Koru: Harm system

So in my upcoming setting + game, one of the ideas is to take inspiration from my favourite games. I wanted to create a health and injury system that was less abstracted than plain numerical values (i.e., hit points).

I’ve drawn ideas from:

  1. Apocalypse World
  2. World of Darkness
  3. Torchbearer

The basic idea is this: Harm has a spread something like this on your character sheet:

  • [] Want
  • [] Strain
  • [] Fatigue
  • [] Injury
  • [] Illness

When you take Harm from any source, you check the first (or next) box in the sequence. So if you haven’t checked anything yet, you mark Want. If you already had Want checked, you’d check Strain. This represents how much your character can take or bounce back from external sources of trauma. For a while you can just get a bit winded, tired or dehydrated from fighting monsters. Eventually, though, if you don’t recover, you’re opening yourself to far worse consequences (i.e., injuries and illnesses).


Recovering from each step requires greater time and resources. For example, to recover from Want, you need to have some food or water in your inventory or at least a turn (in combat) to catch your breath.

  • Want: you just need to catch your breath, eat or drink to replenish yourself. Takes only a moment.
  • Strain: you are emotionally or even mentally drained or upset to some degree and need to calm down, try to relax and collect yourself. Takes a few minutes.
  • Fatigue: you are physically drained and need rest. That means doing nothing strenuous for, say, an hour. Like a Short Rest in D&D 5e.
  • Injury: requires medical or magical attention. This is serious, like a bleeding wound or a broken bone. Requires a longer period of time to recover from an injury; say, at least 8 hours. Like a Long Rest in D&D 5e.
  • Illness: requires recurring, persistent medical or magical attention over a longer period of time. This is very serious: infections, fever, disease and such. Takes a much longer time to recover: a week (at least).

These timings are for a more “heroic” feel and if a group wanted more grittiness or whatever, they could make them take much longer. An Injury could take a week and Illness a month, if you wanted.


If ever all of your Harm boxes are full and you take more Harm, then you die. Plain and simple.

Bonus Boxes


A character’s age plays an important role in Koru. Amongst other things that it determines about a hero, it also affects how much Harm that they can take.

This is handled by applying extra “boxes” for Want. Youths have two extra Want boxes. Prime aged characters have one. Elders have none.

Having multiple checks in a type of Harm has no effect on recovery times.


Armor provides an extra box for Injury. Thicker, more effective armor just lasts longer, in game terms (Koru will use the “Usage Die” mechanic from the Black Hack).

Other protection and abilities

Some of these Harm boxes will increase depending on other factors, such as enchantments, good equipment or even special abilities. A Shaman, for example, who is an expert at healing, can grant other characters an extra temporary Illness box (if the right conditions are met).


I have yet to play-test these rules, but I’m liking how they look on “paper”.