Negative Levels & Con Damage

Rules Questions

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We had this come up in a game and I want to check our math.

A 9th level character got hit with 8 negative levels. This takes 40 points off the characters total maximum hit points. He then takes 4 points of Con damage. This should drop him another 18 hit points off his maximum, right? Or is it just 2 points because the character is now effectively a 1st level character instead of 9th?

This is actually a really good question... My interpretation would be the second example, since the entry on negative levels says that you count "as one level lower for level-dependent variables", and HP loss from Con damage is based on your character level.

There's also this, from the Constitution section of Ability Damage: "Damage to your Constitution score causes you to take penalties on your Fortitude saving throws. In addition, multiply your total Hit Dice by this penalty and subtract that amount from your current and total hit points. Lost hit points are restored when the damage to your Constitution is healed."

So, your buddy is actually taking either 4 points off of his HP, or 36.

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Bonus HP from CON are tied to the HD, not levels. Therefore he loses another 18 hp.

Besides, don't fall into the trap to call him a 1st level character, as would have happened in 1E and 2E. He is still 9th level, but with a heavy penalty attacjed to him.
Eight negative levels are pretty much a death sentence, if he cannot find a cure ASAP, from the save penalty alone.

The level dependent variables Ashram mentions are for example the number of dice on sneak attack or channeling. This effect pretty much kills the characters power as it is meant to simulate the effects of the original energy drain. Back then you simply lost the levels and all you got from them forever (or restored). The new rules try to emulate that, but without being quite so harsh.

We were pretty sure we did the math right, but it left him with something like a MAXIMUM hit points of -3. I'd never seen something like that come up before.

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Wouldn't the absolute minimum hit point value equal the number of hit dice?

Ashram has a point though. If the character got hit with a spell that had different effects depending on hit dice, what would happen? Say he got hit with a Color Spray spell and fails the save. Is he just stunned for a round as a 9hd character or is he blinded, stunned, and knocked unconscious like a 1hd character?

Well, I think he was a class with D8's for hit dice and a CON of 12. That would give him a starting maximum HP of 57. After the 40 points from level loss and 18 from CON his MAX HP should have been -1.

Kifaru wrote:
Ashram has a point though. If the character got hit with a spell that had different effects depending on hit dice, what would happen? Say he got hit with a Color Spray spell and fails the save. Is he just stunned for a round as a 9hd character or is he blinded, stunned, and knocked unconscious like a 1hd character?

Negative levels don't remove hit dice. A 9HD creature with 8 negative levels is still a 9HD creature. Negative levels are simply penalties to a few stats and rolls. Your caster level is reduced, but your hit dice are absolutely not. For instance, your Base Attack Bonus and your saving throw progression are derived from your (number of) hit dice.

All the line about level-dependent variables is talking about is that if your 9HD wizard casts fireball while having 8 negative levels, he's going to deal 1d6 points of damage with it.

David knott 242 wrote:
Wouldn't the absolute minimum hit point value equal the number of hit dice?

Imagine you've got a 10HD fighter who rolled a 1 on every level gain and has a Con score of 10. They have 19 hit points (10 from their first PC hit die, and 9 more from the additional rolls).

Now hit that PC with four points of Con damage. That reduces their modifier by 2, which means they lose 2 hit points per hit die, meaning 20 hit points.

That PC is now at -1 hit points. Max.

To be clear, this character is not dying because they are not taking ongoing damage. They are stable and unconscious.

Amusingly, they might still die... the following from the "stable" condition...

"The character can make a DC 10 Constitution check each hour to become conscious and disabled (even though his hit points are still negative). The character takes a penalty on this roll equal to his negative hit point total.

If a character has become stable on his own and hasn't had help, he is still at risk of losing hit points. Each hour he can make a Constitution check to become stable (as a character that has received aid), but each failed check causes him to lose 1 hit point."

Anguish wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:
Wouldn't the absolute minimum hit point value equal the number of hit dice?

Imagine you've got a 10HD fighter who rolled a 1 on every level gain and has a Con score of 10. They have 19 hit points (10 from their first PC hit die, and 9 more from the additional rolls).

Now hit that PC with four points of Con damage. That reduces their modifier by 2, which means they lose 2 hit points per hit die, meaning 20 hit points.

That PC is now at -1 hit points. Max.

Incorrect.

Constitution wrote:
Each roll of a Hit Die (though a penalty can never drop a result below 1—that is, a character always gains at least 1 hit point each time he advances in level).

Now, as far as I'm aware negative levels have no such wording, so you could end up with negative max hitpoints due to them.

Anguish wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:
Wouldn't the absolute minimum hit point value equal the number of hit dice?

Imagine you've got a 10HD fighter who rolled a 1 on every level gain and has a Con score of 10. They have 19 hit points (10 from their first PC hit die, and 9 more from the additional rolls).

Now hit that PC with four points of Con damage. That reduces their modifier by 2, which means they lose 2 hit points per hit die, meaning 20 hit points.

That PC is now at -1 hit points. Max.

To be clear, this character is not dying because they are not taking ongoing damage. They are stable and unconscious.

Amusingly, they might still die... the following from the "stable" condition...

"The character can make a DC 10 Constitution check each hour to become conscious and disabled (even though his hit points are still negative). The character takes a penalty on this roll equal to his negative hit point total.

If a character has become stable on his own and hasn't had help, he is still at risk of losing hit points. Each hour he can make a Constitution check to become stable (as a character that has received aid), but each failed check causes him to lose 1 hit point."

Note a curios thing, if it is constitution damage, it work as you say, if it is Constitution Drain it lower the actual stat, but then this rule

PRD wrote:
Each roll of a Hit Die (though a penalty can never drop a result below 1—that is, a character always gains at least 1 hit point each time he advances in level).

will keep the hp to a minimum of 1/level, even with a -5 to the die roll.

@ Jeff Merola
Constitution damage don't change the constitution value or modifier, it give a penalty to current/maximum hp.

PRD wrote:

Constitution: Damage to your Constitution score causes you to take penalties on your Fortitude saving throws. In addition, multiply your total Hit Dice by this penalty and subtract that amount from your current and total hit points. Lost hit points are restored when the damage to your Constitution is healed.

Applying the same limit to constitution damage and drain would be a fine houserule and something that I hope every GM will use, but it isn't the official rule.

Your negative result comes from the fact that the -5 hp/negative level are higher than the average 4.5 from the d8 HD.
I believe that you should have at least 1 hp/HD left, but it can be read as if you could be killed that way...or put into a coma.