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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

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.
There you go again.

Stop conflating what your player knows with what your character knows.

Your character knows that falls hurt, and even minor falls can kill. Just like what we know.
 

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reelo

Explorer
One of the reasons why "system shock" SoD should come back in some form. 1d6 damage for the first 1 feet, 2d6 for the next, 3d6 for the next, and so forth, so 6d6 for 30 feet, 10d6 for 40 feet, etc.
And everything above 30 feet should require a SoD check.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
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.
It seems to me that by this reasoning, many second level characters would believe themselves able to handle stabbing themselves in the heart with a dagger. Even if we assume a crit and max modifier, the most that dagger can do is 13 damage. So once a character has at least 14 HP they can stab themselves in the heart once a day every day and be no worse for wear (let's say they're doing it in town where it's safe rather than while adventuring).

To me, however, that's completely unreasonable. If you get stabbed in the heart you are dead or dying. HP simply help prevent you from getting stabbed in the heart. Not by making your chest impervious to daggers, but rather by allowing you to dodge the attack that would have stabbed a lesser hero through the heart.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
One of the reasons why "system shock" SoD should come back in some form. 1d6 damage for the first 1 feet, 2d6 for the next, 3d6 for the next, and so forth, so 6d6 for 30 feet, 10d6 for 40 feet, etc.
And everything above 30 feet should require a SoD check.
They sort of have it with the Massive Damage rule, but it is only at 50% of max HP, which for a high level PC with good CON is not reached by the 70 avg dmg from 20d6 still; and it isn't SoD of course.

I've played around with a bunch of rules for things like this but a lot of tables don't want them because they want more "heroic" games.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
One of the reasons why "system shock" SoD should come back in some form. 1d6 damage for the first 1 feet, 2d6 for the next, 3d6 for the next, and so forth, so 6d6 for 30 feet, 10d6 for 40 feet, etc.
And everything above 30 feet should require a SoD check.
They sort of have it with the Massive Damage rule, but it is only at 50% of max HP, which for a high level PC with good CON is not reached by the 70 avg dmg from 20d6 still; and it isn't SoD of course.

I've played around with a bunch of rules for things like this but a lot of tables don't want them because they want more "heroic" games.
If your goal is to simply make falling deadlier, then sure.

However, IMO, a feature of the existing system is that it isn't particularly deadly, which mirrors much of heroic fiction (even in the gritty stuff, like Joe Abercrombie's books, major characters rarely die from falling).

Obviously, if you want a more lethal system that's fine. However, at least for myself, making falling more deadly would be undesirable since that might discourage heroic actions (and could be used to decimate flying opponents as well). I like the falling rules as they are; I simply have no desire to see players abuse those rules.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Except what she is doing IS RAW. RAW says that the rules aren't in charge, the DM is.
So, was this expectation about falling damage set at start of play... or even anywhere along the way? Have characters been taking falling damage as normal throughout the game?

Because, while the GM is in charge, they do have some responsibility to be consistent. It they haven't set it forth beforehand, to depart from established pattern suddenly isn't really a great move on the GM's part.
 
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reelo

Explorer
If your goal is to simply make falling deadlier, then sure.

However, IMO, a feature of the existing system is that it isn't particularly deadly, which mirrors much of heroic fiction (even in the gritty stuff, like Joe Abercrombie's books, major characters rarely die from falling).

Obviously, if you want a more lethal system that's fine. However, at least for myself, making falling more deadly would be undesirable since that might discourage heroic actions (and could be used to decimate flying opponents as well). I like the falling rules as they are; I simply have no desire to see players abuse those rules.
For a human, jumping down 40+ feet is not heroic, it's downright stupid and suicidal, and the rules should reflect that.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
For a human, jumping down 40+ feet is not heroic, it's downright stupid and suicidal, and the rules should reflect that.
In the case of jumping down for no reason, I agree.

However, there is also the case of falling. If you make falling damage too deadly, no player is going to want their character to leap off the cliff onto the back of the dragon as it swoops by. Moreover, it makes fighting monsters that have knockback on a cliff extremely deadly. Lastly, it can be used to trivialize flying monsters by simply knocking them from the sky.

It isn't that you shouldn't make falling deadlier if that is your preference. However, those are reasons that I prefer the existing rules.

