Stress and Conditions in The Carrington Event

The character sheet has a Harm section, which has boxes for Stress and Conditions, and one box for each of Sacrifice, Concession, and Manifestation. To understand how these are used, we ned a proper understanding of time in The Carrington Event (or at least the intervals of time we use).

The Passage Of Time

Time is best understood as divided into Scenes, Chapters, Advances, and Manifestations.

What is a Scene?

Gameplay should be understood as broken up into different scenes. A scene starts and ends when the situation or people involved changed. If our heroes are browsing the wares of a market, and there is some back and forth between players and GM about what is there, or what the street looks like, that is a scene. Then the GM describes a street urchin grabbing on of the character’s purses and running off with it. The players describing giving chase. That is a new scene. Plyers and GM may describe or play out rolls as they run through the street, leap over obstacles, shout “grab that girl!” etc.

When the urchin runs into the tavern, and players follow and now use a completely different set of rules to try to find the urchin, perhaps asking the innkeeper and their patrons if they saw a girl run in here, that is a new scene.

If instead, the players perused the market, were not accosted, and then returned to the manor for the ball tonight, that is also a new scene. No action happened, but the environment changed dramatically.

Generally, when the environment or the kind of activity you are doing changes, it is a new scene.

What is a Chapter?

You take part in adventurers. Go to this island and find out why people are going missing there. Examine this museum and explain the mysterious sightings at night. Etc. When you face a mystery and solve it (or abandon the mystery), that is a Chapter. A chapter can take just one session, but often takes 2 or more sessions.

It may end in the middle of a session, leading to a new one immediately. But some time is usually narrated between the end of one and the start of the next.

What is an Advance?

After each session of play (that’s session, not Chapter), you are awarded experience. When you gain enough experience to pass a threshold, you can buy an Advance. You get this benefit immediately, and it may benefit you in the next session.

Advances aren’t units of time – they are intimately connected to the advancement system.

When you have bought an Advance, you recover one Condition and one unit of Power at the end of that Chapter. Those benefits aren’t gained immediately.

What is a Manifestation?

Manifestations are used to measure your power advancement, and aren’t described here, but they are almost entirely player-driven and can occur mid-session. You get the benefits associated with a Manifestation immediately, but you can only get 5 (technically 6) Manifestations over the whole campaign. They are very powerful, but are to be used sparingly.

Harm and Hurt

Player-characters in this setting are pulp heroes of a cinematic nature. (The term Hero is often used in place of player-character.) The damage system reflects this – you don’t easily die, and you don’t track injury penalties. You can narrate them, but they don’t mechanically impede you.


You have one box of Stress, plus one per rank of Courage (Poor = 0, Fair = 1, Good = 2, etc.). So, a character with Great courage has four Stress.

Whenever you suffer Harm, mark you take one, two, or three Stress, depending on how much of a defeat it was. Count from the lowest empty Stress box. Then describe how you escaped certain death (or some appropriate fate).

(Defeat: Good/Great: 1 Stress; Superb/Spectacular: 2; Legendary: 3; Fair is a special case.)

Tabica is foolishly facing a master duellist with her Fair Ferocity and fails, The GM describes the fencer running her through., inflicting 2 Stress.

Tabica describes how she desperately deflects the blade, or maybe she ducks under an arch in the castle and the fencer’s blow is diverted by the falling tapestry. Be imaginative!

Stress Overflow

If all Stress are filled and you take any more Stress, you are Defeated and mark an appropriate Condition. The Stress overflow is the level of Condition you take. You only ever take one Condition at a time, but if the one you should take is marked, you wrap up to the next one. If all Conditions are marked and you take another, you die.

Weapon modifiers and similar situational effects never apply to Stress. When you spend Stress, you have just avoided Harm, so it doesn’t make sense to apply effects here.

Describing Stress

Stress is a buffer against serious damage. Whenever you suffer Stress, describe how you were almost defeated (however is appropriate in the situation) but for your skill, the scenery, or some other event.

Marigold is in a court scene, and Count Vishnu talks about how she is a common street hussy and lands Stress. Marigold’s player describes how the audience was distracted by the arrival of a dashing knight, and didn’t hear Vishnu’s remarks. Margold did and is now even more determined to put the rakish count in his place…

Stress Recovery

Stress is meant to be a buffer available in all conflicts. When the scene changes, recover all Stress. If the scene changes but the same action is continuing (as in the Urchin example, above), you recover only one Stress.

If you have an opportunity to rest, recover all Stress.


Every player-character has three Conditions (Bruised, Bloodied and Battered, or perhaps Trifling, Grievous, and Mortal), and can gain one or two more through hard-earned Knacks. Unlike Stress, they recover very slowly. If you take a Condition when you have no empty boxes, you die. These are your real damage.

