Beyond the Wall: Alternative Damage and Healing

This is part of a series of pieces for Death Comes To Wyverley, a playset for Beyond the Wall inspired by Garth Nix’ Old Kingdom series. This should be considered a fan work.

DctW

These alternate rules adapt the Scarlet Heroes rules for damage (quickstart here).

The main reason to do this is not so much to increase survivability of the game but to encourage the PCs to press on through adventures rather than turn back to home (something that happened in an adventure I ran after the 1st level PCs took a couple of unlucky hits). I used the Scarlet Heroes approach because that effectively re-scales the system without introducing additional rules (e.g. “healing surges”, whatever those are). The scales below need playtesting.

Rolling For Damage

When you roll the damage die for your weapon, on a roll of:

  • 1-3, do 1 point
  • 4-6, do 2 points
  • 7-9, do 3 points
  • 10+, do 4 points

Any damage bonus is applied to the roll, not the damage. Attacks on PCs come off hit points, but on monsters they come off Hit Dice (more or less).

The reason for doing this is to scale back the damage against the PCs, and to simplify combat encounters with monsters.

If this makes your monsters a bit puny and fights over a bit too quickly, you can

  • add more monsters and have them swarm
  • double the number of hits for tough monsters
  • quadruple the number of hits for “named characters” (as in Feng Shui)

There’s probably a formula that could be applied based on the number of players around the table. I’ll work on that for later.

HP and Wounds

First, the way HP scale with class levels needs to be considered. You could keep the class benefits of one extra die per level, but that would mean you’d need stronger and stronger challenges even for second level PCs. For that reason I’d prefer this formula:

(class base HP) + (CON bonus) + (level) = (Total HP)

Obviously you can then tune the totals via the base HP. If you don’t have a die per level the Fighters may be getting a raw deal, but you can fix that by using a split of 5/8/11 or even 5/9/13 for base mage/rogue/warrior HP, rather than the 5/7/9 that you’d get with the current system.

Second, and more significant: each hit causes a Wound that is tracked on its own. 1 or 2 point hit is a minor wound and will heal with time on its own. A hit of 3 or more is a major wound and needs medical/magical attention.

Other rules (currently these are loose and need further thought):

  • Major wounds (3+) can get worse, they can get infected or be otherwise debilitating with conditions like “poisoned” or “painful” or “bleeding” (similar to Monsterhearts but much more specific).
  • Major wounds (3+) apply a cumulative penalty of (Wound -2) to certain rolls involving physical activity outside combat, as the GM sees fit. If the wounds have conditions the GM should riff off those.
  • If a player makes a critical failure on a physical task their wound could get worse. Also the GM could declare that the condition of a wound is such that if the PC tries something and fails, the wound gets worse.

Hunger/Thirst

Hunger/Thirst is a “wound”. If the PCs are travelling and are starving themselves you could start them off with a Hunger/Thirst of 1. If they persist then it could get worse. Once it reaches 3 or more, it can’t be reversed by just eating, and could turn into some kind of sickness.

Obviously this is only treated by food and drink. A meal could reverse the Hunger track, or just a little food could keep the starvation at bay. Resting might also delay the effects; up to the GM.

Healing

There are two types of healing:

  • Strong Healing is anything like medical treatment from a professional, or healing magic. This is good for bringing people back from Death, and healing Major (3+) wounds.
  • Light Healing is non-medical stuff like a night’s rest, shot of brandy, etc. It’s good for all Minor wounds but not for Major ones.

A full night’s rest will provide 1 hp of light healing to every wound simultaneously, meaning that a warrior with a lot of 1 hp scrapes will be much improved in the morning. Other forms of light healing are at GM’s discretion — a nice meal, a bit of entertainment or a nip of brandy may be good for a 1 hp reward here or there. If you’re considering the Hunger rules then eating a meal when you’re starving only affects the hunger “wound”, and other forms of healing won’t take the edge off hunger if you’re starving.

The healing spells in the book could be a bit overpowered given the re-scaling of the damage. To deal with this you could either roll the healing die on the damage table above, or just accept it and change the pace of how quickly you damage the party. Some of the rituals may be reconsidered, e.g. Goodberry could be used in place of eating and as Light Healing but not good for really bad wounds.

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