At first blush, Fudge's damage system seemed to be pretty similar to others I'd seen. In fact, it looked a lot like Shadowrun's own. However, while it had a damage track with boxes you filled in as you took hits, there was one important difference that I thought was fascinating: damage wasn't cumulative. For example, say you've got a damage track ten boxes long. You take a 3 point hit. You fill in box #3, but boxes 2 and 1 remain clear.
Neat. I like that.
Fate has an interesting option when it comes to damage as well. Once you fill up your damage track, you take what are called consequences. These are injuries you describe that your opponent can use to gain bonuses against you. That sounds like a great way around that death spiral problem. It makes injuries important, but doesn't cripple you. Sure, your opponent might suddenly become a whole lot more powerful, but you're still able to do things. Worth considering.
After messing around with a damage track model taken from Fudge, what I've got is something akin to an inverted condition monitor from the older Shadowrun editions. It's 10 boxes long, and divided into four wound levels: Light, Moderate, Serious, and Deadly. However, unlike Shadowrun, I have the number of boxes decrease per wound level, so Light has more than Moderate, which has more than Serious. Deadly still has just one box.
Like Fudge, damage in this system doesn't backfill. When you take a 6 point hit, you only fill in box 6; 1-5 remain clear. If you take a hit to a box that's already filled, you instead fill in the next highest box that is clear. Thus you can eventually suffer death by papercuts, but stubbing your toes after taking a single, severe hit won't take you out.
As an additional bonus, because each box of damage represents a separate injury, this works much better with Shadowrun's own magical healing rules, which state you can only cast a healing spell on a single injury once. The problem was it was difficult to keep track of what was a single injury since all the damage was cumulative. In this system, each box is a separate wound, which means you can cast heal once each box. How's that going to work? I have no idea, but it's nice to know this is working with other game details nicely already.
Finally, there's the issue of augmentation. In Shadowrun a variety of implants and powers increase your Body score, which in a way represents the ability to take damage. Certain metahuman species gain bonuses to Body as well. In Fate, certain knacks add to your stress meter.
Since I have no soak roll, and no attributes, adding to some sort of resilience score isn't an option. I do like the idea of adding to the condition monitor, but the thing is that lengthening it doesn't just give you the capacity to take an additional hit. Because each box has a damage value, tacking more boxes onto the end drastically increases a character's damage capacity. For example, adding just one more box onto the end of the condition monitor means that a character can take an 11 point hit. Flat out, just take it. A standard character would drop from that (or suffer an injury and still take damage, but I'll get to injuries in another post).
Then I got an idea: if each damage box is its own wound, why not grant additional wound capacity at existing levels. For example, a tough character would have two separate 6 point damage boxes, meaning he could take a 6 point hit twice before rolling up to higher levels. This expands his ability to suffer damage and stay on his feet without rapidly making him into an untouchable powerhouse. Even if a character had 4 rating 6 boxes, one well placed hit from a high powered weapon would put him in as much trouble as anyone else.
From a game design perspective, this prevents power creep. I can have tough PCs running around (which makes our street sam happy), but in the end he'll still have human limitations, which means I don't have to equip the opposition with heavy machine guns and sniper rifles just to have a prayer of inserting danger into the scenario.