Creature death at below 0 HPs


Advice


Do DMs rule a creature dead or unconscious if it has minus HPs.

I usually rule creatures dead at below 0 HPs but I am thinking of changing this because I am vexed by everything getting killed.

I think there is more depth in creatures being unconscious at below 0 HPs up to their minus CON score, and then a PC can then choose to kill it or not based on various circumstances.


Creatures are just like PCs in this regard (so they live til negative Con). Remember to roll stabilization checks so the PCs need to stop and heal it if they don't want it to die. Also, the occasional monster has Diehard. (EDIT) Or ferocity.


Most creatures die at negative Con. A few are destroyed at zero hitpoints. As a GM, I usually handwave it to zero to save time.


What dies at zero that has a Con score in the first place?


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I also prefer hand waving "dead" enemies most of the time. It really should only come up if you absolutely can't leave survivors or if the enemies have some healers.


For my games, anything that hits 0 or less hp I remove from the map/table. They aren't technically dead at that point, but usually keeping track of them is annoying and aside from a few spells which require someone who is unconscious but alive it is usually an unimportant aspect of the game.

Unless you purposefully want to introduce the moral quandary of forcing your PCs to kill the enemy after every combat, I think it's probably just better to ignore them after 0 hp.

And let me add, as a player I generally don't want the moral quandary introduced. The party will not agree and it introduces an unnecessary aspect to the game which is generally not fun for players. Most people don't like to have moral and ethical debates about what to do in game.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Unless there is some chance of the enemy regaining consciousness I just remove them from play.


I recently had a similar dilemma when running an encounter with reefclaws. Their death frenzy ability triggers when killed. The are only CR 1 creatures with 13 hp but to technically kill them, you'd need to bring them to -14 (14 Con). With the damage 1st level characters deal out, it is unlikely that the death frenzy will trigger once the creature is brought below zero, and rather the creatures would bleed out a dozen rounds later and start frenzying then I suppose. But I ran it that the ability triggered at 0 hp, because it made more sense.


No, by official rules creatures never die from plain hitpoint loss at a mere -1 hitpoints unless something special says they do (or I guess if they have 1 CON). Some bestiary entries mention this, in which case go by that for those special creatures. Or some types of attacks may have special powers in this way.

But just vanilla, "I hit stuff with my axe" by default, they are unconscious at -1hp, and they only die from hitpoint loss at negative constitution score hitpoints.

Sovereign Court

Undead and Constructs die on 0 HP by default.

The rest dies at -Con. They might get lucky from a cleric without Selective Channel.

Though in practice, as soon as a mini is off the map it's not getting back up.


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
What dies at zero that has a Con score in the first place?

Swarms, troops, and summoned creatures.


If there is no chance of the enemies recovering (no healer, no abilities, non-important creatures/NPCs), then I usually just remove them from the map when they get below zero. IMHO it's a waste of time to track the HP levels of a pack of wolves that are all going to be coup de graced anyways.

In any serious or important combat, especially with important NPCs and/or healers, I track negative HP.

Also, flagged to be moved to advice, because it seems to me that the OP already knows the normal dying rules.


Unless they have magical healing, they are EFFECTIVELY dead below zero (or they have fast heal/regen).

We usually take them off the board when they fall, and the party either finishes them off after the fight, or just leave them where they fell.

Occasionally, it's fun to have an orc you defeated several levels ago come back for revenge, with a huge scar from your axe across his face...

:D

Grand Lodge

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Unless there is some chance of the enemy regaining consciousness I just remove them from play.

Usually this, unless the party has non-selective Channels, the enemy has positive channels/heals, or the party may need to keep one alive to interrogate later.

It can be (mildly) amusing to watch the party kill all the enemies, and let the one that has all the information that they need bleed out while they do that. Or the NPC they were supposed to protect or rescue...


Usually there is value in stabilizing and healing enemies which aren't outright evil. It's kind of the good thing to do, y'know. If they're just a couple of generic thugs, they probably don't deserve to be outright slain just because they picked a fight with you, especially if they don't pose a legitimate danger. It is also useful to do so to gather information, something that can prove invaluable to prepare for future encounters.


Peachbottom wrote:
I recently had a similar dilemma when running an encounter with reefclaws. Their death frenzy ability triggers when killed. The are only CR 1 creatures with 13 hp but to technically kill them, you'd need to bring them to -14 (14 Con). With the damage 1st level characters deal out, it is unlikely that the death frenzy will trigger once the creature is brought below zero, and rather the creatures would bleed out a dozen rounds later and start frenzying then I suppose. But I ran it that the ability triggered at 0 hp, because it made more sense.

