Star Wars Saga Condition Track and D&D

Posted on April 22, 2010 by

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I am now officially in love with SW Saga Edition, although I’m not surprised that I would be.  I’ve always heard about what a great system it is, how great it runs, and how it served as a sort of pre-4e testing ground of sorts.  Well after fully reading it and running it, I can say without hesitation that it is the only version of SW I’ll play again, which means that D6, it’s time for bed.  Good night my dear old friend, catch you on the flip side.

There are so many things we loved about the system, but one of the ones that stuck out the most for us was the lack of condition tracking during fights.  For almost 2 years under 4e we’ve had to learn to keep track of who is dazed, who is slowed, who is this and who is that.  This led to experimenting with many different ways to attempt condition tracking: cards, tokens, magnets, paper, until finally I settled on a program on my laptop that I’ll keep until I stop running 4e.  SW Saga, if you aren’t familiar with it, has a very elegant mechanic called the “condition track”, which is a 5 step track of minuses applied to rolls and defenses ending in falling unconscious.  (Now, not every attack causes conditions, only certain ones, so this isn’t something you’d be constantly turning to in the game.  Keep that fully in mind.  I don’t think it came up once in ours.) To climb steps in the condition track, and get back to the top, you have to spend 3 swift actions, SW’s version of a minor action.  You can split these up into different rounds, 2 now, and 1 next round for example.

This led us to think about conditions in D&D, and when compared to the speed of fights in SW, some of my players thought that conditions slowed down play.  I’m not so sure if that’s correct, but what I am sure of is that not having to track conditions makes my job a lot more fun as a DM than having to.  The way I see the SW Saga condition track, it is an abstraction of being hurt, rather than being a simulation of being blind and deafened, for example.  So where am I going with this?  Well, I started thinking of  the SW condition track if applied to D&D.

Here are the D&D conditions:

  • Blinded
  • Deaf
  • Dazed
  • Dominated
  • Dying
  • Helpless
  • Immobilized
  • Marked
  • Petrified
  • Prone
  • Restrained
  • Slowed
  • Stunned
  • Surprised
  • Weakened
  • Unconscious

Now to put this post in context, I have to show you the condition track steps for SW Saga, in case you are not familiar with the system.

  • Normal State
  • -1 step on track:  -1 penalty to defenses, attack rolls, ability and skill checks.
  • further -1 step down the track:  -2 penalty to defenses, attack rolls, ability and skill checks.
  • further -1 step down the track: -5 penalty to defenses, attack rolls, ability and skill checks.
  • further -1 step down the track: Move at half speed; -10 penalty to defenses, attack rolls, ability and skill checks.
  • further -1 step down the track: Helpless (unconscious or disabled)

Remember, 3 swift actions allow you to move a step up the track to improve your condition.  So in one round you can move up a step if it’s all you do that round.

So the idea here, it’s my assumption, that SW track serves as an abstract representation of injuries and conditions, while D&D takes a more “simulation” approach to combat and conditions.  Not a bad thing, but two very different ways of looking at a fight, and managing the bookkeeping of an encounter.

So the question I ask, and I don’t have the answers because I don’t have experience in game design or in reverse engineering games is, can certain conditions in D&D be abstracted to the point that SW Saga has done it?

There are certain conditions I would keep as-is in D&D.  For example, Prone, Dominated, Petrified and Restrained are very specific things that can occur and add flavor.  A medusa will petrify you, and that’s that.  But blind and deaf?  I’m not so sure a few minuses can’t stand in for that instead.  Dazed and Stunned aren’t fun conditions, at least I really haven’t found them to be.  Couldn’t those be bundled into the bottom of the condition track instead?

Of course, with these changes, come bigger issues. Monster and PC powers cause conditions, you’d have to have powers cause “-1 step on the condition track” instead.

I’m a big fan of abstraction.  I am also a big fan of not assuming that what is happening in a combat round is exactly *that* one hit you are hitting with.  Meaning that it could be a few blaster bolts that are flying. You aren’t just pulling the trigger once, but rather the die roll represents a few shots or a few swings of the sword.  But I digress, that’s a blog post for another time.

I’d like to see someone take a swipe at something like this for D&D.  I don’t think I could, simply by not really having much experience with SW, (I’ve only ran it once!) and not being a good inner workings guy, but I do think the idea is not bad.  So what do you all think?  Are conditions in D&D that much of a slow down at your table?  Long time Saga players, any thoughts?

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