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Level Up (A5E) Deadlier combat

They act mostly as a safety net (especially at lower levels).

It is an accepted fact that due to the unpredictability of the dice, players can have unlucky streaks, and monsters can have lucky streaks. A crit from a monster at the wrong moment, could instantly drop you down to 0 hp when you thought you were fine.

While deadlier combat is the goal of this thread, I don't think we want the deaths to be completely arbitrary and out of the blue.

That's. The. Problem.

When you said that t"death saves do have a legitimate purpose." I kinda expected you to do more than list all the ways they make combat less deadly and shield combat from the possability of being at risk of death.
 

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That's. The. Problem.

When you said that t"death saves do have a legitimate purpose." I kinda expected you to do more than list all the ways they make combat less deadly and shield combat from the possability of being at risk of death.

I think there is a distinction here in what sort of deaths they are intended to protect against. Much like 3e's negative hitpoints and bleeding out rules, they serve as a means for the player to recover after a bad luck streak. I don't think that is a bad concept. In fact, I think it is very important. A lot of 5e's combat is balanced around this rule.

Where it fails, is in the ease by which hp can be restored. If this problem didn't exist, death saves would be fine as is.

What also doesn't help, is that 5E has removed most of the save or die effects from monsters. For example, the Medusa's petrifying gaze is a lot more forgiving than its 3e counter part. And the demilich merely drops a player to 0 hp, instead of instantly trapping their soul and reducing their body to dust.

Surely we can keep 'a safety net' in the form of death saves, while also making combat more deadly? We could limit ranged healing for example. Or we could limit the healing of incapacitated players. We could apply penalties to having been incapacitated, that linger even after stabilizing. We could re-add the deadly abilities that notorious D&D monsters used to have (although it might be confusing to have multiple versions of a monster). There are all manner of things we could do, that don't remove any of the core rules.

How about a condition called At Death's Door?

At Death's Door
Any player that recovers from 0 hp, can no longer make death saves for the rest of the day.

Or a more extreme version:

At Death's Door V2
Any player that recovers from 0 hp, can no longer make death saves for the rest of the day, and can receive only half healing, and makes all their attacks and saves at disadvantage.
 
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I think my big issue with 0 hp = unconscious and death saves is that most characters die slowly in a pool of their own blood. I would prefer the option to go out in a Blaze of Glory. Our home brew solution is that you can choose to stay up on 0hp but each round you do so you take a level of exhaustion and that you have to make concentration checks when you take damage or pass out (in addition to usual death saves). We’ve only been doing it a few months so I don’t know how balanced it is but it led to one memorable death and one memorable narrowly avoided TPK which Is what I’m looking for - more drama! But I would love Level Up to feature a robustly play-tested version of this.
I've thought about implementing such a rule myself. With the caveat that if they choose to stay up and get hit, it's still a death save failure.

Curious to see how your rule pans out in the long run.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
I think there is a distinction here in what sort of deaths they are intended to protect against. Much like 3e's negative hitpoints and bleeding out rules, they serve as a means for the player to recover after a bad luck streak. I don't think that is a bad concept. In fact, I think it is very important. A lot of 5e's combat is balanced around this rule.

Where it fails, is in the ease by which hp can be restored. If this problem didn't exist, death saves would be fine as is.

What also doesn't help, is that 5E has removed most of the save or die effects from monsters. For example, the Medusa's petrifying gaze is a lot more forgiving than its 3e counter part. And the demilich merely drops a player to 0 hp, instead of instantly trapping their soul and reducing their body to dust.

Surely we can keep 'a safety net' in the form of death saves, while also making combat more deadly? We could limit ranged healing for example. Or we could limit the healing of incapacitated players. We could apply penalties to having been incapacitated, that linger even after stabilizing. We could re-add the deadly abilities that notorious D&D monsters used to have (although it might be confusing to have multiple versions of a monster). There are all manner of things we could do, that don't remove any of the core rules.

How about a condition called At Death's Door?

At Death's Door
Any player that recovers from 0 hp, can no longer make death saves for the rest of the day.

Or a more extreme version:

At Death's Door V2
Any player that recovers from 0 hp, can no longer make death saves for the rest of the day, and can receive only half healing, and makes all their attacks and saves at disadvantage.
I believe healing word shouldn't have been in the game as-is. And if it must be a 1st-level spell (should be 2nd or 3rd with a bit better healing) and it must be a bonus action (weirdly), then it should have a range of touch like Cure Wounds.
 

I'm in a campaign where the GM is using maximum monster damage. That makes monsters much deadlier and we are frequently risking TPKs and were Tier 4 now.

