I Miss Hit Location Charts, Or Pining for Older Rules

It’s an odd little thing, but I realize that I miss having hit location charts in RPGs. Sure they’re still around, but there’s something amusing (and disturbing) about randomly determining which part of the opponent’s body suffers an injury from a successful hit. From a mechanics perspective, it’s one of those little things that just slow combat down, in exchange for a more rewarding description of just how you’ve dealt damage to an enemy.

Hit Location Charts, and their sibling Critical Hit Tables are fun little mechanics that add a visceral feel to a game, and work perfectly for more graphic Sword and Sorcery and Dark Fantasy Settings. As a GM, I can definitely agree on how they can help, as narrating “You hit him, and uh… hit his arm. Yeah. You hit his arm and there’s blood everywhere” tends to get tiring after a few rounds.

Having Hit Location Charts does tend to randomize things, but at least the GM doesn’t have to work too hard to come up with interesting results for every hit. Not all games benefit from Hit Location Charts though, I’m certain that World of Darkness games are built to facilitate quick conflict resolution as opposed to exacting detail.

However odd it may seem, I do miss playing a game with such odds and ends, no matter if they no longer seem popular with the current generation of games. (Save maybe GURPS and HERO.) How about you guys? Which particular mechanics from older games do you find missing form more modern rpgs?

11 thoughts on “I Miss Hit Location Charts, Or Pining for Older Rules

  1. THAC0! haha, just kidding!

    Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that all systems should have a Sanity system. Most games have the potential to explore horror to some extent, be it superhero, fantasy or sci fi genres.

    1. That’s actually an interesting answer, liangcai.

      I suppose another way would be a “Stress” mechanic of some sorts. Supers suffer a lot of stress in their jobs, and I’m certain all the other genres have situations that will warrant it. It might not necessarily be sanity blasting in nature all the time, but being in traumatic situations will merit some measure of stress.

  2. And derangements too. It would be an interesting game to have Supers slowly degenerate over time, making them unplayable, or downright ‘evil’ after a while, thinking their violent methods to be the only way to solve their problems.

  3. I insisted the DM got a couple of hit location dice when I saw some at a shop, just because we don’t use mats or figures, it’s all narrative. So anything to help with the visualisation (for me at least) is a bonus.

    The trouble with these things is, we forget to use them, so we set up the house rule that we’ll use them for criticals. The only trouble with THAT is it tends to go “You kill the bad guy by hitting him in the . . . foot” and so you can see it kind of kills any potential drama. Always seems to land on ‘foot’ or ‘hand’, stupid dice.

  4. The Warhammer 40K RPG games include a rather nice hit location mechanic: your attack is made with a d100 roll. After the attack has been resolved, swap the tens and units and compare that new number to the hit location table.

    Critical hit tables are also part of the core rules, but don’t cause random deaths. You don’t roll on the critical hit table, instead the results are chosen based on how much damage a character has sustained beyond their normal Wounds. If you’re at -10, you’re dead already, the table just adds a nice gory description.

  5. Shameless plug for my new (free) product the Damager, which rolls damage for you and describes how and where you hit – http://chaoticshinyproductions.com/products.php#dmg

    I miss the dying mechanic from 1st edition. I liked that you lost 1 hp per round if no one was free to bandage you, sinking ever closer to -10. Three death saves (4e) just doesn’t have the same feel to me. There isn’t that helplessness as your party members argue over who should skip an attack in order to bandage you, and whether it would be better to try to take down all the enemies before you die or if they don’t think you can hang on that long.

    1. Oh hey Swordgleam!

      I’ll give Damager a shot, should be pretty amusing.

      I agree about the dying mechanic, the whole concept of your life ticking away slowly, and forcing your team to consider what to do next, and possibly gamble your life while they take on a monster.

  6. Random chargen. Most games either don’t have it, or have such a watered-down version that it might as well just be point-buy. The thing about truly random character generation that I think is under-appreciated is not just that it sometimes forces you out of your comfort zone or to find something interesting to play about a scrub character, it’s that it that rare character that really is better than anybody else stand out as special. If you were rolling 3d6 in order then that guy with the 18 Dex really was going to be the most dexterous character you or anybody you run into was likely to ever meet. If you’re rolling best 3 dice out of four, arrange to suit, then apply racial mods then if your Elven archer doesn’t have 18+ Dex you’re just not trying.

  7. That is one of the reasons why I still like Warhammer Fantasy 2nd ed.

    * Hit location
    * Critical Chart
    * Random OMGWTF my spell screws me over chart
    * Stinking drunk chart

    Problem with these charts is that they slow down the game a bit. I takes me a few minutes to jump from chart to chart with a few PDF’s open.

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