Non-Lethal Damage [pt. 6]

The last modified mechanic.

Non-Lethal Damage

Not all attacks kill. Some just knock someone unconscious. This happens in movies all the time.

Non-Lethal Damage uses the exact same Success Rating method as Lethal Damage (and the rest of the system). Its meaning is slightly different.

Non-Lethal Damage

SR Effect
Failure You Failed
0 SR Fatigue (2 Stress, 3 if Encumbered)
1 SR Fatigue
2 SR Fatigue
3 SR Impaired
4 SR Incapacitated
5 SR Unconscious

Of all the mechanics thus far discussed, this one is the least obvious. That is a weakness, I’ll admit, but the mechanic works, even if the internal logic is a little intricate.

Here’s the logic:

We need to be able to knock people out in one blow, without it being so easy as to make it the go-to move in combat. Low results can’t achieve it, but should do something. Moderate results should do more.

So, Impaired -> Incapacitated -> Unconscious. Doing 3 SR 3 times will knock the person out. (And 4 SR twice, or 5 SR once.)

But why Fatigue? Because enough Stress will cause the target to be Impaired, and even more will cause them to be Incapacitated. Eventually, you can just beat them Unconscious, even if you can’t get 3 SR.

At the lowest levels, Non-Lethal Damage is inferior to straight combat. At moderate levels (3 & 4 SR) it’s a little better, and at the highest level it’s exactly the same. Overall, it’s not notably better or worse than Lethal Damage — in combat.

Out of combat, it meets the design goal: to allow people to sneak up on another person and knock them out. This is possible because of the Total Surprise rule.

Total Surprise means the target can’t defend at all. (No Passive Defense.) So, their Skill Points don’t matter.

Toughness 9, Skill 9 = Defense 18? Not against a Surprise Attack. Against the Surprise Attack, you defend with Toughness 9. That’s 3 SR more against you, enough to turn a 2 into a 5.

Conk! Unconscious.

(Concluded in part 7.)

Stress and Impediments [pt. 5]

Using these mechanics, Stress still has all the uses already established (buying extra Actions, Reactive Defenses, and extra effort). But accumulating Stress (from Fatigue results or additional uses) also has some additional effects:

Endurance = No Effect
Endurance or greater = Impaired (-3 bonus modifier to all rolled Challenges.)
Twice Endurance (END x2) or Greater = Incapacitated (Can only make Simple Actions.)
Thrice Endurance (END x3) or Greater = Unconscious

Again, not quite as obvious, but fairly simple. You take a significant amount of Stress, it makes it harder to function. A lot, and you can only do simple things. A ton, and you go unconscious. (And now that I’ve changed how Stress works, I might have to rename it back to Fatigue.)

Impaired, Incapacitated, Unconscious

Both Wounds and Stress can cause the victim to be Impaired or Incapacitated. These have a special relationship: If you’re already Impaired, and you take another Impaired, you become Incapacitated. And if you’re Incapacitated, and take another Impaired or Incapacitated, you go Unconscious. (If you’re Impaired and take an Incapacitated, you also go Unconscious.)

Enough Stress (from Fatigue results), and you’re Impaired. Enough Wounds, and you’re also Impaired. If both happen, you become Incapacitated.

Enough Stress, and you’re Incapacitated. Enough Wounds, and you’re Impaired. If both happen, you go Unconscious.

I’ll admit that this rule is slightly intricate. It may be too complex for effective play. But it has some strong benefits, and also plays into Non-Lethal Damage. I’ll discuss that in part 6.

Success Ratings in Combat [pt. 4]

One of the things I liked about Savage Worlds is that damage could be tracked very easily. With just a few Wounds, you could use beads (we used skulls). 1 Skull, 2 Skulls, 3 Skulls, Dead. Easy-peasy.

In its original form, Infinity used limited Wounds (6, in my case). This could be represented easily with chits, beads, or markers.

Moving to a 5-Success model necessitated making Damage more complex, resulting in the 20 Wound model. But that’s too complicated to use chits with, and with Stress being another such mechanic, it overloaded the game.

Back to 3-Success, back to 6 Wounds, back to simple chits representing Wounds. (Stress is more complex, because it needs to be. Spending points to do stuff is the raison d’etre of Stress.)

Here’s how it works, with Lethal Damage:

SR Means
Failure You Failed
0 SR Fatigue (2 Stress, 3 if Encumbered)
1 SR 1 Wound
2 SR 2 Wounds
+1 SR +1 Wound

Simple. Direct. Obvious.

1 SR = 1 Wound.

0 SR = “Not quite there” = Fatigue.

Failure = Failure.

It’s almost insulting, putting it in a table.

Wounds work like this:

1-3 = No Additional Effect
4 = Impaired (-3 bonus modifier to rolled Challenges.)
5 = Dying (Incapacitated, can make only Simple Actions, plus Dead in 5 Rounds.)
6 = Dead

Not quite as obvious, but fairly simple and easily understandable. You get severely hurt, it’s harder to do stuff. More hurt, and you’re dying. Even more, and you die.

Accumulating Stress has some additional effects, which I’ll discuss in part 5.

