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D&D 5E Request for thoughts on falling damage change

Tormyr

Adventurer
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So, like many people* I find capping fall damage at 70 (20d6) a bit odd. It means that falls of 200 feet or more are not immediately lethal for early mid level characters, and it is not very scary for high level characters. I have been looking for other ways to calculate fall damage. One method I have looked with is having 1 point of bludgeoning damage per foot per second the creature is currently falling. I found this chart that shows the falling speed of a skydiver over time. http://www.greenharbor.com/fffolder/speedtime.pdf This shows the speed over time, that a creature is falling as well as the distance fallen over time. You can then extrapolate the speed at a certain distance fallen.

Now I know that choosing a skydiver is fairly arbitrary when then looking at various creatures falling in other methods than skydiver spread, and doesn't match creatures of different sizes, weights, and surface areas, but neither does the current falling damage rules.

A couple examples of what falling would look like in this system:
A creature falls roughly 500 feet in the first 6 seconds, giving them a turn to act if falling farther.
A creature falls roughly 1000 feet in the next 6 seconds and every 6 seconds after that
10 foot fall does 10 damage instead of 3.5
20 foot fall does 19 damage instead of 7
50 foot fall does 38 damage instead of 17.5
100 foot fall does 62 damage instead of 35
200 foot fall does 93 damage instead of 70
500 foot fall does 138 damage instead of 70
1000 foot fall does 164 damage instead of 70
1500 foot and further fall does 174 damage instead of 70

So pros or cons at first glance for me:
Cons that I can see are that it is more lethal (which might be a plus for others) and it takes time to look up (offset by not needing to roll dice).
Pros that I can see are it is not immediately lethal to high level characters and still follows some sort of progression and a low level characters would be knocked out by short falls but not killed outright, and monks would not automatically be immune to falling damage because of their slow fall ability.

It seems to me that a planned fall (i.e. jumping down) would need some sort of acrobatics check to avoid damage from the fall. A first level PC would not want to take 10 damage just from a planned fall of 10 feet. Maybe a DC of height in feet divided by 10? This would reduce the damage, but it would need to allow for short falls to take no damage and only reduces the damage from a long fall rather than eliminate it. Something along the line of the successful Acrobatics check reduces the damage by half and the damage is eliminated if the acrobatics check is higher than the reduced damage. In this example the DC for a 10 foot planned jump down would be 1 (10 feet / 10), so it is very easy to reduce the damage from a planned jump down of 10 feet. This would reduce the damage from 10 to 5, and if the Acrobatics check was 5 or higher (the reduced damage), the damage is eliminated, and the creature ends up on their feet rather than prone since they took no damage. A 50 foot fall can be reduced with a DC 5 Acrobatics check, but the Acrobatics check would need to be 19 or higher to eliminate the damage entirely. Higher planned falls would be possible to reduce but not eliminate the damage. The downside of this for me is that it seems too fiddly.

Another option for eliminating damage from planned falls would be succeeding at an Acrobatics check equal to the distance jumped down.

So what are your thoughts?

*Citation needed ;)
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EDIT: Thanks everyone for your feedback. I have posted a document with the distance covered and damage taken for creatures of different sizes along with a means to mitigate some damage.
http://www.enworld.org/forum/rpgdownloads.php?do=download&downloadid=1410
Please post any feedback for that document in its comments thread.
 
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jaelis

Oh this is where the title goes?
So what are your thoughts?
The effect of falling damage is totally dependent on the type of falls you have in your campaign. Your method would make falls a lot more dangerous, but if you compensate by making typically falls shorter, then it doesn't matter. So if you like it and it works at your table, go for it.

But as for whether it looks sensible to me:

In your system a 10 foot fall would generally be lethal for a CR 1/4 creature like a human. In real life I don't think that is the case. A 10 foot fall is nothing to laugh at, but it wouldn't normally kill you.

Physically, I think damage to your body ought to scale like the energy your body dissipates. That goes like your velocity squared, not like the velocity directly. In that picture, damage should scale up linearly with fall height, until you start to reach terminal velocity. At that point it should start to level out.

