Death and Dying

( ⇪ Adventuring Variants )

Under the standard d20 rules, unconsciousness and death are predictable states: When a character reaches negative hit points, he goes unconscious. When he reaches -10, he dies.

This variant takes away some of that predictability. No longer does a dying character have a set number of rounds to live. This heightens the tension in combat when one of your allies has fallen, because you don’t know exactly when the clock is going to run out.

With this variant, characters can’t be reduced to negative hit points — 0 is the minimum. There is no automatic hit point total at which a character dies. Instead, any character who takes damage that reduces his hit points to 0 must make a Fortitude save (all Fortitude saves mentioned in the Death and Dying section are “Death and Dying” Fortitude saves unless specified otherwise) to avoid falling unconscious or dying. You cannot press your luck on a Death and Dying Fortitude saving throw, regardless of whether you just got knocked to 0 or are at 0 and have to make another Death and Dying save for some reason. Fear effects and stress effects (such as shaken) affect you as-normal if you were conscious immediately before the roll. Worse, while you’re at 0 hit points your reserve points do not function in any way. The amount of lethal damage that brought you to 0 and ever since then is tracked by the GM as your “wounds”.

The Fortitude Save

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When a creature’s hit points are reduced to 0 by lethal damage, note how much lethal damage brought it to 0. This is added to their current amount of wounds tracked by the GM. The creature must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds). Success means the character is disabled; failure indicates that he is dying. Failure by 10 or more means the character is dead. If the character rolls a natural 3, he is dying. Calculate the numeric result; if he missed the DC by 10 or more, he is dead. NPCs and enemies make the save with a roll instead of using their fortitude score. A quesar or living construct that would gain the dying condition instead becomes inert (as does a quesar that would die).

GM’s Note: Mentions of the term “FP” in the flow charts refer to Fortitude Points, a new “gradual defense” all creatures have.

Disabled

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A disabled character is conscious, but can only take a single move or standard action each turn (but not both, nor can she take full-round actions). She moves at half speed. Taking move actions doesn’t risk further injury, but if a disabled character takes any standard action (or any other action the GM deems strenuous, including some free, swift, or immediate actions such as casting a quickened spell) that leaves her at 0 hit points, she must succeed on a Fortitude save (against the same DC as made previously) to remain disabled; otherwise, she becomes dying after she completes the action.

If a disabled character takes any new lethal damage, that is added to their wounds as well, and she must make a new Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds), but any result other than dead means the character is now dying. A disabled character who is dealt (or who is currently suffering from) any nonlethal damage is unconscious but does not begin dying. A creature with the living construct subtype that becomes disabled is unaffected by strenuous activity, but does still have to make a fortitude save if he takes new lethal damage.

Dying

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A dying character is unconscious and near death. Each round on his turn, a dying character must make a Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per turn after the first, +1 per 5 wounds) to become stable. If the character fails the save, he dies. If the character succeeds on the save by less than 5, he does not die but does not improve. He is still dying and must continue to make Fortitude saves every round. If the character succeeds on the save by 5 or more but by less than 10, he becomes stable but remains unconscious. If the character succeeds on the save by 10 or more, he becomes conscious and disabled. Another character can make a dying character stable by succeeding on a DC 15 Heal check as a standard action (which provokes attacks of opportunity).

GM’s Note: Be sure to mention to a player in the dying status that they can use an action point to automatically stabilize instead of rolling. Once they roll though, they have to accept the roll.

A quesar or a creature with the living construct subtype that would gain the dying condition instead becomes inert. A creature that would otherwise be destroyed at 0 HP is destroyed.

Inert

Only quesars or creatures with the living construct subtype can become inert. An inert creature is unconscious and can take no actions. A quesar returns to 1 HP after 1 minute of being in daylight (as described in its fast healing ability) without taking any more lethal damage (more lethal damage has no other effects on a quesar). If an inert living construct takes lethal damage, that damage is added to their wounds and it must make a new Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds). If the living construct fails the save, it dies. Otherwise, it remains inert.

Stable

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A stable character is unconscious. If a stable character takes any new lethal damage, that damage is added to her wounds and she must make a new Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds) to remain stable. If the character fails the save, she becomes dying, otherwise she remains stable.

Every hour, a stable character must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds) to remain stable. If the character fails the hourly save, he becomes dying instead. If the character succeeds on the hourly save by less than 5, he does not get any worse, but does not improve. However, if the character stabilized himself with no help, the DC increases by +1 per hour beyond the first (anything else can still stabilize you properly). Either way, he is still stable and unconscious, and must continue to make Fortitude saves every hour. If the character succeeds on the hourly save by 5 or more, he becomes conscious and has 1 hit point (any nonlethal damage still applies). Any number of characters can each grant a stable character a +2 bonus on his hourly Fortitude save to remain stable by tending to him for at least 10 minutes during the hour between saves and by making a DC 15 Heal check.

A creature with the living construct subtype that would gain the stable condition instead becomes inert.

Dead

A dead character’s soul immediately departs the body, and getting it back into the body is a major hassle. Unless you have access to powerful divine magic, you can’t do much to a dead character except go through his pockets for loose gold pieces.

Healing

GM’s Note: If a character is at 0 hit points then their reserve points do not function in any way.

A disabled, stable, dying, or inert character has 0 hit points. Healing that raises her above 0 hit points makes her conscious and fully functional again, just as if she had never been reduced to 0. A spellcaster retains the spellcasting ability she had before dropping to 0 hit points, etc. (Of course, a character suffering from nonlethal damage equal to or in excess of her current hit points must still deal with the ramification of that state.) Take care however, because your wounds you got from this brush with death continue to be tracked and stack with later wounds you get from being knocked to 0 hit points again. Wounds only recover if…

  • You finish a “complete bed rest” (24 hours), which (after gaining your Fortitude Points for the rest) immediately triggers a regular Fortitude save (not a Death and Dying save, DC 10, +1 per 5 wounds) to reduce your wounds by the result of the Fortitude saving throw. This option is not available to a living construct or quesar.
  • Someone else tends to you for 8 hours solely for this purpose using a Healer’s Kit or masterwork tool for the Heal skill (which can be done while you’re having “complete bed rest” and overlaps with tending to you while you’re stable), after which they must succeed at a Heal check (DC 16, +1 per 5 wounds) to reduce your wounds by the result of their Heal check. This option is not available to a living construct or quesar.
  • A living construct or someone else can tend to that living construct for 8 hours solely for this purpose using a masterwork tool for the Craft (armorsmithing, blacksmithing, gemcutting, or sculpting) skill, after which they must succeed at the same kind of Craft check (DC 16, +1 per 5 wounds) to reduce the living construct’s wounds by the result of their Craft check.
  • Someone uses any supernatural, spell-like, or psi-like effect on you that is capable of curing ability damage, after which they make a caster/manifester level check (same level as the effect, DC 8, +1 per 5 wounds) to reduce your wounds by half the result of the check (round down).

The Fast Healing ability acts differently while you’re at 0 hit points. It first heals any nonlethal damage as normal, but instead of then healing lethal damage it provides a +2 circumstance bonus on The Fortitude Save for every point of fast healing that would heal lethal damage that round.

No Massive Damage

Unlike the standard massive damage rules and the ones described by the original form of this variant, massive damage doesn’t apply in the usual sense in this setting. If you’re reduced to 0, you can still die outright as a result of failing the fortitude save by 10 or more, but a fortitude save doesn’t automatically trigger if you take 50+ damage and live through it.

Death and Dying

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