For quite some time some of the ideas behind Ray Turney's Fire and Sword have been circulating in my head. One of those is hitpoint-less combat. Here's a stab at that system for BRP or its variants, which can be slotted in without completely wrecking everything.
This is not going to be an exciting idea for the ultra simulationists or people who love hit locations. Hitpoints are an abstraction, and I'm suggesting replacing them with another abstraction.
Here's what Ray had to say about it in his excellent design notes for his game:
I would add that tracking hitpoints for NPCs in a big fight can be a pain too; better to know: are they still fighting or not? (note that this system is not the same as morale) For similar reasons I don't care to know whether this NPC or that is bleeding or has a major wound which will take him down in 4 rounds etc.The first significant innovation in the combat rules is the replacement of hit points by rolling a die to see if a blow incapacitates a character. This change happened because I noticed that hit points were a real drag on game play. When a player is writing down that his character has lost hit points, he or she is not paying attention to the game. Also, the only result of recording lost hit points is to bring the character’s death closer. Since the player rarely wants this, the tendency is not to write down the loss of hit points. Thirty minutes later, the GM remembers that he has hit character before, but the player has a tendency to forget. So a quick means of determining results that don’t need to be recorded seemed necessary. Hit points do have two advantages over rolling to see to see whether blows incapacitate a character. They allow for death by slow attrition, rather than by a single blow. Since death by slow attrition was a rare event in RuneQuest, I decided I could live with the elimination of this possibility.
When a combatant is wounded, instead of tracking hitpoints, the character makes a resistance roll of Resilience (see below) vs. twice the weapon damage, after armour has been subtracted. If he fails, he is incapacitated for the rest of the fight. At the end of the fight the character will be in one of several wound states based on a CON check.
Average of CON, SIZ, POW (or alternatively: (hitpoints + POW) / 3)
a successful check vs. a greater damage gets you a check to increase POW at the end of the session. Justification: POW has no upper limit in humans. Willpower to survive can increase from a near-death experience.
Roll on the Resistance table: Resilience vs twice damage taken (adjusted for armor). A roll of 01-05 for named characters only is always successful. Success means keep fighting, failure means they are out of the fight at the end of the current combat round. A critical failure (a failure where units die ends in 0 or 5) indicates a major wound. A fumble always fails.
Critical hits do not double damage. Instead, a Resilience check vs. a Critical hit is Difficult (half chance).
Works for weapons too
A critical parry vs attack success or critical attack vs. normal parry means weapon must resist vs. damage or be destroyed. Use weapon hitpoints for resilience. Justification: Ditto above for keeping track of weapon hit points. I just want to know, did your sword break or didn't it?
How injured are you?
At the end of the fight, make a CONx5 check:
+ critical success (success with 0 or 5 on the units die) - Healthy (knocked out by pain only)
+ success - Walking Wounded
+ failure - Badly Wounded
+ critical failure (failure with 0 or 5 on the units die) - Dying
+ fumble - Dead
Character is in good shape
Character functions normally except that odd die rolls are reduced one success level, for all skill rolls except lore and communication skills. When a recovery roll is announced, make even die roll below or equal to CONx5 and the character gets better. Odd die roll above CONx5 and the character deteriorates to Badly Wounded/Out of It.
Character cannot walk unassisted or use skills. When a recovery roll is called for, make even die roll less than or equal to CONx5, and the character becomes Walking Wounded. On Odd failures the character’s state becomes Dying
Like Badly Wounded, except that a decline will be to Dead, and an increase will be to Badly Wounded
Cannot breathe, move, think, or fight. Once dead, you stop getting CON rolls to get better. Also, unless it is specifically stated in the spell description that a healing spell affects dead characters, it has no effect.
Getting better (or worse)
Make a CONx5 roll
even success - you get better by one level
odd failure - you get worse by one level
any other result - you stay the same.
when you roll
+ at the end of the episode when you got wounded
+ each day thereafter
+ if you receive a successful Physick or First Aid roll from another player (doesn't work on dead characters) up to once per day. A critical Physick gives you two rolls. With a successful Physick you can ignore the bad results. A fumbled Physick means you roll and ignore the *good* results.
I have one, but the post might be getting too long as it is. Oh what the heck, if you've read this far. If you haven't, skip to TL; DR below.
A Marine faces Pirates on the deck of a burning ship.
Marine (from Elric! p.112
STR 13 DEX 11 CON 14 SIZ 13 POW 9 Resilience 12
Sea Axe (2H) 50% 2D6+2+1D4, Dodge 50%
Sea Leather and helm 1D6
Pirates (from Elric! p112)
STR 12 DEX 13 CON 13 SIZ 12 POW 10 Resilience 12
Cutlass 45% 1D6+2
Dagger 40% 1D4+2
First the marine encounters one pirate
Round 1. Pirate hits, marine fails to parry
Marine hits pirate (no parry): he does 13 points with his sea axe
13 x 2 = 26, vs. resilience 12: the pirate has no chance. He goes down screaming
Two more pirates leap forward
round 1. One of the pirates grazes the marine for 1 point of damage
1 x 2 = 2 vs. resilience 12: automatic success for the marine, who laughs loudly
round 2. the opponents jab at each other ineffectively
round 3. pirate 1 hits the marine for 3 points through his sea leather
3 x 2 = 6 vs. resilience 12: marine has 80% but he rolls 87. He will go down at the end of the round but at least its not a major wound
The second pirate also hits for 4 more points after armour
4 x 2 = 8 vs. 12: 70%; this one the marine succeeds with 60, but it won't help him. He gets his last attack, but misses.
Fortunately the marine's buddies arrive and deal with the pirates. After the fight, the marine makes a CONx5 check (70%) and rolls 80. Oh no, it's not his battle. He is Dying from his wounds. Since the pirates have been defeated though it's the end of the episode so he can have another CONx5 check. He rolls 59, a success but an odd number, so he hangs on to life by a thread as his ship heads for home.
Of course, this is a bit different from the outcome with hitpoints (the marine would have lost 8/14 points but would still be standing), but the marine was pretty unlucky.
OK over to the BRP central crew.
Scrap hitpoints. Use a roll to resist damage: fail and you go down -- but you might not be dead. You could be anything from fine to dead; you find out after the fight.