In your reference, terminal velocity is about 120 miles per hour. That corresponds to a fall height of 480 feet. So I think a more realistic thing would be to use the rules like they are, but instead cap it at 50d6. Or more practically, maybe, 10d6 + 7 damage for every 20 feet fallen after the first 100 feet.
 

dave2008

Legend
I like it. One thing I would change is that some of the damage should be variable. First, that is the 5e D&D way and there are variables in a fall that could lessen the damage.

Maybe the first 50 or 100 feet have variable damage and then add your static increase after that.

Based on another a tangent I was involved on in another thread, you could look at size having an effect on damage. [MENTION=6787650]Hemlock[/MENTION] double the falling damage per size category. That seemed to harsh. I suggested using HD since that is based in size. So the variable damage would cause d6 (Small0, d8 (Medium), d10 (Large), d12 (Huge), or D20 (Gargantuan) damage per foot or speed of fall. Then subtract the creatures size x2 from the distance of the fall. Maybe the following for a medium creature:

Distance / Damage:
10-19ft / 2d8
20-30ft / 4d8
30-49 ft / 6d8
50-99ft / 8d8
100-199ft / 8d8 +30
200-999ft / 8d8 + 100
1000-1499ft / 8d8 + 110
1500ft+ / 8d8(max) + 110
 

Saeviomagy

Adventurer
The problem is that falling 10 feet shouldn't be worse than being hit with a greatsword, which both of your systems do. So unless you are going to have some mitigation method, then your methods are ridiculously deadly.

Might I suggest simply reducing the damage by the acrobatic check number for the "damage = foot/sec" model? And if the fall is deliberate, award advantage on the check. That makes someone with 6 hitpoints and no training always survive a 10 foot fall (but might seriously injure themselves), they will sometimes survive a 20 foot fall (and usually get injured) and they will never survive a 50 foot fall. At the extreme end of the scale, people who are really, really good at acrobatics are still going to take damage most of the time from a 50 foot fall, and will always take damage from bigger falls than that but will be able to ignore 20 foot ones. that seems like the right zone for me. Meanwhile a 1500 foot fall is going to wreck all but the toughest adventurers.
 


dave2008

Legend
The problem is that falling 10 feet shouldn't be worse than being hit with a greatsword, which both of your systems do. So unless you are going to have some mitigation method, then your methods are ridiculously deadly.

Might I suggest simply reducing the damage by the acrobatic check number for the "damage = foot/sec" model? And if the fall is deliberate, award advantage on the check. That makes someone with 6 hitpoints and no training always survive a 10 foot fall (but might seriously injure themselves), they will sometimes survive a 20 foot fall (and usually get injured) and they will never survive a 50 foot fall. At the extreme end of the scale, people who are really, really good at acrobatics are still going to take damage most of the time from a 50 foot fall, and will always take damage from bigger falls than that but will be able to ignore 20 foot ones. that seems like the right zone for me. Meanwhile a 1500 foot fall is going to wreck all but the toughest adventurers.

I thought he said you could avoid the damage completely with an acrobatics check with a DC set at the distance. A 10ft fall would generally be no damage half the time and never and issue for someone trained in acrobatics and a decent Dex score. Seems about right.

Perosnally I might revise the damage to 5-10 ft / 1d8 damage and 2d8 damage from 11-19ft. + the acrobatics or athletics check.
 


Tormyr

Adventurer
The effect of falling damage is totally dependent on the type of falls you have in your campaign. Your method would make falls a lot more dangerous, but if you compensate by making typically falls shorter, then it doesn't matter. So if you like it and it works at your table, go for it.

But as for whether it looks sensible to me:

In your system a 10 foot fall would generally be lethal for a CR 1/4 creature like a human. In real life I don't think that is the case. A 10 foot fall is nothing to laugh at, but it wouldn't normally kill you.

Physically, I think damage to your body ought to scale like the energy your body dissipates. That goes like your velocity squared, not like the velocity directly. In that picture, damage should scale up linearly with fall height, until you start to reach terminal velocity. At that point it should start to level out.

In your reference, terminal velocity is about 120 miles per hour. That corresponds to a fall height of 480 feet. So I think a more realistic thing would be to use the rules like they are, but instead cap it at 50d6. Or more practically, maybe, 10d6 + 7 damage for every 20 feet fallen after the first 100 feet.

