Combat damage to a character can be described as being at one of seven stages of severity. The stages are:
- Undamaged: no wounds at all. The character is not necessarily healthy he may be sick, for example. But he doesn’t have a combat wound that’s recent enough to be bothering him.
- Just A Scratch: no real game effect, except to create tension. This may eventually lead to being Hurt if the character is hit again. This term comes from the famous movie line, “I’m okay, it’s only a scratch.” The actual wound itself may be a graze, bruise, cut, abrasion, etc., and the GM whose game is more serious in tone may choose to use one of these terms instead.
- Hurt: the character is wounded significantly, enough to slow him down: -1 to all traits which would logically be affected. A Hurt result in combat can also be called a Light Wound.
- Very Hurt: the character is seriously hurt, possibly stumbling: -2 to all traits which would logically be affected. A Very Hurt result can also be called a Severe Wound.
- Incapacitated: the character is so badly wounded as to be incapable of any actions, except possibly dragging himself a few feet every now and then or gasping out an important message. A lenient GM can allow an Incapacitated character to perform such elaborate actions as opening a door or grabbing a gem. . . .
- Near Death: the character is not only unconscious, he’ll die in less than an hour maybe a lot less without medical help. No one recovers from Near Death on their own unless very lucky.
- Dead: he has no more use for his possessions, unless he belongs to a culture that believes he’ll need them in the afterlife. . . .
The GM may expand or contract these stages. For example, expand Hurt and Very Hurt to Light Wound, Moderate Wound and Severe Wound. In this case, a Severe Wound might be -3 to all actions or the GM might leave it at -2, make Moderate Wound = -1, and make Light Wound something in between a Scratch and Moderate Wound. That is, maybe a Light Wound causes no penalty during combat (you don’t notice such a slight wound in the heat of battle), but after combat the character will be at -1 to all skills until it’s healed (such wounds can be annoying later).
The GM may allow a high Difficulty Level Willpower roll to reduce or even nullify penalties listed at Hurt, Very Hurt, and possibly Incapacitated. A gift of a High Pain Threshold will reduce the penalties by one level, while a fault of a Low Pain Threshold will increase penalties by one.
Some players delight in describing their characters’ wounds in detail, even writing resulting scars into the character story.
Automatic Death: sometimes you don’t have to roll the dice. Holding a knife to a helpless character’s throat is a good example no roll needed to kill such a character, but the killer’s karma suffers.