I should probably write some kind of big cool blog to celebrate the 20th installment of the design journal or something, but I'm revising (or maybe "completely rewriting" is more accurate) my third essay for the Thought Eater thing, so this one will be quick.
As I've mentioned before, I want combat that gets away from the "fight until everybody on the other side is unconscious" standard and leans more toward the way fights actually end in fiction. A lot of that has to be done by storytelling (giving fight scenes "victory conditions" that making continuing to fight impossible or pointless), but I'd also like there to be a mechanical component to give characters (PC or NPC) a reason to choose to leave the fight. Making unconsciousness the natural end for a fight (especially for PCs) brings up all kinds of story problems unless you're running a game based on The Big Sleep (or The Big Lebwoski) where getting knocked out is the main engine of scene changes.
In the current system, characters who drop below 0 Stamina can still fight, but suffer a penalty to all rolls equal to their current Stamina (so if you're at -7 Stamina, you have -7 to all rolls). I thought maybe that would help characters reach the "we can't win this" point through sheer force of math, but from what I can tell most of the playtesters seem to be working under the impression that everybody will fight until they're dead. I plan to include a note in the GM section about how most NPCs will flee when they drop below zero unless they're really committed or don't have the option of running away, bu that still doesn't help convince PCs to leave a fight that's going against them and come back with bigger guns or a better plan.
I'm wondering if the problem is that a penalty doesn't provide the right incentive, and if players might be more likely to see 0 Stamina as the point where you need to find a way to win fast or get out if there was a cost involved with continuing the fight. I'm thinking the solution might be to charge a point of Acclaim to take any action that requires a roll once you're Stamina is negative. That way characters are still conscious and I don't have to come up with a justification for the henchmen not shooting them in the head, but they have a clear limit on how long they can keep going (once they're out of acclaim, they can't do much but bleed) and a real reason to fall back and try plan B.
If you want context for this (in the form of the current rules draft) or want to join in the discussion, join the playtest group.
And if you want to give me money, sponsor me on Patreon!