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5E Why is there a limit to falling damage?

Gammadoodler

Explorer
ah yes; because dragon.

See, I don't disagree with you - in a world where magic exist, everything can happen. But I dislike your argument, in all due respect, because it assumes that the existence of magic necessarily negates physical laws, or at least, the internal D&D physical logic, like falling damage. Magic is by definition something that breaks or affects the "mundane" physical laws. If I knew more about magic myself, I could judge how the cleric and the warlock's mechanics convey a believable portrait of magic. But I don't. I do however know about falling.

Suspension of disbelief is much easier when we can imagine something that isn't real, and more difficult when it contradicts something we experience, or have experience of. Clearly this does not bother you, which is cool, but one can accept magic and yet reject mechanics they don't find relatable, and that should be cool too. One does not necessarily implies the other.
Sure, you as a DM can absolutely can choose to reject mechanics intended to reflect physical laws which you find 'unrelatable' while accepting magic as 'just fine'.

At that point though, it is a 'you as the DM' problem, not a player problem. And it is a DM problem because it is an explicit nerf to the classes without access to magic bulshittery.
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
Sure, you as a DM can absolutely can choose to reject mechanics intended to reflect physical laws which you find 'unrelatable' while accepting magic as 'just fine'.

At that point though, it is a 'you as the DM' problem, not a player problem. And it is a DM problem because it is an explicit nerf to the classes without access to magic bulshittery.
Disallowing a rules exploit is not a nerf.

I wouldn't allow a character to take a shortcut off a 1500' cliff by soaking the fall using HP. IMO, that's not what the falling rules or HP were intended for. If you get knocked off that cliff by a monster, then sure (but I probably wouldn't put a cliff like that in an encounter where you can fall, since if you fall you're basically ejected from the encounter and possibly even the adventure).

Along similar lines, I wouldn't allow a wizard to wish for a hydrogen bomb. That would be a similar meta-gaming abuse IMO.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Disallowing a rules exploit is not a nerf.

I wouldn't allow a character to take a shortcut off a 1500' cliff by soaking the fall using HP. IMO, that's not what the falling rules or HP were intended for. If you get knocked off that cliff by a monster, then sure (but I probably wouldn't put a cliff like that in an encounter where you can fall, since if you fall you're basically ejected from the encounter and possibly even the adventure).

Along similar lines, I wouldn't allow a wizard to wish for a hydrogen bomb. That would be a similar meta-gaming abuse IMO.
Would you allow them to use feather fall, fly, slow fall, teleport, etc.? Are those somehow less exploitative? If so.. Why?
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
Yes. In the case of the OP, I believe the behaviour of the character was more disruptive that the actual rules, not because it was wrong, but because it broke suspension of disbelief for that particular DM (and other players?).

But otherwise, IRL references are hard to translate in D&D, as stated before. I very much doubt that the person surviving the 1500 ft. fall kept on fighting or running afterward, let alone being conscious. They probably broke every single bone in their body and spent many months healing and learning to walk again. In D&D's terms, that's more like being reduced to 0hp, not dying outright, and succeeding on all three death saves.

That case, IRL, is a statistical anomaly. Not unlike rolling all 1s on 20d6 for 20 damage. For all we know, again translating into D&D logic, that person had 11hp, took 20 damage (just shy of being killed outright), had the PC "privilege" of rolling death saves, succeeding all three. In D&D, that's any 1st level PC with d8 HD and 16 Con, or any d10 HD with 12 CON, or a barbarian with 8 Con (or going really meta, a raging barbarian with 3 Con). It's highly improbable, to the point of being negligible, but technically possible. In more likelyhood where the fall causes 70 damage, a 36hp character could survive, providing that all three death saves are succeeded. That's more like a 4-5 level character, or a 2nd level raging barbarian.
I was talking about PCs who have enough HP to still be up and walking around. Any fall over 600 feet and raging probably stops (unless you somehow damage yourself) as that is about how far you'd fall in 6 seconds.

