attack or defense leaving them vulnerable.

So I lean more toward an "action movie" style narrative description of combat.  The only time you'll see me describe a hit that brings the blood will be critical hits and death strokes.  Maybe a significant flesh wound by half-hit points, but unless the health track is specific (like World of Darkness or Shadowrun) hit points don't represent your actual blood.

To me, they represent the general footing and combat demeanor of the warrior in question.  He dodges, he blocks, he parries, he ripostes.  He gets knocked around though...even if he himself is doing the moving, eventually the combat will catch up to him if his defenses don't hold up and he takes damage.

As he is hit, his ability to defend himself wanes.  A slight bit of damage from a laser pistol hits the cover you're hiding behind, but makes you shrink back and sizzles your face a little.  A lot of damage from a laser cannon takes out the block of cover you were hiding behind, knocking you back and causing a mad scrabble to regain footing.

Our target's physical body hasn't actually been hurt, so he can retain agency in the scenario.  However, he has less hit descriptive terms he can't block as easily, or dive for cover as fast, he gets dazed or loses his footing.  Eventually, all those HP are gone and he gets clocked proper...however that goes down, it usually ends with death.

And let's not forget how gruesome death by hand weapon is, folks.  You gotta be close, and it's pretty violent.  Once an combatant's defenses (HP) are down, striking a death blow doesn't take much...but it will almost always get blood on the victor.  On the battlefield, you can end up with a lot of blood on the some cases so much it doesn't even make sense. 

Remember what kinds of weapons are causing the death around you, especially if those weapons are sword and sorcery.  You're kinda walking around covered in gore if you've killed a lot of ...creatures.  Especially if any of those creatures were big and you killed it with a melee weapon.  You're gonna have to hire camp followers who carry washing water if you want to stay presentable...or something.

That's just not socially acceptable in most scenarios.

No comments:

Post a Comment

What do you think about that?