Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A System from Bits, part II

The early versions of D&D are deadly for low-level characters, and characters stay at low levels for longer than in later iterations of the rules. By and large, the OSR clones have kept this deadly aspect of gaming, with some attempts to mitigate things slightly. In D&D (not AD&D) PCs died at 0hp, and at low levels Resurrection and suchlike spells are almost unknown. When a Thief or MU can likely be killed by a stray arrow, a single spear-thrust from a Goblin, or an undetected blade-trap; Elves, Halflings and Clerics only have a 50:50 chance of surviving the same; and Fighters and Dwarves only slightly better than average chance, there is perhaps a case for making some provision for character survival to be slightly less difficult.

I originally came across this rule on one of the many, and wonderful, OSR blogs; however, having lost a load of links due to a fried hard-drive a few years ago I've been unable to find the original source. If this is your rule, I’d like to thank you for making the PCs in my groups (both my 'New Old Campaign' group and my 'Naked Gaming' group) a little less fragile, and I'm sure my players would be similarly (perhaps even more) grateful. Also, please link to it if you recognise where I found this - I make no pretence that this is mine, and would happily give credit where it's due.

The point of this rule is to make combat just a little more survivable - but not infinitely so, and  at a cost. One of my players, who was careless enough to die twice in three sessions, saw his CON drop from 11 to 9 and suddenly realised that the next time he reached 0hp (he only had 3hp as I recall) he was more likely to die than survive. So even with this rule, players should still be cautious.

Elementary Staunching, or surviving at 0hp

This rule is designed to provide a mechanism that gives a PC a chance of survival when they reach 0hp. It is based on the following principles:
1.                   CON is a direct measure of physical resilience and used for all calculations using this rule;
2.                   surviving comrades can administer emergency first aid to a 0hp character;
3.                   surviving a traumatic injury will have a permanent effect on a PC’s future health.

Can't remember where the image is from, but it's Beowulf.
When a character sustains an injury that causes them to reach 0hp, to give them a chance of survival, the party may attempt ‘Elementary Staunching’. The application of the rule follows three steps. First, CONx10 is the number of seconds before the PC actually dies of blood-loss (easiest if using 10-second rounds but not exactly hard in any case). If combat goes on too long or the rest of the party cannot quickly reach the stricken character – or are themselves killed or incapacitated – then there is no-one to administer first-aid and the PC dies in CONx10 seconds.

If other characters are available to perform battlefield first-aid in time, then the player of the injured PC must roll a d20. If this number is greater than the PC’s CON stat, the PC has died of system shock or blood loss in any case; if it is equal or less than CON, then PC has survived this major injury. One point of CON is permanently removed, and converted to 1hp. Healing may then take place as normal.

Additional suggestions:
Negative hp: The amount of damage the PC took in excess of the amount to take them to 0hp (so, if a character with 4hp takes 7 points of damage they are conceptually on ‘-3hp’) is the number of hours before the character comes round and begins healing (ie in the above case for 3 hours the PC would be still on the point of death). If this number is greater than the PC’s CON, another CON roll must be successfully passed, or the PC still dies.

Permanent Injury: the PC or DM determines a body-part to be permanently injured. This may involve a penalty on any ability score (due to injured limb, hideous disfigurement, brain injury etc) or a permanent penalty on ‘to hit’ rolls for either melĂ©e or missile fire.

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