X-Com RPG – Mayhem and Madness: Injury and Morale

After focusing on creating and cultivating your precious troopers last time, this post is about making their lives miserable through terror, panic, and the effects of devastatingly and unfairly lethal firepower from beyond.

Much of this material is inspired by Smallville RPG and especially/directly draws from Rob Donoghue’s Hunters game (Supernatural/Leverage hack), with its simple, powerful modifications to Smallville/Leverage that seem tailor made for representing certain aspects of X-Com tactical combat. We’re getting into the crunch of the game at this point.

So let fly the mayhem and chaos, shall we?

Injury/Wounded Status

When an attack is successful, the target gains a Wounded Status Trait equal to the size of the highest unkept die in an attacker’s roll (the die with the highest result that wasn’t added into the final result). If there were no unkept dice, then default to Wounded d4. If the new Wounded rating is equal to or lower than an existing Wounded rating, simply increase the existing Wounded rating one step.

  • While a character’s Wounded die rating is lower than his/her Soldier rating, add a d4 to action rolls where being Wounded would hinder the effort (such as sneaking, running, brawling)
  • Once the Wounded rating equals the Soldier rating, in addition to the usual d4, the full value of the Wounded die becomes available for anyone to add to rolls as applicable.
  • If a character’s Wounded die rating exceeds his/her Soldier rating or base Alien rating (or would increase a d12), the character is taken out, usually by falling Unconscious.
  • Any additional injury applied to Unconsious characters kills them, although they still benefit from Cover, or allies’ covering fire/maneuvers.


Wounded die ratings decrease by one at the end of every Commander Round.

In addition, Medi-kits can decrease Wounded die ratings, when used successfully: Inquisitive+Time vs Target’s Wounded+Shaken. If the user of the Medi-kit rolls a 1 on this roll, the target’s Wounded or Shaken rating increases 1 step (target player’s choice).

Morale/Shaken Status

NOTE: As of 2/18/11, all matters of emotion, including bravery, calming down, and calming/reassuring others, will be tied to the Agent role rather than Ace. The following was my initial conception, but be aware of this change.

Shaken status works the same as Wounded, but compares with troopers’ Agent rating rather than Soldier, representing bravery or fearlessness rather than toughness. Troopers increase their Shaken status whenever:

  • They are Wounded the first time in a mission (see First Blood below)
  • Allies or civilians are Taken Out nearby
  • Allies Panic nearby
  • Enemies intentionally target troopers’ morale

When a trooper is Taken Out or Panics, all allies nearby (within a couple zones or sight range) increase their Shaken rating a number of steps equal to the number of steps between the two troopers’ Ranks. If a trooper’s rank is higher than the trooper Taken Out or Panicking, he/she can roll Ace+Rank vs Taken out Troopers Wounded/Shaken (whichever applies, not both)+Rank

When troopers’ Shaken status exceeds their Ace rating, they Panic: freezing up, dropping what they’re holding, running recklessly, or going berserk, firing on the nearest person whether alien or ally. The severity of the panic reaction is determined by how many die size steps Shaken exceeds their Ace rating:

  • 1 step beyond Ace = Freeze: Lose TUs and refresh no TUs each turn
  • 2 = Refresh no TUs, and roll a d6: Odd = Drop all held items; Even=Move to an adjacent zone, without taking cover or kneeling (no TUs needed)
  • 3+=Spend all TUs firing snap shots (Time d6) at random nearby living targets (including allies), moving zones (without cover) seeking a weapon if one is not held or causing property damage if unarmed.

First Blood

Getting shot is scary. The first time a trooper gets a Wounded status in a mission, they also take a Shaken rating of equal size.


At night, all troopers begin with Shaken d4. In addition, GM adds Night d8 in opposition to rolls attempting to Calm Down.

Splitting Up

As Reverance Pavane comments regarding Torg: Orrosh rules on another of Rob’s Hunters posts, the Shaken rules offered here provide at least small incentive for players to split up their troopers despite the classic horror trope where isolated characters are taken out one by one. If the whole troop stays together, they will all witness the rookie getting blasted into wall art, taking hits to their morale accordingly. A team split into separate groups or pairs may have access to more tactical locational advantages, as well as being more resistant to mass panic when things go badly, if only because they’re not there to see it.

As in Leverage, all troopers are equipped with com-links to allow continuous, immediate communication among the troopers as well as the Commanders observing the mission from the Command Deck. When a trooper panics or dies ingloriously, everyone will hear about it, but at least they don’t have to watch. Facial expressions are contagious.

Morale Recovery

Calming Down

Troopers can spend an action calming themselves or allies down from being Shaken using their Agent rating. Troopers cannot Calm themselves down from full Panic, only allies can assist them at that point. Agent+Time vs Shaken+Wounded(+Night d8). If Calming an ally, the ally must share a zone with the target or be in an adjacent zone. If the player rolls a 1, the Shaken die increases one step.

Time Off

Shaken die ratings decrease by one at the end of every Commander Round.


Example: Trooper Joe is a Sergeant d8, Trooper Jane is a Rookie d4, and Trooper Mac is a Colonel d12.

When Trooper Jane is Taken Out by Wounded d8 (her Soldier rating is d6), Joe and Mac can each resist being Shaken by rolling Ace+Rank vs Jane’s Wounded d8+ Rank d4. If they succeed they retain their composure, Rookies get taken out all the time. If they fail the roll, however they each gain Shaken d4 or increase their Shaken die 1 step.

On the other hand, if Joe is Taken Out by Wounded d10 (his Soldier rating is d8), Jane automatically increases her Shaken rating 2 steps (since Rookie d4 is 2 steps lower than Sergeant d8), while Mac can still roll against being Shaken.

If Mac is caused to Panic by Shaken d10 (his Ace rating is d8), Jane will automatically increase her Shaken rating by 4 steps (likely panicking herself) while Joe will increase his Shaken rating by 2 (since Sergeant d8 is 2 steps lower than Colonel d12). This example demonstrates the importance of keeping high-ranking officers alive and composed, especially when they are leading a bunch of Rookies.

Rank Amendment

In light of changes to my initial ideas about Wounds and Morale, I’ve ammended the way trooper Rank works (and noted as such in the previous post):

Rank determines the number of TUs a trooper gets to work with per Round, reflecting veteran troopers’ ability to think and act with greater speed and precision:

  • Rookie d4 = 4 TUs
  • Squaddie d6 = 5 TUs
  • Sergeant d8 = 6 TUs
  • Captain d10 = 7 TUs
  • Colonel d12 = 8 TUs

In addition, a trooper’s Rank die can be added to a single roll once per Round; Either Offense, Defense, or Maneuver rolls; OR a trooper’s Rank can stand in for his/her Soldier or Ace rating to delay being Taken Out or Panicking.

No changes to Rank advancement at this point.


Not a lot of this material is my own, but how well do you think it represents the tone, ambiance, and style of X-Com combat, especially in regard to the classic game’s Health and Morale stats? Is this too complex, too simple? Is there anything more you’d like to see represented, anything I’m overlooking? Questions, comments, and critiques are very welcome.

About Adam

Adam is a husband, an explorer of the inexhaustible, and a hunter for unexpected synergies and collaborative potentials. His explorations into RPGs began with DMing D&D, though lately he enjoys mining the potentials of diverse systems, especially Cortex Plus.
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