Success Ratings in Skill Challenges [pt. 3]

Let’s start with Skill Challenges, because that’s the easiest to explain. In Skill Challenges, the higher the SR, the better you did.

SR Means
Failure You Failed
0 SR Partial Success
1 SR Success
2 SR Solid Success
3 SR Spectacular Success

-1 Result or lower is a Failure. The character failed at the Challenge.

0 Success Rating is a Partial Success. The character has neither succeeded nor failed at the task. To Succeed, they have to try again (with this skill or another), and get a Partial Success or better. [This is called a “Complication” in Revision 2.]

1 Success Rating is a Success. The character barely succeeded at the task.

2 SR is a Solid Success. They did well at the task. Not outstanding, but well.

3 SR is a Spectacular Success. The character did remarkably well, enough to earn compliments or admiration for their accomplishment.

Simple. Direct. Obvious.

The outcomes are easy to describe and easy to understand, a plus for players and gamemasters.

Combat in part 4.

3 Result Success [pt. 2]

Here’s how it works:

As with the current mechanics, you take the appropriate total and subtract the Challenge Rating, to get a Result.

Result Success Rating
-1 or lower Failure
0-2 0 SR
3-5 1 SR
6-8 2 SR
9-11 3 SR
+3 +1 SR

The above chart is the core of the system. All other mechanics, all other mechanics, will be built around Success Ratings.


So, when I say “simple, direct, and obvious” it means that, once you know the above chart, all the other mechanics will be direct implementations of it. (As modified by other considerations.)

0 SR typically means “not quite there” or “you need to do better”. This has slightly different meanings in Skill Challenges vs. Combat Challenges, but 0 SR always means something, and we never use Result to mean anything.

1 SR typically means “you barely accomplished what you wanted to”.

2 SR usually means “you did it”.

3 SR usually means “you did very well”.

Once you understand how to generate Success Levels, the other mechanics fall into line.

This is the key to making the mechanics clear, direct, and obvious, to the maximum extent possible.

Now, the above chart is nearly identical to the chart I started with. Conceptually, it’s pretty simple: 0 = 0, 3 = 1, 6 = 2, and so forth.

The objection raised was that it would be too difficult for people to count by 3’s, that 5’s would be easier. This may very well be the case.

But I no longer care. Once you can count by 3’s, all other mechanics follow. If you can’t count by 3’s, this system isn’t for you.

I’ll talk about the meaning of Success Ratings in different Challenges in part 3.

(Re-)Questioning Assumptions [pt. 1]

When designing something, you must listen to other people. Sometimes. Other times, you must ignore them. And other times, you have to do both at the same time.

The goal for Infinity was for the mechanics to be simple, direct, and obvious. And, back in the beginning, they were.

When I first posted the rules, people said that my 3-based Success mechanic was too complicated (as it was easier counting by 5 than counting by 3). I listened, and changed it to a 5-based. Unfortunately, that required changing a lot of other mechanics. These changes made the game less simple, indirect, and un-obvious. They added to the complexity budget.

The game, as it stands, has some features I think are really neat. Some I came up with, some suggested by others. But it’s too complicated. In order to streamline, I need to move back towards my original mechanics, which necessitates a return to 3-Success.

I’ll explain that model in part 2.

The Price of Magic

Magic is supposed to be evocative and wondrous, but often it’s as thrilling as using a paperclip.

Neat, clean “fire and forget” spells are b-o-r-i-n-g. They’re a tool, just like a flashlight, and about as involving.

In some systems spells have drawbacks — penalties attached to their use. But ad hoc, arbitrary consequences attached per-spell, with no consideration for cosmology or worldbuilding, are also boring. They are meaningless.

A great magic system has a cost, a price that must be paid, and it’s a price that ties into the cosmology of the setting. The setting is reflected in the magic, and by learning of the magic, you learn more about the setting.

One great example is Call of Cthulhu’s Insanity. Now, “Lose 1d4 SAN” isn’t interesting all by itself — that’s just a dry mechanical description. (But even that is more thrilling than some systems.)

But the consequences of actual insanity — becoming paranoid, depressive, manic, whatever — is interesting. The notion that magic warps your mind, makes you slightly insane at first, then more and more insane as you use it more, is compelling, especially in terms of role-playing a character. How do you play a man who is losing his mind? And the mind-warping power of magic ties into the nature of existence in CoC: human minds cannot grasp the truths of eality, and trying to do so drives you insane.

Magic then becomes not an add-on rules set, but an integral part of worldbuilding. Done properly, it enhances everything else in a setting. (As is the case with both Shadowrun and Earthdawn.)

Magic should always have a price (and not just because of game balance). Whether it’s a sacrifice involved in acquiring the power (losing an eye and hanging on a tree for ten days), learning the power (going insane), or utilizing it (blasting the vegetation around you to dust), there should be some cost involved.

Ideally, the price should be colorful, present some roleplaying opportunities and challenges, and be tied into the cosmology of the setting. This “price” is what makes magic involving.

Magic, how you use magic, and what magic you use should be choices with consequences. Choices are the core of roleplaying, and when magic is fraught with uncertainty, those choices are more meaningful.