House Rule: Regarding Death

I personally don’t like the way death is handled in OLRPG.
I had the same problem with 5E D&D.

And after some thought i’ve come up with my own alternative, Death’s Door

Current Version (with suggestions taken into account)

Death’s Door
At 0 HP, a character may choose to either fall unconscious or enter Death’s Door at the cost of one Legend Point.
While at Death’s Door, characters continue to receive damage into negative hitpoints. Once a character hits their maximum HP as a negative, they die.
Additionally, when a player enters Death’s Door, they suffer one level of Fatigue, and another level for every 10HP of damage taken at Death’s Door. This fatigue is not removed by Restoration.

[details=Original Proposal]

Death’s Door
At 0 HP, a character doesn’t fall unconscious, they instead enter Death’s Door
While at Death’s Door, the PC cannot heal or gain advantage.
The player receives damage as normal, counting down as negative HP.
Once the player hits their maximum HP threshold as negative HP, they die.
Additionally, every negative 10HP accrued inflicts one level of fatigued.
Healing recieved is doubled on negative HP[/details]

In my mind this keeps players in the fight rather then waiting around, and put’s agency into their hands.
It also ties into the way i interpret HP in OL.

As for limitations and healing, the reason behind a PC on death’s door being unable to self heal is simple: They should be focused on survival. Fight or run, survive, no time for anything else.
I’ve not settled on healing negative hit points, I just think the small healing you can receive will feel pointless when you’re likely to loose it again right away… so i thought, well why not double it?
Because at the same time, spending an extended period of time at Death’s Door might not be terribly interesting. The other solution would be to have it be half of the PC’s total HP… again, im not sure



I think this is only going to do the opposite of what you seem to be aiming for (which is to keep fights interesting, I think?). By having players stick around without being able to “heal or gain advantage” you’re only cutting off options rather than adding something new. As you said, an extended period of time with this penalty might not be terribly interesting.

To expand on that a bit:
this system is going to be much beloved by the party mage - who doesn’t use healing and almost never has advantage on his rolls due to investing feat points elsewhere - but the party rogue has just taken a 5 advantage hit on his attack rolls so is feeling pretty glum about things, and the party cleric is trying to work out what they’re supposed to do without their main ability.

That being said, I think there’s legs to the idea of suffering fatigue rather than falling unconscious, so I’d like to suggest the following


  1. Keep it in the players’ hands by making it their choice (this is optional, but I think it’s probably for the best while testing). Also, this ability is super dangerous compared to normal falling unconscious so they may not always want to use it.

  2. No penalties. The players are already in a tough spot, let them risk it all to get that final hit on the boss without nerfing their ability to do so.

  3. Make the fatigue persistent. This is a last desperate push by a character, they can take a hit but it’s going to cost them in a way that;s not going to be gone by the end of the battle (this may have been your original intention, in which case it’s good to spell it out to avoid confusion).

  4. Removing doubled healing “on negative HP” to eliminate complex math. I can do it, you can do it, but people are probably not going to be happy to have to get out their calculators to work out how much HP they have if they’re at -5 and get healed for 8HP. They’re already getting further from death, so I don’t think worrying about losing them straight away is much of a concern.

So, those are my initial thoughts. What do you think @Hexelevania? Am I making sense or have I missed the point? This version is not what I’d call complete so I think a bit more back and forth is needed to polish it up.


FIrstly, regarding the class examples; my players tend not to fall into classes, and so far i’ve found all the characters my players have made to be far more diverse then that, i’ve not had a party ‘rouge’ or ‘cleric’ since we switched to OL, as none of those examples really apply to my gaming experience with open legend, i didn’t even consider that point of view when coming up with the idea. So thank you for that perspective, changes a lot.

But for all else, solid points. Making it a choice should’ve been a no-brainer option now that i think about it. Doing it that way changes to the tone of it.

The thinking was “You’re dying” and trying to find a way to express it, without being too punishing…
But i think setting it as an option is far more interesting, a dangerous edge to stay in a tense fight.

For taking away advantage and healing, my original thinking was that if a player goes into death’s door they’d not bother fighting and just heal out of it, (Which in turn made me think of double healing to avoid feeling helpless) So switching it to an option completely removes that barrier and keeps the whole system cleaner.

And yes, it was my intention for the fatigue to be persistent, otherwise there wouldn’t really be anything dire to it. Especially considering it under the context of being an option.

You got the point indeed, a trade off where a typical death isn’t the end. Though i was originally imagining something more threatening, honestly these suggestions just make it far more interesting than that.

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I was using classes for ease of explanation; the key point was that when applying something like that to all players you have to be careful if it benefits/punished certain characters more than others. In this case I meant that a player choosing to invest heavily in Attack Specialisation, Boon Focus, or similar would be unfairly punished, making those feats worth less.

I’m glad you liked my suggestions, and thank you for the neat idea. I look forward to seeing if anyone else has any thoughts on this.

