Friday, July 12, 2013
A few things have had me thinking about what happens when characters are reduced to 0 HP or less. In OD&D and most versions of Classic D&:D, characters by the book are dead. AD&D gives a countdown to -10 HPs.
Most of the time when I'm running, characters taken down to 0 hit points are in fact dead. In large part this is because I've been dissatisfied with the behavior that letting PCs go down to -10 HP causes, where PCs will take bigger risks and rather blithely go down to negative numbers. The OD&D rule creates more paranoia. But at the same time there are interesting possibilities for giving a PC a chance to be "not quite dead yet."
The Dungeon Crawl Classics rules have a Luck check for "recovering the body" where the PC may be dead or not. If they aren't, they have 1 HP and a permanent loss of one point to a physical statistic. That's not a bad start, but I think there are more interesting and flavorful ways to go about not quite dying.
What I have in mind is the idea of defying death. Basically: once in a character's life, they have a 3-in-6 chance of not being dead when reduced to 0 or fewer hit points. This permanently subtracts one from Constitution and one from Charisma. However,they have stolen a life from the gods of death, and owe them a death. Failure to deliver will bring about the character's death by seeming accident.
Now, simply killing your own enemies doesn't seem thematically right for this. I like the idea that, somewhat like in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, the life stolen has to be repaid by killing at the request of another. Anything that can be perceived as cheating, like having a fellow party member ask you to kill that orc over there, could draw the ire of the death gods. Ideally it will be a deed the player doesn't actually want to do, and result in some trouble that will create an interesting adventure.
I'm tempted to limit this to people who have gained a level. It would seem to me that there is some degree of heroism that makes such a thing possible. The curse is more for fun; my main concern is to make the idea that not being dead is a one-time thing with a real cost.
What do folks do for defying death in their games? What do you think about this idea?