D&D 5E D&D Next Blog - A Close Call with Negative Hit Points

Oni

First Post
"Negative hit points shouldn't exist, but characters shouldn’t die outright at 0."

This is what I picked, I was a little surprised to see that it was a popular choice though.

If I'm keeping things simple, I like to treat 0HP not necessarily as dead (though it could be) but rather the point when you lose narrative control of your character. Letting the players know 0 is not something you want to go to, you might get knocked out or something, but you might just as well have a limb hacked off or be decapitated. I might allow a saving throw to distinguish between majorly inconvenient fates (like being dead or dismembered) and minor inconveniences (like getting knocked out or being shoved into a river and swept downstream or whatever). I think doing something like this can allow for a greater range of more organic outcomes. Now your adventurer can actually earn his eyepatch in play. :)
 

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TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
A house rule I like is: Once you hit 0 hp, you start taking damage to your Con. This damage doesn't affect your bonus or penalty, but if you hit 0, you're dead.

If you are healed, you heal from 0, because your hp never drops below 0, but you don't get your Con back, except by resting (or Spell X).
Have you used this house rule in play? If so, how did it go? Did players like it?

The ramifications of being "fully healed" but being at 6 Con (for example) are interesting to me. :hmm:
 

Still, the biggest advantage with what I posted above is that it can be modular.


  • Pulp Rules: If your group doesn't want to deal with long-term wounds, then negative hit points simply disappear with any magical healing.
  • Lethal Rules: If you want something more lethal, add a injury chart with some lethal options.
  • Grittier Rules: If you want wounds to happen more regularly, add a massive damage save.
Indeed!

In fact, the modularity here derives from simply answering the question: what happens when a character hits zero hit points?

Simple - Unconscious with Death Saves
Complex - Wounds (extended possibly into even a critical hit table or critical hit deck ala Pathfinders excellent card system). The wound received determines what status the character "enjoys".

There is no need for negative hit points, but in the more complex system, you need a way of judging when a character is dead (most likely by tracking "wound points" in relation to a character's constitution score). I think such a system would cater towards the majority of tastes.

Best Regards
Herremann the Wise
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
Or, they could go with the 4e system as presented in the article, but because -bloodied can be such a big number, layer on a second 'dying' mechanic. A three-strikes kind of thing. Call it a 'Death Save.'

If it were tracked on a daily basis, instead of just by encounter, or just until you're back up, that'd go a long way towards making up-from-0 seem less 'realistic.' Even when you're cure-wounds'd or warlord-shouted up from -lots to 0+surge, if you've failed a death save, you are still closer to death next time.

My understanding is that death saves in 4E are on a daily basis. They don't reset until you take an extended rest.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Huh, can't comment on the post for some reason. Anyway...

My main problem with "count up from zero" is the way it incentivizes the cleric to wait until a PC actually drops before dishing out the healing. Let's say the cleric has a healing spell worth 10 hit points. If I get that spell when I'm at 5, it works as advertised. But if I get that spell when I'm at -5, I gain 15 hit points! I have often seen healers hold off on using their abilities for this exact reason.

I would be okay with "count up from zero" if it came with a rule that She Who Goes Below Zero Hit Points Is Messed Up. For Real. No jumping up and rushing back into the fray as good as new. If you go down, you go down hard, and the consequences don't wear off for a good while.
 

dangerous jack

First Post
"Negative hit points shouldn't exist, but characters shouldn’t die outright at 0."

Copying my comment from the blog, this is something my 4e table already does:

Like 4e:
* reduced to 0hp, make a death save each round
* 3 failed death saves and you die

Unlike 4e:
* negative hps don't exist
* if a critical hit reduces you to 0hp, you get an automatic failed death save
* if you are hit by an attack while at 0hp, you automatically fail your next death save. if its a crit, you get another automatic failed death save right away.


A variant would be that healing will get rid of a failed death save, but won't recover any hit points unless you don't have any failed death saves.
 

Crazy Jerome

First Post
I would be okay with "count up from zero" if it came with a rule that She Who Goes Below Zero Hit Points Is Messed Up. For Real. No jumping up and rushing back into the fray as good as new. If you go down, you go down hard, and the consequences don't wear off for a good while.

Well, if you are losing a point of Con every time you hit zero, you'd get the opposite dynamic once someone crossed the threshold, even if you can get them back up.

Cleric: "Hold on, heal on the way ..."
Fighter: "Don't heal me, bro!"
Cleric: "Whaaaat?"
Fighter: "Then that demon will smack me again and I'll lose another point of Con."
Cleric: "Fine, what do you suggest I do while you lay there and play dead?"
Fighter: "Charge the demon, of course."
Cleric (looking at wizard and rogue): "Do I heal him, then we run, or do we just run now?"

:devil:
 


Kynn

Adventurer
My main problem with "count up from zero" is the way it incentivizes the cleric to wait until a PC actually drops before dishing out the healing. Let's say the cleric has a healing spell worth 10 hit points. If I get that spell when I'm at 5, it works as advertised. But if I get that spell when I'm at -5, I gain 15 hit points! I have often seen healers hold off on using their abilities for this exact reason.

I see that as a feature, not a bug.
 

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