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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

pogre

Hero
A fall from a great height is one of the most common hazards facing an adventurer. At the end of a fall, a creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it fell, to a maximum of 20d6.
The answer is not terminal velocity. That happens a considerable distance after this.

This came up in game when a player whose PC was a barbarian came to gorge 1,500' deep and said, "Yeah, I'll just step off."

I asked if they were committing suicide, because this was going to kill the PC. "Nope," the player replied, "The barbarian will survive the fall."

I stated unequivocally the PC would die - yes, I was aware of the rule - yes, I guess this is a ruling outside the rules, and therefore, a house rule that was unannounced. However, I countered, the player was exploiting player knowledge of the rules to benefit his PC.

So, that's where this question comes from - what purpose does the limit on falling damage serve? What am I missing?

I do remember the falling damage rules debates from the early Dragons and the subsequent ban on articles and letters on falling damage. Just reviving an old D&D tradition: Let's debate falling damage!
 

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Retreater

Legend
I have to assume the limit is based on the number of dice owned by the designers or their adding ability?
For me, I would just do something like 4 x every ten feet fallen. No dice rolling, just flatten out the math a bit.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
The answer is not terminal velocity. That happens a considerable distance after this.

This came up in game when a player whose PC was a barbarian came to gorge 1,500' deep and said, "Yeah, I'll just step off."

I asked if they were committing suicide, because this was going to kill the PC. "Nope," the player replied, "The barbarian will survive the fall."

I stated unequivocally the PC would die - yes, I was aware of the rule - yes, I guess this is a ruling outside the rules, and therefore, a house rule that was unannounced. However, I countered, the player was exploiting player knowledge of the rules to benefit his PC.

So, that's where this question comes from - what purpose does the limit on falling damage serve? What am I missing?

I do remember the falling damage rules debates from the early Dragons and the subsequent ban on articles and letters on falling damage. Just reviving an old D&D tradition: Let's debate falling damage!
FWIW, I agree with your ruling.

That said, I think it has to do with a cinematic/literary approach to falling. Most characters who fall in movies and stories don't die. Capping falling damage at 20d6 allows higher level characters to "age out" of dying from falls (assuming they have full hp).

That said, I agree it isn't meant to allow the players to game the system by taking a "shortcut" off a 1500' cliff.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Falling damage doesn't make sense, overall. Force from falling would not be linear at d6 per 10'. Also, smaller and larger creatures should take different amounts of damage for falling, generally. Force = mass * Acceleration, and the acceleration due to gravity is exponential. Accurate rules for falling damage would be cumbersome. The easiest thing to do would be to have sizes and distance and rolls to make to determine damage, but even then it would be awkward to look up and subject to arguments like crazy. In the end, you'd end up with the dragon killing move to be knocking them prone in the sky and letting the fall kill them... kind of non-heroic.
 








dave2008

Legend
Terminal velocity. There is a limit to how much damage can be done from a fall. Of course it is more complex than just height of the fall. But it does make sense that their is a cap. It is just too low and should be different for creatures of different size. Simple solution: use the falling rules, but change the die based on size (d4 tiny, d6 small, d8 medium, etc.) and cap it at 100d or something similar.

Of course you have to account for squirrels, but that is probably a specific rule not a general one.
 


Henry

Autoexreginated
I’ve thought about using 10% of your hit points per 10 feet fallen. Zero hit points equals death saves as normal. That way, a peasant survives a fall about as likely as a level 20 Barbarian. Easy to calculate, and let’s the player make the call. If you want more randomness, make it 1d10% per 10 feet fallen. That allows for the people falling 1000 feet and living to tell about it.

small creatures take 5% per 10 feet fallen, and large creatures and larger take 20% per 10 feet fallen, that way you’re at least paying lip service to gravity. (Small creatures can roll 1d6% per 10 feet, and large creatures can roll 2d8% per 10 feet if you’re doing random rolling).

past that, there’s not much point worrying about it In my opinion - I’ve always been fine with the heroic aspect of the fighter cliff-diving to join the battle and rescue his companions at the base of a cliff, once he dusts himself off. 😀
 

akr71

Adventurer
@pogre sure the barbarian in your post might survive the 20d6 falling damage, but from 1500' up, there's no way they can know what else is at the bottom of that gorge. Lava? Big jagged rocks? Acid pools? Some big nasty monster that's ready to pounce on the prone barbarian? All of the above?

However, I agree on both points - falling damage from ridiculous heights just isn't enough & the player shouldn't metagame like that.
 

dave2008

Legend
The answer is not terminal velocity. That happens a considerable distance after this.

This came up in game when a player whose PC was a barbarian came to gorge 1,500' deep and said, "Yeah, I'll just step off."

I asked if they were committing suicide, because this was going to kill the PC. "Nope," the player replied, "The barbarian will survive the fall."

I stated unequivocally the PC would die - yes, I was aware of the rule - yes, I guess this is a ruling outside the rules, and therefore, a house rule that was unannounced. However, I countered, the player was exploiting player knowledge of the rules to benefit his PC.

So, that's where this question comes from - what purpose does the limit on falling damage serve? What am I missing?

I do remember the falling damage rules debates from the early Dragons and the subsequent ban on articles and letters on falling damage. Just reviving an old D&D tradition: Let's debate falling damage!
PS - I completely agree with your ruling in this case.

EDIT: I might let them roll 2d20 and if they get a 20 on both rolls they could be at 0 making death saves maybe.
 

pogre

Hero
Probably because rolling 20d6 is already an unwieldy mess.

BTW the world record for surviving a free fall without a parachute is 33 330 ft.
I'm an old WFB player 20d6 is just getting warmed up!

I laughed at your post, because the player pointed out the same thing! ;)
 

jgsugden

Legend
My (for games that ask for realism) falling rules: Die size based upon creature size: d2 Tiny, d4 Small, d6 Medium, d8 Large, d10 Huge, d12 Gargantuan(+)

Damage: 1 die for 10 feet, 1+2 die for 20 feet, 1+2+3 die for 30', 1+2+3+4 dice for 40', 55 dice for 100 feet, etc...

Wings or other flight capabilities: If you have wings are not incapacitated, you reduce the damage by d12*10% (max 100%).

Monks: Monks reduce the effective falling distance with their ability by 15 feet per level. So, a 6th level monk would reduce a fall by 90 feet before determining damage to be taken. Normally, a 6th level monk reduces damage by 30 points, which is the average damage for an 80 to 90 foot drop.

Falling into liquids: 1/4 damage, generally.

Falling on soft surfaces: 1/2 damage, generally.

Not saying it is realistic, but it is more realistic than the base rules.
 
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pogre

Hero
I’ve always been fine with the heroic aspect of the fighter cliff-diving to join the battle and rescue his companions at the base of a cliff, once he dusts himself off. 😀
You know what? Me too. I'm even fine with 20d6 cap supporting a PC being dropped by a dragon at towering heights surviving to avoid the 'unheroic death' - this was the PCs came up to the edge of the cliff - the barbarian just steps off - because he knows he cannot die from the falling damage.

As I said in the OP, I certainly remember the old falling damage debates. I am totally on board for a simple solution.
 

Horwath

Hero
I would put falling damage at 20% of max HP per 10 ft.
a 50ft drop on your head WILL kill you.

if you jump down intentionally, reduce the fall by 10ft and another 10ft with DC15 athletics or acrobatics check, 20ft less with DC30 check.
 

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