Damage and Defeat
(Back to the Rule Reference)
WOUNDED (1/4 and 1/2 RESILIENCE)
If a single attack inflicts damage equal to or greater than 1/4 the target Resilience (rounded up), the character gains a Serious Burden — a negative Trait that represents a physical injury, social obstacle, or bit of psychological baggage left behind by the assault.
If a single attack inflicts damage equal to or greater than 1/2 the target Resilience (rounded up), the character gains a Grave Burden, which is a bit more debilitating than a Serious Burden and represents a more dire and lasting physical, social, or psychological injury.
Both these thresholds are figured using the character’s current Resilience score, which may be lower than the full value due to previous damage and other factors. This means that a character who’s already been through the ringer is easier to weigh down with new problems.
A character may be wounded multiple times in a Conflict (and gain a new Burden each time), but each attack may inflict only one wound. This means that even when a character suffers enough damage to gain a Grave Burden (equal to or greater than 1/2 his or her current Resilience), a Serious Burden is not also gained.
Burdens and their effects are fully described on page 187. They also linger for a while, as described in the Recovery section on page 189.
DEFEATED (0 RESILIENCE)
When a character loses the last of a Resilience he or she is “defeated,” with the following effects:
• The stakes established at the Conflict’s outset are applied (see page 170).
• The character may gain a Grave or Mortal Burden, as the attacker prefers.
• The character suffers one of three fates, depending on the Resilience targeted…
INCAPACITATED (0 HEALTH)
The character is left unconscious, dying, or dead (attacker’s choice). An unconscious character wakes at a dramatically appropriate moment chosen by the Narrator, and a dying character expires either after a period that makes sense to the Narrator given the attack, or whenever the character suffers more damage than he or she has Health remaining (this may mean the character dies immediately, denying the attacker’s chance to show mercy).
A dying character may also be saved with a successful Wits 3 roll. This stabilizes the character but does not recover any Health.
A character with 0 Health loses two dice when making rolls with any Attribute. This includes any character knocked unconscious who wakes before recovering at least 1 Health, and any character saved from death who hasn’t yet healed back to 1 or more Health.
DISGRACED (0 REPUTATION)
The character is sufficiently shamed that he or she can no longer rely on the power afforded by worldly status. Favors are denied and contacts refuse to help. Liberties and indulgences are withdrawn, and sources of capital and privilege vanish. Perhaps worst of all the character is shunned even by fate, abandoned by luck and destiny.
A character with 0 Reputation loses two dice when making rolls with any Standing. The road back to respect and dignity may be long but the character only suffers this penalty until his Reputation rises back to 1 or higher.
DEVASTATED (0 WILLPOWER)
The character is demoralized, unable to resist acting on a single emotion or impulse suggested by the attacker. Though this cannot urge the character to willingly commit suicide, grievously injure loved ones, or perform similarly heinous acts, it’s entirely possible the fallout from the forced decision or action may lead to death, or something equally nasty.
A character with 0 Willpower loses two dice when making rolls with any Power. Without the resolve or self-control represented by at least 1 Willpower, the character isn’t going to be getting the most out of any Allomancy, Feruchemy, or shapeshifting at his or her disposal.
Burdens are temporary negative Traits inflicted by powerful or decisive attacks. They represent the physical injuries, social obstacles, and psychological baggage a character grapples with afterward, and like most significant trials they offer excellent opportunities for growth.
Burdens vary from Traits in several ways. To start they come in three severities, each with progressively more impact on story and rolls:
• Serious Burdens are relatively fleeting issues (e.g. physical bruises or sprains; embarrassment or censure; depression or nightmares), and add 1 die to appropriate rolls.
• Grave Burdens are lasting impediments (e.g. broken bones or internal damage; fi nes or Obligator investigations; compulsion or delusions), and add 2 dice to appropriate rolls.
• Mortal Burdens are profound, permanent impairments (e.g. lost or useless body parts; forfeiture of holdings or exile; obsession or paranoia), and add 3 dice to appropriate rolls.
More examples are provided in the Physical, Social, and Mental Conflicts sections (see pages 195, 211, and 221, respectively).