Thanks for your thoughts, but I am not sure about some aspects of what you said.

A 10 foot fall would do 10 damage under this system. A CR 1/8 bandit has 11 hit points and would not even be knocked out. A CR 0 Commoner has 4 hit points and would die from a 10 foot fall but would survive a 7 foot fall (with death saving throws enabled) or a 3 foot fall normally, but normally damaged isn't checked until the fall distance is 10 feet.. As for whether that distance is fatal, 6-10 feet is the most common height for death from falling from a ladder, and falls from even 2 feet can be lethal.

I am not sure what you mean about the dissipation of a falling body's energy not being associated with the falling speed, especially after saying damage scales linearly with fall height until terminal velocity takes hold. The thing is, drag is taking effect almost immediately, and the speed (and therefore the energy) increase is not linear after the first second. If I am missing something, let me know.

In the reference above, the body is falling at only 93 mph at 500 feet or about 3/4 of terminal velocity. Terminal velocity of ~120 mph is not reached until around 1500 feet, although it is fairly close after 1000 feet. I don't know if that would change the dice numbers you are proposing.
 

So what are your thoughts?

Well, my thought here is that falling damage (1d6 per 10', to a maximum of 20d6) is unchanged since 2nd edition, despite the fact that HP in 5E are inflated by a factor of perhaps two or three relative to AD&D. (Look at trollish regeneration (3x); look at Ogre HP (3x); look at the HP of a typical 20th level fighter (2x to 3x); look at the HP of a typical 20th level wizard (2.5x to 3.5x); etc.) Therefore, one obvious tweak would be to simply re-calibrate falling damage: 3d6 per 10' fallen, rounded down to the nearest d6. (So, 15' fall would be 4d6, 25' would be 7d6, etc.) Coincidentally, the numbers you get wind up looking very much like the proposal in the OP, though of course the OP proposal levels off more gradually.

This will at least keep 5E characters as reluctant to jump off a 200' cliff as their AD&D equivalents would have been, which is to say "it's not totally crazy but also not something to do lightly either."

Edit: I should say explicitly that I think the OP proposal is reasonable. I wouldn't use it myself, I think, just because I have no idea how to calculate the physics of a falling elephant or human or T-Rex; but I might claim it as the backing explanation for my falling damage rules, and if so I'd listen to and perhaps be swayed by any argument for why such-and-such a situation should result in faster or slower falls than the average (and therefore deserves a special ruling on damage). But I could not calculate the values myself, and that makes me disinclined to use it as a general rule.

Another thought: I know that Gygax played around with variant falling rules. I think I saw one of his posts here on Enworld where he mentioned that he'd recently been using quadratic falling damage: 1d6 for the first 10', then 2d6 for the next 10', then 3d6 for the next 10', etc. In this case, a 50' fall would be (1d6+2d6+3d6+4d6+5d6) = 15d6 damage, which is respectable. You could certainly adapt this sytem to 5E. It has interesting implications.
 
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Satyrn

First Post
I'm gonna say, go with what @Hemlock suggested. 3d6 per ten feet would work fine. It's close enough to what you got, and is quick and easy.

Or maybe 2d10. Something like it, anyway

Or for some slight complexity 1d10 for the first 10 feet, +1d10 for every 5 feet after. This way, short falls aren't crippling, slipping off a low building isn't life threatening, but everything else is scary.
 

dave2008

Legend
Then stick to lower levels or use warhammer frpg 2nd ed... pretty hard to be gritty/less heroic at level 15-20...

Sent from my SM-G930W8 using EN World mobile app

I sorta agree except that even at low levels basic D&D is not as gritty as I would like (no desire to play anything else) sometimes. Now, with some of the variant rules I think it can be. For gritty I would cap it level 10, anything above that requires legendary boons and such to advance, and use a the following variant rules (and or homebrew variants):

Healing Kit Dependency DMG pg 266
Slow Natural Healing (except gain 1 hp per week) DMG pg 267
Lingering Injuries DMG pg 272
Massive Damage DMG pg 273
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
First of all, thanks everyone for helping.

