Wounds - when would you give them?

Laurefindel

Explorer
Assuming that the group really wants it: What triggers would you use to decide to give a player or enemy a wound, such as a break, sprain, etc...? Failed death saves? Critical Hits (maybe after a saving throw)? Taking damage that brings them below a certain threshold?
We don't use wounds, but I though of incorporating some sort of lasting injuries for a more Lord of the Ring-esque game that never happened.

I felt that suffering a critical hit happened too frequently, and that it shouldn't be systematic on going down to 0 hp so I had decided to trigger lasting injuries on failed death saves only (regardless of margin). Some failed saving throw/ability check could trigger one too, such as failing an Strength (Athletics) check after falling and at least one d6 produced a result of 6. Basically, there were triggers and then some sort of confirmation roll by player (death save, athletics check, Con saving throw, etc). I'd have to dig that document up.

I had also considered a system allowing players to willingly choose one lasting injury in exchange of remaining at 1 hp after taking damage or going back to 1hp when dying. It had the advantage of including more abstract injuries such as "smashed shield" or "killed mount". Each injury could only be taken once in a character's career. Death was even a possible choice allowing for the "it is too late for me my son, tell your sister you were right about me" trope when a player got through all possible outcomes, I guess? That system never passed the first draft stage.

I also heard of homebrew that triggered a lasting injury upon failing three death saves, whereas death was only one of the possible outcomes.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
As a broad rule, statement of principle, I do not inflict as a matter of vourse persistent effects by dint of die rolls alone. There has to be an in- play acceptance or elevation of the risk by the characters.

So, there might be persistent penalties due to continued exposure to an exceptional hazard without protection. Perhaps it would be seen thst a given legendary foe has a notable risk that if not protected against can inflict these - not at all unlike some creatures can inflict reductions in max hp, sever limbs, swallow whole etc but along different lines.

As a rule these are exceptional, tend to be unique and often have references to counters.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Low level characters rarely take 20 damage from a hit (at level 1, this would be instant death for many characters). On the other hand, at higher levels it isn't unusual for many attacks to deal that kind of damage. If the wet-behind-the-ears squire never breaks his arm, while the legendary Herakles is perpetually walking around with both arms in slings, the system is producing weird and likely undesirable results.
I'm okay with the idea that any random chump is so incredibly weak that they would die outright from lesser impacts than would be required to break a bone. They would also die outright from any impact that is strong enough to break a bone.

I'm also okay with the idea that the legendary Herakles can survive incredible wounds, even if they are sufficient to break his bones. That's just a side-effect of enduring blows so powerful that they would outright kill a lesser person.
Based on the PHB description of injuries, there should barely be a scratch on him.
The PHB description of HP damage is that different DMs like to describe it differently, so it's going to vary from table to table. They give one example of a method that a DM could use, which is no less problematic than any other method.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
I'm okay with the idea that any random chump is so incredibly weak that they would die outright from lesser impacts than would be required to break a bone. They would also die outright from any impact that is strong enough to break a bone.

I'm also okay with the idea that the legendary Herakles can survive incredible wounds, even if they are sufficient to break his bones. That's just a side-effect of enduring blows so powerful that they would outright kill a lesser person.
The problem isn't that Herakles can survive incredible blows that would kill a lesser man, but only injure him. It's that routine threats he will face are likely to injure him, unlike the case for a newbie adventurer.

Put it another way. A goblin with a club should arguably have a chance to break a wimpy level 1 wizard's arm, but can't (because even on a crit it can't deal 20 damage).

OTOH, if Herakles and his three best legendary buds decide to slum a bit and deal with some giants that are way below their CR, they will be taking injuries left and right (because those giants can regularly dish out 20 damage).

Sure, giants hit way harder than goblins. But if your system makes it massively more likely for the giants to break a legendary character's arm than a goblin is with some no-name wimp, it doesn't pass the smell test IMO.

Characters shouldn't grow weaker (compared to appropriate threats for their level) as they gain experience.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
The problem isn't that Herakles can survive incredible blows that would kill a lesser man, but only injure him. It's that routine threats he will face are likely to injure him, unlike the case for a newbie adventurer.
[...]
Characters shouldn't grow weaker (compared to appropriate threats for their level) as they gain experience.
You seem to be assuming a lot of meta-game contrivance, to ensure that high-level characters only face high-level threats. If that's the case, then a flat damage threshold may not work for you.

