Chapter 6: Damage
Conflict is at the heart of almost any good story, and this is especially true of role playing games. Whether the confrontation is a physical one, one of wits, or of sheer will. When a character is struck with a weapon, when he is terrified by a monster, when he is dominated by a commander, when his limits are tested by maddening impossibilities, when he is outwitted by a clever ruse, a character is being damaged. And the more a character is damaged, the less effective he becomes.

Darkrealm tracks three kinds of damaging conflicts, resulting in Physical, Mental and Emotional injuries. Rather than having a cap on the amount of damage a character can endure, accrued damage works as a cumulative penalty to a character's physical, mental and personal Talents. In addition higher damage totals from a single source cause the character to adopt a Status, which can be anything from minor bleeding or shaken confidence, to total panic, lasting insanity, permanent maiming, and even death.

Damage From Static Difficulties

It is fair to say that in most cases opposed tests are those that seek to inflict damage, and tests against static difficulties measure successful or unsuccessful outcomes (albeit by degrees). Of course, saying that is overly simplistic, and there will always be exceptions on both sides of the fence. Sometimes failing (or succeeding at cost) in a test against a static difficulty results in damage. Consider a character attempting to leap a chasm and failing - the subsequent fall will likely cause significant physical injury. Similarly a player attempting to break a door down will be rolling to inflict Damage against the door's static Hardness value. The key here is that if there is a threat of Damage involved in failing a test, then that should be understood by the player taking the test. Players being targeted by an action that seeks to do Damage, should know that that the consequence of failing to resist will be Damage.

Non-Injurious Competition

Just as tests against static difficulties can result in damage, so opposed checks can be succeed or fail equations that do not result in either party risking injury. Generally this comes up when two characters try to achieve the same result simultaneously, to see who achieves it better. When two characters run a race, for instance, they seek to pit two Tests against one another, without direct Damage to the loser. In this case the test can either be treated as mechanically identical to a Test against a static difficulty, with each player treating his opponent's roll as a static difficulty (without the advantage of knowing that difficulty in advance, of course).

Sometimes, however, players will be seeking to achieve a goal that is already a static difficulty best. In this case characters must beat a Static Difficulty and one another. Consider the example of two craftsmen seeking to outdo the other in the creation of a weapon. They must first overcome the Static Difficulty to successfully craft the weapon, and then compare their respective results to see whose is better. One tries to craft an ordinary weapon, and the other attempts to craft one of fine quality. In this case the character who passes the Test, regardless or his result, will almost always beat the one who fails against a higher difficulty. The losing character may suffer indirect penalty from losing the Opposed Test, such as losing a wager or business, but he will not endure any direct damage.

You could be forgiven for assuming that in the above example if the object of the contest was to create, not the best weapon, but to complete work the fastest, that the margin of success rather than the total of the Test would be compared. But usually this is better modelled by making speed the stated objective of both men's test, whereby making the Test, and not the margin of success, the key measure of success.

Injurious Success

Finally, an action undertaken by a player character might lead to some form of Damage simply as a by-product of the action. A sprinter might take Exhaustion Damage simply by exerting himself. A character escaping manacles might have to dislocate a thumb, or at the least bloody his wrists. And dabbling even shallowly in any kind of magic will strip a character's sanity like the scythe reaps wheat.

When Damage is a likely consequence of success, whether in an Opposed Test, or one against a Static Difficulty, the director simply sets a second, higher Static Difficulty to represent Success without Damage. A single test is still taken, and if the Success without Damage difficulty is exceeded then the character takes no Damage. If the total falls below that first Difficulty, but still results in a success (even at cost) then the character takes damage based on the failed initial Difficulty, but still achieves the objective tied to the second.

For example, a character trying to move a bolder might be required to take a test where the Difficulty to move the boulder is 18, but the Difficulty to do so without suffering Exhaustion Damage is a whopping 28. If his test result is 20 then he'll move the boulder exactly as he wanted to, because he exceeded the Difficulty of 18 set to do so. But because he failed to exceed the higher Difficulty to do so without taking Damage by 8 points, he'll take 1 tier of Exhaustion Damage (see later in this chapter for translation into tiers of damage).

