Damage & Sidelining

Equestria can be a dangerous place, and eventually, characters will suffer harm. Whether this harm is physical or emotional in nature, it’s an important component of challenge which serves to make an Episode more meaningful--as long as it’s not excessive or unfair. Just as with checks, there is a ‘technical,’ consistent method and a ‘dramatic,’ contextual method of handling how much damage to deal to a character when the inevitable occurs. Just as with checks, both methods are viable and can be accommodated by S4E, though S4E was designed with the ‘dramatic’ method in mind.

Luckily, there’s an element of chance involved in dealing damage to a character, which keeps things unpredictable. This means that two of the same effects, set at the same damage level, may not (and probably won’t) deal the same amount of damage to a character. Because of this, it frees you to set damage amounts without worrying about being unfair; as the saying goes, “let the dice fall as they may.” Damage is measured in dynamically-generated totals deducted from a character's Fortitude and / or Willpower total as appropriate to the situation, as follows:

"Light" Damage: 2d6
"Average" Damage: 2d6 + 4
"Heavy" Damage: 2d6 + 8
"Severe" Damage: 2d6 + 12

Any amount of damage which the GM determines to be significantly above this threshold ('massive damage') can be done in two ways: either the character(s) affected are reduced immediately to 1 Fortitude or Willpower (or both), or they are immediately Sidelined (or worse).

When a character becomes Sidelined from damage--even when the entire group becomes Sidelined--it’s not necessarily the end of the game, and it can even be a way to reinforce a plot point. For example, say the characters tried to storm a dragon’s cave, and were Sidelined when facing the dragon itself. There’s no mechanically-enforced narrative consequences of being Sidelined, so you are free to say that the dragon merely kicked the group out of its cave and was content with leaving them alone after that. This not only means that the Episode can keep going, it also means that the players have the direct experience that they can’t take on the dragon face-to-face, and it may prompt them to look for another solution. In this way, failure can be a teaching tool.

It is important to remember that damage can also be used as a teaching tool, even when no overt source of harm is threatening a character. For example, if a character bakes a cake for a celebration, and their cake turns out to be a mess, they might suffer Willpower damage due to the discouragement and embarrassment. This might be used to teach the character to work together next time instead of trying to do it on their own. Likewise, if a character is attempting to break a door down by kicking it and fails to do so, they might suffer Fortitude damage from having stubbed a hoof. This might be used to teach the character that the door is too solid for them to kick down, and they must find another route.