View Full Version : Ask a GM [06/09/2009]: Permanent Damage

06-09-2009, 02:21 AM
I want to tackle something that came up recently in my game and I am sure has vexed GM and player alike in many a campaign -- character altering debilitation or disfigurement. This may be something that has an actual game mechanics effect, such as the character loosing a hand, or it might be something that purely affects the image a player has of his character, such as a nasty battle scar. What are your thoughts for or against inflicting permanent damage on a player character?

06-09-2009, 02:21 AM
In games where magical healing is available and (typically) abundant in the hands of adventurers permanent damage or disfiguration is a pretty rare thing. There is always a ritual, spell, magical salve, etc. that you can find to cure it. At worst, these things tend to be temporary.

So, for me, having it be an actual permanent thing relies more on the story and consensus with the player behind the character. If he/she wants his character to be covered in scars from the fights, any healing received does not heal enough to prevent scars. For something worse, missing limbs and whatnot, it's a huge story thing for it to happen, and then a huge story thing for it to fix. Whatever rules impact may come from it is going to be ad-hoc and situational.

This is definitely not something I expect most rules systems to handle, and also something that I wouldn't ruin a character over in the rules. Some things might be more difficult, but not everything I can consider due to the loss.

06-09-2009, 02:21 AM
Well, I have never actually gotten to the point where something like this could have or did take place in a game. Usually becasue the group fell apart before the conclusion of the campaign for whatever reason. I would not be against this happening, though I would lean toward it not being something that happens very often. Would seem to take the dramatic effect from it if used too often. Although, I would think that a carefully worded Wish spell could "fix" this condition, however, I am sure that there would be a major cost factor to obtain this.

Now, in my "Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" game, there is a character that has some damage that has not been able to be healed by either of the clerics in the party. This is due to the damage was inflicted by a Clay Golem, and the clerics are not of high enough level to heal the damage. This is due to neither of them being 17th level. When they tried to heal the damage and were unable to, the player of each cleric did an excellent job of role playing the situation and were awarded some additional XP for doing such. This situation is as close to being permanent damage in any game that I have ever run, but, the campaign has not ended yet. We will see what takes place as they search the lower level of the caverns.

06-09-2009, 02:21 AM
As the themes of "risk" and "consequence" are concepts that I always try to keep in mind when running campaigns, events such as dismemberment or "scarring" (physical, mental or emotional) are options that I like to keep open.

Ultimately, it very heavily depends upon the genre, play style, themes and goals of the campaign. Some genres lend themselves more readily to such permanent changes. Take a dystopian future, street-running type of game like Cyberpunk 2020. It is virtually expected that people get hurt if they get into a fight and that hurt can often lead to irreversible impairments, much like in real life. This is because a game like Cyberpunk tries to keep the brutality and serious nature of combat intact. Have your hand run over by a car and be prepared for some bad news when the doctor starts talking about amputation.

But there are other games that have a different "tone" to the action and that emphasis a different level of punishment and recovery. In a super hero campaign, a character might have his legs pinned beneath a 20-ton dump truck and then be walking around just fine the very next scene. It's about the context and the expectations of the game.

In a general sense though, such permanent disfigurations can make for a very dramatic statement and one that can leave your players with amazing stories to tell...if done right. It should usually be very rare that it happens and often only in a moment of very climactic and oppressive action:

"You burst into the chamber to rescue the divine scepter from the clutches of vile Nazarakt's fortress when you are taken by surprise. Standing beside a gruesome altar with fresh offerings to the dark gods, Nazarakt himself waits patiently, as if expecting your arrival and the scepter is nowhere in sight!..."Foolish mortals! I knew of your plan the moment you left the city walls! Your own king did not even realize that he has been in my service since the beginning! And now that you are here, my curse can finally be undone!"...Nazarakt lifts a single, decrepit finger at you and a stream of hellfire boils around you. You feel the flesh on your neck and face warp and crack as you fall to your knees screaming and struggling to extinguish the agonizing flames."

Maybe a little melodramatic, sure, but this will likely be a moment never to forget and you can bet that if the evil sorcerer somehow escapes death this time, the character (and player ;)) scarred by his devilish magic will carry the grudge to his grave.

Villains are more memorable and exciting if they can actually threaten the players in some way besides simple *death* or *kidnapping a relative* or some such. But if a villain's actions kill the hero's loved and trusty steed...you have just laid the foundation for many sessions worth of gripping, player-driven role playing fun!

Like all tools, it should not be overdone. But used sparingly and dramatically, it can have an impact on your game that you can't get by simplying rolling 10d6 damage.

06-09-2009, 02:57 AM
This topic always reminds me of an era in ancient china that has peaked my interest over the years....

In a battle in 198 A.D. between Cao Cao and Lu Bu, Xiahou Dun engaged Lu Bu's officers Gao Shun and Cao Xing in combat. After feeling dominated, Gao Shun fled. Dun pursued him on horse deep into enemy territory. Cao Xing fired an arrow from a hidden position which struck Xiahou Dun in the eye. Without even letting out a cry, Dun pulled the arrow out of his head (with the eye hanging off of it) and in front of numerous enemy troops he ate his own eye. This action terrified the enemy troops. Most of them fled. Dun in a fit of rage, charged Cao Xing and impaled him right in the face, killing him instantly.

Xiahou Dun went on to live nearly 22 years after this incident, becoming the top general in Cao Cao's army. He was feared throughout the land.

Disfigurement is all in how you play it...

06-09-2009, 04:26 AM
You have to be caareful how you play this. As previously mentioned, some systems handel this better than others. Also some players handel this better than others. Another thing to consider, is that scars, difigurement, and dismemberment are differant orders of magnitude.

WARNING: Long winded. Last paragraph is a summary.

Scars are something that can be worked around, covered up, or even proudly displayed. They affect carracter apearance only, not functionality. Scars are noticeable, but not nessisarily ugly (Ex: Harry Potter). You can work with your players to adapt their character to the change in thier apearance as they see fit, and as previously mentioned, many settings and enviornments have ways to eliminate scars if one choses from plastic surgery to magical healing. In short, scars are customizable consequenses, and you and your players can make as big or little adeal out of them as you wish. An example of scarring: I am currently playing in a Drow campain run by Cyotte5. One of the PCs, through a divine gift, has gained the ability were he can see peoples scars 'glowing' through their clothing. This alows him to get a sense of differant characters histories (do they have battle scars, scars cause their parrents beat them severly. etc...). In fact, some of our advesaries are using a magic ritual to enslave minions for cannon fodder. The use of this ritual results in a scar, and this alows the character to identify these people who are using the ritual with abandon by a simple glance. It has also gotten the memebers of our party to examin weather or not theor characters have scars from their backgrounds and activities, and what those scars might say about them.

