Alternative Death Rules for ICRPG



Here it is! Alternative Death Rules for ICRPG

  1. When reduced to zero hit points, you are now “Dying.” You can move Close and act, or you can dash and move Near. (Basically movement is cut in half)
  2. On your next turn, roll a d6 for a Dying timer. In that many of your turns you are Dead.
  3. To Stop the Dying countdown, an Ally must reach you and help, making a “Don’t die on me man!” attempt of some kind.
  4. If you take damage while Dying and you reach -10 HP. You are now Dead.

The idea for this was to change the dynamic of dying a little bit. I didn’t like how when a player was Dying they were effectively out of the game. So I decided to figure out a solution of some kind.

One option is to have the player die as soon as they reach 0HP. While that would mean they only play if there is something they could do, It also means there is no “Emergency State” in the system to signal to the player that it might be a good time to retreat and recover. Having a player die because of a bad dice roll is part of the game, but I didn’t want it to be quite that lethal.

Another option is one that a lot of games take, and that is to replace instant death with falling unconscious. While this does prevent the character from dying suddenly from a bad role, and this does provide an “Emergency State” for the player. It also means the player doesn’t get to play the game when they are “down”.

The falling unconscious method provides a “Emergency State” for the player, but it only kicks in when the character can no longer do anything about it. So rather than have the switch for the “Emergency State” happen then. I decided upon a third option, which I present here.

This way, the character can still be their reckless, adventuring selves. And when they push their luck too far, the system kicks in with an “Emergency State” that alerts the player that they better do something before their timer runs out, or they will die. This changes the threshold from below the level of unconsciousness and dying, to above it. They get to act in this state, trying to heroically save themselves or a friend. And this happens while the player can still do something about it.

I realize that this might seem like I am just doubling character’s HP. But I don’t think it will play out that way, because the Dying Timer is going.

Anyway, just thought I would share. What are your guys thoughts about dying in RPGs?

Stamina in ICRPG!

Here is an idea I have toyed with:

Die Like a Pulp Hero House Rule for Campaign Play

So long as HP never dropped below -20 from a single hit and there’s no other compelling narrative reason why not:
When a character with zero HP’s Dying Timer reaches Zero for the first time, that character is in critical condition but still able to able to come back out of it as soon as the scene has ended and HOURS of game time have elapsed. (Even playing again that session.) When they die the second time, they may be revived next session. Each time, make up as hammy and pulpy of an “explanation” how they survived as you can come up with. And when they die the third time? Wish the character a hearty AMF on their way to the boneyard.

I suspect this would let the players go a little more nuts and take bigger bolder risks than usual, knowing that they are still somewhat in control of when their character is going to take the eternal dirt nap, as opposed to merely having to sit out a while coming up with a doozy explanation or melodrama moment for when they come back from the brink of death.

Also, This would have an interesting Dynamic when added to @GmGrizzly’s Heroic Death House Rule.



I like it! Great addition. @Drake, the Heroic Death in question is from this blog post I made a while ago. Since posting I have toyed with either removing penalties or adding bonuses since it’s kind of a last stand type deal.


I think this is intriguing, but I’d like to see data on play testing.
After a billion hours of ICRPG, death is still too merciful… being able to act while DYING would effectively add 10 hp to all characters. I don’t think heroes would EVER DIE


I remember, while looking at Magic: the Gathering cards to build my next adventure, finding this card with a man trying to crawl away from chasing vampires with a large death weight tied to his ankle. Your idea reminds me of this.

I inserted this mechanic for a dying Cathar who was probed by giant fork-wielding devils to power up their spells: the players had to reach her before she died. I find that extremely interesting as a mechanics as it stimulates their sense of danger and tension!


I’m thinking we let the player choose!!! He makes the death roll, looks at the situation, and can choose, wait for a friend to save me, or gets that many actions with ultimate effort, spending the last of his heartbeats making his mark!

But that is for Monster Truck style gaming.


Monster Truck gaming is kind of my philosophy for my campaign. We want the fights to be anime styled and therefore they can stay up whisky dying.

@Runehammer I am ALL for deadly play, and would do differently if that is what I wanted for my game. I know my players grit their teeth in worry when they roll that d6-timer.
But yeah 6 Rounds still being in the fight and possibly getting a heal is… Alot!
Then again, each time my players get hit whilst dying the timer ticks down one step per hit.
I can really see a player readying for a desperate attack and get speared by several enemies at once


I was worried about that. The idea is to have the timer still relevant. I think I would change what I proposed.

While Dying you roll the D6 Dying Timer as normal. You can still act, but everything is HARD.

If you take damage while Dying then the damage acts like effort against your Dying Timer. If this reduces the timer to 0 or less, you are Dead.

I think this would help to keep it deadly, and costly to start Dying, but allows the character to desperately act while they are Dying


That is a very nice alternative!


I personally think having a downed player is great incentive for the still moving players to help them get them back on their feet so they can help.

If the story makes sense tho,

Id allow a downed character to get up and move with half movement while still performing actions but at the cost of over exerting themselves and dying when their timer hits 0 for a nice dramatic death. Like heroically holding the enemy while the others escape.


I think the take on Dying mechanic overall is going to be rooted in whether someone is more Simulationist, Gamist, or Narrativist.


Only run into death once so far in our more narrative driven style of play. And of course they went and rolled a 2 on the d6. Luckily, the gal who’s turn was next is also our healer so a quick potion later and pc was up and running.

