D&D 5E Death Saves & Pop-Up Healing

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Right now in my game I have two house rules to combat this:

1) Wound Points. You have a number of Wound Points equal to your starting HP at 1st Level. Every time you receive a Critical Hit, drop to 0 hp, or take damage while at 0 hp, or end a turn at 0 hp, you receive a Wound Point. If you have 0 Wound Points, you are dead. Half your total Wound Points are recharged during a Week of Downtime.

This has created a sort of countdown timer during adventures. The characters feel pretty confident at the beginning of adventures when they have all their Wound Points. But when those start to tick down, they get more cautious about combat!

2) Staggered. When you are at 0 hp, you are Staggered. You can only take an Action, Movement, or Bonus Action. You cannot concentrate on spells.

I'm thinking of replacing Staggered with Death Saving Throws. It could just be something like:

Death Saving Throw: when you start your turn at 0 Hit Points, make a Death Saving Throw. On a failure, lose 1 Wound Point.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I saw an interesting house-rule, but I can't for the life of me remember where I saw it. But it was something like this....

Exhaustion: every time you drop to 0 hit points, you also gain a point of exhaustion. You still make death saves as normal, and you still die when you fail three of them (or stabilize when you succeed three of them), but that point of exhaustion remains. And they add up quickly.
I like that rule a lot

I would make sure that the exhaustion penalty doesn't apply to the death save though...
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
I think the real take away is that the sheer amount of house ruling on the topic says something about the take on the design. We're all trying to fit to a bad cut here.
I wouldn't read into it more than is there. This is a D&D message board. Folks here are going to be more inclined than the average player to fiddle with the rules.

I've considered house ruling it myself, but out of the three groups I play with I'm the only person who has. Let's not conflate mole hills with mountains.
 

ad_hoc

(they/them)
2 rules really transformed the game for me.

1. Failed death saves are not reset when you wake up. They only clear after a long rest.
2. You can't long rest on the road (I have rules for building a basecamp in the field)

These are good rules.

I have thought about using #1 but the table declined. One more thing can be added to make a death save as soon as hitting 0 so it isn't just a matter of healing them before their turn.

Also players at my table know that monsters will hit characters at 0 so they avoid it.

#2 is essential for overland travel. My rule is "long rest only at friendly settlements." Which is similar.
 

I think the real take away is that the sheer amount of house ruling on the topic says something about the take on the design. We're all trying to fit to a bad cut here.
It's got problems, but I personally think a lot (read: all) of the fixes here dismiss some of its good features. At least for me, not requiring dedicated combat healers (or CLW wands) is a feature. Not having to worry about hit points until you run out of them is a feature. Not having to worry about death spirals is a feature.

The whole game is designed around resource attrition, so that's the lever I pull to create a sense of danger and risk of death. I don't also need to increase my chances of killing your character outright halfway through a battle to get that.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I think the real take away is that the sheer amount of house ruling on the topic says something about the take on the design. We're all trying to fit to a bad cut here.
People don't house rule only because the written rules are bad. People also house rule to keep things from getting boring. Or to better emulate a certain experience. Or to exercise their own design skills. Or because they know worrying about "Rules As Written" is a bad habit, and anything they can do to stop people focusing on that bad habit is good for the game on the whole.
 


OptionalRule

Adventurer
People don't house rule only because the written rules are bad. People also house rule to keep things from getting boring. Or to better emulate a certain experience. Or to exercise their own design skills. Or because they know worrying about "Rules As Written" is a bad habit, and anything they can do to stop people focusing on that bad habit is good for the game on the whole.
Of course. The original point still stands. If there wasn't a fit problem with death saves we would see those house rules spread across an equal number of systems. A few subsystems seem to get the vast majority of focus in terms of house rules.
 

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