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Level Up (A5E) Proposed Rule: Defeat and Exhaustion


Shaper of Worlds
Defeat in D&D is often only a temporary setback. One that happens fairly often and is immediately rectified with a casual display of magical healing, or a more rushed and terrified casting of "Revivify" if your DM is the kind of person who uses Coup de Grace rules for increased narrative lethality.

Dropping to 0 hit points is, among the older generation, something to be terrified of. Simply because we're so very used to 0= Dead or -10 = Dead. The new 5e Death Saves system mitigates that significantly, and that's not a -bad- thing at all. Though I think there's enough worry that it might be too lenient. Particularly when a player is downed in a climactic moment, only to stand up the next round with 1d8+5 hit points as if nothing had happened.

And there are few among us who jump with glee at the idea of whipping out the "Injury" table to permanently maim one of our player characters (Not none, but few)

So how can we give Defeat, but not Death, it's own weight?

The Exhaustion rules of the LevelUp system seem ripe for use!

The Proposed Rule:
If a character reaches 0 hit points and drops to the ground, they gain 1 level of Exhaustion. If they were reduced to 0 hit points by an attack that deals necrotic, radiant, or psionic damage the character gains 1 level of Strife on reaching 0 hit points. Otherwise the character gains 1 level of Fatigue. This exhaustion does not affect the character's Death Saving Throws. Each time the character fails a Death Saving Throw, an additional level of Fatigue or Strife is applied.

Now being defeated has consequences even outside of actually dying. They're not entirely debilitating, as Long Rests and Restorative Magic can remove exhaustion, but they're certainly something the party would -feel- when that player pulls themself off the ground to return to the fight. Causing the Failed Saves to apply more Exhaustion also improves the urgency of restoring a character from 0hp, as each round can make them less and less effective when they are restored.

Further: if a character drops multiple times in the same fight, there's a nonzero chance they'll die from stacked exhaustion, separate from failed deathsaves. This gives players an increased incentive (as those stacks grow) to try and escape. But if they don't make that decision fast enough... it may no longer be an option!

And finally, by using both Fatigue and Strife we can model different types of defeat. A mental or emotional defeat bears a different sting than a physical one, with it's own narrative weight.
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Shaper of Worlds
A Corollary rule? Raise Dead could become a level 1 spell.

Raise Dead
1st level Necromancy spell

Casting Time: 1 hour
Range: Touch
Components: V S M (A diamond worth at least 100gp per level of the slot used to cast Raise Dead)
Duration: Instantaneous
Classes: Bard, Cleric, Herald

You return a dead creature you touch to life, provided that it has been dead no longer than 10 days. If the creature's soul is both willing and at liberty to rejoin the body, the creature returns to life with 1 hit point and 5 stacks of Fatigue and Strife.

This spell also neutralizes any poisons and cures nonmagical diseases or forms of exhaustion that affected the creature at the time it died. This spell, however, doesn't remove magical disease, curses, or similar effects. If these aren't first removed prior to casting the spell, they take effect when the creature returns to life. This spell cannot return an undead creature to life.

This spell closes all wounds, but does not restore missing body parts. If the creature is lacking it's heart or head, for instance, the spell automatically fails.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher the Fatigue and Strife are each reduced by 1 stack for each slot level above 1st.

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