log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E Comic-Style Play (looking for suggestions)

Laurefindel

Legend
I'm starting a new game (as DM) based on a comic-strip (graphic novel really) set in the world of Eberron.

For this game I am departing from my usual "more-medieval-than-the-usual-D&D" style toward a more pulp action, comic-style approach. In the graphic novel, characters (both heroes and villains) get beat-up, knocked down, wounded, knocked out, seriously wounded, and then get-up in the next scene visibly injured but otherwise functional.

This works perfectly within the abstract hit point system, but I'm looking for a way that emulates the fact that major characters and villains can be defeated (if only long enough for their opponent to run away) without being necessarily killed. In other words, I'm looking for a houserule that redefines what happens when a character reaches 0 hp. Ideally, death should still a possible outcome (just not the only one), and temporarily debilitating injuries could be a thing. The setting is rich (and could be made richer if necessary) in potions, drugs, stimulants, prosthesis etc. to overcome what would otherwise be too heavy for my regular type of campaign.

I took notes from the various hp threads, but I'm curious to know what you would suggest for this game specifically (not necessarily any D&D game). I'm also open to other suggestions pertaining to that genre.

'findel
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I'm starting a new game (as DM) based on a comic-strip (graphic novel really) set in the world of Eberron.

For this game I am departing from my usual "more-medieval-than-the-usual-D&D" style toward a more pulp action, comic-style approach. In the graphic novel, characters (both heroes and villains) get beat-up, knocked down, wounded, knocked out, seriously wounded, and then get-up in the next scene visibly injured but otherwise functional.

This works perfectly within the abstract hit point system, but I'm looking for a way that emulates the fact that major characters and villains can be defeated (if only long enough for their opponent to run away) without being necessarily killed. In other words, I'm looking for a houserule that redefines what happens when a character reaches 0 hp. Ideally, death should still a possible outcome (just not the only one), and temporarily debilitating injuries could be a thing. The setting is rich (and could be made richer if necessary) in potions, drugs, stimulants, prosthesis etc. to overcome what would otherwise be too heavy for my regular type of campaign.

I'd go with the default assumption that 1) all damage to anything not defined as a mook is non-lethal, at least the final blow, and 2) its only lethal is both player and DM agree that this is The Final Showdown.

I took notes from the various hp threads, but I'm curious to know what you would suggest for this game specifically (not necessarily any D&D game). I'm also open to other suggestions pertaining to that genre.

Mutants and Masterminds defaults to non-lethal damage as the default assumption. Sure the Hulk literally punched Magneto six blocks through four buildings, but Magneto only "knocked out" rather than dead. It also assume most mooks go down in one hit, assuming they get hit. This help to speed along combat and make it feel much more dynamic and comicbookish.

M&M has a save system rather than HP so you might want to use an ability check based on maybe their Con score to determine if they go down or not. I'd use maybe any damage roll that is higher than the Con score rolls a save at whatever you think is fair and if it fails the mook is out. This helps keep most creatures be a threat for a least a round or two, and particularly large beasties with high Cons be a threat longer.

I'd only do this for opponents you want to define as easy to defeat, so you can have lots of opponents supporting a boss.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Same here. Attack are always non-lethal. Finishing off an enemy requires a full action. When my players reach 3 failed death saves, they decide if their character is dead or broken. In either case, the character cannot continue their adventures.
 

I'm starting a new game (as DM) based on a comic-strip (graphic novel really) set in the world of Eberron.

For this game I am departing from my usual "more-medieval-than-the-usual-D&D" style toward a more pulp action, comic-style approach. In the graphic novel, characters (both heroes and villains) get beat-up, knocked down, wounded, knocked out, seriously wounded, and then get-up in the next scene visibly injured but otherwise functional.
So... like D&D, then? ;)

This works perfectly within the abstract hit point system, but I'm looking for a way that emulates the fact that major characters and villains can be defeated (if only long enough for their opponent to run away) without being necessarily killed. In other words, I'm looking for a houserule that redefines what happens when a character reaches 0 hp.
A simple/obvious one could be to let the character dropping the creature to 0 decide what they want to do - kill/KO/maim/whatever.

Another possibility might be to allow a special combat option against an enemy that is sufficiently far below their max hp, a "knock down" maybe, the point of which is not to defeat them, but to allow the party to get away before they recover. The mechanic could be comparable to Sleep, a larger-than-usual-damage attack, that, if it exceeds the target's remaining hps, imposes a condition.
That condition might be something like "cannot attack/pursue fleeing enemies."
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hm.

