Dispel Confusion (Rules Clarification)
Death from Unnatural Causes
Many people have become confused as to what do do when a character goes below the positive hit point range.
Here is a clarification of the rules:
First and foremost it is important to understandthe state of the rules for 4th edition.
The 4th edition rules amend and augment the 1st edition rules while completely nullifying the 2nd and 3rd edition rules altogether.
This means to really have a complete rules reference library one must have access to all the fully errated 1st and 4th edition rules.
This is not usually necessary (which is good because the 1st edition is out of print) because the 4th edition usually repeats the information contained in the 1st edition. But when a rules clarification is necessary, one should look at the 1st edition to better understand the intent of the 4th edition, i.e., to construct the law.
Since the 4th edition amends and augments the 1st edition, the 1st edition is the core or base of the 4th edition rules.
So, let's first review the 1st edition rules regarding this issue:
In the 1st edition PHB on page 105 under the heading "DAMAGE" it reads:
"If any creature reaches 0 or negative hit points, it is dead."
That is pretty straight forward, but the 1st edition GMG amends and augments the 1st edition PHB, so let's see what it says:
In the 1st edition GMG on page 82 under the heading "HIT POINTS" under the sub-heading "Zero Hit Points" it reads:
"When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious."
From this we can see there are 2 options in 1st edition:
Going from positive HP to 0 HP causes unconsciousness and the character starts to take "bleeding, shock, convultions, non-respiration, and similar causes" damage until thecharacter reaches -10 HP at which point the character dies.
Going from positive HP to negative HP causes the character to die.
Taking any damage at all except "bleeding" damage while having non-positive HP causes the character to die.
Going from positive HP to 0, -1, -2, or -3 HP from a single blow causes unconsciousness and the character starts to take "bleeding" damage until the PC reaches -10 HP at which point the PC dies.
Going from positive HP to -4 or less HP causes the PC to die.
Taking any damage at all except "bleeding" damage while having non-positive HP causes the PC to die.
One might ask, if the character is "stabilized" and not "bleeding" anymore, will the character still die from taking damage while in the non-postive HP range. The answer is yes.
OK, lets take a look at the 4th edition:
In the 4th edition GMG on page 106 under the heading "Character Death" it reads:
"If a character or monster suffers a single blow that drops him to -4 hit points, he's dead. If a character suffers a hit that drops him to 0 to -3 hit points in a single blow, the character is fallen and bleeding to death. The character must make a Constitution check against half his Constitution in order to remain conscious."
From this we can see that Option 1 has been nullified and Option 2 has been amended with a Constitution check.
Do not forget that if a character is not unconscious or totally immobilized, no one can do a coup de grace on him. They have to roll to-hit instead. But, if they score a hit while he is in the non-positive HP range, he had better hope something absorbs the damage besides him, because if he even takes 1 HP of damage while in this state, he will die.
Also, again one might ask, if the character is "stabilized" and not "bleeding" anymore, will the character still die from taking damage while in the non-postive HP range. Again the answer is yes.
OK, based upon these rules, many questions come up about Cavaliers of good alignment and about the Endurance skill.
For Cavaliers of good alignment, the only differences to the above rules are the following:
Based upon their starting hit points at 1st level (4-13 HP), they can "function" in the negative hit points range up to and including that number of negative HP. This would basically just mean that they do not become unconscious and they can seek healing while in this functional range. THEY CANNOT ENGAGE IN COMBAT OR RUN. While in this functional state, they will continue to "bleed" and once they reach below their functional range of negative HP, they will no longer be able to "function" any longer. Being in this functional state does not make them immune to being slain by taking damage while in the non-positive HP range even if they have been "stabalized."
For a good aligned Cavalier who had 13 HP at 1st level, this means he will continue to "function"even when he has -13 HP. Think about it. How can he function if he is dead? This has lowered his death from bleeding to -14 HP. But, he will still die if a single blow were to take him from1 HP to -4 HP. You cannot "function" if you are dead.
What about someone with the Endurance skill? Unlike the good aligned Cavalier, he can actually fight at 0 and -1 HP. But, if he takes damage while at 0 or -1 HP, he will die like everyone else. Of course, he "bleeds" like everyone else at 0 and -1 HP also. Of course, if he "bleeds" from -1 HP to -2 HP, he automatically becomes unconscious. Of course he is not immune to being slain by taking damage while in the non-positive HP range even if he has been "stabalized."
The key to understandning all this is the following phrase from the 1st edition GMG:
"...if from the same blow which brought the total to 0..."
THE SAME BLOW WHICH BROUGHT THE TOTAL TO 0!
That is the key.