Coincidentally, I wrote something about health and then I got sick. There was no connection. Coming up for air, however, I feel like I can write something. After all, it has been three days.
With my last post, and its discussion of social health and Foucault philosophy, I may have given the impression that I care the relationship between the nature of authoritarianism to restrain population. That was not my intent.
All I want is to provide a framework for a party, and no other entity, to viscerally identify the difference between one level of health (or happiness and culture) and another, based on a scale that can be effectively applied from region to region, or even hex to hex.
Here we have the party moving through the world, exploring as they please, disembarking from a ship into a town and realizing, hm, this is perhaps not the best place to be. Happiness is clearly at a low, health is likewise, and there's every reason to feel legitimately concerned about their welfare. But how exactly are the players to be made aware of it?
We can say, "Okay, the level of health is minus 3, so you better watch yourselves when you drink the water" ... which would frankly be the worst way to DM anything, though we grew up with games where we were told proudly, "The culture has a tech level of 7!"
We should rather say, "When I say that the docks and waterfront alleys are filled with wharf rats, I'm not referring to rodents ..."
We can talk about the relative maintenance of the streets and buildings, the glowering faces of the locals, the multi-colored sludge floating in the water next to the quay, the insects that have to be dug out of the served ale, the dog carcass that been thrown on a heap of other garbage back of the warehouse, the number of teeth in the prostitute's mouth that just propositioned the party and so on, but that doesn't measure the problem, does it? How do we make the party understand that one fly in one ale might be a place we can tolerate for a few days, while the ale actually tasting slightly of blood could be a reason we should leave town right now ... assuming, of course, that little things like that worry us.
I can figure out quite easily how to establish a health rating from the local development of technologies and social structure ... what I haven't figured out yet is how to match that rating with a detailed description, or game effect.
Which is the only thing about the subject that interests me.