Reefclaws also have ferocity, so they're still conscious (and bleeding out) and fighting (poorly) at negative hit points.


bodhranist wrote:
Reefclaws also have ferocity, so they're still conscious (and bleeding out) and fighting (poorly) at negative hit points.

Damn. You're right. They do. That makes them worse.

Dark Archive

My group uses gaming paper, so for clarity of combat choices we write the creature's -HP # and whether they are bleeding or not in pencil on the space they are on, then take the penny off so it is easy to see where you can move at a glance.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I leave them on the battlefield until they either bleed out to negative con or the characters put them out of the misery or capture them. I did not worry about this in 3rd edition, but with channel energy, I have found that some negative hit point bad guys come back to consciousness unless they are selected out with selective channeling. Of course, I also give them damage for area effect spells so they may come off soon anyone.

Also, do not forget that huge and larger creatures should remain on the battlefield as they constitute difficult terrain once they are dead. You can still occupy their squares while unconscious or dead but they are difficult terrain.


Hendelbolaf, do you have a source for huge and larger creatures constituting difficult terrain once dead? While that sounds somewhat reasonable, I don't recall any place in the rules which state anything like that.


We're basically talking house rules at this point.

Liberty's Edge

Particularly in play by post if a creature hits 0 it's dead with me. Combat is already the slowest part of the game in this format and I don't want it to drag longer than necessary.


This is a good way to go if you are a new gm. It's one less thing to worry about. But for heavy roleplaying types, the standard dead-till-neg-con-score is better.

Liberty's Edge

I don't know if it's a question of better or worse just whatever works best for you.

I love the pbp format but begin to lose my mind of we have a combat that lasts longer than a week


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It seems we are all in agreement.

Most opponents / creatures are merely unconscious at negative hit points, and death does not occur until they reach negative hit points equal to their constitution score. It is also not an important distinction unless it is important for the PCs to keep their opponent alive. This includes enchanted allies, criminals that offer better rewards for capture than death, or PC groups that act more mercifully than the average murderhobo group.

Unconscious opponents are usually in a dying state, and usually require stabilizing from someone with a heal skill attempt, or with magical healing (or some equivalent ability).

Opinion time - if it becomes important, I usually reward a group for attempting to keep opponents alive, yet captured. There is still a chance they may kill opponents, yet if they make the attempt to capture rather than kill, some future opponents may be similarly lenient towards the PCs as well. It is more of a reputation reward, rather than anything else.

If the group is the typical murderhobo group, it is assumed they will finish off fallen opponents when looting bodies. The distinction between dead and unconscious is usually trivial in such an occasion. Even if they don't finish the opponents, they can't continue to make fortitude checks forever, they will eventually die without help, making the point moot in most cases. There are exceptions of course (contingency teleports if rendered unconscious, for example).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Byakko wrote:
Hendelbolaf, do you have a source for huge and larger creatures constituting difficult terrain once dead? While that sounds somewhat reasonable, I don't recall any place in the rules which state anything like that.

I know I did not make this up and I remember seeing it somewhere, but I am unable to find it in my searches so far. Maybe it was just a figment of my imagination but I will post if I find it or maybe somebody else will if they find it.

I am wondering if it was in an adventure path that I ran as sometimes they take some liberties with the rules to make the action flow better.

??

Sovereign Court

@KestrelZ: I'm a bit hesitant to go the "good karma" route with rewarding players for not killing enemies. It feels a bit like imposing an external morality on the game.

I think there can be plenty of IC reasons to kill or not kill. Questioning prisoners, legal issues, a code of honor or alignment - all IC reasons to not kill. On the other hand, if beaten enemies return to seek revenge, or call for reinforcements, that may push people towards a "no witnesses" mentality.

I think the GM sets some of the tone here by his handling of minis. Taking a mini off the map is a signal that that opponent is finished and gone, not getting raised by a stray Channel or so forth; it's gone, don't worry about it.

If the GM leaves minis prone, it's a signal that "something still needs to be done". Whether that's questioning the NPC, being careful with Channels or hiding the corpse can vary, but a mini on the map is a sign that opponent isn't quite played out yet.

An in-between form is where a mini is replaced by a stick-figure drawing where the body fell. I think that's usually a sign that you don't have to worry about Channel, but might want to loot that corpse later, or hide it perhaps - the corpse is still a thing. This can be a useful GMing technique to de-clutter the map, especially if people are standing on top of bodies.

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