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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
So we're just going with non sequiturs now? Cool.
Not we. You. I made a comment about metagaming and you tried to shift it elsewhere. I simply moved it back to what I was talking about.

So at what height does your store stop taking hp in payment for deliberate falling? When does it go from woah to Wile Coyote? 10 ft.? 50? 200?. And why is that your limit?
20 feet. You can hang down and drop off a 10 foot drop just fine. Go much higher than that and you are looking at significant pain. Go double that and you are likely to start breaking bones.

Oh the stuff that's already in the rules for martials. Truly, you are generous.
Thanks!
 

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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.
Extra attack is a core class feature of marials, more so Monks and Fighters. As those classes advance in level they make more attacks per round, and will make more attack rolls that casters in any event due to the fact casters often cast spells with no attack rolls attached.

Your high level action surging fighters are a Benny Hill skit, tripping over themselves, stabbing nearby friends and throwing away and breaking weapons regularly.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Not we. You. I made a comment about metagaming and you tried to shift it elsewhere. I simply moved it back to what I was talking about.
Ohhhh...right your comment about metagaming.
This is a metagame issue.
Where you don't say either what makes it an issue or the harm that results. But thank you for getting us back on topic with...
Metagaming is bad.
I appreciate your 'good faith' approach to this discussion.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
What would you say if it read, "if a flying creature suffers an effect that would otherwise knock it prone..."?
I'd take a long hard look at the effect and see if it made any sense for that effect to do anything relevant to a creature in flight, probably case by case e.g. something that affects a giant owl's flight might be ignored by a dragon or roc or nearly destroy a normal bird.

It is not insensible to think that the forces applied that knock standing creatures prone will, when applied to flying creatures, cause them to no longer be in controlled flight.
Sometimes, yes.

My quibble is that the way the rule is written, the creature so affected is given no chance of regaining control of its flight before hitting the ground. It's as if the writers assume all aerial combat will take place within a few tens of feet of the ground and-or against ground-based opponents and ignore the very real possibility of aerial dogfights or similar at considerably higher altitude.

Even a few hundred feet of fall would give most naturally-flying creatures time to regain control of their flight.

Again, I think that's a language issue - the character's speed is not the absolute value of their velocity in flight. It is their movement rate. Like, "this creature has a fly speed of 30".
Ah.

When I read "has its speed reduced to 0" I don't immediately leap to thinking of that as permanent immobility (particularly as that's noted separately as "loses the ability to move"); I instead think of it as meaning a temporary stop in forward motion leading to a rapid increase in downward motion.

What effects could or would permanently reduce flying movement rate to zero and not also freeze or paralyze the creature?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Reasonably sure what you are describing is RAW related to prone. That said if they start 'diving' lower than 600 ft (1 round of fall distance), they will hit the ground before they get the chance to recover (and potentially take the 'your hp mean nothing' version of fall damage).

Edit: also polymorphing the creature into a cow or something would accomplish a similar function as proning but even more effectively.
Good call on the polymorph - hadn't even thought of that one!

Yes, that would bring a flying creature down at exactly the speed of gravity. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Extra attack is a core class feature of marials, more so Monks and Fighters. As those classes advance in level they make more attacks per round, and will make more attack rolls that casters in any event due to the fact casters often cast spells with no attack rolls attached.

Your high level action surging fighters are a Benny Hill skit, tripping over themselves, stabbing nearby friends and throwing away and breaking weapons regularly.
Oddly enough, my own experience differs.

Now, keep in mind I'm not running 3e or 4e or 5e, in which high-level combats do seem to take significantly longer than low-level ones. But in my games, just going on gut feel as I've honestly never run any stats on this, I'd hazard a guess that in any given combat a Fighter takes about the same number of swings regardless of level. It's just that at lower level those swings are spread out over a greater number of combat rounds.

Put another way, low-level combats tend to take more rounds to finish than high-level combats - a Fighter might get 6 swings in a 6-round combat at 2nd level and at 8th level might get the same 6 swings at 2 per round in a 3-round combat: the party can bring more firepower to bear more quickly and thus the battle takes less in-game time to resolve.

The glaring exception would be battles vs hordes of mooks, which generally can't happen until mid-high level and which always take many rounds to finish.
 

Oddly enough, my own experience differs.