Disfiguement is far more serious. Like scarring, it does not change the physical mechanics of how a character functions, but it radicaly alters their appeaacne in a way that cannot easily be hid, and significantly affects social interacton (ie. roleplay). A good example of this is The Phantom of the Opera. Some characters will be more affected by this than others. Unlike scarring, there are no easy fixes to disfigurement. Disfigurement is generaly too sevear for plastic surgery to totaly correct, nd only the most powerful magics can remove it. That being said, it is possible to correct, but it is still a big deal. Before including this in your campain, you should probably discuss it with the players. Are they willing to deal with this as it happens, or would they withdraw the character? Some may be willing to work with this, others may consider it worse than character death. Ultimatly, you and you players need to decide if this is a viable 'lesser' alternative to killing a charter, or if this is to be considered a penalty as great as character death.

Dismemberment is a grave and serious consequense, and depending on the system, setting and nature of the wound, it ranges from a dire inconveanience to a compleatly non-functional character. An example that happened to me. I was playing in a supers campain, and was playing a mutant that specialized in infiltration and steath. One of its prized abilities was its ability to mimick finger prints. Second outing with the party was foiling a bank robery. All of the other characters were playing heavy hitting, super tough builds. My character was fast and agile, but did little damage. Like I said, emphasis was on steath and infiltration. The GM felt compeled to use super tough bad guys that could survive a few rounds woth the other PCs. My character could hit them, but couldn't damage them. They could only hit me one time in ten, but that one hit was likely to be fatal. Long story short, the supper-powered battle caused an explosion that blew off my characters hands. No fingerprint power, couldn't pick locks or crack keypads, couldn't use fire-arms (the one potential chance I had to increas my combat output to standard party levels), and was prety much therefore screwed. Cybernetics and magic were not options in that setting. They existed, but were so rare there was no way for my character to get acess to them, in fact the standered was for us to beleave they were both fictional. In this case, the dimemberment was esentualy the same as character death, as their was no way for that character to continue that campain. I wasn't happy about it, but loss of character is a risk you take. I realized that that type of character just wasn't going to work in that champain. Such a charater could not participate very well in the high powerd combats, and that was the main focus of the chamapin, as was desiered by the other players. I had to move on to something else. In that case, the desmemberment was extreamly sever. It doesn't always have to be. For example, a mage looses a leg. Even if he dosn't have the magic or medical technology to replace it, a simple peg leg is not nessisarily game ending. While his mobility will be significantly reduced, it will not overly affect his powers and abilities, which are the critical things that make him a mage. By contrast, a melee fighter would be seriously hampered in his abilities with that loss of movement. Or what about a D&D 3.5 wizard who was to lose both hands? He wouldn't be able to cast spells with a somantic component, and he'd have a hell of a lot of troupble pulling material components out of his spell pouch!

SUMMARY: Scarring is not to serious, can be a fun roleplaying element with the right player mindset, and is easily worked around if a player decides he/she can't or won't handel it. Disfigurement and dismemberment are far more serious, and you should be prepared to treat them as character deaths. Character death is something risked in nearly all games, and players should be prepared to encounter it. So you should take the same attitude to using disfigurement and dismemberment as you would to character deaths. Shit happens. Some of your playres might surprise you, and play through it. Other will retire the character, but you, and they, should be prepared for them to take that option. If you're not, or you know they will have too much trouble handeling that situation, then you probably shouldn't incluce these consequences.

06-09-2009, 07:05 AM
This may sound a little touchy feely but I think it boils down to what kind of impact it will have on the players enjoyment. If you think they can handle it and turn it into a cool character hook, go to town. If the player would find the character loses it's appeal then maybe not. How about this. Try it. If they really hate it, provide an NPC with the appropriate "ritual" that can fix it...for a price. If they really hate it, heal them first then collect payment. But if they can hang for a little while then play out an adventure with it hindering them. Hell, if it's done right and received well, they may just decide that they don't want to be healed in the end. Kinda Disney but still cool.

06-09-2009, 07:39 AM
I am in agreement with everyone else that in most games disfigurement doesn't normally come up, and probably wouldn't if it wasn't a story point, especially in games with magic all over the place, and healing magic. But for my point, I'm going to mention a game that has no magic whatsoever, Aces and Eights.
Say your character is shot in the face. Were this shot to do 11 points of damage, he's dead on the spot. But let's step one step down, to 10 points of damage. The effects of that are:
DEX temporarily -7
DEX and LOOKS (yes there's a looks stat, it has a direct bearing on CHARISMA) permanently -3
Severe Bleeding (extra damage per minute until healed)
Bullet Lodged (extra damage per day until healed)
DEX check or lose an eye (reduction in accuracy, among other things)
CON check or internal bleeding (extra SECRET damage per day if left untreated or undiscovered)
Gain Facial Scar (had you chosen to begin play with a facial scar, which would harm your LOOKS stat, you'd gain additional Build Points to advance your character, but in this case you receive none)

If you get a doctor you might just survive... but even that's a long shot.

06-09-2009, 10:24 AM
a thief of ours lost his hand, but that was because of his own stupidity. Also, I lost a head.

If the player brings it upon himself, then I say it is ok. But I wouldn't inflict it unless it is warranted.

06-10-2009, 01:42 AM
I'll chime in and agree that is a matter both of the story and the group's preference. In some games, due to the realities of the system, permanent damage is a GM imposed, ad hoc sort of thing. In others, where the death count in general is high, permanent damage, scars, or whatnot are common.

In general, I'm against GM's doing things simply to demonstrate their authority. The GM runs the world, picking on the players for the sake of picking on them isn't really in keeping with the fun of a cooperative game. That being said, it is the GM's job to challenge the characters, and therefore the players. The thrill of victory can't be had if there are no penalties for failure. For some groups I supposed scarring or limb loss is a great way to do that. For others simply having the antagonist get away will be plenty.

