To recap, when a character takes wounds that fill up all of the boxes next to a die type, he loses the use of that die type and takes a descriptive wound. The wound represents the injury that the character has suffered, based on the attack. In most cases the attacker gets to describe the injury and location, with some guidelines.
A d4 is a light wound. These are scratches, bruises, and being a little loopy.
A d6 or d8 are moderate. These are cuts, sprains, and mild concussions.
A d10 or d12 are serious wounds. These are deep, bleeding wounds, small amputations (fingers, ears, eyes, not limbs), and serious head trauma.
This should make it clear that if your character attacks and takes out his opponent’s d4, you didn’t run them through; you maybe gave them a cut on the cheek. A d12, though, is where you ran them through and caused some internal injuries.
Using Descriptive Wounds
Here’s where descriptive wounds really come into play. Say you’ve taken our a bandit’s d6, and the resulting wound is a gash on his shoulder. You want to hit him in the same place again. What you’re saying is, you want to force him to defend with the d6 again, which is basically not defending at all. You spend a hero point. Now, the orc’s player (probably the gamemaster) can accept that, and gets the hero point to use on his turn, or can spend a hero point to block. If he blocks, he uses whatever defense die he put up, or he can call the die that was taken out back into play. If he accepts it, he gets the point, and do full rolled damage because the orc has no defense. You hit him right in that existing injury again.
But where do the points go? The d6 was filled up and taken out, after all. The orc has to take your rolled damage where he can. He has to start with the lowest open die and fill it up, then continue with the next highest open die, and if that fills up moves to the next. This can take out more dice, and each die taken out adds a new descriptive wound, which should relate to the original wound being aggravated. The cut on the shoulder is there, along with a dislocated shoulder and maybe a torn bicep. All of these need to heal separately.
D4 hit point damage clear naturally at the end of a scene or encounter. You might get knocked out in a fight, but when it’s over you’re up and around even if you can’t do much. It’s assumed that you’ve had a few minutes to patch yourself up and catch your breath.
D4 descriptive wounds clear naturally after rest. When the character gets some sleep and first aid, bruises fade, scratches heal, the dizziness fades.
D6 and D8 damage clear naturally when the character has a chance to rest. It’s assumed the character had a chance to sleep and get a little bit of first aid.
D6 and D8 descriptive wounds only clear naturally after the adventure is over and the character has had several days to rest and receive some basic medical attention.
D10 and 12 damage only clear naturally after the adventure is over. It’s assumed that the character has at least a week of down time..
D10 and D12 descriptive wounds only clear naturally when the character has had at least a month of proper rest, clean bandages, and appropriate medical treatment (setting broken limbs, stitching up large cuts, and so on).
Note that it’s possible to have hit points cleared but still carry a descriptive wound. The die type can be taken out again, but the character doesn’t receive a new descriptive wound; the existing wound just become exacerbated (stitches are torn open, the sprain swells back up, and so on). This is to keep the dramatic focus tight and the bookkeeping simple.
There are two type of healing magics. One restores hit points, and the other heals descriptive wounds. You can’t heal the wounds until the hit points are restored to the die type.
The Problem I’m Solving For
Most of the time, you can just cross off hit points and not worry about it. When a die type gets taken out, then it matters. The attacker gets to describe the natural and location of the injury, with limits. The injuries matter, and can affect play. There’s no nonsense where a character has two hit points left and is functioning completely normally as if they’re at full capacity. In playtest it’s made things interesting and made players consider both strategic and roleplaying implications.
One thing I haven’t addressed here is magical and social combat. If a sharp-tongued bard gets in a sick burn, it doesn’t physically harm the character, but it reduced hit points and can take out a die type. The descriptive wound can reflect a loss of confidence or reputation that throws the character off. The different types of non-melee combat will be detailed in the rules, and there will be healing magics for those as well.