Hit Points or Wound Levels?

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Aglondir

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I've always like Hit Points, especially the 3.5 implementation, where you're Dying at -1 and Dead at -10. With the caveat that more than 30 HP tends to stretch my believability meter. (I like low-level play, but that's a topic for another post.)

On the other hand, Wound Levels were a lot of fun, especially in Vampire: The Masquerade. They provided a more visceral feel than HP-- if my character was down to half HP, I never blinked an eye. But if my character was Mauled it made me worry. Perhaps it's all psychological.

Which do you prefer, HP or Wound levels? Or, something else entirely?
 

Sunsword

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I'm a hit point guy all the way. I can tolerate wounds for the occasional Savage Worlds game, but that's it.
 

Stevethulhu

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Hit points with escalating wound states for me.

The problem D&D has with hit points is, they sell them as some sort of plot related, exchanging blows until someone gets a decisive hit in. That is, runs out of hit points. Which is fine, right up to the moment you take hit point damage for falling or being lit on fire. At that point, they become a direct measure of how tough you are and make combat seem like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot battles.

Scratch that, I like the Wound Track in Cyberpunk 2020. Everyone there has 40 check boxes, but your Body stat subtracts from incoming damage. Because bigger people are naturally tougher. It's the same logic GURPS 4 uses, but whatever.

Every 4 boxes you check off, you go up another Wound State. From Light, through Serious, on to Critical and finally Mortal. With Mortal going from 0 to 6. Which is a handy way to remember what the penalty on your Death Save is each round.
 

Ladybird

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Depends on the game, but I like to have enough of a buffer that characters can get into a situation, realise they're out of their depth, and still have the resources to react to that knowledge (Surrendering, running away, or negotiating should be encouraged!), rather than going out of their depth and then going splat.

The problem D&D has with hit points is, they sell them as some sort of plot related, exchanging blows until someone gets a decisive hit in. That is, runs out of hit points. Which is fine, right up to the moment you take hit point damage for falling or being lit on fire. At that point, they become a direct measure of how tough you are and make combat seem like Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot battles.

D&D hit points have always been weird like this (Like, how the hell does damaging poison work, if HP represent luck and dodging blows?), but that's what you get when you use a combat system designed for naval encounters.

I quite like it when games just accept they're strange, and move on - I like the idea of words of encouragement helping a character stay in the fight, for example, and how that lets an inspirational leader help their soldiers fight longer.
 

Tom B

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I like wound levels. Sort of. Something other than straight hit points anyway.

Rolemaster was nice in that, while it had hit points, they were solely a measure of exhaustion and overall stamina. The tables gave precise wounds and effects (bleeding rate, unconscious, stunned, etc.)

Another I like is the CORPS rpg by BTRC. You receive points of damage, but those points indicate the penalty to actions involving the damaged part of the body. It also represents the chance that the wound might be eventually fatal, and the rate of blood loss. So, it's sort of a hit point system....but it has specific effects and tells you a lot more about the severity of the wound than just providing a countdown.
 
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Nuada

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I like wound levels/conditions a la Burning Wheel/Torchbearer/Mouse Guard. Does anyone remember the d20 game, "The Secret Fire"? Anyway, I have taken to using wound cards instead of just straight levels. Light wounds have some penalty cards, some "no effect" cards and even some good cards (being angry and doing more damage for a hit), while more serious wounds have fewer blank or good cards and provide more of a penalty. The cards are drawn each round, which adds tension to the fight. Players can use fate to ignore a card's effect for the round, allowing for that great heroic effort while leaving some resource management piece.
 

TristramEvans

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I prefer hit points as a complete abstraction that determines how long a person can last in a fight before fatigue sets in or skill runs out and a hit penetrates their defences. Hit Points being directly correlated to wounds makes my brain wrinkle.

I've yet to see a Wound Level system that wasnt just hit points with bells and whistles, and the same issues arise.

I really like the doctor Who system where Wounds directly remove points from Attributes. Ultimately my preference is a combination of this notion with "Hit Points" representing stamina and reactionary defence.
 

Tommy Brownell

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Neither bothers me. They're all game mechanics in the end. I mean, my two favorite games are D&D5e and Savage Worlds and they are on the exact opposite ends of the spectrum.

I do prefer smaller HP totals. I've thought about taking the 5e HP to the smaller HP gain after level 9 or so, like 2e, but I figure all the monsters would need recalculating as well.
 

