All Damage Is Critical

Fairbairn’s timetable of knife fighting

One of the first principles we settled on when we started building the FAR System was the idea that there is no such thing as generalized damage. All damage is specific—which means hit points are off the table.

If it matters enough to keep track of, then by definition it’s a critical strike. People don’t die from lack of “points,” they die from mangled flesh, broken bones, shock, and exhaustion.

I want immersion and the kind of detail that gives me an instant, cinematic vision of what’s happening to my character.

Hit points, to me, are the opposite. Bland and colorless. They don’t spark the imagination or help me visualize what just happened in any way. I’ve never been a fan.

I got started on roleplaying in the mid-80s, but unlike most other gamers I know, I didn’t get started on a game that relied solely on hit points (*cough*D&D*cough*). I got into roleplaying because I wanted to live in Middle-Earth—and I discovered that Middle-Earth Roleplaying (aka MERP) existed. Sadly, MERP is no more. But the game system lives on as Rolemaster (which I still use to play around in Middle-Earth).

Right from the beginning, that system conditioned me to expect brutal combat with critical strikes described in gory detail. There are hit points in MERP and Rolemaster, but they’re secondary to critical strikes, which are highly detailed and vicious. Every time you engage in armed combat, you’re risking your character’s life and limbs. And although I didn’t always appreciate the part where my character could die with one unlucky roll of the dice, I loved the nervous thrill that came with combat.

That’s why we took hit points off the table for the FAR System pretty early on. We want this system to be deadly.

Without that guaranteed cushion of “I can absorb x number of hits,” you have to think about what you’re doing and why. Every wound you take will hinder your effectiveness. Take one too many, and you’ll go down to defeat and death. Expose yourself foolishly, or maybe just get unlucky, and you could die instantly.

When you get into a fight in FAR Western, your life is on the line. If it’s worth fighting for, it had better be worth dying for. So you have to get inside your character’s experience and values, and ask yourself if it’s really worth the risk.

That’s the kind of immersion I love, and that’s what we want the FAR System to deliver.

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