After a year of playing Trophy Gold and loving it I’m now playing Five Torches Deep so I can tinker with some houserules. This is all making me look at old notes for a D&D hack that I began in my daily notebook on subway train commutes into the Bronx. Old Google Docs are being opened with cryptic nicknames. Odd ideas are percolating in my brain as I fiddle with random encounter tables and Bingo XP Variants.
This all has me thinking, what happens when you hit 0 Hit Points?
To me, Hit Points are not a health meter. Let’s think of them more as your thread in the tapestry of fate. What happens when you thread is cut?
Maybe you don’t want to roll up a new character just yet and don’t want to play as a hireling. Cool. Taking a cue from Circle of Hands, you are a ghost. You get a d6 per level+1 that you can hand to you characters to add to their rolls or maybe a d6 per level of Wisdom Bonus. You get to be a helpful spectre for a while. When you run out of d6’s, your time in this mortal world is done and you say your good-bye as you fade into the Quietlands.
Death is administrated by sapient beings. The Incarnation of Death you bring to the table is determined by how powerful you were.
What rules does Death go by in your world? Driven away by silver? Daggers made of those pennies people put on corpse’s eyes to pay the ferryman? Fire?
Not sure what death looks like? Ask the player what death looks like in their character’s home culture. Last time I did that I got a regal Game of Thrones-style ice zombie riding a polar bear.
If your comrades drive off death, you reroll your physical stats and your hit points to see how undeath is treating you. You are a monster now.
Your Jenga Tower Has Fallen
Taking inspiration from Dread, when you hit 0 hit points, at some point you are going to die. The player decides but every time you roll the dice you ask the table, “Have I pushed it too far? Do I die right now as I attempt to complete this task?”
If anyone says that your character perishes – they perish. Their thread is cut, one cannot rewrite time’s tapestry. It is too late.
What other options do you have when a character falls? What do you do in that time between the Death and the Wake?
Skull header from the British Library’s flickr page.
Check out this design and more in the Tabletop Role-Playing Game collection…
The Incarnation one reminds me of how in the old Gauntlet, you could only stop Death with a potion, and if you didn’t have one you were pretty much boned.
Oh man, I totally forgot about that.