Injury and Death

Return to Rules Summary or Combat Rules.

Sometimes, no degree of luck, skill, ability, or resistance to various attacks can prevent harm from coming to a character. The adventuring life carries with it unavoidable risks. Sooner or later a character is going to be hurt. To allow characters to be heroic (and for ease of play), damage is handled abstractly in the AD&D game. All characters and monsters have a number of hit points. The more hit points a creature has, the harder it is to defeat.

Damage is subtracted from a character’s (or creature’s) hit points. Should one of the player characters hit an ogre in the side of the head for 8 points of damage, those 8 points are subtracted from the ogre’s total hit points. The damage isn’t applied to the head, or divided among different areas of the body. Hit point loss is cumulative until a character dies or has a chance to heal his wounds.

When a character hits a monster, or vice versa, damage is suffered by the victim. The amount of damage depends on the weapon or method of attack. Each time a hit is scored, the appropriate dice are rolled and the damage is subtracted from the current hit points of the target. Sometimes damage is listed as a die range along with a bonus of +1 or more. This bonus may be due to high Muscle, magical weapons, or the sheer ferocity of the creature’s attack. The bonus is added to whatever number comes up on the die roll, assuring that some minimum amount of damage is caused. Likewise, penalties can also be applied, but no successful attack can result in less than 1 point of damage.

Sometimes an attack has both a die roll and a damage multiplier. The number rolled on the dice is multiplied by the multiplier to determine how much damage is inflicted. This occurs mainly in backstabbing attempts or critical hits. In cases where damage is multiplied, only the base damage caused by the weapon is multiplied. Bonuses due to Muscle or magic are not multiplied; they are added after the rolled damage is multiplied.

Getting hit by weapons or monsters isn’t the only way a character can get hurt. Indeed, the world is full of dangers for poor, hapless player characters, dangers the DM can occasionally spring on them with glee.


Once a character is wounded, his player will naturally want to get him healed. Characters can heal either by natural or magical means. Natural healing is slow, but it’s available to all characters, regardless of class. Magical healing may or may not be available, depending on the presence (or absence) of spellcasters or magical devices.

The only limit to the amount of damage a character can recover through healing is the total hit points the character has. A character cannot exceed this limit until he gains a new level, whereupon another Hit Die (or a set number of points) is added to his total. Healing can never restore more hit points to a character than his maximum hit point total.

Characters heal naturally at a rate of 1 hit point per day of rest. Rest is defined as low activity—nothing more strenuous than riding a horse or traveling from one place to another. Fighting, running in fear, lifting a heavy boulder, or any other physical activity prevents resting, since it strains old wounds and may even reopen them. A day is, of course, defined as 24 hours.

If a character has complete bed rest (doing nothing for an entire day), he can regain 3 hit points for the day. For each complete week of bed rest, the character can add any Fitness hit point bonus he might have to the base of 21 points (3 points per day) he regained during that week.

In both cases above, the character is assumed to be getting adequate food, water, and sleep. If these are lacking, the character does not regain any hit points that day.

Character Death

When a character reaches 0 hit points, that character is incapacitated, but not dead. He can crawl or hobble at one-half his normal speed (but may not charge, run, or force-march). He does not have the strength to engage in any strenuous activity (he may not attack, cast spells, or use any Stamina, Muscle, Aim, Balance, Health, or Fitness-based non-weapon proficiencies). He can still freely use his other non-weapon proficiencies, class or kit abilities (save those related to the above forbidden actions), or psionic powers, though at a +3 penalty to his initiative because of his slowed reactions. When restored to at least 1 hit point, he can again function normally.

A character reduced to negative hit points has been fatally (or near-fatally) wounded. When reduced to negative hit points, he must make a System Shock roll or die. His system shock percentage suffers a penalty equal to the number of hit points of damage below 0 he has suffered (thus even the hardiest character will die if his negative hit points exceed -99). On a failed check, the character is dead.

On a successful check, the character is alive and stable, but barely conscious. He can speak, quietly (usually to croak “help”, recite some soon-to-be-famous last words, offer advice to allies, or quote some Monty Python “I’m not dead yet…”), but can take no other actions (even purely mental ones). He loses all armor class modifiers save his armor (not including shield) and natural armor (if any). Each successful attack on a character at negative hit points automatically causes a specific injury (as per a Critical Hit), and requires a new System Shock check (modified by his new negative hit point total).

Some classes and kits (most notably specialty priests of Ilmater or Tempus and War Priests) significantly alter what actions the character can perform when at negative hit points and when and how death occur.

At the DM’s or player’s option, a character who is reduced to negative hit points but stable may fall unconscious (usually when his death-bed soliloquy becomes too annoying).

Death From Massive Damage

In addition to dying when reduced to negative hit points, a character also runs the risk of dying abruptly when he suffers massive amounts of damage. A character who suffers 50 or more points of damage from a single attack must make a System Shock roll, or he dies. This applies only if the damage was done by a single attack. Multiple attacks totaling 50 points in a single round don’t require a saving throw. The character may still be raised in the normal ways, however.

Inescappable Death

There are occasions when death is unavoidable, no matter how many hit points a character has.
A character could be locked in a room with no exits, with a 50-ton ceiling descending to crush him. He could be trapped in an escape-proof box filled completely with acid. These examples are extreme (and extremely grisly), but they could happen in a fantasy world.

Raising the Dead

Curative and healing spells have no effect on a dead character—he can only be returned to life with a raise dead or resurrection spell (or a device that accomplishes one of these effects). Each time a character is returned to life, the player must make a resurrection survival roll based on his current Fitness. If the die roll is successful (i.e., the player rolls equal to or less than his resurrection survival percentage), the character is restored to life in whatever condition is specified by the spell or device.

A character restored to life in this way has his Fitness permanently lowered by 1 point. This can affect hit points previously earned. Should the character’s Fitness bonus go down, the character’s hit point total is reduced by the appropriate number of hit points (the amount of hit point bonus lost is multiplied by the number of levels for which the character gained extra hit points from that bonus). When the character’s Fitness drops to 0, that character can no longer be raised. He is permanently removed from play.

Injury and Death

Ruins of Adventure Brand_Darklight Brand_Darklight