And though I can't find the article, I read about a guy who fell something like 10,000 feet, got up, and walked away without a single broken bone. I read about it years ago--if I find it I'll post it. But, there are many other similar falls that normally would kill and people never broke a bone or were severely injured (granted, these are even more extreme cases that those who simply survived).

Either way, surviving a long fall is a statistically anomaly--and my point was so are decently high level PCs. :)
 

Ace

Adventurer
And for every one of those stories there are hundreds or thousands of gravestones memorializing the rest that fell that far.

Absolutely. PC's in D&D at least when its not 3d6 in order tend to be exceptional people in a very magical world so I tend to err on the side of woah over realism in D&D games.
 

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.

A better approach than this (because far less heroic people survive much worse falls - however bad this was, they do - some of them ludicrously unharmed) is that if you fall over a certain distance you have to make a DEX save against some increasing DC to be reduced to 0 HP and then start having to make death saves normally.

You could factor exhaustion in somehow too - it's not a bad substitute for being broken and bruised in a world with magical healing and superhuman constitutions and so on. Maybe let them auto-pass the death saves if they take 2 levels of exhaustion or something.
 

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!

I think it was in the 2E PHB where they said the reasoning was because people have freakishly survived enormous falls, so it is meant to allow for that. Know nothing about the real world lethality of those kinds of falls, but just remember the reasoning had something to do with that. Pretty sure they mentioned terminal velocity as well, but the big reason seemed to be the former. Too lazy to get my PHB out and check though (it would have been in the 89' 2E book I think, not the one that came out in the mid-90s.

To me this seems like something that is best handled by house rules. If you think there shouldn't be a limit, take the limit off. But given that D&D isn't super realistic, I think it generally works well with the cap for most groups.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Would you allow them to use feather fall, fly, slow fall, teleport, etc.? Are those somehow less exploitative? If so.. Why?
Yes. Of course they're less exploitive. Those are specific movement-based special effects that allow you to get down a high cliff without issue.

The barbarian character is using player knowledge of HP and the falling rules to meta game their way down the cliff. If they had 20 HP left, they never would have even suggested that, since they'd have known it could kill them.

If the barbarian had a helm of teleportation, or a gnomish parachute, or a feature that allowed them to fly, those would work just as well as the spells you mentioned. They would not be exploiting the rules nor would they be meta gaming.

I suppose that in a campaign where HP are interpreted as making you an ablative version of Superman (nothing can hurt you until you reach 0 HP) then leaping off a 1500' cliff wouldn't be meta-gaming, since a character would have a sense that swords just bounce off their rock hard skin (until they don't), so why not the same with the fall?

That's not how HP are handled IMC. They are skill and luck. The fire giant's sword doesn't bounce off your rock hard skull when you get hit, you simply manage to dodge what would have been a killing blow for a lesser hero. That will apply in most circumstances, but it assumes good faith. If you jump off the 1500' cliff without a reason, that's not in good faith and I will warn you that doing so will result in your character's death. Similarly, your character intentionally stabbing themself in the heart is also something HP cannot shield them from.
 

I think what I would do in this situation, given that the actual issue is metagaming in a way that breaks immersion (stepping off because he can, rather than falling in the line of adventuring), is to ask the player if there is some way he can describe it that doesn't break immersion.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Yes. Of course they're less exploitive. Those are specific movement-based special effects that allow you to get down a high cliff without issue.

The barbarian character is using player knowledge of HP and the falling rules to meta game their way down the cliff. If they had 20 HP left, they never would have even suggested that, since they'd have known it could kill them.

If the barbarian had a helm of teleportation, or a gnomish parachute, or a feature that allowed them to fly, those would work just as well as the spells you mentioned. They would not be exploiting the rules nor would they be meta gaming.

I suppose that in a campaign where HP are interpreted as making you an ablative version of Superman (nothing can hurt you until you reach 0 HP) then leaping off a 1500' cliff wouldn't be meta-gaming, since a character would have a sense that swords just bounce off their rock hard skin (until they don't), so why not the same with the fall?