Now, keep in mind I'm not running 3e or 4e or 5e, in which high-level combats do seem to take significantly longer than low-level ones. But in my games, just going on gut feel as I've honestly never run any stats on this, I'd hazard a guess that in any given combat a Fighter takes about the same number of swings regardless of level. It's just that at lower level those swings are spread out over a greater number of combat rounds.

Put another way, low-level combats tend to take more rounds to finish than high-level combats - a Fighter might get 6 swings in a 6-round combat at 2nd level and at 8th level might get the same 6 swings at 2 per round in a 3-round combat: the party can bring more firepower to bear more quickly and thus the battle takes less in-game time to resolve.

The glaring exception would be battles vs hordes of mooks, which generally can't happen until mid-high level and which always take many rounds to finish.
Dude, a 20th level Fighter, literally the greatest warrior in the kingdom, has an 8/20 chance (action surge, extra attack 3) of stabbing himself in the face or tripping over a deceased imaginary turtle, or disarming himself in a six second combat round. At 1st level his chance is 1/20 of fumbling, a chance that doubles when he uses Action surge.

His chances of screwing up increases as he gains experience.

I strongly suggest limiting 'fumbles' to only be applicable to the first attack roll, saving throw or ability check you make in a turn.

That way the Fighter doesnt get a greater chance to trip over his own shadow and disembowel himself as he advances in level, and it creates a much more even 'fumble' system that affects all classes more or less evenly.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This is false equivalence, both from a rules perspective and (presumably) from a character perspective.

From a rules perspective, there are no rules for stabbing anything in a particular anywhere, while there are rules for 'a fall from great height'. Weapon damage tables reflect abstracted effectiveness rather than specific effects. In the case of 'I stab myself in the heart' you aren't 'overruling a rules exploit', you are making a ruling where no rule exists.

From a character perspective, by the time the character has the hp to reliably survive max fall damage, they've probably fallen a few times and survived. They may have seen other heroes survive these falls, possibly other even more impressive ones. In contrast, they have (probably) never seen anyone getting stabbed in the heart and survive.

So in one case you're making a ruling that overrides existing rules and may also run contrary to the character's (and the player's) experience of the world.

In the other, you're looking at making a ruling in the absence of rules, and your ruling reasonably reflects that character's experience of the world.
Fair enough.

What if they haven't fallen or seen anyone else fall any significant distance? I've played in campaigns where we made it to mid/high levels without ever taking falling damage. If the party contains a character who prepares feather fall, this is actually quite likely.

In any case, I disagree that a few falls would justify a character having a clear understanding of hit points and the "rules" of falling. The dice are variable. Sometimes a character might fall 60' and only take 6 damage. Other times they fall a mere 30' but take 18 damage. Even if we accept the rules as "physics", it would take a large number of falls to get a proper picture of how it all works. Sussing out the 20d6 cap would require many falls from heights of 200' or greater, which not many creatures could possibly survive in the first place.

That's neither here nor there though, as I don't ascribe to the idea of rules as physics.

The only circumstances under which I think that actually makes sense is if the premise of your game is that the players are in an MMORPG or something along those lines, in which case the premise gives you permission to meta game, at least within the context of what the player-characters would know. The players know about hit points because they can see health bars above everyone's heads.

On the other hand, in a standard TTRPG setup, I don't think that characters are meant to be consciously aware of HP or how falling damage functions. A high level character is confident in their skills and knows they're lucky, but has no concept of hit points. Only the player knows about hp. When the character has lots of hp, they feel great, with attacks that should have killed them going wide. When they are low on hp, they feel like they are on the ropes, with lethal blows coming ever closer to landing.

Hence, the character has no idea that they can walk off a 1500' cliff and survive without serious injury. Even if it has happened to them before, they'd simply believe that they were immensely lucky. However, no sane individual would want to push that luck and risk almost certain death just because they're feeling lazy. IMO, the only way to "justify" such action is if the player is meta gaming.

The characters perceive their world in essentially the same way as we perceive our own world. They are therefore unaware of game abstractions such as hit points, which only exist in the context of the game, rather than being a construct within the campaign world itself.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Dude, a 20th level Fighter, literally the greatest warrior in the kingdom, has an 8/20 chance (action surge, extra attack 3) of stabbing himself in the face or tripping over a deceased imaginary turtle, or disarming himself in a six second combat round. At 1st level his chance is 1/20 of fumbling, a chance that doubles when he uses Action surge.