One rule I've always wanted to try was the "secret death saves" rule - you don't roll for death saves at first, simply count the number of rounds until you are healed or stabilised. You then roll your death saves in a row, and hopefully you didn't fail all your death saves before you were healed. I like the idea of it creating an uncertainty or panic in the group, and that you don't know how someone is until you check on them.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
I'm in a campaign where the GM is using maximum monster damage. That makes monsters much deadlier and we are frequently risking TPKs and were Tier 4 now.

One rule I've always wanted to try was the "secret death saves" rule - you don't roll for death saves at first, simply count the number of rounds until you are healed or stabilised. You then roll your death saves in a row, and hopefully you didn't fail all your death saves before you were healed. I like the idea of it creating an uncertainty or panic in the group, and that you don't know how someone is until you check on them.
Another way to do such a thing is by having the DM roll your death saves behind the screen. It takes a bit of trust in the DM to do well, but doesn't everything?
 


Giauz

Explorer
That sounds needlessly complicated, and I don't understand one word of it. What is n? What is nd%? What are Cuts Points? Plus you need to reroll all this for every fight?

I don't think we should be redesigning the core rules. HP is fine the way it is, and easy to understand. What we're looking for is not more math, or ways to make hitpoints more difficult to understand. What we need is (I think) a way to make the game more deadly within the core rules. Not a radical redesign of the rules that we already have.

OK, could your first sentence be less helpful? 'n' is infront of d(ice) so it must be a variable for number of dice, low level algebra stuff. There are these 10 sided dice called d% with numerals labeled 10-00 that are also combined with 10 sided dice called d10 with numerals labeled 1-0. Cuts Points are a custom point system thoroughly explained in the prior post. No, one only need roll a few 10 -sided d%s and d10s for initiative and DC, essentially determined at the same time. I took extra care at the end to explain that the rules need not change much as well as how the system would make combat more deadly but not unfair. Please, I'm new here, and I wanted to share an idea I've been kicking around, so I just wanted honest feedback. I can appreciate that the idea is a little too complex. Help me simplify.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I agree with the original post; I think that combat is too easy and the risk of death too low. To fix those two issues, I would be in favor of any of the following:
  • Remove ranged healing spells.
  • Remove bonus action healing.
  • Healing spells while at 0 hp don't heal hit points; they give you a successful death save. (Just as taking more damage would give you a failed death save)
  • Reduce the overall number of hit points for the players.
  • Give other consequences to failing death saves, like exhaustion. (Failed 2 death saves before you stabilized? You wake with 2 points of Exhaustion.)
 

DND_Reborn

I don't debate opinions.
  • Reduce the overall number of hit points for the players.
  • Give other consequences to failing death saves, like exhaustion. (Failed 2 death saves before you stabilized? You wake with 2 points of Exhaustion.)
We are implementing reducing HP in our next game and already have gaining a level of exhaustion at 0 HP. The exhaustion alone is a big help, from my experience anyway. But, each new level will ONLY be HD. Also, we round half HD down, not up.

EDIT: HP in our next campaign will be CON + half HD + maximum ability modifier. This does mean level 1 pcs will have a bunch more HP.

Ex. Fighter with CON 14 (DEX 16) would have 12 HP in the game now, in our new one he will have 22 (14 + 5 + 3 for DEX).
He would then gain 5 HP or roll d10 per level after 1st.
 
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rules.mechanic

Craft homebrewer
We do HP as per the Core Rules, then half it and add Constitution. Should be similar numbers to what you are using and we find it works well - feels like a better scaling and leads to a rough doubling of HP at each tier of play. We did it that way to make conversion easier (esp for monsters) but, in the end, we tended to leave the mid- and high-level monsters as they were to make them tougher.
 

Kozos

Explorer
There is this hack I have worked on. I despise the hp bloat and decided that very low hp should be increased a bit and we need a generous cut at high level hp. Thus I reached this formula that works both for monsters and pc.

hp = conScore*sizeMod + hd*(hpPerHD+conMod/3)

Size Mod
Tiny = 1/2
Small = 2/3
Medium = 1
Large = 1.5
Huge = 2
Gargantuan = 4

Hp per HD
d6 = 1
d8 = 1.5
d10 = 2
d12 = 2.5
d20 = 5

Larger creatures can take more damage. That's the main idea behind it.
Please find attached document on how this would affect monster hp.