It may not be realistic per se, but it isn't at all unusual for a character who falls while behaving heroically to survive in heroic fiction. Hence, I don't see it as a problem in terms of verisimilitude.
 


Saelorn

Hero
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.
This is a case of blatant meta-gaming... on the part of the DM. You made your ruling (that this fall is fatal) based entirely on factors external to the game world. There's absolutely no reason why the ground would take the character's intent into consideration, when determining how hard they hit. The only things that could possibly affect such a thing are those factors which are actually internal to the game world - the composition of the falling body, what it lands on, and possibly the technique with which they fall.

I have nothing against a blanket house rule regarding the lethality of falling, but it does raise inconsistencies with other parts of the system. I mean, falling from twelve stories up is pretty lethal, but it isn't significantly more lethal than getting shot with ten arrows. In my experience, this line of thinking is a short step from claiming that the rules don't actually model the things that they're clearly attempting to model, even though they spend quite a bit of effort in quantifying the various relevant factors; which raises the further question of why anyone would use this ruleset in the first place, if it doesn't even tell us what's actually going on in the world.

To answer your question, though, the purpose of the limit on falling damage is to reflect that mundane physical hazards really aren't a threat to creatures of a certain power level. It would be inconsistent for any being to die from a simple fall, if they could otherwise withstand taking a meteor to the face. And, whatever else you may try to do with them, Hit Points are still the metric which is used to govern tolerance against injury.
 

auburn2

Explorer
The rules are designed to provide a simple easy to follow formula for something that physically has a myriad of conditional variables.

To start with, the rules are soft so you don't wipe out a member on an unlucky die roll. If the party is looking at climbing up to a cave 30 foot up the mountain the wizard might be very hesitant to risk the climb if a fall means near-certain death (as it would in real life), even the burly fighter with athletics proficiency might be hesitant because there is a legit (say 20%) chance of a fall. Do you really want to tell the player - "that is it your done, the rest of us will continue"

Second while it is relatively simple to calculate free fall acceleration, most of the falls are not that. Most of them are fall in a pit trap, fall off a wall you are climbing, slip and fall down the rope. All of these cases are much less ambiguous, because you are sliding, briefly contacting the wall, trying to stop yourself etc. Given the OP example - faced with presumably near-certain death from some monster on the ledge Conan decides to jump off and try to slide down the cliff face. I could see that happening, but it really is dependant on the situation.

Keep in mind on September 11th 2001, some people DID jump out of the windows of the World Trade Center. I believe all of them died, but they presumably did this because they thought they had a better chance then burning/suffocating. So it is not unreasonable that someone would do this even if faced with certain death. If this was the kind of choice the Barbarian was making I would allow him to do it.

What I would do at the table would depend on the situation. Remember and remind the player that the DM is the ultimate judge and if you say the fall is going to kill him then it is going to kill him and I disagree with others that say there is an inconsistency. You also do not have to house rule it either, it could be just for this situation. Just like you don't have to house rule it if two PCs say one of them is going to cut the head off of the other PC and show it to the townsfolk to intimidate them - "Ok Conan cuts off Frodo's head. A greatsword does 2d6, you rolled a 10, so Frodo you lose 10 hp and have 45 hp remaining. Conan you wave Frodo's head in front of the crowd, roll intimidation with advantage .... Frodo it is your turn what do you do?" You wouldn't say that or allow it, this is no different IMO IF the Barbarian was really approaching it in a similar fashion
 
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reelo

Explorer
It would be inconsistent for any being to die from a simple fall, if they could otherwise withstand taking a meteor to the face. And, whatever else you may try to do with them, Hit Points are still the metric which is used to govern tolerance against injury.
That's why I said "system shock" needs to come back. De-coupled from hitpoints or loss thereof.
 


reelo

Explorer
...it makes fighting monsters that have knockback on a cliff extremely deadly. Lastly, it can be used to trivialize flying monsters by simply knocking them from the sky.
Fighting monsters with knockback on a cliff certainly should be extremely risky.

Knocking flying monsters from the sky is a viable tactic. It certainly is realistic.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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.
The odds of that in fact happening are about the same as those of surviving a 1500' fall on to rocks, i.e. miniscule at best.