Characters don’t choose their Burdens; instead they’re assigned by the attacker who inflicts them, based on the tactic used. For example, an attacker inflicting a physical Burden with a sword might describe it as a “forearm gash” (if it’s Serious), a “cracked wrist” (if it’s Grave), or a “severed hand” (if it’s Mortal). As with any Trait the Narrator must approve the Burden before it’s assigned, and so some back and forth may occur as the specifics are hammered out.
Burdens can be applied to any roll, though they only add dice (they’re never applied as detriments). Opponents will usually find more ways to take advantage of a character’s Burdens than he or she will, though finding ways to make the most of one’s shortcomings is a hallmark of greatness and definitely worthy of the extra dice — assuming the Narrator agrees, of course.
Happily for those carting Burdens around, they’re great learning experiences. The first time in each session when anyone gains dice from each of a character’s Burdens, the character immediately gains a single Advancement. This is true whether the Burden is applied by the character or an opponent, so there’s even more reason to explore one’s weaknesses. It does, after all, make one stronger.
Burdens are a great way to highlight pivotal moments in your stories. They introduce lingering details that offer continuity from encounter to encounter. They give attackers a chance to leave calling cards when the dice roll their way. They remind players of moments their characters pressed when they maybe should have yielded. Perhaps best of all, they give everyone a little something more to talk about in the ongoing conversation, which means more chances for your characters to take on a life of their own.
Characters may carry any number of Burdens, though only one impacting each body part, social crisis, or mental dilemma. Serious and Grave Burdens fade with time, as detailed in Recovery (see right). Mortal Burdens are forever, unless the character spends Advancements to overcome them (see page 124).
Conflicts are dangerous; between damage, Burdens, and the looming threat of defeat there are many reasons to avoid them. Fortunately there’s a way out, though not without a price. There’s always a price.
As his or her action in any round, a character may yield, offering some or all of the stakes established in Step 1 of the Conflict in exchange for a safe withdrawal (the character may actually offer anything, even something that wasn’t originally discussed, assuming he or she can actually deliver).
The opposition may accept, refuse, or demand more, and isn’t obliged to honor the original stakes or make offers within their bounds. Indeed, there’s no particular reason the opposition has to be in any way reasonable (the character is, after all, showing weakness, so it’s not like it’s a seller’s market).
Negotiations may occur with the Narrator and players speaking in character (in the story), or out of character (over their sheets, with an expectation that the conversation will come back to their characters once a deal is in place). Both parties must agree for any deal to move forward and the Narrator must approve anything before the Conflict may end.
If a deal is reached the Conflict immediately ends and any story (and possibly rules) implications from the deal are set in motion; otherwise the Conflict continues with a new action chosen by the character who sought to yield.
Yielding in combat often means surrender, and that can translate into capture or even death. Of course, the Narrator should usually offer yielding Heroes a fighting chance to escape, though not always right away (captivity is excellent grist for moving stories).
By contrast, yielding in other types of Conflicts rarely has a set consequence; every situation is unique and every bargain comes with its own set of terms. Consider the feuding merchants examples on pages 186–187…
• In the Social Conflict, the loser might offer not to sell to anyone from certain parts of the city, and the winner might demand more and more, until the loser’s only left with a few regulars from immediately neighboring blocks.
• The Mental Conflict might end with the loser agreeing to nearly any demand to end the harassment, from closing his shop so he can stay in Luthadel, to closing his shop and working in the winner’s establishment for a time.
Yielding can sometimes be used as a way to “pause” rather than end a Conflict, an attacker pulling back just long enough to regroup. This is a dangerous strategy unless the attacker is sure the target won’t recover too much before the Conflict — or rather, a new identical Conflict — gets started. There are ways around this issue, of course, like having the target of a Mental Conflict tied up in a dungeon, or keeping the targets of a Physical or Social Conflict too busy to lick their wounds, which brings us to…
Though the Narrator may sometimes replenish a single point of Resilience under the right conditions (a point of Health during a lull in a long battle, a point of Willpower at a particularly uplifting moment for the character’s side, or a point of Reputation for a selfless act in full view of a crowd), the most common ways to recover are time and Breathers.