Stevethulhu

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D&D hit points have always been weird like this (Like, how the hell does damaging poison work, if HP represent luck and dodging blows?), but that's what you get when you use a combat system designed for naval encounters.

I quite like it when games just accept they're strange, and move on - I like the idea of words of encouragement helping a character stay in the fight, for example, and how that lets an inspirational leader help their soldiers fight longer.
Unfortunately, D&D set the standard for hit points. And really, its been a tough one to beat.

I'm another vote for just accepting that it's an abstraction. I like GURPS, I like the Stormbringer thing with Major Wounds and in general, I'm not too worried about the game part of roleplaying games.
 

TheophilusCarter

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It definitely depends on my mood. I'm perfectly okay with classic D&D style hit points and related things such as AC. I don't really care too much about "realism" - to me, they're just straightforward gamism, designed to make fights play out a certain way. That can certainly be fun.
Other times, I like different wound-like mechanics. Someone mentioned the recent Doctor Who game, and that's definitely one of my favorites: damage is applied directly to attributes, which in turn affects rolls (which are attribute + skill). Some can be too punitive, though - I used to love Savage Worlds, but the wound system is one of the things that killed it for me after a while. I'm also not a huge fan of various stun or shaken effects, except as a rare occurrence for special attacks - I hate anything that means I more or less lose a turn, or just can't do what I want to do (at least, not without making that fun).
 

K_Peterson

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I'm fine with either. I play some Rpgs with HP and some with wound levels.
 

Tommy Brownell

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It definitely depends on my mood. I'm perfectly okay with classic D&D style hit points and related things such as AC. I don't really care too much about "realism" - to me, they're just straightforward gamism, designed to make fights play out a certain way. That can certainly be fun.
Other times, I like different wound-like mechanics. Someone mentioned the recent Doctor Who game, and that's definitely one of my favorites: damage is applied directly to attributes, which in turn affects rolls (which are attribute + skill). Some can be too punitive, though - I used to love Savage Worlds, but the wound system is one of the things that killed it for me after a while. I'm also not a huge fan of various stun or shaken effects, except as a rare occurrence for special attacks - I hate anything that means I more or less lose a turn, or just can't do what I want to do (at least, not without making that fun).

They revised the rule for Shaken a couple of years ago for that reason. I suspect Wound penalties will go next when enough people complain at convention games about the death spiral.
 

Spartan

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I'm happy with either or any. D&D HP are a bit weird, but that's OK. I'm less thrilled with armour making the character harder to hit, and prefer that armour absorbs damage. But I don't care that much that I wouldn't play D&D, because I love D&D.

My ideal system would handle it like DragonQuest. You have a certain amount of fatigue points which get used up by damage first, and then hit points that represent physical damage after you run out of fatigue. A good hit can bypass armour, and go straight to the hit points, and can also result in a Rolemaster-like critical. It's pretty neat. Chivalry & Sorcery is somewhat similar, but without text criticals.

I'm also ok with FATE consequences. I'm ok with TROS tables. It's all good.

HP vs. wound levels isn't something that I care about that much. I just want whatever system there is to work reasonably well.
 

Leon ap Hywel

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As long as they're not endless then hit points are fine but I do like some representation of the beating a character or NPC has taken.
 

The Butcher

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Hit points are easier to manage but wound levels (or hit points with hit locations) are more fun. I'm a sucker for a good death spiral.
 

Necrozius

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I'm actually getting bored of hit points. I would love to convert it to something similar to Exhaustion (or, wound levels). Also, martial classes, especially the fighter, can hold off the penalities for longer (eg, more "lightly bruised initial states).
 

Sosthenes

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What I like about hit points is that they allow you to quickly calculate survivability. This is highly unrealistic and can lead to the dreaded "I ain't afraid of no crossbow" issue, but it makes for a system that is very easy to comprehend and to game with. Things get chaotic quite often, and this at least gives the players some half-solid ground to stand on.
If you want it that way, of course. Sometimes that might be the opposite of what would be good for the campaign.

Which is why I'm not the biggest fan of hit points plus some other stuff, even if I like the other stuff. It quickly turns hit points into something that doesn't say a lot but still needs to be tracked. Rolemaster being one example, where concussion hits often are close to a consolation prize ("No crit, but hey, 12 points of concussion hits").

I kinda like wound levels, but not resistance rolls to get them. Which is a bit weird, because I actually prefer defense rolls as opposed to static thresholds/ACs. My ideal system would have attack, defense and both damage and wound levels managed by margins, maybe with some game-able factors (i.e. switching points between raw damage and hit location or special effects).
 

