Thursday, April 8, 2010

Deadlier Death and Dismemberment

After using Trollsmth's Death and Dismemberment a couple of times in my B2 Caves of Chaos games.  I still like it but I've found it nearly removes permanent death as a risk, at least the way I was using it.  As I look at actual table I notice several details that make it deadlier which I'd glossed over when quickly scribling down table off iPhone cause I'd forgotten to print it out.  So, it's probably alright and the original by Robert Fisher looks nasty too.  I decided to modify it anyways.  At the least it will be closer to how I think so I won't gloss over the details.

Player characters can't have less than 0 hit points.  Each time a player character takes damage that would take them to or below 0 hit points their hit points are set to 0 and they must roll on the More Death and Dismemberment table.  Men-at-arms, cooks, pet donkeys, etc are dead at 0 and do not roll. As are mundane monsters.  Named, epic monsters like Dragons and EHPs should roll, perhaps on a custom table(hmmmmm).  Henchmen with levels might roll, or might die at 0.  Same with major foes, such orc chieftan and dreaded owlbear.

More Death and Dismemberment

2 or lower Instant Death (decapitated or similar death from CtB).
3 Fatal Wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, and the like) die in 1d20 x 10 minutes. A Wish or similar effect would heal wound.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
4-5 Severed Limb use hit location die, if head rolled and no helmet then as '2', if body rolled and no armor then as '3', otherwise will bleed out and die in 1d6 rounds. Magical healing (magic used for this will not restore lost hp), a tourniquet, or cauterization with fire will allow a Save vs Death with bonus equal to lvl of spell cast, if any. Success means character requires 3d4 weeks of healing.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
6-7 Broken Bone use hit location die. 3d4 weeks to heal.
Knocked Out 1d20 rounds unless Save vs Death is made.  If head bone was broke and no helmet and failed save then knocked out, "in coma", until healed instead.
8-9 Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if wearing a helm. If no helmet then as Broken Head Bone.
10-11 Stunned for 1d4 rounds and lose helm if wearing helm. Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if not wearing helm.
12+ "Now I'm Mad" a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per hit die. At the end of the combat, the adrenaline drains away, hit points are reduced to zero, and the PC faints for 2d6 rounds. If you roll this more than once in a single combat consider yourself a Bezerker under the effects of a potion of super-heroism.

Kickin'm When They're Down

If you have time, a defenseless (unconscious, bound, etc.) victim lives at your pleasure and you may coup de grâce them at will.  During combat or an otherwise hectic situation you must instead roll d6 and consult the More Death and Dismemberment table for each "attack".

Magical Healing of Long Term Wounds

Character's hit points can't be restored magically or otherwise until they are conscious and healed of any wounds.
In place of healing hit points each "point" healed reduces wound healing time by 1 week. Only one such healing is allowed per day and it requires the more or less constant attention (12 hours) of the healer(s).  Limited activity by the patient (puttering around camp/town, being transported by litter) and double rest 16 hours is required.

Notes on Missing Limbs and Broken Bones

Strong magic might regrow a missing limb. A right hander can learn to fight left handed and vice versa.  Might give them a -1 or -2 to hit and roll d6 each session on a 5-6 they reduce penalty by, might hand wave it.  Peg legs should run slower but normal movement I'd not penalize. Might give penalty or permanently reduce dexterity for missing limbs, might hand wave it.

Would give small chance (1 in 6) that bones don't heal right. Would increase chance by 1 for each time magic or otherwise accelerated healing was used.  Effects of "not right" best determined on the spot.

Things Changed / Emphasized

Tried to make it so if you hit 0 hit points you are most likely out of the battle.
  • More reasons to wear helm.  Which means I gotta now have reasons not to wear helm...
  • There is only one (12) "not bad" result. There's only three (10-12) or five if wearing helm (8-12) "could get back into fight" results. 
  • Majority of results (7 and below) are pretty darn bad. Ending that character's adventure for the day if not forever!
  • Severed limb is save vs death or die. So, four results (2-5) are pretty much "you are dead".
  • All results worse than knocked out also knock you out unless save is made.  I might change save to Con check (d20+Con score >= 20) with number you failed by, the number of d6's you roll to see how many rounds you are out.
  • The "bad parts" (rounds until death, rounds knocked out) are now liner rather than bell curved. They are also kept secret.  So, group doesn't know they probably have a couple rounds to save Sir Gimpy before he bleeds out.
  • Knocked down wasn't different enough from stunned and it's gone.
  • Added magical fast heal of wounds and reduced length of healing.

