I've been going over the new healing rules I laid out a few weeks ago. The ones designed to make injuries more painful, and I'm wondering if they need an even sharper edge. I don't want the entire party sitting in traction for the duration of every session, but clearly making combat something from which you can bounce back with ease has robbed violent altercations of any sense of danger. Most times it's all guns and attitude from your best mindless action movie. That's cool every so often. Really. I'm a big fan of big action sequences. But when that's all you've got, like anything, it tends to get old.
So, a few weeks ago I tossed out the idea of making injuries lock all wounds in that level in place. A serious injury would prevent any wounds in the serious range from healing, for example. Moderate and light wounds would recover normally during that time, however.
How'd that work out? Well, honestly, I'm hoping someone could tell me, because I haven't had an opportunity to playtest those rules yet, and right now it's looking like my Shadowrun group won't have some communally open time on the weekends until next year. We're looking at another 2 months before we get together again at the earliest. Bummer.
In the meantime, however, I'm giving some serious thought to tweaking those proposed and entirely theoretical rules again. It's a simple tweak, easy to implement, but with an even greater impact on injuries and wounding. It is, simply, this:
Injuries lock in place all wounds at their level and lower.
Thus a moderate injury prevents not only moderate wounds from healing, but light ones too. A deadly injury means none of your wounds can begin healing until you recover a little and at least drop the injury a level, at which point your deadly wound can drop to a serious, but is again stuck until that injury drops another level.
This makes injuries hurt. The bonus dice I can get by tagging the condition is a mechanical price players have to pay, but they're willing to hand me that capacity quite readily. It gives them a few extra rounds of action, and then they'll drop anyway. Following the fight, they hole up for a few days, clear out their wound track and head back out there to bust some caps and some heads. Couldn't be easier.
Now, it's entirely possible that with this set of rules in place the players will continue to engage in frequent, all offense combat with no thought to self-preservation and just sit as invalids for longer stretches of in-game time. Getting hammered in rough combat isn't always a deterrent. I remember a supers game in which I was a player. I was the most violent member of the group (always against the bad guys though), and when confronted with tough opponents, I'd frequently just continue to hammer away at them even when it didn't work. That, however, was largely because I was frustrated with the game and it's complete lack of consequences and character.
I've talked to my players in this campaign, and they assure me they love the story and the developments that have arisen with certain NPCs recently (a character's daughter who had been missing turned up as a new member of the Universal Brotherhood), and they really look forward to what else is in store.
So if I take them at their word (and I've got no reason not to), I have to conclude that their combat actions are a result of mechanical implication. That is, getting hurt doesn't matter. You might drop in the fight, but you'll be back up in no time. If I want fights to be tenser, I need to make the damage matter more. And since I'm not willing to introduce harsher wound penalties (death spirals have never proved fun to play in any game I've tried), I'm left with making the characters suffer their wound penalties for longer periods of time. Using this new method it's entirely possible that the characters will enter into a second combat still wearing the marks of the first.
My own playtesting begins whenever I can gather the troops again next year. Until then, if anyone else gives this a whirl, drop a comment and let me know how it worked for you.