One nice thing about roleplaying is that it is social, it’s a discussion — between GM and players, between the characters, between players in different groups across the interwebz. One discussion that caught my attention was on the subject of damage or injury in a game. The question asked was static or random damage…but is that all the choices you have?
Most Fate variants have the ability to soak injury into complications like “Broken Arm” or some such mechanic that works against the character, but doesn’t take them out of the game. James Bond RPG had an excellent rules set where the quality of the attack dictated how much damage was done based off the Damage Class from A-L (character’s could usually delivery A-C damage in hand to hand; a pistol between E and G), so you might take a Light Wound on an acceptable or good hit, a medium on a very good, or a heavy on a excellent result. Cortex has a similar quality based damage system where basic damage is done by the amount of success on the attack roll. Say you have to hit on a seven, and you roll a 12; that’s 3 stun and 2 wound…but then you add the randomized damage of a dx wound or stun for the weapon. That 5 total damage was pretty good, but Oops! you rolled a one on the damage roll. Kinda sucks, huh? There’s a rule that extraordinary successes do full damage of the weapon (pg 94, Cortex core book) where the target suffers a steady d2 bleed out until they get aid, but does that accurately (or even cinematically/dramatically) represent a great shot?
One way around this is a “mook rule”, if you will. PCs that get extraordinary success or a critical hit, dispatch whatever no name henchman or monster they are dealing with. Only the lead villains or major henchmen get the benefit of damage roll. (Or to quote Nigel Power in Goldmember, “You haven’t even got a nametag! What chance have you got? Why don’t you just…lie down?”)
Another could be to take the weapon and add it to the roll for the attack. Does your sword do a d6 damage, add that to the d20 (if this were D&D, say) and whatever you beat the AC by, that’s your damage.
Another might be to use a variant of the Cortex rules — damage is based on how well you rolled over (or under, depending on the system) the target number with a set damage rating for the weapon. The downside to this is combat gets a lot deadlier for the PCs. Another option is you can’t roll below the amount you succeeded by. So if you beat a target of eight by four — you do four points before the d6 for your weapon. Anything under 5 is four, so a total of eight or higher. There’s still some chance, but the results take quality of action into effect more.
These are just a few suggestions, but it does break us out of the flatness of a random or static only damage mechanic for a game.