Drowning Rules

I nearly called this ‘A simple alternative to the dire and destructive rules upon drowning, which by the adoption of, some lives may be hoped to be saved,’ because it’s pretty early in the morning and I haven’t had tea yet. But instead I’m going to talk about the drowning rules, and then add my alternative.

All three times I recall drowning rules going into action in my games, it’s been three instant knock-outs to the chest. That’s not really how it works – drowning is slow IRL and pretty horrible. Magical healing also takes the punch out of the damage to a particular location, if you get there in time. So I have an alternative, which I use in games where I want to be nice to my players.1Yes, that does sometimes happen.

Drowning gives you 1D2 HP to the chest in the first round, 1D3 in the second after damage begins, 1D4 in the third, then 1D5 and so on.2When you get to the D7, curse this rule. You cannot do anything but try not to drown, so even swimming to shore is impossible – you’re staying upright and gripping on desperately to anything that might float. If you keep your head above water, the damage starts to go down again. It doesn’t just automatically stop – you still have water-filled lungs, and now you’re heavier. You might come up, take a breath, and go down again because it’s not enough.

If you get to shore, you can position yourself so that you only take 1D2 more. However, if you don’t empty your lungs out, you continue to take damage. You’re going to need to cough and recover for as long as you were in the water. If you’re unconscious, best hope that your friends know to put you in the right position – First Aid Roll, people! Even if you’re not taking more damage, you need to be resting (and spluttering a lot).

All this damage can be healed by magic that can heal the chest, which is any magic. It’s still pretty lethal, in particular if you fall in alone, but it’s got an arc of lethality that gives your friends a chance to save you, followed by you not being around for the next bit of the action. If that’s combat, you get to sit it out (or lie gasping it out).

I don’t use it all the time, but it is an alternative I like. And of course it’s about drowning, so I get to cite a paper with a fabulous name: Intra-rectal tobacco insufflation as a resuscitation method for drowning victims: A gold-standard in the 18th century. Because it’s Tuesday, and you might not have known that.

  • 1
    Yes, that does sometimes happen.
  • 2
    When you get to the D7, curse this rule.


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