Sometimes horrible things happen to good heroes (or bad monsters) in D&D. When that happens, it’s good to have a handy-dandy table of horrible things that could happen. I use this table when a hero drops to 0hp, when they experience a horrific accident (think critical fail on a climbing check while ascending a heaving Loggothian Shamrock Ribburaht to plant the Sword of Ice in its second brain), or—sometimes—when they lose half their hit points in a single dramatic and epic blow (i.e. from a critical hit).
It’s sort of like a DC 20 Constitution save, but with a twist.
Out at zero
When a hero hits 0 hp, they’re out for the battle and they roll a horrible stuff check. If a healer rushes up to them and magically raises their hp above 0, they can go fight again. They’re heroes, they can come back from horrible injuries. Unless they die outright, you know. After a fight, heroes return to 1 hp automatically after a short rest. Because heroes, y’know.
During combat, anyone can take a chop ’em up action to kill a hero who is out, or a drag to safety action to pull the fella back behind the lines. Enemy mooks and monster scum die at zero. Enemy villains and NPCs are out dramatically, because they’re heroes, too.
- when hero hp drop to zero or below
- horrific accident (really bad critical fail)
- epic blow (lose half hit points in a single epic blow or critical hit)
1d20 + Con save – HP below zero
- Dead: horrible, gruesome death. The hero needs something more major than raise dead to come back from this. Like, remember how that guy in Game of Thrones got stabbed by all the Black Watch? This is getting ‘stabbed’ to bit by maces and axes.
- Messed up: major head injury, death without a helmet. Knocked unconscious for several hours (1d8+1), disadvantage to all activities until treated by a physick, possible permanent loss of all stats.
- Messed up: major organ damage, weakened (deal half damage on attacks), critical bleeding 5, disadvantage to all physical activities until treated by a physick, possible permanent Con or Str loss.
- Messed up: limb lost, whether cut off or smashed or ripped, whatever. Roll d4: (1) left arm, (2) right arm, (3) left leg, (4) right leg is now gone or useless. Weakened, slowed, very severe bleeding 4, possible permanent Dex and Str loss.
- Messed up: complex fractures, sprains, tears, cuts. Weakened, slowed. Possible permanent Dex and Str loss.
- Disfiguring facial injury, possible lost eye or nose or ear or lip or tip. Stunned (save each round, Con DC 3d6+6).
- Broken limb, simple fracture. A cure wounds can fix this. Or even a mending if you trust the crazy wizard. Roll d4: (1) left arm, (2) right arm, (3) left leg, (4) right leg is now useless. Slowed or weakened, depending on limb.
- Knocked out. Unconscious (save each round, Con DC 3d6+4).
- Dislocated limb. Roll d4: (1) left arm, (2) right arm, (3) left leg, (4) right leg is now useless. Slowed or weakened, depending on limb (save Con DC 3d6+3 and take an action to ‘fix’ the dislocation).
- Severe bleeding wound 3. Dazed (save each round, Con DC 3d6+2)
- Stunned. Save each round, Con DC 3d6+1.
- Bleeding wound 2. Dazed (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Incapacitated (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Weakened (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Epic scar. Dazed (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Flesh wound, bleeding 1. Dazed (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Slowed (save each round, Con DC 3d6).
- Knocked prone humorously.
- Knocked prone with an improvised weapon conveniently in reach.
- Knocked prone near a dropped weapon or potion or something, and get a free bonus action.
What are these conditions?
Some of these conditions aren’t mentioned in vanilla D&D 5E. Does that bother you? It shouldn’t. Use common sense and my pithy descriptions.
- Bleeding: you’re taking ongoing hp damage from whatever wound you’ve taken until you hit 0 hp, then you’re on the ground, gently dying. While you’re above 0 hp, you can take a Hold My Wound Shut action instead of your regular actions, and avoid taking further damage. Holding your guts in, I guess. Somebody can bind you up with a medical check with a DC of 3d6 + your ongoing damage. Swigging a health potion that heals you back above 0hp doesn’t stop the bleeding – you still need binding. Or, alternatively, a second potion filled with stitch nanites. After that, you should be careful of reopening the wound by doing something stupid. If you’re not patched up or cared for after a battle (say your allies run off), you probably bleed out and die.
- Dazed: you took a ringing blow and have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks. It’s just like poisoned, except little birds fly around your head.
- Lost Limb: the limb needs replacement. Use magic to make a new golem arm from some twigs and a fox’s paw, or something. If a player really hates this, just provide regeneration magic.
- Messed up: whatever damage you have taken has messed you up seriously. Your associated conditions need serious attention, like hospital rest or a a high-level healer with regeneration spells and stuff. Whatever is wrong with you is definitely not getting fixed in a dank hole in the ground.
- Possible Permanent Stat Damage: you might lose 1 or 2 points off a given ability permanently, if you’re playing that kind of game. If you’re playing a softer game, lose 1d6 points until you get checked out by some serious medic. If this is too much hassle, or your players don’t want this, fine.
- Slowed: your movement speed is halved, you have disadvantage on initiative checks and you can’t take reactions.
- Weakened: a bit like poisoned. You have disadvantage on damage rolls with your attacks.
Wacky house rule: reign of arms
If a hero (or monster) rips off an enemy’s limb in combat, they get a free attack with it.