Binding Wounds

“He’s almost dead!”  (i.e. a PC is somewhere between 0 and -something hit points)
“Quick, bind his wounds!”  (i.e. what you do when you have no cleric in the party)

One of the things I’ve done in Aldwyr has been to allow for “binding wounds” – this involves post-combat action to bind up physical wounds so that someone does not bleed to death.  I’ve done this several different ways in the past, including 1d4 and 1d3 hit points regained.  But for some time now, I’ve been using 1d4-1, giving a range from 0-3.  Binding wounds prevents a character below zero hit points from getting any worse, but it might not result in them regaining consciousness.  I understand that Swords & Wizardry White Box has a similar “Binding of Wounds” rule.  I used to think there was a rule in either OD&D or AD&D that was the original inspiration.  There apparently isn’t such a rule, which only served to underscore my deepening unease about this practice.

D&D is supposed to be deadly.  Yet, rules such as “poisons do damage, rather than just kill” and “you can bind someone’s wounds” and “zero hit points isn’t dead, -9 or -10 is dead” make for a less deadly game.  Indeed, I wonder to what extent they subtly encourage players to get overly invested in their characters.  One could argue that there ought to be really deadly poisons, and really massive amounts of damage, just to counter-balance this trend.  But the “escalation of power” doesn’t always make for a better game.

I’m still thinking about this.

6 thoughts on “Binding Wounds

  1. I wrote the Omega World game (d20 Gamma World) to create a high-entropy RPG, like your deadly D&D. Omega World was meant to be deadly the way dungeons used to be deadly. The treasures were likewise random and sometimes super good.

    Players were not overly attached to their characters. (This was particularly the case for the player whose mutant had no arms.) It was a good deal of fun. By the end of the campaign, far more characters had died than survived, and the only characters still around were those who mutations let them somehow avoid direct combat.

    As for D&D, theoretically I hate the beholder encounter, with its threat of instant death. But practically, I have really loved the 3.x beholder encounters I've actually had. So go figure.

  2. I kinda like the rules that model how resilient and "hard to kill" people are. People tend to linger in comas for a long time before they actually die, even after severe head traumas and stuff like that.

    Ever read about all those coffins they opened up containing clawing marks on the inside? People were buried alive all the time in the old days, thinking they were dead, before we had our ultra-sensitive modern equipment.

    I think the 0 HP but not dead rule has a certain amount of verisimilitude, and should probably even apply to some poisons and such.

  3. yes it was called Rolemaster where 66 was a seriously bad dice roll, and the charts did kill, and posions did their job, and let us not forget the critical failure table and all it's glory..

  4. In Seattle, last year, there was a news story about a guy who was attacked on the mass transit. Stabbed several times, nobody helped, he got off and managed to get himself to the hospital. By all accounts he isn't anything more than a "normal man". Even if we take multiple stabs into account for one "attack" in the combat round, it still looks like he took a few "attacks" that dealt damage.

    You also hear about casualties in war not always turning into fatalities. After the battle you go aruond killing off or capturing enemy wounded, you recover your wounded, etc. The victors get the chance to recover their casualties, which means they suffer fewer losses. With deadly combat rules you don't get that. Anyone who drops to 0 dies? That means everyone dies all the time :/

    My rules are like so: you fall unconscious at 0, you lose 1 HP per hour, and each hour you get a d20 roll (11+ succeeds, but you have -1 per HP below zero). If you recover, you wake up and stop dying, but you're still at -5 or wherever you were. A single point of damage will knock you out again. If you reach -10, or you fumble the recovery roll, you die immediately.

    This combined with my universal d6 damage and HP (almost all monsters do d6, all weapons do, Fireball does 5d6, etc) means people might become casualties but often don't become fatalities.

    Too easy? Too nice and soft? We've already had a dozen deaths, half of which were permanent (the player started a new character). And this is NOT a killer campaign, we're just talking about people getting a run of bad luck in combat or botching a few saves.

    In my game, binding wounds does nothing unless you have the Medicine skill. With it, you always succeed at binding wounds but if the d20 roll (11+, penalty equal to negative HP) succeeds, the person actually wakes up at 1 HP.

  5. Yet, rules such as "poisons do damage, rather than just kill" …

    It depends, does it not, on how much damage the poison does, no? If a giant wasp poison does 32 damage per dose (half if save), then three stings are still going to kill most people.

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