More on AC combat, including the dice-based damage option
Healing time varies depending on the wound level, with each level having its own cost in time. This time can be modified up or down depending on the kind of game being run. Natural healing (with rest) for Death's Door is two weeks; for Bloody Heap- one week; for Cut Up- three days; for Injured- one day; for Hurt- twelve hours; and for Grazed- two hours. Medical Treatment can cut this time in half-- being heavily active can increase it.
Characters with first aid can reduce wound levels for the first three states (Grazed, Hurt and Injured) with a check on the fly. More advanced medicine (like field surgery) can reduce these states by two levels or one level for Cut Up and above. Magical healing can do the same. Generally these kinds of emergency interventions or applications to reduce wound levels immediately can only be applied once. So you can't try to further reduce through multiple applications of magic or even by combining magic and advanced medical treatment. The GM has the right to modify these times and restrictions depending on the campaign frame.
Abilities which have been temporarily knocked out or disabled by damage return at the rate of one per hour resting; half that time with healing or medical attention and double that time if the character remains active. These are bruises, stiffness and funny bone injuries which can fairly quickly recover. Other kinds of damage of effects will be assigned a recovery time by the the GM depending on the severity and the overall damage the character has taken.
Death and the Character
Once a character gets to Death's Door, the GM should begin having them make Physical Checks to remain conscious. The difficulty should be based on what the character is attempting to do. Generally, characters at this state can move or act, but with constant checks. Some characters may have abilities which help them resist pain, perhaps negating some of the action penalties, but they still need to make checks against passing out from the damage.
If a character takes a wound pushing them over the threshold of Death's Door, they should go unconscious unless they can narrate a strong argument against it and make some amazing pulls. At this point, the character needs to make physical checks against death. The GM has two options here-- depending on the nature of the game. Have the player make checks every round or else have them make one check now and others if they take further damage. Other players may spend an action stabilizing dying characters to keep them from having to make death checks. A character who misses such a check dies and the rest of the party gets their stuff.
Note that these rules generally apply to PCs-- NPCs have less leeway and the GM may put the thumbs up or down for them depending on the story.
Killing PCs (A GM's Topic)
The style of campaign ought to determine how easily death comes for the PCs. Action Cards does require a significant investment in character creation, so killing a PC has both in game and out of game consequences. My generally rule of thumb is that I have more leeway to kill PCs if they've walked into the situation with eyes wide open. If the plot or other circumstances have forced or railroaded them into the deadly place, then I give more leeway or apply other consequences. The death of a PC ought to be a momentous occasion or have dramatic impact.
But the real trick is that killing a PC isn't the worst thing you can do to them. Players who get to these deathly states under their own power can suffer a variety of other consequences: loss of limbs, horrible scars, loss of equipment, failure in their goals, deaths of NPCs, reduction of valuable resources and so on. Abilities may suffer longer term loss until the character recovers from the horrific damage they have taken. They may suffer limited mobility while recovering. Characters may not ever recovering or have to spend points to “buy off” their death. Another option you may want to give players is the accumulation of “bad stuff” against them for having cheated death. This bad stuff acts against them, with the GM applying the whims of bad luck against them in the future-- if someone randomly gets targeted, it will be the character with bad stuff. Or more mechanically, the GM gets a free drama point (or points) to apply against the character each session until some benchmark is passed or points have been paid.
Killing them is easy, making them suffer is artful.
DICE-BASED DAMAGE (DETAILED, OPTIONAL)
Some campaigns require a slightly more detailed system for damage-- combat heavy games or those wanting a like more precision. These options bring dice into the game, but for a narrow section of resolution. Action Cards focuses on ownership of actions, and allowing the players to roll for their own damage in a detailed way allows that.
In this system, characters do not have wound levels, but instead have wound points. Each character begins with twelve wound points (WP); extra wounds may be bought at a cost of five points for two wounds-- up to a maximum of 24 WP. When characters successfully make an attack, they roll damage using d10's. Weapons have a class (light, medium or heavy) used with detailed initiative. They also have a set number of wounds they inflict and a number of dice they roll for possible additional wounds. So a broadsword has the following stats:
*Broadsword (Medium): 4 Wounds +4 dice
Armor, on the other hand, also has a class (light, medium, heavy) which affects defense rolls (see Defense Types and Limits, above). It also has the number needed to roll to do damage against that armor as well as a damage resistance value which subtracts from damage done. So Full Fitted Chain has the following stats:
*Full Fitted Chainmail (Medium): 7+ Damage DR2
When the swordsman hits, he rolls four dice, trying to get a four or better on those dice. So if the attacker rolls 3, 3, 7, 9 on the dice, a total of 6 WP will be done-- minus 2 for the DR of the armor, resulting in 4 damage done. If the attacker rolled 3, 3, 4, 5 then a total of 4 WP will be done (from the base damage of the weapon)-- again minus 2 for the DR of the armor, resulting in 2 damage done.
Attacks with a wide margin of success gain an extra die to roll for damage; a Moment of Glory or player “Win Big” cards give an extra +2 dice. The GM may also add or subtract dice depending on the circumstances, the use of combat styles and so on. Some circumstances may modify the target number needed on the dice to cause a wound. Better weapons, certain damage types against certain armor, and special abilities may lower the number needed. Better armor may raise the number needed. The GM tracks and adjudicates these effects. Some weapons and armor may have additional abilities or factors with them.
