Whoa there, Gunslinger! I know you’re desperate to find a party, but it’s not worth invoking the permanent injury rules over! What permanent injury rules, you ask? Well there’s your first clue about how popular they are.

I don’t want to get into the weeds by addressing any particular subsystem here. That’s because, regardless of the associated penalties, the larger issue is player psychology. When permanent injuries are on the table, there are two basic ways things can go.

  • Good Ending: He cuts off my hand? Like Skywalker at the end of Empire? Badass!
  • Bad Ending: Thanks for making my guy unplayable. Jerk.

Those two reactions have a lot to do with campaign style. If you’re running a grim and gritty game with high lethality, and if you communicate that to your players, then everything is groovy. Same deal if you make healing magic accessible, or otherwise turn crippling injuries into not-so-crippling injuries (e.g. It’s a lot easier for a wizard to fight on one-handed than a greatsword fighter). But if it’s all been rainbows and sunshine and abstract hp damage, and then you suddenly spring dismemberment on the party, you’re a lot more likely to wind up with Bad Ending reactions.

My own experience with permanent injury has been limited. In particular, I’m thinking about a DM pal of mine who tried to find a middle ground, passing out superficial scars to PCs whenever they got crit. I always admired that impulse to make combat matter, but without mechanical teeth, it struck me as a waste of time (and sexy bard faces). Getting your leg crushed or your eye gouged out ought to come paired with a mechanical penalty. That just “feels” right in a visceral way. But if you want that kind of blood and gore in your game, you’ve got to make sure your players are on board and mentally prepared. Of course, a friendly NPC with access to regenerate helps too.

Question of the day then! Have you ever encountered permanent injury in your games? Was it a “time to retire my character” moment, or was it an interesting challenge to overcome? Sound off with your tales of horrible disfigurement down in the comments!


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