October 10, 2008

WotC Follows up on Death

As a follow up to my previous post, "My Players Just Won't Die!!!", I was surprised to read that Rob Heinsoo and James Wyatt had the same thing on the brain so to speak. Today, over on the D&D Insider website, they released another Design & Development article title "Death Matters". It's an excellent read, in particular becuase it clarifies a few of the nuanced aspects of dying in 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. For example:
"When you get back up, you typically have enough hit points to survive another hit, because healing starts from 0. Those negative hit points don't count against you. But your failed death saving throws are a black mark on your character sheet until you take a rest. If you do go down again in the same fight, you could be in trouble."
Which clears up a major point of confusion in the comments section of my last post. The fact that your death saves are cumulative until your next opportunity to rest was something I overlooked in the PHB (it was only stated once, and not in too specific of terms). There still remains a question, however... in the RAW do these so-called "death saves" reset after a short rest or after an extended rest?

I'm thinking the game designers intended on them to reset after a short rest; so that the adventure keeps moving forward and things don't  get bogged down. However, for a slightly more deadly campaign, a DM might consider that the death saves reset only after an extended rest - thereby making each day a bit more risky.

On a side note: the first of the RPG Blog Carnivals had the topic "Character Death, Ressurection, and The Undead", and in the carnival's closing summary there are links to several previous posts from bloggers discussing the finer points of killing off your player characters.


  1. Someone on ENWorld answered quite surely that it was a short rest but when I checked the PHB for the RAW, it only mention 'rest'.

    I guess a short rest is enough to reset the count so that the game doens't bog down to but do imagine that after having your body go through such a dramatic trauma, an extended rest is in order

  2. Hm. Yeah, I also missed that the death saves are cumulative, and it seemed pretty clear that 4E PCs would be really tough to kill without resorting to really nasty coup-de-grace tactics whenever an opening presented itself.

    This clears stuff up a bit.

    I agree with the questing gm that an extended rest should be called for, but I think that's against the spirit of extending PC adventuring time that the developers seemed to be going for.

  3. I had missed that also (failed healing saves staying in force until rest). As I run a slightly grittier world, I'll require an extended rest to clear clear all failed saves but allow healing surges to be used to clear failed saves during short rests (one surge per failed save).

  4. My DM on Monday has killed two of us (thankfully we were rezzed) and nearly killed everyone in the party but the ranger several times. Maybe these DMs need to be harder on their PCs! ;-)

  5. Hye all thanks for stopping by!

    @Questing GM : I don't really follow forums (too many trolls) - but could you give me a link to the above thread?

    @RPG IKE : I agree - for my game, I rolled out a ruling to my players on Friday night: Extended Rest clears the death saves, but during a short rest you can spend a healing surge to remove death saves that occured in a previous battle on the same day. House rule, but seems to work well i think.

    @ OZ : Welcome back! I stole your idea for my own game I loved it so much. Seems like a good mix of the spirit of 4E and the grittiness of 3E.

    @ Geeksdreamgirl : Hey hey! Well, I think I'm already being tough (average encounter is +2 levels over that of the party) not to mention I'm loving all the traps and hazards I can now drop into any combat. Maybe my new house rule will result in some fatalities....


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