D&D 5E The -10 Myth: How a Poorly-Worded Gygaxian Rule Became the Modern Death Save

auburn2

Adventurer
More importantly, it is, perhaps, the best example I can think of where a rule that was widely misapplied, eventually became the default rule. And the default rule became popular, and continued to be used throughout editions, eventually becoming the modern 5e version (death saves, etc.)
Nice writeup. I don't think this is the "best" example though. The best example is Rangers dual wielding IMO. Rangers in 1E could dual wield the same as any other character (an offhand dagger or hand axe only and applying a penalty to both based on dexterity).

Then along came Drizzt who was a Drow Ranger that dual wielded scimitars. Drizzt was able to dual wield because he was a Drow, not because he was a Ranger. All Drow dual wield as noted in the Fiend Folio. Because of Drizzt though, people started associating this with Rangers and it "became the default rule", changing only now with 5E.
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Nobody I knew misunderstood that rule. We knew it was optional and optioned it in. Dying at 0 sucked and moving it to -10 gave people a chance of survival once they were down. We also optioned out the super severe injury, because losing limbs and the like just sucked to play.
 

Nobody I knew misunderstood that rule. We knew it was optional and optioned it in. Dying at 0 sucked and moving it to -10 gave people a chance of survival once they were down. We also optioned out the super severe injury, because losing limbs and the like just sucked to play.
But... But... But.... It was a good way to justify the spell Regeneration!!!!!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Nice writeup. I don't think this is the "best" example though. The best example is Rangers dual wielding IMO. Rangers in 1E could dual wield the same as any other character (an offhand dagger or hand axe only and applying a penalty to both based on dexterity).

Then along came Drizzt who was a Drow Ranger that dual wielded scimitars. Drizzt was able to dual wield because he was a Drow, not because he was a Ranger. All Drow dual wield as noted in the Fiend Folio. Because of Drizzt though, people started associating this with Rangers and it "became the default rule", changing only now with 5E.

Well, I think I'm going to disagree (although I appreciate the compliment!).

First, because this is about a rule being misinterpreted- not about about a popular culture NPC that people wanted to play (this would be similar to saying that Wizards can now use more weapons because of Gandalf).

Second, the timing doesn't work. But that's my memory- I'll verify with some research, post a thread, and then "at" you with the thread so you can comment on whether I'm correct or not. :)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
2. Just looked at your posting history. Your first three posts got you thread-banned for being obnoxious. Your next action was liking a controversial post in a locked thread. After that, you necro‘d the Mentzer thread. Then this.
3. Seems to be a pattern. Not playing.

Mod Note:
@Snarf Zagyg Next time you think someone is up to no good, we recommend that, rather than make it personal in public, you report the issue. In making this personal, you've initiated a clash of egos, and you lack the authority or tools to bring it to closure. So, might as well call in someone who does have those tools earlier, n'est pas?

@Ace of Shadows It remains that Snarf is entirely correct about history. I noted to you before that you should attempt to engage with folks in a positive manner, and establish some goodwill. While you're not bad enough to remove from this discussion yet, do consider whether how you are engaging with folks is going to serve you well in the long run.

From this point forwards, the moderators should expect you two, and everyone else in the thread, to keep their noses clean, and not escalate conflicts.
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But... But... But.... It was a good way to justify the spell Regeneration!!!!!
Hah! If you played the game anywhere close to as written, there were so many poison saves and energy drains that you never got close to being able to case that spell. You did however start hitting negative 3 in the first fight or two. Rolling for hit points at 1st level with little or no con modifiers was harsh, but fun.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We also optioned out the super severe injury, because losing limbs and the like just sucked to play.
We never did, and even then limb loss has been a rare event - maybe ten occurrences* in almost 40 years of play.

There's not many things that by RAW can cause it: a weapon of sharpness, a Wither spell or device, and rare in-fiction events such as getting your leg chewed off by a dragon or your arm cut off by a trap (I've seen both happen in play). But, as someone already noted, that's what the Regeneration spell is for...

* - two of which happened to Lanefan the character at vastly different times, thus making him the holder of a rather dubious record...
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
Want to see 5E playstyle change. Have zero hp mean death and get rid of revivify. If your players are complaining 5E is too easy. Give that a try.

also great topic. We had a brutal DM. Zero hp was death. We tried -10 and the players complained that they were being sloppy because of it.
 

Well, I think I'm going to disagree (although I appreciate the compliment!).

First, because this is about a rule being misinterpreted- not about about a popular culture NPC that people wanted to play (this would be similar to saying that Wizards can now use more weapons because of Gandalf).

