Health & Genre Conventions
Did you ever notice in comics that the attacks that reduce the poor hapless bystanders to putty always just barely miss the heroes, how Batman holds no fear of guns, and how only characters in DC's Vertigo line do things like "I use my plant growth powers on their intestinal flora," causing the target to explode when a tree sprouts from their large intestine? I have, and developed some rules to deal with it.
Fatigue, Hit Points and Wounds
These three things are the measure of the character's physical well being. The greater your scores in these areas, the more you can exert yourself, get pummeled and get seriously messed up before you collapse of exhaustion, fall unconscious or die. This section is a discussion of their uses both in and out of combat, and the theories behind them.
Primary among these theories is, and this is gonna sound dumb, that people accumulate Fatigue Points, Hit Points and Wound Points, and once you accumulate too many, you are hindered. This is different from the concept of reducing your Hit Point score till you reach 0you are raising your HP taken until you reach your Total. This matters because sometimes, especially with Wound Points, you get penalties based on the amount that you have accumulated so far.
- Fatigue Points
Each Point of Fatigue accumulated indicates the taxing of your energy reserves. A character who has accumulated as many Fatigue points as her Fatigue score is utterly exhausted and collapses (but doesn't necessarily fall asleep). Fatigue accumulated past the character's total from a single attack is ignored. If the character takes fatigue from ANOTHER attack, she falls unconscious.
- A character who has accumulated more than half their Fatigue total from a single attack has to save on d% vs. Endurance or Willpower or become stunned, losing their next action.
- A character who has accumulated 3/4 as many Fatigue points as her Fatigue score has a 2 point penalty on all rolls. (Getting tired...)
- A Costumed Adventurer with appropriate power facets who has maxed out of Fatigue can make checks against her End/Will to continue to act as if she were merely tired, but these become more difficult for each action (starting at d20 and getting worse from there).
- Costumed adventurers without appropriate power facets maxed out of Fatigue can also choose to act by taking Hit Points of damage, 1 per action, plus the Fatigue cost of the actions if any. These require the same End/Will checks as above.
- Hit Points
- Each Hit Point accumulated indicates the casual damage to your bodybruises, cuts, scrapes, and so on. HP accumulated past your total from a single attack are ignored. A character who has accumulated as many hit points as her HP score is unconscious. If the character takes HP from ANOTHER attack, her Would Threshold is halved against that damage.
- A character who has accumulated more than half their HP total in damage from a single attack has to save on d% vs. Endurance or Willpower or fall unconscious.
- A character who has accumulated more than 3/4 of their total Hit Points in damage is severely battered, and is at a 2 point penalty on all rolls.
- A Costumed Adventurer with appropriate power facets who has maxed out of HP can make checks against her Will/End to continue to act as if she were merely battered, but these become increasingly more difficult for each action (starting at d20 and getting worse from there).
- Costumed adventurers without appropriate power facets maxed out of HP can also choose to act as if only Battered by taking Wound Points of damage, 1 per action. Note that this starts stacking penalties upon penalties. This still required saves vs. Will/End as listed above.
- Wound Points
- Each Wound Point accumulated indicates the serious damage to your bodybroken bones, internal bleeding, concussions, etc. WP accumulated past your total from a single attack is irrelevant. A character who has accumulated as many Wound Points as her WP score is comatose. If the character takes WP from ANOTHER attack that would not normally be applied to HP, then the damage is done to HP instead; otherwise, the accumulation of more WP is meaningless
- A character who has accumulated more than 4 Wound Points from a single attack has to save on d% vs.
Endurance or Willpower or fall unconscious.
- Each point of wounds accumulated is a 1 point penalty on all rolls.
- A character who has accumulated more than 4 WP has to save vs. Wil/End on d20 every action to avoid unconsciousness. If the character has accumulated more than 9 WP, those saves are on d%
- A character out of HP and WP is dead.
This is a ruling based on genre conventions. Every living being produces a biological aura, or Bio-Aura (this is the Kirlian aura, or the visual aspect of the soul, or however you want to look at it), and extends about a centimeter around the organism.
