Wednesday, December 16, 2009

SDC...it ain't so bad.

Earlier this year, I played and enjoyed a game of Beyond the Supernatural, which warmed me to Palladium after years of dismissing it. For some reason, I am hung up on the absurdity of SDC, and I was going to make a blog post about it, when I realized... SDC is really no more or less absurd than any wounding system in most of the games I have played. Hit points are just as absurd. I suppose the difference between the two is that hit points have always been semi-abstract, whereas SDC is blatantly stated to be damage that is "just a scratch."

...of course, take all the athletic skills and pick the right OCC and having a magnum unloaded into your character can be "just a scratch."

...but is this any different than a D&D character surviving a blast of dragon's breath, or being shot five times with a heavy crossbow, etc, etc...? If hit points are abstract and don't necessarily represent injury, then what is cure light wounds? Does it not restore "luck" or "plot immunity" or any of the other abstract stand-ins for what hit points are supposed to be?

I imagine the feasibility of hit points is also impacted by one's perception of combat round as an abstract representation of an exchange between two parties, or if every attack roll is a swing of the weapon.

I had planned to house rule SDC into a sort of "fatigue" that absorbed damage from fisticuffs and other low-lethality attacks, but I remember how cumbersome that type of thing was in Champions, plus I seem to have deconstructed my own criticism of it. If a 9th level fighter can take a hit from a hill giant's club, for whatever reason, I suppose I can stomach the concept of SDC. I sometimes wonder if my mind can more easily accept medieval weapons and the hit point system are far removed from my daily existence, while the news regularly reminds me how fatal modern weapons are.

3 comments:

  1. I've never been terribly against SDC/HP in the Palladium system, but the fact that you had to burn through SDC to get to HP always kinda bugged me.

    We fixed that in our game group: for the last 10 years, our standing house rule is that anything that could be considered an impaling attack (a la the Call of Cthulu RPG's definition of the term) goes straight to HP. Now it only takes two or three shots from a .44 to drop even the strongest character. (As opposed to the game sans said rule, where a buffed character could take two or three clips from said .44 before falling down.)

    Another option we used a lot in the late 80's/early 90's was to include the hit locations from Bureau 13. Each location is listed with a number of asterisks (representing flesh) sandwiched between which were other things such as arteries, major organs, and bones. We ruled that each asterisk was one SDC, and anything else was HP. It worked very well, but was a little slower than the house rule we use now.

    Either way, the lethality of the game increased tremendously. As did the players' tension.

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  2. The way I see it, HP represents your ability to avoid death. Because you are more experienced (and thus have more HP) you can didn't get run through by that 20 HP reducing hit, but you did get injured. This injury reduces your ability to avoid death...you aren't as fast, or you have blood running into your eye. So that next 15 HP reducing hit is much more likely to kill you. This is why I don't think you should be able to call a shot. You don't shoot somebody in the eye for 2 damage. You shoot somebody for 25 damage and then you say "Ooh, must have got em in the eye."

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  3. @Christopher- What about slashing attacks?
    I was paging through a used copy of the Compendium of Contemporary Weapons, and that had some interesting optional rules for making damage, particularly gun damage, more "realistic," but I'm not sure I want to buy a book for a few pages of rules.

    @Anthony- I'm not a fan of called shots, either, and that's why I'm glad D&D and it's ilk don't have them. I like the idea of the level of damage giving you an idea of what the injury is like.

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