D&D 5E Take out Death Saving Throws, put in Consequences

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Here's an idea (inspired by the excellent video game Wildermyth):

What if we took out Death Saving Throws, and instead players chose a consequence when they dropped to 0 Hit Points?

Obviously, this would be a house rule that would better fit narrative-focused games rather than beer-and-pretzel dungeon crawls. But a list of consequences could be adapted to fit a table's style of play.

For example, at my table I might do something like:

Consequences for 0 Hit Points
When your character reaches 0 Hit Points, choose one of the following consequences:
  • Retreat! - roll on the Lingering Injury table (in the DMG). Your character retreats and is out of combat for the rest of the encounter.
  • Fight On! - roll on the Lingering Injury table (in the DMG). Every time your character takes damage, there is a 50% chance they will take on another Lingering Injury.
  • Life-Changing Injury - Your character retreats for the encounter, and only returns when narratively appropriate, perhaps after a period of days or months. You must change one major feature of your character, such as a feat or subclass.
  • Death is Overrated - Your character dies, but their soul stays close to their body, knowing they will soon be returned to life through magic. Visions of the afterlife permanently change your character. You must change one major feature of your character, such as a feat or subclass.
  • Inspiring Death - Your character dies, but not before taking a final, inspirational action. Your character may not be resurrected after dying. You may choose one of the following:
    • Final Blow - You automatically succeed on an attack against an enemy in range. The attack is treated as a critical hit and does maximum damage. Alternately, you may cast one spell that an enemy automatically fails to save against, causing maximum damage.
    • Fight On Without Me - Your allies may gain hit points and features as if they have taken a short rest.
    • Last Words - Your final words inspire your allies. For the rest of combat, all of their attack rolls have advantage, and attacks against them have disadvantage.
 

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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
I don't know what any of this means.
Oh. You see, D&D is made up of rules. And house rules are those which are made by the players, not the game designers. I was saying that the OP is a cool house rule, but I wouldn't want to codify it.

If that doesn't make sense, just plug in "mechanic" where I put "rule."
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Nice. The version I use is remove death saves and PCs have three strikes at zero hp. They work like death saves, so a crit counts as two, etc. But each of those three are basically WFRP critical hits. So loss of limb, loss of eye, loss of fingers, loss of hand, etc. When you hit three, you die.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I like this in principle but, being me, I'd rather see some sort of random element involved so as to avoid the choice being made for tactical reasons rather than character reasons.

Or, and maybe even better than a randomizer, have the player make this choice and lock it in well ahead of time - say, at the start of the adventure - in order to take those in-the-moment tactical considerations out of the picture. Allow the player to change the choice only during downtime between adventures.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Here's an idea (inspired by the excellent video game Wildermyth):

What if we took out Death Saving Throws, and instead players chose a consequence when they dropped to 0 Hit Points?

Obviously, this would be a house rule that would better fit narrative-focused games rather than beer-and-pretzel dungeon crawls. But a list of consequences could be adapted to fit a table's style of play.

For example, at my table I might do something like:

Consequences for 0 Hit Points
When your character reaches 0 Hit Points, choose one of the following consequences:
  • Retreat! - roll on the Lingering Injury table (in the DMG). Your character retreats and is out of combat for the rest of the encounter.
  • Fight On! - roll on the Lingering Injury table (in the DMG). Every time your character takes damage, there is a 50% chance they will take on another Lingering Injury.
  • Life-Changing Injury - Your character retreats for the encounter, and only returns when narratively appropriate, perhaps after a period of days or months. You must change one major feature of your character, such as a feat or subclass.
  • Death is Overrated - Your character dies, but their soul stays close to their body, knowing they will soon be returned to life through magic. Visions of the afterlife permanently change your character. You must change one major feature of your character, such as a feat or subclass.
  • Inspiring Death- Your character dies, but not before taking a final, inspirational action. Your character may not be resurrected after dying. You may choose one of the following:
    • Final Blow - You automatically succeed on an attack against an enemy in range. The attack is treated as a critical hit and does maximum damage. Alternately, you may cast one spell that an enemy automatically fails to save against, causing maximum damage.
    • Fight On Without Me - Your allies may gain hit points and features as if they have taken a short rest.
    • Last Words - Your final words inspire your allies. For the rest of combat, all of their attack rolls have advantage, and attacks against them have disadvantage.
Fun stuff! But it opens a can of worms.

A PC with maximum 22 hit points takes 44 damage. According to the PHB's "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. Would the "Instant Death" rule take priority or would your house rules take priority?

Is there any point to the spare the dying cantrip given these house rules?

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a disintegrate spell ("The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points") - or any similar effect, really. Which takes priority? The disintegrate effect? Or your house rule?

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a wraith. Why on earth would they choose any of the death options in this scene, knowing the wraith can use Create Specter to turn them into a specter?

An 11th level Barbarian (with Relentless Rage) looks at the Ranger using "Fight On!" and can't help but feel that their thunder is being stolen. I don't know if there are other subclasses with similar powers, maybe the Fighter Samurai's 18th level Strength Before Death?

