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D&D 3E
Death and Dying... 
22nd-May-2006 12:03 am
Disney-Mermaid MythandMagic
I'm hoping you guys can give me some advice. In my online game tonight, two of our characters died. This is the first time we've faced PC death, so it's the first time the issue has come up and there was a dispute that has me extremely frustrated. In all the groups, under all the GMs that I've played with, it was said that since all the actions in a round were happening in the same 6 seconds, a person could be healed after hitting the threshold of death so long as it was immediately afterwards. In one group it was before the end of that round, in another it was before a full round passed.

The GM in this game ruled that actions do not happen all at once and once you are dead, you are dead.

To be honest, I'm not sure why this frustrated me so much. I think it was because we never had a chance. The enemies we were fighting were knocking us down from full HP to -20 and the GM ruled that our cleric could not turn and heal the party member who died while he was standing right next to her. Needless to say, the cleric and I are extremely frustrated.

Anyway, my question is: I realize now that the PhB says when you hit -11 hitpoints, you are dead, but I have seriously never played that way. Can someone please clear it up for me? If the rule isn't in the DMG or PHB, where is it found? I assume it has to be somewhere since so many of the GMs that I've played under have used it. Help?!

Edit: Thank you all for your advice. I took some time to talk with another of the players and we've realized that the deaths were really just a matter of adding insult to injury, because the issue is one that's been building up over a quite some time. During last night's combat, my character could not REACH an enemy before the golaith had slaughtered it or the insanely powerful NPC had desintegrated it. I know the other player who survived felt the same way. And this has been happening for the past 6 months real life time. It wasn't just that characters died, but that they died before they could do anything and they seriously could have just stayed home and let the barbarian enter the underdark alone and the adventure would have gone the exact same way.

So, again, thank you and yes, I know Jen and I will need to sit down and talk with the GM about what it is that is going on.
22nd-May-2006 05:29 am (UTC)
Well, in 3.5, it's under 'Injury and Death' in the SRD:


"At -10 or lower, you’re dead."

Given that it's combat, it should be in the 3.5 PHB.

22nd-May-2006 06:55 am (UTC)
The GM either misjudged how lethal the situation was for your characters - or they deliberately set out to kill the character(s) who were killed. I tend to ascribe lack of thought before malice, so hope it's the former.

I think you should look to have an out of game discussion with the GM over what happened. You've learnt one of the unwritten things about gaming - that different groups (and different people) enjoy different things, and hence play in different ways.

In terms of character death, different groups do play it differently. Some groups let the dice lie where they are, and characters die. Other groups try to avoid it and have ways to keep characters alive, as it sounds like you've played before.

The important thing is to discuss the difference of playing style here with your GM and explain why the resulting death(s) frustrated you and impacted on your enjoyment of the game - a good GM should always welcome feedback.
22nd-May-2006 06:00 am (UTC)
This is rather ridiculous. Rules and dice rolls should never get in the way of furthering the story. As DM, I've fudged a few of my own dice rolls if it looked as though the party, or a large part, would die. Even if they're raised it makes things much more difficult with the loss of a level.

I'm betting your DM is rather new at this? To have opponents that toss you straight into unavoidable death and ruling that healing a character next to you and letting them die seem to be rookie mistakes and that he's viewing the game as ''DM vs. Players''. That's not the way a campaign should be run. His job as DM is to keep the PCs on the road to their mission(s) and help the story play out to everyone's enjoyment. I'm sorry this happened to you and that you're having to play Rules Lawyer instead of playing a fun and enjoyable game.
22nd-May-2006 10:43 am (UTC) - Respectfully, I disagree
Rules and dice rolls should never get in the way of furthering the story.

They didn't. The story is "Some of us died there." A good DM can turn that into a powerful plot point. Maybe the characters can be Raised and have to come to grips with their mortality. Maybe they can't, but their equipment will go to some other character who will use it to defeat some Serious Bad Guy three adventures down the road.

And the next time the party encounters one of the critters that killed two people in one-shot, the PCs will be scared.

Really, the only other story is "We beat up some critters and looted some stuff, and, y'know, as long as we weren't, like, stupid, we knew the DM would fudge die rolls for us and that we wouldn't die.