For most beings, a bio-aura is the organism's defensive mechanism: highly resistant to change, it provides split second defenses against sudden environmental shifts. This means that there are fewer electrocutions and sudden burnings in the Variants Universe, because people have the added split second of bio-aura defense to yank their hand away. More importantly, it prevents the sudden generation of energy or modification of matter within the aura without the owner's consent. It is the bio-aura that makes disintegration do cellular damage to organics rather than changing them to gasthe aura is doing everything it can to protect the organism. Similarly, this is why Transmutation effects are damnably difficult (high fatigue cost) and usually have a limited durationthe aura is fighting to protect and re-establish itself. Finally, the bio-aura prevents things like the Swamp Thing example aboveit counters attempts to use transmutation on someone's organs, or pyrokinesis to make their brains melt, and all of the other nasty things that people within these powers should be able to do, but don't.
Bio-Auras also provide a convenient explanation of many variant powers, especially energy powersthe character is unconsciously modifying his or her bio-aura to generate or mimic a certain energy structure. The aura can be extended to touch or envelop other things (coating them with the energy) or release pent up energy outwards as an attack. Most Active Defenses are modified bio-auras. The Bio-Aura also keeps itself constant and since it extends beyond the character's body, it maintains the changes to the characters clothesexplaining why they resist burning, stretch or grow as need be, etc.
In game mechanics terms, the existence of a Bio-Aura is half of the reason for the high wound thresholds, and forces attackers to have special abilities that require special attacks to do wound level damage directly to the target (Needle's Death Attack is an excellent example of this).
Costumes are essentialthey make it easy for the hero to move, provide them with a psychological edge on their opponents, and make the hero both impressive and distinct. Those are some of the myriad reasons why comic characters run around in these ridiculous things. There is also a tangible game mechanics reason for putting one on: once you actually wear a costume, you start to benefit from what we call, well, Costume Defense. It's what differentiates the super-heroes from the policemen and villains from their henchmen.
Comic book characters seldom get shotthey may get grazing wounds, or pull muscles yanking themselves out of the way, but the bullets seldom leave gaping exit wound craters. Consequently, bullets in V&V do pathetically small amounts of damage compared to the character's powers and hit points, never mind in comparison to the real world. Why is this? Well, because the heroes have costume defense. When you have costume defense (and you need to be wearing your costume, since without it you can't move and freely and don't have the psychological edge), you get your full Wound threshold against all attack types. This means that bullets are no more dangerous than fists, and ionized plasma beams are as deadly as clubs.
This does not mean that you take no damage whatsoeveryou take the same number of HP of damage you would normally, but with your wound threshold so high, you are unlikely to get any of those massive tissue damage/arterial bleeding/shattered bone problems that plague normal people when they're burned/ stabbed/ shot. Costumed villains have the same advantage. You two can haul off and womp on each other without real fear of death. Hauling off and womping a gang member or government agent will land them in the hospital, since they don't have costume defense.
Wound Threshold and Attack Lethality
As we just covered in Costume Defense, Heroes and Villains get a constant wound threshold, regardless of the attack. Normal people aren't so lucky. Remember that Wound Points gained are calculated by subtracting the Wound Threshold from the HP the character just got from the attack, so they are literally adding injury to insult. Attacks come in 3 lethality ratings:
- Normal attacks are punches, kicks, force blasts, being hit by cars, etc. People get their full Endurance score as a Wound Threshold vs. these attacks. Thus a person with an 11 End hit for 12 HP of normal damage would accumulate 1 wound point.
- Dangerous attacks are flames, electricity, swords, knives and other such attacks. People get 1/2 their Endurance, rounded down, as a wound threshold vs. dangerous attacks. From the sample above, the target would get 7 WP in addition to the 12 HP.
- Deadly attacks are bullets, disintegration blasts, high intensity radiation, and sometimes (GM decision) piercing attacks with a lot of strength behind them. Normal people have no defenses against Deadly attacks. Our sample normal person would take 12 HP and WP, and probably die rather quickly, if not go into a coma and need immediate medical attention.
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Copyright © 1998 Brian Rogers