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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Falling in D&D (the shortest useful post I will ever write)

Players fall quite often, because heroes are constantly leaping off things.
TLDR Version:
Here is how I do it.

  • I give heroes the first 10 feet for free.. Nice of me right? I figure Urkuk the 12th level fighter has learned how to tuck and roll. 
  • After 10 Feet, Every additional 10 feet causes 1d12 damage up to 8d12 at 90 feet. 
  • After 90 feet each additional 10 feet of falling simply adds 10 points of damage. (100 feet is 8d12 +10 for example)
  • After 90 feet the character still takes the damage and also has to save vs Death, or make a Constitution save (adapt this to whatever edition of D&D floats your boat.)
  • Modify the save with +1 difficulty for every 10 feet of fall beyond 90 feet. ( again adapt this to whatever edition of D&D you are using.)
  • If they fail the save they straight up die.
  • You fall 500 feet in one 6 second round.
  • The first 90 feet as described above assumes falling onto a hard surface, and the character not landing on their head. The DM can modify damage up 90 feet however they see fit for things like falling through trees or catching your self on a store awning. 
  • After 90 feet the character is traveling fast enough that bouncing off things doesn't help anymore.
  • Landing on one's head is what the saving throw is for.


"No, not really. -Love, Me"

That's it the shortest useful post I have ever written. If you want to see how I got to the above conclusions read on. If not, see you next time.


If you are super interested, and I was, check this page out. This will not surprise any of you  but I'm not sitting here figuring out  physics problems. Let some one else do that. I just want something game-able. 

Q: Can I cast feather fall before I die? 

  • A 200 pound person forgiving the 2% (or so)  modifier for air resistance will fall around 100 feet in about 2.49 seconds.
  • Same weight would fall about 500 feet in 5.5 seconds.  
  • And finally  1000 feet in 7.8 seconds (roughly)

A: D&D rounds last 6 seconds. 
So in that time your  unfortunate character will fall something like 500 feet and a bit more. Most D&D falls will be much shorter than that, mostly under 2 seconds. Chances are you can't get that spell to fire if you fall off a 50 foot parapet. This is what the spell contingency is for. If you are using segments from an older version of D&D, then yes it might be possible for  shorter falls.

EDIT: After a comment by Anders “The Delver” Nordberg bellow I decided to go check some of the D&D versions of the spell feather-fall. And indeed in most editions it's some version of Instant. Though the 1st editions version has a very brief duration at low levels that could lead to a comedy gold.

Generally it makes the above point moot, and I should have done that reading before I wrote this.
Still, Don't fall. the wizard wont always be around.

http://pandaria.rpgworlds.info/cant/rules/adnd_spells.htm#Feather Fall

Q: Will my character die?
A: There is a good chance your character will die,  yeah.
So I read some things, and  found that most of the internet is obsessed with people who have survived massively high falls. They ignore the fact that people slip and fall from essentially 0 feet and die every day. For example, 

OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in long-shoring operations. Source
Basically Fair Sir Ghalafrumph should be secured via harness when he is on his horse. 

It is insanely easy to die from falling. Any fall from a paltry 16 - 20 feet or more while landing on a hard surface will cause internal injuries and broken bones. 
The Panel recommended transport to a trauma center if any of the following are identified:

falls adults: >20 feet (one story = 10 feet)
This which has a bit more detail, is from that documents supporting documentation: 

Liu et al.[*] reported a mortality rate of
22.70% due to falls from above 6 m, while Lapostolle et al.[12]
reported a mortality rate of 33.80% due to falls from above
3 m. In our study, the mortality rate due to falls from above
10 m was similar to the figures derived from those studies. Source.
That quote above is only talking about 3 meters! or 9 stinking feet! Here's some more info  From a Dr.s Blog on the same subject.

All this adds up to:
Realistically falling from  from 50 feet is fatal most of the time. by then your  200 pound cleric is traveling  40 MPH with no air bag. At 85 feet your Poor cleric is falling at 52 MPH. That's like a bad car accident with  zero in the  way of  protection. It is not a good look when your only "crumple zones" are your legs. Falling form 85 feet or more is widely considered "statistically fatal" meaning some lucky folks land on  mattresses or have some other fit of luck. but pretty much everybody dies.
A true story from the game table.
I once played in a 2nd edition game with a player who had a super jacked fighter. This fighter also had one of those strength adjusted bows so when we were about to engage in ship to ship combat he decided to climb the main mast, sit in the crows nest and pick off targets with his huge F'ing bow. He did that for a few rounds, tagging priority targets up until we came into boarding range with  the opposing  ship.
When he told the DM he was coming down from the  crows nest the  DM said it will take you five rounds to climb to the deck. Hell, I thought that was generous, (30 seconds? what is that mast a fire pole?)
The player said,, "nope I'll Jump." 
The DM  said "It's over 100 feet you know."
The player replied unconcerned, "I still have over 100 hp it's only going to be 10d6 damage max. I'll be fine."
The morale of the story:
That's horse shit.
Falling should be one of the most threatening environmental hazards Players have to deal with. Not something that can just be brushed off based on the number of hit points a character has.

Thank you for reading 

Another Link This one is the aptly named "Splat Calculator" Used to get some of the fall speeds in this post.

* Reference, Lapostolle F, Gere C, Borron SW, et al. Prognostic factors in victims of falls from height. Crit Care Med 2005;33:1239–42.