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View Full Version : When does the monster die? (3.5)



Moritz
12-31-2011, 07:29 AM
Round 1 <fight!>

Ok, here's the problem. When does the monster die in your campaign and can you cite rules for it in the DMG/PHB or other?

For example:

Everyone rolls initiative and we create a combat order. There is a Giant attacking the party...:

Player 1 - Runs up to the Giant and smacks it for 20 of it's 32 hit points.
Giant - Strikes Player 1 for 10 of his 30 hit points.
Player 2 - Runs up and hits the Giant for another 12 hit points. Thus dropping the giant to 0 hit points.
<does the giant fall down here?... Or>
Player 3 - Casts magic missile and strikes the giant for another 5 hit points (reducing to -5 . I do not use negative numbers in monsters. Zero means dead).
Player 4 - Shoots an arrow and hits the giant for another 5 hit points. (-10)
<END OF ROUND>
<does the giant fall down here?... Or>
Player 1 - strikes the giant again for another 8 hit points (-18)
Giant - Falls down and dies.

So, essentially, does the giant die when player 2 hit it, does it die at the end of the round, or does it die on its turn?

According to the DMG page 24 - the giant wouldn't die until the end of the round. <see below> . But.... how do you all play and is there something that I'm missing in the books?

Simultaneous Activity
When you play out a combat scene or some other activity for
which time is measured in rounds, it can be important to remember
that all the PCs’ and NPCs’ actions are occurring simultaneously.
For instance, in one 6-second round, Mialee might be trying
to cast a spell at the same time that Lidda is moving in to make a
sneak attack.
However, when everyone at the table plays out a combat round,
each individual acts in turn according to the initiative count for
his character. Obviously, this is necessary, because if every individual
took his turn at the same time, mass confusion would
result. However, this sequential order of play can occasionally lead
to situations when something significant happens to a character at
the end of his turn but before other characters have acted in the
same round.
For instance, suppose Tordek hustles 15 feet ahead of his
friends down a corridor, turns a corner, and hustles another 10
feet down a branching corridor, only to trigger a trap at the end of
his turn. In order to maintain the appearance of simultaneous
activity, you’re within your rights to rule that Tordek doesn’t trigger
the trap until the end of the round. After all, it takes him some
time to get down the corridor, and in an actual real-time situation
the other characters who have yet to act in the round would be
taking their actions during this same time.

Sascha
12-31-2011, 11:30 AM
According to the DMG page 24 - the giant wouldn't die until the end of the round.
To incorporate the simultaneous actions snippet, that would really read: "you’re within your rights to rule that the giant wouldn't die until the end of the round." All that quote states is the DM is free to delay effects, at their discretion, to keep the appearance of real-time activity. An extension of Rule 0, really - narrative license is given to individual DMs.

Example 1: The giant dies at zero HP, and immediately drops out of combat. (No appearance of simultaneous action.)
Example 2: The giant "dies" at zero HP, but isn't obviously dead until the end of the round. Subsequent PC actions may still consider the giant a threat. (Invoking the appearance of simultaneous action.)
Example 3: The giant "dies" at zero HP, but is obviously out of the fight - weapon dropped, slumped over or staggering, and officially dies at the end of the round. (Invoking the appearance of simultaneous action.)

rabkala
01-02-2012, 09:28 AM
In 3.5 a monster dies at the moment of concepttion. By definition, the monster is just an obstacle for players to overcome to get EXP. The nano second after the cockitrice egg is fertilized, it becomes a sack of exprience points waiting for a PC... :biggrin:

In my games, nothing dies until it reaches -10. A monster knocked to zero does not fall. "The giant stumbles back five feet and desperatly raises his shield and sword to ward off the next atack" (on his iniciative), far from dead though.

Player 1 hits the giant dropping it to zero then player 2 hits the giant for a 23 point critical hit, the giant will drop. "You sink your sword deep into the giants leg severing the femeral artery. He falls to the ground as he tries to stem the massive flow of blood turning the snow red." If that is the only threat, the action drops out of strict initiative order. Perhaps, there is a frost giant shaman with a readied action to run out and heal his fallen comrade. In this case, the giant could be saved before the round ends and initiative does not end.

I do this for the players as well, allowing a greater chance for a heroic rescue. I think it also encourages the players to save their enemy for further interaction (interogation, knowledge of motives, possible conversion to the light side, etc.).

:confused: I have always played similarly. I would agree that it is more DM preference and narrative license.

