Title image by Vicky Burton
Band of Bastards comes from a tradition of violent fiction and bloody ends. For all the work we've done on the fighting itself, it felt criminal to abstract damage out to some form of hit points. Instead, every injury in 'Bastards is measured in flesh maimed and blood lost.
So what does that mean in game terms? Band of Bastards measures all damage as Wounds, which represents the nature and severity of the injury received. There are three axes which combine to determine the exact wound taken.
The first axis is the kind of damage taken. For the overwhelming majority of Wounds, the damage received is of one of three kinds:
Piercing damage, as done by arrows or the thrust of a sword.
Cutting damage, as done by the swing of an axe or saber.
Blunt damage, as the result of a club or hammer to the face.
Each type of damage results in different kinds of wounds, and interacts with armor differently, having its own advantages and disadvantages.
The second axis is the location of the damage. Those of you who have been with us the longest may remember our very first teaser, the wound wheel
No attack is simply that. Each attack is specified to be a swing or a thrust, and a target wheel is chosen to receive it. If successful, a d6 is rolled to determine where the blow lands, starting at the top and going clockwise around the wheel. The outside wheel is used for swings, and the inner wheel used for thrusts.
Why is this important? There are two main reasons. The first is that different wound locations have very different effects. A blow to the hand or forearm is liable to make someone drop something. A blow to the head may disorient your opponent. A blow to the legs may trip them or knock them off-balance. The second major reason is that getting stabbed in the face is going to suck way more than getting stabbed in the arm. The latter could potentially cripple you. The former is liable to kill you.
Naturally then, characters will want to prioritize their armor to cover their most vulnerable areas first just as combatants have done throughout history. Armor in 'Bastards is thus relatively detailed, as it becomes tremendously important to know whether your neck is covered by a maille coif, an aventail, a gorget, or whether they were prancing around with an exposed jugular like this guy
The final axis is the severity of the wound. The harder or more skilled the blow, the more trauma you have potentially caused your opponent. Damage is the end result of a number of factors including how well you rolled, the physical strength of your character, and the rating of the weapon you've used. Because the proficiency of your character plays such an important part, a skilled man with a dagger can do as much or more damage than an opponent with a zweihander.
Wounds are rated on a scale between 1 and 5 levels of damage, with 1 being a light or glancing blow and 5 generally maiming or even killing an opponent outright. The exact results depend on the location and type of damage dealt, above.
The Bloody Fortune Cookie
So you've taken your swing, overcome your opponent's defenses, and you know that your Kriegsmesser just scored a level 4 cut across your opponent's crown. What does that actually mean? This is where the fun comes in:
All of the above information is packaged in what we've taken to calling the Bloody Fortune Cookie. Each wound has all of the relevant information, effects, and a brief description in one place. In addition to having all of the mechanical detail, the flavor text gives a strong narrative picture of what's happening. This detail takes a lot of weight off of the GM's back in keeping combat fast and interesting. Gone are the ubiquitous shoulder wounds. Each blow is measured in blood and sinew. When the player finds himself on the wrong side of an axe, they'll remember exactly where and how badly they were hit.
Join us for part 2 next week, we’ll talk about how this all plugs in and the simple method we found for tracking and quantifying wounds and blood loss. In the meantime, join the discussion on our forums, where we're always interested in feedback!
Until next time,