May your deaths be many and bloody.


  1. Ouch! That definitely ratchets things up!

  2. Cool!

    One thing I want to point out -- The death rate is definitely low when you're using Trollsmyth's version of the table. We've been playing for over a year now and only lost one character (and another character's arm!). One guy has rolled on it like six times by now.

    However, because of the way Trollsmyth's campaign is set up, getting knocked out, or having a "total party knock out" is often significantly worse than just getting killed. It generally means getting captured, which usually means getting eaten, brainwashed, enslaved, implanted with slaad eggs, or other unpleasant, seriously campaign altering things. And we've got a bunch of NPC party members in that campaign, so any of the above things happening to them is a much better hassle than just their getting killed.

    But that's a campaign style thing. Sometimes, you're just going to want to have that higher death rate. ;) And this looks like a pretty spiffy version for that goal.

  3. Looks great!

    The most important results are at 6, 7, and 8, since we're using 2d6. Those are where the dice are most likely to fall. I made mine before I knew who I was going to be playing with, and it's crafted to encourage the group to grab their fallen and retreat (a viable tactic in old-school play, but one that has fallen out of favor, near as I can tell.) So on my table, those results will take you out of the fight, but not kill you. That may start to annoy me later, especially since my players are clever and figured these things out pretty quickly.

    The "not dead yet, but will be soon" can actually be the worst results, because they not only take the victim out for a round or two, but also another friendly who must stabilize them before death. This steals a bit of the group's thunder, since most know and heavily rely upon the power of iteration in combat.

  4. @trollsmyth 6, 7, and 8, since we're using 2d6. Those are where the dice are most likely to fall.

    Ha, probability was invented by the devil. First session I used your table I don't think any one rolled less than 10 and there were two boxcars!

    I totally agree with everything Trollsymth and Oddysey say. I think both tables are great and would use one or the other depending on the "mood" I was after.

    I'm sure this is not the last version of this table you will see from me ;)

  5. "More reasons to wear helm. Which means I gotta now have reasons not to wear helm..."

    I thought it was assumed that anyone wearing armor was wearing a helm as part of that armor.

    If you want some trade-off for the added protection of a helm, some sort of perception based penalty seems appropriate. The form that takes would obviously depend on the system and other rules in effect.

    Possible penalties for wearing a helm:

    1. Take a -1 to initiative. This is less viable when doing group initiative, but when rolling individually, it could represent the greater time required to orient oneself due to decreased peripheral vision.

    2. If 3/4 of the party or more are wearing helms, then they are surprised on a roll of 1-3 instead of 1-2.

    3. Reduce movement by 10' in every category, with a minimum of 10'. If it's more difficult to see where one is going, it takes more time to get there.

    4. Attacks on the helm-wearer from behind are made at an additional +2 bonus due to decreased ability to have the "head-on-a-swivel" and defend against attacks from all sides.

    Two questions that are definitely going to come up: A) Can a thief wear a helm? and B) are you going to allow the creation of a spell that mimics the function of a helmet.

  6. > A) Can a thief wear a helm?

    What's a "thief" ;) Anyone can wear a helm. Magic users typically do not for the typical reasons.

    > B) Conjured Corinthian?

    Sure why not.

    Good ideas. I punted on detailing any cause the helmet thing and my crunchier table are heading into too complicated for style of game I run. More importantly my ability to remember during play when I'm expending my mental capacity on making game fun not remembering rule details.

    Need to ruminate more on this subject...

  7. If you think there aren't enough results, why not combine it with the results you swapped out from the original table and make it a 2d10 table?

  8. One of the hitpoint problems this intends to "solve".

    But beyond solving anything, I think this table is just fun.

  9. I’m writing a series of blog posts on Death & Dismemberment Tables and have put yours down on my Honour Roll


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