A scar on the back is a shame for a warrior,
but my back is full of scars.
—Kaze no Jigoro
This is one of the ideas that I’ve had for a long, long time (more than a decade). It’s good enough to become a decent book or a manga, but since I am more into making games, I’m hoping one day to gm such a game and maybe even to write one.
Just think about it — most games fit into one of the two categories: either the damage dealt to a hero is nothing more than a metagame concept, a counter that does not have any significant in-game meaning and/or influence (e.g., D&D); or the damage means incapacitation of some sort, like hands being cut off on a critical hit (e.g., WHFRP). In the former, healing solves everything, in the latter, it solves nothing.
What I’m thinking of lies exactly in the middle: the enemy can cut your arm off, all right, but you can re-attach it afterwards. However, the scar will stay and will bear some meaning until the day you die. And give bonuses, penalties and abilities, of course.
Think of a samurai story. You travel the country minding your own business and cutting bastards stupid enough to stand in your way. One day, you meet a man of great talent, you fight him, you end up cut yourself. However, you don’t just die with a smile of satisfaction — instead, someone stitches you up and you’re free to go. Now you may seek the man who cut your head off, or you can just tell stories about the memorable day, or you can try to forget about it by wearing bandages. The choice is yours, and so is the scar.
Think of a strictly story-arc-based plots — in fantasy Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. series is a good example, any mission-driven shounen will do as well — where each story arc literally leaves a scar on the hero, both in his mind and soul. Doesn’t need to be a physical scar, though — for instance, if a hero’s leg is broken in one of the little stories, he’s a bit of a criple in the following ones. Gives you some global integrity, dontcha think?
Think of a career of a gunfighter. When your enemy manages to shoot you full of holes, you’ll recover, but you won’t forget. You can choose to hide them to hide the fact that you’ve lost once, you can flash them each time you get a chance like Kenshiro from Hokuto no Ken (with his fingers and speed he can be considered a gunfighter), it’s up to you. You keep the scars, you keep bad health implications, you keep the changes in your body that will remind you of that accident every day of your life.
Is it me and my yet undiscovered fetish for bodymod or is it really as cool as I believe it to be?