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5E LIFE DRAIN (Specter, Wraith, Wight, et al)

industrygothica

Adventurer
Maybe this is answered somewhere else, but I'll be damned if I can find it.


Life Drain Melee Spell Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 10 (3d6) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or its hit point maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. This reduction lasts until the creature finishes a long rest. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0.


A PC who is currently 15/15 hp gets smacked by a specter for 8 points and fails his Con save, bringing his HP Maximum down to 8. Now the PC is effectively 7/8 hp.

The party takes a long rest, and things get weird.

The wording of the Life Drain mechanic says the max hp reduction lasts until a creature finishes a long rest. As DM I ruled that the PC healed to 8/8 at the end of his long rest, and that the max HP reduction would end after that, effectively making him 8/15 hp.

My players are an amazing group, and they understand my ruling despite not necessarily completely agreeing with it. I'm not completely convinced it's accurate myself, which is why I'm here. I think it's the right call, because I believe the RAI (Rules as Intented) is to make the Life Drain ability scary as hell. Having the effect disappear by simply taking a long rest, to me, negates any fear factor the ability is intended to case. By having to deal with the effects even after a long rest makes it significantly more meaningful.

In any case, I'd love to hear others' opinions. Am I right or wrong? Why?

Thanks in advance...

-IG
 

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Rune

Once A Fool
First, your example ought to put the drained hp total at 7/7. The Life Drain reduces the maximum hp by (not to) the same amount as damage taken by the Life Draining attack. Which is 15-8=7 in your example.

Second, I don't think your interpretation is RAI, but you are correct about it making the ability scarier (especially if it has been applied multiple times). If scary is what you're after, go for it. It won't break the game (although it might lead to a TPK).
 

ad_hoc

Hero
Having the effect disappear by simply taking a long rest, to me, negates any fear factor the ability is intended to case.
Well, long rests completely dispel the tension anyway. That is the point of the long rest.

How often are long rests happening? This might be the source of the problem.

I know the groups I am in are quite worried/scared about life drain when they know they have another 4-6 encounters to go. Those encounters suddenly got a lot deadlier.

Life drain means you can't get your hit points back on a short rest and it makes it easier to die outright from big damage attacks.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I agree with your ruling, as that is what the rule says. And if the players complain, tell them you could replace it with AD&D's life drain, and they lose a level, if they're not happy with your ruling :D
 

MARCVS AVRELIVS

First Post
Despite years playing Advanced Squad Leader (and some time playing Magic the Gathering), I've become less of a stickler for precise rule wordings.

From the SRD, "At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points." I figure the Life Drain effect, despite using the word "finish" intends also to happen at the end of the long rest, so allow the max hit points to go up and the hit points to be regained all at the same time.

The fear factor from Life Drain is more that by reducing max hit points, you're increasing the odds of the one-shot, instant death ("When damage reduces you to 0 hit points and there is damage remaining, you die if the remaining damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum.") So going to a max hit points of 7, if you're fighting something and you're down to say 3 hp, and it lands a 10hp blow on you - boom, dead character.

Which can make that long rest, after fighting a few Life Draining creatures, very tense - if you're interrupted.
 


ad_hoc

Hero
I agree with your ruling, as that is what the rule says. And if the players complain, tell them you could replace it with AD&D's life drain, and they lose a level, if they're not happy with your ruling :D
Regaining hit points/hit dice also occurs when a character finishes a long rest.

They both occur at the same time.

That is a pretty antagonistic way to approach the game.

If the issue is that the party recovers after a long rest, the solution is to have fewer long rests, not to try to find loopholes in the rules and threaten the players if they don't like it.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Regaining hit points/hit dice also occurs when a character finishes a long rest.

They both occur at the same time.

That is a pretty antagonistic way to approach the game.

