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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

Gammadoodler

Explorer
In what way is this a tough guy thing? A high level wizard or rogue with a decent Constitution could walk off a cliff and survive. You don't have to be a barbarian to pull it off. The barbarian can simply do it a few levels earlier.
It's a tough guy thing in that the barbarian can do it a few levels earlier, exactly as you described. I don't think that's controversial.
It's not something I've ever seen Conan, an archetypal barbarian, do. Conan might leap off a tall cliff because of reasons, or he might fall, but never because he's simply too lazy to try climbing. That would be absurd and would totally ruin the reader's suspension of disbelief. It's the sort of thing I might expect to read in an exceptionally bad piece of Conan fan-fic. It's certainly not the kind of campaign I want to run though.
So, he's leapt, and he's been thrown from great heights, but you'd assume the one time Conan wanted to cheat on his cliff climbing workout, he'd die?
This is not a martial/caster thing. This is about not blatantly meta gaming. It's about respecting the verisimilitude of the game.

I don't think calling it a nerf is reasonable. It's not intended as a nerf. It will never even come up for a player who takes a campaign like mine seriously, and plays their character like a living person who isn't indestructible

Whether it is intended to be a nerf doesn't matter. It is a nerf. They are limitations layered onto the core rules and specifically they are limitations that have a greater impact on characters with more hp (martials).

I don't begrudge you your campaign where your players have agreed to these nerfs. Have fun. But ask yourself next time the party faces a giant or dragon or army or archdevil, purple worm, lich or whatever, "Should these living non-indestructible people really have more chance of surviving this than if they jumped off a cliff?"
 

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Correct. And?

And that was her point. Either you misunderstood what she was saying, or you also engaged in a Strawman and argued something she wasn't saying.

1. Is 'Falling expertise' part of the DM handbook? Part of the players handbook? Are we only letting physics majors and forensics scientists play D&D now?

No, but basic common sense is. It's blindingly obvious that falls aren't the same, even if from the same point.

2. Even assuming that we somehow answer 'yes' to question number 1, has someone published a full list of the physical constants and rules for all the imaginary worlds we play in to make such spot-on circumstance-specific rulings?

We don't need to answer yes to your Strawman of my argument. It's painfully obvious to even laymen that falls vary.

3. Assuming we have a 'yes' to questions 1 and 2... somehow.. are we trying to say that it is more realistic that a desperate failed leap onto a moving mythological creature is less deadly than a deliberate planned leap where there are no visible obstacles?
Pardon me. Not Strawman. Strawmen.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So, he's leapt, and he's been thrown from great heights, but you'd assume the one time Conan wanted to cheat on his cliff climbing workout, he'd die?

Not Conan. Conan's player. This is a metagame issue.

Whether it is intended to be a nerf doesn't matter. It is a nerf.

It "nerfs" virtually every class, magical or otherwise. Only the Bard, Sorcerer and Wizard have feather fall on their spell list, and isn't smart to include Featherfall in the list of prepared spells. It's so incredibly rarely useful that you'd be gimping yourself by taking it.

They are limitations layered onto the core rules and specifically they are limitations that have a greater impact on characters with more hp (martials).

I prefer my martial characters to have better super powers than, "I can splat and live!" I prefer heroes.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Martials make more attack rolls than casters, and have more hit points as a class feature.

If you houserule fumbles, martials will fail more than casters than they do under RAW. Fighters and Monks in particular get clumsier as they advance in level.
Obviously, the more opportunities you give yourself to fumble the more often it'll happen, though the odds of fumbling on any given attack or action almost enver change.

Ditto if you make some silly insta-gib houserule. You're depriving classes the advantage of their hit points, a resource that martials get more of.

There are already rules for falling damage, lava and assasination of sleeping or incapacitated creatures in the rule-book. Martials (having more hit points) are more likely to survive all three.
There's a whole lot of things in my game that bypass hit points completely - lava (usually) and assassination or coup-de-grace (always, if successful) are but two. Among the others are some poisons, petrification, drowning or suffocating, being digested by certain creatures, and more. Falls from stupid heights also qualify*, barring a miraculous series of saves to replicate the one-in-a-very-big-number chance of survival seen in reality.