In my game any ray spell needs a roll for aim, any AoE spell needs a roll for aim, any touch spell needs a roll to hit if the target is in melee or otherwise hard to reach (unless the caster is also the target, but that'd be odd as casting in melee is nigh impossible); and all of these can be - and occasionally, spectacularly, have been - fumbled.

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.
And also more likely to crit, for what it's worth, though in either case it's a false premise.

On any given roll the odds of critting or fumbling are, barring external factors, exactly the same as on any other roll. On that basis, the odds of fumbling never change.

Now if you want to aggregate it and look at the odds of fumbling per day or per adventure you can (and it seems that's what you're doing), but doing so gives a faulty sense of the odds of fumbling increasing where in fact they do not.

And who gets more HP as a core class feature?

So when you choose to ignore HP, who are you punishing here?
Everyone equally. In my view there's times when hit points will prevent or delay death and other times when they won't.

The 'class feature' is that in situations where hit points do help, those classes have more of 'em. Going over the side of a 1500' cliff is not one of those situations.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
.. 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".
Because in the fiction the character there might see a reasonable chance of survival: if I don't trip and get through the fire-wall fast enough I'll only get singed (and might even come through unharmed at all), for example.

And sometimes players in fact want their characters to go the heroic-suicide route. An adventure I ran that went sideways for the PCs some years back eventually saw three surviving but badly hurt PCs trapped behind a Glyph of Warding, with no curing available. They knew what the glyph was, and that it was a one-shot deal, but that to pass through it would kill any one of them. And so one of the PCs passed his magic items off to the others, said "It's been a pleasure knowing you" and took one for the team, allowing the other two to escape back to town.

Somehow it's only specifically 'falling' where this behavior becomes unacceptable?
No character should be able to look over a 1500' cliff and see any reasonable chance of surviving a free-fall to the bottom. This is the difference between this example and the wall-of-fire example that you don't seem to grasp.

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.
When done best, it's both.

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?
Given as how the two almost invariably go in lockstep, I'd say both.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Fighting monsters with knockback on a cliff certainly should be extremely risky.

Knocking flying monsters from the sky is a viable tactic. It certainly is realistic.
Even with the existing falling rules those are useful tactics. Making falling capable of an instant kill could make it too good. Certainly a spell like Reverse Gravity suddenly goes from good to amazing.

Again, I'm not saying you shouldn't do it. I'm just listing reasons why I prefer the existing rules.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
If your goal is to simply make falling deadlier, then sure.

However, IMO, a feature of the existing system is that it isn't particularly deadly, which mirrors much of heroic fiction (even in the gritty stuff, like Joe Abercrombie's books, major characters rarely die from falling).

Obviously, if you want a more lethal system that's fine. However, at least for myself, making falling more deadly would be undesirable since that might discourage heroic actions (and could be used to decimate flying opponents as well). I like the falling rules as they are; I simply have no desire to see players abuse those rules.
Where I want falling any significant distance to be dangerous no matter what, if for no other reason than to maybe make players think twice before sending their PCs aloft via whatever means (fly spell, levitate, etc.).

And I don't have any safety-nannies on those spells either, unlike the more recent D&D editions: if the spell ends and you're still up there, down you come at the speed of gravity.

And yes, this means Dispel Magic on an opponent who's using magic to fly could be bad news for said opponent, but so what? And if the opponent has DM while you're in the air... :)
 

Saelorn

Hero
That's why I said "system shock" needs to come back. De-coupled from hitpoints or loss thereof.
Not that I completely disagree, but in my experience, any mechanic that bypasses Hit Points can only serve to further devalue their meaning. If you don't want a game where people can survive incredible amounts of trauma, then choosing to play D&D at high levels is incredibly counter-productive.
 

pogre

Hero
Not that I completely disagree, but in my experience, any mechanic that bypasses Hit Points can only serve to further devalue their meaning. If you don't want a game where people can survive incredible amounts of trauma, then choosing to play D&D at high levels is incredibly counter-productive.
Lately, I have played a lot of high-level D&D and this has not matched my experience at all. The side that gets the drop on the other has a huge advantage and hit points do become trivial in a hurry.

We all have different experiences - as long as we and our players are satisfied and having fun, I think there are several legitimate ways to approach high level play.
 

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