Does having a 13th level Bard, Cleric, or Druid in the party with access to regenerate – which heals pretty much all Lingering Injuries – present a problem?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Fun stuff! But it opens a can of worms.

A PC with maximum 22 hit points takes 44 damage. According to the PHB's "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. Would the "Instant Death" rule take priority or would your house rules take priority?

Is there any point to the spare the dying cantrip given these house rules?

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a disintegrate spell ("The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points") - or any similar effect, really. Which takes priority? The disintegrate effect? Or your house rule?

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a wraith. Why on earth would they choose any of the death options in this scene, knowing the wraith can use Create Specter to turn them into a specter?

An 11th level Barbarian (with Relentless Rage) looks at the Ranger using "Fight On!" and can't help but feel that their thunder is being stolen. I don't know if there are other subclasses with similar powers, maybe the Fighter Samurai's 18th level Strength Before Death?

Does having a 13th level Bard, Cleric, or Druid in the party with access to regenerate – which heals pretty much all Lingering Injuries – present a problem?
Not OP, but I don't see any problem arising from any of these. The houserule would take precedence at my table were I to use this idea, in all cases. Easy enough. The player chooses whether death means death, and how they go out if it does. Why would that be different for massive damage or disintegrate?

Wraith; okay. So...sometimes the PC won't choose death? I don't see the problem.

Barbarian: Why wouldn't the Barbarian just...use their ability to ignore the normal effect of being reduced to 0hp, which would logically include choosing any of the houseruled options?

Regenerate negates a lot of consequences. This isn't a special case for it.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Fun stuff! But it opens a can of worms.
Oh, it definitely has ripples! But I enjoy it when a single new rule creates interesting ripples.
A PC with maximum 22 hit points takes 44 damage. According to the PHB's "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. Would the "Instant Death" rule take priority or would your house rules take priority?
I could see Instant Death removing a few of the options. Maybe when a character receives enough damage to reduce them to -Max HP, they cannot choose Retreat or Fight On.

Is there any point to the spare the dying cantrip given these house rules?
No, I think this would in fact take out the whole "Stable" condition. This would definitely impact classes that have effects that help Death Saving Throws.

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a disintegrate spell ("The target is disintegrated if this damage leaves it with 0 hit points") - or any similar effect, really. Which takes priority? The disintegrate effect? Or your house rule?
In this kind of campaign, I would say the House Rule takes priority. This house rule really puts the fate of the characters in the hands of the players, not the DM. So any situation in which the fate of the characters is taken over by the rules would be overruled. So the player would be up for telling the story of how the Disintegrate spell gave them a Lingering Injury or fundamentally changed who they are!

A PC is reduced to 0 hit points by a wraith. Why on earth would they choose any of the death options in this scene, knowing the wraith can use Create Specter to turn them into a specter?
In that case they probably wouldn't... unless they think the Auto-Crit is going to kill the Wraith!

An 11th level Barbarian (with Relentless Rage) looks at the Ranger using "Fight On!" and can't help but feel that their thunder is being stolen. I don't know if there are other subclasses with similar powers, maybe the Fighter Samurai's 18th level Strength Before Death?
Eh, the list I made is just a sample list. I could see each group deciding what would be appropriate for their game. If there's a player who loves to play Barbarians with Relentless Rage, then maybe the list would be different.

Does having a 13th level Bard, Cleric, or Druid in the party with access to regenerate – which heals pretty much all Lingering Injuries – present a problem?
This is an interesting one! I've been working on my own Lingering Injury list. I like this idea for a House Rule:

When using Regenerate to heal a Lingering Injury, only the most recent Lingering Injury is healed.

So if you Lose an Eye and then Lose a Hand, only the hand can be reattached by regeneration!
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
This is what I would use for a Lingering Injury Table in my game, if I were using this house rule:

Lingering Injuries
1Lose an EyeYou have disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight. If you have already lost an eye, you are permanently blinded.
2Lose an Arm or HandYou can no longer hold anything with two hands, and you can only hold a single object at a time.
3Lose a Foot or LegYour speed on foot in halved, and you must use a cane, crutch, or prosthetic leg. You fall prone after using the Dash action. You have disadvantage on ability checks made to balance.
4LimpYour speed on foot is reduced by 5 feet. You must make a DC 10 Dexterity Saving Throw after using the Dash Action, or fall prone.
5-7Internal InjuryWhenever you take an action and move in a round of combat, you must make a DC 15 Constitution Saving Throw or lose hit points equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
8 - 10Broken RibWhenever you take an action and move in a round of combat, you must make a DC 10 Constitution Saving Throw or lose hit points equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
11 - 13Horrible ScarYou are disfigured to the extent that the wound can’t be easily concealed. When interacting with creatures who can see you, you have disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks and advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks.
14 - 16Festering WoundYour Hit Point Maximum is reduced by a number equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
17 - 19Minor ScarThe scar doesn’t have any adverse effects, but is a good excuse to tell a story.
20Roll Twice-
 

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