Death & Dying - a better (and simple!) system.




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View Poll Results: Is this a good house-rule?

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  • Yep, nice & simple!

    70 53.85%
  • meh.

    32 24.62%
  • Naa... why bother?

    28 21.54%
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  1. #1
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Death & Dying - a better (and simple!) system.

    EDIT: super short summary:
    Upon dropping to negative hit points, a creature must roll a fortitude save with DC 1/2 of its negative hit points. On success, it loses 2 hp, on failure it dies. This roll is repeated a further four times in the following four rounds. This avoids metagaming current hp since nobody (not even the DM) knows when you'll really die, and scales nicely with both level and character (high fort-save fighters can take more damage than low-fort save rogue's, say.)

    The long story:

    Motivation
    In regular D&D, characters have a 10 hit-point "grace period", a gray area, if you will, in which they aren't quite dead yet. Unfortunately, this gray area shrinks to insignificance as the power level rises. Whereas a first level character has a very good change of falling unconscious and slowly dying, giving allies a valuable few rounds to pop a potion in his/her mouth, in higher levels the variability of a single hit is so great that, barring great coincidence, characters which were running around top speed one moment will have run off to the eternal hunting grounds the next. Also, a player who's character just dropped to -1 looks very different from one who's character just dropped to -9... and party members that recognize they have a few "safe" rounds might choose to first dispatch that dangerous opponent before healing their party member, whereas if they know he's on the brink of death the willingness to take that extra risk is often greater. The randomness on the one hand, and the invitation to metagaming on the other just aren't particularly fun, and they also makes a DM's life harder by forcing a choice between three equally unattractive options: bending the rules and leaving a character standing (which you can't do very often without destroying the game), harshly interpreting the rules (and disappointing a player that sometimes could not have seen it coming), or reducing the challenge (which is boring...)

    What we need are rules that (normally) make dying a nice and slow process again. Furthermore, you want a process which remains risky no matter the power level - if there's even a small chance of a character dying, things stay tense (which they should - your character's dying after all)! Finally, we want a d20 mechanism, not any anachronistic odd d10 rule which for no apparant reason was used in core D&D 3.5 instead.

    Rules Change
    These rules supersede the normal PHB rules on dying. The basic mechanism is a fortitude save vs. death on which you must succeed. The DC of this fortitude save is 1/2 your negative hit-points, and you lose 2 further hit-points even on a successful saving throw. You must succeed on such a saving throw as soon as you drop, and repeat it each round on your initiative, and whenever you are damaged. You stabilize in the fifth round. For example, Tordeck is mortally wounded by an orc. He succeeds on his initial saving throw, but must make another in each of the following four rounds. In the beginning of the fifth round he becomes stable. Sometime later in battle, he is hit by a stray arrow and drops to -23, and must again make a fortitude save vs DC 11, and will need to again survive five rounds to become stable. At best, you still have a 1 in 4 chance of dying if unaided, even if you can only fail on a natural 1. Tordeck had better hope he gets help soon...

    Heal checks
    As a standard action provoking an attack of opportunity, a character with the Heal skill may attempt to help a dying character. If he succeeds on a Heal check (with the same DC as the fort save), the dying character does not need to make his own save. If he fails by 5 or more, the dying character receives two damage instead. A character damaged while performing such a heal check must succeed on a DC 15+damage dealt concentration check to avoid automatically failing on his Heal check and damaging the character instead.

    Footnote
    This is my first EN-world post, so I thought I'd start off with a house rule I've used in a campaign for a while now - maybe it's interesting to others, or I've overlooked some consequence of the rules-change? Since this is an experiment of course I needed to try a poll too :-D.
    Last edited by eamon; Monday, 11th January, 2010 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Clarified executive summary.

 

  • #2
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)

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    Welcome to the machine.

    I happen to find your idea agreeable in principle, but have opted, and will opt, for a different implementation.

    But yes, some kind of scaling is the 'right' approach, I think (so as to better fit in with the d20 system's fundamental design).* Like say, the bit about the Fort save whose DC is tied to negative HP: that, I can grok. In fact, it [more or less] looks pretty familiar.


    * And, on that note, I also like "fewer absolutes", as was eloquently ranted about by Sean K. Reynolds, and distorted/refined by many, myself included. Er, FWIW.

  • #3
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    Like it a lot and Iwill test it. I will only require 4 rolls in a row to become stable though.

  • #4
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    This meshes nicely with another house rule I've seen and use in my game: Instant death effects take you to negative 1dx hit points (x being based on how nasty you want to be). In my game it's negative 1d10, but I have my own house rules for how far negative you have to go before you die. I may try your save mechanic instead, though.
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  • #5
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Previously I'ld tried different approaches which I thought were "more fair", and these involved various modifiers and not losing HP but scaling saves, and being dependent on the amount of damage received in "the last hit". However, I've found that simple is definitely good, esp for a mechanic you rarely use. If you object to people losing two HP per round (i.e. 10 in total), then I'ld probably just remove the loss entirely and say take a fort save equal to the negative hitpoints. This, however, is definitely more lethal at low levels. The 1/2 factor was chosen carefully to be somewhat survivable at all levels even when seriously hit. A tenth level character might get hit for 35 damage from a fireball and drop to -34 (DC 17 in other words). A character with at least a +7 fort can survive that 50% of the time (reasonable, but he'll almost never, <1%, survive five saves). A serious tank might have a +12 modifier and has a better chance. In any case I hope it's a very serious risk, but that you're only an "instant+certain" goner if you're really hit very strongly, and that you have a very good chance if it's "trivial damage"

    If you're really considering using it in a game, a number of issues (nothing serious) to consider in advance:
    - if a person is dropped "right before" his turn this means two saves in short succession. You might allow him changing his init to his attacker's so that the victim always has a full round in between those scary saves
    - this impacts Diehard and some other odd feats and class abilities; so should anybody want those (not common).
    - especially (part of DIEHARD) automatic stabilization must go (you could "never" die!)
    - some effects drop you instantly to a certain negative HP, and for extremely precise balance you could change those (probably not worth the bother though).
    - for the rest, the domino effects to other rules look pretty limited to me.


