Damage & Recovery

Damage deprives a character of one or more of their advantages or potential. Lost advantages are crossed off the character sheet and lost potential is placed in the damage pile. These are no longer available to the character and cannot be used in actions but can be recovered under the right circumstances.

Taking Damage

Damage can come from any source. Physical attacks are the most common but magical and mind-affecting powers also do damage as do environmental hazards such as drowning or exposure to extreme cold. Attacks which pose a threat to the life of a character do life damage which deprives characters of their Life advantages. Other forms of attacks designed to disable but not kill a character do potential damage which removes a character's potential and therefore their ability to act.

Life Damage

Attacks dealing life damage are the simplest and most common threat to a character and, unless the player chooses or an advantage mandates it, all attacks do life damage.

The degree of success of an action is the number of character points (CP) of Life advantages to be crossed off by the target. The injured character cannot cross off parts of an advantage - even if there is just one point of damage the entire advantage is lost.

As long as the character can cross off CP points equal to or more than the damage taken they can still act. However, if they are unable to cover the damage they are unconscious and dying.

Shot in the back, Mr L Pliskin has just taken seven points of damage and must now cross off seven character points of Life advantages. He has Brawn (4 CP), Self-Confidence (5 CP), Manual Dexterity (5 CP) and Speed (7 CP). He could choose to cross off any combination of these advantages as long as the total CP is seven or more. Getting rid of his Speed would mean he only discards one advantage but it is also his most useful. Instead he discards his Brawn and Self-Confidence, worth nine character points, as he prepares to spin round and shoot his attacker.

Potential Damage

Potential damage reduces the amount of potential a character can use. This occurs when a character is stunned, confused or winded. It can also be used for grappling and other attempts to subdue a character without doing lasting damage. Some advantages have the Potential keyword and any offensive action involving them must do potential and not life damage. Characters may choose to make potential attacks without this keyword damage though the Game Leader is free to grant situation bonuses if this is attempted with lethal weapons.

The amount of damage done (potential lost) by the target is based on the action's degree of success. One potential is lost for a successful action (a degree of success of one) plus one potential per four additional points of success (known as the Success + 4 Scale). This is over and above any potential the defender spent in their resistance action which must be moved into the spent pile before applying the damage.

Potential damage introduces a third potential 'pile' after the bank and spent piles. Potential normally moves from the bank to the spent pile and back again but with potential damage it can move from the bank to the spent pile and then on to the damage pile.

One point of potential damage moves one potential token to the right one place. That is, a point of potential damage will move a potential token from the bank to the spent pile or from the spent pile to the damage pile. Two points of potential damage are enough to move one token from the bank to the damage pile or two tokens from the spent pile to the damage pile.

The injured party has the choice of which potential, dynamic or static, they move. Potential being used to anticipate counts as unspent potential (potential in the bank) and can be moved into the spent pile as damage.

Boban is in danger of being press-ganged. She has been struck on the head with a cosh by a sailor who mistook the gnome for easy prey. In her resistance action Boban used all but one of her potential yet only scored a pathetic 11. The sailor, with a lucky roll, scored 16 leaving a five point degree of success. The attack was for potential damage and a degree of success of five means Boban has two points of potential damage to deal with.

She pays for one point of damage by moving her unspent static potential token from the bank pile into the spent pile. However, with no other unspent potential left, she must move one potential into the damage pile. She chooses to make it a static token because she needs her dynamic potential for the move she has planned on the unlucky sailor.

If the damage exceeds the character's ability to pay, e.g. all their potential is in the damage pile already, the character is incapacitated for the remainder of the scene. Depending on the narrative and nature of the attack they may be winded, in pain or simply too stunned to think coherently. The character can no longer act or recoup potential, just as if they were unconscious.


Advantages which are crossed off or potential in the damage pile can be regained using an action with a recovery effect. This is possible with any suitable combination of advantages. What is suitable in the context of a setting or game world is left to the group to decide. For example, can the First Aid advantage be combined with a magic healing potion? Recovery does not require an advantage with the recovery keyword though this indicates advantages well-suited to healing which may bring extra benefits.

The resistance for any recovery effect is set by the specific advantages or potential the character wishes to recover. This must be stated before rolling the dice. The resistance for recovering advantages is their CP value, and multiple advantages may be attempted in a single action, the total of their CPs setting the resistance score. For potential, each token targeted adds four to the resistance; e.g. attempting to recover three tokens has a resistance of 12. Potential and advantages cannot both be recovered in a single action, separate attempts are needed. Situation bonuses may also apply to recovery effects, especially if the characters are trying to act quickly without the necessary equipment or if the character is trying to treat themselves. Successful actions recover all the targeted potential and advantages but no more, regardless of the degree of success. Failed actions recover none of the targeted abilities. Newly-recovered advantages are usable straight away and recovered potential is placed in the bank pile.

The duration of recovery actions is very much dependent on the setting and the type of healing being used. Real world situations, e.g. first aid, aimed at recovering advantages require a narrative action and take a scene to complete. Surgery and more extensive treatments will take a session. Attempts to recover potential are much quicker, only needing a full round action. Hi-tech or magical healing may work a lot quicker and may possibly be usable within combat. The feasibility of this is left to individual groups to determine.

The Healing Throttle

The availability of healing has a large impact on the style and nature of the game. Players who are confident healing is available quickly and reliably will take more risks and get into more fights. Conversely if healing takes a long time and is not reliable they will be far more cautious. It is up to the group to discuss the style of the game they wish to play and how reliable healing is in their game world. The setting may provide advice to the Game Leader about the speed of healing but it is ultimately the group's choice.

