Dying: Just One Type of Crisis


In my Ghost Mountain game, I’ve been playing with the sanity rules from Core. They’ve worked pretty well, but I’d like to roll sanity into the base HEARTS to have fewer things to keep track of. I read this post, and this quote from 5E:

“Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.”

This resonated with me, and got me thinking. What if Dying were just one type of Crisis, and the last hit that brought someone to 0 HP determined the type of Crisis they suffer? Here are some examples:

Enraged: for 1d6 ROUNDS, attack the closest living thing in melee. Roll a natural 20 to snap out of it with 1 HP. Allies can roll CHA to help you snap out of it. At the end of the timer, fall unconscious.

Terrified: for 1d6 ROUNDS, flee blindly by the most direct route. Roll a natural 20 to snap out of it with 1 HP. Allies can roll CHA to help you snap out of it. At the end of the timer, cower in a housing place until you are rescued.

Darkest Self: for 1d6 ROUNDS, have a bout of profound selfishness, pursuing your immediate goals to the detriment of all else. Roll a natural 20 to snap out of it with 1 HP. Allies can roll CHA to help you snap out of it. At the end of the timer, snap out of it with 1 HP, and broken trust. (this would work well in LOTR).

I’d like to playtest this soon. What do you think?


That’s a COOL idea breaking out of the “HP is me bodeh” mindset


I really dig the idea. I agree, Death should not be the only consequence for failure. I could see myself doing something similar.


this seems like a really intriguing idea. i would like to modify this a bit, depending on what drops you to 0 HP if it was physical it may be a crippling injury, if it was sanity they would incur some sort of psychosis. Passing out, going into shock, or going catatonic at the end of the “death” timer.

this could be super fun to play around with, and give a little side quest to bring their team mates back up to fighting condition. maybe “reviving” an ally who’s “death” timer counted down would be a certain amount of hearts of effort related to their crisis condition, or retrieving a specific medicine/ going to a medical/ therapy professional for rehab.

if it is a psychotic episode then maybe they need to be coddled/ soothed (CHA), rationalized with (Int), or work through it with empathy (WIS).

if it was a physical injury maybe you could deftly reset a broken bone/ dislocated joint (DEX), Assess their medical state and apply medicine (INT), or just straight up do CPR (CON or STR?)

after correcting the malady (finishing up the required heart of effort) the player returns to consciousness/ lucidity and has 1HP with perhaps a lingering condition.

Thank you so much for this cool idea, this really got the old gears turning once again. Does anyone else have ideas for mental or physical problems players could use for their 1d6 timer?



Takes too much control out of the players in the sense that they should be in charge of what is happening in their own head. Mind control is an exception, of course because it is magical. But we expect mind control as a rare occurrence, unlike falling to 0 HP.


im not sure i understand your point entirely. i do truly agree taking control out of player’s hands can be a slippery slope, and should be done with care and consideration.

But if they drop to 0HP and fall unconscious or die then they have essentially lost control of that character anyhow. At that point only the actions the Gm has that character take during this time is to have that character remain unconscious and do nothing instead of the other options given.

it also opens the floor for the other players to step in and assist, but instead of a “dont die on me man” its more of a “snap out of it man” so in my eyes this at least gives the player more opportunities to a path of redemption where they can gain control over their character.

perhaps the list of options above could be workshopped a little bit more, but like @Andreas said, they would like to start play testing soon, meaning they havent had a chance to do that workshopping yet. i still think there is a lot of merit and potential with this concept and would like to give the bud a little more time to bloom before trying to nip it.


I understand that some people might want to separate Hit Points with ‘‘me bodeh’’, however, Hit Points represent the hit you can take and doesn’t mean health already.

However, a player who’s character falls unconscious is still his to control. And the way that allies can step in to assist requires, once again, a mechanic of tension rather than to steal control away from him. Sure he’s out. But there’s out and there’s:’‘Look at your GM making your character into a fool and/or a puppet.’’

