Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wounds and Vitality (ie: Vigor)

The Wounds and Vitality (or Vigor) system was introduced in d20 Modern and d20 Star Wars many years ago to add verisimilitude to D&D's normal hit point system. Rules for Pathfinder's W/V system were reintroduced in Ultimate Combat.

Why use the W/V system? The problem with Hit Points is that they are an abstract interpretation of something critical to tabletop RPGs. When a 1st level rogue gets hit for 15 hp, they are dying, but when a 15th level rogue takes the same damage they don't bat an eye. What does that mean? Did they actually get hit or did they slide out of the way at the last second? Maybe they rolled with the punch?

Wounds and Vitality attempts to answer those questions. The system below is house-ruled to include a version of second wind which allows players a very limited form of self-healing. I've changed the wounded threshold to bloodied threshold, introducing the bloodied condition which can be affected like other conditions and may trigger certain effects (such as granting attack bonuses or targeting preferences to blood-thirsty creatures like vampires and sharks). Also included are rules for the Healing skill which were not included in the original.

Wounds and Vitality

Vitality represents your raw endurance and skill at avoiding blows in combat. Wounds represent actually getting hit. Here's how they work.

At 1st level, you gain a number of Wound Points (WP) equal to your Constitution. Not Con Mod, but your actual Constitution. A fighter with a 16 Con starts with 16 WP. A wizard with a Con of 8 starts with 8. Unless your Constitution permanently changes, you never gain more WPs.

At every level after 1st, you gain a number of Vitality Points (VP) equal to your Hit Die + Con Mod, just like you would have if you gained Hit Points. This means that as you gain experience, you learn how to fight more efficiently, avoid hits, and build endurance during combat.

When you take damage from a weapon, spell, or other effect, that damage is applied to your Vitality Points first. Once your VP are used up, you start getting tired and are unable to dodge blows as effectively, therefor start taking WP.

Example: Ishkabible, a 2nd level monk with a 12 Con (and no armor), has 12 WP and 8 VP. An orc warrior swings and hits Ishkabible's Defense Score with a longsword rolls a 6 damage. Ishkabible takes 6 VP of damage, managing to slip to the side of the blow. The next round, the orc hits again, this time doing 12 damage. Ishkabible manages to roll with the blow somewhat, taking 2 points to his VP, but the the other 10 is applied to his WP, slashing him viciously across the chest. If the monk takes 2 more points of wound damage, he will become bloodied (see below) and fight to stay conscious.

Defense Score vs Vitality

When using the Armor as Damage Resistance rules, your defense score represents how easily you get out of the way or prevent being hit. A monk with a high defense score that is missed by an attacker effortlessly avoided or blocked the blow. The same monk who gets hit by an attacker and takes vitality points managed to avoid the blow, but used up energy doing it; perhaps he blocked the attack or rolled with the blow, gaining some minor bruising but no serious damage.

Critical Hits

When a creature is subject to a critical hit, the critical hit deals damage normally. The critical deals a number of additional WPs equal to its critical multiplier (2 WP for x2, 4 WP for x4). This extra wound point damage ignores any damage reduction the target may have, including DR/armor.

Surprise and Critical Hits

The first successful attack against a flat-footed target during a surprise round automatically threatens a critical hit. Critical hits must be confirmed as normal. This rule only applies to surprise rounds and not to other attacks that catch a character flat-footed, such as from sniping.

Characters with the Uncanny Dodge class feature are not considered flat-footed during surprise rounds.

Bloodied and Dying Characters

When you reach 0 WP, you become bloodied. This is referred to as your bloodied threshold. Bloodied characters do not go unconscious. They instead become staggered and if they perform either a standard or a move action during their turn, they take 1 WP and must make a Constitution check (DC 10 + amount of WP damage the character has taken). A failed check means they fall unconscious. When a creature's WP damage reaches a negative number equal to their Constitution score or fewer, the character is dead.

The bloodied condition can only be removed by healing the character above their bloodied threshold, or through effects, such as a paladin's mercy, that remove the bloodied condition. Removing the bloodied condition does not heal WPs, but does remove the staggered condition and allows the character to take full actions without fear of losing wound points or falling unconscious.