Characters naturally recover 1 of each Resilience per day. Certain magic — particularly Pewter Allomancy and Feruchemical goldminds — can accelerate this process (see pages 301 and 357).
Additionally, during a Short Breather, a character…
• …recovers half of any lost Health, rounded up, though only if he or she sits the Breather out (doing nothing of note beyond resting).
• …recovers half of any lost Reputation or Willpower, rounded up. This occurs whether he or she sits the Breather out or not.
In a Long Breather, a character recovers all lost Health, Reputation, and Willpower.
Serious and Grave Burdens fade slowly, and are only helped by Long Breathers. Each time a character spends a Long Breather doing nothing but recuperating in an appropriate fashion (bed rest and therapy for physical Burden, campaigning and reparations for a social Burden, or soul searching and introspection for a mental Burden), a Serious or Grave Burden’s severity lessens by one degree (a Grave Burden becomes Serious, or a Serious Burden is lost).
A character may only concentrate on a single Burden in each Long Breather; any others the character may have linger until he or she can dedicate a later Long Breather to them.
Mortal Burdens may only be healed by spending Advancements or with the help of particularly powerful magic, such as Gold Feruchemy (see page 357), Pewter Allomancy (see page 299), Aluminum Feruchemy (see page 340), and Duralumin Feruchemy (see page 345). Without such aid, they’re permanent reminders of dark times in the character’s life.
COMPLICATIONS IN CONFLICTS
Attackers aren’t immune to the odd snag. Complications are figured for attacks in the same way as for any other roll (the Narrator makes the calls and each point of negative Outcome justifies a single Complication that affects just the acting character, while an Outcome of –3 or worse may trigger a single Complication that affects the character and all allies in the area).
All the other rules and guidance for Complications also apply in a Conflict (see page 151), though there are a few more ways to use them:
• The character immediately loses 1 Defense Die (e.g. he or she is backed into a corner or becomes unsteady in a physical fight; flubs a speech or reveals a hint of deceit in a Reputation bid; or betrays a moment of weakness with a bead of sweat or twitch of the eye during a test of wills).
• The character loses use of a Prop and must spend 1 action retrieving it (e.g. buries a weapon in a wall or loses a vial under a table).
• The character suffers an unfortunate misstep (e.g. wildly overextends an attack or is thrown through a window).
Under the right circumstances any of these Complications may be applied more than once (the character loses 2 or more Defense Dice, loses 2 or more Props, or suffers 2 or more missteps). Every Complication should come with some penalty, of course, so avoid costing a character more of anything than he or she has. For example, you wouldn’t want to apply three Defense Dice Complications to a character with only two Defense Dice — though you could use that –3 Outcome to cost everyone on the character’s side a Defense Die. Justify it with a good bit of story and that’s a proper Complication!
Also, be careful about using Complications to reduce a character’s Resilience during a Conflict. It’s a valid option, but should be used sparingly. Resilience is regularly and repeatedly under assault already and adding damage for every little foible can get old quickly. That said, a minor bruise from a clumsy fall down a short stairwell, the embarrassment of an unfortunate slip of the tongue, or taking a hit to ego after a moment of personal weakness are all great heroic setbacks and can really add to the experience — again, so long as they don’t come up too often.
NUDGES IN CONFLICTS
Nudges also work the same in Conflicts (offering perks or negating Complications), and there are more ways to apply Nudges when attacking:
• Inflict 1 extra damage (as already described in the Outcomes, Damage, and Resilience section)
• Eliminate one of the target’s Action or Defense Dice (from what remains after the attack)
• Gain a bonus Action Die in the following round (which also counts toward turn order)
• Gain an insight about the Conflict or target (i.e. a new detail or hint from the Narrator)
• Add a dramatic flourish (e.g. leave a small scar or sever a pack strap)
The same attack may be Nudged the same way more than once, and with three or more Nudges you can spend them all to catch a Beat, immediately gaining another action before anyone else can act.
As usual, the Narrator must approve all Nudges, even if you’re spending them to catch a Beat.