Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dead or Unconscious

Back in the 80s we all pretty much played the same rules of AD&D.  There were some minor differences from DM to DM, but not so much that you couldn't navigate the game after a few rounds of combat.  The one rule that was pretty standard was the unconscious and death thresholds.  At 0 to -9 you were off to blackout land, but still breathing.  If someone hit -10 or below, some divine assistance was going to be needed.  This gave some leeway if something horrible happened in combat. 

I am generalizing here and I know it's not universal, but it seems that I have been reading that once a character hits 0 hit points he is dead.  Or 0 is unconscious and any negative hit points makes dead people.  I guess I like having more of a range of having someone get knocked out.  I know some games have it where the character only dies when he is negative his constitution score.  Which I like.  Using old school GM tools though I would, depending on how the player died, describe how the downed character is bleeding out, still on fire, the big bug is still chewing on a leg whatever to inform the other players that this player will die if they don't take some sort of action. 

The other reason I like this version is it gives the players a bit of a span to dead with especially at lower levels.  Once in the high levels when you have mages and critters dropping 7d6 damage on you at a shot than your 14 constitution isn't going to assist you as much.

The other reason I like it, even though I am not a huge fan of resurrection, the rule of someone being raised is they will lose a number of constitution points depending on their race.  I thought about making it depending on class, but to me it makes more sense that it would be a racial thing and their ability to with stand an ordeal. 

Off to work I go.  I have a short week this week because of the holidays so I hope to get in some gaming.  Hope everyone else does to.  Have a good one.


  1. The 0 hp death is an OD&D/Basic D&D thing. The -10 threshold showed up with AD&D I believe.

    It all depends on what version you're playing and how much you houserule it. I'm trying to be a "stickler" about the Basic rules so I'm using 0 hp death right now.

  2. When I played AD&D (1E) we always did the -10 thing. It first shows up in the DMG, I believe (and is definitely present by the advent of Unearthed Arcana and the Death's Door spell).

    I hear what you're saying about liking a range. I've actually been toying with somehow incorporating the Games Workshop Mordheim rules for characters "taken out of action." It's a little more interesting.
    ; )

  3. I've personally been playing so long with the -10 equals death rule across multiple editions of the game that I forget how its supposed to work as written. But our house rule has been for years that once you hit negative you lose a hit point every round until somebody can get to you and stabilize you with a healing spell, potion, or successful ability check to give basic first aid (usually wisdom or intelligence). This latter case of first aid is the equivalent of applying makeshift bandages, a tourniquet or dousing the flames from your clothes. No hit points are gained from it, the character in question just stops losing them.

  4. I've been considering this topic recently. Being at death door and being miraculously healed or whispering who their murderer was with one's last breath, has a long fantasy tradition. Fighting at full strength until the moment of death / unconsciousness (zero HP), does not capture this tradition. Therefore I decided:
    At zero hit points or less the character can no longer fight with a weapon, defend or cast spells and moves at a maximum of 5’ / round by crawling along the ground. The character can speak, use a wand or carry out some other action of minimal exertion. It is the stuff of heroes to do so!
    But a saving throw vs death ray must be made at the end of every round to avoid death, modified by the negative hit points and worsening by 1d6 hit points/round. More info was in my post 'Dying'.