As a GM, I tend to apply "real-world" consequences to character actions. That means if my players say the wrong thing in front of powerful character X, they should expect X to dislike them. If they show up outside the hotel of a paranoid vampire and begin planning to stake and kill her, expect her to notice and attack first (yeah, it happened). I also allow for the possibility of phenomenal victory. If my players manage to circumvent some great plot and get loads of XP, treasure, or simply defeat a BBEG I planned on using over and over, great. They did it, they deserve it. I can always make another BBEG.

06-10-2009, 02:18 AM
It goes with the job. Hell even KODT has it's one legged dwarves
Anyway chicks dig scars

In one of my games the player rolled really low on their Physical Beauty (4) and then later rolled that they were in an accident and ended up rolling an 8 to subtract from the sta. He had a natural horror factor starting out. He made children cry and adults vomit. And the player used it beautifully in his story

Another example is a Physical Training was beating down a guy with Alter Physical Structure Metal (think Colossus). THis guy had been really nasty during the session and made the player atack and nearly kill another character. One of his big things in aligments and personality was that he was never to betray a friend and he went ape shit on him. Hetackeled him and began to beat him in the head, which was also covered in horns. But that's a PT insanely tough and focused. So even when his 8d6 punches didn't beat the baddies Natural Armor Rating of 17, he kept going, his rage fueling him. I made him roll a pain check each hit as he pounded the guys head into a metal bowl shape. At the end of it he was left with two ground beef nubs.
Fortunately for him the people he worked for were able ot give him cybernetic hands, but he hated them. PTs are suppose to be purehuman dynamos, human ighting perfections and cybernetics taint this, making them less human, and it gave way to lots of good role playing.

I have subtracted PB scores for particularly damaging attacks

I allow magic to rebuild lost tissues up to whatever healing ability the character might have. However if they can't do it in one casting then they do not get the full extent back.

06-10-2009, 07:46 AM
I've only used it once, to my knowledge at least. In my Sandbox game, during the 2 Ed. times, one of my players actually had his eye ripped out by a goblin trap, as the party closed upon a goblin camp in a mountain pass. The trap set off the alarm and thus combat ensued. The party did everything they could to help him out but the destroyed eye bit was lost in the heat of combat. Great RP came out of it and everyone involved felt much closer together after the event.

I would use it if it promoted the growth of the game and was received well by the majority of players.

06-10-2009, 08:29 AM
Long ago I played with a DM that did that, we had 1 pc, a fighter loose a hand and continued on, attained several levels like that. I don't do it as a matter of course, but if it seemed relevant and the player understood and agreed I would allow it pending on how it was going or how it happened. If if can be dealt with logicaly I think it is cool.

06-10-2009, 08:56 AM
I'm with Grimwell here. The normal campaign world is filled with stuff that can 'cure', 'heal', or 'dispel' conditions.

If a player wants a cool scar, wear an eye patch, have a hook for a hand, or have a peg leg, then that's their choice.

If a situation comes about that calls for minuses to stats, then those are often temporary or listed as permanent. However, dispel curse/magic or greater restoration normally fixes that.

So for my worlds, it's normally up to the player whether or not they want to keep or lose something.

06-10-2009, 09:18 AM
Depends mostly on if both the GM and the player can come to some agreement on it beforehand. It is nice for a GM to tell the players that this could happen to their characters and for them to give the GM their responses and opinions. After all both parties need to agree, and therefore be comfortable, to the campaign style of play before they dive right in to character creation.

06-10-2009, 11:04 AM
It's been rare for me to play a non-fantasy or non-scifi campaign that couldn't regrow a limb through magic or super-tech. We had some modern (usually horror) campaigns where dismemberment could be a problem, but it for some reason just didn't come up.

We had one pretty long-running combat-intensive modern game where we were an elite task force against invading aliens, but nobody ever lost a limb since the enemy weapons put small to medium holes in you rather than disintegrating your limbs. Scarring from plasma rifles was a beyotch, but we were a bunch of gritty ugly buggers anyway. We were basically all right out of the military stockades as throw-away troops, who ended up surviving and surviving until we became the elite alien task force. Think the movie "The Dirty Dozen" meets the old "X-COM" computer game. We weren't nice OR pretty to start with, and all the players pretty much expected to die every session (deaths were surprisingly rare though). If we could get out with all your limbs intact we figured we were doing great. ;) That's an example of a campaign where it works.

So, yeah, it has to work for the campaign, and it has to work for the players. Comes down to knowing your audience. If someone is very attached to their character (and you can usually tell), maiming them will probably not get a great response.

06-11-2009, 01:05 AM
In the situation I posed earlier (which did historically actually happen!) losing an appendage is an incredible advantage. If Xiahou Dun was a D&D character, then from that day forward his intimidate factor would be off the charts. I would place him as having 15 ranks in that skill from that day forward. How useful would that character be to a group with a +15 to intimidate?

06-11-2009, 01:36 PM
I think it can be a cool element.

In Werewolf: the Apocalypse, scars and wounds like that are rewarded with renown and repsect amongst the other wolves.

In A Game of Thrones, at least in the books, it's a common enough theme since their medicine is mostly medieval.

And in most fantasy, it's fairly common for characters to lose limbs (especially hands). Frodo Baggins, Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Rand al'Thor, Tyr, Odin, Aquaman, Felix Gaeta, Captain Hook, Revolver Ocelot, and I guess, technically, Darth Maul, Mace Windu, and Count Dooku, though they all died almost immediately after being dismembered.

I am all for it! As long as the characters have some warning that it's a possibility, and some warning before it happens, or if it's the penalty for a severe mistake.

Good: "Okay, in this game there's a chance your characters could lose limbs." "I stick my hand in the mimic." "Are you sure you want to do that?" "Yeah, I see treasure!" (glomp)

Bad: "You walk into the tavern and a giant eunuch chops off your hand! HAHA!"

Typical rules apply, obviously.

06-11-2009, 10:53 PM
I think it is a cool idea to lose limbs, but I also don't like the thought that the DM planned it. Unless a player came up to him or her out of the game and asked for it to happen. Its a cool idea if the DM and Player work together on a concept like this, but if a DM plans something like this without the player knowing, then it is poor DMing. Don't punish players. Thats childish. Tell them out of game that you don't like the way they are handling situations. Unless the person is out of control and absolutely shouldn't be playing roleplaying because they don't take it seriously at all. If thats not the case and the person simply isn't playing the way you want them too, then too bad. Maybe you shouldn't be a DM...