His chances of screwing up increases as he gains experience.

I strongly suggest limiting 'fumbles' to only be applicable to the first attack roll, saving throw or ability check you make in a turn.

That way the Fighter doesnt get a greater chance to trip over his own shadow and disembowel himself as he advances in level, and it creates a much more even 'fumble' system that affects all classes more or less evenly.
Well, you can't be surprised really. After all, higher level PCs are more likely to fail their saving throws then at lower levels. Sad, huh?

On to the concept of critical fumbles. FWIW, our critical fumble system is:
  • If you can only miss your target on a natural 1, you cannot fumble.
  • If you can fumble and roll a natural 1, your attack action ends. (You might not like this, but it apply to monsters with multiattack, so helps PCs, too.)
  • Make a AC 10 attack roll to not drop your weapon (or spell focus/component pouch for spell attacks). It lands 5-30 feet away.
  • Make a AC 10 attack roll to not fall prone. If you fall, your speed is reduced to 0 until the start of your next turn. (You can't get back up immediately.)
So, since your proficiency bonus increases, you are less likely to fumble, dropping your weapon and/or falling prone. Even though you have more attacks, you can only "fumble" once since your attacks end. Like I said, that might be harsher, but since it applies to multiattack, a monster rolling a 1 and not getting more attacks has saved some PCs more than it has hurt the party IME.

It works for us. :)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'd take a long hard look at the effect and see if it made any sense for that effect to do anything relevant to a creature in flight, probably case by case e.g. something that affects a giant owl's flight might be ignored by a dragon or roc or nearly destroy a normal bird.
They generally involve a Str save, which should handle that for you.

My quibble is that the way the rule is written, the creature so affected is given no chance of regaining control of its flight before hitting the ground. It's as if the writers assume all aerial combat will take place within a few tens of feet of the ground
A combat round is six seconds. When falling, one's acceleration is (to first approximation) 32ft/s^2. Starting in level flight, in six seconds of falling, then, one drops 576 feet. So, they are assuming it is within a few hundred, not a few tens, of feet from the ground.

The solution to that is to simply continue the analogy. If it takes more than the time to the creature's turn to hit the ground, the creature takes half their movement to regain control - like a creature uses half their movement to rise from prone.

When I read "has its speed reduced to 0" I don't immediately leap to thinking of that as permanent immobility
There's stuff that'll reduce your speed to zero temporarily. Being Grappled or Restrained will reduce your speed to 0, for example, and those are conditions you can remove - they aren't necessarily permanent.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
From Xanathar's Guide to Everything:
Flying Creatures and Falling
A flying creature in flight falls if it is knocked prone, if its speed is reduced to 0 feet, or if it otherwise loses the ability to move, unless it can hover or it is being held aloft by magic, such as the fly spell.​
If you’d like a flying creature to have a better chance of surviving a fall than a non-flying creature does, use this rule: subtract the creature’s current flying speed from the distance it fell before calculating falling damage. This rule is helpful to a flier that is knocked prone but is still conscious and has a current flying speed that is greater than 0 feet. The rule is designed to simulate the creature flapping its wings furiously or taking similar measures to slow the velocity of its fall.​
If you use the rule for rate of falling in the previous section, a flying creature descends 500 feet on the turn when it falls, just as other creatures do. But if that creature starts any of its later turns still falling and is prone, it can halt the fall on its turn by spending half its flying speed to counter the prone condition (as if it were standing up in midair).​
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Fair enough.

What if they haven't fallen or seen anyone else fall any significant distance? I've played in campaigns where we made it to mid/high levels without ever taking falling damage. If the party contains a character who prepares feather fall, this is actually quite likely.

In any case, I disagree that a few falls would justify a character having a clear understanding of hit points and the "rules" of falling. The dice are variable. Sometimes a character might fall 60' and only take 6 damage. Other times they fall a mere 30' but take 18 damage. Even if we accept the rules as "physics", it would take a large number of falls to get a proper picture of how it all works. Sussing out the 20d6 cap would require many falls from heights of 200' or greater, which not many creatures could possibly survive in the first place.

That's neither here nor there though, as I don't ascribe to the idea of rules as physics.

The only circumstances under which I think that actually makes sense is if the premise of your game is that the players are in an MMORPG or something along those lines, in which case the premise gives you permission to meta game, at least within the context of what the player-characters would know. The players know about hit points because they can see health bars above everyone's heads.