It also might be worth noting at this point that my opinion of 5e is that it's in general far too easy on the characters, which in part is why I don't run it. The falling damage question, however, also spans to the game I do run, hence my jumping in here.

* - a character in my game once fell 10,000 feet onto a stone pyramid. Just for kicks I pulled out all the dice in my bag (all sizes) and rolled them as the damage roll - if I'd rolled all 1s the character would have survived; I probably could have even lobbed a few 2s in there. I actually rolled somewhat below average, but the character still finished at -126 h.p.

They were later (barely) able to scrape up enough bits to allow Resurrection to work.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Sure.. it is absolutely permissible to play under any set of ground rules (no pun intended) the table agrees to including, 'I, the DM may take away or disregard your class features if I find your descriptions of your actions insufficiently realistic...unless, of course, it's magic..in that case, go nuts'.
Being able to brush off a 1500' fall and walk away isn't a class feature of anyone, therefore I'm not taking anything away.

Sometimes, no matter how many hit points you have, they just ain't gonna help you.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend

Not Conan, but still Arnie.

John Matrix leaps from the landing gear of an airborne aircraft which has just taken off so is travelling in excess of 200 MPH, and from a height of at least 100 feet (30m at least).

Luckily (i.e. LOTS OF HP) he lands in a swamp and survives.
No offense, but that's totally irrelevant.

Not only is it not Conan, I'm pretty sure he didn't fall into the swamp simply because he was feeling too lazy to walk a few hundred feet.

It's a tough guy thing in that the barbarian can do it a few levels earlier, exactly as you described. I don't think that's controversial.

So, he's leapt, and he's been thrown from great heights, but you'd assume the one time Conan wanted to cheat on his cliff climbing workout, he'd die?




Whether it is intended to be a nerf doesn't matter. It is a nerf. They are limitations layered onto the core rules and specifically they are limitations that have a greater impact on characters with more hp (martials).

I don't begrudge you your campaign where your players have agreed to these nerfs. Have fun. But ask yourself next time the party faces a giant or dragon or army or archdevil, purple worm, lich or whatever, "Should these living non-indestructible people really have more chance of surviving this than if they jumped off a cliff?"
It's not a class feature at all as I see it, and therefore not a nerf. Being able to intentionally walk off a 1500' cliff in order to quickly get down (and survive) is not a feature of any class.

HP still impact everything that they do impact across all classes equally.

Stepping off a cliff is handled the same way for the wizard and the barbarian, along with every other class. That the wizard might have prepped feather fall doesn't change that calculus, any more than if the wizard hadn't but the barbarian was wearing a ring of feather fall (or whatever).

To me, the one time Conan decides to "cheat on his cliff climbing workout" he stops being Conan. That's not something that Conan does, because he's a flesh and blood person (albeit, an imaginary one). If he behaves so, it points out his fictional nature and wrecks the enjoyment of the audience. About the only way to salvage it at that point is to let the fall kill Conan, because suicidal actions taken on the part of a character reasonably lead to deadly outcomes.

By stepping off the cliff voluntarily IMC, you're not acting in good faith if you expect to survive. I run the NPCs as if they were living people (most of my NPCs will try to run away if an encounter isn't going their way, for example) and I expect the players to do the same. By treating the character this way, the player is reducing them to mere stats on a sheet of paper. Guess what, real people, even tough fictional people, do not walk off 1500' cliffs just because they feel lazy, as that behavior is suicidal. They might if they had some form of invulnerability, but as I've explained, HP do not confer invulnerability IMC (and I think this is a fairly standard and reasonable interpretation of hit points).

Yes, absolutely a character should have more chance of surviving a fight with a dragon than they would intentionally walking off a cliff. The former is perfectly within the realm of heroic fiction. It is almost certainly expected by everyone at the table. Whereas the latter is suicidal. It's the equivalent of putting your head between the dragon's jaws and letting it bite down with full force. Guess what, HP won't save you from that one either IMC.
 