    Nobody's actually wanted to use it, but my diehard variant:
    DIEHARD [GENERAL]
    You remain conscious after attacks that would fell others
    Prerequisites: Endurance
    Benefit: Whenever reduced to negative hit-points, you automatically become stable (thus you only need to roll the first fortitude saving throw). Furthermore, if you succeed on this saving throw, you may choose to act as if disabled and remain conscious. If you do, you may make one move action or one standard action per turn. At the end of any round in which you perform a standard action, you take 2 damage and must succeed on another fortitude saving throw.

  • #6
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Obergnom
    Like it a lot and Iwill test it. I will only require 4 rolls in a row to become stable though.
    I'm curious why that change? (not that I see any problem with it per se)

  • #7
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    oh, I do not really know. 5 seemed a bit harsh to me, I might even go down to 3. But it will not really matter, by that time, someone in the group will have taken care of the fallen character. (As long as the Dragon Shaman stays up, all that matters is the initial save)

    I like it, that there could be a bigger chance of surviving party members in a scenario of a "tpk"... my group currently journeys through the underdark, and having, say, three of them awake, stripped of most their gear somewhere in the UD seems to make a better story then all of them dead :-)

  • #8
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    I like it and seems slightly simpler than the system I currently use:

    Death: Upon reaching a negative hit point total equal to 10 + base Fortitude save + Constitution modifier, a character is at death's door. He must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per additional check) each round or die. If a character is brought below his death's door total by a blow or other wound, then he must immediately make another Fortitude save (as above), with an additional penalty equal to the difference between his current negative hit point total and his death's door total. The mortally wounded character must also make an additional save each round thereafter (as above). If the character suffers recurring damage each round, such as from a spell or critical effect, the amount is added to the DC each round (this penalty is non-cumulative). A character making saves against dying each round cannot stabilize on his own.

    Example: A 10th level fighter with a Con score of 16 would potentially die when reaching -20 hit points (10 + 7 (base Fortitude save) + 3 (Con modifier). If the fighter were brought to -25 hit points in one fell swoop, his saves each round would be suffer a +5 to the DC (25 - 20 = 5).

    Example 2: The same 10th level fighter above is at -9 hit points (and is not stabilized) but is suffering a moderate critical effect, taking an additional 2d4 hit points of damage each round. Since he is bleeding from a critical effect, he cannot stabilize on his own. In the next round, he would take 2d4+1 hit points of damage. Let's say he takes 6 hps of damage, dropping to -15. The following round, if he took another 6 hps of damage, he has past his maximum negative hit point total. So he must make a Fort save against DC 16 (DC 15 +1 (for difference between maximum negative hit point total and the effective total (21))). Assuming he makes the save, the next round the critical effect does another 2d4 hps of damage (let's say 8 points), so he would have to make a FORT save against DC 25 (DC 15 + 1 (negative hit point difference) + 8 (damage from that round of critical effect) +1 (second save)). If he made that save, the next round he would take another 2d8 from the critical effect (let's say this time it was a low 2 hps), then he would have to make the save against DC 20 (DC 15 + 1 (negative hit point difference) + 2 (critical effect damage for the round) + 2 third save), and so on. . .
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  • #9
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    Ive written something similar, just a little more granular (but have never got around to play-testing it)

    * As soon as a character falls below 0 hp they move to the Bleeding state (see table below) and must make a Fort save (DC half negative hp); failure indicates the character deteriorates one degree, success indicates the character improves one degree.

    * Every round, at the beginning of the round, the character takes the indicated damage and must make another Fort save (DC half negative hp); failure indicates the character deteriorates one degree, success indicates the character improves one degree.

    * If a character takes further damage, their state either deteriorates one degree or returns to the Bleeding state (whichever is worse), and they must make a Fort save (DC half negative hp); failure indicates the character deteriorates one degree, success indicates the character improves one degree.


    Disabled (stabilized no further hp lose)
    Unconscious (lose 1 hp)
    Bleeding (lose 2 hps)
    Dying (lose 3 hps)
    Death


    [Note: If a character, due to further damage, moves from the Dying state to Death and then, due to a successful Fort save, back to Dying, treat them as Dying.]


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  • #10
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)

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    It's funny that so many people feel the need to change the current rule. For me the proverbial last straw was when a party I was DM-ing happily let a character that'd just dropped lie there while they dispatched some minor opponents, just because they'ld figured out that he couldn't be in any risk for at least another 5 rounds. I don't like that kind of meta-gaming, but rather than blame the player's I try to look at why there is such a discrepancy in player/character knowledge and try to fix it.

    el-remmen's version looks extremely much like an initial version of mine, neat :-). Since I was also trying to get rid of metagaming motivation and wanted to keep it simple, I eventually used this, even though it's possible less fair. At least now nobody including the DM knows when a character is really going to die...

    An "amusing" anecdote was when a character dropped but looked at the fort DC and said "that's it? we need to make this harder, this is too easy", and I assured him I'm run the math and that it was risky enough because of the natural one factor. One round later... he rolled a natural one :-(. Not fun to lose a character, but I'm sure that party is not going to leave their friends on the ground any longer than absolutely necessary now :-).

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