Opposed Tests

An Opposed Test is one where one character seeks to achieve an objective, and another seeks to prevent them achieving that objective. This is mechanically identical to a test against a Static Difficulty, except that the difficulty for the test comes from the roll to resist or prevent, and not for a set number. Most Opposed Tests are the result of one character seeking to inflict Damage, and the other seeking to prevent that Damage being inflicted. It might be that one character throws a punch and the other tries to shrug it off. It might be that one character gives a command and the other attempts to defy it. Or that one character swings a sword and the other tries to parry the blow. Whatever the example, in its most basic form an opposed test is one where one character seeks to inflict Damage, and the other seeks to prevent it.

The attacker, during the course of his turn, announces his attack. The defender, during his turn, either reacts to or anticipates the attack by announcing his defence. At the end of the round these two numbers are compared. Rather than using degrees of success and failure to determine the outcome, instead if the defender's Test is equal to or higher that the attacker's then the attack is thwarted. If the attacker's total is higher then the defender has endured Damage.

If a character is Damaged then how severe that damage is will be derived from the difference between his attempt to defend himself, and the successful attack. Thus if the attacker puts up a Test of 11 and the defender's Test is 8 the Damage value is 3.

The context of the Test that inflicted Damage should clearly imply the kind of Damage inflicted (Physical, Mental or Emotional), and the subset thereof (such as Exhaustion, Wounding, Impact, Burning and so on for Physical Damage). However if there is any doubt the attacker should indicate the expected result. Defenders might take an action of some kind that would alter the kind of damage inflicted, should they convincingly describe such an action.

Armour and Protection

Various items, most notably armour, will absorb a certain amount of Damage a character sustains. Essentially armour can be used in two ways depending on the action of the defender. Firstly, the wearer can use its Hardness Talent for various actions, or use it to generate Advantage as with any other tool. But secondly, and crucially, to damage an armoured or protected target or location the protection must first be damaged. Protective measures such as armour have their own damage tracks. Once destroyed they must be repaired, and until then they are completely useless for either application.

Until a character's protection is rendered useless, or somehow bypassed, the character using the protection will take suffer no effect (see below) from the damage endured by his protection. Damage that destroys protection will overflow into conventional damage. Protection can be bypassed by an appropriate action, however bypassing protection is a separate objective to inflicting damage.

Effects of Damage

When a character takes damage the effects are twofold. First and foremost, he begins to accumulate penalties to one of his three Talent groups. These Damage Penalties will be imposed on all of his Physical, Mental, or Personal skills. These penalties are cumulative depending on how far down a Damage Track the character is, and the higher his Damage Penalty the less able he'll be to resist damage from subsequent Opposed Tests. After a character has accumulated a seven point penalty, either from cumulative Damage, or from a single source, he is entirely disabled. Assuming that the character is not outright killed, driven made, or so forth these penalties will eventually recover (see Healing below), but they are reductions to the Talents themselves while they persist, and thus affect any and all tests that draw on these Talents.

In addition, when a great deal of Damage is sustained from a single source (defined by the weapon being used to inflict the damage) it will impose a Status on the character in addition to adding to a character's Damage Penalty. These injuries might range from temporary Statuses that are a source of Disadvantage, to long-term impediment or disfigurement in the form of permanent Traits. It is up to the injured character to describe the nature of this injury, in keeping with the guidelines for the individual injury.

Once a character has had a penalty, and a status imposed upon him the margin of the hit ceases to be important. Only the penalty and status are tracked beyond the turn in which Damage is inflicted.

Each of the three Talent categories has its own Damage track, and its own consequences, entirely independent of one another (although Advantage and Disadvantage from one Damage track can be leveraged in attacks against another as normal.)