That's not how HP are handled IMC. They are skill and luck. The fire giant's sword doesn't bounce off your rock hard skull when you get hit, you simply manage to dodge what would have been a killing blow for a lesser hero. That will apply in most circumstances, but it assumes good faith. If you jump off the 1500' cliff without a reason, that's not in good faith and I will warn you that doing so will result in your character's death. Similarly, your character intentionally stabbing themself in the heart is also something HP cannot shield them from.
I disagree. To me those tools ultimately are damage mitigation abilities (for at least slow fall and feather fall, this is explicit). And while the barbarian doesn't have those tools, what they have is the ability to absorb damage.

As far as how you rule in your campaign, you've already said, you'd probably let the guy live if he got knocked off. So to you, a character can only take advantage of his 'luck and skill' when fighting monsters, not when making planned, calculated, purposeful decisions to execute an action.

Separately, your interpretation of hp somehow makes barbarians the luckiest and most skillful characters in the game, which is...odd to say the least.

In addition, an accusation of metagaming based on current hp totals presupposes that characters have no internal awareness of whatever resource yo want to say that hp represent. This is silly. If that were true, no character would ask for healing, bc they're never know they need it.

And, at the end of the day, if the barbarian chooses to take that vertical shortcut, its not free. They still have to pay the hp cost. As such, if the goal of the gorge was to get the party to expend resources to traverse it, mission accomplished.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I disagree. To me those tools ultimately are damage mitigation abilities (for at least slow fall and feather fall, this is explicit). And while the barbarian doesn't have those tools, what they have is the ability to absorb damage.

As far as how you rule in your campaign, you've already said, you'd probably let the guy live if he got knocked off. So to you, a character can only take advantage of his 'luck and skill' when fighting monsters, not when making planned, calculated, purposeful decisions to execute an action.

Separately, your interpretation of hp somehow makes barbarians the luckiest and most skillful characters in the game, which is...odd to say the least.

In addition, an accusation of metagaming based on current hp totals presupposes that characters have no internal awareness of whatever resource yo want to say that hp represent. This is silly. If that were true, no character would ask for healing, bc they're never know they need it.

And, at the end of the day, if the barbarian chooses to take that vertical shortcut, its not free. They still have to pay the hp cost. As such, if the goal of the gorge was to get the party to expend resources to traverse it, mission accomplished.
I definitely think it is meta gaming for a character with 121 HP to feel perfectly safe stepping off the cliff, but as soon as they are reduced below that it becomes a calculated risk because falling damage is capped at 20d6.

You don't need to disallow any internal knowledge of HP to not have a perfectly tuned awareness of HP.

Besides, as I've explained that's simply not how they work IMC. A character who falls 1500' and survives will feel lucky to be alive and in one piece. They're not going to believe that they can just teleport to the top and do it again without consequences, even if meta knowledge says they could.

They could use their HP if they got knocked off. They could even use them if they took a calculated risk (tried to jump on the back of a dragon as it swooped by). But not in meta gaming circumstances.

To reiterate my position, surviving a fall off a cliff is primarily luck. A character who acts out of arrogance and walks off the cliff because they are too lazy to climb down will find that their luck abandons them. You see this not infrequently in heroic fiction. Pride comes before the fall. Albeit, typically not in quite such a literal sense.

If it were just about the PC expending resources like in a board game, then sure, it might be reasonable. However, this is an RPG. The concern is one of verisimilitude. Not just your own, but for everyone at the table.

I believe thar dynamite deals something like 4d6 damage in D&D. Do you think that a high level barbarian should be able to smoke a stick of dynamite like a cigar and walk away mildly singed? I don't. To me that is absolutely absurd and cartoonish, and would shatter my suspension of disbelief. Much like a character walking off a cliff for no reason other than feeling lazy. If you smoke a stick of dynamite in my campaign, that character will die (though I would give a clear warning regarding this outcome).
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
I definitely think it is meta gaming for a character with 121 HP to feel perfectly safe stepping off the cliff, but as soon as they are reduced below that it becomes a calculated risk because falling damage is capped at 20d6.

You don't need to disallow any internal knowledge of HP to not have a perfectly tuned awareness of HP.
This is a straw man, but I'll bite. It's a calculated risk either way and at all levels of hp, because in all cases, the barbarian will take the damage.

