Non-lethal damage rules?

Has anyone experimented non-lethal damage rules for ACKS? Either your own creation, or something adapted from another B/X-compatible game?

What I’d like to do is have some means of distinguishing non-lethal hurts (fists, clubs, saps, etc) from lethal ones (blades, bullets, etc). So that taking someone out without killing them is an option, and brawling isn’t to the death, potentially.

A separate pool in the Star Wars D20 style of Vitality and hit points could work. Something like use CON as your Vitality score - lethal attacks reduce this - but hit points are for fatigue, brusing attacks and so on. Or something.


Kiero, are you aware that non-lethal damage rules are in ACKS? p.105 and p.109
I’d start there.

I’d forgotten them, but reading over them, I guess it’s a start.

I like the Star Wars d20 Vit/Wound rules a lot. The question is what your goal is with these rules.

Are you trying to specifically support the situation where people aren’t trying to kill their target? (Whether that’s bounty hunting or a barroom brawl)? Or are you trying to make characters overall more resilient to damage and less likely to be killed by common attacks?

Moving straight to Vit/Wound, with HP serving as Vit, results in characters who are much more difficult to kill. (Unless you have all attacks with weaponry go straight to wound, in which case, they’re much easier to kill.) A more specialized system would be needed to support specifically the nonlethal attacks case.

One of the things I appreciate about the current ACKS implementation is that it emphasizes the way these categories aren’t cleanly distinguished. Applying lethal damage makes it easier, for example, to finish off a tired/bloodied target with a nonlethal finishing blow. I think there’s a virtue to keeping traditional HPs as a simple unified mechanic that covers all sorts of abstractions describing how you are incrementally losing a fight.

One of the problems with the current RAW implementation is that it’s actually pretty hard to avoid killing a zero-level human NPC, when that seems like it should be the easiest situation. If a target only has 4 hp, then you can’t ever get more than +4 to the Mortal Wounds table from nonlethal damage.

The simplest situation is to say that, if a target takes no lethal damage at all, then passing the check is automatic. Then you can still use a single mechanic (hit points) for both cases, and just use the “Mortal Wounds modifier” approach for complicated situations where both types of damage are overlapping.

For full context, what I have in mind is another historical game (no magic or monsters), this time set in 17th century London. Think The Musketeers, crossed with The Scarlett Pimpernel, with shades of Marvel’s Daredevil and Arrow (the TV shows). The PCs are masked vigilantes, going out beating up criminals and making their ward a better place.

I want the PCs to generally default to not killing the people they fight, and have the mechanical underpinning to be able to do that.

Furthermore, a lot of the people they get into fights with won’t necessarily be trying to kill them either. Although there were a lot of young men wandering the streets at night, drunk and armed, in those days.

But unless someone pulls a sword, knife or pistol, the proceedings should be less dangerous to all concerned.

The existing rules go some of the way, and indeed EHamilton you make a good point about not separating them preserves certain useful nuances.

I should add, we decided not to use the Mortal Wounds table, except as a last resort when a PC has failed a check to die, after our first encounter with them. The results they produced were incongruous with the injury sustained in the first place, and it just didn’t fit.

I do use a house rule on hit point levels, adapted from D&D4e; at half your total you are Bloodied (-1 to hit, Proficiencies and saves, reduce move by 30’); at 0 to negative CON score, it’s -2, reduce move by 60’ and Fort (Poison and Death) roll every round to stay conscious. Fail or go into more than negative CON score and it’s unconsciousness, bleeding, possible Mortal Wounds.

I also use non-rolled hit points - max hp at 1st level, 1/2HD at every level thereafter up to 9th. So the variable comes from damage rolls.

You know this thread has me on the germ of an idea…

Use hit points as is, but each normal attack does both lethal and non-lethal damage, and non-lethal attacks deal just non-lethal damage. A lethal attack deals 1hp of non-lethal damage per die of damage it deals. Examples:

A sword strike deals 1d6+2 damage normally - A 3 is rolled (+2) for 5 points of damage. 4hp are lethal and 1hp is non-lethal.

A fall from 50 feet deals 5d6 damage - a total of 17 is rolled; 12hp are lethal and 5hp are non-lethal.

Alternatively, you could say each normal attack deals half lethal and half non-lethal damage. So in the examples above, the sword would deal 3 lethal and 2 non-lethal damage, and the fall would deal 9 lethal and 8 non-lethal damage. I think this would feel very much like comic book damage.

You would obviously have to track the two damage types. But, since there is no magical healing, the non-lethal damage heals faster while the lethal damage heals as normal, which will mitigate the lack of magic and hopefully keep suspension of disbelief intact.

If you assume that hp are more than physical damage capacity, like luck, morale, fatigue, etc, then this might model that well; the actual physical damage heals slower, while the fatigue/luck damage heals faster.

I wouldn’t bother implementing it on creatures that aren’t important in the context of an adventure, but certainly apply it to PCs, important NPCs, etc. Anyway, just a thought.

I’m solidly in the camp of hit points measure physical condition only. Temporary hit points I read as fatigue, bruising and so on - and indeed the first half of your hit points are less serious injuries than the second half.

That’s an interesting idea; I like the notion that lethal attacks (blades, bullets, etc) add a point of nonlethal damage per die, but less-lethal attacks (clubs, falls, etc) do half and half. Unarmed would do all nonlethal.

The rules about nonlethal damage doesnt mention this. Where does it say that the bonus is limited to the amount of HP?

Creatures reduced to 0hp or less by nonlethal damage are far
less likely to have sustained mortal wounds. When the creature
rolls on the Mortal Wounds table, modify the die roll by +1
per point of nonlethal damage dealt before the creature was
knocked unconscious.

Presumably EHamilton is reasoning that this implicitly limits it to the amount of HP you had prior to the hit that takes you down because the HP below 0 are (effectively) dealt after you’re knocked unconscious.

Personally, I’m of two minds on that interpretation. On the one hand, it’s a single hit, so there’s not really any “before” or “after” losing consciousness. On the other, if you have 1 HP remaining, it seems counterintuitive that you’d be more likely to survive a hit for 12 damage (takes you to -11 and gives +12 on the survival roll) than a hit for 1 damage (takes you to 0 and gives +1 on the roll). Note that I’m not forgetting the +5 modifier for being exactly at 0 or the -5 for being below negative 1/2 of max HP; the additional +11 from counting 11 more points of nonlethal damage is more than enough to compensate for those.

The core problem, IMO, is that the bonus for nonlethal damage is based on the absolute amount of nonlethal damage done, rather than the amount of lethal damage in relation to your total HP. A high-level character with, say, 60 HP who takes 30 lethal and 30 nonlethal damage is pretty much guaranteed to walk away with no lasting injury (and will probably wake up “just dazed” as soon as you check on them) thanks to the +30 modifier, while a starting character with 1 HP who takes 1 nonlethal damage and no lethal damage at all has a significant chance of dying, or at least being maimed, because they only get a +6 on the injury/survival roll. Despite the level difference, it seems to me that the person who took only nonlethal damage should always be more likely to survive than someone who took half lethal and half nonlethal.

I think its a great feature that bonus of nonlethal damage is based on abolute values. It makes classes who excel in high “spike” damage like Assassins and Thieves very suited for kidnaping.