Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Already Hacking: Redoing HP, Damage, and Death Saves in 5E

D&D has a binary PC-health state by default: fine/dead.

Also, losing hp, being "hit" doesn't necessarily mean anything in the fiction. At least not anything interesting. A goblin can hit you six times with a meat cleaver, and, if you still have hp, you're basically fine. 

Which is why it's a chore to narrate the choreography. It doesn't really affect anything, and I think a lot of people just drop it.

Which is good because it makes things go faster.

HOWEVER, what if this situation were more awesome? Where every hit mattered and changed the fiction, such that leet and brutal choreography was a necessity. 

This is way more lethal than standard. 


Damage should be construed not as physical damage mostly but as the threat of such. When your hp runs out, the threatened damage happens. 

So monsters that do more damage are bigger threats. They're more likely to actually damage you more quickly. 

Option 1: Null Misses

This option doesn't change what misses do. If you miss, you literally just miss or get blocked or whatever. 

On a hit, however, THE MACHINE CRANKS TO LIFE:

Roll damage as normal. If this does the guy, then the guy is done. 

If the guy isn't done, subtract from remaining hp yadda yadda. 


The player that hit has to GRIMLY ESCALATE THE THREAT, and the character so escalated upon MARKS A DEATH SAVE FAILURE (DSF). A critical hit means mark TWO DSFs.

This is awesome and also great, because it creates fictional circumstances that feed back into the mechanics, esp. re: advantage and conditions. 

Example: goblin fighting PC with 35 hp. Goblin does 1d6. If goblin survives, he will take an average of 10 rounds, hitting every round, to deeps those heeps. 


Instead, how's about the goblin does his 4 damage, the PC scoffs, erases down to 31 hp, and then the GM says, the goblin drops his cleaver and leaps onto you; you roll around on the ground and slam into the wall, and he's climbing up your chest. MARK A DEATH SAVE FAILURE. 

When the PC attacks the goblin, he'll probably hit and do like 80 damage; so he can just say he crushes the goblin's skull between his pectorals or whatever. 

But there are three more goblins coming, and he can only take one more hit before …


When you hit 3 DSFs, girl, it's time to roll on some death and dismemberment table, or roll on the exhaustion levels table from 5E Basic and apply injury appropriate to the listed effect. Whatever your flavor. Do you. 

Maybe you just trigger the "dying" condition at this point. 

Whatever. What happens at DSFx3 isn't the point.


Let's say our fighter made short work of the gob mounting him. Now he's got a DSF and he's staring down more gobs in the distance. What happens now?

Well here's the deal: if you start AND end your turn UNTHREATENED and you have hp, erase all your death saves at the end of your turn. 

Being threatened in this case means suffering an attack in a round (hit or miss) or starting/ending your turn next to a hostile melee target. 

You know what being threatened is; do I really need to put it in rulesese?

So if those goblins in the distance are shooting at you (whether they hit or miss), you're still threatened and your death saves remain. In any case, since you were in combat at the start of your turn, you're threatened for this turn anyway and can't erase DSFs this turn. 

So a good idea is to use your move to run and break line of sight, get behind cover, head for the back ranks, refocus, and charge back into things. 

Option 2: Monotonicity = felicity

When a character misses while threatened by melee, as a reaction the most likely melee threatener gets a free autohit against them and all that entails. Yes, this makes dodging very useful since it's like attacking with advantange. This is fine with me. Have your fighter tank up and dodge. Someone misses them? Free hit. Downside: don't get to use cool special attacks, maybe not multi attacks—I don't recall. 

Speaking of multi attacks, the "miss" trigger should only count if ALL the attacks miss. If an action produces any hit at all, the action counts as a hit.  


AC 19 HP 12 ATK +5 DMG 1d8+3


AC 13 HP 3 ATK +1 DMG 2


Option 1: Null Misses

Round 1: Cato charges gross goblin. Hit. Kills on hp. Filthy goblin misses. Disgusting goblin hits for 2 damage. Cato now at 10 hp. GM says, "Something hits your helmet. It smells like pus, and you can't hear, an you stumble back into the wall." 

Round 2: Cato attacks the disgusting goblin. Kills. Filthy goblin misses. 

Round 3: Cato misses. Filthy gobin hits. Cato now at 8 hp. Marks second DSF. GM says the thing has knocked you down and is straddling you, about to bite your neck.

Round 4: Cato is going to have disadvantage (at least) to do anything fancy; so he decides to roll the goblin and bash his head into the ground repeatedly. Fighters are proficient and killing things; so he'll have his same +5 bonus and no disadvantage. 1d4+3 damage if successful, which it is, and the gob is toast. 

Round 5: reinforcements arrive and draw bows. Cato dashes behind cover and breaks LOS. Luckily, the readied shots miss him. Although he is not currently threatened, he was attacked this turn, and so he can't rid himself of his DSFs.

Round 6: Cato spends his turn holed up against the crates or whatever while the archers maneuver into position. He suffered no attacks started and ended his turn unthreatened by melee; so he erases all DSFs and can start next turn fresh but for the lost hp. 

Option 2: Monotonic

Round 1: Cato charges gross goblin, hits, kills on hp. Filthy goblin attacks, misses, giving Cato a free autohit, kills on hp. Disgusting goblin hits for 4 damage. Cato now has 8 hp and marks DSF. GM says, "It lodges its machete in a crack in your plate, then launches itself at your face. You're barely holding him back from your neck when you both crash into the pillar."

ROUND 2: Cato doesn't want disadv to try to attack with weapon while prone and straddled and grappled; so he tries to choke the goblin out. Miss. Goblin gets an autohit, does 3 damage. Cato now has 5 hp and has failed 2 DS. GM says, "It slips your grip, grabs your head, and starts bashing it against the ground, and your helmet falls off."
Goblin's turn now. GM says, "It pulls away and goes to stomp your skull." Rolls, misses. GM tells Cato to do his damage. It leaves the goblin with 1 hp. GM says, "What do you do, short of taking it out?" Player says, "I roll out of the way, grab it's leg, and sling it into the pillar."

Round 3: GM says, "Great, the pillar is cracking and falling when you lose your grip on the goblin." [Randomly determines direction of pillar's fall: toward the goblin, lucky.] "The goblin has to dive out of the way of the pillar; you'll have advtange if you attack him while he's recovering in the dust." Player says, "O course, I slice him in two." And he does, then slides down behind the pillar in case more hostile a are about. 

Round 4: There are, archers newly arrived, but since Cato began the round in cover behind the fallen pillar, he can spend this round refocusing and erase his DSFs at end of round. He takes a second wind to restore some hp and at end of round erases DSFs. 


Either option makes things WAY more dangerous and hp less important. I think that's just great. 

I think my players would mutiny though. 

I'll have to bring it on slowly. 

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