Besides, as I've explained that's simply not how they work IMC. A character who falls 1500' and survives will feel lucky to be alive and in one piece. They're not going to believe that they can just teleport to the top and do it again without consequences, even if meta knowledge says they could.

They could use their HP if they got knocked off. They could even use them if they took a calculated risk (tried to jump on the back of a dragon as it swooped by). But not in meta gaming circumstances.

To reiterate my position, surviving a fall off a cliff is primarily luck. A character who acts out of arrogance and walks off the cliff because they are too lazy to climb down will find that their luck abandons them. You see this not infrequently in heroic fiction. Pride comes before the fall. Albeit, typically not in quite such a literal sense.

If it were just about the PC expending resources like in a board game, then sure, it might be reasonable. However, this is an RPG. The concern is one of verisimilitude. Not just your own, but for everyone at the table.
So in your mind ruling parallel circumstances differently leads to greater verisimilitude? o_O

I believe thar dynamite deals something like 4d6 damage in D&D. Do you think that a high level barbarian should be able to smoke a stick of dynamite like a cigar and walk away mildly singed? I don't. To me that is absolutely absurd and cartoonish, and would shatter my suspension of disbelief. Much like a character walking off a cliff for no reason other than feeling lazy. If you smoke a stick of dynamite in my campaign, that character will die (though I would give a clear warning regarding this outcome).
And if they laid on this dynamite to shield their party from harm? 4d6 damage? More realistic? More verisimilitude?

I guess I just have to wonder, are the fireball-casting wizard, and the wild-shaping druid, and the unpoisonable monk all going "wait that's not realistic" when the tough guy in the party goes to do tough guy things? Like..seriously?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is a straw man, but I'll bite. It's a calculated risk either way and at all levels of hp, because in all cases, the barbarian will take the damage.

It's all calculated risk, but it's not all risk of death from the fall.

So in your mind ruling parallel circumstances differently leads to greater verisimilitude? o_O

Are all falls of 1500 feet going to be identical, even if you jump from the same spot? If you answer yes, you don't understand falls. If you answer no, different rulings for the same fall lead to greater verisimilitude.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
It's all calculated risk, but it's not all risk of death from the fall.
Correct. And?

Are all falls of 1500 feet going to be identical, even if you jump from the same spot? If you answer yes, you don't understand falls. If you answer no, different rulings for the same fall lead to greater verisimilitude.
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?
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?
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?
 


All three of those apply equally well to non-matrials as to martials.

Wizards can fumble with aimed spells in my game and anyone can fumble in combat; and if you step into lava or get assassinated in your sleep it doesn't matter what class you are, you're gonna die.

Not seeing any specific anti-martial things there.

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.

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.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
This is a straw man, but I'll bite. It's a calculated risk either way and at all levels of hp, because in all cases, the barbarian will take the damage.

So in your mind ruling parallel circumstances differently leads to greater verisimilitude? o_O

And if they laid on this dynamite to shield their party from harm? 4d6 damage? More realistic? More verisimilitude?

I guess I just have to wonder, are the fireball-casting wizard, and the wild-shaping druid, and the unpoisonable monk all going "wait that's not realistic" when the tough guy in the party goes to do tough guy things? Like..seriously?
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 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.

This is not a martial/caster thing. This is about not blatantly meta gaming. It's about respecting the verisimilitude of the game.

Maybe you have a table where this kind of thing wouldn't be seen as immersion breaking, and if so it might not be an issue for you. That's fine.

However, 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.
 

1. Is 'Falling expertise' part of the DM handbook? Part of the players handbook?
It’s part of the agreement that players, including the DM, take when they start a game. Not all D&D games need to play with the same style, even if they’re all played by RAW. Players and DM must then play the rules in good faith of what the decided on.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
It’s part of the agreement that players, including the DM, take when they start a game. Not all D&D games need to play with the same style, even if they’re all played by RAW. Players and DM must then play the rules in good faith of what the decided on.
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'.
 

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 not something I've ever seen Conan, an archetypal barbarian, do.


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.
 

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