Personally, I'm more concerned with how the world works in an objective sense, rather than a relative one. The giant will only break Herakles's arm, and has very little chance of killing him; where it would kill the chump outright. Herakles can also go stomp over an army of goblins with impunity, where the chump can't. This is consistent and believable, from a world-building standpoint.

So high-level enemies can reliably inflict the wounded condition. That's not inherently a bad thing. High-level enemies can inflict many conditions that low-level enemies cannot. Maybe the threshold should be 30 instead of 20, whatever.

High-level characters also have much more reliable access to high-level healing magic. If Herakles gets a broken bone, he can probably get it fixed without much hassle. Contrast to other methods of distributing wounds, such as percentage-based or critical hits: if a low-level chump suffers a wound whenever he takes six damage, or gets crit, then the player may well wish that he'd died, because he's going to have to live with that for a looong time.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
You seem to be assuming a lot of meta-game contrivance, to ensure that high-level characters only face high-level threats. If that's the case, then a flat damage threshold may not work for you.

Personally, I'm more concerned with how the world works in an objective sense, rather than a relative one. The giant will only break Herakles's arm, and has very little chance of killing him; where it would kill the chump outright. Herakles can also go stomp over an army of goblins with impunity, where the chump can't. This is consistent and believable, from a world-building standpoint.

So high-level enemies can reliably inflict the wounded condition. That's not inherently a bad thing. High-level enemies can inflict many conditions that low-level enemies cannot. Maybe the threshold should be 30 instead of 20, whatever.

High-level characters also have much more reliable access to high-level healing magic. If Herakles gets a broken bone, he can probably get it fixed without much hassle. Contrast to other methods of distributing wounds, such as percentage-based or critical hits: if a low-level chump suffers a wound whenever he takes six damage, or gets crit, then the player may well wish that he'd died, because he's going to have to live with that for a looong time.
It's consistent if a goblin (or human thug) can't break your arm with a club whether you're level 1 or 20. IMO, it's not at all believable.

For me, it is important that an RPG work as a game, and not just as some internally consistent abstract. Consistency and believability certainly have merit, but only within the context of a functional game.

I believe that RPGs are meant to be played. That means that if the gameplay doesn't encourage the themes it is meant to, it is not a good RPG (irrespective of whether it is internally consistent and believable).

D&D is a heroic fantasy game. That means it should play like a heroic fantasy game. While it is certainly possible for a heroic fantasy hero to be injured, sometimes even severely, it's far from commonplace. If it happens at all, it'll probably be once in an entire novel. If your heroes have to make saves against every attack at high levels, then it's going to happen much more often than that.

Raising the threshold doesn't fix the issue. It just means that low level characters don't encounter the issue for that much longer, but that it still gradually increases to near constant at high levels. It doesn't make sense for Tim the Squire to never suffer a serious injury, while Herakles suffers them constantly. The player will feel like Herakles is the wuss while Tim is a hero. I rather think, if anything, it ought to be the opposite!

Additionally, Herakles is inventivized to fight armies of goblins (who have no chance of wounding him) but to avoid anything bigger like the plague (because such things are likely to wound him). That goes doubly so if the cleric can't make it this session. Is that really a desirable outcome?

If you're going to use a threshold, then IMO it needs to scale.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's consistent if a goblin (or human thug) can't break your arm with a club whether you're level 1 or 20. IMO, it's not at all believable.
Consistency is what makes a setting believable. Without it, you're lost.

For me, it is important that an RPG work as a game, and not just as some internally consistent abstract. Consistency and believability certainly have merit, but only within the context of a functional game.

I believe that RPGs are meant to be played. That means that if the gameplay doesn't encourage the themes it is meant to, it is not a good RPG (irrespective of whether it is internally consistent and believable).
Where to me consistency and believability go a long way toward making the game functional and playable at all.

D&D is a heroic fantasy game.
For you, perhaps. Not for everyone, regardless of what the marketing blurbs might say; and one of the true beauties of the D&D system is that it can and does handle lots of other styles quite well.