One-Shot Statuses

A one-shot status occurs if a character takes Damage from a single source that deals more than one tier of Damage to him. It does not matter what his current Damage tier is, a one-shot for two tiers will always deal a Temporary Status (minor), whether he is on tier 0 or tier 6 of his damage track. The character taking the damage always chooses the Status he describes in logical keeping with the description of the action that led to the damage. The guidelines for inventing Statuses follow:

  • Temporary Status (minor): Lasts for the next round. Possible source of Advantage. Resolves itself after one round.
  • Temporary Status (major): Lasts until an Untrained action resolves it. Possible source of Advantage or Disadvantage.
  • Lasting Status (minor): Lasts until a Beginner action resolves it. Common source of Advantage or Disadvantage.
  • Lasting Status (major): Lasts until an Intermediate action resolves it. Practically ubiquitous source of Advantage or Disadvantage.
  • Permanent Trait: Permanent disability. Practically ubiquitous source of Advantage or Disadvantage. Only curable by unnatural means.

A hit for seven tiers of Damage causes that character to immediately suffer the most extreme form of injury for that track. In the case of Physical Damage this is instant death, with no hope for reprieve. Mental Damage means incurable madness, and Emotional Damage leaves the character irrevocably broken.

Physical Damage

Physical Damage takes the form of bodily injury. Cuts, scrapes and bruises usually represent the basic damage, with Statuses covering things like heavy bleeding, breaks, dazedness, unconsciousness, dismemberment, and death. Physical Damage Penalties apply to the Fast, Graceful, Hale, Strong and Tough Talents. The default tier value for an unarmed landsman is 5. A weapon will always provide its own tier value, meaning a minor hit can result in more severe injury depending upon the choice of weapon.

margin descriptor penalty one-shot one-shot examples
tier 1 Scratched -1 none none
tier 2 Bloodied -2 Temporary Status (minor) Staggered, dazed, wrong-footed
tier 3 Hurt -3 Temporary Status (major) Stunned, disarmed, jarred, winded, prone
tier 4 Wounded -4 Lasting Status (minor) Limping, dead-limbed, bleeding, knocked out, gear destroyed
tier 5 Crippled -5 Lasting Status (major) Broken bone, gaping wound, temporarily blinded, temporarily deafened, concussed
tier 6 Maimed -6 Permanent Trait Severed limb, pulverized bone, severe nerve damage, severe organ damage
tier 7 Dying -7 Killed Instant death

Mental Damage

Mental Damage represents psychological injury, things that make it more difficult to think or function, ultimately building to total disorientation and madness. Mental Damage usually takes the form of disorientation and confusion, with Statuses ranging from various kinds of madness or mania, to complete catatonia and coma. Mental Damage Penalties apply to the Clever, Insightful, Knowledgeable, Perceptive and Wilful Talents. The default tier value is 5.

margin descriptor penalty one-shot one-shot examples
tier 1 Confounded -1 none none
tier 2 Confused -2 Temporary Status (minor) // //
tier 3 Disturbed -3 Temporary Status (major) // //
tier 4 Disoriented -4 Lasting Status (minor) // //
tier 5 Hysterical -5 Lasting Status (major) // //
tier 6 Raving -6 Permanent Trait // //
tier 7 Deranged -7 Killed Irrevocably mad

Emotional Damage

Emotional Damage in its simplest form takes the form of feeling uncertain, uncomfortable, and subdued. Emotional Damage covers a range of role-playing experiences, such as being afraid or dominated or a number of other emotional situations, but while the reactions to these differing kinds of Damage might differ wildly, one is considered to make a character more susceptible to another. Statuses such as fear, obedience, belittlement, depression, incitement, rout and concession can occur as a result of Emotional Damage. Emotional Damage Penalties apply to the Brave, Persuasive and Forceful Talents. The default tier value is 6.

