D&D 5E House Rule Idea: Consequences (and Rewards) for Reaching 0 HP

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I was coming up with a fun idea for a House Rule that I'd love more ideas for.

The idea of this House Rule is that reaching 0 Hit Points becomes dramatic moment that carries narrative consequences beyond a chance to die. Here's the gist of it:

When your character reaches 0 Hit Points, they immediately receive a Consequence (chosen by the DM, rolled randomly, or decided together). You may take an automatic Death Saving Throw Failure in order to avoid the Consequence.

You may also choose to automatically fail a Death Saving Throw in order to gain a Boon (chosen by the DM, rolled randomly, or decided together).

Consequences for Reaching 0 Hit Points
  1. Lingering Injury: you gain a Lingering Injury (as of the DMG or the DM's custom table).
  2. Exhaustion: you gain one level of Exhaustion.
  3. Broken Item: an equipped item breaks.
  4. Soul-Shearing: lose Attunement to one magic item.
  5. Lost Reputation: you suffer disadvantage on Charisma checks when the topic of the defeat is raised.
  6. Frightened Allies: all allies who see your fall suffer disadvantage on Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks until the start of your next turn.
Boons for Reaching 0 Hit Points
  1. Inspire Allies: all allies who see your fall gain advantage on Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks until the start of your next turn.
  2. Vision from Beyond: you gain a vision of things to come. This vision may give you information as decided by the DM, or as if you had cast the spell Divination.
  3. Gain Reputation: you gain advantage on Charisma checks when the topic of your last stand is raised.
  4. Renewed Will to Live: until your next Long Rest, Death Saving Throws succeed on a roll of 6 or greater.
  5. Cool Scar: you gain a really cool scar. It can be treated as a tool you are proficient in when making appropriate ability checks, such as a Charisma (Performance) check to tell the story of this battle.
  6. Soul-Touched Item: as your body struggles to live, your soul flickers wildly, instilling something you carry with magic. One item in your inventory is transformed into a Common Magic Item.

As you can see, I'm willing to throw some wild, fun ideas onto these lists. I know this House Rule wouldn't fit every table, but I think it would be a fun addition to a D&D game. It would mean combat slowing for a bit when someone drops to 0 Hit Points, but I think that's a fair price for fun, narrative drama.

Help me come up with more ideas for Consequences and Boons!
 

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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
It might be dangerous, I mean, you could tempt your players into risking death to get a benefit of some kind. Two similar ideas that you made me think about however:

In 13th Age, even when a character is unconscious, they can do something to help their allies "in spirit" on their turn.

Also, while the concept still exists, 4e did a lot with the "bloodied" state, which happens when you hit half hit points. Sometimes this could be good or bad, but benefits for being bloodied did make players take a few more risks.
 

cbwjm

Legend
Though I haven't thought of a fully fledged "You're down, now what" system, I have thought of using scars. Each time you fall add something like "Scar: burned by dragon's breath." It would be largely cosmetic, more a reminder of adventures past, but I have thought about using it in someway, perhaps you can use it to impress others and gain advantage on a check. It could be a roleplaying aid where the players brag about their near death experiences and compare scars with some grizzled warrior in a bar. More for fun than anything else.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I was coming up with a fun idea for a House Rule that I'd love more ideas for.

The idea of this House Rule is that reaching 0 Hit Points becomes dramatic moment that carries narrative consequences beyond a chance to die. Here's the gist of it:

When your character reaches 0 Hit Points, they immediately receive a Consequence (chosen by the DM, rolled randomly, or decided together). You may take an automatic Death Saving Throw Failure in order to avoid the Consequence.

You may also choose to automatically fail a Death Saving Throw in order to gain a Boon (chosen by the DM, rolled randomly, or decided together).

