Thursday, March 21, 2019

Death from Damage in AD&D. Again.

Death from Damage in AD&D. Again.

I'm continually trying to find or create death rules with which I'm satisfied. For years I used the AD&D rule from page 83 of the DMG. Let's look at that, shall we?

"When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious. In each of the next succeeding rounds 1 additional (negative) point will be lost until -10 is reached and the creature dies."

Image result for monty python black knightNow, what exactly does Gary mean by that bit in the first set of parenthesis? Did he intend that a PC brought from positive hit points to -4 or lower in one attack was instantly killed, without benefit of the negative total cushion extending to -10? Or, is the negative countdown supposed to start from 0 if the blow in question doesn't cause more damage than would bring the PC to -3?

I dunno.

Back in the day, we ignored that parenthetical bit and just played it to -10. For instance, if you had 5 hit points left and took 10 points of damage, you were at -5 and would lose one more hit point at the end of every succeeding round. The cleric better get over there in a hurry, or your ass is dead!

I've tried various methods over the years, but haven't found anything I really like. The -10 thing is okay. PC death is uncommon at low levels. At mid to high levels, the damage output in AD&D increases to the point where a PC being reduced from positive hit points to near, or beyond negative ten occurs with more frequency.

There's something to be said for leaving things as they are. Still, it's like an itch I just need to scratch.

I don't really care for Death & Dismemberment tables. They can be kind of fun, but are often too harsh for a long term campaign. If your character is going to end up armless and legless, he might as well be dead. Yeah, it's a good opportunity for robotic and squid-like replacements, but that seems to be a fast-track to some pretty gonzo PC's and I don't often want that sort of thing. I'm okay with ability damage and similar effects and appreciate the black humor often associated with such tables. Scars and the like are pretty cool, too. That said, I'm more focused on adjudicating possible death, while still keeping death a possibility, than I am in creating a Monty Python situation.

So, here we are again. One idea which occurred to me is allowing for attempted combat while the PC is seriously wounded, barely able to swing their sword in one last desperate and probably futile attempt to triumph. "I'll bite your legs off!"

On Death and Dying

Death from damage occurs at Negative Con. In addition, the following rules apply.

At 0 Hit points, the PC is slowed to half their movement and any attacks are made at -2 to hit.

From -1 to -4 hit points, the PC is grievously wounded and may either take a move action or an attack action, but not both. Movement is reduced to 1/4 the normal rate and attacks are at -2 to hit. Furthermore, the strain of making an attack incurs a 50% chance of inflicting 1 point of damage to the PC.

At -5 hit points or lower the PC is unconscious and must roll on this table at the end of the following round:

d20 Dying Table

1: You're almost certainly fucked! That last wound tore up something kinda important. Take 3d4 additional damage. If you're still alive, make a save vs death and live or die by the result. If you live, you stabilize. Lay there and suffer until the cleric heals your sorry ass, or Sir Deathblow comes along and casually stabs you with something pointy.

2-5: You're probably fucked! Take an additional 2d4 points of damage. If you're still alive, then at the end of the next round make a save vs. death to stabilize. If you fail, take another 2d4 points of damage. Keep doing this at the end of every round until you stabilize or die. Lay there and hope that your side wins and doesn't bug out, leaving you behind to get eaten by the owlbear.

6-10: You might be fucked! Take an additional 1d4 points of damage. If you're still alive, then at the end of the next round make a save vs death to stabilize. If you fail, take another 1d4 points of damage. Keep doing this at the end of every round until you stabilize or die. If the DM didn't screw up and host another TPK, you've got a shot at making it out alive.

11-15: You're probably not fucked yet. Make a save vs death at +2. If you make it you stabilize. If you fail, take an additional 1d3 points of damage and at the end of the next round repeat the above. Keep doing this until you make the save or die. Lay there and hope an unengaged monster doesn't decide to start eating you.

16-19: Stop whining, you'll probably live. Make a save vs death at +2 and take 1d2 points of damage if you fail. Assuming you're still alive, you stabilize, regardless of the save result. The monsters will probably ignore your dead looking self and focus on trying to kill your friends.

20: You are definitely not yet fucked. Make a save vs death. If you fail, you're stable and unconscious. If you make it, then an adrenaline surge, divine favor, residual healing potion energy or whatever kicks in and you get 3d6 hit points back! Assuming you're no longer in negatives, you may move at half speed and attack at -2. This condition is removed after a day's rest. Now go kill something and take its treasure!

First aid from your friends will allow advantage on any of the d20 rolls on this table, or a +4 bonus if you refuse to truck with any 5e inspired shenanigans. Healing magic will instantly stabilize you and get your ass off this table for now.