Sunday, July 6, 2014

Zero Hit Points: Dismemberment, Dying, and Death

Christian has given me some more inspiration… His own house rules inspired this recent addition to my own S&W game. Thanks again, Christian.  

So what’s the deal with getting beat up (or down) by a gang of Bugbears?  

Bugbear Face Smash by David Trampier
When a character is reduced to zero hit points; is he really dead? Or is it just a way to beat up on him as he lingers, getting closer and closer to death’s door? If he makes it he might have some cool scars and maybe some missing body parts… And certainly a good story to tell around the camp fire. Don’t you remember the time you were tracking that Owl Bear in the Forest of Morne and you got some help tracking the beast from that Ranger who was blind in one eye and had only three fingers on his left hand? He was a real bad ass!

I want a simple but cool mechanic to use which gives characters a more longevity while also giving characters more character (i.e. missing fingers, cool scars, etc.).
I have experimented with a few different methods over the last year or so and they have always come in as being either too simple or too complicated. The method below includes enough variation without requiring too much die rolling. I want players to enjoy the misery of their characters being hacked and smashed to bits but I do not want to slow my game down too much.
Basically once a character reaches zero hit points roll 2d8 and add the absolute value of his negative hit points. e.g. A character takes six points of damage when he has only 2 hit points remaining. He now has negative four hit points. Roll 2d8 and add four. Compare the result to the chart below. The final result tells you what has happened to the character (has he taken some permanent damage or is he just knocked out after taking fatigue damage?).

Joesky’s TaxDismemberment, Dying, and Death

Roll 2d8+Negative HP
2-3 Last Stand: Gain 1d4 HP per every 2 levels in a rush of adrenaline; extra HP lost after combat and the character falls unconscious for 2d6 turns
4 Impressive Scar: +1 CHA
5-6 Ugly Scar: -1 CHA
7-8 Badly Bruised: 1d6 Fatigue.
9 Broken Ribs: 1d6 Fatigue, +1 ENC for 1d6 days
10 Bruised Joint: (knee, elbow, or shoulder) 1d6 Fatigue, +2 ENC for 1d8 days
11 1d6-1 Finger(s) or Toe(s) Lost; 1d4-1 right hand, 2 left hand, 3 right foot,  4 left foot
: 2d6 Fatigue, and DEX/STR penalties when appropriate
12 Broken/Crushed Bone: 2d6 Fatigue, limb useless, and +3 ENC for 2d10 weeks
13 Face Damaged; 1d8, 1-2 Nose (-1 CHA), 3-6 Ear (Disadvantage for Surprise) 7-8 Eye (-2 Ranged Attacks): 2d6 Fatigue
14 Severed Limb: 2d6 Fatigue and 1d4: 1 right or 2 left arm (-1d4 STR, unable to use 2 handed weapons, hook halves STR loss, and a well made prosthetic gives back all lost STR);  3 right or 4 left leg (-1d4 DEX, +4 ENC, +3 ENC with crutch, +1 ENC with peg leg, and a well made prosthetic gives back all but one lost point in DEX); some tasks pay be impossible (e.g. climbing, sneaking, picking pockets, etc.)
15 Mortally Wounded: only magical healing within 1d4 rounds can save you and 3d6 Fatigue
16+ Dead

*Many results require that a character suffer additional Fatigue damage. Use this system. Fatigue damage may still kill a character even when he survives the physical trauma of an attack.

You should really check out Christian’s blog, Wonders and Witchcraft. He has some great hacks. Considering the short amount of time that he has been blogging he has posted some pretty impressive stuff.


  1. I’m writing a series of blog posts on Death & Dismemberment Tables and have linked to yours in my latest post here