Fight to Survive and the Choice of Injury
Updated: Mar 6, 2022
The development blog of table-top role-playing game "Fight to Survive: Martial Arts Meets Heart" by James Kerr
The Choice of Injury
I took a leap in design when it comes to how Fight to Survive deals with taking damage. When your character is going to be hit, you the player get to decide where that damage goes on a big scale. You choice has complex ramifications but it basically comes down to: do you want to stay in the fight longer, risking injury it may take years to heal (let alone the dangers if you get into another fight after) or do you want to put the damage where it will have no long-term consequences, but takes you out of this fight now? Effectively - is this worth it? Do you give up? It makes giving up very, very tempting.
The idea of a player getting to decide where an injury goes and how it manifests is not born out of a consideration for shared narrative play in RPGs. Rather, the idea was this: in a fight, in real life, you are making a lot of snap decisions, but you’re also making a lot of unconscious choices in the moment. The decision to stand up again even though you are badly beaten, or to lay down and give in to the pain, passing out or worse, is real in the moment. It feels simultaneously like both a choice and something that is beyond your control. To emulate that sensation in a RPG, the design gives players license to make some choices that would fall under “unintentional” or unconscious choices based on the nature of their character.
I am not fond of RPG mechanics that ask a player to take on a measure of responsibility for the larger game world; certainly not in the context of Fight to Survive, because I want to foster a sense of isolation within each character. They should feel that the game world is their enemy, even as they recognise it is not adversarial. They are bringing the violence to the game world, and that is what ultimately destroys them. The need for conflict and the ramifications of violence are the tension that runs through the game.
(I'll say it a third time in a row.) That's the idea, anyway.
Fight to Survive's Kickstarter is currently in pre-launch, and you can sign up to be notified of its launch here.