My policy on death is that player characters are heroes, and deserve to die in meaningful ways. I’ll leave “meaningful” open to interpretation, but Homestuck’s “Just or Heroic” is what I’m using as a rule of thumb.
On the other hand, if you do fall below 0 HP, there will be penalties. Your character is considered to be unconscious and in critical condition. Prompt action to bind the wounds of the fallen will help negate these penalties, as will Raise Dead and Resurrection spells. If you leave them to die or allow unpleasant things to happen to their body, penalties will be worse. See the rules on Healing for how to get them on their feet again – penalties will be applied when this happens.
Starting from the time of this post, the penalties will be as follows:
1. You got better. You think you’ll go for a little walk.
2. HP at 1, even if you were healed above this. You’re alive, but fragile. (Further healing as normal.)
3. STR and CON halved until you get a proper and comfortable night’s rest.
4. STR and CON and max HP halved and move speed reduced until you get a proper and comfortable night’s rest.
5. 1 point permanently lost from CON (or other appropriate stat) and the effects of 4.
6. 1 point permanently lost from CON (or other appropriate stat) and the effects of 4 last for three in-game days or three sessions, depending on circumstances.
7. 1 point permanently lost from CON and STR (or two other appropriate stats) and the effects of 4 last for three in-game days or three sessions.
8. 1 point permanently lost from every stat and the effects of 4 last for 3 in-game days or sessions.
9. 1d4 points permanently lost from CON, 1 point from every other stat, and the effects of 4 last for 5 in-game days or sessions.
10. Your character is bedridden. His HP is capped at 3, his CON permanently loses 1d4 points and his other stats lose 1, and he is incapable of moving beyond a crawl. If you reach this point, your character can only be healed to functionality by extreme measures, probably tied to the plot. You will be given the option to play a different character until this character recovers – which you should probably take, unless the other PCs are willing to carry you around on a stretcher.
Note that permanent stat loss doesn’t mean you can’t raise your stats back up to their previous levels.
Each character will have a counter that starts at 0. When you “die”, the level of the counter will be incremented. Penalties will use this death counter as a base to determine the penalties you receive. The actual penalty level will be modified by circumstance – if your character was treated promptly and effectively or left to bleed, if healing magic was used, and so forth. You will also get a FORT save versus DC 20 to reduce the penalty by one. Finally, if it makes sense given the circumstances, you can take a “limb penalty” and suffer the loss of a limb to reduce the penalty by 5. We’ll change your character model to reflect this, and it may still mean the loss of stat points.
No matter what else happens, your counter level increases, so you can die 9 times in the best of circumstances and only take temporary penalties, and still face a level 10 penalty the next time it happens.
All of this will be ignored in the case of a “meaningful” death. For instance, if your character sacrifices his or her own life for some greater cause, then that character is permanently dead. Otherwise, what would be the point of making such a sacrifice? You can also decide that your character remains permanently dead instead of taking a penalty at any level if for some reason you want to.
I’ll probably be scripting this into the system – but until I do, DO NOT PRESS THE RESPAWN BUTTON. This is cheating. If you go down, you’re down.