Consider: It requires a use of Inspiration to finish off a villain. So, Moriartus the Evil Warlock falls off a cliff. Spend Inspiration to be sure he never returns.

Alternatively, allowing villains to have Inspiration- that if they can spend to avoid death.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I expected a few "it ain't broken, don't fix it" but for the moment, I persist.

Actually, I'm more concerned about PCs than villains. In my other campaigns, I disliked the wack-a-mole effect of PCs doing down to 0 hp and back up fresh as a rose (lower hp notwithstanding) after being restored 1 hp. I found it cheapens the drama, and although I'm actually quite ok with D&D's abstract hp mechanics, this is its weakest point IMO in a more realistic narrative.

In this game on the other hand, I want to embrace the wack-a-mole. It fits with the genre. Characters go down during a fight and then get back up. Why? Because the fight is over, the bad guys has gotten away or completed his nefarious deed or whatever. No cleric or magic required.

Still, I don't want to remove the threat of death completely, and don't mind including injuries because again, the genre allows it. I haven't found the right balance however. If injuries have no effect you might as well not have them. If they are too debilitating they are just no fun at all.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward a houserule whereas successful death saves bring you back up to 1 hp (with penalties?), but I'm also contemplating doing something with HD, or allowing everyone a short rest at the end of an encounter, regardless whether you were reduce to 0 hp or not. There are many ideas on the table ATM.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Why not just introduce a new version of short rest? It's something other people have suggested, take a quick break of 15 minutes and spend HD to recuperate. If you really want to you can also make drinking a healing potion a bonus action and/or say that if a PC fails 3 death saves they're in a coma until they get a rest or magical healing.

Beyond that, I'd just follow standard rules.
 

Hm.

Consider: It requires a use of Inspiration to finish off a villain. So, Moriartus the Evil Warlock falls off a cliff. Spend Inspiration to be sure he never returns.

Alternatively, allowing villains to have Inspiration- that if they can spend to avoid death.

Or just have it where no matter what, Moriartus doesn't die during Season 1. He's supposed to die Midway through Season 2 ya know.
 

In this game on the other hand, I want to embrace the wack-a-mole. It fits with the genre. ... No cleric or magic required...Still, I don't want to remove the threat of death completely, and don't mind including injuries because again, the genre allows it. I haven't found the right balance however. If injuries have no effect you might as well not have them. If they are too debilitating they are just no fun at all.
FATE does a routine where an injury persists for a number of subsequent scenes. It's not precisely a penalty, but a temporary trait that can be 'tagged' by the GM, to pull stuff.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward a houserule whereas successful death saves bring you back up to 1 hp (with penalties?), but I'm also contemplating doing something with HD, or allowing everyone a short rest at the end of an encounter, regardless whether you were reduce to 0 hp or not. There are many ideas on the table ATM.
Those sound good. Letting a character roll HD when they make a successful death save, or when they receive some sort of attention from an ally wouldn't be unreasonable, either.

It's certainly possible to shift D&D to a more encounter-oriented dynamic, too. Just divide the number of resources characters have by the number of encounters expected between the rests they're keyed to, and then those resources can be available in every encounter.
 

I'm starting a new game (as DM) based on a comic-strip (graphic novel really) set in the world of Eberron.

For this game I am departing from my usual "more-medieval-than-the-usual-D&D" style toward a more pulp action, comic-style approach. In the graphic novel, characters (both heroes and villains) get beat-up, knocked down, wounded, knocked out, seriously wounded, and then get-up in the next scene visibly injured but otherwise functional.

This works perfectly within the abstract hit point system, but I'm looking for a way that emulates the fact that major characters and villains can be defeated (if only long enough for their opponent to run away) without being necessarily killed. In other words, I'm looking for a houserule that redefines what happens when a character reaches 0 hp. Ideally, death should still a possible outcome (just not the only one), and temporarily debilitating injuries could be a thing. The setting is rich (and could be made richer if necessary) in potions, drugs, stimulants, prosthesis etc. to overcome what would otherwise be too heavy for my regular type of campaign.

I took notes from the various hp threads, but I'm curious to know what you would suggest for this game specifically (not necessarily any D&D game). I'm also open to other suggestions pertaining to that genre.

'findel

That's already default DND though. The PCs have the magical duct tape to make everything comic book already. Unless ya use the DMG Gritty Rules.
 

MonkeezOnFire

Adventurer
I expected a few "it ain't broken, don't fix it" but for the moment, I persist.

