On and off over the years, in my D&D games, I have tried to hammer out some sort of compromise between just using hit points to measure character health and using some other more granular system to measure a character's life force, trying to find a way to gradually weaken a character as he takes damage rather than going from fighting at 100% capacity then dying at the swing of a butter knife... that is when the butter knife does one more point of damage to an already weakened character.
For all of its faults, 4e had some neat little kernels of greatness bound within its pen and paper video game system. One of those seeds of greatness was the idea of a character being bloodied. Basically after losing half of his hit points a character begins suffering disadvantages. Though this system was the beginning of a great idea for me, much of its application in 4e was pretty crunchy. I wanted to take bloodied and hack it into my S&W home-school game.
Lucky for me I just had to look to one of the cyclopian giants of the DIY gaming scene, Logan, to get some inspiration. Here is how he implemented a bloodied system this into his own game. It's pretty simple and successfully makes PCs much hardier in reference to making it through a gaming session while making them much more fragile in reference to taking serious wounds. Wounds take a longer time to heal and may leave permanent damage.
So here is my take on bloodied, I call it Blood and Guts.
Blood and Guts:
Halve a character's hit points. One half is Blood and the other half is Guts (If they do not split evenly, the larger "half" is Guts). Blood is lost when a character suffers physical wounds (ie. any damage occurring after all of a character's Guts have been depleted, or when a character takes certain critical hits). Guts are lost when a character suffers general privations or takes some minor cuts and bruises (ie. starvation, exposure to extreme temperatures, or any normal damage suffered previous to a character's Guts being depleted). When a character's Guts are depleted, we say that he is Bloodied... just like in 4e.
When a character's Guts are depleted, he is Bloodied and he must instantly make a save versus death (CON) or fall unconscious from exhaustion for 2d6 rounds unless healed, recovering enough hit points to longer be Bloodied.
A character typically heals only one hit point per day when in the field and 1d4 hit points per day when resting in bed at home or in an inn, etc.
Guts heal much faster than Blood. Typically a character heals one hit die (e.g. a thief heals 1d6 hit points, while a fighter heals 1d10 hit points) of Guts per turn (ten rounds) spent at rest.
Note that it is possible to heal unevenly, meaning that a character has all of his Guts, while having only some of his Blood.
This little hack should be easy enough to throw right into any classic D&D game. I hope you enjoy it. My next couple of posts will deal more with damage and healing in my S&W home-school game.