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Level Up (A5E) Deadlier combat

ThatGuySteve

Explorer
I've seen too many combats with characters bouncing up and down, from 0hp, getting a Healing Word to give a handful back, getting knocked down again. There is no sense of fear to going into combat.

The grittier variant rule in the DMG to slow down healing and regaining hit dice just slows the campaign, it doesn't make combat deadlier.

There are quick fixes, like making death save failures reset only on a short or long rest so that deadlines builds up over the course of the day. However you might get you Healing Word in every round before you need to make a save.

A harsher effect could be gaining a level of exhaustion each time you drop to 0hp. That might be too harsh though and turn into a quick death spiral. You might get a level of exhaustion right at the start of the day and be wrecked for the rest of the adventure, which isn't much fun.

More complex (but that's what we're here for) could be something like tracking Wounds. You start with Wounds equal to your Constitution score. Each time you drop to 0hp, are hit by a critical hit, take damage greater than 50% (or maybe 25%) of your total hit points, you lose a wound. Once you are below 50% your total wounds, get a level of exhaustion that can't be removed. Once below 25% gain a second level of exhaustion.

Once you hit 0 wounds, your dead, no saves. Or once you hit 0 wounds you are dying but can't stabilise, you just keep making death saves until you die. You might still have hit points, so not unconscious, just staggering across the battlefield, flailing with your weapon, one hand clamped over the severed artery that's leading away your life blood.

Regain 1 wound on a long rest, or half level, or trade hit dice for wounds. High level magic, like Restoration or Heal could restore 1 wound.

Adds some lasting consequences to combat that build up over the course of the day. Makes healing magic feel like more of a patch up job than curing any injury. Useful for the DM to explain why an NPCs hold on long enough to tell you a plot point but a quick Cure Wound doesn't bring them back to their feet, ready to explain the mystery in detail.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Simplest solution is to get rid of ranged healing in all forms.

That way, if someone's down and dying on the battlefield curing it involves some risk on the part of the healer, as said healer has to get to the downed victim and administer a cure (or perform first aid, whatever) while potentially being trod on or swung at. It forces hard choices - heal now and risk getting clobbered or wait till the combat's over and risk the victim bleeding out.

Corollary would be to make the "bleed out" time a bit longer somehow. Were it me I'd get rid of the death-save mechanic and replace it with some variant on a clock: if you go to 0 you're down with x number of rounds to live; and if you're not tended to or cured by the end of x rounds, you're dead. For real fun I'd randomize the value of x somehow, maybe 2d6 or 2d8?

Then, for added fun, every round you spent at 0 represents ten minutes where curing beyond the first cure (capped at the higher of 3 h.p. or 10% of your total h.p.) will not help you in any way. So, if you spent 5 rounds at 0 before someone got to you with a cure, that's 50 minutes of incurability.
 

ThatGuySteve

Explorer
Try having HP go into negatives, rather than just stopping at 0. That way, you need more committed healing to bring you out of dying, and it reduces the easy Healing word spam.
Makes dying a bit more complex and a bigger drain on party resources. Would you die after reaching a certain negative score (-10 in 3E, - constitution score in Pathfinder)? Healer might need to spend multiple spells slots and multiple actions to bring someone back, stopping that player doing something more fun.

I don't necessarily want to make it harder to get back in the fight. Being unconscious for multiple rounds is not a fun player experience. I just want to see longer term consequences for it.

Simplest solution is to get rid of ranged healing in all forms.

That way, if someone's down and dying on the battlefield curing it involves some risk on the part of the healer, as said healer has to get to the downed victim and administer a cure (or perform first aid, whatever) while potentially being trod on or swung at. It forces hard choices - heal now and risk getting clobbered or wait till the combat's over and risk the victim bleeding out.

Corollary would be to make the "bleed out" time a bit longer somehow. Were it me I'd get rid of the death-save mechanic and replace it with some variant on a clock: if you go to 0 you're down with x number of rounds to live; and if you're not tended to or cured by the end of x rounds, you're dead. For real fun I'd randomize the value of x somehow, maybe 2d6 or 2d8?