That means it should play like a heroic fantasy game. While it is certainly possible for a heroic fantasy hero to be injured, sometimes even severely, it's far from commonplace. If it happens at all, it'll probably be once in an entire novel. If your heroes have to make saves against every attack at high levels, then it's going to happen much more often than that.

Raising the threshold doesn't fix the issue. It just means that low level characters don't encounter the issue for that much longer, but that it still gradually increases to near constant at high levels. It doesn't make sense for Tim the Squire to never suffer a serious injury, while Herakles suffers them constantly. The player will feel like Herakles is the wuss while Tim is a hero. I rather think, if anything, it ought to be the opposite!

Additionally, Herakles is inventivized to fight armies of goblins (who have no chance of wounding him) but to avoid anything bigger like the plague (because such things are likely to wound him). That goes doubly so if the cleric can't make it this session. Is that really a desirable outcome?

If you're going to use a threshold, then IMO it needs to scale.
Here I somewhat agree. The threshold shouldn't be how much actual damage you take but how that amount relates to your total at full.

So, if you rule that a wound is threatened if you take more than 50% of your total from a single source in a single attack (or spell) then it scales directly. Thus, if a 40 h.p. character takes 21 or more points of damage from any source at one go a wound is threatened.

However, what I'd do here is put a hard minimum on the amount required to threaten a wound (say, 10 points) so the very low-level wizard types don't have kittens breaking their arms, and a hard maximum on it (probably 40 points) beyond which a wound is threatened no matter what.

I'd stick with my earlier idea also: if damage takes you to or below a certain threshold below 0 h.p. you're getting a wound no matter what. What this might mean - and I'd be fine with this - is that if the auto-wound threshold was set at -10 and a 40-h.p. character with 6 h.p. left took 21 damage it could pick up two sets of wounds at once: one for sure, for going below -10, and another if the wound threatened by taking more than half total hit points is confirmed.
 
Consistency is what makes a setting believable. Without it, you're lost.
That's what the hobgoblin keeps telling me.

Assuming that the group really wants it: What triggers would you use to decide to give a PC or enemy a wound, such as a break, sprain, etc...? Failed death saves? Critical Hits (maybe after a saving throw)? Taking damage that brings them below a certain threshold?
Failed Death Saves.
In the case of the automatic failed death save for being hit while down, attacker's choice what kind of wound he gives you.
So if your thief is reduced to 0 hp, the outraged merchant can cut off his hand, for instance. Or if the brigands who capture your wizard for ransom don't want him casting any spells, they can remove his tongue and break all his fingers.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
For me, it is important that an RPG work as a game, and not just as some internally consistent abstract. Consistency and believability certainly have merit, but only within the context of a functional game.
I agree, and it doesn't make for a functional game if every level 1 character sustains a crippling injury from every attack. Scaling thresholds don't work, because low-level characters have too few HP compared to the damage of low-level enemies. If you set the threshold at half of maximum, then low-level characters may suffer multiple lasting injuries per day, while high-level characters never have to worry about it. There is no fraction which is reasonable for both groups.

D&D is a heroic fantasy game. That means it should play like a heroic fantasy game. While it is certainly possible for a heroic fantasy hero to be injured, sometimes even severely, it's far from commonplace. If it happens at all, it'll probably be once in an entire novel. If your heroes have to make saves against every attack at high levels, then it's going to happen much more often than that.
Slightly aside, but D&D isn't heroic fantasy. D&D is dungeon fantasy. Similar tropes still apply.

Keeping to genre, characters shouldn't be breaking an arm in every fight. That is something that only happens rarely. When it does, though, it's only late into the book. Nobody breaks their arm on the first day of the job, and then goes on to have their entire first adventure with a broken arm. You don't need a drama-preserving handicap when the character is already limited by being low level.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I agree, and it doesn't make for a functional game if every level 1 character sustains a crippling injury from every attack. Scaling thresholds don't work, because low-level characters have too few HP compared to the damage of low-level enemies. If you set the threshold at half of maximum, then low-level characters may suffer multiple lasting injuries per day, while high-level characters never have to worry about it. There is no fraction which is reasonable for both groups.
So use the fraction but put a hard minimum on it.

Nobody breaks their arm on the first day of the job, and then goes on to have their entire first adventure with a broken arm. You don't need a drama-preserving handicap when the character is already limited by being low level.
Heh.

Character - mine, of course - gets wounded (by the party!) to point of incurability before ever meeting the party. Meets party, runs with them for an adventure, keeps getting hurt again (and patched up, to barely above zero as that's all she can take) but never quite killed, finishes adventure, and party splits up. For the entire time she was with them she was never curable above about 3 h.p. even though her total was in theory somewhat higher.

Character is still going today, living proof that yeah, this in fact does happen sometimes. :)
 

MatthewJHanson

Registered Ninja
My house rule is that when a character drops to 0, they make a Con save with a DC equal to half the damage from the hit that dropped them, and if they fail they roll on the lingering injury table.

In the first adventure of the campaign, the breath weapon from a red dragon dropped 4 out of 6 characters, and two of those lost their feet.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
Consistency is what makes a setting believable. Without it, you're lost.

Where to me consistency and believability go a long way toward making the game functional and playable at all.
I did say they were important. However, consistency is not synonymous with believability.

Imagine if you will a hypothetical game where characters have 100 HP. Falling causes 1 damage per 10 feet, so any character at full HP can walk away from a 990 foot fall with 1 HP. Is it consistent? Absolutely. Believable? Hardly!

In the end, the game part is very important, IMO. If you put consistency and believability uber alles, then you're better off playing without rules. No ruleset is going to model reality to 100% believability. Heck, the dice are there to create inconsistency and will certainly introduce unbelievable events from time to time (the character who rolls a Nat 20 and pulls off a 1-in-a-million stunt). If you really want consistent and believable, then just have whatever makes the most sense to you happen, no rules or dice needed.

For you, perhaps. Not for everyone, regardless of what the marketing blurbs might say; and one of the true beauties of the D&D system is that it can and does handle lots of other styles quite well.
It does, but I was referring to RAW. 20th level characters can challenge gods and beat up giants for their lunch money. Even by 3rd level they're routinely taking on massive creatures that should be able to smear them into paste with relative ease (ogres). That's heroic fantasy, or at least a close relative thereof.

Certainly you can fiddle with the settings, such as capping levels, or simply not playing high levels, to modify the default. 5e makes that very easy.


I agree, and it doesn't make for a functional game if every level 1 character sustains a crippling injury from every attack. Scaling thresholds don't work, because low-level characters have too few HP compared to the damage of low-level enemies. If you set the threshold at half of maximum, then low-level characters may suffer multiple lasting injuries per day, while high-level characters never have to worry about it. There is no fraction which is reasonable for both groups.
I never said anything about a percentage. I said that if you use a threshold then it should scale with level.

A low level character should have a chance to suffer an injury, even if it's only on a crit. A high level character should not suffer the risk of injury from an average hit. Doing otherwise isn't believable.

There's a table in the DMG that indicates monster damage relative CR. The way I would do it is to base the threshold on the high end (maybe even 150%) of potential damage from a creature of CR equal to the PC level.

This way, there's a risk of it for any character, and 20th level characters don't have to save against taking injuries every time they get hit.

Personally, I wouldn't (and don't) use a threshold at all. I don't think it's a great fit for a game with HP scaling like 5e uses. You still end up with the issue of a high level hero whose arm can't be broken by a guy with a club, but at least that's reasonably in genre for a game where a high level fighter can take on a dozen low CR mooks and win without breaking a sweat (much less his arm).
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
Where I'm leaning now:

When you drop below 0 hp or take damage when at 0 hp, there will be a chance you are injured. You'll make a Con DC25 con save. If you make it, you are awake and concious with 1 hp and no injury. If you fail by up to 5, you'll be concious, but there will be a 50% chance you're injured. If you fail by 6 or more you'll be unconcious and there will be a 50% chance you're injured. When you repeat this save before a long rest, the DC rises by 5.

These rules give us a few things - an attack waking up a downed foe being one of them.

Additionally, when you have a chance to do a coup de grace, you can forego the bonus damage to select an injury location and attempt to injure the target rather than follow the normal cdg rules.

When you're injured, you'll genrally roll a location for the injury (unless it is part of a cdg) and then roll a save. If you make it, the injury will be minor. If you fail, it will be major. If you fail by a lot, it will be dire.

Rolled locations will be similar to the DMG locations table for lingering wounds, but the DCs and ramifications will be a bit more complex.

