Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Doing the Death Spiral - Bringing T&T's Death Spiral to S&W and FAL

If you don't know about Tunnels & Trolls' "Death Spiral", this is it in a nutshell. As a monster takes damage those numbers come off it's Monster Rating or MR. Damage dice and adds are directly determined by MR (MR doubles as HP in D&D terms. MR is recalculated at the start of each round, so as a monster takes damage, it's ability to deal damage also goes down - therefore the "Death Spiral."

As I've said elsewhere, converting to another system is more art and less science - you go for the feel, not the reproduction.

For Swords & Wizardry, you could replicated such an effect by making it "1" harder for the monster to hit for every 5 points of damage taken as well as make it "1" easier to hit them for every 10 points of damage taken. I think something like this would be more appropriate in a Swords & Sorcery styled campaign, where heroes are expected to be heroic and perhaps in sessions with fewer PCs, as it helps change the balance as an encounter goes on.

Far Away Land has a much smaller power curve than S&W or T&T, so I would go with a lighter touch - when a monster has taken half it's hits in damage, remove 1 die from Brute / Str for purposes of attacks. At 1/4 hits, remove a second die. At no point can a monster go below 1 die.


  1. I thought one of the best innovations of 7th edition T&T was that while a foe's adds decreased as they took damage, their base damage dice remained consistent to the end. This really helped to mitigate the death spiral effect.

    1. It's a pro/con thing for some. A lot of folks (myself included) like the idea of a monster getting weaker as it takes hits. OTOH, having the base damage stay the same even after damage relieves the GM of the PITA of having to re-figure every round how many dice + adds the monster is slinging.

    2. I also like that the monster gets weaker at it takes hits, but that still happens under the 7E rules. It's just that the decrease in strength is not so dramatic since its only the adds that are affected.

      Your comment about re-figuring dice is completely on-target.

  2. The way GURPS does the death spiral is to penalize attacks for a turn. The round after you get thumped, you get a shock penalty equal to damage, capped at -4.

    Depending on where you are in the skill curve, this can be crippling (takes Skill-12 to Skill-8, which is 75% hit down to 25% hit) or trivial (Skill-20 down to Skill-16 is no net change in hit probability in the raw, but likely lowers your ability to do fancy-schmancy stuff like deceptive attacks or target hit locations).

    That's always been fine with me (though occasionally we wish for penalties to defenses too), and could easily port to D&D games by saying the turn after you get hit, you take a penalty to hit and/or your AC. So you're easier to hit and you have a harder time swinging to contact. Leave damage alone.

    The primary impact of lower hit chance and lower AC should be to force the hit character to fight defensively for a turn until the shock wears off.

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  4. Yeah... Death Spirals outside of Giant Mecha games just don't jive for me. I've seen people fight terrifyingly effectively while near death, and one guy in our gaming crew kept up his end in a firefight with his intestines around his ankles.

    The problem with Death Spiral rules is they generally operate based on damage only, without taking into account adrenaline and endorphins.

    That said, I've also included Death Spiral rules on the blog and in one of the issues of Dyson's Dodecahedron (issue 1 I believe).

  5. I admit, I considered the death spiral more of a bug than a feature in T&T, I usually statted my monsters out in full for my home games....but then I also used saving throws for melee and ranged combats too. So yeah, heavily houseruled.

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    2. I always liked the monster death spiral in T&T, it feel right for many monsters to be worn down in a fight.

  6. If you have a death spiral is S&W (and similar games), the monsters thatbkeep onn fighting into negative HP or berserker like foes shouldn't have a death spiral, undead shoudn't have one either (as they are dead already) unless being attacked by holy weapons. Regenerting creatures shouldn't have one either uness a DM wants to go insane.


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