Obviously, the more opportunities you give yourself to fumble the more often it'll happen, though the odds of fumbling on any given attack or action almost enver change

A Wizard can get to 20th level without ever making a single attack roll (spamming cantrips and spells with save or sucks), and lose nothing.

A Fighter cant. In fact, as he advances in level, he makes even more attack rolls (as a core class feature) making him.... more likely to fumble as he advances in level.

There's a whole lot of things in my game that bypass hit points completely

And who gets more HP as a core class feature?

So when you choose to ignore HP, who are you punishing here?
 

HP still impact everything that they do impact across all classes equally.

No they dont. Damage disproportionately impacts classes with less HP than it does classes with more HP.

Deal 10 damage to a 1st level Wizard. Now do it to the 1st level Barbarian.

Higher HD is a fundamental class feature of martials, granting them luck and plot armor typical of the sword using hero of fiction on which DnD is heavily based. If you're ruling 'insta-death' for things that RAW are simply HP damage, then you're depriving martials of the advantages of that class feature.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
No they dont. Damage disproportionately impacts classes with less HP than it does classes with more HP.

Deal 10 damage to a 1st level Wizard. Now do it to the 1st level Barbarian.

Higher HD is a fundamental class feature of martials, granting them luck and plot armor typical of the sword using hero of fiction on which DnD is heavily based. If you're ruling 'insta-death' for things that RAW are simply HP damage, then you're depriving martials of the advantages of that class feature.
I don't think RAW says much about walking off a cliff. Any more than it does about a character stabbing themselves in the heart, or smoking a stick of dynamite.

Even if I were to accept your argument at face value, this would be no more unfair than any number of abilities that ignore hp, such as a banshee's wail which takes you directly to 0 hp. Or a creature like a beholder, which can neutralize magic.

As I see it, HP are intended for non-suicidal actions. Not for sticking your head between a dragon's jaws to see whether your skull is stronger that their bite.

I completely disagree that this deprives martials of anything. It limits the player's ability to meta game, sure. However, it doesn't limit the character, IMO, because I don't for one second believe that the HP and falling rules were designed with the intent of allowing high level characters to walk off a tall cliff as a means of getting more quickly to the botton.
 

I don't think RAW says much about walking off a cliff. Any more than it does about a character stabbing themselves in the heart, or smoking a stick of dynamite.

Ive already said I dont roll with a PC deliberately walking off a cliff and letting his HP sort it out, knowing full well he'll survive. Thats meta-gaming in the extreme.

Wouldn't allow it on those grounds. If a Player did it anyway despite those warnings, he dies.

It's a different story than if the PC falls though. In those cases his high HP and HD serve the role they're supposed to (and are granted to him for) and we narrate it accordingly.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Ive already said I dont roll with a PC deliberately walking off a cliff and letting his HP sort it out, knowing full well he'll survive. Thats meta-gaming in the extreme.

Wouldn't allow it on those grounds. If a Player did it anyway despite those warnings, he dies.

It's a different story than if the PC falls though. In those cases his high HP and HD serve the role they're supposed to (and are granted to him for) and we narrate it accordingly.
Of course. I've said as much.

It sounds like we're pretty much on the same page.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Higher HD is a fundamental class feature of martials, granting them luck and plot armor typical of the sword using hero of fiction on which DnD is heavily based. If you're ruling 'insta-death' for things that RAW are simply HP damage, then you're depriving martials of the advantages of that class feature.
Except what she is doing IS RAW. RAW says that the rules aren't in charge, the DM is. When something doesn't make sense, like a Barbarian blithely walking off of a 1500 foot cliff and surviving, it's RAW for the DM to just rule death happens. The goal isn't slaughter of the PCs, but if a PC takes an action that would very reasonably result in death, it's within the DMs power by RAW to rule that death happens rather than just roll 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!
The reason for the Massive Damage rule, when introduced in 2nd Edition, was largely to prevent this. . .to make it so that no matter HOW many HP you have, there's still at least a chance of dying if you take a huge amount of damage (like terminal velocity falling) at once.

