Blood and Guts: A Red Box Death & Dismemberment Table

Several of my fellow OSR bloggers have designed injury tables that provide a range of possible results for when a PC drops to zero hit points. (Some examples are Robert Fisher’s, Trollsmyth’s and Norman Harman’s.

I like the idea in principle; it allows for non-lethal effects that keep beloved PCs alive, while simulating some of the ugly consequences to combat that can be found both in real life and in sword & sorcery fiction. But the versions I’ve seen include a number of ineffectual results where the target is unharmed, stunned for 1 round, gains bonus hit points from adrenaline, etc. That’s too forgiving for my taste! The PC is already in trouble; the table should indicate how much trouble results. So I’ve written my own table.

When a PC (or an important NPC, at the DM’s discretion) drops below 1 hit point, roll 1d8 and consult the following table. Reduce the die size to 1d6 or even 1d4 for relatively weak attacks, or increase to 1d10, 1d12 or even 1d20 for especially powerful, destructive attacks. When using a curative spell to deal with an injury from the table, the spell provides no other benefit; no hit points are regained.

Roll Result
1 Scarring: -1 to Charisma; drops to -2 with three scars, -3 with six scars, -4 with ten scars, etc
2 Broken bone (DM chooses or roll randomly): broken ribs/collarbone/etc give -2 to attack rolls, broken arm/leg gives penalties as per severed limb; heals in 3d4 weeks or with cure serious wounds; if attack is cutting/piercing and target is unarmored, use arterial bleeding instead
3 Arterial bleeding: die of blood loss in 3d6 rounds, preventable with cauterization (1d6 damage and scarring) or any healing spell; if attack is bludgeoning, use broken bone instead
4 Disabled part (DM chooses or roll randomly): Missing eye gives -1 to attack rolls, mangled/missing fingers give -2 to attack rolls using that hand, ruined larynx/shattered jaw impairs speech and prevents spellcasting; -1 to Charisma; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
5 Slow death (gutted, massive internal injuries, spine shattered, etc.): incapacitated, die in 1d6 days; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
6 Mortal wound (heart pierced, throat cut, neck broken, etc.): incapacitated, die in 1d6 rounds; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
7 Limb severed (DM chooses or roll randomly): die of blood loss in 1d6 rounds, preventable with tourniquet, cauterization (1d6 damage) or any curative spell cast; -1 to Charisma; missing arm can’t be used for weapon/shield, missing leg halves movement rate; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
8+ Instant death (decapitated, skull crushed, torn to shreds, etc.)

Have you used an injury table, whether a full-on death and dismemberment table or a broader critical hit table? If so, how has it worked for your game? What recommendations would you make for others who’d try that approach?

8 Responses to “Blood and Guts: A Red Box Death & Dismemberment Table”

  1. 1 Bargle
    August 27, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    The only problem with all surviving results tending towards scarring and scarring being a penalty on charisma. It would tend to make it difficult to have the one legged-eye patch wearing-hook handed-disfigured pirate leader with a band of fanatical followers.

    Perhaps the penalty can be more liberally assigned. Instead of only penalizing charisma, perhaps some survived wounds permanently lower your str, con, int, or wis? A shattered arm perhaps, when reduced to scarring by a cure serious wounds leaves the arm weakend so -1 str score. A damaging blow to the head, when reduced leaves your memory fuzzy sometimes, -1 int.

    How’s that?

  2. 2 Bargle
    August 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    leg wounds, lower your movement rate by 2″ when left to scarring. Spine injury leaves your stats unchanged, but your encumberance carrying capacity is reduced by 1/3? Damaged fingers means an automatic miss with a weapon is now 1-2 instead of just 1 on a d20. Casting time for spells with material components is increased by 1, etc.

  3. August 27, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I sometimes forget that Charisma is as much about personality as it is about appearance. So yeah, those Charisma penalties should be cut back.

    For simplicity’s sake, a lot of effects can be boiled down to “Roll 1d6 to see which attribute suffers a -1 penalty, and determine the specific effects based on that penalty.” -1 to DEX? Let the player decide if that’s a missing finger, a busted knee or a chest scar that twinges when the character moves.

  4. August 27, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    I’m fine with Trollsmyth’s table which I still use. I’ve stuck it to the outside of the referee screen for the players to see and roll on. I like that this is the only time wearing a helmet makes a difference. I liked it when low level characters played by kids at my table had broken limbs and had to be left in villages to recover, thus being effectively out of the game without really dying. I like how a brash first level fighter challenging eleven goblins lost his sword hand in the first round. So far I had no need to make it harsher.

  5. 5 Robert Fisher
    August 27, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    Ooo. I like the scarring. Although I’d agree about not having a penalty to charisma from it.

    Oddly enough, I only had two occasions to use my table so far. The first time, a PC lost a hand in their first combat. Somehow it didn’t feel as cool as the injuries in Hârnmaster used too.

    The second time was from banshee wails. Which seemed wrong. I felt stymied to come up with appropriate results on the fly, so I just went straight to “die”. I need to come up with a “mental attacks” variant.

  6. August 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    RBV’s Johnstone whipped up a table for us, but I’ve never had the guts to use it:

    Question about arterial bleeding on your chart: what do the extra 1d6 hit points damage from cauterizing the wound do? If the PC is already at zero or less, and the effect of falling to zero or less is a roll on the table, then isn’t extra damage moot? Or does it mean that the PC has to roll again for the wound from the cauterization?

    Another thing is that I recently took a CPR course and the instructor told us that bleeding to death from a severed artery often takes up to an hour. He was telling us this to illustrate how much more serious a problem like not breathing or being unconscious is than a nasty looking wound, but I thought I’d mention it. Dying in 1d6 rounds might be a little too harsh.

  7. April 30, 2014 at 7:49 am

    Late to the show, I know, but I really like this one. Simple, and to the point!

  8. November 29, 2014 at 10:56 am

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


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Past Adventures of the Mule

August 2010

RPG Bloggers Network

RPG Bloggers Network

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog & get email notification of updates.

Join 1,054 other followers

%d bloggers like this: