... now with 35% more arrogance!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Death, Dismemberment, and Criticals

A couple people have posted recently about the various death and dismemberment tables floating around; here, here, here, and here. These sort of interest me, as do the old-fashioned critical injury tables, but I'm always daunted by having too many specialized tables that I need to consult in play. This is why I try to restrict myself to a couple highly-adaptable general tables like the 20-sided quickies tables. Or suggesting re-usable dice maps that can be interpreted in multiple ways, such as the recently-posted NPC background technique.

Here's another quick adaptation of that same dice map to death and dismemberment: if a character has fewer hit points than the maximum damage of an attack, roll the damage die or dice on the dice map. If the damage done is greater than or equal to the character's remaining hit points, interpret the damage as a critical injury (badly-injured level) to the location specified by the name of the region the die/dice landed in:
  • Strength: arms or upper body
  • Dexterity: legs or lower body
  • Constitution: vital organs
  • Intelligence: confusion or concussion damage
  • Wisdom: sensory organs
  • Charisma: severe scarring or disfigurement
If rolling more than one die, doubles indicate complete loss -- severed limbs, loss of eye/ear, coma for Intelligence damage, instant death for vital organs. Cater the specific description to the weapon or attack type used.

Critical hits can be handled similarly. I've never really liked the "always do a critical on a natural 20" system, so I'd prefer something more like a possible critical if the to-hit roll (excluding combat bonus or level bonus) plus Dex/3 (or other attribute, if it seems appropriate) is 20 or more. In that case, the GM rolls a d6 on the map. The result is a critical injury, interpreted on the above table. Alternatively, if critical injuries should be rarer, only interpret the d6 roll as injury if the damage rolled matches the result.

The beauty of this is: I don't need to print out the list of attributes and associated injuries. I can handle the "table" with no extra tables.

Edit: I forgot to mention two things: (1) as mentioned in the comments, if the damage dice land on a border, the victim gets two results. (2) If the dice land in the hub, figure the wound is just severe bleeding, requiring bandaging in 1 turn to avoid death and persistent danger of bleeding. Results other than wounds to the vitals also bleed, but if bandaged, won't have as much chance of re-opening the wound.


  1. I really like this one. The use of attributes as a starting point is elegant and effective. I may well give it a try in my game!

  2. Thanks, guys! I also think the dice map injects extra variety, since the dice can land on a border between attributes, which means interpreting it as both concepts. Your blade slices through his upraised arm and plunges into his chest!

    I plan on doing other things with the attribute dice map, too. For example, I think I can associate each attribute with a piece of equipment: Strength = weapon, Con = armor/clothing, Dex = manipulative tools (lock picks, rope,) Wis = sensory tools (spyglass, incense,) Int = information (books, map, scrolls,) Cha = entertainment and ornamentation. I haven't worked out the details on that one, yet.

  3. Thanks! This is a really old table though. Can't find the newer table right now, so maybe I'll redo it for eventual inclusion with the d6 weapon critical tables.