I’m not saying there is no potential here, but this mechanic or rule would require to be more specific before playtesting, in my opinion.


I understand your point, but your are critiqueing without options here.

Personally, if rolling this style, I would just have my players roleplay what they feel is appropriate wether it’s downed by a sword or mental stress.
Rather than forcing them into a specific thing there is the option of giving them Free range or maybe giving them the option of rolling for a lead word to help them on their way
Either way there is no other option than roleplay of you cannot take action machanically.


Woah, what do you mean there ‘‘without options’’? :open_mouth:


I mean nothing ill by it. Nothing angry or irritated. We don’t roll with that bad stuff up in here! :shield::heart::beers: and I don’t want to come out that way.

What I meant is that you are pointing out flaws but I’d like to hear other suggestions on how to rectify or expand the idea.
The flaw you have pointed out is a Great Point btw, don’t get me wrong :fearful:

I want my players active so I let them roleplay their 0 HP however they like.
In regards to reaching 0 HP by mental stress I would say like I think your are @BlazingPolyhedron that it’s up to the players to play that out with the good grazes of the table.
Maybe if you’ve reached some kind of Breaking Point is where you go nutso.
Red Markets have that kind of mechanic. The players gets to choose what kind of mental Break they are having and roleplay that. Though physical and mental health is separate in that game.


I think 0 HP is the opportunity to have 'em flee (so you don’t get to have to deal with dead characters). It represents better the will to live and other things than health.
Hiding within the room could also become an option: not many use for Stealth outside of this and approaching a target. And from a hiding spot, that player has the opportunity to heal up or land a nice shot on the enemy. On a fail check, he curls up in a corner and is removed from the fight?

Nothing wrong with an inactive player for the whole fight, but I think the penalty should apply to the group rather than the character, if something is to be done about it. Ever since I’ve started rolling the death saves, my players are freaking out and will do anything to heal up a partner the first chance they get!

The problem with letting your players act up some emotion they may not have is that it opens the door to some really awkward and perhaps not appreciated by the other players: what if the barbarian hates the ranger or something? Beside, doesn’t he already have a rage ability which is often not role played properly?
(I hate rage with a burning passion, see, but that’s my own issue)

I much prefer the idea that a defeated character becomes grappled and can’t get free, things like that: you reduce the amount of players but also the amount of enemies. Otherwise, you change the death timer to an unconscious timer, making it that the character wakes up at 1 HP in X rounds. Or, perhaps you clock up and escalation die for the enemies?

What you’ve got to think about, is the base of your mechanic: why do you want to implement it and what are the consequences of it. In the case of TRPGs, my suggestion is to go with the bad consequences moreso than the good ones. Good ones should be low or small so we don’t change the whole game for it. But bad consequences may have really bad things to them that makes the mechanic attack the most important pillars of TRPGs. Sometimes they look fun at a glance, but the consequences are horrible in the short to long term, especially when the players can game it.
If you want to game it, I suggest even thinking about items that change your death mechanic, as a GM, so you can see where the issues and the improvements can be done for the mechanic. I like to do that whenever I create a rule: make items that change the mechanic to see the many manners that it can be interacted on! :smiley:

:beers: Cheers, keep up the good work! Play fair, play rough!


I’ve been letting my players crawl, talk and do limited actions while in 0 HP state for a while now. It works wonders!

Maybe this option can work well as a bargain, DW style, asking the pkayers if they want to die outright or get into some kind of temporal loss of control with no guarantees. Or something similar. In really dangerous situtations or with heavy RP, having to decide if you either just die or see your char do horrifying things is though and interesting.


I playtested my version last night, and it didn’t feel right. I had PCs going into madness very quickly. To me, madness or corruption or shadow is something that creeps up on characters. It doesn’t happen in a single encounter. Things like rage and terror can be handled easily by spells or special abilities. So now I’m thinking something more along the lines of DungeonCraft’s answer to insanity: