Wednesday, 15 January 2014

A critical hit with the ugly stick

In Magic World, a BRP game, characters have an Appearance (APP) characteristic. As with any characteristic, if, by magic, ageing, disease, or wounds, the characteristic is reduced to zero, death follows shortly. But just how does a character 'ugly away'?

This is a pressing question. In the our new campaign, a Magic World game set in Allansia, the players have rolled a particularly ugly bunch of PCs. Forget the good, the bad, and the ugly, we have the ugly, the ugly, and the ugly. As these players are particularly reckless, I can envisage (en-visage, geddit?!) an early-campaign Major Wound stripping them of 1d3 points of APP, leaving them hovering at the door of death by disfigurement. But what does this mean? 

Well, it means that the player characters perhaps ought to head to the Salamonis School of Decorum and Ettiquette for some APP training. And it means I should have used Elric! characteristic generation, which I remember as being 2d6+6 right down the line. But in terms of being reduced to zero APP, I see two options. 

Option one is to interpret a Major Wound that reduces APP to zero as a catastrophic fatal wound (sword through face kind of thing) regardless of remaining HP. "Yes, I know your character still has just under half his HP remaining, but that sword stroke chopped his face clean off. Sorry." 

Option two is the Call of Cthulhu solution. Having APP reduced to zero causes permanent destruction of the character's personality, and control of the character passes into the hands of the Referee. The character is 'dead' as a player character. Incidentally, it is not the ugliness itself that causes this, but the damage to the character's sense of self.

Are there any other ways of explaining character 'death' through APP loss? Have you ever had a character 'die' through ugliness in your game?


  1. Good to see Otto Sump out and about!

    It could be interpreted in a handful of ways, eg. PC is blinded, deafened, rendered too disfigured to function in society or even physically crippled and unable to move. The GM could decide based on the context of the stat decrease.

    The real question is given that your group is possibly a little unsure about the stat and it's functionality, is it worth including at all? Better to discard it maybe? Real life too short to play an ugly-ass adventurer when you were hoping for a chiseled jaw?

    1. I let them assign their their dice rolls to their characteristics (more generous than the book). And then let them re-distribute up to three points between them (as the book suggests). I wasn't paying too close attention to their fiddling about, but at least the arrangement of scores are those that the players chose! If they wanted to be handsome, (or even just to average things out) the choice was theirs to make...

    2. Oh-ho, this has the whiff of min-maxing about it! Now they are exposed to an ignominious death at any moment giving their humble GM a headache!

      I think it's going to be tough to have a ready made solution to hand, if the stat goes to zero you will have to come up with a sensible explanation on the fly be it mental or physical.

      Incidentally, I would be very tempted to run their ugliness as a massive disadvantage (eg. they need clues from high society that shuns them) and make it seem more important for next time!

    3. Well, we've got one lisping, social awkward dispossessed ex-noble (adopted), and one uncouth bandit covered in scars and ugly tattoos...

  2. Really, the same can be asked about any stat(except maybe CON). What does it mean that my dexterity has been reduced so much that I die, when I still have HP. OK, I'm too crippled to move. But I'm not dead yet!

    New house rule, stats can go into minus. And the DMG gets to make as many reaction rolls as he wants--they'll end up dead soon enough,

  3. One way is to have self esteem issues drive the character to suicide (through the means of his or her choosing). Another way is disfigurement of the mouth prevents eating/drinking, so they have a few days to role play before they starve. You'd be surprised how many hospital patients need nasogastric tubes and IV lines to live.

  4. I've never had a character ugly to death in a BRP-derived game, but I have given it some thought. Particularly with my Pendragon games, where, once a character gets old enough, stat loss becomes a regular event.

    I've more or less settled on the "disfigurement causes death" approach--the cutting-off of the face, the disfigurement of the mouth, etc. The Pendragon core book lists possible explanations of stat loss through aging, and seems to come down on this side as well, ascribing APP loss to "pox". So if you hit APP 0 from an aging roll, it simply means you contracted a mean case of the pox that proved fatal.

  5. To be honest -- and I may be missing the point -- I'd just say that APP is one of the statistics that doesn't cause death when it gets to zero.

    1. As Billy points out, with APP at 0 or below, you'll end up on the end of a pitchfork (attached to an angry mob) soon enough!

  6. "Curumir wiped blood from a gash over his eye as he peered through the fog and gloom of the pine woods."

    Oh, that will leave a mark. Another scar to improve his 'chicks-dig-scars' roll!

    Firstly, I commend you for running a campaign in Allansia. Titan is an awesome and often underrated game world. I used it in a D&D campaign it had plenty of teeth. It also had a lot of ugly.

    Which makes me think that most folks, monstrous or otherwise, that you encounter in Allansia are only a scratch away from death? No. Let the hit points decide.