If the issue is that the party recovers after a long rest, the solution is to have fewer long rests, not to try to find loopholes in the rules and threaten the players if they don't like it.
My comment was tongue in check, hence the :D emoji
 

CanadienneBacon

First Post
And if the players complain, tell them you could replace it with AD&D's life drain, and they lose a level, if they're not happy with your ruling :D
Noting the smiley, which Sacrosanct has said is intended to convey levity, I'll pause to clarify. IG is DMing for a group of fellow DMs. One of us is also, I believe, a game designer for an alternate gaming system. All of us are working professionals. Probably more importantly, we're all friends. IG, being the really terrific DM and all-around-stand-up guy he is, invited us to discuss his ruling. No one complained. We wouldn't dare; all of us have way too much respect for what goes into running a game and for IG to do such a thing.
 

Plaguescarred

First Post
At the end of a long rest you should regain all lost hit points including your hit points maximum IMO. But ruling that they don't to make things more scary is fine ruling too as it has more impact. Basically it will be more taxing as it will probably cost ressources to heal up like spells potions etc, if the PC want to be at max HP.
 

WarpedAcorn

First Post
In any case, I'd love to hear others' opinions. Am I right or wrong? Why?

Thanks in advance...

-IG

As the DM, you are right no matter which way you rule so long as its consistent. However, having just had a Wraith and Wight both Life Drain several players in my own campaign this past weekend (one being a crit by the Wraith for 27 damage), the players regained the Drained HP with the Long Rest and were able to heal it as well.

As ad_hoc mentioned, a Long Rest is supposed to dispel tension so I don't think the intention of the Drain Life feature is to continue putting the player at a disadvantage. In fact, if he wanted to be really cheesy he could have simply said that immediately after the Long Rest he did a Short Rest and rolled to regain HP there (especially since the Long Rest probably took more than 8 hours in-game time).

As for the Drain Life being meaningful, trust me, even if you think they were never in danger, the player has been worrying about that missing life. You might know the next encounter wouldn't be enough to do him in, but the player is only thinking, "I have no idea what's around that corner and now a single swing from a common longsword can put me down".
 

industrygothica

Adventurer
Wow.. I certainly appreciate the all the feedback, and look forward to reading more. I will add, though, that none of my players complained about my decision. Quite the opposite, actually. I couldn't ask for a better group.

In this particular situation, the PCs were in a great position to take a long rest immediately after the encounter; it was the first rest they'd taken in the entire adventure. I would imagine if I threw another specter at them right after the rest, things would be a little more tense since they wouldn't have the ability to immediately counter the effects by resting. Interesting perspectives either way, I think.


-IG
 

Rune

Once A Fool
To me, the really scary thing about life draining enemies is when you use them in packs. Because those effects do stack, it's very easy to take a character's maximum hp down to 0, which is auto-death. And, even if you don't get knocked down that far, walking around or trying to get a good night's sleep with, say, 2 hp is still unnerving. A hit that dealt 4 damage would kill that character outright!
 

GuardianLurker

First Post
All of this has raised a question I haven't seen answered in the FAQs yet (or I missed the details): A character with a 20 hp maximum and 5 points of damage (15/20) is hit by a lifedraining attack for 10 hp. Is the characters' hp total now 10/10? 5/10?
 

Gadget

Adventurer
I think this is cool interpretation, but I'm not sure if it is RAI. In either case, since the affected PC regained all hit dice, he/she could spend those hit dice by immediately taking a short rest and regaining at least some of the missing HP.

GaurdianLurker: The answer to your question would be 5/10.
 

jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
All of this has raised a question I haven't seen answered in the FAQs yet (or I missed the details): A character with a 20 hp maximum and 5 points of damage (15/20) is hit by a lifedraining attack for 10 hp. Is the characters' hp total now 10/10? 5/10?
The character would be at 5/10. He took 10 points of damage, so he has 5 points left. And his max was reduced by 10.

Regarding the OP's question, I would play that all the hp are regained after the rest. But like others have said I don't think your interpretation is out of bounds.
 


Lidgar

Adventurer
I think if the intention was that the hp max could not be achieved until after finishing a long rest, it would have been worded that way.

But hey, I like your take as well - certainly makes it more deadly. Especially considering the death by massive damage rules...
 

As others have said, I would have just had everything reset after the long rest. But, also as others have said, I like your ruling. I would allow them to use hit die to heal following the long rest (or other healing), but that would put them down for future use.
 


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