Endless Flight

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Vitality/Wounds or Hit Point/Condition Track or Wound Levels over straight Hit Points every time.

Oddly enough, that describes almost every injury system used in Star Wars games over the years.
 

Mrfish

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Hit points have the benefit of being simple and easy to comprehend, and very easy to keep track of as a player (somewhat worse from a GMs standpoint). My feelings towards it does depend on the amount of HP you have though (like the old game of thrones d20 rules versus standard 3.5 leading to different results in the way players handle HP), but in my experience players tend to ignore any damage they take (or threats that might cause damage), until they have but a fraction left. If such a system is combined with prevalent amounts of healing magic, then I often find the system too abstract and leading to a style of play where players feel themselves above more mundane threats. Holding a knife to ones throat, a crossbow bolt aimed at your belly, risking falling several feet or being burned by lava often seems inconsequential when using a HP system.

Wounds tend to make players more aware of their frailty, and its often easier to present them with meaningful threats. Though describing damage through rules will always lead to some necessary abstractions and suppositions, it also feels more "real". It often involves much more book-keeping, so I tend to steer away from too complicated systems.

What I often end up with is some sort of HP system combined with critical hits, or a HP system with a separate sub-system for wound damage (like for instance HP = 0 means you take damage to your constitution).

* I really like what shadow of the deamon lord does with standard d20 combat, and look forward to trying its "HP" system. Still have an urge to try out a critical hit system in combination with it though, especially since I can't really see the system being very deadly (which might be because of my wrong interpretation of the rules).
 

Ladybird

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What I like about hit points is that they allow you to quickly calculate survivability. This is highly unrealistic and can lead to the dreaded "I ain't afraid of no crossbow" issue, but it makes for a system that is very easy to comprehend and to game with. Things get chaotic quite often, and this at least gives the players some half-solid ground to stand on.
If you want it that way, of course. Sometimes that might be the opposite of what would be good for the campaign.

I quite like games with a "massive damage" clause; if something horrific happens, the character dies, ignore the HP system.

So that crossbow-bolt-to-the-head goes to doing 1 Character worth of damage instead.
 

Necrozius

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To add upon what I wrote earlier: HP (and AC, to an extent) has become frustrating to me because of its abstract nature. Especially when a player wants to do a "called shot".

I have a game-halting debate with every group about this. I've heard every argument under the sun, including these:
  • HP is abstract: it represents your overall "fitness" or endurance (they why is Exhaustion mechanic in 5e? shouldnt' that just be HP damage?)
  • Everyone is always trying to do a "called shot", as it, combat involves people trying their best to hit people where it counts (then why does the Sneak attack exist as a separate thing that only Rogues can do?)
  • When you're hit by a monster and lose HP, you're not REALLY hurt, you just spent effort avoiding the blow; it abstracts combat (that includes falling damage and other non-combat sources of damage, I guess?)
I'm not stating that I want a super detailed, finicky immersive system or anything, but I would love to find a better way to handle this. In 5e, in particular, I could see HP and Exhaustion merging together, somehow.

As an aside, Torchbearer and Mouse Guard have a system of different status conditions (listed in order of severity): Hungry/Thirsty, Tired, Angry, Sick, Hurt and Dead. Somewhat resembles WoD's damage track. I see some potential in there.

At the risk of earning some flak by more intelligent and well learned members of the RPG community, I'll stand by that HP is a sort of sacred cow from 70s wargaming. I wonder if there will be a way to move on some day.
 

Stevethulhu

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At the risk of earning some flak by more intelligent and well learned members of the RPG community, I'll stand by that HP is a sort of sacred cow from 70s wargaming. I wonder if there will be a way to move on some day.
They are a sort of sacred cow, yes. But the other thing is, and this is the crucial bit, they work.

The thing is, all combat in an RPG is an abstraction to a certain degree. Take random damage and hit locations. I know that I can hit you in the head fairly easily. It's an instinctive target to punch for. I also know that if I hit you in the nose, which isn't that hard to do, it's going to have certain physiological reactions. Your eyes will start to water automatically being the main one. And I don't have to hit you hard for this to work. And there's a lot less luck involved in my attempt to bloody your nose and your attempt to make sure I don't do it than you'd think. Add in that the effects of a given blow can be weirdly counter intuitive and you start to realise that fisticuffs is way more intricate than most RPGs allow for. The human body is both incredibly tough and durable, while being weirdly fragile and easy to break.

