Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Utter Randomness(Pt 2) - Falling Damage

Today I have been running around town and thinking about Dungeon Entrance A. #A is reached via the surface. The room is the pinnacle of a 150' tower built above the city, reminiscent of the Pharos of Alexandria. Only two walls and a partially covered staircase remain of the upper story. The oaken staircase is rotting and has the potential for a nasty fall. This hazard has the makings of a gotcha or zap trap. To eliminate that I want to be sure my players are given agency, ie given the clues to perceive the risk before the outcome is determined. To do this I will start with a warning description like:

The oaken stairs are choked with wild grasses and partially clogged with soil. As you approach a strong musty odor assails your nostrils. The dark limestone walls are slick with mildew as the wooden stairs descend steeply 10' feet ahead of you before turning out of sight. The smallest sound echoes into the deep chambers below, it is clear these stairs continue down a great distance beneath you.

My hope is this conveys 1) the disuse and lack of maintenance of the stairwell 2) the potential weakening of the wood. If this does not prompt further action a second warning will be issued thusly.

As you make your way to the first landing the stairs shudder and creak beneath you. The damp wood sags under your weight. The sound seems to reverberate from deep beneath you.

If this prompts further inquiry I will provide some of the following information based on player/character class asking, area being observed etc.

  1. Dwarf - you can make out the faint traces of masonry marks that were probably covered over by paint before the elements washed them away centuries ago. They read 150' feet above base.
  2. Mage/Druid/Ranger - you recognize the black rot fungi growing on the walls and wooden stair case. The wood is likely in am advance state of decay and has a decent chance of giving way.
  3. Fighter/Thief examining wood- the grain of the wood seems to be separating from itself, probably due to the high moisture content in the air. This has likely weakened the wood components of the structure

Mechanics - Roll All the Dice Method

The PCs will be thru this area several times in searching the dungeon. A single roll for the entire trek down or up will indicate the circumstances.

There is a 10% chance that after the first landing that a PC will fall at some point during the climb down. A role of 1,2 on a d20 indicates a fall. This will accumulate 5% on each subsequent venture up to a max of 50%.

D12+D3 (or D30 div 2) indicates the 10 ft section that the fall occurs in. A result of 1 should be ignored as this is the "safe" section. A percent roll indicates if the fallen hits room 1 at the bottom or comes to rest in one of the lower sections of the stairway.

D4 will indicate the number of individuals to fall and a D8 will indicate the party member in marching order to fall. If multiples the persons immediately behind then ahead of the indicated fallen will also be affected. If a 4 is rolled the two individuals behind, and one ahead will be affected. Saves are allowed for those near the edge of the hole.

If individuals are tied together or tied to the structure additional save rolls for the rope (DC 2), the wooden structure DC (2 + 1 for every 200 lbs) or the stone structure (DC 1) will effect the outcome.

Falling Damage

This brings me to the final bit of my thinking and an old issue of Dragon #88 where physics were used by two authors to argue for and against the AD&D systems. I have done extensive reading today from Dragonsfoot to GiantsInThePlayground and every where in between, the same arguments are still alive today. Rather than rehashing these age old debates I will simply list out a few of the systems and let you read the debates for and against linear falling damage on your own time.

DX mitigated

  • In 4E falling damage is 1d10 per 10 feet, Reduced by Acrobatics div 2
  • In 3E falling damage is 1d6 per 10 feet, with 1d6 being non lethal if on purpose with a successful Jump/Tumble check DC 15
  • In OD&D it is 1d6 damage per 10' fallen – but with a saving throw (up to 50') on a d6 to reduce some of this damage. For each increment of 10' there is a 1 in 6 chance of limiting the damage. Thus a result of 6 is all damage reduced, 5 is only 1d6 dealt , 4 is only 2d6... 1 is all 5d6. At 40' 6 and 5 is all dmg reduced etc.

DX straight

  • In 2E it is 1d6 to a max 20d6, interestingly there is admonishment of the physics based discussions and listed is the 1972 record holder having survived a 33,000 foot fall. The runner up is also mentioned
  • Hackmaster 4th Edition uses the 2E rules except the witty commentary is much better
  • Sword and Wizardry it is 1d6 per increment of 10 yards per the aerial combat rules

DX cumulative

  • In 1E AD&D it is 1d6 up to 20d6 per 10' though later dragon articles claim this was meant to be cumulative with 1d6+2d6 being a 20' fall
  • Hackmaster Basic* it is a complex chart but at 10' 1d6p-1 maxing out over 55' at 9d12p, the p referring to the penetrating die, a unique feature of Basic. Additionally there are rules for the substances being landed on and the intent of the fallen
  • OSRIC it is "Falls of less than 5 ft do no damage in game terms; falls of up to 10 ft cause 1d6 damage; if the distance fallen is 20 ft or less, 3d6 damage is inflicted; falls of up to 30 ft cause 6d6, 40 ft is 10d6, 50 ft is 15d6, and falls of over 50 ft cause 20d6 points of damage." A saving throw is DM optional
This is my experience with falling damage in rule sets. Given my extensive reading I haven't seen any house rules that make more sense than these to me. Though there is a thread on Giants... that takes creature size into account that might be workable.

Falling damage Conclusion

For my games I will use 1d6p per 10' feet for a fall, I will allow a save when near a surface to reduce damage fallen thus far by a d6 as in OD&D. If a character falls over 50' they save or die. A save indicates they are unconscious and stable at 0 hp. An intentional jump down of 20' or less succeeds.

* I haven't gotten my hands on the Advanced rules of the new addition yet but it is on my wish list. The new Hacklopedia is a thing of beauty.


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