Second, the timing doesn't work. But that's my memory- I'll verify with some research, post a thread, and then "at" you with the thread so you can comment on whether I'm correct or not. :)
I have to agree with you...GH was AD&D and FR was 2nd Edition...and Drizzt was FR and first came out in '88...
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
We never did, and even then limb loss has been a rare event - maybe ten occurrences* in almost 40 years of play.

There's not many things that by RAW can cause it: a weapon of sharpness, a Wither spell or device, and rare in-fiction events such as getting your leg chewed off by a dragon or your arm cut off by a trap (I've seen both happen in play). But, as someone already noted, that's what the Regeneration spell is for...

* - two of which happened to Lanefan the character at vastly different times, thus making him the holder of a rather dubious record...
Or just hit -6 hit points.

"If any creature reaches a state of -6 or greater negative paints before being revived, this could indicate scarring or the loss of some member, if you so choose."

I mean, I suppose it might not be a limb, but...
 



So, it’s if you are dropped to between 0 and -3 in one blow you’re able to have that extra slow drip of HP loss, but if the blow drops you to -4 or more that’s it?
interesting! I always played it as -10 buffer zone. Thank you for the clarity!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Or just hit -6 hit points.

"If any creature reaches a state of -6 or greater negative paints before being revived, this could indicate scarring or the loss of some member, if you so choose."

I mean, I suppose it might not be a limb, but...
True.

We've for a long time had a homebrew scarring system which I suppose is what replaced this; and while severe scarring can impact your overall Dexterity score (temporarily or permanently) or other things such as spellcasting depending where the scarring is, it doesn't include outright limb loss.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
True.

We've for a long time had a homebrew scarring system which I suppose is what replaced this; and while severe scarring can impact your overall Dexterity score (temporarily or permanently) or other things such as spellcasting depending where the scarring is, it doesn't include outright limb loss.
Which makes sense. Limb loss that easily is a downright crappy mechanic.
 

Nobody I knew misunderstood that rule. We knew it was optional and optioned it in. Dying at 0 sucked and moving it to -10 gave people a chance of survival once they were down. We also optioned out the super severe injury, because losing limbs and the like just sucked to play.

I agree. Death at 0 hp stopped being fun when it started to take more than 5 minutes to roll up a PC, or once the DM started to make the game more narratively driven instead of the spelunking adventure wargame it began as in Men & Monsters. Nobody wants to stop the game to roll up a new character, it's a boring task as a DM to introduce a new PC to get the player back into the game, etc. As PC death became increasingly inconvenient to the pace of play and integrity of the campaign, it was only natural that the PCs got a bit more resistant to death.

But... But... But.... It was a good way to justify the spell Regeneration!!!!!

Eh, Any spell over level 5 wasn't really meant to be the purview of the PCs. Yes, yes, you may have played continually for 24 years in a single campaign and made it to level 97, but the design of the game is such that it's either to fundamentally change at level 10 or otherwise slow progression to a crawl. It takes as much XP to go from level 1 to name level as it does to go from name level to name level +1.

All that is to say that Regenerate is 100% there so DMs have an answer to the question on how to cure a major injury that implicitly makes it something the PCs must complete a quest to obtain. It's easier to bring back the dead!
 

I always figured, as Stormdale said, it was codified by the goldbox games (Pool of Radiance and its 3 sequels, Champions of Krynn and its 2 sequels, Gateway to the Savage Frontier and its sequel, and then Unlimited Adventures and however many modules they've got for that now), which used mostly 1st ed rules with more 2nd ed rules as time went on (probably by mistake). The games came out from 1988-1992, roughly at the transition between the first two editions, and the construction set lets you see the XP and the like for the monsters, some of which have 1e XP and some of which have 2e XP. Similarly I think in Pools of Darkness (one of the later entries in the series) the fire giants had 1e stats and the hill giants had 2e stats; a major boss battle is with Thorne, a red great wyrm as per 2e, flanked by seven huge ancient red dragons as per 1e (and Thorne's breath weapon even does a random amount of damage, as per 2e, while his helpers' breath does their maximum HP, as per 1e!).

Reducing a character or monster to 0 HP would produce the message 'SOAND SO GOES DOWN', and it would be stable at 0; if you put it to -1 to -9 HP you would see 'SOANDSO GOES DOWN AND IS DYING', and the character would indeed lose 1 HP every round until dying at -10; if you reduced it to -10 HP or less the message would be 'SOANDSO IS KILLED'.

In some of the earlier games this was a way to raise characters; it would apparently store dead characters' HP as 0, so you would cast a weak damage spell on them (say 'cause light wounds', which did 1-8) to reduce them to -3 or so...they were now 'dying', so you would bandage them and they were now 'unconscious', i.e. alive. ;)
 

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