I've been gaming since 1979, and I've had this discussion many times. If you don't want to take a chance on the dice coming up against you, don't put yourself in a situation where you have to roll them.
22nd-May-2006 11:50 am (UTC) - Re: Respectfully, I disagree
It's a fine line to walk. If the PCs can still be scared of stuff even if you do fudge rolls. I think the general idea is some believe that a lucky/unlucky roll shouldn't kill off a PC: a PC should die because of a significant action. No one wants to feel that their death was arbitrary. There is a difference between "Oh yeah, my PC died because that goblin got in a lucky critical hit. We were just walking along and 'poof' dead PC" and "That green dragon battle was so deadly it killed off half our party" or "the lich we're after has already killed off two of our traveling companions"

I think the decision to fudge or not needs to be based on the individual group--some groups need to be killed once and a while, some groups need to survive. I had one PC who died occassionally, and then would basically bring back the same character over and over again. So killing him in the first place didn't make much of a difference to story, and after a while it didn't matter if he died because the character basically stayed around, just with a name change. So you have to choose and balance: is it more fun if the PC lives or if the PC dies? That's what's really important.
22nd-May-2006 08:36 pm (UTC) - Re: Respectfully, I disagree
I think my character died three times on the way from 5th level to 40th level. Her party always gathered up the cash and rezzed her. Same with anyone else who died--although once the cleric got to high enough level, it didn't matter anymore. ;-)

If the DM is going to limit resources like that, though, they need to be EXPLICIT and CLEAR about that fact, and not put the party into unwinnable situations. That is, unwinnable even if the party makes good decisions.

If the party has a habit of making bad decisions, the DM needs to put them in a nearly-lethal (but not quite) situation to make them realize what they're lacking (be it non-metal weapons against a baby rust monster, or ranged weapons against something that flies, or whate have you) such that when they face the real baddies, they're prepared.
22nd-May-2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
This is rather ridiculous. Rules and dice rolls should never get in the way of furthering the story.

I'll see your oversimplification, and match you "no preconcieved notion of what story you want to tell should ever get in the way of the game."

There are a lot of monsters in the stock D&D Monster Mannual that can, with the right situation, tear through a party of equal CR. Heck, a 1st level Orc bruiser with a two-handed weapon is as likely as not to kill most party members on a single critical hit.

Lady2Bettle - Don't blame your GM. You "only" lost two party members, and character death is part of the D&D experience. Take it as a warning that the training wheels just came off the campaign, and see if there's any way you can get the "dead" characters back.
22nd-May-2006 06:52 am (UTC)
It's never fun to be on the business end of a mean beat-down. But since you have asked, I'll answer.

#1) Your DM has interpreted the normal rules correctly. When a character is reduced to -10 hp, that character is -- as of that moment, not later in the round, not next round -- dead. He is deceased, demised. He is an ex-adventurer.

#2) Your DM makes the rules anyway, so even if he was wrong, he's right. Now, you can look up the rules later, and discuss it with him, and maybe if approached in this way he might relent or at least learn for next time, but you don't want to be bringing this sort of thing up in the middle of a game when he's got about a dozen things going on. But, in this case, it doesn't matter, because he was doing it right.

We have a dramatic desire for a "last-chance" save, I know. And it's no fun to die. But if you want to play strictly by the rules, then the characters were dead when they were hit to -10.

Good luck,
22nd-May-2006 07:45 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, what lvl where the characters?

It doesn't sound like the character deaths should be the focus here. The actual problem is the confusion over how the DM planned to run his/her game. As 7th_son said, the DM has been running things pretty much by the book. Since it sounds like you and some other players are used to a different style of play, you may want to make suggestions to your DM, emphasis on that they are suggestions as game play style is generally determined by the DM.

Also, while is obvious that players were outmatched, without the DM's input it is hard to tell whether that was due to inexperience of the DM or whether it was due to faulty steps/actions taken by the characters/party. We don't know what decisions the characters have made leading up to this event and thus it's difficult to judge whether In Character mistakes might have been made or not.
22nd-May-2006 01:40 pm (UTC)
We're currently 12th/11th.

And I think part of my frustration is that we've been in the underdark for 6 months RL time and it seems like every combat, the goliath barbarian slaughters everything and everyone else just tries to sit back and not die. This time, the barbarian was helped by a 20th level NPC that we were escorting.

So, really, I guess, it's a frustration that's been building up over quite some time. The fact that not only did people die, but it was a totally pointless death because they could have just stayed home and the entire adventure would have gone the exact same way.
22nd-May-2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
See, the NPC saving the day is EXACTLY what they tell you in the DMG that you should NEVER do. NEVER NEVER NEVER. That's just flat-out bad DM'ing--the story is about the players, not the npc's, no matter how egoistic the DM.