So rather than try to model all this complexity (though some games try that route with various degrees of success) it's easier to say "A punch does a random amount of damage between X and Y. You can take Z amount of punishment before you are no longer able to function. And even though bodies don't really work that way, it's a convenient game mechanic. And handily, it works for other forms of damage, too.
 

Apparition

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HP. Why? Because most people I tabletop game with are also video game players, where HPs reign supreme.
 

Baulderstone

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They are a sort of sacred cow, yes. But the other thing is, and this is the crucial bit, they work.

This more than anything. I like wound levels as well, but HP are quick, dirty and easy.

Sometimes I want to play a game where each hit against my character has a debilitating effect. Other times, I want the D&D effect of being wounded but still functioning just fine.
 

Ladybird

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And even though bodies don't really work that way, it's a convenient game mechanic.

Yeah, this is key; especially for a game like modern D&D, where getting into fights is just something you do, an HP system is good enough. We all have tweaks we'd make - I'm quite fond of flat d6 damage for any weapon, because what would you rather be stabbed through the heart with, a dagger or a mace? - but it's overall okay.

The "meat points" part of it isn't even that bad as an abstraction, given the vagaries of serious injury RL; people are shot and stabbed every day and survive, and then sometimes someone trips on a pavement and dies after bumping their head.

At the risk of earning some flak by more intelligent and well learned members of the RPG community, I'll stand by that HP is a sort of sacred cow from 70s wargaming. I wonder if there will be a way to move on some day.

It's not just tabletop roleplaying, though. It's the model that videogamers are used to, it's the model that card gamers are used to, it's the model board gamers are used to. It's not going away any time soon as the industry leader.
 

Necrozius

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Oh for sure. It's here to stay. I just wish that it had something more to it.

It's primarily why I love 5e's Exhaustion system and conditions. I use them all of the time.

Edit: I apologise for the awkward writing of that last post. I really suck at typing on an iPhone.
 

Ladybird

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Oh for sure. It's here to stay. I just wish that it had something more to it.

It's primarily why I love 5e's Exhaustion system and conditions. I use them all of the time.

Yeah, I think they're an overall nice system that can handle a lot more "load" than you'd think, just like a lot of systems in 5e.

I'm quite fond of Shadowrun's Physical / Mental damage tracks. But I also play magic-users, and I'll regularly finish a run asleep due to drain.

No need to apologise about phone typing, we get what you meant :smile:
 

Sosthenes

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I quite like games with a "massive damage" clause; if something horrific happens, the character dies, ignore the HP system.
So that crossbow-bolt-to-the-head goes to doing 1 Character worth of damage instead.

As I've pointed out, I don't like it when that happens too often, as it bypasses the hit point system and thus turns it from a convenient piece of gamism to an onerous bookkeeping chore. If every crossbow bolt crosses that massive damage threshold, just use a general threshold system. If it's 1d12 damage and the threshold is Con, or if it's a regular 1-in-20 crit chance that might spoil things, that's usually sufficient to keep players on their feet.

Don't have too many systems, don't make me track too many variables, don't cop out too often. These are the things I want from a health system in general (before genre/danger level comes into play).

I'm fine with keeping two things in mind for my PC. Like hit points and check penalties. Or "health" and "stun". That still leaves some headroom for momentary penalties like D&D-ish conditions, GURPS shock penalties etc.

I also have a general dislike for special-cased mook & monster rules, so please let me use the same system for everyone.
 

Spinachcat

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Depends on the genre.

In general, HP does the job for me, but I am open to different wounding concepts based on how they fit the genre.
 

Necrozius

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I also have a general dislike for special-cased mook & monster rules, so please let me use the same system for everyone.

For mooks, my technique has been to give them the minimum possible HP that they could otherwise get from randomly rolling.

E.g.,: skeleton minion gets 2d6+3 HP? They get 5 as mooks. Sometimes I do the same with the damage that they'd deal out.

On the flip side, I'll max out the HP for a "mini-boss".

Still "legal" and doesn't break anything.
 
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Mrfish

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For less important creatures I tend to use either something similar to d20 rules for "minions" (from 4th edition I guess). But I've also tried to add the HP of all minor creatures of the same type together and remove a creature whenever enough HP is drained from this pool to exceed what one crearture has. So if the players face 10 skeletons, each with 10 HP, that would make a 100 HP pool. If one PC does 19 damage, this removes 19 HP from the pool and 1 creature (seeing as 19 exceeds 10), then whoevers turn it is next only have do do 1 damage to kill off a skeleton.