Lets see a couple examples at level 1, 5 and 20
Some level 1 chars. There are two hp values , the first for medium creatures, the second for small ones
Wizard 12 constitution: 13/9
Barbarian 16 constitution: 19.5(19)/14.1(14)
Cleric 14 constitution: 15.5(15)/10.8(10)
Same chars at level 5.
Wizard 12 constitution: 17/13
Barbarian 16 constitution: 33.5(33)/28.1(28)
Cleric 14 constitution: 21.5(21)/16.8(16)
Same chars at level 20 with +2 con.
Wizard 14 constitution: 34/29
Barbarian 22 constitution: 92/84.6(84)
Cleric 16 constitution: 66/60.6(60)
 

Attachments

  • hitPointReworkExample.txt
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Eubani

Adventurer
Simple modifiers to Death Saves that increase deadliness without turning it into a massacre:

+2 to Death Save DC if CR of creature that dealt damage is higher than character level.
+4 to Death Save DC if CR of creature that dealt damage is twice or greater than character level.
+2 to Death Save DC if damage dealt was a critical.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One thing that each DM probably wants to decide, on vague terms at least, is a rough idea of expected lethality in your game both short-term and long-term.

Short-term: out of a starting party of x, where x is the usual number of characters (PC and NPC both) in the party, (1) how many do you expect will die in the first adventure? (or the first ten sessions if you're running either non-episodic or the campaign is a single great big adventure) This gives you an idea of how much character turnover to expect, particularly in the early days.

Long-term: out of a starting party of x, as above, (2) how many do you expect to finish the campaign and of those, (3) how many will have died and been revived at least once?

Once you've determined this, it's not a huge amount of work to dial things up or down to suit.

For me the answers are about (1) - 25-50%; (2) maybe one; (3) all.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
Level of Exhaustion each time you hit zero.

When healed above 0 you are still unconscious. At the end of each of your turns make a Con save to wake up. Or somebody can spend an action waking you up.
 

Kinematics

Explorer
I don't think these ideas will work, broadly speaking, because they fall under the same trap that hinders other "gritty" suggestion: They are solely and exclusively negatives for the players.

If the question is, "Would you like to stand here and do what we've always done, or would you like me to hit you in the head with a rock?", people generally don't favor the rock. But if you give them a wooden stick and a ball to swing at, with the warning that the ball might hit them, and they need to be careful not to hit themselves with the stick, they'll be quite happy.

What you need is a new beneficial mechanic that has, as a side effect, increase risks within combat. EG:
  • You get a new super move if you're down to 'bloodied'! But if you miss, you open yourself to an automatic counterattack from the enemy.
  • You get greater freedom of movement in combat, but so do the monsters, which means they have an easier time attacking downed players.
  • Ranged cures are always AOE. That means you can heal your allies that are standing next to each other, but it also means that if you heal someone who just got taken down, you also healed the monster that took him down.
  • Increased combat flexibility for players (something very much desired) means increased combat flexibility for monsters. How about a cleave attack for your fighter? That makes it much easier to hit downed players while still fighting effectively. A 'cover' mechanic can also be used to separate you from your downed ally. The ground slam your barbarian wants isn't locked behind the magic-user paywall, so AOE damage ahoy!

One critical factor is turn order. If no enemy can act between the time the party member falls and the person who can heal him can act, then it's kinda pointless. Legendary actions are great for pounding on death saves. Is there a way to make combat move more like that even without a legendary monster enemy?

And what about death saves without needing to drop to 0 HP? (A poison that can be applied to a bloodied character?) Or at least, unconsciousness, which is nearly as good.

I had an idea for a sap weapon that does 'virtual' damage. That is, the physical damage is still the standard 1d4 of a club, but it would do 2x-3x that damage to determine whether it knocked a person unconscious.

For example, Str 14 thug hits your level 1 fighter (12 HP) on the back of the head with a sap. He rolls a 3, for 5 total damage. You take 5 real damage, but 15 'knockout' damage. Since 15 damage is enough to drop you to 0 HP, you're out, even though you're then lying unconscious with 7 HP left.

Now what happens when your cleric comes along and heals you? Well, you're still unconscious, until someone slaps you awake. The healing doesn't make you "not dead", and thus able to resume fighting.

Now take that analogy to a full fight. The dragon has a bodyslam attack that's designed to knock you out. So now you're unconscious (incapacitated), but aren't at 0 HP. The cleric can heal you, but you're still unconscious. No ranged yo-yos. You're not dying, sure, but you're absorbing more of the party's actions in order to get you back into the fight than a simple Healing Word. And that imbalance can swing things sharply against the party, especially for an AOE type of attack. (Though you'll probably be woken up by the next wing buffet.)

0 HP is sometimes described as unconscious, sometimes dead, sometimes just down and unable to fight. I'm not trying to figure out what 0 HP actually means; I just want to make it possible to explicitly go to the unconscious state without going to 0 HP.

This of course is a beneficial mechanic for parties that don't want to go murderhobo on everything. So, again, something that is useful to everyone that can also be used to make things much deadlier in the right circumstances.


Addendum: I'd like to have actions other than "Attack" be strongly useful in combat. Part of the problem, I think, is that combat is already so short that big bad monsters don't get to shine. In order to counter this, people are turning towards ideas to make things "deadlier" for the players, which is difficult to do in such a short time span, and comes across as petty.

