I am trying to work out what the idea behind ‘Bleed’ is. Are we talking character bleeding and wounds or ideas bleeding from one genre to another?
I am going to take this as physical bleeding and I am going to continue looking at this from a solo role playing perspective.
The first game I ever published was 3Deep. It is a simple d6 game but I build a solo engine into it right from the start. 3Deep uses 1d6 to 3d6 for weapon damage depending to the weight or power of the weapon. The problem with d6s of damage is that once you have seen one d6 of damage you have seen them all. They are not intrinsically exciting and you don’t get to roll buckets of them. To counter that sameness I introduced two mechanics . One was knock back. You roll damage and you roll for knock back. If the damage was higher then the difference between rolls is how far the target is knocked back. This is great for knocking people off watch towers or breaking down a shield wall.
The second mechanic was special damage. All through the game there is a 1s and 6s rule. 6s give the character a boost, think critical successes, and 1s diminish the result. When looking at damage if there is a net positive number of 6s then the attack can cause special damage. Blunt weapons cause stun, fire attacks cause burning and slashing weapons cause bleeding. Imagine you attack with a lance and do 3d6 damage. The roll is 2, 3 and a 6. The total damage was 11 with one point of bleeding. You roll 2d6 normally for knockback and roll a 3 and a 4 for 7. The target staggers back 4m (11 – 7) under the force of your blow. That is a basic rundown on the combat system and where bleeding comes into it.
The issue with characters bleeding is that they can win a battle and then bleed out. I have in the past asked the oracle “Does anyone save me?” I don’t really want the adventure to end and as I am the hero and it is my story I tend to make this a likely event. The 3Deep solo engine uses ‘plot twists’ that can introduce NPCs, complications or even make completing your quest easier. I have had a character dying from blood loss and the oracle introduce a new NPC and save the character. The enforced change of scene caused by the blacking out of the character is a perfect device for introducing these new elements.
So what if the oracle had said No? I have no problem with time in my solo plays. If the character dies on July 4th I have no qualms about playing the character on June 1st to see how he got to be on the quest that killed him.
Would it have been better to have not had the bleeding mechanic in the first place? Then I would have won the battle and been able to lick my wounds and carry on. It is my experience that the enforced wounds like bleeding and burning add to the visualisation or flow of the scene. If your character is in a shoot out and someone throws in a molotov cocktail, without special damage you take some damage from the burning petrol and then return fire. If on the other hand you character is actually on fire you are more likely to drop and roll.
In a group rpg bleeding is of little consequence, normally, as long as someone survives the battle you will be saved.
In a solo play death doesn’t have to be the end and doesn’t need to be seen as a failure of loss. Defeat can change your story and introduce new story arcs. Death can make you explore more of your character’s background.
The time hopping is something that can only really be done in solo play or following a TPK. If four characters survive the fight but you bled to death, they are going to mourn, loot and move on as they have a quest to complete.
So how do I feel about bleeding, and burning etc. for that matter? It can make combat more dangerous, and therefore not something to be leapt into at every opportunity. It can add a bit of narrative flavour to a wound and it opens up an opportunity to extend the story, does some one save you and if so who and why? I am in favour generally. I am working on an OSR SCi-Fi game right now. I haven’t written the combat system yet but when I do it will include bleeding, burning and stunning wounds.