Hit Locations in Night Shift: VSW and O.G.R.E.S.

 One of the things I enjoy the most about Powered by O.G.R.E.S. games is that they are anything but simulationist. It's heavily abstracted, and that's by design. The idea is that the game is not about the minutiae of combat, but is about telling a cinematic or literary story. You stake a vampire, basically, by reducing its hit points to 0. There are no called shots and no overly detailed tactical combat maneuvers. 

That being said it can sometimes be fun to play with a bit more detail. In the Night Companion we introduced such ideas as variable weapon damage and weapon class, which can beef up combat a bit. Another fun add-on can be hit locations. This sort of subsystem can slow down combat, but also adds some unique effects such as lingering injuries that often tabletop RPGs don't deal with unless they're crazy complicated. Let's check out how hit locations and called shots might work in a simpler system. 

Image credit: 3588089 © Andrey Kiselev | Dreamstime.com

When and How to Use Hit Locations

The first thing to consider when deciding to use hit locations is when to apply them. Applying them to every attack roll can vastly slow things down. At the same time, it also makes it possible to blow off a hand or foot easily, or do way more damage than a limb or location should be able to take. The latter idea is easy to deal with when one considers that hit points are not wound points. They're a measure of the target's overall combat capability in an extremely abstract sense. Thus, taking 6 points "of damage," means reducing combat effectiveness by 6 points. 

What this means is that shooting someone in the arm and rolling 6 on your damage die doesn't mean that they take 6 points of damage to their arm. That 6 points of damage reflects the harm the targeted area takes, and also represents the overall pain the target feels, how much it slows them down and distracts them, and other intangibles. 

With hit locations, then, it's important to explore other effects that a targeted area suffers. Sometimes this will, in fact, just be additional damage because a serious hit to a vital spot just brings the victim closer to death faster. Other times it's the loss of use of a limb (or the loss of a limb entirely), becoming blind or deaf, or some other condition. 

While you could roll on a hit location chart on every attack, this can create exceptionally lethal combats and should only be considered for gritty games. For realistic/normal games, it's recommended that hit location checks only occur on a roll of natural 20 on an attack. In cinematic games, hit locations may be inappropriate, though the GM could allow Veterans to roll a hit location check on a natural 20 (if they choose), and Chosen Ones, instead of rolling, may choose a location to strike (no roll necessary) if they roll a successful stunning blow, in lieu of actually stunning the target. Likewise, a Survivor making a successful Sneak Attack may be permitted instead of dealing additional damage and making a supernatural attack, to simply choose a hit location to strike. 

Called Shots

If you have a hit location chart, the GM may also choose to allow called shots. To make a called shot, the attacker targets a specific hit location and must hit the adjusted AC listed. Damage is always 1d6 unless otherwise stated in the hit location, but on a successful hit, the target also suffers the effects of that location. For example, attempting to shoot a target in the head requires lowering the target's AC by 4, and on a success they suffer triple damage and are either blinded or deafened (50% chance either way), with a 60% chance of the condition being permanent, plus unconscious unless they make a Constitution save. 

Image credit: 5650863 © Sergeyussr | Dreamstime.com

Hit Locations and Effects

The following chart lists hit locations and effects as well as AC modifiers for optional called shots. Roll 1d12 for a random hit location.

1 - Head: A shot to the head deals triple damage, and the target is either blinded or deafened (50% chance either way and 50% chance of partial (one eye or ear) or total). There is a 60% chance of the condition being permanent. Even if they survive, the target must succeed at a Constitution save (Difficulty: 10-damage dealt) or are unconscious for 1d6x10 minutes after they are brought above 0 hit points. AC Modifier: -5

2 - Heart: A shot directly to the heart deals triple damage, and the target is knocked off their feet. They must succeed at a Constitution save (Difficulty: 10-damage dealth) or be unconscious for 1d6x10 minutes after being brought above 0 hit points. Characters suffer 1d6 damage each round until they receive medical attention. AC Modifier: -5

3 - Lungs: A shot to the lungs deals double damage and the target is knocked off their feet. Until they receive medical attention, they must succeed at a Constitution save every minute to remain conscious; this save begins at Difficulty 10 and lowers by 1 each round. A failed save also deals 1d6 additional damage. Characters suffer -5 to all Strength and Dexterity checks and saves until they receive medical attention. AC Modifier: -3

