What's the proper intended amount of damage from falling in D&D?
It's a difficult thing to model, because people have died from falling over, or they have survived falls of over 10,000 meters.
In Dragon magazine #69, Gary Gygax says,
The correct procedure for determining falling damage in the AD&D game system is to roll 1d6 per 10’ fallen, cumulative. Since a falling body accelerates quickly, the damage mounts geometrically: 2d6 for the second 10 feet fallen, 3d6 for the third 10 feet, etc. The maximum of 20d6 is therefore reached after a fall of approximately 60 feet for most characters. A thief-acrobat can often fall further distances, but the same 20d6 maximum should be applied. The rationale behind this system will be discussed in the next issue (#70) of DRAGON™ Magazine.The follow up is written by Frank Mentzer, who says:
Gary has always used a geometrically increasing system for falling damage in AD&D games; the trouble arose because that system simply never made it into the rule books. When the AD&D Players Handbook was being assembled, a brief section on falling damage was included: a mere 7½ lines that offers more advice on broken bones and sprains than on falling damage. As we now understand the event, the section was not included in the first draft, and the editors requested a brief insert on this frequently referred-to topic. So Gary hastily wrote a sentence describing damage as “1d6 per 10’ for each 10’ fallen.” Someone removed the “per 10’” as being (so it was thought) redundant, and off we went. That section was later quoted in passing in the Aerial Adventures section of the Dungeon Masters Guide, thereby becoming further entrenched in our game procedures.Which is a pretty accurate summation of the social factors at work.
The main point of current controversy seems to be the simple fact that everyone has been using “1d6 for each 10’ fallen” for years, and the social inertia of Custom is still being cited as a reason to override common sense.
|I also use cumulative sum for falling damage, and the looks on my players faces are just worth it. The reason Gygax might have considered the thief-acrobat and monk more viable then most players found them, is that they completely eliminated a source of death in his campaigns. Being immune or protected from falling was a serious advantage.
Falling damage in my games, combined with my critical table, it almost always insures that a player character is alive but seriously injured from a fall, which I think is a pretty good outcome for creating dramatic tension. I am finding it difficult to have anyone actually fall into a pit trap sadly. . .
|Gygax might have considered the thief-acrobat and monk more viable then most players found them|
I'm not the only one to discuss falling damage recently, +Patrick has some great comments about a working system on his blog. The key factors for falling damage are the it's possible to survive and walk away unharmed, even from terminal velocities, but it's much more likely you will end up crushed to a pulp.
For early versions of D&D, cumulative sum works great. But for late edition D&D by mid level hit points really start to climb. Fighters with no constitution bonus have 55 hit points (on average) by level 11. The 70 average damage of terminal velocity seems fine for that (20d6).
But when you start getting into 4d6 drop the lowest, or the introduction of the barbarian, that same fighter with a constitution bonus of 16 has 85.5 hit points, with over 100 if their Constitution is 18.
Although I like the falling system introduced in Patricks post, I know during play that I would pretty much have to look the chart up every time. For more modern games with higher hit point totals, I would simply switch the cumulative sum dice to d10's or d12's, keeping the simple system, but putting falling damage back into the range of threat for characters of every level.
Hack & Slash
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