Monday, 16 December 2013

Monitors: lingering injuries

The injury model I've been using is intended only to cover individual scenes. A character either stays standing throughout an incident or goes down. However, that doesn't allow much in the way of interesting injuries, poisons, illnesses, psychic influences and so on. A similar argument can be made in the other direction, i.e. enduring benefits.

While that kind of thing can certainly be ruled by a GM, I might as well offer some basic suggestions for integrating these sorts of effects. I would recommend they be used sparsely when the narrative calls for it, rather than for every piddling combat. One use is for incidents that would (in other systems) tend to be crippling - falling off large cliffs, falling into chemical tanks and so on. The other one I'm considering is using them as a possible consequence of going unconscious in combat from loss of Wounds. In this case, lingering effects would be one of several possible consequences, alongside things like being captured, narrative issues like losing time in a case, loss of possessions, and (if it seems a better option) no additional consequences.


A lingering effect remains in effect until it is treated suitably, or enough time passes for the character to recover. Any number of effects can be created, but some examples are given for reference:

  • Sprained ankle: the character's Speed is reduced by one rank.
  • Dislocated shoulder: the character cannot use the arm to lift objects (including using weapons) or apply force.
  • Hand injury: the character cannot use the hand to manipulate objects, but can use the arm itself to heft objects or exert force.
  • Weakened: the character feels weak and unsteady, and suffers a -2 penalty on most physical checks, or -5 on Strength or Endurance checks.
  • Feverish: the character is light-headed, mildly delirious or otherwise unable to focus. They suffer a -2 penalty on checks where reason and focus are important, or -5 on Will checks.
  • Stumbling: the character is exhausted, drunk, or otherwise unable to control their movements. They suffer a -2 penalty whenever coordination is important, or -5 on Agility checks.
  • Mindshadow: the character is under a malevolent psychic influence. During turn-based play, roll 1d20 each turn; on a 1 the character must spend one action fighting off the influence. In turnless segments the GM should allocate effects however seems appropriate.
  • Blood loss: the character is hurt and vulnerable after a previous incident. They keep their first Wound box ticked until they recover.

Since it's relevant here: in general, a -5 penalty applies to one-handed attempts at tasks that would normally require two (this was previously mentioned in terms of using rifles and such one-handed). Some tasks, such as climbing ropes, are nearly impossible one-handed and suffer a -10 modifier. A few tasks will be actually impossible unless you come up with a really good plan to compensate.

Lingering effects might also escalate, particularly poisons or diseases, so the penalty increases over time. For example, a mission dealing with an alien plague might feature worsening disease conditions. In these cases I'd want to ensure either that they are quite rare (being more of a plot device/unusual scenario feature) or that there are means in place to alleviate the effects.

More unusual lingering effects might cause hallucinations, memory loss and so on. I’d recommend avoiding things like broken limbs unless the characters are in a situation where they have a lot of downtime or where really good medical facilities are available to fix them rapidly. Cinematic healing is one thing, but broken legs don’t go away in a few hours and it’ll just get silly.

Recovery time and Regeneration

I don't want to provide fixed durations for anything, because the pace of a game can vary wildly. Realism aside, having a week-long injury in a fast-paced alien hunt will be no fun, while having a two-hour injury during a drawn-out exploratory trip through alien jungle is basically pointless.

Basically I think there are two main ways to handle this: arbitrary durations and penalty dice. I also think either one would work, and both could be combined without any particular problem, according to the situation.

Arbitrary durations use handwavey time to determine how long an effect lasts. Assign a number of intervals (I’ll call these ticks for now) and mark one or more off whenever the GM thinks it’s appropriate. Ticks will generally represent either actual time elapsed, spending time to recover (and giving up the chance to do other things), or screen time with the effect in play (which has allowed it to get some use). When the ticks are used up, the effect ends. Intervention or special abilities may modify the number of ticks.

A penalty dice system would, like the Blind Die, have an unpredictable duration. Here the GM would allocate a die based on how lingering they expect the effect to be, and have the player roll for recovery whenever it seems appropriate. On a 1 they shake off the effect. These are basically still using arbitrary durations, but have a random element added.

I would generally think that five or six ticks is the longest an injury-type effect should linger, because it’ll start to get annoying otherwise, especially as they will increase the chance of being knocked unconscious again. I don’t really want it to be a common occurrence for most of the team to be suffering lingering effects, or for anyone to carry several at once, although I’m fine with it as an interesting occasional feature or a deliberate plotting choice. So if a player deliberately pushes their luck and picks up a few conditions while tackling an urgent case, that’s okay. Similarly, if a scenario is based around a lingering influence I don’t mind that hanging on as long as necessary. As a starting point, I’m going to suggest that most lingering injuries last for 2d3 ticks.

As well as a penalty for player characters, the lingering effects rules could grant them benefits. They offer a way to model things like stimulants, preventative drugs, magical buffs and so on. Also, NPCs can take lingering effects as much as PCs, so an escaped antagonist can be left suffering a lingering effect from their earlier encounter if the PCs track them down quickly enough.


Salamanders, amongst others, have the Regeneration ability and can reduce the duration of lingering effects, or modify the die roll if one is required. The size of the ability affects how strongly this is modified; for Salamanders it is Regeneration 1, although I’m tempted to increase that as they seem a bit weak and it’s not a particularly major game mechanic. Some NPC races (specifically, aliens or heavily bionic creatures) may have even better regeneration.


There may be some instances where a character has a relevant resistance, vulnerability or trait. In most cases these should be brought into play during the initial rolls to see whether the character suffers a lingering effect at all. However, the GM might also decide to treat these abilities like Regeneration for specific kinds of effects to increase (or decrease) the duration.


Investigating a gang operating from a factory, Xerxes pushes his luck and crawls among some machinery to eavesdrop on an incriminating conversation. Though he gets the information he wants, the toxic fumes seep through the hankerchief he's using as a mask, and by the time he crawls back out he's suffering badly. He gains the Feverish effect for four ticks. Feeling ill, he hides out in an office (while some other PCs get screentime) and marks off a tick. Heading out, he has to take great care to evade security guards, and marks off another tick. The trip back to the office doesn’t take long enough to count, but there his buddy Doc Huatl sizes up the trouble and gets to work with antitoxins and respirator, which rapidly burn through the last two ticks. Unfortunately, while Xerxes was busy, the gang boss left the factory for parts unknown.

Wladimir the salamander ends up falling off a rooftop as he chases a tentacled thing from Axtris IV. When he wakes up, his leg is badly sprained. It'll take six ticks to recover. However, as a Salamander he can cross off one tick immediately.

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