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D&D 5E "Combat exhaustion" at 0 hp?

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Then again, I also play with negative HP. So a PC with 6hp who takes 12dmg is at -6hp, not 0hp. A healing spell may not get them back to 1hp.
Yeah, I miss negative HP. So, having damage overflow into another mechanic (Vitality, Wounds, Exhaustion, whatever....) is a good alternative IMO.
 

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So my table looked like this:

Level 1: Movement speed halved
Level 2: Hit Point Maximum halved
Level 3: Disadvantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and STR ability checks
Level 4: Disadvantage on all other ability checks
Level 5: Movement speed zero
Level 6: Death
At what point is spellcasting affected?
 



6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
@toucanbuzz

FWIW, another option is that any failed death saves do NOT recover when you have HP again, but instead only on a long rest.

So, think of this: PC goes down, rolls death saves, fails one, and is healing. Later on, the PC goes down again, that one failed death save is STILL there and they suffer another before being healed. Now, they have two failures accumulated. Finally, they get in a long rest in and recover the two failed death saves.
 

Maybe take away concentration at Level 2. Or require a Con save for it not to fail.

DC 15 spellcasting ability check or the spell fails (and the slot is wasted).

Personally any rule that encourages falling back to long rest (and discourages advancing the adventure, the quest, and heroically pushing on) really needs to be scrutinized heavily, and in general - rejected.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Using the rules?
Uh... yeah! There's a thing... I dunno if you've heard of it, it's really rare... called 'house rules'. Believe it or not... and I know this is whacko crazy talk... but not everyone plays D&D combat strictly by the rules interpretation you use for how D&D combat is run. And not everyone has the same make-up of players and/or characters that your table does. So how combat might run for you... as amazing as it might seem... might just not be the way someone else's table runs.

And thus the "house rules" that @toucanbuzz is trying to work out might actually work for his table, even if they are an anathema to yours.
 


Dausuul

Legend
I note that the people who've actually played with this house rule say it's fine, and everyone warning of problems appears to be white-room theorizing.
 

Gadget

Adventurer
It seems that the Devs never really thought through the whole Exhaustion mechanic much. While it appears in the rules system, it is under utilized, there just aren't many places where it comes up. It also is somewhat baffling that it is a harsher condition to recover from in some ways than death (3rd level Revivify versus the 5th level Greater Restoration). I once considered having some of the underutilized necromancy spells apply the condition on a failed save, but the wonky ordering of what is penalized as the condition progresses seemed to really only matter to PCs most of the time.

It would be better, imho, if the condition progression for Exhaustion were modified in some way to make the earlier levels more even while having Lesser Restoration remove a level. This would allow the mechanic to be used more often and in more ways.

As for the Exhaustion for a death save mechanic, I suppose it depends on the play style and table mostly. Some will find it enhances the game, others will see it lead to the dreaded 5MW and such.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Exactly.

So this rule (like all other house rules/ rulings such as 'fumbles' and 'DC10 to climb a rope' and 'no GWM' and 'flanking' and 'instant death from falls') just punishes martials and leaves the casters alone.
What's your point? You say this as though we aren't already aware of this.

You feel like you need to stand up for all of our poor martial characters in our games while the big mean spellcasters get to do whatever they want? I'm sure all my martial character players appreciate you looking out for them.
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
What's your point? You say this as though we aren't already aware of this.

You feel like you need to stand up for all of our poor martial characters in our games while the big mean spellcasters get to do whatever they want? I'm sure all my martial character players appreciate you looking out for them.
It is funny. I've had people post how this hurts martials more than casters, but they never try it. IME it hurts everyone pretty equally. Yes, casters tend to hang back, but they are also prime targets and have fewer HP, so are more likely to reach 0 HP when they get targeted. They also have lower ACs in general IME (not a lot lower, but lower) because they aren't on the front line.

For people who actually try out such rules, it plays perfectly well IMO and doesn't tend to favor any one class over another. 🤷‍♂️
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
For people who actually try out such rules, it plays perfectly well IMO and doesn't tend to favor any one class over another. 🤷‍♂️
Yep. Every table is different. Heck, I still see the occasional post where the person says that the Quadratic Caster issue is still a thing. So some tables must make exceedingly easy for the casters to just overpower everything. But there ain't nothing I can do for them. That's their cross the bear.
 


