Thursday, February 2, 2012

Death and Dismemberment Redux

The last few Google Plus Hill Cantons games have been real meat grinders, especially when compared to the sessions of their more stable, wary, and experienced table-top cousins. The mortality rate for men-at-arms is hovering around 100 percent and two PCs had their numbers called—almost.

Instead of InstaDeath I have been using the much-vaunted Death and Dismemberment chart, a veritable old school D&D Texas tradition first brought to fame by Robert Fisher a couple years back (I first encountered it the hard way in Norm Harman's Caves of Chaos hack).

Longtime readers will notice that I have posted a couple versions here before—all increasingly less forgiving then the original—the following version is the one I have been actually using in the campaign in the last year and a half.

May you never have to consult it—unless you damn well deserve it.

Hill Cantons Death and Dismemberment Chart
Roll d10 if a PC reaches 0 to -10 hit points (anything lower is an automatic death). If hit again during the session, the player must make an additional roll at -1 (cumulative for each roll on the chart). The GM can also adjudicate positive or negative modifiers according to circumstance.

With any result the character is out for the session unless magical healing brings hit points into the positive range.

0 or lower Grisly Death. Body so spectacularly destroyed that only a resurrection or wish spell can bring it back to life.
1 to 3 Just Plain Dead. Dead as per the usual rules.
4 to 5

Fatal Wound. Character dies in 1d12 rounds unless magical healing is applied. Character is completely incapacitated and will remain an invalid for 3d6 weeks . Scarring makes for -2 to Charisma.
6 to 7

Severed or Mangled Limb or Digit. Roll randomly or GM pick for which limb or digit (can also be eyes, ears, or nose). Unconscious for 3d6 rounds. Character requires 3d4 weeks of healing before being able to adventure. -1 to Charisma.
8-9 Broken Bone. Roll randomly or GM picks limb. 3d4 weeks to heal bone. Also unconscious for 2d6 rounds.
10 or higher Concussion. Unconscious for 2d6 rounds. 3D6 if not wearing helmet.


  1. I'd add to the concussion one: roll CON or less on 4d6 or suffer 1d3 permanent loss of INT.

  2. I think I may use this. I've been using the ones from SBVD, but this one strikes me as less finicky.

  3. I forgot to add that a "Grisly Death" result will typically force a morale check for NPC hirelings.

  4. Hmmmm... Things I like that are in other versions of this chart:

    1. The possibility of fighting on - though your wound may/may not still kill you.

    2. Armor being sacrificed to void hits to some specific body parts (somewhat there in result 10+).

    3. Stuns... not quite unconscious, but a rung bell.

    Am I a wuss DM for missing those results? I did kill a character (save or die spider poison) and nearly a second (shadow draining strength) last week.

    Still, our group is playing with death at -10, so I suppose I AM a wuss DM :)

    1. ?Where'd the edit go?

      Left out of the post: these other results seem fun. The drama without them is only about HOW the combat will end for you, not IF.

      Also, it seems unlikely that you'd roll a second time on the table as you'd be unconscious (and more likely to be coup-de-graced) rather than fighting on and being hit again.

    2. "Am I a wuss DM for missing those results?"

      Yes, yes you are. Ha.

      In all seriousness, I keep ratcheting it up as my PC survival rates after reaching zero hp since starting using them is something like 90 percent. So ratcheting them down--without throwing it out all together-- seems entirely fair. Stunned to me--and the other ones that give a positive like an adrenalin surge--seem way too proportionally soft.

    3. I do like the idea that combat can end in something other than just victory or death. How many countless adventure tales have the protagonist knocked out and trussed up? Why not model that?

  5. Man, that is a mean chart. I recently wussyfied mine, 2d6 aren't likely to die on 7+, unless left behind by party.

  6. I’m writing a series of blog posts on Death & Dismemberment Tables and have put yours down on my Honour Roll