margin descriptor penalty one-shot one-shot examples
tier 1 Shaken -1 none none
tier 2 Daunted -2 Temporary Status (minor) // //
tier 3 Awed -3 Temporary Status (major) // //
tier 4 Overwhelmed -4 Lasting Status (minor) // //
tier 5 Dumbfounded -5 Lasting Status (major) // //
tier 6 Despairing -6 Permanent Trait // //
tier 7 Broken -7 Hollowed Irreparably catatonic

Fear, Subdual and Agitation

Just as Physical Damage Statuses range wildly in effect between Burning, Impact and Wounding based on the source of the Damage, so the Statuses caused by Emotional Damage will differ extremely based on the source of the Damage. Fear based Damage will frequently result in a desire to behave defensively, and eventually in panic and retreat. Subdual Damage, meanwhile, will result in the character being more agreeable, and in being forced into submission or assent - Statuses that prevent further resistance and instil doubt. Agitation Damage is that which complicates a character's self-control, forcing them into an emotional state such as anger or depression, which might encourage poorly thought out aggression or similar behaviour.


Damage Penalties to Physical and Mental Talents recover at a rate of 1 point per category per twenty-four hour period (or one per day, for convenience), Emotional and Exhaustion penalties recover at a rate of 2 points per category per twenty-four hours. In extreme circumstances, when a character has been further damaged to a grievous extent that day, recovery in one or all Talent categories can be disallowed for the day at the director's discretion, but this should only occur in extreme situations, as Statuses are often debilitating, and difficult to recover from. Each Damage Status will have its own specific recovery time, and will usually generate disadvantage to, or even disallow certain actions.


The successful attention of a healer, and/or comfortable rest for a twenty-four hour period can increase recovery of Physical and Mental Talents and to 2 points per category per day, but will not increase Emotional or Exhaustion penalty recovery rates. A healer might be able to create treatments that will further recover penalties, but these are better dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The primary use of healing is to prevent Damage Statuses becoming permanent or more severe, and reversing minor ones. Statuses will generally make reference to the difficulty and effect of healing on an individual basis, as well as how botched healing can make the condition worse.


Death is an inevitable outcome of many conflicts. Occasionally a player's character will be killed, and undoubtedly players will need to take the life of an opponent rather than merely subduing or routing them. There is no clear amount of damage a character takes that will cause him to die. Instead there is the Dying Status, which can be increased either as the result of a particularly damaging attack, or as the result of a separate Damage Status. At the end of the round when Dying reaches a value of 3 the character is irretrievably dead.

Better Part of Valour

Death will probably be a less common occurrence in Allornus than in other role playing game settings. Killing an opponent - any opponent - has a degree of risk, and most opponents aren't willing to fight to the death over minor stakes. Directors are encouraged to end encounters with retreat or incapacitation as or more often than death, and this should act as a signal to players that it is acceptable, even expected, for injured characters to retreat or seek to avoid potential damage. The downward-spiral debilitating nature of damage means that a director should plan for characters who want to retreat from a given situation or encounter.

The Tome of Lore: Core Rules for Darkrealm
Chapter 1 Character Creation; Concept; Core Details; Player Interaction
Chapter 2 Talents; The Fourteen Talents; Generating Character Talents; Properties
Chapter 3 Traits; Character Traits; Context Traits; Status Traits
Chapter 4 Skills; The Skill List; Purchasing Skills
Chapter 5 Gameplay; Announcing a Test; Sequence of Play; Actions and Objectives
Chapter 6 Damage; Opposed Tests; Effects of Damage; Recovery; Death
Chapter 7 Development; Awarding Hero Points; Training; Changing Character Traits
Chapter 8 Setting; Tone; Technology & Lifestyle; Religion; Magic; Other Oddities
Chapter 9 Player Races; Civilized Races; Racial Abilities
Chapter 10 Gear; Armour; Weapons; Tools; Animals and Transport; Clothing; Weight and Encumbrance
Chapter 11 Magic; Alchemy; Divination; Talismans and Relics; Fear and Superstition; Spellcasting
Chapter 12 Game Creation;
Appendices Common Actions; Damage Statuses