Last week, I posted a long essay about hit points, what they represent in my campaigns and the rules I use for recovery and healing. A lot of that hinges around my use of the Death and Dismemberment (DaDT) table.
I’ve used the ACKS table but found it too fiddly. I also don’t like the “roll the body” procedure. It is a little too Schrodinger’s Cat for my taste.
I tried THIS ONE from Gobin Punch. Honestly it was so long ago that I don’t remember why I didn’t stick with it. I do use some of the concepts from it. It must have stuck with me. Monsters and minor NPCs die at 0, major NPCs roll on the DaDT. There are many others and you can find them at the bottom of THIS POST.
My table is the result of playing using the table for a while, invaluable input from my excellent troupe of players, and reading lots of blog posts on the subject. This is my current attempt at a coherent table and set of rules. I will likely make further adjustments. I’ll post those when I do.
The particular table I’ve been using for a while can be found at Bernie the Flumph blog HERE. My experience of using it over a number of years include…
- PC survival rates greatly increased.
- Players became reluctant to engage in fights they didn’t feel confident about winning.
- Once a character rolls on the DaDT table, they may be out of the combat encounter. One application of magical healing merely keeps you from dying. By my house rules, it takes at least two applications of magical healing to gain hit points back once you have been wounded.
- I made a modification that didn’t work out as well as I hoped. I allowed a character to keep fighting if they made a save. This had significant repercussions. I carry that over in this version of the DaDT but only if the character is lightly wounded.
- The DaDT created interesting situations for PCs. The permanent wounds they received created adventure hooks.
Relatively few characters died in the Kalador Kampaign but all of them rolled on the dreaded DaDT on multiple occasions. Had I gone with the death at 0 HP rule or even the various -HP variations, we would have gone through a lot of characters. We might even still be playing that campaign as the characters would not have reached the levels they did without the DaDT rules.
Because the roll is 2D6 and the most likely severity outcome is a “serious wound” characters would generally survive the roll. They’d be maimed and have a permanent scar or injury but live.
One of the mods I made was that if a character rolled on the chart; didn’t die outright; made a save to avoid being unconscious then they could keep fighting. Any damage taken after that would result in another roll on the chart with a -1 modifier to the severity roll. That resulted in an incident where an NPC managed to stay up longer than you’d predict. This allowed him to be able to pull off a horrendous act that changed the tone of the campaign to a significant degree.
One factor in PC survival was that there were two wizards in the Kalador setting able to cast a restoration spell. This is a spell that heals permanent wounds, regrows limbs, returns permanent loss of ability score points (I do CON drain rather than level drain with undead) and the like. It is a high level spell, has very expensive material components, takes hours to complete the casting and exhausts the caster for 24 hours after using it. If PCs wanted the spell cast, it was going to cost them dearly. This created a lot of social interaction opportunities and adventure hooks. “Sure, I’ll cast the spell for you but you owe me a very big favor which I will call in sometime in the future.”
Things I liked about the table from Bernie the Flumpf blog I’ve been using.
- It’s simple and fast. Roll 2D6 and 1D4 consult the chart. Done
- PCs survive more often than not but end up with interesting scars and disabilities.
- Players get anxious every time they have to roll on it. The emotional response is fantastic.
The one thing I dislike about it is that the injury results part of the table (1D4) has fewer possible outcomes than I would like. It could use some more variety. This is something I liked about the ACKS table. It has a lot of results on it.
Grumpy Wizard’s Death and Dismemberment Table: Version 1
When a PC reaches zero hit points during a combat encounter the referee may call for a roll on the Death and Dismemberment Table.
- The player rolls 1D6 to determine the location of the wound.
- If the character has a hit point total that is negative, then the negative score modifies the severity roll.
Example: Gronk the Fighter has 4 HP. He is hit by the goblin for 6 HP making his current hit point total -2. Gronk’s player rolls 1D6 for hit location and rolls a 1, the head. Gronk has -2 modifier to the severity roll because he has a negative hit point total. Gronk rolls a 7. 7-2=5 Gronk has received a critical wound to the head.
The referee may then narrate the nature of the damage based on the results of the table.
For any result of “Light Wound” or worse severity, the following applies:
- The character must make a saving throw. If the saving throw fails, the character is unconscious. The save is modified depending on the injury’s degree of severity.
- The character will die in a number of rounds determined by a die roll indicated in the notes unless they successfully receive aid. If the aid giver casts a heal wounds spell, makes a successful WIS check (roll under), or a first aid skill check (1 in 6) then the character’s wounds have been stabilized and the character will survive if they receive no further damage in this combat encounter. The character now has 1 hit point.
- A character receiving a wound may not recover hit points unit the noted number of heal wounds spells have been administered or the noted number of days or weeks of bed rest achieved. The heal wounds spell required are in addition to the heal wounds spell needed to stabilize a character dying from a wound.
A character who has rolled a modified 6 or better on the severity column (serious, light, superficial, close call) may opt to continue fighting if they have passed the saving throw to remain conscious. However…
- Any penalty/modifiers incurred due to their wounds are in effect.
- There is an additional modifiers to attack/saves listed in the notes for each wound severity description.
- A wounded character whose wounds have not been stabilized will die even if they remain conscious.
- The character’s wounds cannot be stabilized with first aid while they are in action. A potion of healing or a heal wounds spell may be applied with the normal effect.
- If a character who is wounded receives another successful hit, another roll is made on the DaDT table. The modifier for negative hit points is cumulative. ie: A character who was already at a negative hit point score, and hasn’t received first aid or healing magic, will subtract the new damage from that score, and increase the likelihood of an “instant death” result on the table.
