Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Specific Injuries

I wiped out on my bicycle yesterday morning and suffered an abrasion somewhat mitigated by formerly sturdy trousers sacrificing their right knee in my defence. Since this happened midway between home and campus, I thought it would make more sense to continue onward and stop into the campus dispensary as soon as I arrived, rather than return home and probably not find a bandage big enough. Besides, I reasoned, the campus nurse worked at a primary school before; she'd probably dealt with hundreds of skinned knees.
So I ambled in, a bit worse for wear, only to find a sign on the nurse's door saying she was off for the day. 
Sometimes it's quite easy to use the minor inconveniences of real life as inspiration for the game. Simply by amplifying the severity of the wound and removing the recourse to modern antiseptic methods, the treatment of hit points lost in battle can become an adventure in itself.
I once heard, incidentally, that once that a man in New York City skinned his knee on the sidewalk and contracted something resembling ebola, but I prefer to think that this is a literal urban legend. On the other hand, I've also heard that Henry V took an arrow to the face during battle and his surgeons successfully removed it. Just to one side of his nose, if I remember correctly.
Here in the comfort of my office all I had to do was splash some peroxide on my knee and beg a bandage from a colleague's first-aid kit. Today I'm almost normal.
We tend to gloss over a lot of the combat injuries because they're a logistical bother, but the spreadsheets used in our campaign do have spaces to record scarring and maiming. This doesn't quite match the spirit of the original rules. The 2e Dungeon Master's Guide spells out its comic-book style approach to deadly combat in a wee section entitled 'Specific Injuries (Optional Rule)':
The AD&D combat system does not call for specific wounds--scars, broken bones, missing limbs, and the like. And in most cases they shouldn't be applied. Remember that this is a game of heroic fantasy. If characters were to suffer real-life effects from all their battles and combats, they would quickly be some of the sorriest and most depressing characters in the campaign world. It's hard to get excited when your character is recovering from a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder suffered in a fall off a 15-foot wall. It is not recommended that characters suffer specific injuries. In general, stick with the basic pool of hit points.

Right, because the game is so much more convincing and engrossing when we put ourselves in the place of Gumby superheroes who bounce back from all sorts of damage, rathern than real men who value their blood and limbs enough to try their damnedest not to lose them. 
In particular, the assertion that seasoned fighters would be 'the sorriest and most depressing characters in our campaign world' seems to assume that even if we allow specific injuries to PCs, we have to keep all of our NPCs Gumbies. I can't speak for anyone else, but I might find it difficult to repress snide remarks if I played in what was supposed to be a medieval world and didn't see people missing eyes, ears, hands, and legs with some frequency. It's the same school of thought that removes characters' needs to eat and excrete, or even makes death less than permanent. Are none of the people in our fantasy world supposed to wrinkle and grey as they age, either?
At the start of our game plenty of the characters have rolled the loss of fingers and other appendages from accidents before the game even started. (One of the most heroic characters we've had in the campaign, in fact, began the game having lost half of his right hand in his father's shop, and in at least one combat, this turned out to be a blessing: Having been forced to learn to use his sword left-handed, he had the literal upper hand when storming a castle and fighting its defenders up a spiral stairway.)
It should make perfect sense that if characters have lived through enough combat to have attained a considerable level, they should be scarred and limping from previous injuries. Unfortunately, we haven't yet had a character live past his early twenties. When they've been hit hard enough to receive a permanent scar or broken bone, they're usually dead. Surviving long enough to evince serious battle wounds, then, should be something all players should aspire for their characters to achieve.

No comments:

Post a Comment