06-12-2009, 06:41 AM
UIt happens - hits to the head =- loss of [insert mental attribute here]. Characters get scars, lose health, stamina, movement, vision, hearing, hit points/resilience, etc. In my own game system, many things can simply be developed around, other things you just have to live with. It adds flavor to a character.

The worst i ever had was in DnD, a character with -2 Dex, -1 STR, -3" movement total, -2 Con, a missing finger, blind in one eye, and one testicle (groin shot from a kobold spear); name = Kynar. My abilities i developed around most of the losses, but it took more time. The other characters were better in combat than me for our level (though i still had 180/00 str - started out with a 19, love them half-ogres).

I found its about an even split though for players. About half think its cool if its done in moderation, the others disagree because its a game and they want to be heroes that nothing bad ever happens to.

06-12-2009, 03:35 PM
It all depends on the genre of the game and the temperment of the players.

I have house rules for dismemberment, but not so much for disfigurement. Seems to me if a character scores a critical hit and causes X amount of damage it should be a significant wound. Heck, I do it for the PCs why not for the villians?

For example, my player attacked a goblin and in one shot caused 40+ points of damage to his abdomen with his sabre. Since most characters in the system can take up to 100 points and survive I figured any shot over 20% was probably gunna hack a piece of flesh off so I had the goblin's intestines fall from the wound as he lost muscle control and collapsed to the ground.

In another battle, the player was hit in the thigh for a critical that caused more than his health score. The result was that an artery was cut and he began bleeding out.

Bottom line, the system allowed for it and the players knew what to expect from their own extreme successes. What's fair for the good guys is fair for the baddies.

As for disfigurement I tend to leave this for the players unless something horrible happens (take a swim in an acid pool, burned alive). In a sci-fi or fantasy game you can actually reward the PC with cool new toys like replacement limbs, eyes, and so on. Modern and historical games, not so much.

06-12-2009, 04:00 PM
I inflict disfiguements and insanity all the time in my games. Sometimes the cure or other method of fixing the problem are avaliable sometimes not. I had a juicier that decided that a great place to put a .40cal hand gun in his mouth for storage. Problem was a punk still had his hand on the grip and the weapon went off. Most of his jaw was blown away and the doctor managed to save his life. Because they were in lazlo he was able to get magically healed. Now I have a cyber knight who was fighting a sword wielding demoness. She removed his right hand. Now they were at sea so it took a while for him to find a bionc replacement. (Many jokes about a peg armed cyber knight in the meantime) I say if it could happen in real life it could happen in the game as long as it is reasonable.

06-12-2009, 10:27 PM
I want to tackle something that came up recently in my game and I am sure has vexed GM and player alike in many a campaign -- character altering debilitation or disfigurement. This may be something that has an actual game mechanics effect, such as the character loosing a hand, or it might be something that purely affects the image a player has of his character, such as a nasty battle scar. What are your thoughts for or against inflicting permanent damage on a player character?

I think its pure roleplaying awesome. You now have a chance to play someone who might have some depression or other mental issues around loosing their hand. Playing out how you come to terms with it and how you learn to compensate. I once ran a vampire game where the pretty boy was turned into a Nosferatu (he figured he would be a Toreador but the evil GM was picking clans), not only did he have to deal with the change of human to vampire but he also had to deal with changing from handsome ladies man to hideous leper look. He loved it, it gave the character a depth it wouldn't have had if he was a pretty vampire.

06-13-2009, 12:06 AM
I'm all for it!

As for the game effects, it depends on the type of scar. The standard neg to Cha, but the person may be able to pick a bonus to intimidate....


06-13-2009, 12:34 AM
I like to put myself at the whims of the DM. This provides several things:

1.) I get to be blame free, cause the DM did it. This happened once when a Malkavian of mine (insane vampire) was induced by the DM to attack school children in front of the Caitiff who loved kids during a schizophrenic episode. It resulted in the death of my Malkavian.

2.) I get to learn if I'm playing with a good DM. This happened when a Nosferatu of mine had the flaw Dark Fate (which means at some point in the campaign you're going to die, and you have nightmares about your death, etc.) The DM did everything almost perfect... dreams, portents, creating paranoia. Then randomly killed off the character in a way that had nothing to do with the established background information.

3.) It can create awesome character traits. My first Hunter: the Reckoning game, the Storyteller picked our Creeds on how we reacted to the monsters. I ended up becoming something entirely different than I'd wanted, and was very happy with the result.

4.) It makes you feel like you're more a part of the story, like reading a book, or watching a movie, it's less fun if you KNOW what can and cannot happen to your character.

So. To you DMs out there. Maim away!

06-13-2009, 05:35 PM
I'm with the "depends on the setting/feel/group," camp. I've done it once, and then it was to enhance the drama. A final, climactic battle between a PC and his (unbeknownst to him) brother ended up with his brother amputating his hand before being struck down. The PC pulled off his opponent's helmet, discovered it was his brother and completely forgot about the missing hand. Another party member is an insanely skilled healer and, with the great rolls and awesome descriptions, I allowed her to reattach it.

Long story short, yes, I use it, but only rarely and only to highlight and add to the tension in the story.

06-14-2009, 10:08 PM
disfigurement, disabling, and usually even death, is either special, significant, or temporary. i usually play high-level fantasy, sci-fi, or heroic games, so we don't see a lot of permanent irreversible damage outside of a plot point or character disadvantage. now, that doesn't mean i don't make the repair costly or difficult somehow. there is usually some form of payment in either time, money, plot, and/or rare reagents of some sort.

the times that death is not permanent are the times that there is some level loss, or perhaps a reconfiguration of the character due to their experiences on the other side, or some difficult and/or expensive process to effect the return. and if the pcs can, so can the npcs. just when you really thought you had finally killed the big bad nasty overlord....

i do tend to say that even magical or sci-fi healing leaves its marks. if the healed spot doesn't have some kind of scar or discoloration, then it will be noticeably younger than the rest of the body... which in the case of internal organs, can result in small penalties while the new organs finish growing in situ. after all, you speed up the growth of something unnaturally, then you get weakened tissue. hasn't had time to develop quite properly, after all.

some of my thoughts on the matter are that... roleplaying is a cooperative game. characters are the player's property, and in many cases, a reflection of some part of the player. mess needlessly with the characters, and you hinder the ability to role-play, as people will naturally be unwilling to invest of themselves into the character. after all, if the character in which a player has vested some significant portion of themselves into is messed with, that's tantamount to messing with the player. law of similarity.

so i prefer, when possible, to work with the player before enacting such a potentially drastic change on a character on a permanent basis.