If a character takes more than half of their total wounds from a blow, they must make a Physical Pull or be knocked down and Stunned-- requiring them to spend an action or a drama point to recover from. A Stunned character can only move and opponents gain a +2 to attacks against them. When a character has 1/3rd or less of their wounds remaining, they apply a -1 drop to all actions. When a character reaches 0 or less wounds, they must make a Physical test or pass out. If they remain conscious, they may Act or Move on their turn, but must continue to make tests at an increasing penalty or pass out.
Criticals and Combat Effects
If a player rolls three or more tens on rolled damage then his attack will cause a Critical Effect. The GM resolves this by GM pulling a from the GM deck to check the effect. The Gamemastering section has notes on how to prep the resolution deck to determine criticals:
Bleeding: the target loses 1 wound each action they take.
Extra Damage: add +1 damage for each 10 rolled.
Stunned: the target may defend and move, but may not take a standard action on their round until they blow an action or spend a drama point.
Knockdown: the target is knocked down.
Unbalance: the target may move or make a standard action on the following round.
Funny Bone: a limb is temporarily disabled until the end of combat or he spends a drama point
Crippled: a limb is permanently disabled until healed.
Killed: target dies nastily
On Weapons and Damage
The weapons tables have been tuned for particular campaign frames-- so the high fantasy table has all the detail intended for that kind of campaign. If a campaign is modern, say a SWAT game or espionage, the frame of the weapons table will differ. So a kevlar vest doesn't have to be calculated against what Chain mail does in a fantasy game, just what the relative available types of armor for the new frame are. [Provide fantasy, modern and sci-fi armor tables]
In a setting with other powers, like magic, psionics or the like, the base damage for such effects is 3 wounds plus four dice. Boost effects or increased levels add +2 dice per boost or +1 if they can some unusual effect (like ignoring armor).
Combat Example with Detailed Damage
Scott, Sherri and John have engaged a Lieutenant and his two Mook thugs. The scene shifts to resolving the combat.
First the GM determines Initiative. John, Sherri and the Lieutenant all have light weapons, which means they will go in the first part of the round. Scott has a Volter pistol which is considered a medium weapon. The GM might allow him to go faster if he wanted to do a wild unaimed shot, but Scott doesn’t say anything about this. The Mooks have sabers which are medium as well.
John will go first since he has a Light Weapon and the ability Quick Reflexes. The Lieutenant has the ability Fast, but the GM rules that John’s ability trumps the less specific one. Sherri will go third, then Scott, then the Mooks. Mooks always go last in their particular initiative category. Initiative is set for the combat and will not be changed unless a player decides to do something to change things. Changing weapons, casting spells, or anything doesn’t change a character’s initiative order unless the GM really wants to deal with that and slow things down. This GM does not.
John goes and decides that he will take up a defensive posture with his invisible pocketknife given that his character as a tender young thing. The GM rules that this will give him either a bonus or an extra pull when dodging this round. The Lieutenant, looking around, sees that Scott has a Volter and decides he’s the obvious threat. He makes a lunging strike at Scott. He pulls an OK result, but he has a +1 Edge with Sword attacks, giving him a Good result. Scott opts to dodge—he could parry with his pistol and probably break it. Scott pulls an OK Combat result. Even though they are tied, the Lieutenant has an Edge which means he wins the tie here.
The Lieutenant's weapon does 3 wounds, plus four dice for damage. He also has the ability Strong which gives him an extra die to roll. Scott is wearing Leather Armor, which means the Lieutenant needs 6+ to do a wound on each die. He rolls four successes, and checks to see how many 10's he rolled. He only rolled two, so there's no additional combat effect. Scott's leather armor has a DR of one so subtracts 1 from the damage, and so takes 6 wounds [three wounds base + four rolled, minus one for DR].
Sherri goes now and she decides to take out one of the Mooks. She draws a Good (combat) result for her attack, but the Mook miraculously draws a Sacre Bleu (combat) for his defense. Irritated, Sherri spends a drama point to make a repull on the off chance she’ll get a betterresult. She draws her Sacre Bleu! Defenders normally win ties, but this is a Mook—so, I mean come on. She rolls four dice for damage plus three base wounds and gets three successes, all of which are tens. She will cause a Critical Effect, which since the target is a Mook the GM decides will simple take the target out.
Someone then points out that Mooks don't get defense pulls and Sherri gets her drama point back.
Scott goes now and lets off his Volter in the Lieutenant’s face. He took the Weapons Attack: Volter ability and so gets to pull twice if he wants. His first result is Vagaries of Fate, a generally negative special card, so he opts to draw again. This time he draws Crawling from the Wreckage, where the action happens, but something breaks. Scott immediately says- before the GM can take over- that his gun breaks when he shoves it in the Lieutenant’s mouth and he bites down reflexively on the barrel. The GM agrees and says he’ll give Scott a damage bonus of +3 dice and won’t give the NPC a dodge pull. Scott rolls eight dice and gets six successes with five of them being tens. This causes a Critical which the GM pulls a Crippled result for. Since we've already established where Scott's shooting the target the moment gets gory.