4 - Guts: A gut shot is a slow killer. It deals standard damage, but the target is poisoned as their bile spills out into their body cavity. Every hour the target must succeed at a Constitution save, treating the shot as a poison whose potency begins at 3, but reduces by 1 every hour. Failure means the target takes 1d6 damage per failed save. Thus, on a third failed save the victim takes 3d6 damage. Failures do not need to be consecutive. Proper medical attention before the character reaches 0 hit points can save them; such characters will recover if they make their next save, with the medical attention adding +5 to the saving throw. AC Modifier: -3

5 - Thigh: A shot to the thigh is not deadly. It deals standard damage, but the target is hobbled; their speed is halved and they cannot run. AC modifier: -3

6 - Knee: A shot to the knee is flat-out crippling. It deals standard damage and the target is knocked off their feet. They cannot walk without help, they cannot run, and their speed is reduced to 1/3 of normal. There is a 75% chance their knee is destroyed and they are permanently crippled unless they receive a replacement knee. AC modifier: -5

7 - Lower Leg: A shot to the lower leg has the same effects as a shot to the thigh, but there is a 50% chance of shattering a bone. In this case, the character is crippled for at least 6 weeks, during which time they cannot walk without crutches, are reduced to 1/2 speed, and cannot run. If the result of the bone breakage roll is 20% or lower, the bone is completely shattered, the leg is blown off at the knee, or is so damaged it must be amputated. The victim is crippled permanently unless they receive a prosthetic limb. AC modifier: -4

8 - Foot: A shot to the foot has the same effects as a shot to the thigh, but also knocks the target off their feet and they cannot stand until they succeed at a Difficulty 5 Constitution save. The condition lasts until they receive medical attention plus 1d6 weeks. AC modifier: -5

9 - Shoulder: A shot to the shoulder is painful, but rarely deadly. There is a 5% chance such a shot strikes a major artery, in which case it is treated as a lung shot. Otherwise, it deals double damage and the target loses the use of the associated arm (50% right/left) until they receive medical attention. Thereafter, all checks and saves that involve the associated arm are at -5/-25% for the next 1d6 weeks. This includes spells requiring somatic components (genstures). AC modifier: -4 

10 - Elbow: A shot to the elbow renders the associated arm (50% right/left) useless, and deals double damage. The victim must succeed at a Constitution save (Difficulty: 10-damage dealt) or fall unconscious from pain and shock. There is a 60% chance the limb is lost below the elbow, or the elbow is shattered, rendering the condition permanent without a prosthetic replacement. If the limb can be repaired, the victim suffers -5/-25% to all checks and saves with the limb for 1d6 weeks. AC modifier: -5

11 - Lower Arm: A shot to the lower arm has the same effects as a shot to the shoulder, but there is a 50% chance of shattering a bone. In this case, the limb is crippled and unusable for at least 6 weeks. If the bone breakage roll is 20% or lower, the damage is catastrophic; the lower arm is lost or must be amputated, with all effects permanent unless a prosthetic limb can be fitted. AC modifier: -4. 

12 - Hand / Wrist: A shot to the hand/wrist has the same effects as a shot to the lower arm. AC modifier: -5.

A Final Note

This subsystem, as I stated, was more of a fun thought experiment than anything else. It's designed to provide some dynamics to combat, which can make battles far more brutal and result in permanent injuries to characters and NPCs. It has not, however, been playtested. It should also be noted that the AC modifiers here are not in any way related to the effects; a shot to the lungs is easier to make than a shot to the hand or knee because the lungs provide a larger target area that's easier to hit, but it's also far deadlier. GMs should keep all of this in mind before importing called shots into their game. 

In addition, incorporating the kinds of disabilities that these rules represent could be problematic or even traumatizing to some players. GMs should always be sure that the rules you use are appropriate to your table. Discuss things with your players before dropping major combat complications like these into your game. 

If anyone does try this system out, I'd love to hear how it works. Hit me up on Discord, Facebook, or comment here and let me know how it works! I would be more interested in actual play comments than theoretical ones, however. And as always, for more expanded combat rules, be sure to check out the Night Companion for Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars!