Friday, March 15, 2019

Updated Death and Dismemberment, and Psychic Damage

This recent post by Scott has gotten me thinking about my old Death and Dismemberment and Fatigue systems. I recommend reading the original posts to get some more background if you are considering developing your own systems; these posts have links to other, good blog posts.

First, I want to start off my stating that I stand by my convictions as a classic/old school D&D'er:

1. Death is a thing that must be feared. I do not want Players to be terrified that they are going to die every minute of a session, but I do want death and permanent injury to be a constant threat.

2. Character generation needs to be a fast process in order to ensure that losing a character is not a show stopper... i.e. once Fawg the Destroyer is killed, 15 minutes later, his younger brother, Georg the Miniature, can link up with the party and get right back into the action.

I have more to say regarding character death in this post from a while back.

After a few years of playing, these two systems, combined with my own critical hit charts, have proven to be worth the effort when it comes to wild deaths and injuries at the table. During one great session in Korea, we had a party get wrecked... 1 death, one lost eye, a chopped off leg, and a few missing fingers... it was great!

I have made a couple minor adjustments, but for the most part they remain unchanged. This post will roll up both systems into one conclusive post.

Another note regarding subdual damage and these two tables: When attacking and subduing your enemies, all characters/monsters attack as normal but roll with disadvantage when doing damage. The damage is applied to a character's normal hit point pool. When a character who has taken subdual damage falls to zero hit points, roll on the Psychic Damage Table (taken Fatigue damage), below.

As a firm believer in JOESKY and his TAX, see below for my death and dismemberment and psychic damage systems.


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 table 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?).

Table (roll 2d8 + negative HP):
3 or Less - 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 may be impossible (e.g. climbing, sneaking, picking pockets, etc.)
15 - Mortally Wounded: only magical healing within 1d4 rounds can save you and suffer 3d6 Fatigue
Greater than 15 - Dead! 

I love this pic!


A character's Fatigue score pool, at maximum, is equal to his Wisdom (WIS) score. Character's take fatigue points either from spell casting or from environmental factors such as suffering from starvation or from enduring periods of extended physical stress, such as being tortured. The amount of Fatigue damage suffered from spell casting is determined through the spell casting process. The amount of Fatigue suffered from environmental factors and physical stress is typically taken in metered periods and requires a saving throw. e.g. After going two minutes without oxygen a character must make a save every round or they take 1d10 points of Fatigue. A character's Fatigue pool may have a negative value. As a character takes Fatigue damage it is important to note that their actual Wisdom scure does not change and that any adjustments (e.g. modifiers to spell saves) are not changed.

Table (roll 2d8 + negative Fatigue):

3 or Less - Second Wind: Gain 1d4 Fatigue, only fall unconscious if you still have zero or fewer Fatigue.
4  - Stunned: Fall unconscious for 1d6 rounds (awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
5-6 - Exhausted: Fall unconscious for 1d8 hours 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
7-8 - Concussed: Fall unconscious for 2d6 hours, take 1d4 Hit Points 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
9-10 - Comatose: Fall unconscious for 2d6 hours, take 1d4 Hit Points; make save or suffer a Mental Deformity 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
11-12 - Brain Fever: Fall unconscious for 2d6 hours, take 2d4 hit points; make save with -2 or suffer a Mental Deformity 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
13-14 - Time TravelerFall unconscious for 2d10 hours and suffer a Mental Deformity; make save with -2 or travel to the Time Piece - Thanks, Venger - 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
15-16 - Vessel of the Great God: Fall unconscious for 1d4 daysGenerate a random godling. You are now the rock and cornerstone of its church. Lose half your levels and become the first priest of your new master 
(awaken with 1d4 Fatigue).
17-18 - Psychic Hemorrhaging: Fall unconscious and suffer two Mental DeformitiesOnly magical healing can push you up into positive Fatigue points. Make save every hour or die.
Greater than 18 - Dead

Rather than sticking with the old school Hit Point (HP) method of recovery in which PCs recovery HPs at a slow rate, I am adopting the 5e method of using short and long rests. The system is pretty simple. Each day a PC has a number of dice equal to their Hit Dice (HD) in both short and long rest dice. e.g. Maria, 6th level Cleric, has 6d6 of short and 6d6 of long rest dice which she can use/exhaust each day. She can take upto six short rests. During each short rest, she heals upto 1d6 HP per rest. At the end of each day Maria takes a long rest. She heals upto 6d6 of HP per long rest. A short rest is one turn in length. A long rest is c. 8 hours in length. If a short rest is interrupted the character recovers one HP. If a long rest is interrupted and not completed a character recovers the proportion of the total amount of HD which was completed. e.g. Maria's party is attacked by bandits while making camp/conducting a long rest. Rather than chasing off the attacking bandits and continuing their long rest, the party flees and continues adventuring. The party completed c. fours hours of rest prior to being attacked. Maria recovers 3d6 HP.

Recovering Fatigue is also wrapped into the cycle of short and long rests. After a short rest a character recovers one point of Fatigue. After a long rest a character recovers 1d8 points of Fatigue. In cases where a short rest is interrupted, a character does not recover any Fatigue. When a long rest is interrupted and not completed a character recovers 1d4 points of Fatigue.

In addition to the very simple prosthetics mentioned above there is a world of fantastic prosthetics out there fir us to enjoy. In fact, I could even imagine scenarios in which a PC might want a prosthetic limb, eye, etc (check out this video to see what I mean). Thanks to Skerples and Luka for these 2 great lists of replacements and upgrades:

Coins and Scrolls - OSR: Fantasy Prosthetics

WTF - 46 d100 Magic Prosthetics

The Fatigue system (above) makes mention of  Mental Deformities. This is a sub-system which requires a little more work. Expect more to come within the next few days. Additionally I am going to be pushing out a spell system which integrates Fatigue (and, as a result, Mental Deformities) and Mutated Corruption. The system will also incorporate chances for spell failure, wild effects, etc.


  1. I like it, homey. I might try that out in one of my OSR D&D games

  2. Interesting stuff. I really like the Death & Dismemberment table; psychic damage might be going a little far for my games. But good work on all!


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