weigh in: damage effects at bloodied and below

lyle.spade

Adventurer
I've been thinking of trying out a graduated system of damage effects, in order to inject some penalty for taking damage. I recognize how abstract HP are, but I can't help but think that some sort of penalty to rolls when you're below bloodied is appropriate.

Here's my idea: at bloodied, all skill, ability, and power rolls for a PC are -2. Upon hitting the value of that PC's healing surge, the penalty increases to -5. I picked those numbers because -2 is the standard DM's fiat penalty, and it's also expressed in some combat modifiers, like concealment. I took -5 for similar reasons -- it's a value expressed by other modifiers, and represents a significant step up from -2.

I've never been a huge fan of "you're fine...you're fine...you're fine...you're incapacitated!" damage systems, but I don't like a lot of housekeeping, either. I thought that this would be easy system to manage, since it relies on known characteristics and is based off accepted modifier numbers.

Thoughts?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Alex319

First Post
I've been thinking of trying out a graduated system of damage effects, in order to inject some penalty for taking damage. I recognize how abstract HP are, but I can't help but think that some sort of penalty to rolls when you're below bloodied is appropriate.

Here's my idea: at bloodied, all skill, ability, and power rolls for a PC are -2. Upon hitting the value of that PC's healing surge, the penalty increases to -5. I picked those numbers because -2 is the standard DM's fiat penalty, and it's also expressed in some combat modifiers, like concealment. I took -5 for similar reasons -- it's a value expressed by other modifiers, and represents a significant step up from -2.

I've never been a huge fan of "you're fine...you're fine...you're fine...you're incapacitated!" damage systems, but I don't like a lot of housekeeping, either. I thought that this would be easy system to manage, since it relies on known characteristics and is based off accepted modifier numbers.

Thoughts?

Well, first, I would say that instead of "the value of the PC's healing surge" you should say "1/4 the PC's maximum hit points." Certain abilities (like the Dragonborn racial ability) increase your healing surge value, and it doesn't make sense to say that that would also make it so you get the -5 penalty sooner.

Other than that I only see two main issues:

1. Certain abilities and character builds give special bonuses when you are bloodied. Your change nerfs these abilities significantly, because players have to take severe penalties in order to use them, which could easily offset any bonuses. Suggestion: Aside from removing the penalty on specific abilities (which would be complicated and could easily make those abilities way more powerful than others) I can't think of anything. But as long as players know about this, they can just avoid builds that rely on being bloodied, so it's not much of a loss.

2. The so-called "Death Spiral" problem - players have much less chance of a come-from-behind victory if they have a significantly less chance of hitting when they are close to dead. Especially so because even a lot of healing and defensive type powers in 4e have to hit to be effective. Effectively this might force players to nova at the beginning of the encounter, because if they wait until the end it will be too late. Suggestion: Make it so that if a character spends an AP, he can ignore the bloodied penalty until the beginning of his next turn (in addition to all the other benefits of spending an AP.) This gives PCs a chance to save themselves if they are behind, but at a significant cost. Also this adds a tactical decision: do I spend the AP at the beginning in order to knock down the monsters faster, or do I wait until the end when I'm bloodied and need to use it to hit?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Our heroic fiction and reality once in a while agree, not that reality is much of an argument for D&D but I love the irony when they agree.

Doctors and the Military/FBI say the death spiral people "feel" ought to be realistic... isn't realistic, studies concluded that people do indeed function at or near peak plus or minus a few percentiles when damaged, and then shock hits in and they are effectively taken out. It turns out that achieving an adrenaline rush which over-rides injury is "normal" ... A Discovery channel episode a little while back covered the Doctors perspective but it has been years since I was looking at the online document from the us gov, not even sure where to find it now.

For a good simulation we could give everybody battlerager vigor so that when there temporary hitpoints fail at the end of the encounter the penalties then set in.

If you want realistic penalties have them be after the battle.
 

Daniel D. Fox

Explorer
I use a very similar ruleset.

Anytime someone is bloodied, they take a -1 to all d20 rolls. If they're bloodied multiple times, it's cumulative. If they're knocked down to 0 or below, they take another penalty.

The penalties sustain until the character makes a successful moderate Endurance check at the end of an extended rest. Otherwise, they continue to suffer the wound.
 

Alex319

First Post
I use a very similar ruleset.

Anytime someone is bloodied, they take a -1 to all d20 rolls. If they're bloodied multiple times, it's cumulative. If they're knocked down to 0 or below, they take another penalty.

The penalties sustain until the character makes a successful moderate Endurance check at the end of an extended rest. Otherwise, they continue to suffer the wound.

Interesting. I assume that "bloodied multiple times" means that you are bloodied, then you heal above bloodied, then you get knocked down to below bloodied.

One possibly unintended consequence I can see is that once players are bloodied, then they will try to avoid healing above bloodied in order to avoid getting the penalty again.

For example, suppose I have 50 hit points and are knocked down to 22 hit points, making me bloodied. If I then heal for 10 hit points and then take 10 more hit points of damage, then I got unbloodied and then bloodied again, so I get more penalty. If I instead took the 10 additional hit points of damage first and then healed, I would have gone down to 12 and up to 22, staying bloodied the whole time, so no additional penalty.

Effectively, characters will try to avoid having hit point values near the cutoff. This could mean an interesting, if unintended, dynamic - do I heal now to get to just above bloodied, which means that if I get hit again I will get another penalty, or do I wait, avoiding another penalty but also making it more likely I'll end up below zero?

My suggestion for avoiding this (if desired) would be to specify that even if you are bloodied multiple times during an encounter, you only can only get a -1 added to your penalty once per encounter. (After each encounter, it's still always beneficial to heal up to full, because "full health" is still as far away from the bloodied cutoff as you can get.)
 

lyle.spade

Adventurer
thanks -- keep the ideas coming!

Thanks for the great, thoughtful replies thus far. They're exactly what I was looking for in posting.
 


I dunno, but the more I think about this the less I want to subject my players to that kind of death spiral mechanic. Chances are once they're bloodied they are in a tough fight and if their opponents already have the edge then all of a sudden the battle becomes virtually hopeless.

It also has a disproportionate affect on defenders because it is FAR more likely that the fighter standing at the front of the party is going to be bloodied. In fact it is pretty close to guaranteed your fighter is going to be bloodied in every non-trivial combat, usually they'll be down close to 0 HP unless the encounter is trivially easy. So it almost turns into a -2 to hit for fighters, which is not really especially cool.

The original version also seems much too harsh to me. -2 is a pretty serious penalty in any tough battle. -5 is virtually 'combat ineffective' in such a situation. I'd definitely tone it WAY down if you do it at all. Like -1 at 1/4 of full HP and thats it. At the very least I'd allow some kind of endurance or healing check to allow disregarding the penalty.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top