06-15-2009, 09:57 PM
I dont mind characters being maimed as long as its not done to spite anyone. I say if you let you wounds heal naturally then the scarring remains.

I myself had a DnD fighter lose a hand and he wielded a two-handed sword. :laugh:

Took a bit of training and a dwarf metalsmith but i was able to compensate by attaching a dagger to my stump with a longsword in the other hand for two-weapon fighting.

Also had a rogue lose an arm.... picking locks was not so easy after that :D

Scribe of the Realm
06-16-2009, 01:12 AM
It's my personal preference to use hit point systems for damage. I made an exception when ran a Twilight 2000 campaign where disfiguring injuries to an NPC did advance the plot. The player characters started as escaped POWs with very few resources. Their only way to strike back at a very well equiped pursuer was by setting traps. It became a running gag, but three games in a row ended with the bad guy suffering a broken limb or a concussion. The chase went on until the PCs were strong enough to confront the bad guy more directly.

A more descriptive (and debilitating) damage system has a steeper learning curve. I would need to roleplay some scenes designed to establish reasonable expectations (both for the GM and players). How pervasive are battle scarred NPCs? How are battle scars perceived by society? How do the PCs interact with scarred and disfigured NPCs? What social structures exist to promote effective healing? How easily do PCs hack pieces off their foes, and vice versa? Which allies and foes have reputations for inflicting extra carnage? Can the players anticipate the level when their PCs are really at risk?

The basic conflict appears to be the GM's style for affording the players an opportunity to make a informed choices. How do the players perceive and control the risks associated with combat? Can the players choose to do something extra, but at the risk of their PCs suffering some grave, lasting injury? Might some tangible benefit actually make that level of risk acceptable?

On the other hand, is griveous injury an endemic and natural consequence of all combat? Is this level of risk an unavoidable part of every combat encounter? How can this risk be reduced? How much extra risk does a superior opponent pose?

I favor the situation where players can choose heroic self-sacrifice, because it adds positive meaning to an adverse outcome. One further note of caution. Using roleplaying to flesh out the fundamental game mechanics is an indirect way to add house rules. Be up front about it.

Regardless of the GM's style, disfigurement carries tremendous emotional weight. Lay the groundwork carefully, even if the game has detailed rules for critical hits. Establish acceptable limits before a PC gets slammed. Support the players, both in and out of the game, by making sure the players have some control over the risks.

06-16-2009, 10:31 AM
There are no rules in the core for handling loss of body parts, but as a rule you can always impose a -2 to -5 penalty for skill checks and attack rolls that require the use of the said body part.

06-17-2009, 01:17 AM
There are no rules in the core for handling loss of body parts, but as a rule you can always impose a -2 to -5 penalty for skill checks and attack rolls that require the use of the said body part.

To me I feel like if you take those negatives you should be able to add positives as well. Maybe the player picks them(within reason, with a good back story something that makes sense going up or increasing.) I mean it makes sense. A lot of heros in stories lost a limb only to become much stronger then they were previously...

Bob the Dalek
06-18-2009, 02:31 PM
As long as the player is aware of the consequences and the potential benefits, I say they can lose a limb or an eye.

06-19-2009, 12:07 PM
I have often used them as part of a reward/punishment system.
If somebody continues to really abuse mechanics or player knowledge then a serious scar (affecting charisma or appearance) will be a warning.
Some people just have bad luck and I like seeing evidence of such in missing limbs scars and such. It may be as a badge of honor and I really like to talk it over with players to make sure they can be OK with it.

I LOVE scars and such and battered heroes with stories behind battle wounds such as that.

06-20-2009, 04:51 AM
Even if a player acts recklessly or goes against game mechanics, I think causing permanent damage to a character without the player knowing ahead of time is the DM being a control freak. If you have a problem with the style of play, talk to the person out of the game. And if you cause permanent damage anyways like treating the player like a 6 year old child who doesn't share their toys, then in the future if the player shows improvement they should still be granted bonuses to other abilities that the player should get to choose.

In the show Yu Yu Hakusho there was a character named Yomi who was the right hand in a bandit gang. He was careless, reckless, often ran into situations without thinking and sacrificed many bandits on whims. His actions caused him to be blinded in a battle. Many years later he became one of the 3 rulers of the entire demon world. His blindness caused all his other senses to sharpen to such a point that he was a near diety.

06-20-2009, 12:17 PM
I would have to agree that I don't like the idea of using permanent damage in a punitive way to handle out of character issues. If a player is behaving poorly at my table for whatever reason, then I will deal with that outside of the game. Let the out of character stuff stay out of character. I am also reticent to use permanent damage in any sort of random way. Rather, I think certain rare circumstances warrant the possibility of either permanent character death or disfigurement. To me, if player characters are completely immune to any sort of risk in a real sense, it destroys the verisimilitude of the game.

06-20-2009, 02:16 PM
I don't think anyone brouhg tup vile damage from the Book of Vile Darkness. There might be other pseudo-permanent issues such as addiction then might add to good role playing.

06-21-2009, 07:22 AM
i think punishing players is simply weak. If they are acting badly they get poor XP. Everyone else gets 500-5000, whole dopey gets 200 each game.

If the character gets maimed then it may be time for them to retire, or they better find a way to compensate like with cybernetics. If not then getting your arm chomped by a t rex is simply the way of an adventurer. If someone promised you it would be easy they lied.

06-22-2009, 09:46 AM
Making things difficult on the player doesn't seem weak or petty to me. Now I don't mean ruin the player for life and he can never have the hand/eye back.
Its a game and anything can happen. Spells are made to restore those things easily. But a little fire, a little "oh crap" moment to a player can do wonders for morale, game play and stories about "Remember that one time when blah blah blah and I Timmy lost his hand" What is permanent in the world of Dnd/Star Wars/Shadowrun?

Yeah, I guess it can sound as if it will be a petty, "You cheated, now loose a hand" type thing but that would be very game/mood killing. Its all a delicate dance and knowing when to do little things like that and ways to get points across can really make a good game. You don't have to force you moral code on them but you should be able to make sure its fair and fun for everybody.

