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Warhammer Wednesday #3: Risky Business

Written by MythicParty - Published on March 13, 2013

DynamiteIn the initial columns I talked about modeling your D&D game after WFRP (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) to give High Fantasy a much needed dose of grimness & peril.  Today we’ll look at an easy way to make the game more perilous.   After all, the more the risk, the more the reward.  Here are 2 official D20 variants & 1 actual existing rule (with its own variants) that you can easily drop into your D&D games to instantly make them edgier:

1) Massive Damage- with 2 variants for it

  • WHAT: “If a creature takes 50 points of damage or more from a single attack, she must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or die.”
  • WHERE: PHB Core Rulebook I v.3.5 on the top right of page 145
  • WHY:  Well, as the DMG says, its a “not towards realism in the abstract system of hit points.”  Basically, any attack that does that much all at once should be enough to do more than simply decrease the number in the HP box.  As the PHB says, “this amount of damage represents a single trauma so major that is has a chance to kill even the toughest creature.”  Dude, you got pushed off a cliff- you’re not just going to do math ok?  
  • HOW: this is one that can be written on the DM screen or just have your one player who a Rules Lawyer remember for you

1A) Massive Damage Based On Size: each size category larger than Medium raises the threshold by 10 hit points: Large sized creatures now need 60hp of damage in a single shot, Huge 70, etc.  Conversely each size category smaller than Medium lowers the threshold by 10 hp.  So for Small its 40, Tiny 30, Diminutive 20, etc.  Its from the DMG Core Rulebook II v.3.5 look in the middle of page 27.  Again, another real world touch because little things get squished far easier than big ones.  Yes this modification tends to favor the monsters but that’s ok.  And this is coming from a guy currently playing  a Halfling- Massive Damage Threshold of only 40.

1B) Scaling the Saving Throw: “For every 10 points of damage dealt by an attack in excess of a character’s massive damage threshold, increase the Fortitude save DC by 2.”  From Unearthed Arcana top right of page 120.  This keeps the roll high enough to actually be an unsure thing.  So if you got pushed off a cliff into a pool of lava, in addition to marking off a boatload of hit points, you might also be rolling up a new guy.

2) Clobbered

  • WHAT: “if a character takes half her current hit points in damage from a single blow, she is clobbered. On her next turn, she can take only a standard action, and after that turn she is no longer clobbered.”  
  • WHERE: DMG Core Rulebook II v.3.5 look on the top of page 27
  • WHY: Although it sounds like something out of an Adam West-era Batman episode, Clobbered is a realistic condition given what has happened to the unlucky target.  By that I mean if you get whacked for 50% off you’re going to feel it.  Its also cool that it scales.
  • HOW: Just make a condition card out of an index card or Post-It with the effect somewhere

And last but certainly not least, give a drumroll for the one variant that your players will most likely either totally love or totally hate…

3) Instant Kills

  • WHAT: ” When you or a player rolls a natural 20 on an attack roll, a critical roll is made. If that critical roll is also a 20, that’s a threat for an instant kill. Now a third roll, an instant kill roll, is made. If that roll scores a hit on the target (just like a normal critical roll after a threat), the target is instantly slain. Creatures immune to critical hits are also immune to instant kills.”
  • WHERE: DMG Core Rulebook II v.3.5 look on the bottom left of page 28
  • WHY: This is the equivalent of ‘Any Given Sunday.’  Byt that I mean with using this rule there is always the chance, even though its small one, that any combat- ANY combat, could be deadly.  And its that potential for death that should make PCs think twice before just rushing to fight every encounter.  With this in play your players should at least consider diplomacy as an option or risk the consequences.  For their benefit, with Instant Kills the party always has a long shot at pulling off a desperate victory- sort of a Hail Mary play when the chips are down.
  • HOW: Easy enough to remember- everyone already leans forward anytime when a 20 flips up.  Lady Luck visitis someone twice in a  row you better believe all eyes will be on the next roll.  By the way- the odds of rolling 3 natural 20’s in a row is 1 in 8,000.  If it ever happens you group will be talking about that moment for the rest of their gaming careers.  And if it ever happens without you using this rule they’ll be talking about that too, just not as happily.

So there you have it.  Three already included rules from various official D&D books waiting to be included in your game to help heighten the danger of combat to WFRP levels.  What do you guys think?  Too much?  Or a needed add to increase the degree of difficulty?  Let us know below.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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3 Responses to “Warhammer Wednesday #3: Risky Business”
  1. Marty says:

    Heck, I wish I’d read those rules more closely when I was still playing 3.5! I need to incorporate something like this in 4e.

  2. MythicParty says:

    Hi Marty. Just to clarify, the only ‘official rule’ from these 3 is the basic Massive Damage version, as that’s in the PHB. Unearthed Arcana introduced some ways to tweak it, & one of them (basing the HP threshold at CON + Level) would seem to be more applicable to 4E & its higher poop of HP.

    But really putting any of these in your game will spice it up a bit.


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  1. […] it turns out, D&D already a solution for this problem with points: Massive Damage. Now way back in a column from 2013 we’ve previously explained how this official variant works, but here is the short summary in 5 […]

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