On the other hand, in a standard TTRPG setup, I don't think that characters are meant to be consciously aware of HP or how falling damage functions. A high level character is confident in their skills and knows they're lucky, but has no concept of hit points. Only the player knows about hp. When the character has lots of hp, they feel great, with attacks that should have killed them going wide. When they are low on hp, they feel like they are on the ropes, with lethal blows coming ever closer to landing.

Hence, the character has no idea that they can walk off a 1500' cliff and survive without serious injury. Even if it has happened to them before, they'd simply believe that they were immensely lucky. However, no sane individual would want to push that luck and risk almost certain death just because they're feeling lazy. IMO, the only way to "justify" such action is if the player is meta gaming.

The characters perceive their world in essentially the same way as we perceive our own world. They are therefore unaware of game abstractions such as hit points, which only exist in the context of the game, rather than being a construct within the campaign world itself.
I think there might be some confusion regarding the level of insight the character has into whatever hp are intended to represent.

I'm not suggesting that the character has some kind of readout for current hp or anything. I'm suggesting that over the course of their heroic journey, they've faced increasingly perilous situations and come out on top. And, more than that, situations they encountered earlier in that journey are no longer perilous for them. They can handle more threats than they used to.

As it applies to falling, I wouldn't suggest that the character should know what a specific limit to the damage would be. But it doesn't seem unreasonable to me for a character to say to themselves 'well I fought 3 giants, a dragon and a squad of archers yesterday, this can't be worse than that'.

The player of course does have a greater insight regarding the exact tolerances of the character, so yes there is a metagame aspect to decision-making, generally. But I think that it is frequently unavoidable; the player knows just how low on health their character is, and their character behaves accordingly, whether that includes running through fire, taking opportunity attacks, etc. And I think that it is more often a feature than a bug; when players know their characters can live through cool/reckless/heroic decisions, they're more likely to take cool/reckless/heroic actions and when they know or suspect they won't live through the cool/reckless/heroic decisions, they'll either take safer actions or take the truly heroic ones.

Then at a certain point we get to how we like our heroism flavored. The example that's been around has been the guy who falls because he is 'lazy' and therefore aheroic, and I get the stigma there.

But it gets to be weird ground when we start deciding the things characters can do based on their motivations. Is greed an acceptably heroic motivation, or vanity? If so, why? If they are, is the guy who falls based on a dare or a bet protected? And if not, are adventurers expected to adventure unmotivated by riches or glory.

And this might not be a table problem, as you've had time to train your players what your 'You can't do that because I think it's ridiculous' thresholds are. But, I don't think it's reasonable to expect other players to have that perspective and take as normal that their characters should function differently than the rules describe.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I think there might be some confusion regarding the level of insight the character has into whatever hp are intended to represent.

I'm not suggesting that the character has some kind of readout for current hp or anything. I'm suggesting that over the course of their heroic journey, they've faced increasingly perilous situations and come out on top. And, more than that, situations they encountered earlier in that journey are no longer perilous for them. They can handle more threats than they used to.

As it applies to falling, I wouldn't suggest that the character should know what a specific limit to the damage would be. But it doesn't seem unreasonable to me for a character to say to themselves 'well I fought 3 giants, a dragon and a squad of archers yesterday, this can't be worse than that'.

The player of course does have a greater insight regarding the exact tolerances of the character, so yes there is a metagame aspect to decision-making, generally. But I think that it is frequently unavoidable; the player knows just how low on health their character is, and their character behaves accordingly, whether that includes running through fire, taking opportunity attacks, etc. And I think that it is more often a feature than a bug; when players know their characters can live through cool/reckless/heroic decisions, they're more likely to take cool/reckless/heroic actions and when they know or suspect they won't live through the cool/reckless/heroic decisions, they'll either take safer actions or take the truly heroic ones.

Then at a certain point we get to how we like our heroism flavored. The example that's been around has been the guy who falls because he is 'lazy' and therefore aheroic, and I get the stigma there.

But it gets to be weird ground when we start deciding the things characters can do based on their motivations. Is greed an acceptably heroic motivation, or vanity? If so, why? If they are, is the guy who falls based on a dare or a bet protected? And if not, are adventurers expected to adventure unmotivated by riches or glory.