I played a campaign for about 3 months once with a group of long time players and a few new people. One of them played a halfling named Singe. He was a rogue and loved causing problems. It was fine until the player began using things that his character would never know or understand, things that gave him an unfair advantage in situations. He would often use that to get other characters into bad spots so he could come out on top. Now not average rogue things but things that werent cheating but just skirting it. He was talked to aside and given things to read, little suggestions and so on. Eventually we ended up running a game and using a premade dungeon in the middle of it. To make things "fun" we amped up the random tables for traps and made them very difficult, many had rolls that resulted in loosing a hand. He eventually faked his "death" around a corner, doubled back and took 20 on all the untrapped doors to get to all of the treasure, place it on a horse and got him out somehow so he could get the treasure later. When he caught back up with the group he rushed ahead to a chest and failed horribly loosing his hand. He was angry at first then when he asked for a do over and was told no he kind of understood why we were not forgiving. The whole campain changed and he learned of a way to get his hand back. The group spent the next 4 or 5 games travelling to get the spell to restore his hand. During that time he became a great rogue for the group. He got his hand back and it was fun. In the end it wasn't evil of vindictive and the group wasn't even mad about helping him restore his favor. It can be handled poorly and childishly or it can be handeled with finese and planning.

06-22-2009, 10:58 AM
Some games have options a player can take at creation or acquire during gameplay that reduce his or her effectiveness. Game of Thrones comes to mind, many of the characters in that series of books are afflicted with something that affects their abilities in the game.

Baldwin Stonewood
06-29-2009, 01:26 PM
I am not a permanent damage fan at all either in or out of character. I don't like punishing a player, that is just not fun. No reason to play if its not fun.

As a side note, I like how paizo's pathfinder beta rules deal with the issue of negative levels.

06-30-2009, 04:24 AM
no reason to go to a movie if it isn't fun.
but horror movies
documentaries are largely not fun. But it is the story that you go for

and it isn't punishment. The character decided to go into a profession where death and dismemberment were very real possibilities, and actually almost guaranteed in the, probably, very short life of the PC

06-30-2009, 10:45 AM
The whole point is, is if you are a DM and you feel the need to retaliate or punish a player then maybe you shouldn't be a DM. If you aren't crazy with things they are doing or have done in the game then either talk to them OOG, or simply throw something interesting at them in game. Have their actions effect the plot. Punishing players is childish.

07-01-2009, 03:07 AM
I totally agree, but if sir dumbcaca insists that the solid brick wall which already dealt 4 points to his hand insists it an illusion
or the infamous head of vecna tale rolls around
or if the wizard tries to modify the fireball spell without proper precautions (ones that work)
or if the first level fighter decides to go all in at a goblin village with the assuption that Hey they are just goblins
then yes you will get hurt maimed and possibly die
But punishing them out of hand because you don't like them? no if yo don't like them why are they at your table??
But I don't reward them either just cuz

07-01-2009, 11:27 AM
The whole point is, is if you are a DM and you feel the need to retaliate or punish a player then maybe you shouldn't be a DM. If you aren't crazy with things they are doing or have done in the game then either talk to them OOG, or simply throw something interesting at them in game. Have their actions effect the plot. Punishing players is childish.

This is a completely different topic. What was asked was whether it was liked/disliked, not how it was used (ie punishment).

You make a good point though. Don't "punish" players. If you do you are just asking for the group to end and that defeats the purpose of the game anyhow.

But using maiming and dismemberment as a story aid can be very powerful and productive. Personally I like having a "challenge" and it makes things more "dangerous" when I know the game system could leave my character missing his head, a hand, or an eye dispite having 1 million HP.

One of the things that took me away from D&D was the raging bull style of play where your character could be down to 1 out of 100 HP and still be fighting at full potential. Your health was like watching your gas tank - down to less than a quarter tank and you start looking for the next refill.

This made for DUMB, and I mean :mad:DUMB:mad: tactics, idiotic choices, and completely unrealistic consequences for being DUMB! Had there been better maiming rules or instant-death rules (that were simple) then combat would have felt a little more serious, a hair more real with a hint of tangible risk... But then I don't like playing games that feel like Saturday morning cartoons.

07-01-2009, 04:11 PM
If a player acts reckless or stupidly than yea there are repercussions for running into a camp of goblins by yourself without any plan. Not repercussions brought on by the DM because he or she is smiting you, rather repercussions brought on by the living, breathing world they live in. The thing is though the DM has to be able to seperate their feelings OOG from the in game world.

07-02-2009, 07:09 AM
If a player acts reckless or stupidly than yea there are repercussions for running into a camp of goblins by yourself without any plan. Not repercussions brought on by the DM because he or she is smiting you, rather repercussions brought on by the living, breathing world they live in. The thing is though the DM has to be able to seperate their feelings OOG from the in game world.

What if this was a feature of the system and independant from the GM? D&D offers "critical" hits. What if it was a table or something that they rolled on that gave the dismemberment/disfigurement?

07-02-2009, 07:14 AM
Personally, I don't mind body part loss. What I really dislike is level loss. If you think about it, as a PC, you've acquired n number of xp points when suddenly, some creature zaps you for n number of levels. If you end up not getting those levels back from some kind of restoration, you've suddenly lost days worth of time developing that character.

While I don't care for permenant stat loss, I still don't mind it as much as level loss.

07-02-2009, 11:07 AM
Yea I agree I have always thought level loss was ridiculously stupid. Everything you do in real life adds to your pool of life experience. So how can you lose experience? That absolutely never made sense to me. You can't unlearn life.

07-03-2009, 12:10 PM
Yea I agree I have always thought level loss was ridiculously stupid. Everything you do in real life adds to your pool of life experience. So how can you lose experience? That absolutely never made sense to me. You can't unlearn life.

While most of the time this is true you can unlearn it but if hurt you can lose the past. I was in an accident and lost literally 20+ years of my life. I had to relearn all sorts of things. On gaming however its something I belive that should be story driven. I had a guy that wanted to play a particular character but wanted to restart the guy at level one. So I got an oger and knocked him over the head with a tree. Now he is level one with his past comming out of the woodwork. I agree some soul sucking magic experience eating monster is stupid, but you can forget if your hit on the head hard enough.

07-04-2009, 12:00 AM
What if this was a feature of the system and independant from the GM? D&D offers "critical" hits. What if it was a table or something that they rolled on that gave the dismemberment/disfigurement?