Malruhn
01-02-2012, 02:50 PM
I'm totally with rabkala on this one.

If it fits with the theatrics (I'm a VERY visual DM - and think about play like a movie), the giant would last until the end of the round, looking fierce. If a 4-hp orc gets hit with a sword blow that does 12 damage, the body would be severed in twain or beheaded, in something right out of a Tarantino movie... slow motion and all. I have also done things like have the OMG-killed thing get involved in the remaining fight - the severed head flies through the air and disrupts the shaman's casting as it hits him upside his own head...

At the same time, I've done the same for players that died heroic deaths. When a thief that only had one remaining hit point failed to detect a scythe-blade trap and subsequently took 20 points of damage (hey, it was detectable on a DC12 and he had a +9 on his check!!), it sliced him in half vertically - and he turned back to the party with a look of, "Ouchies, help me!" in his eye... and then his half-body fell toward them. I saw a similar scene in the first Resident Evil movie.

So, yeah, the critter OFFICIALLY dies when their HP reach zero - but I recommend that you allow for theatrics as long as they don't over-balance the game.

Moritz
01-03-2012, 02:19 PM
One of the key foci in this discussion is to prevent metagaming from the players. (IE: Cheating by knowing out of character (OOC) information.)

If the giant falls immediately (at 0 hps) prior to player 3's action, then player 3 will choose to do something else other than follow through with the attack. When in reality, all four players are acting at the same time and thus player 3 and player 4 should not have knowledge that the giant is dead until they have followed through with their intended action.

The more I read the DMG's listing of Simultaneous Activity, the more I realize that the Giant, when reaching 0 hp, should fall down at the end of the round.

In addition, I think that creatures with regeneration or items that grant regeneration should also fall at 0 hp at the end of the round. Then if not hit any further and stabilized, will get up when the regeneration kicks in.

Sascha
01-03-2012, 03:42 PM
One of the key foci in this discussion is to prevent metagaming from the players. (IE: Cheating by knowing out of character (OOC) information.)
Two comments:

First, if your problem (or concern) is metagaming, this isn't something that the rules are really going to fix. What you have here is a conflict of expectations on how the game is supposed to run. I've never seen a case where in-game solutions actually solve out-of-game problems; the best solution is to make this assumption - that narrative death occurs at the end of a round - clear. This avoids player confusion (and potential future conflict) by effectively putting this in the social contract.

Also, related to that (and completely rhetorical~), would you do the same with your NPCs, if they happen to drop a PC mid-round? Or is this solely to reign in player behaviors?

Second, the question of what happens when a combatant's turn happens after being 'killed', but before the end of the round. Does the monster get to act as normal, despite being dead? Does it get to be dead? Honestly, it might be easier to get rid of the initiative system altogether, to get the simultaneous action feel. (Since it actually would be.)

Malruhn
01-04-2012, 09:47 PM
Moritz, I'm going to argue one thing with you.


One of the key foci in this discussion is to prevent metagaming from the players. (IE: Cheating by knowing out of character (OOC) information.)

If the giant falls immediately (at 0 hps) prior to player 3's action, then player 3 will choose to do something else other than follow through with the attack. When in reality, all four players are acting at the same time and thus player 3 and player 4 should not have knowledge that the giant is dead until they have followed through with their intended action.
No they don't all act at the same time - that is what the Initiative Roll is for. If I go first, then you will go second - for this ENTIRE encounter. If I blow up the kobold with a fireball, then you can choose a different target. That isn't "meta" anything... it's pure logic. With the combat system as it is, there is a static "turn" base that is only screwed up when people either hold actions or are impacted by magic (or just sit out a round or two).

Sascha, I once had the LAST person of the round drop a giant to negative Hp - and the giant had actually achieved the FIRST attack in the combat... and it made pure theatrical sense to have the giant stagger a bit and launch a HUGE attack at the warlock (unfortunately, the closest target, and she want second in the round), swinging his mighty hammer downward to turn her into warlock-goo. _I_ knew the giant was dead, but the PLAYERS didn't. I rolled a D20 and announced "A confirmed CRIT! What do you want to do?" Since she was down to less Hp than she needed, she just half-heartedly said, "Well, I'd like to move aside."
"Okay, how would you like to have this look - a hasty leap and falling prone - but safe, or just a step to be *just* out of range?" I was thinking of the big orc general in the Return of the King with the huge catapult stone...

