Saturday 24 January 2015

The One Death & Dismemberment Table to Rule Them All

After spending many a scraped together spare minute over the last few months I've finally finished The One Death & Dismemberment Table to Rule Them All (TODADTTRTA).

Click here and behold the carnage (the image above is low-res and does not have the supporting notes and sub-tables)

Thanks go out to the authors of the many fine Death & Dismemberment tables abounding the interwebs, I have riffed and ripped off mightily from lots of you (consider the honour roll in previous posts as a pretty clear reference list. If any folks feel like I have overstepped the mark please let me know and I'm happy to give more overt credit or remove offending items). The version linked is a .pdf, however if you would like a word version to tinker with for yourself please drop me a line. 

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of the Death and Dismemberment Table, I'll direct you to some recent posts detailing what they are and some good examples of tables available online, and a brief analysis of some design issues I considered in putting TODADTTRA together.  If that's too much work, the short story is: instead of the usual process for resolving what happens when PC's hit points are reduced to zero you roll on the table to decide your fate and may be spared for a while longer, accrue permanent injuries or be killed. 

Ok, so how did it turn out? 

Overall I'm pretty happy with it. Specifically:

The good

  • I like how repeated rolls on the table uses a Disadvantage like mechanic, increasing the risk of a bad result but not guaranteeing it.
  • I'm really happy with how I was able to implement the Adrenaline Surge feature from Trollsmyth's (and many others) Death & Dismemberment table. Using 5E's Hit Dice as a hit point recovery mechanic worked really well here and I'm particularly pleased with how an Adrenaline Surge result always counts despite repeated rolls on the table, enabling the classic heroic last stand (in fact it actually becomes more likely). 
  • I'm also quite pleased with how Shields shall be splintered and what I'm calling Helmets shall be rent integrated into the table.
  • I'm pretty happy with the overall flavour of the table.
  • It looks purdy, and I think I've captured the 5E style pretty well - I'm keen for feedback about whether this works for ease of readability, and just in general about how accessible and understandable the table is. 

The so-so
  • I have lingering concerns that it may be too complex for folks wanting a simple table. That isn't necessarily a problem as there are so many good tables of varying complexity and deadliness out there that anyone wanting to use a Death & Dismemberment Table should be able to find one that's a good fit for their game. 
  • The table is lacking in playtesting, so the numbers could be way off for the levels of permanent injury and deadliness I'm aiming for, again feedback is welcomed. 
  • I personally find the shunting off of extra detail into sub tables highly useful, however this again may make things too unwieldy for some. 
  • I like the Destroyed Item result, however I would've liked to have a non-locational equipment damage chance which included armour damage, but struggled to do so without adding too much complexity.
  • I'm hoping the use of a number of 5E'isms in the table isn't a turn off for folks that just aren't that into it - I feel like I've used the best bits to add to the table rather than shoehorning it into 5E and losing the old school Death & Dismembery goodness. 

The bad
  • I would've really loved to get the supporting notes down to a single page rather than two. 
  • I'll need a new project to start working on now! If there is interest I would consider tweaking the table for other editions. I don't really think this is necessary but it could be fun to play around with the formatting style. I've been toying around with the idea of replicating the process of TODADTTRTA but for other game tables (or things that aren't usually tables but could be cool as tables)

I'd love to hear any comments on how TODADTTRTA has turned out, or feedback if anyone happens to use it in play.  


  1. I like it! It looks like a lot of rolling, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    I know what you mean about the mutliple-dice-leads-to-less-randomness. I considered that a feature rather than a bug in my original table; I wanted KOs more than kills. But YMMV, of course.

    And yeah, not having to deal with negative hit points is another feature in my book. I think you've made the right choice based on the vague notion I have for the sort of game you want to play. Let us all know how it actually works at the table for you!

  2. Cheers. Most of the results only require two or three dice rolls, and given that hitting zero hit points isn't something that necessarily happens every combat it shouldn't slow things too much.

    Although my table may look a bit deadly there's a 50% chance on the first roll of only receiving a light wound or less, which will leave a combatant still up and fighting (its possible it may actually be too lenient!)

  3. YMMV on the leniency thing. Frankly, I'm not big on dead PCs. (Yeah, I know, they're gonna take my OSR card away. ;) ) Death is, quite frankly, boring, even anti-climactic after you've been ramping up the threat of it for a while. Besides, there are soooo many more fun things to do to defeated PCs (

    But that's me. Raggi, on the other hand, loves a high body count. It's part of the fun for his group. A table like this would not work in his game at all.

  4. The great thing about Death & Dismemberment tables is all you have to do is change the spread of results to accommodate your preferred style. I originally had every result bar messy instant death and adrenaline surge having a 15% chance of occurring, but it just seemed too brutal so I reduced the chance for critical wound and up to 10% and introduced the flesh wound result. I may even post up a tweaked to be deadlier version for folks that prefer things that way.

  5. Yeah, I'm very surprised we didn't see a D&D (ha!) table in 5e, as they are so flexible that way.

  6. Brian, I got curious about the respective deadliness of our tables so I crunched the probabilities. We are pretty close for the chance of a mortal wound /instant death (mine at 25%, yours at 16.7%). However an out of combat result (KO / broken bone) is much more likely in your table (25% vs 55.6%) where mine has light wounds (minor stun or less) much more likely (50% vs 27.7%). Upshot of the numbers is they are about as risky as each other for direct deaths, but being taken out of the fight (which is a risk of death in itself) is much more likely in yours.

    Upshot of this is I might need to think about beefing up my table after all!

  7. I've linked
    here to an updated "player killa" version of TODADTTRTA with the spread of results I origianlly was going with before deciding I was being too harsh. This version spreads results 35% mortal wound / instant death, 30% out of action and 35% light wounding or less.

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  9. Hey howdy Lloyd! A few years ago I used your DADT as a basis for an expanded version I wrote up and packaged for my 5e game. I just recently started a D&D blog, shared those rules as a "stocking stuffer", and gave your blog a shoutout. Thanks again for writing up your design process here, it was invaluable as I was getting into GMing and house-ruling!