"You think that there's a Heaven? An After-Life? Lies. Lies! There is only one World -- right here. . .and this life can be Eternal. All you need to do is let Him in. . ."
-Arvel, Cultist of the Empty Way
previous post I have detailed the rules for Health & Healing in the Sophia's Children system. In this post I will detail the rules for Death & Dying which are connected to the Health & Healing systems.
To review, the following scores handle the ablation of Hit Points and their restoration: Hit Points proper, Maximum Hit Points, Base Hit Points, and Wounds. Healing, which restores or increases a character's ability to withstand Hit Points ablation / damage are of three kinds: Temporary Hit Points, Minor Healing, and Major Healing.
Whenever a character is reduced to 0 or less Hit Points they are Dying. Under certain circumstances that character will be Dead. The remainder of this post will deal with how the rules handle these circumstances.
Firstly, the mechanical system differentiates between four tiers of characters or Monsters. Minions are measly monsters that die easily and do pittance Damage. Soldiers are fielded in squads like Minions, but are tougher and do standard ranges of Damage. Leaders are the elite class of their kind, very tough and often have a variety of abilities at their disposal akin to PCs. Humongous Monsters are fearsome creatures that, in addition to their large size, have much in the way of resources at their disposal for combat. PCs are about on-par with Leader-type Monsters in terms of power.
Generally speaking, unless there is some special circumstance in play, Minions and Soldiers will Die once being reduced to 0 or less Hit Points. Leaders, Humongous Monsters and PCs follow the rules of Dying and Death proper.
Now, if we have a character who has been reduced to 0 or less Hit Points and is not Dead due to being Minion or Soldier the first thing we do is increment their Wounds by the negative Hit Point value. This also sets Hit Points to 0.
For example: Ridley the Burglar has been bested by a group of Guardsmen. He had had Hit Points of 3, Maximum Hit Points of 20 and Wounds of 10 to start. He is struck with a Baton for 8 points of Damage, reducing his Hit Points to -5; Ridley is now Dying! Since he is Dying he takes the negative value his Hit Points are at and adds its absolute value to his Wounds, resulting in (10 + 5) 15.
Once a character is in the Dying state, they continue to take a turn in combat, although they function as if Stunned -- unable to act except to select Next Action. Every character can, if they are under the effect of a condition that can Saved against, make exactly one Save at the end of their action. A Dying character is still eligible for this one Save, which they will want to use to remove the Dying condition.
Aside: Again, there are elements of the system that are connected here that I haven't quite detailed yet. There is a standard conditions system, some of which can be Saved against, some of which can't. Even still, there are conditions that if one doesn't remove it after three Actions, the condition is permanent. Dying, if not removed via a Save will result in the Dead status after the third pass through the Dying character's Action. Let's go back to our example:
Ridley is now Dying with Wounds of 15, Maximum Hit Points of 20 and Hit Points at 0. Luckily, Ridley had brought a couple of common thugs with him, who fight the Guardsmen while Ridley struggles to get back up. On Ridley's very next action he can only try to make a Hard Save and then select the Next Action. He fails the save and now has One Strike against his Dying condition. The melee continues around him and he is up for another action and, once again, fails his Save for Strike Two. Ridley has one more shot at trying to stabilize his Dying condition. . .
If an ally is currently in the Dying condition, there are options available to them to help out. Applying Temporary Hit Points to a Dying character will not affect their chances to stabilize, but those additional Temporary Hit Points will remain with that character as an additional buffer for when they do. Minor Healing and Major Healing applies their effects as usual (first reducing Maximum Hit Points and raising Current Hit Points), but does not remove the Dying status itself. This only allows for an extra Save against the Dying condition.
Ridley is Dying and has one more Save to go before he is Dead. Before his next Action (the Action in which he must make a Hard Save or go from Dying to Dead), one of his pals forces the contents of a healing potion down his throat -- which applies Major Healing of 7 points to Ridley. First his Maximum Hit Points are reduced by his Wounds (20 - 15 = 5) and then both his Max. and Current Hit Points are raised by 7 ("5 + 7 = 12" and "0 + 7 = 7" respectively). Although this doesn't automatically stabilize Ridley, he is allowed a Hard Save against the Dying condition that does not count as his final chance. He draws two white stones -- success! Ridley stabilizes with 7 Hit Points out of 12 Maximum and 0 Wounds, ready for his Next Action. He and his pals fight the Guardsmen off and escape down a narrow alleyway.
Once a character fails to remove the Dying status on their third Action they are now Dead. There is also one other way a character can become Dead: whenever Wounds equals Maximum Hit Points. This second situation is dangerous for combatants who are fighting against aggressive opponents who are looking to ensure that they kill. Attacks against a Dying combatant are valid and the targetting works the same as when attacking a Stunned combatant (the status conditions and how they impact combat tactics will be reviewed in a later post). Every point of Damage received below 0 is added directly to Wounds.
Ridley is back on his feet (with 7 Hit Points, 12 Max, and 0 Wounds) -- but the Guardsmen who were thought to be routed are back! The Guardsmen, a squad of four, have surprised Ridley and his compatriots and spring to attack. They pile on Ridley: the first two attacks miss, with the third hitting for 8 Damage. This drops Ridley to -1 Hit Points and he is now Dying (again!). Before the fourth Guardsmen makes his move, Ridley adjusts his character sheet: 0 Hit Points, 12 Max and 9 Wounds (8 for the attack plus 1 for the -1 Hit Points he dropped to before Dying).
Ridley is very close to Death's Door. While he might be able to make his Save, his Wounds are 3 points away from matching his Maximum Hit Points. If this happens, he will require much more serious attention.
Unfortunately for Ridley, these Guardsmen are the kind that file fraudulent paperwork and are going to make sure Ridley stays Dead instead of bringing him in for arrest! The fourth Guardsman attacks the Dying Ridley, striking him for 6 Damage -- this Damage is applied directly to Wounds, raising them to 15, which is greater than Maximum Hit Points. Ridley is now Dead. . .
Once a character is Dead, they will stay Dead unless Major Healing is applied to the body. Applying Temporary Hit Points, as with Dying, will certainly confer the benefit as per the usual, but will do nothing to raise the Dead. Minor Healing will NOT bestow any additional Saves to rise from the Dead, but can restore Hit Points if Wounds have not superseded Maximum Hit Points. The only saving grace for a character at this point is Major Healing.
Major Healing, if applied to a Dead character, will apply its benefit as usual: raising BOTH Maximum Hit Points and Current Hit Points. That character is then allowed one Hard Save to come back from the Dead. They will stay Dead if they cannot make this Hard Save.
So, that's the system as it is for the moment. All of these system, so explicated, are subject to change due to play testing. One element that may not be obvious from this posting is how costly Major Healing is. It is not a trivial matter to continue spending resources that apply Major Healing to a Dead character. This process also necessitates access to the body which, if the allies have retreated, you've fallen into a deadly trap or there's been a total party kill, will not be possible.