View Full Version : D20 System: Revised Hitpoints and Mortal Damage

Freelance GM
2012-07-10, 04:27 PM
First,a brief introduction. I'm Freelance GM. I've been playing and DMing D&D 3.5 for three years, and I've been using Pathfinder for a year. I'm also one of three DM's for D&D Encounters at our local store, and I've played but not GM'd games of Dungeon Crawl Classics and Warhammer: 40k: Dark Heresy. So I've got a pretty good amount of DM'ing and roleplaying experience under my belt.

What I have here for you all to read and review is a revised HP system for just about any D20 system, but it was specifically designed for a Pathfinder campaign I'm going to be running soon.

Has the blatant presence of Critical Existence Failure (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CriticalExistenceFailure) in D&D ever bugged any of you? As long as a character has 1 HP, they can fight as well as they can if they had full health. For me and some of my players, especially the non-casters in the group, this becomes very frustrating after a few rounds of Combat with higher-level enemies. Questions like, "How does a human being survive three hits from a crossbow and a direct hit from a longsword!?" are very frequent. So, I put together a system inspired by Alternity's "Mortal Damage," and combined it with it's D20 counterpart, the Vitality/Wound point system, and D20 adaptions of Dark Heresy's Critical Hit Tables, provided by "We Burn Down the Inn," to make every single attack a potentially fatal blow.

Here's how it works:

Everyone has the same number of hitpoints as they normally would, but also a number of "Mortal Hitpoints (aka Mortality Points) equal to their Constitution. This function replaces Negative HP. Nonlethal Damage will not usually cause Mortal Damage (see Regeneration.)

As with Alternity, anyone who takes Mortal Damage is considered "Dying" and when you're out of Mortal HP, you are dead. However, any time you take Mortal Damage, the DM rolls for where on your character's body the Mortal Damage is dealt. Then, there's a sadistic little chart provided by "We Burn Down the Inn" for what gruesome side-effect accompanies the amount of Mortal Damage the player receives. See it here: http://weburndowntheinn.blogspot.com/2012/05/dark-heresy-critical-tables-for-d20.html

Very frequently, these side-effects are instant, gruesome, and painful death.

What Deals Mortal Damage?

Any attack that deals more Damage than the target's Constitution deals Mortal Damage equal to the excess damage. For example, an attack that deals 15 Damage to a Wizard with 12 Constitution deals 3 points of Mortal Damage. (15-12 = 3.) So, the player loses 3 points of Mortal HP, and you roll for a body part on the chart, and find the resulting side-effect for 3.

Critical Hits automatically deal random amounts of Mortal Damage. Upon confirming a Critical Hit, and dealing the extra damage to normal HP, roll a D10 on "We Burn Down the Inn"'s chart for the amount of Mortal Damage. If a Critical Hit deals more damage than the target's Constitution, then you deal X additional Mortal Damage, with X being the amount of damage exceeding the target's CON, added to your roll. Suppose the 15 Damage in the above example came from a Critical Hit on the same unfortunate 12 CON wizard from the above example. The DM rolls for the location of the blow, and then rolls 1d10 on the Chart, but adds +3 to the result, because of the 3 points of Mortal Damage the target would be taking normally.

Spill-Over Damage, my term for Damage that would normally bring players into the Negatives, is dealt as Mortal Damage instead. So, if a character with 6 Hitpoints takes 10 points of Damage, then instead of dropping to -4 HP, they take 6 point of normal HP damage, dropping them to 0 and rendering them unconscious, and then they take 4 points of Mortal Damage.

Massive Damage, if you're using that rule, still provokes the Save vs Instant Death, before the DM rolls for an effect on the chart. If they pass the Save, then they are reduced to 0 HP and fall unconscious. If they fail, then it counts as "An attack that deals more damage than the victim's Constitution," only the amount of Mortal Damage a Massive Damage attack does is so far above the average PC's Constitution (the original rule has a minimum of 50 damage) that it is instant death.

Death Effects from Spells DO NOT deal Mortal Damage. Wail of the Banshee, Finger of Death, Symbol of Death, and Power Word: Kill do not deal any Mortal Damage, and if the target successfully saves against the spell, then they save against it. If they don't, then they die suddenly, and magically, without any harm to the body. Death Ward does not protect you from Mortal Damage.