Yea if the DM is playing by the book and isn't home brewing stuff like that then it is perfectly fine. I just mean that if it is the DM kind of bringing in OOG emotions onto the tabletop, then it is played poorly.

07-06-2009, 06:55 AM
While most of the time this is true you can unlearn it but if hurt you can lose the past. I was in an accident and lost literally 20+ years of my life. I had to relearn all sorts of things. On gaming however its something I belive that should be story driven. I had a guy that wanted to play a particular character but wanted to restart the guy at level one. So I got an oger and knocked him over the head with a tree. Now he is level one with his past comming out of the woodwork. I agree some soul sucking magic experience eating monster is stupid, but you can forget if your hit on the head hard enough.

I agree completely with level loss due to an accident, seen it in real life, but hasn't happened to me personally. But most level loss events at least in DnD are due to a creature draining a level, which is what Panthro82 and I am objecting to or at least that's what I got from Panthro82's post.

07-06-2009, 09:44 AM
Level loss is particularly troublesome in D&D 3.x and on cause of all the added features of your character. Do they lose feats, skill points, hit points, saving throws, spells, class abilities, etc... That's quite a list of things to "forget". Its a character management nightmare!

And then you have to decide WHICH one of those features to drop... It would be better if they just made it a "hit die" drain for permanent hit point loss.

07-06-2009, 09:50 AM
I agree completely with level loss due to an accident, seen it in real life, but hasn't happened to me personally. But most level loss events at least in DnD are due to a creature draining a level, which is what Panthro82 and I am objecting to or at least that's what I got from Panthro82's post.

yea that's exactly what I meant Skunk. I can definitely see a situation in game where a player has an accident and loses memory. That actually would add to the storyline, but the thought that a creature can "suck" levels out of you seems so stupid to me.

07-09-2009, 11:14 AM
There are situations where memory is targetted. Like with psyonics or some sort of mind-leach it makes sense that a magical creature could "consume" knowledge just like certain other effects drain life or attributes.

I could see a mindflayer seeking out the most tasty parts of a character's brain and sucking 1d6 skill points... or maybe directly affecting their class level. But again, this comes down to brain damage, not level loss due to a wraith or something.

I would even propose replacing a level drain with an ability drain - as in roll 1dX and consult a table.
1- feat
2- class level (for casting, bab, saves)
3- 1d6 skill points
4- class ability

07-09-2009, 12:40 PM
It's a tough situation because I don't know even then if you have lost something so much as it has been pushed into the recesses of your mind and is hard to access. I think it could be accessed, but it would take work and rehabilitation. It's hard to grasp the concept of permanently losing abilities.

07-09-2009, 03:00 PM
From a RP perspective, in a world with magical healing and the ability to regenerate lost limbs, eyes and all... look at it from an NPC's perspective.

They KNOW such healing exists. So if they see a character without a hand or an eye, they might take more pity then anything else, or decide that the character wants to go without an eye or hand, or is too poor to get it healed.

That makes some nasty little clerics even worse then the usual evil sort, the ones that are required to take an eye out. Because then it's optional for them to go without it, it becomes a clear sign of their devotion. And that can be a warning in and of itself.

DM: The cleric starts casting a spell...
Player: the one eyed cleric?!
DM: one and the same.
Player: We're screwed.

07-24-2009, 05:25 PM
In a universe where the door between life and death is a constant revolving door except a character death is not the end of the world. The coast for a raise dead is 5,000 gp and an eighth level cleric which at third level is not outside the reach of a party of five or six people. Regenerate on the other hand, one of the only spells that lets you grow back body parts, requires a fourteenth level cleric much harder to come across. When I went to NorWesCon two years ago one of the GMs there threw out this advice; donít kill them maim them. His point being that a death blow doesnít depart any lasting concerns upon the player. Either they are brought back a level lower, already knowing what their next level will be; or they are dead and move on to the next character. If on the other hand you maim the character the PC has the opportunity to grow the character and encounter something new and unique about them. As a GM it is beneficial because you donít have near the same plot interruption that you do with a character death. Iíve taken a more middle way approach to this manís philosophy the first time I kill a character they get maimed the second time they die. I firmly believe there needs to be danger in these games in order for there to be any challenge so I donít swear off killing all together. I balance this with the resurrection rules out of Heroes or Horror and I think it makes a very in depth world for the characters to interact with.

07-26-2009, 11:03 PM
If you want disfigurement check out rolemaster or the Arduin system. both had hits that could disfigure your character. I used to use the Arduin Crits but eventually stopped as it ended up being too ultimately lethal for the game.

Doom Crow
07-29-2009, 01:11 PM
I tried incorporating permanent damage like severed limbs, missing eyes and such into one of my early campaigns but my players vehemently opposed the notion, to the point where they said they wouldn't play with it in the game. I had tied it to a critical hit/fumble table I was also experimenting with. Of course we were all teenagers at the time and all the peer-pressure nonsense caused me to give in and take it out, but I've recently considered bringing permanent damage in againt o my campaigns, albeit in a different form than I had previously.

The thought occurred to me that when a player is KO'ed (brought into negative hit points) and begins dying, the wound they received to get them into negatives should leave some kind of scarring behind. This is assuming that the character has been saved before they actually died, or if they did die, that they have been resurrected by the party.

This would apply to fire and acid burns as well if they did enough damage to the character and affected a significant area of his or her body. Granted, these kinds of scars are more of a flavor kind of trait to bring to the game, having a reminder for the character of just how dangerous the life of an adventurer really is.

But what about permanent damage that has a mechanical effect on the character? Is it fair to have something like that in the game that can potentially inhibit the character in some way? Yes, in reality injury can cause detriment to a person, even cripple or horribly maim them and prevent them from being fully capable of performing activities, but the kind of magical healing that exists in a lot of games is not present in reality so this puts 'permanent injury' in a very ambiguous state.

It's been mentioned already that there exists spells, magical salves, and other forms of magical healing that can solve the problems of lost limbs, severe burns, and disfigurement. Things like this would be temporary at best, and up to the player ultimately if they'd like to keep some form of memento from the experience, such as a lingering stiffness of the shoulder (or whatever the point of severing was at) if that arm had been cut off and later reattached or regenerated, or the occasional blurred vision for an eye that had been shot or plucked out and later healed, etc.