I like it. One thing I would change is that some of the damage should be variable. First, that is the 5e D&D way and there are variables in a fall that could lessen the damage.

Maybe the first 50 or 100 feet have variable damage and then add your static increase after that.

Based on another a tangent I was involved on in another thread, you could look at size having an effect on damage. [MENTION=6787650]Hemlock[/MENTION] double the falling damage per size category. That seemed to harsh. I suggested using HD since that is based in size. So the variable damage would cause d6 (Small0, d8 (Medium), d10 (Large), d12 (Huge), or D20 (Gargantuan) damage per foot or speed of fall. Then subtract the creatures size x2 from the distance of the fall. Maybe the following for a medium creature:

Distance / Damage:
10-19ft / 2d8
20-30ft / 4d8
30-49 ft / 6d8
50-99ft / 8d8
100-199ft / 8d8 +30
200-999ft / 8d8 + 100
1000-1499ft / 8d8 + 110
1500ft+ / 8d8(max) + 110

I like the thought of the different dice size, which helps with creature size. I I could abstract the numbers to dice that might work, and your example might be close enough. It doesn't solve for exceptionally good at falling creatures like cats, but it could be close enough.

The problem is that falling 10 feet shouldn't be worse than being hit with a greatsword, which both of your systems do. So unless you are going to have some mitigation method, then your methods are ridiculously deadly.

Might I suggest simply reducing the damage by the acrobatic check number for the "damage = foot/sec" model? And if the fall is deliberate, award advantage on the check. That makes someone with 6 hitpoints and no training always survive a 10 foot fall (but might seriously injure themselves), they will sometimes survive a 20 foot fall (and usually get injured) and they will never survive a 50 foot fall. At the extreme end of the scale, people who are really, really good at acrobatics are still going to take damage most of the time from a 50 foot fall, and will always take damage from bigger falls than that but will be able to ignore 20 foot ones. that seems like the right zone for me. Meanwhile a 1500 foot fall is going to wreck all but the toughest adventurers.

This is like the second suggestion I had for reducing the damage in the OP, and I think it might probably is more "5e" than my first suggestion. I like advantage for deliberate falls, and I might make this doing this a reaction to reduce the falling damage.



I will have to take a look at some of these ideas in more detail later.
 

I know that Gygax played around with variant falling rules. I think I saw one of his posts here on Enworld where he mentioned that he'd recently been using quadratic falling damage: 1d6 for the first 10', then 2d6 for the next 10', then 3d6 for the next 10', etc. In this case, a 50' fall would be (1d6+2d6+3d6+4d6+5d6) = 15d6 damage, which is respectable. You could certainly adapt this sytem to 5E. It has interesting implications.
I do this. I also upped the cap to 40d6, since the original cap was based on the logic of OD&D and AD&D where HP were MUCH lower.
 

dave2008

Legend
It doesn't solve for exceptionally good at falling creatures like cats, but it could be close enough.

Maybe cats (and similar) have a trait that could account for this.

Feline Reflexes: A cat gains double its proficiency bonus on Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks when falling.

or something similar
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
It looks like you are really going for realism. I think you are onto something abotu falling speed to damage. However, I think you need to calibrate your damage to height of falls that will kill.

I found a lot of contradictory anecdotal, then I found an article using CDC data. http://ehstoday.com/nothing-easy-falling-off-ladder

It looks like the 50/50 point of death is about 20 feet. So if you are rolling (either damage or HPs), your average human should die on an average or higher roll and survive on a lower than average roll. (Reverse this if rolling HPs for the commoner instead of damage done to them.)

Maybe a commoner is too weak at 4 HPs, let's go for acolyte or cultist. At 1/4 CR and 9 HPs, that seems to be a common non-leveled but still active person.

So 19 ft/s^2 for a 20 ft drop works out to be about 1/2 a HP per ft/s^2. So take your original chart and chop it in two. (Which isn't too different from d6 per 10' fallen but rising a bit slower.)

This really shows the abstract measure of HPs where two fit and healthy adults could have 50, 100 or more HPs difference. But since there is one case of someone suriving a fall from 33K feet without a parachute, that's where the luck aspect of HPs come in.