My thoughts however on it are as follows. When the player is down to 10 hps or less… they are pretty much bordering on exhaustion. Health is possibly down due to some wounds but most of it is exhaustion. I reserve the last 10hps for actual physical health and hits taken at this point are physical. Blunt trauma, burn, blood letting kind of damage to the actual body. This way, when they hit 0, -1, -2 -3 or even -4… they are bleeding out or bleeding inside and gasping for breath and cannot do shit all. I get them to roll the d6 death dice and this is how many turns, not rounds- until they die. I use turns as how many players take a turn after the player. They roll a 3 on the death dice? Then they will be dead after 3 more players take a turn. I like this as it means the dying player cannot do anything except hope for that lucky d20 roll on each turn or for one of those 3 players going next to do something. Pretty dramatic and because it’s time based… more drama.

I do allow for resurrections but they have only 3 days to find someone who can do it after which the the person they bring back… isn’t fully the person they once knew.

Because there is so much at stake… they are much less reckless in their actions I find.


Having the Dying Timer tick down on Player Turns instead of Rounds is a great way to add tension and hard choices. I like it!


I like GMMagnus’s version a lot, but make it a bit tougher: receive the killing blow – roll 1d6 for rounds of action (and slap a HARD on every task) – lose one action if you get hit again – die when the timer runs out.


But then again, I get @Runehammer’s point: If you’re fighting in a team and receive the killing blow, your comrades can save your ass… most of the time, this is the case. Softening the death/dying rules would really result in characters who never die. Boring.


Hmm, maybe a way to mitigate the whack-a-hero effect would be to have all their actions HARD even after a friend gets them back up.

They are INJURED and so all Attempts are HARD Until they make a Recovery Attempt? I kind of like it.


I say the Death Mechanic is solid as is, and really adds the proper tension and honestly doesn’t kill as often as I expect.

However, I would say just give the heroes 2 :hearts: to start and make the last :hearts: mean that the player/monster is BLOODIED and they should be told by the GM and players that it’s a dangerous situation and they should retreat and heal up.

You can then add different mechanics when the characters are BLOODIED.

4E had some good ideas.


I like that one Drake!

Also I’ve seen the Roll For Effort crew roll a d4 Death Dice and I must say I like that better than a d6


Let me take another stab at this. I think we have found another problem.

My first post was addressing the problem of players not playing the game when they were unconscious. The idea was to add an emergency state to the game to compensate for that. It seems that doing so has revealed another issue, that of characters never dying. Or at least the HP Scrub effect would happen. Where heroes would go down, get a heal, and then be back to perfect fighting shape before they took a hit and went down again. Rinse. Repeat.

So, the problems I am trying to solve:

  1. Players not playing the game when down
  2. The HP Scrub Effect of down and up, down and up without consequences.

I am going to constrain the solution to one mechanic that will solve both of the issues. Trying to keep things elegant and in line with the ICRPG Philosophy as I understand it, which could be flawed.

With the problems defined, here is what I came up with:

What if Heroes have a negative heart as well as a positive one? And Negative HP subtracted from all rolls?

Our Hero is at 5HP. They take 7 damage. They are now at -2HP. Because of this they take -2 to both ATTEMPTS and EFFORT rolls. They take a RECOVERY Attempt and succeed. They roll Effort and get a 3. Minus 2 because of their Negative HP. They are now at -1HP. They take another hit for 9 damage. This puts them at -10, upon which they die.

While a Hero is at Positive HP, they are just taking bumps and bruises, nothing serious. When they get Negative HP it starts to change their Effectiveness.

I like the idea of changing Hero’s hearts to 5HP max in this case for more lethal games. -5HP is dead. Obviously this number can change based on the ideal lethality of your game.


I believe this solves both problems. Players will get to have an emergency state and keep playing, while HP Scrubbing is a lot harder to do, because the damage over the threshold matters.

This also means there is a built in way to instakill a hero still, if you get hit with enough damage.

You could say this is a Death Spiral, and I would agree. I like these things in my games, they are great catalysts for dramatic moments and teamwork. It is a positive feedback loop for the person doing the damage. Maybe Monsters work this way too?

This could potentially open up a new design space for Heroes to have Strain or something similar and be able to push for extra effect at the cost of HP, similar to spells in MAGIC.

Anyway, that was an idea I had trying to come up with something that elegantly solves both problems. What do you guys think? And better yet, anybody have something better?


I like this idea and the dying mechanic is highly dependent on the type of game.

There is a game called Tenra Bansho Zero that has a reverse death Spiral. it’s supposed to emulate a hero being pushed to his limit, even near death and getting better! this could be implemented in TIERS.

Note: This is how to get there when the character is still in positive HP

  • If an attack would take a player character between 0 through -5 HP, the character falls into TIER 1 (Time to get serious!). Gain a +2 an all Effort AND gain a Major Wound TAG.

  • If an attack would take a player between -6 through -10 HP, the character falls into TIER 2 (It’s not over YET!!). All Checks and Attempts become EASY AND gain a SEVERE WOUND TAG.

  • If an attack would take a player beyond -10 HP, the character falls into Final TIER (THIS IS MY LOVE, MY ANGER, AND ALL OF MY SORROW!!). ULTIMATE Effort and automatic success to 1D4 actions AND gain a This is the END TAG.

If the Player Character is hit during any TIER, they move to the NEXT TIER automatically. If they are in Final TIER, the GM can call to ignore this or reduce the ACTIONS the hero may have by 1.
If they are hit with a CRITICAL, go down 2 tiers.

The Player Character can volunteer themselves to go to the next TIER.

The TAG This is the End… can be final heroic death…