I've had a hankering for some dungeon-crawl-type gaming, and thinking about different ways to do this using something Powered by the Apocalypse. One thing that's always left me unsatisfied with games like Dungeon World, however, is the take on damage and wounds: subtracting hit points from a running total seems like a particularly unexciting way to do things for a game which cares a lot about colourful, in-fiction action. However, hit points (and diminishing hit point totals) are definitely part of D&D-style gaming. So how can we use them in a fun, more modern way?
This is my basic idea, still unplaytested. I love some things about it and yet I also have a feeling there might be something missing. I'm going for a feeling of danger and uncertainty as well as a visceral connection to the fiction, and a vivid focus in the details of what's happening "on screen". I'd love to hear what you think. (Or, better yet, try this in your game and let me know how it goes.)
The basic premise:*When You Get Hurt*
You miss a roll or something bad happens and suddenly you're hit by something. This is a scary moment! The MC describes the delivery of the injury and makes clear the danger but leaves the precise effect of the injury on you unstated. The possible extent of the damage should be pretty clear, however: have you potentially lost your arm or been run through? This should sound scary and suspenseful, with the character's livelihood hanging in the balance. Here's what this looks like:
"The troll's hammer comes down with incredible speed and hits your head: there's a sound like a thunderclap and the next thing you know, all you're seeing is red."
"The creature's jaws close around your torso and bear down, rotten teeth the size of kitchen knives piercing your corselet with a sickening crunch."
"The spinning blades come down on your arm at the last moment. You can feel them pull you to the right; worse yet, there's blood everywhere."
"Diving under Aragorn's blow with the speed of a striking snake, the orc-chieftain charged into the Company and thrust with his spear straight at Frodo. The blow caught him on the right side, and Frodo was hurled against the wall and pinned."
By default, an injury throws you completely off-balance (due to shock, impact, etc.), will hinder you if you're continuing to fight (should you be able to), and could cause serious problems for you after the fight's over. So, it has an instant effect, a continuing effect throughout the remainder of the fight, and will still remain a danger (or even get worse) after the encounter is over (bleeding, infection, etc).
If the fictional circumstances are such that one of these is not possible, congratulations: you're getting off easier than that. But, generally speaking, this is what you're dealing with when you're injured.
It also may or may not threaten immediate death (more on this below).