Changing Health System in Heresy World

Something I’ve been mulling over for some time for Heresy World is the health points system I inherited from Dungeon World. My biggest complaint is that there is nothing built into the health system to differentiate between someone at 1hp and someone at 20hp.

I’ve been thinking of several different ways to address this and I have a new system I’d like to try. The core mechanic isn’t much different in that you take damage until you hit a certain amount and then you’re dying. The main differences are how that information is tracked and displayed, and the addition of critical hits at certain breakpoints.

The New System

The bullet points for the new system are as follows:

  • Health replaced with wounds
  • Your character has a sort of “wounds bar” similar to a health bar instead of Current/Max numbers
  • Every 8 wounds you gain a critical wound, triggering a custom move

Let’s go through each of those points.

Health Replaced With Wounds

Your character no longer loses health when they take damage, they instead gain wounds. Whereas before getting hit by a rusty dagger and taking 3 damage would mean changing your HP from 10 to 7, it would now mean you change your current wounds from 5 to 8. This change helps when it comes to acquiring critical wounds, and I also think it fits the setting better thematically.

The “Wounds Bar”

I’ve changed how your health is tracked. Instead of writing your current health and reducing it as you take damage, you instead add “wounds” as you take damage. It looks like this:

The hearts on the top bar are filled in to represent how many wounds you can take before dying. At character creation and as your character gains levels, you fill in more hearts to denote an increase in how much damage your character can take.

The blood drops in the second row represent damage you’ve taken. Taking 1 damage means you gain 1 wound and check off, out, or fill in a wound.

Blood drops with a skull next to them are critical wounds. I’ll be getting into those later.

The second bar is a continuation of the first to be used when you go past 24 max wounds.

This example bar shows a character with Max Wounds of 20, Current Wounds at 9, and 1 Crit.

Critical Wounds

Critical wounds represent damage taken that has an immediate or lasting effect on your character. This is something you should already be doing in your games as your players take damage, but critical wounds bake it in. It also means your players know when they’re coming, which I think will prove to be fun.

A lot of the ideas for this move come from this supplement [PDF] for Apocalypse World by Paul Taliesin.

My first playtest will have players gain a critical wound every 8 wounds, but this is subject to change. When you gain a critical wound you immediately trigger the following move:

Critical Hit

When you gain a critical wound, roll+CON and subtract the number of critical wounds you have. On a 10+ choose one from the following list. On a 7-9 the GM will choose one.

  • You lose your footing
  • You are blinded
  • You don’t notice something important
  • You drop something
  • You take an additional wound

On a 6- choose one from the list below. Describe your new scar and write it on your sheet.

  • You are knocked unconscious
  • A limb is broken or maimed
  • You gain a debility
  • You won’t heal from resting, you need medical aid

This will likely need a lot of testing, as I can see many ways it can be rebalanced already. Here are a few ways it could be changed:

  • No negative effect on a 10+
  • Don’t subtract number of critical wounds from your roll
  • Don’t add CON to your roll
  • A 7-9 has you choose one AND the GM choose one
  • A 7-9 has you choose 2
  • Change and add to the lists


Scars are something I’m very excited to add into the game. They do absolutely nothing. Here’s what they might look like on a sheet:

I might add mechanics into the game based on scars later on, but right now there’s no need. I just think it’ll be cool to look to your sheet to remember the marks of battle. Some examples of mechanics there might be room for:

  • Require scars for a certain compendium class
  • Gain bonus to Parley with fighters based on scars
  • Roll +SCARS for certain moves

I’m hoping to play Heresy World this week and I’ll force this new system onto my players to try it out. I’m going to print out some wound bars for them to use (they don’t have real character sheets yet) and fill them in using their max and current hp. I’ll ignore any crits they already have for simplicity’s sake and take it from there. Wish me luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *