Harbinger’s post about his system, his inclusion of wounds similar to A Song of Ice and Fire, and the discussion therein got me thinking about wound systems. I’m generally not a fan of them as a player, but I recognize their use in making a game grittier, and I’ve come up with a version before. This version is a little more based on my dislike of having to choose whether or not to take a wound to reduce damage, but still liking the idea of wounds reducing damage (thus making them less terrible for players than taking full damage and a wound). It’s also got some elements from critical hit tables. This probably works best for grittier games with relatively low HP totals, particularly something like D20 Modern.

Taking Wounds

A character takes a wound whenever hit points would be reduced to 0 or less by incoming damage. Optionally, a wound threshold might exist where any damage over a certain amount (e.g., half hit points or Con total) automatically results in a wound.

When you take a wound, halve the damage that triggered it. For example, if you take 19 points of damage and you have 12 HP remaining, take 9 damage and a wound (leaving you with 3 HP).

If the halved damage is still enough to reduce you to 0 or negative HP, you take the damage (and fall unconscious if you go under 0). However, there is no innate bleed out when at negative HP: if you don’t get a wound that causes bleeding, you are automatically stable at the negative HP total. You’ll still take wounds on any subsequent damage, and die at the normal negative total.

Effects of Wounds

Wounds are rolled on a chart based on damage type as described below. Each entry on the chart has four factors:

  • The descriptive name of the wound
  • The DC for treating and recovering from the wound
  • The effect the wound has until it is treated
  • The effect the wound has until it is fully healed (which stacks with the untreated effect on a fresh wound)

Wounds can have several types of effects:

  • A penalty to one or more traits
  • Bleeding
  • Shock
  • Standard effects (such as Staggered or Nauseated)
  • Instant death

Most of those are self explanatory, but the two new or modified effects are Bleeding and Shock.

Bleeding is additional HP damage per round (which can never trigger additional wounds). Make a Heal check as a Standard action to slow the bleeding (DC at the DC of the wound; +5 for healing yourself) to per minute instead of per round. This is essentially just putting pressure on the wound, and it will resume bleeding at full speed if the character doesn’t Concentrate (giving up a move action to maintain pressure). See below for truly treating the wound. It is up to the GM (and based on how common magic is) to decide whether magical healing ends Bleeding.

Shock means that the character is Staggered and at -4 to all actions. The character takes one Con damage per minute until the condition is treated.

Treating and Recovering from Wounds

Treating a wound is a Heal check that requires an uninterrupted minute of work (the DC is the standard DC of the wound). The character also gets a Fort save against the same DC once every ten minutes if it remains untreated (which may be way too long for Bleeding and Shock, but is allowed if the character makes it ten minutes) to recover naturally.

Once per week, the character gets to try to recover from the lowest DC wound he or she currently has. This is a Fort save against the wound’s DC. If the character is under bed rest with healing, the attending physician can make a Heal check in place of the Fort save. If the character has multiple wounds, only one can be healed per week.

Spells like Restoration essentially give an instant Heal check or Fortitude save to the target (in addition to natural healing), and this overcomes the one-per-week rule (but usually only allows one per spell).

Example Wound Charts

To generate a result, roll 2d10, keep the lowest die, and add the total number of other wounds the character has (i.e., wounds get nastier the more wounded you already are).

Slashing Damage

Result Wound DC Untreated Effect Unrecovered Effect
1-2 Shallow Cut 10 Bleeding 1 -1 Fort vs. infections and contact poisons
3-5 Leg Wound 15 Bleeding 1, -5 ft. Movement -5 ft. Movement (stacks with Untreated)
6-10 Bleeding Wound 20 Bleeding 2 -2 all actions (from pain)
11+ Severed Arm 25 Bleeding 3 -4 all actions; even when recovered, the character is still missing the arm

Piercing Damage

Result Wound DC Untreated Effect Unrecovered Effect
1-2 Flesh Wound 10 Bleeding 1 -1 Fort vs. infections and contact poisons
3-5 Deep Gouge 15 Bleeding 2 -2 all actions (from pain)
6-10 Torso Puncture 20 Bleeding 2, Shock -3 all actions (from pain)
11+ Heart or Head 25 Bleeding 3, Shock, Instant Death without Fort save at the DC -4 all actions

Bludgeoning Damage

Result Wound DC Untreated Effect Unrecovered Effect
1-2 Bruised 10 -1 all actions (from pain) None (just serves as a wound to recover before more serious wounds)
3-5 Broken Arm 15 -4 all actions (from pain) -2 all actions with broken arm
6-10 Maimed 20 Bleeding 2 -2 all actions (from pain)
11+ Crushed Skull 25 Unconscious until treated, Instant Death without Fort save at the DC -4 all actions