Paladin's Mercy: At 6th level, a paladin adds the following to the list of mercies that can be selected.
  • Bloodied: The target is no longer bloodied, is no longer staggered due to the bloodied condition, and may take actions normally without incurring would point damage or forcing Constitution checks to stay conscious. This mercy does not heal any additional wound points beyond what would be healed by the application of lay on hands, nor does it bring the target above their bloodied threshold.
Bloodied and Dying Monsters

Only named antagonists, creatures like wolverines, or villains with extremely high moral should keep fighting after becoming bloodied. A GM can assume that any insignificant monster or NPC immediately falls unconscious or bleeds out when they hit 0 or fewer WP. Even most named antagonists will use their actions to try and escape the PCs as soon as they become bloodied

Healing and Second Wind

Second Wind: Your character may take a second wind during a short rest. Short rests are defined as any non-combat time of 5 minutes or longer where the character can rest uninterrupted. A character using a second wind regains Vitality Points equal to their level + Constitution modifier (min level) after five minutes of uninterrupted rest. Characters may use second wind a number of times per day equal to their Constitution Modifier (min 1). Uses of second wind are renewed after 8 hrs of uninterrupted rest, but no more than once per 24 hour period.

Rest: A full 8 hours of rest allows a character to recover all of their VPs and 1 WP (no more than once per 24 hour period). A full 24 hours of uninterrupted rest allows a character to recover all VPs and a number of WP equal to their Con Modifier (min 2).

Magical Healing: When a healing spell or effect is used, the dice normally rolled by the spell or effect heal Vitality Points only. In addition to the VPs regained, the target heals 1 WP per die of healing + 1 WP per 5 levels of the caster (max double the initial dice).

Example: Cure moderate wounds cast by a 10th level cleric heals 2d8+10 VP and 4 WP of damage. Cure light wounds cast by the same cleric would heal 1d8+5 VP and 2 WP. Lay on hands applied by a 6th level paladin would heal 3d6 VP and 4 WP. A potion of cure light wounds heals 1d8+1 VP and 1 WP.

Healing Skill: The original Wounds and Vitality rules did not include guidelines for using the Healing skill.
  • Treat Deadly Wounds: allows the target to recover a number of VP equal to the character's level + Constitution modifier (min level), plus 1 WP. For every 10 you exceed the DC of the check by, the target regains 1 additional WP.
  • Long Term Care: allows those treated to regain 3 WP per 24 hours of uninterrupted treatment. Characters with a positive Con Mod may add their Con Mod to the number of WP regained under long term care.
  • First Aid used on a bloodied character allows the character to take a move or standard action without losing WP or having to make Constitution checks to stay conscious. An unconscious bloodied character regains consciousness automatically. First aid does not, however, remove the staggered condition.
Nonlethal Damage

When a creature takes nonlethal damage, it takes that damage in vigor points only, even if the attack deals more damage than the creature has vitality points. If the creature has no VPs, each time that creature takes damage from an attack that deals nonlethal damage, it takes either 1 WP of damage, or a number of WPs equal to the attack's critical hit modifier if the attack is a critical hit.

Poison, Disease and Wound Points

Poisoned weapons will only deliver their poison if the weapon inflicts at least 1 WP to the target. Surprise attacks are the most effective way to deliver a dose of poison and is a common way for the seedier elements to start a combat against more powerful foes. Poisons delivered through touch attacks, such as a poison spell, follow the touch attack rules below.

Creatures who deliver disease via bite or sting must also inflict at least 1 wound point to the target. Diseases such as mummy rot that is delivered by touch attacks follow the touch attack rules below.

Touch Attacks and Vitality

Successful touch attacks deliver their effect as long as the attack roll is successful. Spells like touch of fatigue only require the lightest connection to take effect.

Favored Class Bonus

The extra HP gained from taking a level in your favored class instead adds to the character's Vitality Points.

New and Alternate Feats

Some feats have altered effects under the Wounds and Vitality system.

You keep on going, even when you are bloodied.
Benefit: You do not need to succeed at the Constitution check to stay conscious when you are bloodied. You still take 1 WP if you take either a standard or move action on your turn.

Combat Endurance
You fight efficiently, rolling with punches and dodging blows.
Benefit: You gain +3 vitality points. For every Hit Die you possess beyond 3, you gain an additional +1 vitality point. If you ever have more than 3 Hit Dice, you gain +1 vitality point whenever you gain a Hit Die (such as when you gain a level).

Second Wind, Improved
You never seem to run out of energy.
Prerequisites: Con 14, Combat Endurance
Benefits: You gain one additional use of second wind per day.
You may take this feat more than once. Its effects stack. Note that only one second wind may be used after each combat encounter.

You have enhanced physical stamina
Benefit: You gain 1 additional wound point for every level or Hit Die your character has.


  1. These rules stay crunchy in milk too! :) I'm at the age where less is more.

    1. I know a lot of gamers who are looking for simple, streamlined rules. I've even played in a couple games recently with very simple systems. They're fun. What I'm looking for now is something different. I love it when the rules help the players visualize what's happening and die rolls feed the roleplaying while in no way dominating the table. We've played together a long time, you know storyline wins against die rolls every time. Running for all new players, I find these kind of rules help to visualize the world around them and make it easier, instead of harder, to get into the subtler, more roleplaying aspects of the game.