I'd prefer an approach where combat is "more difficult", and that a boss fight (or even non-boss fight) feels like a boss fight. I don't think that's feasible when combat is so one-dimensional and short. Short, deadly fights seem to require a certain amount of cheese, and players cheese right back. We need more room in combat to do more.
 

Giauz

Explorer
@Kinematics : Well, part of my proposal gives each combatant a dynamic target range (roll the target number, same as initiative rolled at beginning of combat, or below to do "scratch damage", roll 100 or above to do 1 HP of damage and give the target a chronic or permanent penalty). Rolling anything else can hit thin air, scenery, or even another PC/enemy. Combined with some simple rules for using almost anything as a weapon, and we could have a pretty deadly but also option rich system.
 

I don't think these ideas will work, broadly speaking, because they fall under the same trap that hinders other "gritty" suggestion: They are solely and exclusively negatives for the players.

I think this is a good point. I think we should look for something that makes combat more risky, while also increasing the excitement and fun. So not a rule that leaves you unconscious on the ground for the rest of the fight, but rather something that allows you to take risks, with high reward.


  • You get a new super move if you're down to 'bloodied'! But if you miss, you open yourself to an automatic counterattack from the enemy.

I'm not fond of adding new moves just to make combat more deadly. Its cool, but more of a new feature rather than a solution to make combat more deadly. Preferably, I want a rule that makes as little changes to the existing rules as possible.

  • You get greater freedom of movement in combat, but so do the monsters, which means they have an easier time attacking downed players.

I'm not exactly sure how this would work.

  • Ranged cures are always AOE. That means you can heal your allies that are standing next to each other, but it also means that if you heal someone who just got taken down, you also healed the monster that took him down.

This seems like an odd exception, when most spells are targeted. It is also annoying, and more busy work for the DM. It can create a ping pong effect, where monster health is constantly bouncing up and down as they get caught in the healing-crossfire. It is also an amendment of existing spells, which means some spells will now have alternate rules. I am not fond of that.

  • Increased combat flexibility for players (something very much desired) means increased combat flexibility for monsters. How about a cleave attack for your fighter? That makes it much easier to hit downed players while still fighting effectively. A 'cover' mechanic can also be used to separate you from your downed ally. The ground slam your barbarian wants isn't locked behind the magic-user paywall, so AOE damage ahoy!

I think this idea would be better fitted in a topic for better 5E combat. They are good suggestions though, but don't directly address the issue of combat deadlyness.

One critical factor is turn order. If no enemy can act between the time the party member falls and the person who can heal him can act, then it's kinda pointless. Legendary actions are great for pounding on death saves. Is there a way to make combat move more like that even without a legendary monster enemy?

The turn order is part of the problem. But you could also just limit the number of death saves per combat.

And what about death saves without needing to drop to 0 HP? (A poison that can be applied to a bloodied character?) Or at least, unconsciousness, which is nearly as good.

I think this is a good idea for deadlier monsters. A Demilich for example should simply force a death save. I think such additional rules could be added to existing monsters to make them more formidable. It wouldn't directly address the healing issue, but it does help on the whole in making some monsters scary again.

Addendum: I'd like to have actions other than "Attack" be strongly useful in combat. Part of the problem, I think, is that combat is already so short that big bad monsters don't get to shine. In order to counter this, people are turning towards ideas to make things "deadlier" for the players, which is difficult to do in such a short time span, and comes across as petty.

I think making combat more varied, and making combat more deadly, are two separate issues. Both are worth looking at.
 
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clearstream

Be just and fear not...
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)?
It might not be necessary, because while you are negative you are also making death saving throws. You die when those run out, as usual. Were you (or should you become) negative equal your HP max, you die per the normal rules anyway. So that's a hard floor.

Healer might need to spend multiple spells slots and multiple actions to bring someone back, stopping that player doing something more fun.
I've never fully followed the - it's only fun if I can hit things - line of thought. When I play a character with healing, I find it fun to keep my party alive.
 

ThatGuySteve

Explorer
I've never fully followed the - it's only fun if I can hit things - line of thought. When I play a character with healing, I find it fun to keep my party alive.
I've played healers in 3e, 4e and 5e.

I enjoyed 4e most because when I healed I knew they were not going to instantly drop again, 25% HP from a surge + a little extra kept them on their feet generally. It only cost my minor action, so I could still use any of my other powers that round.

I enjoyed 5e the least because even if you use Healing Word so it's only a bonus action, that stops you casting a levelled spell with your action. OK for a melee cleric, but stuck with cantrips for a caster. And even upcasting Healing Word, the hit points regained are very low, one hit could easily knock them down again.
 

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