Then, for added fun, every round you spent at 0 represents ten minutes where curing beyond the first cure (capped at the higher of 3 h.p. or 10% of your total h.p.) will not help you in any way. So, if you spent 5 rounds at 0 before someone got to you with a cure, that's 50 minutes of incurability.
I think it would be hard to remove ranged healing but keep Level Up compatible with basic 5E, there are too many effects which already exist that would need to be rewritten. Healing Word, Mass Cure Wounds, Celestial warlock healing ability and Divine Soul sorcerer with the reach meta magic to name a few of the top of my head.

Staying alive for X rounds sounds less deadly to me, especially rolling 2d6. Most combats don't last long, many are only a couple of rounds. If you rolled to determine how long you last if you roll high the party will know you can just wait out the clock and heal you with 1 round to spare. At least Death Saves added randomness round by round.

Capping how many hit points you can heal would just encourage more short rests, or if you are on the clock, force you to effectively sit out the next fight rather than risk coming in with 3hp.

A separate track from hit points balances deadlines over a series of fights, but still allows you to be effective in each. It could also be easily ignored if a group wanted a more cinematic style game than gritty, just decide are we trading wounds or not, the rest of the game plays the same regardless.
 
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Zio_the_dark

The dark one :)
Epic
I play something similar using wounds track separately and increase wounds when reaching 0 or taking a critical hit (faster to track than 25%/50% of hit points in a hit). Also each failed death saving throw while at 0 increase wounds by 1.

Edit: also wounds recover much slower (multiple days) than hit points that way characters are still effective in battle but are much more cautious about being taken down when low on wound points...0 wounds points is death with no save!
 
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Any system should avoid pushing people towards the 5MWD.

Giving a level of exhaustion when reduced to 0HP simply encourages long resting to remove it (and thus encourages the 5MWD).

IMG I simply ruled that when damage reduces you to 0HP and the remaining damage is more than (the higher of your Con score, or 1/4 your Max HP), you Die.

Basically it means that when you're nearing 0HP it's much more dangerous as 20 or so damage from a single attack, likely kills you.

I also increased Death Save DC's to DC 15, and instead of Saves, they're Constitution Ability checks.
 

One of the quickest ways to make combat more deadly is to change the "instant death" from your full HP to your Con score. This means if you drop to 0, then get brought back up to a few HP, you're still in a lot of danger of instant death from a big hit. It's less of an issue at lower levels, since the enemy doesn't normally do that much damage, but at higher levels a single hit can be deadly when at low HP. It causes those characters to withdraw to safety, rather than continuing to fight (the Tubthumping Effect as I call it).
 



DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
First, we play death saves cancel out. So, if you have a failure, and then a success, you are "even". If you have two successes, and roll a failure, you have only one success, and so on. If you think of them as a series of +1 and -1 instead of success and failure, you need to reach +3 to stabilize and at -3 you die.

There are quick fixes, like making death save failures reset only on a short or long rest so that deadlines builds up over the course of the day. However you might get you Healing Word in every round before you need to make a save.

We've been playing death saves only reset after a long rest since the beginning of 5E (nearly 2 years for us). So, if you have 1 failed death save when you are stabilized, you keep it if you go to 0 again. Makes combat more cautious.

A harsher effect could be gaining a level of exhaustion each time you drop to 0hp. That might be too harsh though and turn into a quick death spiral. You might get a level of exhaustion right at the start of the day and be wrecked for the rest of the adventure, which isn't much fun.

We've been doing this for well over a year. It works fine and doesn't cause a 5MWD as people might think. We often have PCs running around with 1 or even 2 levels of exhaustion during a deep dungeon crawl, etc. It keeps PCs aware that "too much" can really be too much.

Finally, we've tried different "wound" systems and rules on critical hits, etc. and found for the most part they are too much of hassle to track and too fiddly. I am still working on an option were instead of a separate mechanic "wounds" exhaustion will take its place.