Actually, I'm more concerned about PCs than villains. In my other campaigns, I disliked the wack-a-mole effect of PCs doing down to 0 hp and back up fresh as a rose (lower hp notwithstanding) after being restored 1 hp. I found it cheapens the drama, and although I'm actually quite ok with D&D's abstract hp mechanics, this is its weakest point IMO in a more realistic narrative.

In this game on the other hand, I want to embrace the wack-a-mole. It fits with the genre. Characters go down during a fight and then get back up. Why? Because the fight is over, the bad guys has gotten away or completed his nefarious deed or whatever. No cleric or magic required.

Still, I don't want to remove the threat of death completely, and don't mind including injuries because again, the genre allows it. I haven't found the right balance however. If injuries have no effect you might as well not have them. If they are too debilitating they are just no fun at all.

At the moment, I'm leaning toward a houserule whereas successful death saves bring you back up to 1 hp (with penalties?), but I'm also contemplating doing something with HD, or allowing everyone a short rest at the end of an encounter, regardless whether you were reduce to 0 hp or not. There are many ideas on the table ATM.
So it sounds like you sometimes want the PCs and villains to merely throw each other around in a skirmish and other times life is at stake. Is it too gamey to have something like a tension level where at certain thresholds the rules of combat change? At low tension PCs are automatically stable when they go down, and when the villain reaches 0 hp instead of going down a chase scene is initiated. Then as tension increases over the length of the arc you add rules to make the combats more deadly to both sides.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Just to alter the 0 HP rule, I might consider unconsciousness for 10 minutes minus CON mod in minutes. Pair that with encounter goals for both sides that move beyond "kill and loot" and you;re probably in business.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
How about implementing something like the Force Points from Star Wars Saga Edition?

The way they work, in brief, is this: You get a certain number every time you level up. They can be spent to add a D6 to any attack roll or skill check. They also can be used to power some abilities, although that would be harder to add to D&D. But one of their other uses is that if you are reduced to 0 hp during a fight, you can spend a Force point to declare that you are just unconscious, not dead. As long as you have at least one Force point, your character won't die unless you want to retire him/her. But if you spend your last Force point, that's a way of saying, "What we're doing now is so important to me that I'm willing to put my character's life on the line."

In SWSE, PCs get 5+level Force points per level, but you'd probably want to have fewer in D&D, since there are not as many uses for them.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Just to alter the 0 HP rule, I might consider unconsciousness for 10 minutes minus CON mod in minutes. Pair that with encounter goals for both sides that move beyond "kill and loot" and you;re probably in business.

I'm beginning to think this is the way to go: tweak the "dying" condition to change it into a "defeated" condition.

How about implementing something like the Force Points from Star Wars Saga Edition?

The way they work, in brief, is this: You get a certain number every time you level up. They can be spent to add a D6 to any attack roll or skill check. They also can be used to power some abilities, although that would be harder to add to D&D. But one of their other uses is that if you are reduced to 0 hp during a fight, you can spend a Force point to declare that you are just unconscious, not dead. As long as you have at least one Force point, your character won't die unless you want to retire him/her. But if you spend your last Force point, that's a way of saying, "What we're doing now is so important to me that I'm willing to put my character's life on the line."

In SWSE, PCs get 5+level Force points per level, but you'd probably want to have fewer in D&D, since there are not as many uses for them.
That sounds like the Action Point optional rule from the DMG (which specifically calls out Eberron IIRC). There was a plot point option in there too. Hum, I think I need to read that part again...
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The fate points (?) system from 7th Sea would work pretty well for what you want to - that game positively drips swashbuckling cinematic pulp. Alternatively, for a game like the one you outline, I might let a player trade in the protection of the damaged rules for some hefty bonuses and the potential that might actually die. Obviously saved for the highest of stakes scenes, but I think it would lead to some great story telling.

Edit - drama dice in 7th sea, which play like inspiration+, recover from knockout, and activate special rules. Anyway, I don't play 7th Sea much, but I use bits and pieces for hack ideas on a very regular basis.
 
Last edited:

aco175

Legend
I would be fun to have the bad guy always teleport at the last minute or turn into a bird and fly away, or fall into a river, or have a plane with a ladder hanging down, or the ground gives way to a underground river, or ...

Of course you need to let the players come up with escapes for their PCs as well. Mid-level mooks all can have teeth with cyanide inside.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Pair that with encounter goals for both sides that move beyond "kill and loot" and you;re probably in business.

Most of the discussion is about death, but I think, for the style that's being discussed, this is perhaps more important than exactly what rules are used for death.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top