Many Years Ago
Before JAGS was up and running I was told a story by my mother: a son of a friend of hers was shot by a random man at an intersection. Apparently the shooter, perhaps thinking the son was involved in some kind of drug violence, fires a shotgun at him through the door of his car. The son apparently thought "He threw a rock at the car" and drove off. He later looked down, discovered he was bleeding out--and barely made it to the hospital in time.
During The Development of JAGS
I got my hands on a book called Handgun Stopping Power. The authors had tried to definitively address the question of 1-shot-stops with handguns of various types. They had collated records of shootings as well as taking inch-by-inch segments of the human body and asking doctors the question "If a bullet went through here would it instantly stop you?" Part of the conclusion was that 9mm guns resulted in 1-shot-stops more than .357's.
While (as I recall) the authors gave no explanation for this, the rationale to me seemed that the kinds of people who carried 9MMs (professionals) were more likely to effect a 1-stop-shot than the kinds of people who carried .357's (usually not-professionals).
In other words the likelihood of a 1-shot-stop was all about placement.
One of our favorite games, The Morrow Project, had done a great job of simulating this (for humans--how would it work for a Hydra?).
Yesterday: What I Learned From Being Shot
Brian Beutler writes about the experience ... of being shot:
The kid opposite Matt drew a small, shiny object from wherever he’d been concealing it and passed it to his accomplice, who was standing opposite me. A second or two lapsed — long enough for me to recognize they weren’t joking, but not long enough for me to beg — before it discharged clap clap clap; my body torqued into the air horizontally, like I’d been blindsided by a linebacker, and I fell to the ground.But:
I stood up right away. Strangely I felt fine. Something had knocked the wind out of me, and my shoulder hurt a little bit, but ridiculously in hindsight we concluded it was an extremely effective prank.And then ...
Half a block later I didn’t feel so good anymore. I removed my T-shirt (a red one, inconveniently) and realized it had masked a badly bleeding shoulder wound. My adrenaline-fueled defiance gave way to the gory injury staring me in the face, and some important things dawned on me: I’d been shot.They run--and call 911--but:
We turned north onto 17th Street and made it another 30 feet before I couldn’t run anymore. Couldn’t breathe very well either. That was the moment I realized I’d suffered more than just a flesh wound on my shoulder. I slumped down against a fence on the east side of the street, in pain, but mainly just winded and growing sleepy. No good. I noticed intricate metalwork on a fence across the street and forced myself to focus on it.The paramedics get there just in time ...
They found an exit wound in my back. They ran fluid into a vein in my left arm to revive my sinking blood pressure, but it worked too well. I no longer felt like I was on the verge of unconsciousness, but for the first time I could feel the full extent of the pain wracking my upper body. I’d strongly advise against getting shot. It hurts very badly.He'd collapsed a lung. They had to remove his spleen.
In my case there were three bullets, including the one in my shoulder, and the injuries were pretty severe. Punctured lung, punctured diaphragm, punctured stomach, ruptured spleen, broken ribs, a hematoma on my kidney. One bullet tunneled harmlessly around the bones and muscles in my shoulder and remains lodged in a back rib on the upper-left side of my body. Doctors removed another with my spleen. The third missed both my aorta and my spine by an inch or less, exited my back and landed on Euclid Street.He spends a week in the hospital--he's lucky to be alive (slight misses to lethal or paralyzing vital locations).
Optional Rules For Shock / Adrenaline
How would we model this in JAGS? One way to do this would be to have each attack have an "immediate impact" based on its base damage and to-hit roll. Often that could be "nothing." But it could also be "knock down" or "degrade" (other possibilities, like losing the use of a limb would make sense).
Then, after the combat, start rolling for each wound on the long-term damage effect chart. The GM might even keep these rolls secret if the character didn't have certain traits, medical skills, etc. This would create vast uncertainty about the future (you take a sword blow to the torso--how bad is it? Wait until combat is over to find out!). It would, assuming it was modeled on "real life" be far more deadly than most RPGs.
I suspect a great deal of combat would resolve to ambush where the PCs would refuse to fight unless the odds were heavily in their favor. This is real--but would it be fun?
A better question that would it be is could it be?
For that, don't have to wonder. A game called Bushido Blade came out in 1997 and it featured a combat system where most hits were instant death. You could cripple arms and legs and such--but mostly? If you got hit in the torso? That was it. There were no time-limits or health bars for the duels. It was considered a hit and got rave reviews.
While it didn't have the uncertainty effect, the common instant death result didn't turn it into a market failure.
What About RPGs?
RPGs, though, are different.
For one thing, if you die there's no start-over button. For another, the average UFC fight takes several minutes and has dozens of blows--if you were to simulate that, even with a single die-roll per blow (combine to-hit and damage in some way and have no roll for how well they take it) that's still orders more than the average JAGS battle has.
There certainly is a place in RPGs for ultra-deadly combat systems. Morrow Project, The Riddle of Steel, and a bare bones military system called Recon had this feature. There are different ways of modeling realism too. Certainly what happened in these cases was more of an anomaly than not. It may not be an extreme-edge case--but according to the stats, most people shot go down and stay down.