A question that comes up every now and then is if it’s possible to design a good mechanic for stamina for trpgs. Most recently, stamina was mentioned here: How to run Dark souls-esque bosses?

So this thread is for discussing stamina, from the starting point of actually wanting to have a stamina mechanic in one’s home game.

Personally, I’ve made many attempts in many rule sets. The problem, it now seems to me, is not that it’s hard to include stamina, but rather that there already exists a lot of stamina-like systems in most games. Like: hit points, hd, encounter powers, recharge powers, mana, spellburn, cooldown (fantasy flight Warhammer), exhaustion, spell slots, psi points etc. So when introducing a dedicated stamina system, it must either integrate one of the existing or be so different that it sticks out from the crowd. Meaning you risk either balance issues, or crunch inflation, or both.

What are your thoughts?


I think that you’ve already answered your question. Stamina is represented by hit points and other resources.

HP seems closest to stamina on paper yet there is a huge difference. Your HP is depleted by others’ actions towards you. On the contrary, your stamina is depleted by what you do, by definition. So any system that uses stamina properly will be limiting and most likely boring, because getting tired is not fun.

"Oh, I’m afraid you can’t cast that spell to save your life, because you are out of breath…"


Stun points in Vigilante City work well as a Stamina mechanic, but come with a slight increase in book keeping.

Ultimately, though, Stamina often just represents having the “wind” to fight as well as the hit points, and exists to create meaningful decision space with constraints that benefit fighter and DPS types.

If I was going to do Stamina from the ground up in one of my games, I’d flip it on it’s head: instead of needing some points to do stuff or getting burnt out of… and then jacking up Spotlight and Move/Act economy for minimal payoff… I’d just give the character Feats type loot that could be used to do more with their one Move or Act, but also had a Spellburn type “Fatigue” dice mechanic.

Example Stamina Feat—

Flurry of Blows: On successful hand to hand attack, you may roll damage effort twice, then roll a Fatigue dice to begin the countdown till next Stamina Feat can be used.


This is exactly how I do it in my ICRPG/AD&D game. It works fantastic!


@Lon that is a neat solution.

@Khan I partly disagree regarding hp. A common interpretation of hp is that they both represent what others do (damage) and what you do (defending yourself so the attack doesn’t kill you). So the distinction is mainly in framing, like if you roll +str to hit or your opponent rolls +dex to avoid.

I am also sceptical about the argument that being tired is no fun. Or rather: I agree that it’s not fun, but I don’t think that “fun” should be a design goal for each mechanic. Character death is seldom fun, but many players still prefer character death in their games. Being out of arrows is not fun, but many still want resource management. Or, as you write, suffering from spellburn when you want to heal is no fun, but many still opt to include it. Etc. The takeaway is that having a rule with un-fun consequences can actually create more fun if players like risk and planning.

Generally, I think a stamina mechanic should only come into play when doing something out of the ordinary. Otherwise you encourage inactivity, which is bad. Personally, I use stamina for opportunity attacks and special powers and similar extraordinary actions.


I agree with @Khan. When I think of “Stamina,” I primarily think of two things: how long a character can run without getting winded; and how much s/he can carry. In ICRPG, both of these items are subsumed in movement (how far a character can reasonably travel in addition to taking an action) and carrying capacity (20 items total).

To an extent Hit Points are also a manifestation of how much damage (blood loss) a character can sustain before collapsing, Hit Points are also a measure of “Stamina,” in a way. Stamina is, after all, how much prolonged physical effort a person can sustain.

That being said, it seems like you are asking about Stamina as a mechanism to push one’s abilities or pull off special moves or abilities. In those cases, either use Stun points and a cost system as @Lon suggested from Vigilante City, or use the Surge system in Altered State.


I would also be remiss in not pointing out that you can use the Feats in Khan’s resource (or feats from another system) if you wanted a separate mechanism for every “move,” a player might want to employ.



One of @Runehammer ‘s greatest insights (that gets the least recognition) for ICRPG is avoiding negative stat modifiers. If there’s a negative, it comes by HARD TARGET usually. Which is the Goal Post moving, not us losing stuff.

Besides the savings on cognitive load, this also dovetails well with our Loss Avoidance Bias. We get all cortisol-y and cranky when something we had is taken away. (Even if we weren’t using it and didn’t like it that much, this happens to some degree.)

And so carrying this neurogaming design principle forward—which I’d sum up as “To avoid triggering undesired Loss Avoidance Bias and to optimize precious cognitive load, Avoid negative conceptualizations when deciding mechanics.”—I’d definitely make design calls that emphasized the positive that’s already there when it comes to Moves, Actions, Effort, and most importantly Spotlight.