Get the rules procedure at the link below.
Grumpy Wizard’s House Rules for Healing
Recovery: A character recovers 1 hit point per day if they are active or adventuring. The character requires basic sustenance and a modicum of rest. If the character does not have at least six hours of sleep, food, water and regular breaks, there is no hit point recovery.
If the character spends a full day resting and doing no strenuous activity, the player character can roll 1HD. The result is the number of hit points recovered. A character may walk unencumbered around easy terrain such as a city, perform guard duty where no fighting or stressful situations occur. 1HD means the hit die specific to the character’s class. A magic-user rolls a D4, a fighter D8 and so forth.
A character can also recover Hit Points by magical means such as a heal wounds spell or potion of healing.
The referee may give modifiers if the PC makes use of techniques to enhance their recovery. Examples of such techniques would be massage, bathing in hot mineral springs, and meditation.
Healing: A character who has gained a wound from the Death and Dismemberment table and survives the combat remains at 1 hit point until they have completed a prescribed period of full rest. The result on the D&D table determines how long the PC must rest before hit points will be recovered. When this period is over, the character is “healed.”
A character may have to spend several weeks resting/healing. During that time their hit point total will be “1”. Once the healing period had passed, the character will then recover hit points at the normal rate of 1 per day while adventuring or 1HD per day of rest.
The character may forego the rest period if they receive magical healing such as healing potion or heal wounds spell.
The two primary methods for magical healing are the heal wounds spell and the potion of healing. Heal wounds replaces the spells cure light wounds and cure serious wounds.
Spell Level: Cleric, 1st level, Druid 2nd level
Heal wounds can be used to stabilize a character who has received a life threatening wound as the result of a roll on the Death and Dismemberment Table. When used in this way, the wounded recipient has 1 HP but is no longer in danger of dying from current wounds. Further castings of heal wounds are necessary for the character to recover hit points per the Recovery rules. The number of castings required are determined by the results on the DaDT.
A character that has been healed and is now able to recover hit points will receive 1D6+1 hp/level of caster.
Potions of Healing:
The potion of healing can be used to stabilize a character who has received a life threatening wound as the result of a roll on the Death and Dismemberment Table. When used in this way, the wounded recipient has 1 HP but is no longer in danger of dying from current wounds. Further potions of healing or castings of heal wounds are necessary for the character to recover hit points per the Recovery rules.
A character that has been healed and is now able to recover hit points will receive 1D8+1 when using this potion.
A potion of extra healing has the equivalent healing power of three potions of healing.
This probably feels a little convoluted. Here is an example following up with our friend Gronk. I hope this clarifies any questions you might have.
Gronk the 5th level fighter has taken a critical wound to the head. His current hit point total is -2. He makes his save so he’s conscious but he’s going to die in 4 rounds if he doesn’t get some first aid or magical healing.
He’s permanently lost 2 points of WIS due to his head trauma. That means he’s going to have to roll an 8 or less on a D20 WIS check to give himself first aid. He opts to use a potion of healing instead. If he was unconscious, he couldn’t drink the potion and one of his party members would have to heal him instead.
Gronk drinks the potion and is stabilized. He’s not going to die of this wound but he is out of the fight and at 1 hit point. Gronk’s happens to also have a potion of extra healing. He drinks it and because it is the equivalent of 3 potions of healing or heal wounds spells, he is now healed.
One of his party members , Monas the Holy is a 6th level cleric who has 2 heal wounds spells he can cast. He spends the next two rounds casting his spells. Gronk recovers 1D6+6 hp for each casting of heal wounds. Even though he has been healed, Gronk still suffers from a permanent -2 WIS as a result of the blow to the head. The 7th level Cleric spell restoration can bring back Gronk’s points.
If Gronk didn’t have the potion of extra healing or a cleric, he would have to spend 1D4+1 weeks in bed rest before he was healed. During that time he would have a hit point total of 1 and a -2 to all attack rolls and saving throws. Once he was healed, further rest would allow him to recover hit points at a rate of 1HD (D8 because he is a fighter) each day or the application of healing magic.
A Few Notes
An optional rule; if the hit location is in the head and the character is wearing a helmet then the damage severity roll is improved by 1. I didn’t include that because I don’t have an accompanying downside to wearing a helmet like significant cost,limited visibility, or a negative modifier to surprise or hear noises roll. I don’t like giving bonuses for something that doesn’t have an accompanying downside. You can play around with other variations or add a “Shields Shall be Splintered” rule to the mix.
I intentionally left the descriptions of the actual damage vague. I didn’t write out, “Teeth knocked out and concussed,” just “head injury.” I started on a version of the table that included that sort of detail. It was clear after a short while that this would end up being a very large table or more likely system of tables. I wanted something that could be deployed quickly while still having a significant effect.
I’m putting some responsibility onto the referee to determine exactly what the damage is based on the weapon used, the circumstance the player is in and so forth. That’s not much different than what most referees do anyway so not a problem.
This could be more complex or more detailed. One approach would be to make a seperate table for each severity and location result. The referee wouldn’t have to improvise the specifics of the resulting wound. I will eventually work up a version like that as a variant. The chart I had been using gives specific outcomes like negatives to missile fire, or a character going last in melee. My chart gives permanent ability score reductions, some of them rather severe.
I don’t know which way will be better so I’ll test them. My inclination is to think a chart with more specific results will be more flavorful but it will also take more time and space in the referee’s binder. There are downsides but I’ll go ahead and give it a stab.