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Health levels measure the health of a character and represent their ability to take damage. Whenever damage is dealt to a character, it reduces that character's health levels.
All damage affects the overall health levels of a creature. If a creature starts a Battle with 3 health levels and gets hit with three Attacks that each deal 1 damage, these Attacks reduce the character to 0 health levels.
All player Characters have 3 health levels as their starting maximum (special abilities may increase this number). When a player character takes damage and loses health levels, there are a few ways the health levels can be restored: a skill roll involving a Med Kit or other healing item, a special ability, a Nova ability, or through rest.
Health levels cannot be reduced lower than 0, and any creature who has 0 health levels is knocked out, incapacitated, cowering in fear, or otherwise unable to continue taking actions until they regain at least 1 health level. A player character with 0 health levels does nothing on their turn and cannot spend Nova Points (unless specified otherwise in a Nova ability’s description).
If a player character’s health levels are reduced to 0, they receive the least severe type of negative condition that they do not already possess. For example, if a player character is reduced to 0 health levels and they have no Conditions, they gain a minor negative condition. If they already had a minor condition when they were reduced to 0 health levels, they gain a moderate negative condition. If a player character has only a significant condition (due to a previous effect) and they are reduced to 0 health levels, they gain a minor negative condition.
If a player character has a minor, moderate, and severe negative condition and their health levels are reduced to 0, the player character dies.
Example: Ballallanava has no negative Conditions. He gets hit by an attack from an enemy wielding a Laser Sword. He started with 3 health levels, and the hit deals 1 damage. Now he has 2 health levels remaining. If Ballallanava’s health levels are reduced to 0, he is knocked unconscious (or otherwise unable to continue taking actions) and gains a minor negative condition.
If a GM-controlled creature is reduced to 0 health levels, this generally means the creature is out of commission at least until the end of the Combat encounter or scene. If a GM-controlled creature is reduced to 0 health levels by a physical attack (like the kind made with a weapon), the attacker gets to decide if they knock the enemy out or kill them outright. The GM has final say on if it makes sense for the NPC to have died or be otherwise removed from the scene. The GM may decide special or important NPCs die like player Characters.
Example 2: Spice the Driftling is fighting a pirate. The Driftling has already successfully attacked the pirate several times. She uses her Presence Skill to make an attack to try and intimidate the pirate into surrendering. The attack hits, it deals 1 damage, and, as the pirate only had 1 health level remaining, the pirate can no longer take actions in the scene. The GM decides this means the pirate falls to the ground in fear, blubbering like a baby.