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The Harder They Fall: Revising Falling Damage for 5e

So I was thinking about falling damage recently, and specifically about how little danger falling represents to characters of a certain level, no matter how high the drop.

The rules given on p.183 of the Player’s Handbook simply state that a character 1d6 bludgeoning damage for every 10 feet it falls, to a maximum of 20d6 (which is an average of 70 damage).

He’ll be fine….

If we refresh our memories on the rules for dying, they state that a character dies outright when reduced to 0 hit points AND the excess damage is equal to or greater than its maximum hit points.

…if you’ve got a measly 35 hit points you have a great chance of surviving ANY fall in the game.

In other words, even if you’ve got a measly 35 hit points you have a great chance of surviving ANY fall in the game. While if you’ve got as many as 50 HP you’re almost immune from instant death by cliff jump, as you’d need to receive 100 damage to die outright (from a maximum of 20d6)… at least if you were on full HP when you took your tumble. Once you get much above 70 hit points, you would be unlikely to even fall unconscious when plummeting 1,000 feet from the sky, and mechanically there’s nothing to stop you standing up and acting in your next round.

Yes, simple rules, elegance, 5e, blah blah blah blah…

Not for me amigos… I’m gonna fix this for my campaign, and I think the game will be better for it. Battling on a cliff edge or rope bridge should be a nerve wracking, even terrifying, affair… as should riding a griffon or dragon, or even taking too many chances with the fly spell (which requires concentration remember!). Meanwhile, players that push a giant over a bluff expect to kill it… not deliver a mild bruising… so the rules work both ways.

*UPDATE: Hipster Remix 2022*

Ok, as of May 2022, I’m interrupting this post with a cleaner set of house rules that I will be implementing in my next campaign…

A creature takes 1d6 bludgeoning damage for a fall of up to 10 feet, 2d8 damage for a fall of up to 20 feet, 3d10 damage for a fall of up to 30 feet, 4d12 for a fall of up to 50 feet, and 5d20 for a fall of up to 50 feet. For each additionally 10 feet fallen they take an additional d20 bludgeoning damage, to a maximum of 50d20.

A creature may attempt to half the damage of a fall by succeeding on a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, the DC of which equals the height fallen in feet. The check is made with disadvantage if the creature was pushed (instead of jumped).

That’s it!

I think if you combine this with the optional rules for Injuries and Massive Damage on p.272-73 of the DMG, then you’ve got a pretty quick and respectably credible falling damage hack for your game.

And in the unlikely event that you do ever find yourself having to roll 50d20, just roll 5d20 and times by 10.

Now back to my original August 2020 post if you want see the evolution of these rules…

Damage Cap, Based on Terminal Velocity

Conveniently for D&D players, a falling human reaches terminal velocity after about 6 seconds (at least according to this gentleman…), i.e. one round, falling about 580 feet in the process.

Now that we know this, we have a better scientific measurement of at which height we should cap the damage, and we also know how far someone falls in one round of combat (always useful! Not least if a raging barbarian spills off a cliff… see FAQs below).

For my game, I will simplify things a bit by capping falling damage at 50d6 (i.e. at 500 feet, instead of at 200 feet in RAW). And btw, if you don’t fancy rolling them, just roll 10 and times by 5…

I would rather fall from the bottom of the Eiffel Tower than the top! (Source: US Gov.).

Now 50d6 is still only 175 hit points of damage on average, while nothing has changed about surviving a 100 foot fall… which should be way more deadly than taking 35 hit points of damage on average. If we consider that each storey in a building is usually about 10 feet high, that’s falling off a 10 floor block of flats!

Hipster’s ‘Hard Fall’ Rule

Ok so this is my proposal…

From falls of 30 feet and above I will force players to test their luck, and make their choice of a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or a DC 20 Dexterity saving throw – let’s call this a Hard Fall saving throw! If they pass their Hard Fall save they take damage as normal. If they fail they take max. damage from every die… i.e. a 100 foot fall does 60 damage, no rolling required.

I like this because it starts to reflect the real danger of a fall, but still giving the characters a more than decent chance to pull off the old ‘fall from an aeroplane and survive’ story, that feels fitting in a heroic setting.

(Want to make it even more deadly… if they fail their save by 5, then first double and then max. the dice!).

Seeing Stars…

D&D is pretty immersion breaking when it comes to being able to act normally under testing circumstances… and I’m ok with that most of the time. It’s just more fun that way. But with a big fall I’d be tempted to insert some kind of ‘you’re f*cked’ effect that stops PCs plummeting 200 feet off a cliff, crunching into the ground, and then teleporting back into combat, or whatever, on the following turn.

I will rule that a PC who fails their Hard Fall save, but survives, is stunned for a number of rounds equal to the amount they failed their save by.

Meanwhile I’m definitely getting the Lingering Injuries table for anyone who was reduced to 0 hit points by the fall, as per the rules on p.272 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Rather than roll, I might just hand out the ‘Internal Injury’ result.

