Hit Locations for 4e

Sometimes we GMs want our players to suffer. We want their characters to feel the after effects and pain of battle, and seeing them mark off their Healing Surges just doesn’t cut it. This is especially true when the adventure is set in a mega-dungeon or the Underdark where Our Heroes can’t just head back to the nearest tavern for a warm bed and home comforts.

Here’s a quick Hit Location chart and rules for handling the long-term effects of combat. At the end of combat each Bloodied character rolls to assess their wounds and takes the penalty stated. A Save can be made during an Extended Rest. A successful Moderate DC Heal check by an ally can grant a +2 bonus to the Save. Fail three Saves and the effect is permanent.

All effects are cumulative. Roll a separate Save for each additional injury. For example: Gorn the Dwarf was Bloodied in three Encounters and unluckily rolled two Torso wounds and a Leg wound. He’s currently at –2 AC and –1 Speed. At the end of the day he rolls three Saves. He makes two – one for a Torso wound and the Leg wound. The next day he is at –1 AC. That deep cut to his side is still playing up.

1 – 5 Flesh Wound No effect
6 – 8 Head -2 Perception*
9 – 14 Torso -1 AC
15 – 17 Arms -1 to Hit*
18 – 20 Legs -1 Speed

* Psionic attacks are not affected by damage to the arms. These instead take –1 to Hit from injuries to the Head.  Optionally, this can also apply to Arcane & Divine attacks as well though these do generally have somatic elements that require use of the arms to perform.

The long term effect of using this chart is that you’ll end up with characters looking like the walking wounded. Your Epic-level Dwarf might be missing an eye (three failed Saves from a head wound) or your Elven Rogue have a rakish limp (a permanent and bothersome leg injury). And that’s a good thing, right? :D

In the short term, Extended Rests are no longer the automatic recovery device they currently are; the risk of a failed Save means that injuries will persist and take their toll in multiple Encounters. None of the effects will kill you (that’s what Hit Points are for). Not directly, at least. But if a failed Perception check due to having blood dripping into your eyes results in the party running into an Ambush, don’t come running to me.

Fell free to add further effects. I’ve intentionally made them pretty light to keep the game flowing quickly, but if you want further realism apply additional penalties to Skills, damage, etc. I don’t recommend having them directly affect the Attributes. This will involve more working out at the table and directly affect the pace of the game. Not a good thing.

Till next time!

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12 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    That’s awesome! Another way to bring the pain down on your characters. Especially in Dark Sun.

  2. Oz says:

    Are there any healing rituals that can repair this damage?

  3. Elda King says:

    It’s great and flavorful… and removes that feeling of “we have clerics in the world, noone is never hurt”.
    For “permanent injuries”, I use a house rule that each time a character falls with 0- HP, and again each time he fails a Death Save, he loses one Healing Surge. And those will only be recovered after weeks or even months (according to the story); if he could just stay quiet for some days, it would be fast, but we all know no adventurer would ever do it.

  4. Dave says:

    Cool idea, and pretty simple. One thing you may want to reconsider though is the -1 to AC. My reason is because you could eventually have an AC that’s lower than your Reflex*, which doesn’t make sense from an in-character perspective. If your players are the type that would be bothered by this you could state that a PC’s Reflex is never greater than his AC, or have some of the torso wounds decrease Fortitude instead of AC. It depends on your group, so I’m just brain storming here.

    * It is possible to have a Reflex that exceeds your AC with the normal rules, but this doesn’t make sense either.

    • greywulf says:

      I hear ya. For simplicity’s sake, I’d be inclined to just keep it as -1 AC as this is the defense most frequently targeted by monsters. Alternatively, roll d4 on a Torso wound and take a -1 penalty to that defense: 1=AC, 2=Ref, 3=Will, 4=Fort.

      Then it’s a matter of role-playing the effects. A Fort penalty might be a slash across the waist, Ref is a hit to the shoulders or hips, AC is broken bones, and Will is a strike to the lungs affecting your ability to breath and carry on.

      Something like that, anyhow.

  5. Jay says:

    “Fell free to add further effects.”

    Well, if you insist:

    01 Reroll twice on this table and apply both results
    02 -1 Ref
    03 -1 Fort
    04 -1 AC
    05 -1 Wil
    06 -1 to Str skills
    07 -1 to Cha skills
    08 -1 to Dex skills
    09 -1 to Con skills
    10 -1 to hit
    11 -1 to damage
    12 -1 to perception
    13 -1 to insight
    14 -1 Initiative
    15 -1 Speed
    16 -1 Healing Surge
    17 -1 Action Point
    18 -1d20 Temporary HP
    19 Attractive or “manly” Scar
    20 Flesh Wound

    +1 for a successful moderate Healing Check in the field
    +2 for a successful moderate Healing Check back in civilization
    +1 for every week spent healing before the check (accumulative)

    Are we having fun yet? *Dark Chuckle*

  6. Elton says:

    Greywulf, are you buttering them up for the use of Arms Law?

  7. Charisma says:

    I love hit location tables. I saw some in a very old Dragon magazine (Dragon?) for AD&D, and loved those, too. The idea is fantastic for adding realism.

  8. Selganor says:

    Wouldn’t the “Remove Affliction” ritual be just ideal to get rid of such effects?

    After all there’s still a chance for healed characters to get even more damage when someone tries to remove an affliction (you may even want to assign a penalty for each affliction to the Heal check of the ritual)

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