Isn’t stamina just another word for constitution?


Excellent suggestion as always but keep in mind that Stun Points = HP that are kept separately. There is no difference here except that you don’t die when you run out of Stun Points. Also Feats with fatigue (spellburn) = cooldown = timers which Olav mentioned in the OP.

Basically stamina itself is lame and we go around it so the game doesn’t become boring.

Also yes, we want to avoid Loss Avoidance Bias. That was my point exactly.

I totally agree with you. My response was that stamina itself is boring and there are other mechanics that do it better which you already stated in your OP. Your suggestion looks like Stun Points from Vigilante City like Lon said and it is excatly like HP, only tracked separately. This is not something novel and this way my point.

You can easily rule that extraordinary actions require and deplete stamina/Stun Points. I did something similar with Feats in my book where they cost HP to execute without needing any other abstraction.

As usual I agree with you fully aaand thanks for the plug. :slight_smile: Also my ping in my last PM fell on deaf ears it seems.

Can be, but not always. Not in the context Olav implied, at least that was my understanding. Binding Stamina to CON can be an option, sure.
"You can execute extraordinary stuff as many times as your CON."


@Khan Gotcha gotcha. What I was getting at is that in VC there is a big difference from HP in that Stun actually powers your superpowers and also gets depleted when hit. Not only that, when you run out you can’t even do non-superpower stuff till you take a knee.

So Basically it’s a bit ICRPG MAGIC in its relationship to HP and having “skin in the game“ but with a second heart dedicated to it. Being forced to take a knee by Fatigue still deprives PC of Agency but only for a turn—effectively it’s “a little death” and not in that fun French way. :wink:


@Khan Your ping did not. I have too much to say and not enough time to get into that headspace.


@Lon Aye, exactly.

@Alex Ah OK, don’t worry. I thought my message got lost again like last time. We don’t even have to continue that conversation. Whatever suits you bro.


Serve and volley! The ball is in your court @Khan! Lol.


I’m going to disagree with the popular wisdom here.
Tracking anything is a pain, but can be fun or nuanced.

Is anything needed? No. Games aren’t a need. ICRPG limited all defense to armor. Mental, spells, missile, melee. That can easily be expanded.

Like sanity, or stun, or anything…if you want to explore an aspect of gaming where the current rules don’t fit, change them, add to them.

As to a good rule set for stamina…what are you limiting and what are you encouraging? Are you just increasing the value of Con in the game? Are you adding a stat?

Stamina management can quickly overtake a combat system as a primary requirement. Having a system that had a large tank vs poor recovery, moderate tank/moderate recovery and small tank/great recovery could provide a lot of entertainment especially if playing some type of Bot combat or something where energy usage is where it’s all at.

As to standard humanoid games, stamina is typically entertaining if the game is based on moves that cost a set amount, and recovery is a bit random. Or recovery is static, and cost for moves is random.

That means you need moves or powers for everything, or you end up having people avoid its use all together and others build characters to take advantage of it.


Hm. Randomness in recovery seems to be a recurring motif, so I should probably try that.

My current system (not playtested enough to evaluate)

  • stamina is used for actions outside of the normal move+attack
  • stamina = chunks, which replaces hearts
  • 1 chunk = 6 hp (allows tracking with d6:es)
  • stamina recovers with a con roll, and between encounters

…and based on the notion of random recovery…
or on a 1-in-6 at the beginning of turn.


Just a K.I.S.S. thought when it comes to ICRPG.
If you are using something that requires Stamina why not use what’s already in the system.
The Burn dice.
Magic has it.
Power suits has it.
You can have it.

Do 4 cool stuff, succeed a CON roll to keep on being able to do said cool stuff or be too fatigued to do so for 1d4 rounds.

mic drop


I would seriously look at the stress mechanic, and how wounds are resolved, in Blades in the Dark. This may be a pretty good starting place.


There’s this for what it’s worth: Stamina in ICRPG!

Then I listened to Hank’s podcast on mechanics mattering, and it failed on all points.

I think it depends on what you are actually using “Stamina” for. Others here have already posted many great thoughts. I think to have a really good stamina system, you would need to revamp too much of core ICRPG, things like Turns, Time, Movement, etc.

If I was going to add Stamina, I would use it in a way similar to “activations” in war games. Where each side of combat gets a certain number of activations, say 4, then when a creature takes their turn they are exhausted for that round. This provides an interesting balance for fights against parties of different sizes. It seems ripe for a good stamina system to work well in that capacity. It could make the strategy of tiring out your opponent a viable one.


@Drake ha! I even wrote in that thread… guess I rolled a natural 1 on my memory check.

Thanks for providing the link.