Again for me it's more of a flavor issue than a game mechanics issue. So I think I would incorporate disfigurement into my game as well but also have the means for the magical remedy to be accessible for the character to make themself whole again. Seeing as how magical treatments of such things tend to be very expensive I would have to amend the cost to the player according to their level and what they can afford. There's no point to a 5th level fighter losing an arm in a fight with a troll and then be forever maimed and half as effective in combat because he can't afford the spell cast to have his arm regenerated.

Instead of waiting half the campaign for him to save up the funds to repair his arm, I would instead create an alternative option for him, like a deal between the caster and the PC to repay the debt some day by performing a service for him, or a black market physician who can graft arms cheaply with ones he's got in his gruesome sotck or something like that. Nothing that would come off as cheap or an easy way out, but something that's not going to break the charcter's back so to speak and prevent him from being able to afford equipment because he needs to save to replace his arm with a newly grown one.

Again this would be soemthing I'd incorporate into my game but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to see it happen, it would probably be a rare happening but then again dice rolls are fickle.

07-30-2009, 09:37 AM
That would be funny as hell! DM - the elf maiden warrior is elegant and graceful, a perfect symbol of all the beauty that the elves represent. But as her hand grips the goblet you notice it - Her hand is massive and slightly greenish, hairy and spotted.

She notices you eyeing her hand and blushes, hiding it beneath her long sleves. "Sorry. Lost the arm in the war. Our chiergen had to improvise... But my orc hand is MUCH stronger!" :eek:

Doom Crow
07-30-2009, 12:25 PM
See? It's a conversation piece and a new hand all in one package!! Really though if you're broke, beggars can't be choosers, but they can remain stumped if they don't like it! :madgrin:

10-05-2009, 09:06 AM
The more detail in a character the better. Keeping track of age, long term and permanent effects, events that have occurred and people with whom they have interacted over the life of the character, etc... these things add to the depth of the experience and help to make the game world and the beings that populate it more engaging and real. Ultimately this responsibility falls to the player to maintain, and many people are into more of a visceral experience with the game, so its not for everyone. But I have found that keeping a sort of succinct journal unique and specific to each character is a great way to flesh that character out, and serves to create a more fulfilling experience for fans of the story, and the role playing aspect of gaming.

12-09-2009, 01:03 PM
This may be something that has an actual game mechanics effect, such as the character losing a hand, or it might be something that purely affects the image a player has of his character, such as a nasty battle scar. What are your thoughts for or against inflicting permanent damage on a player character?

It varies by system and setting and the tone and power level of the game.

There are systems like HERO which have (optional) rules for hit locations and crippling and dismembering injuries. If you're playing a game like this, then you know the risks before the fight starts. If the game uses a more abstract damage system, then it's hard to do without being arbitrary. Maiming a character might be something that I offer a player whose character has just been "fatally" wounded near the end of a campaign.

If there is plenty of readily available magical healing, then I have fewer objections, as it is only an inconvenience for a session or two. Games with cyber implants available are similar.

If the game is in the vein of a high-powered martial arts game, then it's really just cosmetic and up to the player. The secret kung fu of the blind, lame and one-armed master is still a match for any challenger.

Scars in pretty much any game are cosmetic. If a player wants to keep a war wound, then fine.

One other factor: If the PCs start roaming the land striking to wound, then I'm much more likely to have someone try to cripple them.

Lord Captain Tobacco
08-11-2010, 05:07 PM
Running a particularly bloody covert ops game; of seven players, the usual result left three dead and two wounded. The wounded would show up as replacement characters after an appropriate amount of time. Often it was just time. Once in a while (if the injury was bad enough -based on location HKTs) a limb penalty (-1 to speed and dex actions after having kneecap surgury) and once this included robotic replacement (no penalty but the character coudn't hide the metal arm) so metal detectors were right out but the character did 'trick out' the arm...

08-26-2010, 05:12 PM
It depends on the game. If the players know going into a game that permanent mauling is possible, then they will be much more accepting of it than in a cinematic stylized game. I would expect it to be a real possibility in a Cyberpunk or low fantasy game, but for it to happen in Champions or Feng Shui, it would have to be a significant plot point previously discussed with the player.

09-14-2010, 04:27 AM
I definitely feel that your system would affect it a lot. I know for example that in Rogue Trader a good crit can blow off your limb but you can get a bionic replacement pretty quickly. I guess as long as players are cool with it, it could be extremely cool!

I mean who wouldn't take an eye-patch for reduced perception?

Sgt. Cookie
10-19-2010, 05:40 PM
Sometimes dismemberment can provide positive results, for instance if the PC gets stbed in the back with a small knife, there is a chance that it might sever a nerve cluster and it might have to be removed and attemps to manipulate the PC via that nerve cluster would fail instantly.

01-21-2011, 12:13 PM
What if this was a feature of the system and independant from the GM? D&D offers "critical" hits. What if it was a table or something that they rolled on that gave the dismemberment/disfigurement?

To me, if player characters are completely immune to any sort of risk in a real sense, it destroys the verisimilitude of the game.

I like playing with critical hits in d&d that can maim or dismember. After all a "critical hit" does indicate you managed to strike a critical area. I would like to find or develop a system that can quickly roll for a random hit location and determine critical effects based on the amount of damage done. I enjoy having visceral realism in my combat: if someone lands a 5hp critical sword slash on the arm of a 60hp creature it should not sever the arm, however if a hammer strikes that arm for a 45hp critical the arm should be pretty well mangled. The trick here is to keep the realism but not make the system so complicated that it slows the game down. I think I would limit it to only damage from critical hits to prevent limbs flying off every round.

I think PCs might accept the risk of a possible disfigurement to themselves for the fun of being able to hack their foes to pieces rather than simply dealing x damage. I suppose another point to consider would be the statistics for this to happen to a PC vs to a monster. Since a GM's supply of monsters is virtually limitless, a PC losing an appendage is significantly more serious than the average monster. Particularly for serious wounds (major dismemberment, etc) I would probably allow the PC a saving throw.

01-24-2011, 10:44 AM
Hit locations are nice if the system really supports it. Having tried a few ways in the last year, I tend to favor loss of attributes over permanent damage now for critical hits. Damage is more of a structural thing, so unless you are willing to sever an arm and lose HP that way, i favor losing stats. Shots to the torso effect constitution/health... hips and legs are dexterity, shots to the head intelligence, etc.