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You could also turn it into a feat to. My way of thinking is if you give them a choice i feel like everyone would always want to fight longer as if the just get knocked out and finished off the next round.

One thing that i could see is if you choose to keep fighting and the fight is over and you don’t die. You would go back to full life cause you didn’t go unconscious but keep the fatigue. Which may balance itself out. I do really like this idea to be able to keep fighting till you die instead of get taken down and pray you don’t get coup de grâce.

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Right, that’s a concern with it in some ways i suppose, it’s upto the GM in those situations.
For me, i personally wouldn’t mind at all if players kept ducking into Death’s Door.

I do think that the fatigue bane is a good way to counter it if you didn’t want players to abuse it, possibly taking fatigue upon entering the state might be a good idea in that sense.

You are right about players potentially abusing it to never go down. And to that Lethal Damage could be a good cake topper. If there’s concerns for that and you’re looking to use this idea.

The main thing for me is making a cool story moment, the choice of ‘i don’t want to fall to this enemy, so im going to push myself.’

So for myself, i wouldn’t have it as a feat. A good alternative, perhaps you could have players spend legend points to enter Death’s Door… now that’s an idea i really like

This could possibly take away from Feats that already exist.

Diehard and Deathless Trance

I would suggest you take a look at Deathless Trance and what it does for going below 0 HP to help with how Death’s Door would work.

I would suggest that all damage you take once you drop to 0 is Lethal Damage. Maybe add fatigue after 10 lethal damage, etc with other ideas posted here.

Legend points sounds good to do death’s door


Well, i think there sort of separate things. Die Hard can still work with this, you fall to zero, pop back to 1 instead of going into the negative state.
As for Deathless Trance, again, a separate thing in my eyes. A perk where you skip paying to enter Death’s Door, and don’t accrue stacking fatigue outside of what you get for entering a trance.
Of course if you were to be using both, some lawyer-ing would have to be done about how Deathless Trance should be treated when it ends… which isn’t very OL in my books.

Edit: I just had a thought as i posted it. The implication being that you could chain from Deathless Trance into Death’s Door- At the cost of a Legend Point, and skip taking any lethal damage or extra fatigue. Consider that they could overlap, you could have 30HP total, be in a Deathless Trance down to -20, lose the trance, pay for Death’s Door, and technically have 10HP left, without suffering 2 extra levels of fatigue or lethal damage. Honestly, hand in-hand and a good combination of mechanics

I think acquiring that much lethal damage would make Death’s Door far to pricey- but considering that Deathless Trance does exist (i honestly completely forgot about it), lethal damage while at Death’s Door seems mandatory… and not to mention it makes narrative sense.

The other side of the issue is that i don’t want to have the players enter this state and then have to sit out for an extended period while the character heals. A real catch 22
I think it’s hard to find the perfect balance here, but i like the idea.
WIll have to do some testing in my next session for sure, to me the most important aspect to a system like this is the story moments it could create.

To note, another thing altogether, this isn’t actually address a change in death for OL (as your title and first complaint stated). Death only happens if you take a hit after dropping to 0 (unconscious).

The problem I see in what you are proposing is it is basically just doubling HP, and HP is one of the resources in OL b/c it doesn’t scale to crazy numbers like in other systems.

Also it isn’t hard to get healed back up if you have fallen down to 0. Heck, a person just has to yell at you (Presence) to get your mind to wake up and be focused again in combat (Will/Resolve).

If anything, a good way to do this without adding the least amount of House ruling and tracking of things is just have them roll a Fortitude/Will/Presence check to keep going if they fall to 0. They take 1 level of Fatigue each time they do this (having to roll again each time they take a hit while at 0 HP), or choose to just fall unconscious.

Why fatigue, b/c it is one of the harder things to heal, so you are really making a choice on that to keep pushing your body to stay up. This makes it not take away from the feats as much.

Whereas it can make for cool moments, you are also taking away from other cool moments that can happen with clutch heals, or inspiring speeches to get someone up.

And of course, my concern with giving something to everyone that can be gotten by taking a feat lessens that feat, if it it might end up giving something to the new house rule. Creates odd interactions, or just someone not going that way, b/c why bother when I can just do this instead.

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I feel it does specifically address death. Being unconscious can be directly equated to being in a state of death. If it wasn’t death-adjacent, you’d just die at 0. Rather then going unconscious and being bait, you fight on at a greater short to long term risk.

Fights can drag if players stop damaging and start focus healing other characters, i’ve had it happen- A situation where the fight devolved into characters healing each other over and over.
If a player is unconscious, and at any second could die from a hit, most of the time every other player is going to stop what they’re doing and heal. It happens constantly, it makes the unconscious state, and thus death really pointless to me- You fall down and get right back up again no worse for wear and someone else just wasted a turn on you. Alternatively you lay there until you get hit because no one heals you.
Though there is definite contention as to how much health to grant here, im not even fully sold on the idea of basically double health as that too can drag a fight or make a tough enemy trivial by avoiding killing blows. Maybe it’s as simple as gaining advantage when attacking players (or creatures) on Death’s Door. It might be wise to only have 50% of health, but that again goes back to the calculator point brought up earlier, no one wants to do math…
Play testing is absolutely essential to figuring that perfect balance out.