And this might not be a table problem, as you've had time to train your players what your 'You can't do that because I think it's ridiculous' thresholds are. But, I don't think it's reasonable to expect other players to have that perspective and take as normal that their characters should function differently than the rules describe.
Just because you've faced peril and survived, doesn't mean that you assume you can walk off a 1500' cliff and live. The men who survived the storming of Normandy endured extreme peril, but I seriously doubt any of them would expect to walk off a 1500' cliff and be fine.

I believe that it matters whether the player is trying to meta game and abuse the rules vs playing their character like a believable person who fits the tone of the campaign. Laziness is the simplest in-character "justification" for that meta gaming in this circumstance, but certainly not the only possible one.

I'm not sure why you're claiming that I'm expecting everyone to see things as I do. I've said multiple times to play as you like, as well as qualifying many of my statements with subjective modifiers such as IMO (in my opinion) or IMC (in my campaign).

As for taking issue with their characters functioning differently than the rules describe, everything is subject to rule zero.

You, yourself, stated that stabbing yourself in the heart falls outside the hit point rules. That's also making characters function differently from what the rules describe. From a purely RAW perspective, stabbing yourself in the heart with a dagger should deal 1d4+modifier damage. If a character declares that they are stabbing themselves in the heart and you decide it does something other than 1d4+mod damage, you've changed the rules on them (probably unexpectedly, unless you have a house rule for stabbing yourself in the heart).

The rules are a framework for adjudication of circumstances that are expected to come up in a game of heroic fantasy. They can't be expected to cover every possible corner-case situation. That's one of the GM's primary roles IMO. To bridge the gaps between what the finite rules cover, and the infinite options that the players might attempt.
 




doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
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.
Well, except that if I can get a boulder dropped on me, solidly enough that I am pinned by it, without any actual injury, I...probably can walk away from big falls. And I know it.

For a human, jumping down 40+ feet is not heroic, it's downright stupid and suicidal, and the rules should reflect that.
It is heroic. It's exactly the sort of thing heroes do.

Yes, and both of those are good things.

Trying to leap from a clifftop onto the back of a passing dragon is - and should be - extremely high-risk, with failure meaning death.
That sounds like a boring game, to me.

Well, you can't be surprised really. After all, higher level PCs are more likely to fail their saving throws then at lower levels. Sad, huh?
Well, that's not accurate. Rather, higher level enemies have harder abilities to save from, as they should. It always bothered me that my character had the same chance to save from the abilities of a lich as from the abilities of a low level necromancer. Like that...shouldn't be the case. Me being more powerful as well doesn't make that not weird.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Well, that's not accurate. Rather, higher level enemies have harder abilities to save from, as they should. It always bothered me that my character had the same chance to save from the abilities of a lich as from the abilities of a low level necromancer. Like that...shouldn't be the case. Me being more powerful as well doesn't make that not weird.
Well, it is accurate really when you look at the larger picture. But, sure, it is only part of it, so if you want the whole story...

Overall a high level character is less likely to make saves because the DCs increase (as you know), but for two-thirds of the saves, they don't. Example, my rogue, who is resisting a DC 12 Frostbite spell, is just as likely to fail at 1st level as he is at 20th. Odds are, he only has a +2 CON mod at level 1, and probably the same at level 20. When you consider most saves don't improve, but the DCs they are saving against do get higher, you are more likely to fail them. The net effect is (again, overall) you are more likely to fail the saves you will likely face at higher levels than at lower levels.

And yes, it is wrong, which is why our group changed it. :)
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, it is accurate really when you look at the larger picture. But, sure, it is only part of it, so if you want the whole story...

Overall a high level character is less likely to make saves because the DCs increase (as you know), but for two-thirds of the saves, they don't. Example, my rogue, who is resisting a DC 12 Frostbite spell, is just as likely to fail at 1st level as he is at 20th. Odds are, he only has a +2 CON mod at level 1, and probably the same at level 20. When you consider most saves don't improve, but the DCs they are saving against do get higher, you are more likely to fail them. The net effect is (again, overall) you are more likely to fail the saves you will likely face at higher levels than at lower levels.

And yes, it is wrong, which is why our group changed it. :)
The rogue should fail the save more often when it's against more powerful enemies. An ancient dragon or a powerful lich should be more dangerous, even to the PCs, than a wyrmling or an apprentice necromancer.

edit: again, that isn't a case of the rogue getting worse at saves. They're the same. They're just facing much more dangerous enemies. Those are two different things.
 

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