Hi! So, as you might know, there are quite a lot of people who do not like the official PHB falling damage rules, for an (in my opinion) good reason. They're limited and are unimpressive at higher levels. I have found some rules made by other players and DM's who agreed with this, but I have found none that were easy enough to use in my games, or difficult enough to be applicable in different situations. This is why I made my own set of rules, that are still threatening to high-level players but still not too deadly to lower level players. They work for me, and I hope for you too!
If you don't see what the problem is, let me explain. (If you agree that the RAW are dumb you can just skip to the actual rules since this will probably be old information.)First of all, the damage cap is set too low. According to the rules as described in the PHB, there is no way for a player to take more damage from a fall on a concrete floor than 20d6, which is an average of 70 damage. Even if the player fell from a height which is larger than 500 feet, it would still be an average of 70 damage. To a high-level character, this is very unimpressive. They will most likely have more than 35 HP and not be instantly killed from a 500+ feet drop. As will their high-level enemies, which can be frustrating for players if they want to kill these enemies by pushing them off a cliff.Another thing that is frustrating to me is that the RAW do not consider any different terrains than just a flat concrete surface. What if the players fall from a 100 feet high cliff into water? They still take 10d6 damage because there are no other rules for this circumstance. But in real life there are divers who dive from these heights on purpose and get out (without even a scratch), so why can't players?
This is why I propose my (more) realistic falling damage rules. I wanted to keep it simple while still being usable for different kinds of situations. Feel free to use them yourself or give any feedback if you have any!
How this works
In these rules, there are two main types of terrains on which a creature can fall: a hard flat surface (which will be referred to as Concrete) and Water. You can always modify them to the needs of your situation.
ConcreteOn Concrete it is hard for characters to land safely, as the ground is hard which makes it difficult to break a fall properly. This is why there is only a small drop off of which most people can break a fall properly.
In these rules, creatures can make an Acrobatics check to try to avoid individual falling damage die. A certain score on this check can half or avoid the damage from a certain part of the drop.Each height has its own DC which, if you succeed in making it, causes you to half the damage (or avoid getting damaged at all) by the die rolled for that specific height and the heights before that. The DC corresponding with a certain height is presented in the table below. If you do not make a certain DC you take full damage for those, and the remainder, of the feet you fall. A creature still takes 1d6 for every 10 feet it fell (and didn't break the fall for), and also still lands prone, unless it avoids taking damage from the fall.
For example, a creature drops from a height of 40 feet and rolls a 17 for their Acrobatics check. This means that the creature succeeds in breaking their fall enough so that they don't take any damage from the first two dice, but do take the full remaining 2d6 damage.If the creature rolls a 26 on their Acrobatics check, on the other hand, they only take 2d6 damage, but the damage of the first die (rolled for the 40 to 50 feet fall) is halved as they have surpassed the 40 feet DC.
|HEIGHT||DIFFICULTY CLASS (Acrobatics)||ON A SUCCESS|
|10 feet||DC 10||No damage|
|20 feet||DC 15||No damage|
|30 feet||DC 20||No damage|
|40 feet||DC 25||Half damage|
|50 feet||DC 30||Half damage|
|60 feet||DC 35||Half damage|
|70+ feet||—||FULL DAMAGE|
When falling on Concrete the maximum amount of damage a creature can receive is 50d6, this puts the average maximum amount of damage at 175, which should be a bit more threatening to high-level players and monsters. I have chosen to cap the damage to around 50d6 since according to this comment you reach terminal velocity after having fallen around 580 feet (1 round), and to keep it simple (and not too damaging) if have rounded this down to 50d6.
WaterWhen falling into Water it is easier for a character to break their fall since they (only) have to streamline their body to let the water break their fall. Water is also not as hard as Concrete which makes it easier for the body to land on, even if the body is rotated poorly.
The rules for falling on Water are mostly the same, but there is one difference. Water is more soothing than Concrete which is why, as long as the water is at least half as deep as the height a creature is falling from, the creature will take no damage when falling from a height of up to 20 feet. The Water has to be at least half as deep as the height the creature is falling from until it equals 70 feet, after which it is not a requirement any more. If the depth of the Water is lower than half the height the creature is falling from the water counts as Concrete.When a creature falls in Water, the creature still takes 1d6 for every 10 feet it fell (and didn't break the fall for).
|HEIGHT||DIFFICULTY CLASS (Acrobatics)||ON A SUCCESS|
|10 – 20 feet||—||No damage|
|30 feet||DC 10||No damage|
|40 feet||DC 15||No damage|
|50 feet||DC 20||No damage|
|60 feet||DC 25||Half damage|
|70 feet||DC 30||Half damage|
|80 feet||DC 35||Half damage|
|90+ feet||—||FULL DAMAGE|
Officially the maximum amount of falling damage is still 50d6 for Water, but since the first two damage dice are almost always not rolled, it usually has a maximum of 48d6.
These were my rules! I would be very interested in hearing what you think. Please leave a comment if you'd want me to clear some stuff up since I know my (written) explanations are often very unclear.
PS: These rules are just for two situations but if your situation requires you can always modify them a bit using this as a baseline. If a creature falls on a spiky terrain, for example, you could add some piercing damage to the fall. Or if the terrain isn't flat you could make the Acrobatics check DC lower since the creature might not come to an immediate stop and instead starts sliding. See? Endless possibilities!
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