Thoughts on this rough idea?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I think I may make up something like wound cards.
You hand them to the player when the character is wounded (however that happens).
They can have effects on them like (Trying to cast this as 5e wish me luck)
If you roll a 1 to 4 on your first attack roll any turn during combat or if you use a dash action, make a con or wis save if you fail temporarily lose 15 feet of movement til you subsequently succeed in throwing off the impairment (you may make a save each round till you succeed).

Removing wounds is a non-combat activity of some sort. (in 4e a ritual or martial practice) and you can similarly suppress the wound for longer periods with different practices and rituals.
 
The DMG suggests lingering injuries could occur when a creature takes a critical hit, when it drops to 0 hp but isn't killed outright, or when it fails a death saving throw by 5 or more.
The DMG suggests lingering injuries could occur when a creature takes a critical hit, when it drops to 0 hp but isn't killed outright, or when it fails a death saving throw by 5 or more.
Indeed that's the official suggestion.

However I do not think it's very well thought. Because all of them happen too often. They are ok for a one-shot game because there are less rolls but also players won't care too much because... it's a one shot game! Thus 'lingering' means until the end of the evening.

On a typical game I think it's fair to expect a PC being targeted by e.g. 10 attacks per adventuring day. That means 1 wound every 2 adventuring day. It's quite a lot, so then the DM may be tempted to make it lasts too short or be too easy to remove.

IMO it might be already better to either only have a chance of lingering would on a critical, or to trigger a wound more rarely when a PC is for example dropped to 0hp. I prefer this last option because the first one is entirely random while the second depends on how close to 0hp you take your risk to be.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Indeed that's the official suggestion.

However I do not think it's very well thought. Because all of them happen too often. They are ok for a one-shot game because there are less rolls but also players won't care too much because... it's a one shot game! Thus 'lingering' means until the end of the evening.

On a typical game I think it's fair to expect a PC being targeted by e.g. 10 attacks per adventuring day. That means 1 wound every 2 adventuring day. It's quite a lot, so then the DM may be tempted to make it lasts too short or be too easy to remove.

IMO it might be already better to either only have a chance of lingering would on a critical, or to trigger a wound more rarely when a PC is for example dropped to 0hp. I prefer this last option because the first one is entirely random while the second depends on how close to 0hp you take your risk to be.
Yeah, I mean it really just depends on the game. I can see a place for the level of butchery of having all three triggers suggested by the DMG in play. But it wouldn't work in every game in my view.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Indeed that's the official suggestion.

However I do not think it's very well thought. Because all of them happen too often. They are ok for a one-shot game because there are less rolls but also players won't care too much because... it's a one shot game! Thus 'lingering' means until the end of the evening.

On a typical game I think it's fair to expect a PC being targeted by e.g. 10 attacks per adventuring day. That means 1 wound every 2 adventuring day. It's quite a lot, so then the DM may be tempted to make it lasts too short or be too easy to remove.

IMO it might be already better to either only have a chance of lingering would on a critical, or to trigger a wound more rarely when a PC is for example dropped to 0hp. I prefer this last option because the first one is entirely random while the second depends on how close to 0hp you take your risk to be.
To me the issue with the DMG and many other options is the focus on random applications.

Did you roll a natural result? Did your die roll fail by 5? Did you drop to zero?

I would want in a game lingering effects to have dome element of "causality" that established the risk as more than just dice. To me they should be arrived at by a combination of factors where the "higher risk" was established not by flukey roll but by in-game aspects. To me it's not unlike on a basic level how a journey into a fetid swamp might expose you to diseases on many wounds - especially if left uncured.

This let's that threat effectively be built up, an escalating danger, not some sudden bouncey whammy. It also might allow them to be countered and dealt with through costly expense.

So, for instance, it could be that an environment creates a growing risk of lingering effects. It could be that "helpless" represented as paralyzed or unconscious opens the door for a maiming effect.

That said, whatever keys to these added effects one chooses, a lot of things in the gsme might need to be reassessed. If paralysis opens the door to maiming, does that move hold person, sleep and other effects be raised in level?
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Indeed that's the official suggestion.

However I do not think it's very well thought. Because all of them happen too often.
This was why I suggested a self selecting method where the wound isnt a punishment... but rather mostly an annoyance you may choose.
 

Advertisement

Top