Decreasing HP is also a good way to easily make combat more deadly if you want to. You can award CON mod at level 1 only, for example.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention we have Death Saves as a DC 15 Constitution check. So, the DC is much higher, but it is affected by your CON mod. This way you can remove HP from CON but CON is still very important.

Also, Wisdom (Medicine) checks to stabilize are always required (not simply spending a use of a healer's kit). The DC equals 10 + 5 per failed death save (and -5 per successful death save). If you attempt to stabilize without a healer's kit, the check has disadvantage.

CON also grants buffer levels of exhaustion, so it is also very important that way. Here is a screen shot of part of our character sheets:
1597406874949.png

As you can see, the CON column of exhaustion is used for tracking the buffer or "no penalty" levels of exhaustion. So, if you have a CON +2 mod, you can suffer two levels of exhaustion before the next level will cause ability check disadvantage.
 
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vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Make all healing spells 10 minute cast times. Thus there can be no "in-combat" healing. Gameplay will change dramatically if you get knocked out of a fight at 0 HP with no way to get back up and re-enter.

I like that.

I would pad the starting HP of the PCs a little. I have good experience with Con score + Average Hit die roll at 1st level. I also only allow +Average per level after that (some time I also removed the +con from the mix, some time I dont, I still dont know which I prefer).

And maybe, just maybe, I'd let some 1 action healing spell, but they would only work on creature with more than 0 hp. No wack-a-mole healing.

I also always use the slow natural healing rules and the healing kit dependency: you need to have an healing kit to spend hit die while resting. On a long rest, you recover half your max HD and can spend them to regain hp. I have a houserule that requires a Con save against a DC to see if you even benefit from the long rest.

Something like:
On a journey in the wilderness: DC 10
Outside in extreme heat or cold, strong winds or rain: DC 13
In town with a sqalid lifestyle: DC13
In town, with a wreteched: DC15
In town, with a poor lifestyle: DC 10
- Sleeping while affected by poison/diseases gives disadvantage to the roll.

Then I use diseases:
Light: - 1d8 max hp per day.
Mild: - 1d8 max hp per day, Disadvantage on healing received
Severe: - 1d8 max hp per day, Cannot regain HP.

New afflictions (they are nasty, so only short term only):
Weaken: deal half damage with attack/spells, cant use spell slots.
Staggered: vulnerable to all damage (usually when an enemy become bloodied for the first time, work only on the next attack)
 
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ThatGuySteve

Explorer
Make all healing spells 10 minute cast times. Thus there can be no "in-combat" healing. Gameplay will change dramatically if you get knocked out of a fight at 0 HP with no way to get back up and re-enter.
This wouldn't fit with the goal of being backwards compatible with regular 5e content. There are a while host of spells, class abilities and feats that would all need to be rewritten.

The suggestions of lowering the 'instant death' threshold to equal your constitution score would make combat far, far deadlier. Maybe too big a step up for my liking.

I want something to ratchet up the tension gradually as you get battered by a series of fights, not something that kills you straight off by an unlucky critical. Something to promote better hit point management. You can be bold and brash at the start of the day but as the wound mount up you gradually need to become more cautious.
 

This wouldn't fit with the goal of being backwards compatible with regular 5e content. There are a while host of spells, class abilities and feats that would all need to be rewritten.

The suggestions of lowering the 'instant death' threshold to equal your constitution score would make combat far, far deadlier. Maybe too big a step up for my liking.

I want something to ratchet up the tension gradually as you get battered by a series of fights, not something that kills you straight off by an unlucky critical. Something to promote better hit point management. You can be bold and brash at the start of the day but as the wound mount up you gradually need to become more cautious.
Maybe have healing spells require you to spend Hit dice to use. That way, you get to the point where you know if you go down, you won't be healed up immediately, no matter how much magic gets thrown at you.
 

Raith5

Adventurer
My solution would be to make monsters tougher.

I dont like the idea of cutting down the influence of healers - I know people do like playing that role/style. I dont necessarily like the idea of a wound system, seems too complicated unless it is a special monster that drains life. But I think the game could make tougher monsters which could make the game more challenging.
 

