We had an incident come up recently in a game that got me thinking about the death rules in Fantasy AGE. Our rogue Orlock was down to 12 hit points and was facing down a rat ogre who had just rolled a hit with 6 stunt points. This thing was angry and close to dying so it did Lethal Blow (extra 2d6 of damage).
The rat ogre swung down on Orlock for 4d6+11 damage, which was for sure a knock out blow, but reading through the rules of Fantasy AGE I couldn’t find any ruling on if a character reaches X amount below their hit points they die or what happens when a character takes enough damage to drop them well below 0.
This got my thinking about what I thought should happen, I made a judgement on the fly that felt like it would be fair, I permanently reduced his Strength by 1, he was a rogue so strength wasn’t a huge deal to him and it played into the narrative. Still there was something nagging at me, could I have done better? I consulted the Fantasy AGE Google + ground (link to the discussion here) and there were great responses. A lot of people agreed that the hit to an ability score was harsh, and some suggested to add a role playing effect to it, such as Orlock has a fear of rats until he can compose himself or maybe even make it permanent.
I have tried to embrace the Dungeon World philosophy of be a fan of the characters, and I’d rather a character death happen in a dramatic fashion. Plus I tend to give each player one would be death for free, again if it fits the story for them to live through it I am okay keeping them alive, this is more about story telling purposes to me that rules are rules.
What does the past paragraphs of ramblings mean though? What house rule will spawn out of this? I present the following:
If a damage roll that would take the character to -15 hit points or below, that character will take LASTING DAMAGE. This is something that will be agreed upon by both the GM and the player as to a logical effect that came from the attack. Maybe strike shatters a knee cap and the player moves at half speed until they completes X full rests. Maybe you reduce a stat by X due to the strike. Perhaps the player gains a phobia related to part of the attack, if it comes from the undead, they take a -1 or 2 to attacks until they can shake off the effects.
The purpose of the rule is to add something that will effect the character for the campaign or session. I feel this is a good trade off for not dying from a massive shot, but still keeping the game deadly.