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5E Wound Levels instead of Death Saves house rule


I go also for simplier rule.

Don’t change rules about exhaustion.
Simply give a level of exhaustion if a character is put to 0 hit points.
He Is supposed to be dying, it should be serious.
If not enough, add a level of exhaustion each time a death save is missed.

Obviously having some pc with levels of exhaustion may cause a retreat in a safe place, and longer period of rest to get rid of all exhaustion.

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For both my current campaigns and my last set of campaigns I also did the "Exhaustion Table instead of 3 Death saves" for when PCs hit 0. I also much prefer it because it gives meaning to dropping to 0 HP. But as I also had a bit of a conceptual issue with the first level being Disadvantage on ability checks (one of the items on the list I think should be less likely to result from being really tired)... I re-arranged my Exhaustion table as so:

Level 1: Speed reduced to half.
Level 2: Max HP reduced to half
Level 3: Attacks and saves at disadvantage
Level 4: Ability checks at disadvantage
Level 5: Speed reduced to 0
Level 6: Death

By doing it this way, it punishes a PC's ability to fight any further before it punishes them from doing standard non-combat actions (like remembering stuff about magic or talking to people.) Which is what I prefer. If you are getting hammered and beaten down in combat... then I think its your combat skills that should take the penalties first. Because then it inspires players to not let a single PC take all the damage. They realize they can't let their tank take ALL the damage, because that will just exhaust him and then they won't actually have an effectual tank for the next fight. So they learn to distribute damage over more players... and thus things like the stupid archer Ranger PC (who has oftentimes just as many HP as the melee characters) can't just continually hide in the trees like a wimp. They actually have to man up and sometimes take a hit.

Because nobody wants their melee tank to lose half their max HP. Because then they are really screwed if they can't get away to go and rest.


I would even place maximum hit point reduce by half to the first level.
Hit points are the most reliable way to mesure your level of health.
I think it should be the first involve.
Six level of exhaustion is also too much for my taste.
I would go for less.

Level 1 max hp reduce by half. Badly injured. Still functional but running on adrenaline and will to survive.

Level 2 disadvantage on everything. ennemies have advantage on you. Half speed. Severely injured. Obvious sign of wounds and capacities reduction.

Level 3 speed 0. Incapacited. You definitively need external help.

Level 4 death.

It would be easier to remind,
And of course frenzy berzerker power will need a review.
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The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I would combine attacks/saves/ and ability checks into the same level, giving all disadvantage. Really, attacks and saves are simply checks as well. But I don't think I would agree to give advantage against the injured player as well. If I did, that would be the next level:

1: Half Max HP/ half speed.
2. Disadvantage on ability checks, attacks, and saves.
3. Ability checks, attacks, and saves against you have advantage.
4. Speed 0. May only take an action or a bonus action on your turn. No reactions.
5. Death

Now for those who have been discussing using exhaustion when at 0 hp, would you keep the levels of exhaustion the same for when it comes up at other times, like a forced march, etc.?


As long as i get to be the frog
Noted. But 5MWDs has not been a problem at my table ever, really. Two reasons I think:

1) I think my players seem to stick to an unspoken compact that their PCs aren't really all that interested in just resting all the time and as long as their are plausible story based consequences to taking too long they will push on.

2) We have other house rules that addresses this. Short rests only take 15 minutes or so but you can only benefit from them 3 times between long rests and long rests take 24 hours and require a place that is safe, comfortable and well supplied. There is no such thing as a long rest on the dungeon floor while monsters are actively lurking about or on the side of a frozen mounting during an overland journey.

Also, long rests are not as beneficial for us as the PCs recover -no- hp during a long rest but instead regain their full HD, which they can spend at the end to recover some HP if they like. So if they are low on HP but still have most of their spells and other powers and some HD available there is not that much point in taking a long rest. I have observed that my players will tend to press on as long as they have at 25% or more of their powers and slots available.

The reason this has come up is my players have found the "whack-a-mole" combat encouraged by RAW to be silly. Part of that is a consequence of the Good Berry spell I suppose...we have a Druid and a Ranger so every time someone goes down it basically just costs the party an action or at most two to restore that PC to fighting with no other real consequences. So we implemented that exhaustion thing and they really like it. I am just considering taking it this one step further to entirely remove the "whack-a-mole" effect but then that will make gaining exhaustion that much more common...so I want to give them a resource trade off for that...sure you can stay in the fight but it will cost you wounds and that will cost you HD
You mentioned whack-a-mole. We removed whack-a-mole from our games. Death occurs at 0 hp. PC's get a small initial boost of hp to compensate.

I'm not a fan of death spiral mechanics.

It seems you describe your party as willing to continue instead of rest all the time. If they are already doing that then you've gotten more consequences than you realize as they are forcing consequences of less than full hp on themselves. I'm not sure what taking away more from them accomplishes. But if you must instist on taking something away, give them less hit dice back on a rest.


Now for those who have been discussing using exhaustion when at 0 hp, would you keep the levels of exhaustion the same for when it comes up at other times, like a forced march, etc.?
I do, which is why I have "move at half speed" as level 1. In my table experience that's the least punishing thing of the ones in the list, and thus allows for both the Berserker Barbarian and the forced march concept to come into play and not completely wreck things.

In my mind's eye as I visualize this... the forced march scenario results in both the marchers and the guards first moving double speed (move and then Dash) until the marchers gain the exhaustion level. Then as the marchers now drop to half-speed... when they move and Dash it equals the guard's standard move speed. This then allows the guards to now use their Actions to whip the bejeezus out of marchers while they all go the speed of the guard's normal movement.


Are we looking at the whack a mole problem or the quick recovery from 0HP?

For whack a mole and am likely to try out the following rule, that I'm calling "Final Desperation" in the Curse of Strahd adventure I'll run.

The rule is simple: at 0HP, death saves are still made as normal, but the character does not go unconscious, and does not fall prone.

There is no whack a mole in this as the mole does not go down. It gives the player an opportunity to disengage and try to run, or even fight to the death of they choose it. It also makes them still a valid target for enemies who will attack them and grant automatic failures if they connect. I'm interested to see how it plays out.

The most common house rule I've seen for lingering effects is exhaustion if a character was dropped to 0HP. I know people that have tried it and they seem to like it.

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