ThatGuySteve

Explorer
Maybe have healing spells require you to spend Hit dice to use. That way, you get to the point where you know if you go down, you won't be healed up immediately, no matter how much magic gets thrown at you.
Like 4E healing required the use of the recipients healing surges. Low levels might be too tough with just one or two heals per day. Might need a couple of extra hit dice at 1st level, like add a species hit dice (d12 dwarf, d10 half-or and dragon born, d8 human and half-elf, d6 elf and halfling).

Would encourage upcasting Cure spells to get most bang for your buck, although that might be a bad thing, pushing healers into using best slots to heal rather than do something cool.

TBH I'd like to see Clerics and Druids have a pool of healing dice like Celestial Warlocks, but that's a different topic entirely.
 



dave2008

Legend
Remind me again how you get to bloodied HP?
The amount or when you loose it?

Attacks affect BHP after your HP is 0 or on a critical hit. We stopped using the critical hit option (too deadly for us) until I re-introduced "confirmed" critical hits.

The amount of BHP is: (STR mod + CON mod) x size, which is 1 for medium. Finally, when damage would affect your BHP, it is first reduced by your armor's DR (only time armor DR comes into play, otherwise it is just AC like RAW). Armor DR = AC - 10.

PS HP are figured normally.
 
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dave2008

Legend
My solution would be to make monsters tougher.

I dont like the idea of cutting down the influence of healers - I know people do like playing that role/style. I dont necessarily like the idea of a wound system, seems too complicated unless it is a special monster that drains life. But I think the game could make tougher monsters which could make the game more challenging.
I don't know that they need to be "tougher," but hitting harder would be nice. Monster damage doesn't scale with PC level/HP and that is a shame. Lost of ways to fix this though.
 

A healing spell could, simply, remove a failed death save. So, if you have no failed death save, it gives hit points, as normal but, if you have a failed death save, it doesn't revive you, it simply stabalizes you and removes a tick from your failed saves. Multiple failed saves would require multiple heals or multiple Medicine checks to revive someone as each check removes the failed save.

You can have that CPR scene you see in all the movies.

First, we play death saves cancel out. So, if you have a failure, and then a success, you are "even". If you have two successes, and roll a failure, you have only one success, and so on. If you think of them as a series of +1 and -1 instead of success and failure, you need to reach +3 to stabilize and at -3 you die.



We've been playing death saves only reset after a long rest since the beginning of 5E (nearly 2 years for us). So, if you have 1 failed death save when you are stabilized, you keep it if you go to 0 again. Makes combat more cautious.



We've been doing this for well over a year. It works fine and doesn't cause a 5MWD as people might think. We often have PCs running around with 1 or even 2 levels of exhaustion during a deep dungeon crawl, etc. It keeps PCs aware that "too much" can really be too much.

Finally, we've tried different "wound" systems and rules on critical hits, etc. and found for the most part they are too much of hassle to track and too fiddly. I am still working on an option were instead of a separate mechanic "wounds" exhaustion will take its place.

Decreasing HP is also a good way to easily make combat more deadly if you want to. You can award CON mod at level 1 only, for example.

EDIT: Oh, I forgot to mention we have Death Saves as a DC 15 Constitution check. So, the DC is much higher, but it is affected by your CON mod. This way you can remove HP from CON but CON is still very important.

Also, Wisdom (Medicine) checks to stabilize are always required (not simply spending a use of a healer's kit). The DC equals 10 + 5 per failed death save (and -5 per successful death save). If you attempt to stabilize without a healer's kit, the check has disadvantage.

CON also grants buffer levels of exhaustion, so it is also very important that way. Here is a screen shot of part of our character sheets:
View attachment 124702
As you can see, the CON column of exhaustion is used for tracking the buffer or "no penalty" levels of exhaustion. So, if you have a CON +2 mod, you can suffer two levels of exhaustion before the next level will cause ability check disadvantage.
I like all your house-rules. Every time you post one I think, "Hey, that's great, we should do that for our games!"
Would you care to PM me your list if you have them available in an easily PM-able way?
 

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