Now, part of me feels that you were looking at a more realistic solution because you didn't like the idea of mid-level PCs falling 80' down and dusting themselves off. Unfortunately, and damage level that would seriously impact those PCs would be much higher lethality then in real life. At that point, it's not a more realistic system, just a more deadly one. If you want more deadly, why not just roll more or larger dice?
 

It looks like you are really going for realism. I think you are onto something abotu falling speed to damage. However, I think you need to calibrate your damage to height of falls that will kill.

I found a lot of contradictory anecdotal, then I found an article using CDC data. http://ehstoday.com/nothing-easy-falling-off-ladder

It looks like the 50/50 point of death is about 20 feet. So if you are rolling (either damage or HPs), your average human should die on an average or higher roll and survive on a lower than average roll. (Reverse this if rolling HPs for the commoner instead of damage done to them.)

Maybe a commoner is too weak at 4 HPs, let's go for acolyte or cultist. At 1/4 CR and 9 HPs, that seems to be a common non-leveled but still active person.

So 19 ft/s^2 for a 20 ft drop works out to be about 1/2 a HP per ft/s^2. So take your original chart and chop it in two. (Which isn't too different from d6 per 10' fallen but rising a bit slower.)

This really shows the abstract measure of HPs where two fit and healthy adults could have 50, 100 or more HPs difference. But since there is one case of someone suriving a fall from 33K feet without a parachute, that's where the luck aspect of HPs come in.

Now, part of me feels that you were looking at a more realistic solution because you didn't like the idea of mid-level PCs falling 80' down and dusting themselves off. Unfortunately, and damage level that would seriously impact those PCs would be much higher lethality then in real life. At that point, it's not a more realistic system, just a more deadly one. If you want more deadly, why not just roll more or larger dice?

Remember that the CDC stats are for people with access to modern medicine. The D&D equivalent is stabilization via healing kit. In order to die from a fall, that 9 HP Cultist needs to take 18 points of damage to be killed. Otherwise he just wakes up 1d4 hours later after the equivalent of an ER visit.

So instead of chopping it in two, just use the original chart.
 

Draegn

Explorer
I've ruled that for falling you have to roll the distance fallen or higher on percentage dice or die. If they voluntarily jump I give them a +20% to the roll. If the roll is made and an additional saving throw at -1 for every 10 feet is made, they can walk away with damage equal to their HP minus 10% for every 10 feet fallen. If the saving throw is failed they are crippled until help arrives.
 
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MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I'll keep to the RAW.

High-level characters are so bad ass they automatically pull a "Magee."

I figure if Alan Magee can survive a 4-mile fall from his gun turret on a B-17 bomber, without a parachute, WHILE wounded from enemy fire, which ended in his body crashing through the glass roof of a Nazi railway station, well...then your level 19 god-like fighter can too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Magee


See (e.g. "Google") also James Boole (6000 feet onto snow-covered rocks—broke backs and ribs, but survived), Nicholas Alkemade (18,000 feet, fall "broken" by pine trees and snow, suffered a ...sprained leg!), Ivan Chisov (22,000 feet, suffered some spinal injuries but was flying again a few months later), Danny Yamashiro (only 300 feet, but was head first, then during the rescue attempt, with news cameras recording it, feel another 100 feet, actually suffered the worst injuries of everyone on this list...fun fact he's the great grandson of "Charlie Chan"), AND the Guinesss book of World's Records surviving a fall without a parachut record goes to Vesna Vulonic: 33,000 feet (she is the only person on this list who was in [a part of] the plane when she fell—but c'mon—33,000 f'n feet!


Anyway if someone calls BS to falling damage in my game of high fantasy, I see "he pulled a Magee." Or I make the player recite a list the list and details of people who have survived documented high-altitude falls without parachutes until they learn their lesson and stop interrupting my game with "reality."
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
I use an exponential damage system. The first 10 feet is free (based on size, large gets 20, huge gets 30, etc...) then it's +1d6, +2d6, +4d6, +8d6, 16d6, 32d6, 64d6. 128d6 and so on.
 

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