The Alexandrian

Untested: At Death’s Door

March 31st, 2011

I’ve previously discussed the odd-ball interpretation I’ve been using of OD&D’s proto-system shock rules. In AD&D these rules were fully developed into the system shock and resurrection survival mechanics, but in OD&D these rules consisted entirely of a few table entries reading “60% to 90% of survival”, “40% to 50% chance of survival” and  so forth without any word of explanation. Ergo, we decided to interpret these passages as meaning “chance of surviving at 0 hp”.

In practice, our system is pretty simple. Whenever a character is reduced to 0 hp, they make a percentile check using the following table:

12 or more
6 or less

If the check is successful, then the character is merely unconscious and can be restored with normal (or magical) healing. If it fails, the character is dead and requires magical resurrection.

These mechanics are not the untested portion of this post: After dozens of sessions of play, they’ve been repeatedly tested and we’ve been generally pleased with the results. I may even be modifying my 3E house rules for death and dying to reflect my experiences with this system.

But recently I’ve had a desire to add some additional consequence for getting blasted down to 0 hp. So taking a page of inspiration from Jeff Rients, adding a dash from Chaos Wars (also by way of Jeff), stirring in some eldritch madness from the Vaults of Nagoh, and throwing in any other crazy ideas that I happened to have laying around my cobweb-filled mind, I came up with the table below.

Roll on the table whenever a character is reduced to 0 hit points but survives (either due to their percentile check or a raise dead spell).

Rolled With the Blow. Character actually still has 1 hp remaining, but is stunned for 1d4 rounds.
Knocked Out. Character is just unconscious and will wake up in 4d6 hours with 1 hp.
Mostly Dead. Character can only be revived if magical healing is used (like a cure spell). Revived characters must save vs. death ray or be at -4 on to-hits, saves, and damage for 4d6 hours.
Scarred. The wound results in an awesome scar.
Crippling Wound. The character has received a grievous, lingering wound which permanently impairs them. Roll 1d8 to determine which of the character's scores is permanently reduced by 1 point: 1 = Strength, 2 = Dexterity, 3 = Constitution, 4 = Intelligence, 5 = Wisdom, 6 = Charisma, 7 = maximum hit points, 8 = roll again twice.
Crippled Limb. One of the character's arms or legs has been maimed or severed and can only be restored with magical regeneration.
Crippled Senses. Roll 1d6: 1-2 = blind in one eye, 3-4 = deaf in one ear, 5 = blind in both eyes, 6 = deaf in both ears
Throat Trauma. Character has suffered vocal cord damage and cannot speak. (Requires magical regeneration to restore.)
Spirit's Command. Character returns from death's door with a geas from the spirit realm. (Random Geas Table)
Demon's Soul. The character's spirit has been claimed by a demon or devil, which will appear and fight for its possession. The character can only be revived once the demon has been defeated.
Demonic Possession. A demon comes back in place of the character's soul. The demon must be exorcised or the body killed again (requiring a raise dead) before the character's soul can be restored.
Valhalla's Fight. The character's spirit has been recruited by the gods to fight in battles beyond the mortal realm. (For generic resolution, assume they won't return to their body for d6 days but they will earn 1d6 x level x 100 XP for their deeds.)
Crack in Death's Door. The site where the PC was restored becomes a temporary weak point in the veil between this world and the next. 1d6 days later, something follows them through (either to pursue its own sort of mischief or possibly to drag them back to hell).
Evil Twin. The character is pulled back from beyond death's door, but so is an exact duplicate of inverted alignment.
Vision. While peering into the next world, the character received a mystic vision. This might be of immediate practical use; great oracular import; or merely vague and unsettling.
Dead Friends. The character has a chance to converse with deceased friends and family before returning to the mortal plane.
Death's Ordeal. The strain of returning from beyond the veil costs the character one experience level (as per energy drain).
Bleeding Out. Character is still in mortal peril. Must save versus death ray every round for d6 rounds, then every turn for d6 turns, then every hour for d6 hours. Each failed save requires a new system shock check (with failure resulting in death). Any magical healing halts the bleeding. Someone taking one round to make a Wisdom check can slow the bleeding, bumping the time scale for saves to the next category.

Note that if you want to skip the more existential/supernatural elements of this table, you can just roll 1d20 instead of 1d30.

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8 Responses to “Untested: At Death’s Door”

  1. Andrew says:

    For people who do not have a 30 sided die, it might be easier to make it a 2d10 or 3d10 chart. If you make the first option worth 4 slots, then you don’t have to tweak it between 2d10 and 3d10.

    (Did you get the email I sent you? I have not heard back, and I thought maybe it didn’t work.)

  2. Grokkit says:

    Nice post! I’m always looking for new tricks… now where did I put that old d30??

  3. Mark says:

    To use the table as written without a d30, just use a d4 and a d10.

    On the d4: 1 = 10, 2 = 20, 3 = 30, 4 = 00.
    On the d10: The number rolled is the ones, while a 0 is 10.

    Thereby, a 4 on the d4 and a 0 on the d10 is 10, and a 2 on the d4 and a 3 on the d10 is 23, for example.

  4. Mark says:

    I realized a flaw in the proposed system: You can roll 31 to 40. You could treat these as re-rolls, or you could use another method.

    Roll a d6 and a d10. The d10 yields the ones as printed (that is, a 0 is a 0).

    The d6 yields the tens: 1 and 4 = 0; 2 and 5 = 1; 3 and 6 = 2. A roll of ‘0’ (that is, 1 or 4 on the d6 and 0 on the d10) is read as 30. Thereby, each number can be rolled once and no other numbers can be rolled.

  5. John says:

    I might use an exploding 10:

    1- Rolled with the blow
    2,3- Knocked out
    4- Scarred
    5- Crippling wound
    6- Crippled limb
    7- Crippled sense
    8- Throat trauma
    9- Mostly dead
    10- Bleeding out (option to roll on the following table)

    1- Spirit’s Command
    2- Demon’s soul
    3- Demonic possession
    4- Valhalla’s fight
    5- Crack in death’s door
    6- Evil twin
    7- Vision
    8- Dead friends
    9- Death’s ordeal

    I’d double up on Spirit Command or Crack in death’s door, those are my favorite ones.

    My reasoning is, the more supernatural possibilities would probably arise from the most traumatic roll of the first d10 (Bleeding out). Or one could roll a d20 from the list if they wanted a better chance for something like that regardless.

    I don’t like rolling d”something I have to think about” because I R dum.

    Also, 13+12 = hard. Damn double digit math.

  6. John says:

    PS: Well done.

  7. Andrew says:

    “Bleeding out” may not stack well with some of the supernatural options. Before I did that, I would resist doubling up on “Knocked Out” and just leave option 10 as “something supernatural happens, roll on the other chart.”

    I would make 10 on the second chart “Gone Beyond Recall.”

    Part of the fun of this system is that you could have zones in temples, or arcane hot spots, or other places, where you’d reverse the use. Something supernatural is MORE LIKELY to happen there than something mundane; roll a 10, and something mundane instead.

  8. Lloyd Neill says:

    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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