Consequences for Reaching 0 Hit Points
  1. Lingering Injury: you gain a Lingering Injury (as of the DMG or the DM's custom table).
  2. Exhaustion: you gain one level of Exhaustion.
  3. Broken Item: an equipped item breaks.
  4. Soul-Shearing: lose Attunement to one magic item.
  5. Lost Reputation: you suffer disadvantage on Charisma checks when the topic of the defeat is raised.
  6. Frightened Allies: all allies who see your fall suffer disadvantage on Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks until the start of your next turn.
Boons for Reaching 0 Hit Points
  1. Inspire Allies: all allies who see your fall gain advantage on Attack Rolls, Saving Throws, and Ability Checks until the start of your next turn.
  2. Vision from Beyond: you gain a vision of things to come. This vision may give you information as decided by the DM, or as if you had cast the spell Divination.
  3. Gain Reputation: you gain advantage on Charisma checks when the topic of your last stand is raised.
  4. Renewed Will to Live: until your next Long Rest, Death Saving Throws succeed on a roll of 6 or greater.
  5. Cool Scar: you gain a really cool scar. It can be treated as a tool you are proficient in when making appropriate ability checks, such as a Charisma (Performance) check to tell the story of this battle.
  6. Soul-Touched Item: as your body struggles to live, your soul flickers wildly, instilling something you carry with magic. One item in your inventory is transformed into a Common Magic Item.

As you can see, I'm willing to throw some wild, fun ideas onto these lists. I know this House Rule wouldn't fit every table, but I think it would be a fun addition to a D&D game. It would mean combat slowing for a bit when someone drops to 0 Hit Points, but I think that's a fair price for fun, narrative drama.

Help me come up with more ideas for Consequences and Boons!
What about this situation?
  • Alice: I do the dangerous thing
  • GM:xyz cool thing happens
  • bob: I attack & cast Healing word on alice
  • alice does her thing next round
  • monsters do their thing & alice goes down again
  • alice: I do the dangerous thing
  • Dave: I attack & cast healing word on alice
  • repeat & alice goes down
  • Cindy: I lay on hands alice for drumroll one hitpoint.
 

Though I haven't thought of a fully fledged "You're down, now what" system, I have thought of using scars. Each time you fall add something like "Scar: burned by dragon's breath." It would be largely cosmetic, more a reminder of adventures past, but I have thought about using it in someway, perhaps you can use it to impress others and gain advantage on a check. It could be a roleplaying aid where the players brag about their near death experiences and compare scars with some grizzled warrior in a bar. More for fun than anything else.
I really like this idea and have thought about implementing something like this myself.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Consequence 7: Glass Jaw. You may continue fighting as normal, but taking any further damage results in immediate death.
Consequence 8: Death Tree. You have one more round to fight, but all of your rolls suffer Disadvantage.
 


Bluebell

Explorer
I really love this concept, but I would almost want to keep the concept a secret from the players until the roll has taken place. That way even the possibility of consequences or benefits of near-death isn't known to them until the heat of the moment.
 

Perhaps the first time someone goes down, something good happens, but the second time they go down, something bad happens?

That would encourage willingness to take SOME risks, but avert the "aw yeah, got six buffs because I stayed at 1 HP every round after combat started!"
 


Asisreo

Patron Badass
Yikes, that 6th consequence looks really deadly. If the list was like that, I'd probably say having it be on a scale that makes that 6th consequence much less likely than the other 5 would be better.

As for ideas:

Consequence:
Trauma. Roll on the Short-Term Madness table.

Boon:
Rejuvenate. Recover twice as many hp from the next spell or ability, or from a short rest. You can only use this once per dropping to 0 hp.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
More interesting than most. D&D 5e is a team game, and also a swingy one with the range of a d20 much more than bonuses one gets and some rolls (like a crit against or a particular failed save) being big deals. In other words, characters often go down because (a) someone on their team didn't do their job right, (b) their job is to take the hits and those overwhelmed the whole team (not enough healing, etc.), and/or (c) luck was against them. None of those are solely the responsibility of the person dropping, so basically any "you hit zero" that is net negative over the rules is pretty much wrong - it concentrates penalties that are not the whole or even majorly that character's fault or are just luck based.

This is net negative, as in the default is that you/your party will take a penalty that isn't there, or you lose a death save. But it at least has some possible redemption. But that redemption comes at a high price, and it's the same price as avoiding the penalty, which basically only makes it possible to have anet positive in the case where you absolutely have a healer going before the you and any foe who might hit you while down (say AoE) so you can avoid the penalty and accept the boon. Which is outside the control of the character again so doesn't have much to do with them.

One of the things as a DM I greatly enjoy about 5e is that there is a large buffer between "legitimate fear of character death" and "actual character death". Spending that buffer to avoid additional penalties hurts my ability as DM to throw tough encounters since I have a smaller amount of leyway in case the inherent swinginess of D&D combat has a run against the PCs. So I can't really get behind additional ways to accumulate failed death saves.
 



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