The possible conditions are:

  • Bamboozled: The GM chooses an Ability you have at Fair or higher, and Impairs it.
  • Bruised: The GM chooses an Ability you have at Fair or higher, and Impairs it.
  • Bloodied: The GM chooses an Ability you have at Fair or higher, and Impairs it.
  • Battered: The GM chooses an Ability you have at Fair or higher, and Impairs it.
  • Broken: The GM chooses an Ability you have at Fair or higher, and Impairs it.
  • Dead: This is not an actual condition, but is instead what you suffer if you take a Condition and have none left. Describe how your character is permanently removed from play.

Since the lowest conditions always recover first, describe them as lesser effects. A Battered or Broken Condition may persist for many sessions, so should be described as a serious effect.

Impaired: Which Ability?

When a hero suffers a Condition, the controlling player suffers a long-lasting consequence of the GM’s choosing. There are more details about this in the GM rules. In addition, an Ability is Impaired.

When an Ability is Impaired, it’s rank is temporarily reduced to Terrible. (It can still be modified by aspects and other things).

The ability marked can theoretically be anything, but should make sense in the context of the situation. If you are in a social interaction, it might not make sense for your Tinkering ability to be marked, but Charm, Courage, or Prestige might make perfect sense.

You can be sure the GM will try to create conflicts where the most obvious response is to use the Impaired Ability, but you can use your imagination (or powers) to bypass this problem.

An Impairment is an encouragement to players to find an alternative to the way they usually do things. it’s not really meant to be a crippling punishment.

Recovering Conditions

You recover your lowest Condition at the end of any Chapter in which you gained an Advance, but a Condition cannot recover at the end of the same session it was suffered. You recover all Conditions after a Manifestation, instantly.

Since each Condition is associated with a specific Ability, the GM might not want to disable your best attribute on the first Condition. That’ll probably heal by the next adventure. If you want something to linger for longer and be a genuine handicap, don’t pick it till at least the second condition.

Heroes and Death

Player-character heroes only die when they’ve lost all Conditions and suffer one more. Since heroes can usually suffer only one Condition in a conflict (see below), they don’t die easily. It likely takes several sessions at least for a heroic character to be taken out permanently.

It is intentional for death not to be a serious concern most of the time – the GM and players must be more imaginative in coming up with consequences for these heroes. Often defeat in that moment will be consequence enough and will sting, but the GM might create other lasting consequences to make these characters lives interesting…

If a player really wants rid of a character, they have the option of Retirement. That will (probably) be described under Advancement.

Taken Out

When you are defeated in a conflict, you are removed from the conflict in a way that matches the condition and your opponent’s desires. Unlike Concession, you are defeated on their terms.

Exactly what this means can vary, but it’s a narrative effect that does not favour the player.

Note: you cannot be killed or permanently removed from play when Taken Out. The actual effect is decided by the GM and is influenced by the level of Condition you are suffering. It’s never to your advantage, but is an inconvenience not a permanent effect. And if an effects do endure, they are removed when that Condition is recovered.

What Does Death Mean?

When your character ‘dies’, that means they are permanently removed from play. You can’t play them any more and they are no longer an active participant in the campaign. Often, this means they are killed, but there are some situations where that might not be the case. The GM must agree with any Death.

Special Abilities to Avoid Harm


On your turn, you can describe how you are defeated and removed from the Scene. You suffer no lasting penalties and recover all Stress, and you get to describe how you are defeated in a way that fits the situation.

You are defeated though – you can’t interact with the scene any more.

A Concession is a way to narrate your own defeat and avoid further consequences. If you see the writing on the wall for an encounter, use a Concession to get out – though you might be leaving allies in the lurch.

There’s more to say about Concessions – see Aspects.


When you are Taken Out, you might refuse that and decide to soldier on. Make a Courage roll: on success, you get a surge of adrenaline, and gain the full benefits of the Sacrifice. On a failure, you are Taken Out unless (optionally) you choose to take another Condition. You can accept defeat.

Optionally: there is a penalty on this roll equal to the number of Conditions you already have.

Whenever you Sacrifice, you must describe the sacrifice – this might be the death of a sidekick, the expenditure of an appropriate aspect, or more. The GM must agree the Sacrifice is worthy – and, on a Courage success, that takes the brunt of the defeat for you.

You must describe the Sacrifice (and do suffer it) whether the Courage roll succeeds or not!

On your next action, use your relevant Ability or the Courage roll, whichever is better – the surge of extra hope or anger gives you a boost.

Sacrifices recover whenever your Stress recovers. It’s something that can only be done once per conflict, but is available in every conflict.


Player-characters are heroic and can suffer temporary setbacks but it is hard to kill them outright (at least, it’s hard to kill them quickly). Players also have a great degree of control over how much of an ordeal they suffer (do they use their Concessions or Sacrifices?). Your player-character is heroic.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.