Healing is controlled by the healing throttle. This sets a character's capacity for healing, controlling how often they can benefit from a recovery effect in a given period without penalties. The period can be anything on the time scale although per session, per day and per week are the most common periods with per day being the default.

The first time a character is subjected to an attempt at recovering lost advantages or potential there are no additional situation bonuses to the resistance. The second attempt within the period gives a 2d6+0 bonus to the resistance and this doubles with each additional attempt, i.e. 4d6+0 for the third attempt, 8d6+0 for the fourth and so on. These penalties are in addition to all other resistances. A character who incurs penalties retains them into the next period and they must go without any healing attempts for one period to lose the penalties. Attempts to recover potential and advantages both count when tracking the number of recovery attempts. If a character tries to regain potential and then tries to recover advantages in the same period, the second attempt will incur a 2d6+0 penalty.

It is the individual's capacity for recovery which is restricted by the healing throttle. A doctor may try to heal any number of different people without issue but cannot treat the same patient repeatedly without incurring a penalty. The healing throttle is purely a tool for providing balance to the game with no real world explanation though Game Leaders may wish to provide one in their game world. As a tool, groups can use the throttle how they wish. There is no reason why the throttle's period cannot be changed during games, increasing the period to a week when the characters are primarily dealing with social and investigative activities and decreasing the period to a session while the characters are exploring monster-filled dungeons. This change in healing speed is often seen in movies and TV dramas where sometimes injuries can last for weeks but when convenient the hero can shrug a wound off between scenes. There is no reason for players not to emulate it.

Natural Healing

Characters lacking any advantages suitable for recovery actions must fall back on the body's own ability to heal itself. To recover crossed-off advantages, characters use a potential action. This is worth 1d6+0 and must beat the CP of the target advantages as per a normal recovery action. Characters can try this once per period, as defined by the healing throttle, and natural healing counts as a recovery attempt should other healing be attempted within the same period.

The natural healing of advantages is deliberately, and realistically, slow and ineffective because it represents a complete lack of care and treatment. On 1d6+0 the maximum roll is six which is only enough to recover CP 4 / 1d6+0 and CP 5 / 1d6+1 advantages. Higher value advantages, CP 7 / 1d6+2 and above, are impossible to reach with natural healing. Those are lingering wounds which cannot be healed without some form of treatment. However this is rarely a problem as most groups of characters can find one or two advantages which can be justified in recovery actions, e.g. a character with a Military Service path advantage can creditably claim it covers basic first aid skills. Natural healing for advantages is the last resort for the truly desperate character.

The recovery of potential through natural healing is a lot simpler and reliable. Potential can be recouped from the damage pile to the spent pile in the same way characters can recoup from the spent pile to the bank. However, it happens at half the speed. Recouping one token from the damage pile to the spent pile counts as recouping two tokens from the spent pile to the bank.

A standard character with a recoup of two can move just one dynamic potential from the damage pile to the spent pile in a turn. If they do nothing their recoup increases to three allowing them to move one potential from the damage to the spent pile and then on into the bank. Static potential can only be moved from the damage pile when the character chooses to do nothing.

The recovery of potential this way allows character to recover, at least partially, from potential attacks during combat. In narrative play a character only has to wait and do nothing for an entire scene to be sure of recovering all their potential from the damage pile.

With his assailant dead, Mr L Pliskin examines his injury. It is a serious wound that cost him his Brawn (4 CP) and Self-Confidence (5 CP) advantages. With no medical help nearby and no skills of his own Pliskin takes shelter in a ruined diner, rests up and lets nature take its course.

On the first day he wants to get back his Brawn. Natural healing is worth 1d6+0 and it is resisted by his CP 4 Brawn so he has a one-in-three chance. Luck once again smiles on Pliskin as he rolls five, beating the resistance of four, and he recovers his Brawn.

With the healing throttle set to once a day, Pliskin now sits and waits around for a day and another healing opportunity to regain his Self-Confidence. It is worth 5 CP against natural healing's 1d6+0. He has a one in six chance of healing and this time his luck runs out with a roll of two. The painful wound is preventing him from moving around with his normal swagger and he doesn't feel like waiting here until it heals, so Pliskin heads into town.

Two days later he finds himself back in civilisation and heading to the hospital. Despite two further attempts at natural healing he has not recovered his Self-Confidence. Once at the hospital, a quick examination reveals one of the bullets is still in the wound and Pliskin is quickly on the operating table.

The well-trained doctor has the Surgery, Manual Dexterity, Anatomy and Medical Kit advantages worth 4d6+5. The Self-Confidence advantage sets a resistance of five but Pliskin has already attempted natural healing today (Pliskin really hates going to the doctors). This adds 2d6+0 to the resistance, making it 2d6+5 in total. The doctor rolls a decidedly average 19 but the Game Leader rolling the resistance only gets eight. The bullet is removed, the wound stitched up and within the hour Pliskin is out of surgery and feeling his old self again with his newly recovered Self-Confidence.


When a character takes life damage and cannot discard enough life advantages they are classed as dying. In this condition a character can neither act nor recoup potential. With a recovery effect which returns one or more advantages a character can be restored to full consciousness, able to act and recoup. There are no rules for actual death and a character can remain dying indefinitely. What happens if a character does not receive treatment is a decision taken by the player and the group based on the situation and the stories they wish to tell.

You could leave a comment if you were logged in.
open/mechanics/core/discard_pile.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/31 09:51 by tregenza
Recent changes RSS feed

The 6d6 RPG tabletop store is owned and operated by Chris Tregenza. Who also owns and runs Myomancy, a site about ADD / ADHD medication, Autism and Dyslexia Treatments and also site called Poosk. Chris also provides copy-writing, web design SEO advice to sites like Dingles' Games pathfinder rpg resources.