As she was folding up her character sheet and readying her Character Generation Dice (I ALWAYS capitalize that name!!), she said with a look of death on her face, "Oooooh, I just want to step back half a step and take this like a HERO!" I had a dictionary on my lap for just this situation...

!!!*SLAM*!!! The book slammed onto the table and EVERYONE jumped. I calmly said, "The mighty hammer falls on the warlock, but as the dust swirls around, the giant ALSO collapses to the ground, obviously mortally wounded and out of the combat. The swirling dust clears a bit, and you see the warlock standing just inches from the business end of the hammer, with eyes almost black with hatred. With her free hand, she pushes an errant strand of hair from her face, and her other hand suddenly glows with an Eldritch Blast. "Who's next," she says...

The hammer blow would have never hit her - it was ALL theatrics... but effective. And the group didn't know the giant was down until it hit the ground. Since I started doing stuff like this, I have NEVER had a group start doing math to figure out how many hit points the enemy had ("Oooh, this orcs are tough, they all have 13 Hp!"). Metagaming isn't a problem in combat any more.

Sascha
01-05-2012, 12:10 PM
If the giant falls immediately (at 0 hps) prior to player 3's action, then player 3 will choose to do something else other than follow through with the attack. When in reality, all four players are acting at the same time and thus player 3 and player 4 should not have knowledge that the giant is dead until they have followed through with their intended action.
Further thinking: the only reason the round can be structured as simultaneous action is after all actions have been resolved. Having Players 3 and 4 "follow through with their intended action" means those actions had to have been declared *before* their turn came up, which is not how DnD initiative works. Unless you declare all actions before their ordered resolution, this statement isn't logically sound.


The hammer blow would have never hit her - it was ALL theatrics... but effective.
That's sort of my point, though. Player knowledge of the in-game comes from the GM and from the rules, in whatever ratio you're comfortable with; there really isn't one standard by which all groups operate. (Neat story, btw ^_^)

nijineko
01-08-2012, 09:58 PM
a few points of order:

*if we are playing by standard rules and not by houserules then no creature dies at 0 hp except for those which state differently in the monster description, such as constructs and undead.

*again, according to standard rules, except for the aforementioned exception, creatures die when they reach -10 (or less) hp. immediately. not at the end of the round.

*and finally, the paradox of the round. initiative orders everyone into turns, but all the actions in the round "happen simultaneously", as per the rules. and to top it off, death is immediate and ignores initiative. =P

this paradox has led to some memorable gaming experiences for me. i had one halfling who insisted on carrying a 10' pole around, and using it for pole vaulting style attacks at the 'big people'. every single time, and i mean every single time he tried it, someone else would down the character i was attacking before i hit it. (actions were called out at the beginning of the round, but resolution took place in initiative order, and death was immediate). my resulting attempts to land as the guy i was intending to attack fell over and caused me to miss, had hilarious results. this gave the party much laughter and good times, and was well worth the paradox.



however, it is also a satisfying roleplaying experience if you spice it up a bit. the rules are the understood contract governing all expectations, even with rule zero, a dm should be circumspect about exercising it in violation of the established and understood rules. having said that, it is much more memorable to allow the dying creature one last attack on its turn... or even a round or two after death. a fudge here or there should not only be permitted, but encouraged in the interest of great roleplaying.

never poke a dead croc in the mouth... it might still bite. besides, you have to allow for the death soliloquy, right?


i would like to cite mononoke hime as an excellent source for this sort of thing. a wolf god had been beheaded, but when the offending mortal stepped too close a short while later, the decapitated head suddenly opened it's eyes, wiggled across the ground at lightning speed, and jumped into the air in order to bite off her hand!!! the real irony? that same mortal previously stated in the movie that if you cut off a wolf's head, it still has the power to bite; intended as an analogy at the time....

Mordenkainen
03-01-2012, 03:27 PM
The monster dies when it reaches -10 hit points, just like PC's. However, there is no reason to record those -1 to -10 hit points, because if you start doing that, you'll hear the players start saying "I stab it in the face to make sure it's dead!" It gets tiresome hearing that.
0 hit points is good for big monsters, but not for grunts. Keeping track of the orc's 5 hit points is onerous enough, don't extend the agony of having to record the health of a creature that can be killed by a shortsword wielded by a hobbit with a strength of 10. It's not worth it.
There are many approaches to the "simultaneous action" dilemma. The easiest is just to say that when it reaches 0 hit points, its dead. End of story. No extra attack for the monster. Players tend to get angry or annoyed when the monster attacks after they killed it. Simultaneous action generally won't sway them.