They knew 30+ years ago when making 2e, that the high-level barbarian with a ton of HP just deciding to take a terminal velocity fall because he KNEW he could survive the fall no matter what was a design problem.

Hence the "save or die if you take 50 HP of damage or more at once" rule.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I remember that Spelljammer had rules for how much damage you'd take each round from atmospheric re-entry. Which is probably the extreme example of going beyond 200 feet.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
And that was her point. Either you misunderstood what she was saying, or you also engaged in a Strawman and argued something she wasn't saying.
.. Or I fail to see the significance of the distinction. Players will have their characters do or not do many hazardous things based on calculated risks. A classic is 'Do I take the opportunity attack?'. At certain hp levels the opportunity attack would be life threatening. At others, it would not. In either case the player is using the metagame knowledge of their current hp, and the potential damage to make the choice. Other examples may include 'Do I run through that wall of fire" or "do I try to block that doorway". Somehow it's only specifically 'falling' where this behavior becomes unacceptable?

No, but basic common sense is. It's blindingly obvious that falls aren't the same, even if from the same point.

We don't need to answer yes to your Strawman of my argument. It's painfully obvious to even laymen that falls vary.
Ah. Is it as 'blindingly obvious' as it is that different weapon strikes even from the same wielder (much less different wielders) vary? And yet somehow we don't ask the DM to make a ruling for every weapon strike. Instead we rely on weapon damage tables and rules abstraction to save the day.

It's almost as if D&D is a game rather than a simulation.

Pardon me. Not Strawman. Strawmen.
You realize this was a direct comparison between the OP's stated scenario and Fanaelialae's acceptably heroic example right? The point is in 'real life' heroic actions are on average more reckless than planned ones and, as such, more likely to fail. Yet here we want to act as if the opposite is true.

I mean there's a question here, are we more concerned with maintaining verisimilitude, or with punishing metagaming?
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
.. Or I fail to see the significance of the distinction. Players will have their characters do or not do many hazardous things based on calculated risks. A classic is 'Do I take the opportunity attack?'. At certain hp levels the opportunity attack would be life threatening. At others, it would not. In either case the player is using the metagame knowledge of their current hp, and the potential damage to make the choice. Other examples may include 'Do I run through that wall of fire" or "do I try to block that doorway". Somehow it's only specifically 'falling' where this behavior becomes unacceptable?


Ah. Is it as 'blindingly obvious' as it is that different weapon strikes even from the same wielder (much less different wielders) vary? And yet somehow we don't ask the DM to make a ruling for every weapon strike. Instead we rely on weapon damage tables and rules abstraction to save the day.

It's almost as if D&D is a game rather than a simulation.


You realize this was a direct comparison between the OP's stated scenario and Fanaelialae's acceptably heroic example right? The point is in 'real life' heroic actions are on average more reckless than planned ones and, as such, more likely to fail. Yet here we want to act as if the opposite is true.

I mean there's a question here, are we more concerned with maintaining verisimilitude, or with punishing metagaming?
The verisimilitude we are concerned with here is not that of the real world, but rather that of heroic fiction. In heroic fiction, a hero fighting a dragon is expected, but a hero walking off a 1500' cliff because they're too lazy to climb down shatters credulity. As such, the prevention of meta gaming and preservation of verisimilitude go hand in hand.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Of course. But you're cant conflate character knowledge with player knowledge, which you keep doing. They arent the same thing.
I don't think that I am, at least not in this particular instance. In order for us to assume a character is acting rationally, we must assume they have some idea of what they can 'handle'. HP represent that understanding for the player. And at some point, it's not unrealistic for a character to look down from on high and go 'yeah I could handle that (but it'd hurt like hell)'. Otherwise, the character wouldn't risk the climb either.
 

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