L3 exhaustion gives you disadvantage on spell attack rolls and concentration checks.

Attack rolls are something a spellcaster can avoid by casting save or suck spells, buffs, conjuration etc.

Disadvantage on attacks, skill checks, reduced max hp and nerfed movement hurts Martials more. Heck the disadvantage on attacks totally shuts off rhe Rogues core class feature in sneak attack.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I know the topic of replacing Death Saves has been covered, but I wanted to take a version I've seen on other threads and weave it into my own (vitality at 0hp). Not looking for debate on whether one should use an alternative to Death Saves, but any abuses or loopholes you could see occurring. My players currently like the idea of being relevant, albeit reduced in ability and hovering at death's door, at 0hp.

Several DMs use some version of a homebrew rule, in lieu of Death Saves at 0 hit points, of: gain 1 level of exhaustion. The purpose is largely to avoid "whack-a-mole." The rule has been criticized as easily leading to a death spiral, especially for front-line characters, though it is a simplistic rule to implement. What if the exhaustion gained this way were easier to shed? Much credit to folks in this thread and @6ENow!

Proposed System:
  1. At 0 hit points, PC gains 1 level of "combat exhaustion" and any concentration effects end. Combat exhaustion is the same as normal exhaustion and stacks with it, but is easier to remove by:
    • 1 per short rest or lesser restoration
    • All by a long rest, greater restoration, or potion of vitality.
  2. The PC makes a Concentration saving throw to gain the "staggered" condition and stay conscious. Failure means the character gains the "unconscious" condition. Once a player gains at least 1 hit point, they lose these conditions. A player can voluntarily "fail" the save (perhaps to avoid looking like a threat on the battlefield).
    • If the save is failed by 5 or more, the PC gains a "lingering injury" per the DMG p272.
  3. A "staggered" PC loses reactions, cannot move unless they use the Dash action, and can only take a single Action or Bonus action on their turn. Each time the PC takes damage while staggered, they must make another Concentration saving throw as above.
It's more complicated than I like, so I would stop at this point and ignore the last part, but I think it would be interesting.

But make sure to consider DEFCON1's proposal on rearranging (of if you like uncertainty, even randomising!) the order of effects of exhaustion because indeed the 1st one matters little in combat but is way too severe out of combat, it feels as if the designer who came up with the list might have had a very combat-centric gamestyle in mind.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
It's more complicated than I like, so I would stop at this point and ignore the last part, but I think it would be interesting.

But make sure to consider DEFCON1's proposal on rearranging (of if you like uncertainty, even randomising!) the order of effects of exhaustion because indeed the 1st one matters little in combat but is way too severe out of combat, it feels as if the designer who came up with the list might have had a very combat-centric gamestyle in mind.
Based upon the whole '6-8 encounters' thing, I think the designers definitely were originally thinking/planning in terms of the dungeon crawl for a lot of their combat rules.

Once you went outside and your "encounter day" was hanging around a town or walking through the woods and maybe one fight would come your way that day... that's where all the supposed issues with balance between characters/classes show up.
 

Well then they're utter idiots.

Healing word chews up a spell slot, and a bonus action (and being a bonus action spell, it negates the ability of the caster to cast another spell that turn), and only heals you (you remain prone).

My players do what they do regardless of whether I think it's smart.

It's just a non issue, and if it WAS an issue the last thing I would be doing would be implementing a rule that a) overly penalizes martial PCs, and b) mandates the 5MWD.

I haven't seen a 5MWD in the years I've been DMing like this. The risks of letting giving your enemies a 24-hour break outweigh the risks of pressing on with a druid who is now rolling initiative with disadvantage. Casters go down way more often in my games than martials. The monsters know who showed up to battle in pajamas.
 

Democratus

Adventurer
Exhaustion at 0 hp has transformed our game and made it much better.

In baseline 5e, being reduced to 0 hp is effectively taking a short nap. Which brings very little sense of danger or urgency. It should be significant if something strikes you so hard that you drop to the ground bleeding.

Yoyo healing has made being "eliminated" in combat little more than a movement penalty as you stand up to continue fighting.

With exhaustion, I have found the players much more reluctant to simply charge at every encounter like it was a video game. Instead they calculate when it is better to find either an alternative to fighting or come up with a way to push the odds more in their favor before risking life and limb.

YMMV
 

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