I don’t necessarily like the idea of constantly having players roll a check to stay up, it slows the game down with extra rolling- one of the main things that pulled me to OL from D&D is just how much less rolling to do things there is.
And it’s really not hard at all to keep track of. Are you below 0? yes. Do you want to spend a legend point to stay in the fight? yes. Have you hit a threshold of 10 damage? you gain a fatigue.

Also regarding HP, there have been many, many situations where i have pulled punches against players when i’ve rolled high, with a system like this in place i would be far less inclined to do that, (That’s an entirely separate discussion though, i don’t think health in OL scales very will with exploding dice and moments like that come down to DM discretion)

I completely disagree with that last statement to be frank, i think (for example) Deathless Trance and Death’s Door would be a perfect hand-in-hand feat setup. Push into DT until you would fall, but then Death’s Door to muster a final bit of grit to keep pushing. And you count the damage taken in Death Trance anyway, so if you were to go over your health threshold as i’ve proposed in Death’s Door, you couldn’t acivate the state and would just fall unconscious as you would anyway with Deathless Trance.
And i feel i’ve kind of offset that now by having it cost a Legend Point to enter, unless my gaming group is different to most, Legends Points are a special happenstance. Players don’t tend to gain more then 1 a session at tops.
Going back to the Deathless Trance well, a player could choose to hold that Legend Point to save themselves from death at the end of the trance. Or use that point in the trance to gain an extra edge, and accept going down.

I honestly feel this system just flat out gives more agency and weight over simply falling unconscious.
It’s not terribly messy to me, it’s just an extended option. I actually think the suggestions posed prior really cleaned up the idea and removed a lot of these possible issues.

Forgive the large post but i felt i had to explain this a little deeper, your points are really solid and i felt deeper explaining was required from my perspective on how this would all work.

Never should apologize for a long post. This site is to encourage discussion, so no worries there :smile:

It is true, biggest thing is testing something out and how it feels.

I haven’t had the experience that healing slows the game down, or having a fortitude roll (or will/presence) slows it down either, with it just being one roll. I also have a lot of my groups, or groups that I’ve been in, that will keep focusing down a creature instead of stopping to heal a person unless they really feel that person is at risk of being subject to a Finishing Blow. Then once the threat is dropped, they heal someone up. All in how you decide to handle combat, and the more you play, the more you adjust, especially the dynamic of the group. Plus the defend action can help stop someone from dropping in the first place.

Also, you can always use an Improvised Interrupt Action to actually throw out a heal as well in reaction to someone getting a big hit against them.

Perhaps you could post here your most recent iteration of Death’s Door to reference as well for people to see.

Also, here’s an item to help with that @Hexelevania :yum:

You’re really talking around the same points here, this system is meant to keep a fight rolling.
If a player uses defend or improvise, they lose their next major action. It’s the same situation with a different skin [quote=“Hexelevania, post:10, topic:571”]
Fights can drag if players stop damaging and start focus healing other characters, i’ve had it happen- A situation where the fight devolved into characters healing each other over and over.
Like i’ve said, i’m specifically looking to cut down on those moments, and give the player a little extra agency outside of relying on someone else to give up their action stop fighting and save them.

But anyway, the current idea for death’s door is in my first post here, and the original version is there too.

The one thing i’m not currently settled on is whether to add Lethal Damage, or how much. For now i think Fatigue & Legend Points are a decent enough punishment- like previously stated, i don’t want a player to spend a lot of down time in the story after using the system. Lethal & Fatigue can take some time to heal.
Also, adding lethal damage to Death’s Door would technically just bring you closer to death as the players HP maximum drops… which is another catch 22.
On one hand, it’s a very real representation of a character getting closer, as their maximum slowly drops, giving them less time in the state. But it’s also a lot of overhead to constantly be keeping track of, not to mention it’s highly punishing, and paying a precious legend point to potentially lose HP, an already valuable low resource, just doesn’t seem right.

Instead of:

This fatigue is not removed by healing.

You either say nothing (as fatigue already is not removed by healing), or add a line that says:

This fatigue counts as normal, and increases any fatigue already on the character. If the character reaches level 5 fatigue, they fall unconscious as per the fatigue bane.

Meant to edit that to “Not removed by Restoration” fixed now.
That’s there so a player doesn’t constantly do it and just get Restored after every level of Fatigue to abuse the system. (Not that i’d allow something like that regardless, but it’s needed for clarity if others want to use the system)

With Restoration, it only recovers 1 level of fatigue every 24 hours. Has to be score of 7 (and CR 24) to get rid of all levels.

But I can see the importance of having it stated like that.