(For the record, an NPC has saved the day once in the game I'm currently in, but it was kind of a plot point that we knew was going to happen out-of-character. It was a prelude to the real game.)
22nd-May-2006 09:45 pm (UTC)
We're currently 12th/11th....

L2B, your problem is not character death. It's a "not fun" story. At 12th level PC death is simply just a level drain -- the spells to undo it are three character-levels old, and there are even more ways to instantly kill something than you thought existed. (Finger of death, Disentigrate, massive damage threshhold, etc.)

Presuming that I'm right in the evaluation of your problem, you should go to your GM and tell him that you're not feelign as if your PC is contributing to the game. If the barbarian is walking through the foes, then there's not enough challenge.
22nd-May-2006 08:02 am (UTC)
Sometimes I think the death of a character can be good adventuring fodder for an adventure. Depending on the game campaign, the group can then seek out some means of bringing that character back to life. The dead player loses out on the session or two worth of fun and xp but gets to not die. This is appreciated at higher levels when a player is attached to a character and doesn't want to create a new, high level character just to stay in the campaign. Because, really, isn't that even cheesier then a dead character?
22nd-May-2006 08:50 am (UTC)
There is no such rule in the SRD, the PHB, DMG or any splatbooks I've seen. I've not heard of any using such a rule before, but it seems like the kind of house-rule that would get re-invented by varying DMs, or easily adopted at player request.

If you feel that you need this rule to play, then if you play with a new DM, then you need to bring up the subject of house-rules before you start the game.

That all said, it sounds rather like the difficulty of the encounter might have been pitched a little high - being one-rounded is frustrating, but it happens. Happening to two characters is probably a little much.
22nd-May-2006 01:11 pm (UTC)
Mechanically, it doesn't matter if you've been dead for half a second or for several hours, you're into the realm of Raise Dead rather than healing spells. I do like your house-rule, though. It makes a lot of sense.

But I've gotta ask ... WTF was your GM thinking putting you up against things like that?
(Deleted comment)
22nd-May-2006 06:14 pm (UTC)
Being in situations where you can die is one thing, two characters getting one-rounded is something else.
22nd-May-2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
Well when I GM, my house rule is such. "When a player is hit beyond his hitpoint threshold, he falls and is at 0 hitpoints." What I mean is that even if he has 1hp and I strike him for 20hps he drops to 0 and falls.He then loses 1hp per round until he his healed in some form or fasion. When the said player falls below -11hp, he is dead. Now I allow that if you get to the player and perform a heal skill check. The blood loss is stopped and they stop losing hit points. This does not bring them to 0hp, they stay at whatever negative they were at. If they are given a potion of healing they are returned to 0 hp and then they can start to build hp again, or they can be given another potion to revive them.
22nd-May-2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
That's a very good way of doing things. It's really annoying to be in an epic game, where people can take hundreds of points of damage in a round, and not even *have* that 10 point window anymore because it's so tiny compared to the damage the weapons are doing.
22nd-May-2006 09:23 pm (UTC)
Meh. The problem is not the weapons, the problem is the 30 to 40 STR on the guys wielding the weapons, the +5 and above enhancements, the +1d6 bonus damage from various weapon special abilities, etc.

Most importantly, it's all the extra attacks per round. The current edition's physical combat is a lot quick'n'deadlier than in old editions where you'd be doing 1d8+1 per round, maybe up to 1d8+4 at high levels.
23rd-May-2006 09:50 pm (UTC)
Point 1: Yeah, true dat.

Point 2: Extra attacks? You mean like how fighters get four attacks at 16th level? I actually kind of like that system. And the number of attacks you get per round NEVER increases once you're epic, so it's kind of halted there. The only way to make it better is 2-Weapon Fighting or Rapid Shot. Or some special abilities like those of the Dervish or the Frenzied Berzerker (I think).
23rd-May-2006 11:01 pm (UTC)
Or Haste. It's cool in helping differentiate characters of different combat skill levels at higher levels, but once the iterative attacks start going, it really shoots up the damage done. Especially with the extra damage that PCs stack up at higher levels - not only are you doing 30 per hit instead of 8 per hit, you're regularly doing it three times a round. It doesn't fit very well with the "10 point margin"
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