Healing Mortal Damage:

Mortal Damage recovers at a rate of 1 point for every 24 hours of bed rest, regardless of Level or HD. Magical Healing restores 1 point of Mortal Damage per spell level, in addition to however much HP it would have healed. So the Level 0 Spell, Cure Minor Wounds, wouldn't cure any Mortal Damage. However, Cure Light Wounds would restore 1 point of Mortal Damage. Cure Serious Wounds can heal 3 or 4 points depending on the class of the caster. Class Features that allow healing will heal Mortal Damage equal to half of the Caster's level. This includes abilities like Lay on Hands for Paladins, or Channel Energy for Pathfinder Clerics.

Monsters and Mortal Damage:

Any type or subtype of Monster that has 0 Constitution cannot take Mortal Damage, and dies when it is reduced to 0 HP.

Any type or subtype of Monster that is immune to Critical Hits still has Mortal HP equal to its Constitution and can still take Mortal Damage from other sources.

A type or subtype of Monster that has no Constitution and is immune to Critical Hits is immune to any type of Mortal Damage, and dies when it is reduced to 0 HP.

Regeneration is tricky. According to normal SRD rules, any type of damage that doesn't cancel out the creature's regeneration is converted to Nonlethal Damage. But in this system, that would mean that it couldn't ever lose its limbs in the first place, and that takes away half the fun of fighting a troll. So, instead, a creature that can Regenerate does not take Mortal Damage, but will still suffer the side-effect. Creatures with Regeneration do not go into Shock, and any effect that would otherwise cause instant death (I.E annihilation of a troll's head) make it unconscious, rather than dead, until its head regenerates. (3d6 minutes, for a troll.) However, only damage that it cannot regenerate will deal actual Mortal Damage to a creature with Regeneration, instead of just the side-effects. The side effects of Mortal Damage of a type that the creature cannot regenerate can cause the creature to go into shock, and can kill it outright.

Rending and Mortal Damage:
The nature of a Rending Attack makes it sound like it would deal Mortal Damage. So, anything that deals Rending Damage deals X points of Mortal Damage, with X being the number of attacks needed for the attack to Rend. (Usually 2 attacks, therefore 2 points of Mortal Damage.)
If the Rending Attack also deals Mortal Damage, then the attacking creature adds +X to the Mortal Damage being dealt, with X being the number of attacks needed for the attack to Rend, instead of just dealing X points of Mortal Damage.

Weapons, Armor, Enchantments, and Mortal Damage:
A weapon that deals x3 Damage on a Critical Hit gets a +1 bonus to its random Critical Hit rolls on the chart.
A weapon that deals x4 Damage gets a +2 bonus to its random Critical hit rolls on the chart.
Magic Weapons add their Enchantment bonus to the amount of Mortal Damage they deal.
A Vorpal Weapon always strikes the opponent's head on a Critical Hit, but can hit other limbs any other time it deals Mortal Damage. It gets to add its +5 Enchantment bonus to the random Critical Hit effects.
Armor of Fortification uses its Enchantment bonus as a penalty to Mortal Damage. Armor of Light Fortification has a 25% chance of ignoring critical hits, but also reduces the amount of Mortal Damage taken by 1, while Armor of Moderate Fortification reduces it by 3, and Armor of Heavy Fortification reduces it by 5.

Alright, well, that was a lot of text. In theory, this system speeds up combat by quickly killing enemies. It also makes the combat more intense, because the players can be killed just as quickly as the enemies, even at higher levels, and because the enemies are killed quickly in violent and dramatic ways. Your players should always be haunted by the fear of gruesome death every time they enter combat, making this system helpful in horror or low fantasy campaigns. The nature of the system makes it compatible with any D20 system, including Star Wars, D20 Modern, even your Homebrew systems.

However, I haven't tested it yet. Like I said, I'll be testing it soon, but I've posted it hoping that some of you could test it out with your players, and let me know what you think about it. If any of you have suggestions for revisions or additions, or if you notice any loopholes or find something I missed, please comment and let me know.


Freelance GM
2012-07-10, 04:32 PM
Gah, my mistake. Although my computer said that the website failed to post the thread, it apparently did! If a Moderator or other reasonable authority figure could delete the duplicate, feel free to.