I use a Death & Dismemberment table in my game. One entry is for broken limbs. You roll again and may break your sword arm, your shield arm, a leg, or your ribs, with appropriate effects. No sword arm, can’t attack. No shield arm, can’t wield one. No leg, need a wooden leg (but no further effect once you do). But what about broken ribs? I read somewhere that you can’t strain yourself because the broken ribs might puncture your lung. So that’s what I use: can’t fight or you’ll die.
It’s a long setup, I know. Last session, my players met a dwarf pirate named Sawty with a saw mounted on his helmet. Uluf has a tengu horn which is way too powerful, summoned the flying swordsmen, killed half of Sawty’s crew and took over. A reaction roll showed that Sawty really liked Uluf. I decided that Sawty wanted to get rid of the guy who runs the show, Black Dagger. Uluf and his horn seemed like the perfect tools. Uluf wanted to get the treasure of the Bastille of Terror. Sawty convinces the reluctant Uluf to follow him and use the tengu horn in Black Dagger’s hall, kill him, and split the treasure fifty-fifty. Reluctantly, the players agree. Uluf leads the way. Sawty does his part, Uluf blows the horn, Black Dagger is killed by the tengus and the player characters cheer. Sawty is cackling triumphantly and leads Uluf to Black Dagger’s treasure hoard. The other player characters trail after them.
Sawty is a true pirate. He shows no regard for his fellow pirates, kicking their corpses out of the way, laughing. All he thinks about is gold and ruling this place. Uluf feels bad. Sawty quickly finds the treasure and disarms the trap. As half the treasure is spilled before Uluf’s feet by the pirate dwarf, Uluf snaps and decides to kill Sawty. A player backstabbing the honest pirate! A pirate who was as ruthless as they were. It was tense. Uluf’s player felt perhaps like a lot of murder was being committed in his character’s name. Uluf and Sawty fight.
When the other player characters offer help and healing, Uluf says no. This is a duel. Initiative is rolled again and again. By strange luck of the dice, both Sawty and Uluf end up in with two or three hit points each. Sawty scores a critical. Broken ribs!
Uluf’s player: “I don’t care. Sawty has to die!” And he rolls and he hits and he runs Sawty through, just as the broken ribs pierce his lungs and the pink foam starts showing. They both die amidst the spilled coins of the pirates’ hoard.
I loved it.