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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Damage Tracker Options

One of the background projects I've been working on is a redesign of the damage tracker I did a while back. The idea behind the damage tracker is that, rather than erase hit points after every hit that does damage or every healing spell or rest period that restores it, you can put a paper clip on the side of a sheet to mark the amount of damage done. Damage changes from a math problem to something no more difficult than moving the top hat 10 squares in a game of Monopoly.

The original tracker, though, is in color, and it's not completely optimal, so I've been wanting to redo it. I see two main possibilities:

  1. Do index-card-sized individual sheets. You use one sheet/card per character. It would have space to write the character's name, and perhaps some additional spots for quick reference for the GM, if the GM is handling damage. The downside is that the sheet gets discarded when the character dies.
  2. Do a letter-sized sheet for multiple characters. When tracking damage, multiple paper clips are used to attach little square tokens with character names or initials. This version is easy to reuse, but the little squares of paper become a nuisance when a character's name is removed (because the character dies or is completely healed.)

Either way, I think the format would be to put the numbers 1 through 10 along the long side of the card or sheet, with some multiples of 10 along one of the short sides.

There's also the matter of tracking those so-called status effects. Some people think these imply too much bookkeeping, but they become greatly simplified if you use the paper clip approach. I think the sanest route here would be to list the most common effects along one of the remaining sides of the card or sheet, each in its own box, so that you can mark the appropriate effect with a paper clip (plus a token with the character's name, if using option #2.) Double up the paper clips to indicate a very bad effect; a tripled effect means a permanent loss, so that gets written on the character sheet itself.

So, which option do people think would be the most useful?


  1. Now you've got me thinking I should revisit my character sheet and incorporate this. Streamlining bookkeeping is top priority in my book. Not sure why I didn't think of helping folks with HP, just worrying about other things first I guess.

    I think there are too many potential effects characters can be under to put them all on their sheet, but you could have them prepared as separate cards and paper clip *those* to their sheet. Thanks

    1. I was mainly talking about this as a replacement for the scratch paper (for temporary stuff) rather than the character sheet itself. But yeah, you could do something like this on the character sheet. That Ron Edwards game Sorcerer has a damage track along the right edge of the character sheet and uses paper clips in this same way.

      Although there are many potential effects, there are only about five or six that might be reasonably common: tired/exhausted, weak, confused/stunned, thirsty, hungry, and maybe frightened. The others would be ad hoc and would be attached to the sheet as needed. But I was again thinking of temporary effects being tracked off the main character sheet and only permanently recording permanent losses directly on the character sheet, like "missing right hand". These would just be written in a notes area and wouldn't take up much room, except for a very old, very unlucky character.