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Which makes rules clearer? A new term or adding an adjective to an existing one

Extrakun

Tinker of Games
Validated User
Here's an example to clarify what I am asking about.

Let's say in a RPG, we have damage. Now this game has different kinds of damage -- maybe one done by lethal weapons, and the other more of a subdual nature.

Game A will just label those two type of damage as "lethal damage" and "subdual" damage"

Game B will perhaps give those two kind of damage their own terms, maybe "Wounds" and "Stuns".

As for my context: In a game I am writing now, a character can incur complications due to success at a cost. I want to differentiate between complications that are more "sticky" (like a wound) than one that will elapse after a short moment (like "off balance"). I could either go with

Option A: Just call the sticky complication "complication" and the more temporal one "transient complication"

Or

Option B: Call the sticky complication "consequence" and the more temporal one "hinderance" or "condition"

Which will lead to clearer rules?
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
It depends on some of the other rules. If you routinely need to refer to both you might want the former, otherwise the latter feels cleaner.
 

Sage Genesis

Two
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Like Knaight said, it depends.

For instance, if lethal damage and nonlethal damage both interact with (and act like) the same kind of rules, like in D&D 3e or World of Darkness games, then it's fine to call them by an adjective. But if it's more like Savage Worlds like taking Wounds and being Shaken, then they absolutely need to have different terms because they are fundamentally different things.

In this particular case, do the two types of "conditions" use the same kind of rules? Do you recover from them in the same way? Do they have the same sort of effects? If the rules are very similar, are you sure you even need different terms in the first place? Like, in Weapons of the Gods conditions have an Interval which measures the amount of time which must pass before progress can be made. So some conditions clear up in a matter of days whereas others just take rounds. Or months. But it's all just conditions with one single set of rules to cover them all.
 

Beyond Reality

Registered User
Validated User
How often is nonlethal damage going to come up in your game?

In something like Star Trek where a "stun" setting is practically the default on weapons, then I'd definitely recommend having two distinct names, if for no other reason than it'll probably come up a lot in the text and you want something that can roll off the tongue well.

In the case of something like D&D where everyone is carrying swords and slinging fireballs then you probably only need a sidebar and some basic rules and just referring to it as non-lethal damage or a "knock-out attack" should be more than sufficient.
 

Extrakun

Tinker of Games
Validated User
Both concepts are going to come up quite often. The snippet of rules in mind might be something like this:

If you failed to meet the difficulty rating of the challenge, the GM may let you succeed but a cost. One of the common costs would be a complication. A complication could be a sprained ankle, having your confidence shaken or a mirgane that affects your concentration. The complication starts at d6, and for every 5 points you miss the difficulty rating by, it goes up by one step.

The GM could step up the final complication dice one step by saying it is a transient complication -- something that can go away easily. Being off-balanced, losing your weapon, dazzled by a burst of light are all possible examples. It is easier to recover from a transient complication that a normal one (aka. sticky complications)

....

Recovering from Complications
For complications, recovery usually requires you to be out of conflict and to take actions to remedy whatever causes them in the first place. If it is a sprained ankle, then it's rest and proper medical attention blah blah blah blah

However, transient complications are easier to recovered from. Perhaps you just need time (for being dazzled), or to pick up your weapon again (for being disarmed)...blah blah blah
And I guess there will be skills/talents/perks that play around with complications (aka "this feat allows up to step up an emotional complication which you inflict an on opponent". So in those cases, complication can be either 'sticky' or 'transient'.

I could call the more permanent complication consequences and rename 'transient complications just as complications. However does this make it clearer?
 

Alban

Registered User
Validated User
Chosen terminology should make the underlying rule as self-explaining as possible.
If you have two pools of points, I think it's better to have "stuns" and "wounds", as it implies those are distinct game elements.
If you gave one pool of hit points but different kind of attacks may have different consequences, I think it's better to add an adjective.
 
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