16 August 2018

Healing: The Disabled List and Character Rosters

Major League Baseball has something called a disabled list. I'm sure other sports have something similar, but I only follow baseball. Athletes get hurt. Sometimes badly, and sometimes often. With limited rosters, teams need flexibility to bring in a replacement, usually from the team's AAA affiliate, sometimes elsewhere in the farm system, or more seldom by trade/free agency.

Adventurers also get hurt. Sometimes badly, and generally often. In most games, however, players don't have a roster of characters that they use. What if they did? And what if they could put a character on the disabled list in order to call up a fresh replacement "from the farm"? And what if, like a major league team, the roster size was limited, creating (hopefully) interesting decisions about when to DL a player, when to soldier on, and what to do about the roster crunch created by characters coming off the DL?

I feel a mechanic like this is especially important when using a descriptive damage system as I do. Characters tend to get pretty roughed up, and there needs to be a better way of dealing with it than bogging down the whole party going back to home base.

The Character Roster



Players have an "primary roster" (edit: also called the "active roster") of characters they can choose to adventure with (edit: adventure with as player characters). They also have a "secondary roster" which consists of their active roster and any henchmen they have.

The active roster is 5 characters, and the secondary roster is 10 characters.



Players can't just freely put people on and off the disabled list with no consequences. There's pressure to choose their favourite characters, creating interesting decisions.



At the beginning of an adventure (i.e. when leaving "home base"), the player may choose to play any character from their active roster. They may take along any henchmen from their secondary roster.

The Disabled List


There are 2 disabled lists, the 14-day DL and the 60-day DL. Characters on the 14-day DL are removed from the primary roster. Characters on the 60-day DL are removed from the secondary roster.

Once a character has been put on the DL, they are an NPC and simply rest and heal for the duration. They are safe and will not die. They remain an NPC until their time on the DL is up (either 14-day or 60-day).

When you put a character on the DL, either roll up a fresh 1st-level character, take over a henchman or 1st-level hireling, or bring in a standby character from your roster.



The character is healed of all flesh wounds after 14 days, and all (non-permanent) wounds after 60 days. The character is removed from the active roster, making room for a fresh character.

The player doesn't have to play a gimped, wounded character in the meantime.

It encourages procurement and maintenance of a home base.

It gives the party more stamina to work more than a 15-minute adventuring day.



Declare you are moving your active character onto the disabled list, and specify which one.


  • character is not in immediate danger (in combat, in quicksand, surrounded by fire)
  • character could plausibly make it back to base safely (if they can't walk, someone has to go with them)
    • they're not stuck in a pit; they're not surrounded by enemies; they're not being actively hunted for)
  • must have a "home base" available owned/leased by the party (somewhere they can get food and warm bed)

Roster Moves



The character is removed from the active roster and becomes an NPC henchman, with all that entails (they are an NPC with a morale score, they are nominally controlled by the DM but in practice are largely controlled by the PC, etc.).

Characters get 2 "options". Optioning a character uses up an option.


A henchman becomes a PC, with all that entails.


The character is removed from both the active and secondary roster. They are forever more an NPC, and leave the party to make their own way in the world. The DM is free to have the character resurface as a rival, friend, or acquaintance; or perhaps they will never be heard from again; or maybe they'll turn up dead - in any case, their fate is out of the hands of the player.

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