While talking with a friend about a game system development issue, I had the spark of an idea for an alternate hit point system that could easily be merged into almost any game system. It applies mostly to enemies and is aimed at controlling the pacing and drama of combat. Sitting down to think about this, it feels really sound and interesting. I’m going to use it in the next game I run, but wanted to present it here for people to look it over.
The "10 Good Hits" System
Movies rarely use any kind of realism when the hero and the bad guy are having their climactic battle. Instead, the point that one or the other falls seems to be based on when in the scene it is most dramatic. This is usually after a certain number of "Good" or "Solid" blows are successfully landed. This ensures that the action lasts long enough and is fierce enough to keep the audience engaged. To that end, it makes a certain amount of sense to ignore an enemy’s hit point level and merely have them taken down when enough "Good" hits occur. The system for making this happen goes something like this:
What this system does is let the Game Master control how long it takes for a certain enemy to fall without merely fudging the results. Instead of registering the actual amount of damage done, the Game Master sets the number of hits they want the enemy to take, and thus how long the enemy is in combat.
Thoughts On The System
This is definitely, as Kurt put it, when I threw the idea before the other gnomes, a "’fast and loose’ mechanic". The goal of my original discussion was a way to not nerf combat effective characters, but to create combats that allowed them to use their powers and abilities, but not feel cheated by the quick deaths of their supposedly "uber" enemies. It was also partially to let the non-combat "uber" characters have a chance to contribute to the defeat of enemies.
To that end, I think this system is best implemented only on the enemy side of the combat. It may also be best used "behind the screen", without the players knowing that this is the way you are rating an enemy encounter. The prime benefit of the "10 Hits" system is that it allows the Game Master to control the amount of time that the enemy is kept in combat and how dramatic their time in combat is. Since, the Game Master doesn’t have control over how the players choose to make their attacks, there are still many ways the players can control the combat and utilize their abilities. If they knew they were just aiming for a number of "Good" hits, they might only focus on doing what the Game Master considered a "Good" hit.
I’ll reiterate one final thing. This is merely an idea I had, nothing incredible or fleshed out. It is a framework. I don’t currently plan to build this into anything I am currently developing, and if I use it for a future project, I won’t be sad to see it or something similar incorporated into something else. I did a very quick mental accounting of HP systems that I knew of, and then I did a very quick search on alternate hit point systems. I can’t think of, or find, anything else that works in this way. I can think of a few that use levels or wounds instead of hit points but none that work with the idea of combat pacing in mind.
So what do you think? Would you use this type of system in your game? Is it something you might use for minor combats or major combats? What games could you see it fitting into well, or not fitting into at all?
(Image: Here – Public Domain)