This is by no meens fair (except perhaps beeing equal for all players), and leads to some strange instances where a player in effect can kill off multiple creatures while only beeing adjacent to 1, but its easy to book-keep for me as a gm, it makes HP matter (unlike with "minions") and its a predictable system rather than simply winging it.
 

Necrozius

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I rather like the idea of a HP "pool". I'd like to try that someday.

The first time I ever encountered that idea was when I read about the UK edition of Milton Bradley's Hero Quest board game. The US version just used individual HP values. Interesting.
 

Sosthenes

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Total damage divided by single creature HP = kills is literally the 13th age mook rule, by the way.
 

Baulderstone

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For less important creatures I tend to use either something similar to d20 rules for "minions" (from 4th edition I guess). But I've also tried to add the HP of all minor creatures of the same type together and remove a creature whenever enough HP is drained from this pool to exceed what one crearture has. So if the players face 10 skeletons, each with 10 HP, that would make a 100 HP pool. If one PC does 19 damage, this removes 19 HP from the pool and 1 creature (seeing as 19 exceeds 10), then whoevers turn it is next only have do do 1 damage to kill off a skeleton.

This is by no meens fair (except perhaps beeing equal for all players), and leads to some strange instances where a player in effect can kill off multiple creatures while only beeing adjacent to 1, but its easy to book-keep for me as a gm, it makes HP matter (unlike with "minions") and its a predictable system rather than simply winging it.
I have mixed feeling about doing that. It is really easy, but I feel like it negates tactical choices players make. If I decided to target an NPC that another player already wounded, it actually means nothing if the mooks are just one big pool.

However, I do like using this system if I end up with a group of NPCs fighting NPCs. Roll, a handful of to-hit dice for one side. Roll the total damage for all hits. Mark the damage from the general HP pool of the opponents, and determine how many died. Repeat for the other side.
 

Necrozius

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I have mixed feeling about doing that. It is really easy, but I feel like it negates tactical choices players make. If I decided to target an NPC that another player already wounded, it actually means nothing if the mooks are just one big pool.

That is a good point, actually. I could see some players feeling "robbed" of a victory/kill.
 

Mrfish

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I have mixed feeling about doing that. It is really easy, but I feel like it negates tactical choices players make. If I decided to target an NPC that another player already wounded, it actually means nothing if the mooks are just one big pool.

However, I do like using this system if I end up with a group of NPCs fighting NPCs. Roll, a handful of to-hit dice for one side. Roll the total damage for all hits. Mark the damage from the general HP pool of the opponents, and determine how many died. Repeat for the other side.

I agree with your point. I think that however one chooses to simplify the HP system, especially when one of the goals is no minimise book-keeping on the GMs part, its going to lead to some trade-offs. If I use such a system I let the players in on it, so that they dont necessarily plan their tactics without taking this into consideration. All in all I feel a need to simplify HP to make it easier for me as a GM to retain control and flow, either with mentioned system or a "minion" system (or something else, ideas?). I might use fewer, more powerful, creatures which are easier to keep good records of, but that somewhat limits my encounters.
 

Baulderstone

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Sure. I don't think there is anything innately wrong with your approach. I am just weighing in with my thoughts. We all have our line. As we have seen in this thread, some people feel hit points themselves are too abstract. Other people like hit points, but insist they be split up among hit locations.

I have my preferences as a GM, but as a player, I am happy to go with the GM's preferences.
 

zweihander

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Purely a personal preference, but I hate HP tracking, constant erasing and scratch paper from the ghost of Uncle Siggy and Pappa Gygax's past. This is why I went with Damage Thresholds in ZWEIHÄNDER. Simply add a plastic protector sheet and dry erase marker - viola!
 

opaopajr

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Wound Levels routinely read to me as "Hit Points Plus Suck Spiral!" :p

Sometimes that's fun drama. Sometimes that's just extra bookkeeping. I'm mostly in the "less bookkeeping, please!" camp, however.
 

Ladybird

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As I've pointed out, I don't like it when that happens too often, as it bypasses the hit point system and thus turns it from a convenient piece of gamism to an onerous bookkeeping chore.

I like it because it rewards players for going to the effort of getting an overwhelming advantage, and having a character execute someone (As opposed to killing them in a fair fight) says something interesting about them... but it's a rule that really requires GM interpretation, and I can see why it wouldn't work at every table.
 
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