DMs in my group also tend to hand out a level or two of exhaustion when a PC is reduced to zero hit points.

A More RAW Solution

Incidentally, there is an optional rule on p.273 of the DMG called Massive Damage that forces people to make a DC 15 Con save when taking damage of over half their hit point maximum, to avoid some nasty effects. Doesn’t quite do everything I want, but a quick and easy hack if you want to make falls more dangerous using strictly the Rules As Written.

Rolling With a Fall

What about the old tuck and roll on a small drop? There are a few things more satisfying than doing a bit of fantasy parkour in your D&D session… as far as I’m aware (please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong!), there are no special rules for breaking a fall with an acrobatic tumble…

Leaning towards the heroic side of the game, I’m going to rule that if you succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check you can half the damage of a 10 foot fall, DC 15 to half the damage of a 20 foot fall, DC 20 to half the damage of a 30 foot fall, DC 25 to half the damage of a 40 foot fall and DC 30 to half the damage of 50 foot fall.

What’s more, if you pass your Acrobatics check there’s no need to make the Hard Fall save (which would usually be required from 30 feet upwards).

I will add the caveat that you have to be in control of the jump… if someone pushes you, and you fall some 30 feet off the roof of a three storey building, then you can make the same check but at disadvantage.

(Want your PCs to feel more badass… if they pass their Acrobatic check by 5 they take no damage!).

Fall HeightDamageAcrobatics DCHard Fall save?
10 feet1d610No
20 feet2d615No
30 feet3d620Yes
40 feet4d625Yes
50 feet5d630Yes
60 feet6d6Not possibleYes
200 feet20d6Not possibleYes
500 feet50d6Not possibleYes

Falling FAQs

Q: Do monsters that are immune to bludgeoning damage take fall damage?
A: Yes, because they are only immune / resistant to bludgeoning damage from non-magical weapons, not from other sources.

Q: Does a barbarian half damage if they take falling damage while raging?
A: Yes, as a barbarian is resistant to bludgeoning damage. However, if the fall is more than about 500 feet, their rage will have ended by virtue of not having made an attack or taken damage in the round during which they were solely falling. So for falls of 500 feet or more I would rule that rage has given way to fear and they take full damage.

Final Note

Remember the point of these revised rules is to put the fear of the gods back into your high level PCs… not for them to feel cheated when they die unexpectedly. Therefore be sure to communicate to your players beforehand if you intend in testing out these revisions…

Now Your Turn…

Ever been frustrated by falling damage? How have you handled it in your game? As always, comments below please… will do my best to respond!

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44 Comments

  1. Michael

    Not one for lovers of simplicity but if you like a touch more realism or get a thrill from narrowly escaping death then I’m all for this one.

  2. Struck

    One thing to consider is that this problem isn’t unique to fall damage. Getting hit with a warhammer from another character with a 20 in strength only does a max of 17 damage, yet characters can stay conscious afterwards with a measly 18 hitpoints.

    It’s too cumbersome to fix every aspect of weapons and damage, but a simple solution could be to cap/limit HP for both heroes and baddies. This would also fix the problem of overly long battles, which is a frequent problem for some DMs.

    • duncan

      I see your point, but in combat you can rationalise this quite easily. When the fighter with the warhammer hits a commoner he smacks them in the head and crushes their skull, but when he goes to hit the NPC swashbuckler (66 hit points, from Volo’s Guide to Monsters) and succeeds, the swashbuckler’s EXPERIENCE means that, what would be a deadly blow for average joe, is just a painful one for a savvy swordsman whose skill enables him to deflect or dodge the brunt of the damage.

      This kind of logic is how many players, and I believe the designers themselves, justify the rise of hit points with experience. If HP literally just equal life force, then that wouldn’t really change, but it equals many things. “Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck,” states the Player’s Handbook.

      Falling for me is a bit of special case because there are very few things you can do to mitigate the damage of the fall (so mental durability and being experienced in combat don’t really help!), and the fact that falling damage is rather weak made me want to bring in a new rule.

      • Struck

        Gotcha, and well put. There’s no narratively creative way to suspend our disbelief regarding something one can do to mitigate a free fall.

        With the increased threat that gravity now offers to your adventurers, there are other balance concerns to address with magically inclined PCs (as if wizards weren’t powerful enough). Maybe Feather Fall and Fly should become level 2 and 4 spells. Alternatively, maybe your warrior PCs can find some sort of cool ‘Attack on Titan’ style grappling device.

  3. ZadfTheRogue88

    thank yuo for rules my table love them! only afew extra dices and tables to roll and look at, super easy to learm, my dm loved them and the playes like as wel! thanks you my friend

  4. Enagonius

    What do you think about the original idea (not published in the original game by an editor mistake) of fall damage by Gary Gygax? A character takes 1d6 per 10 feet fallen CUMULATIVELY; so 1d6 for 10′, 3d6 for 20′, 6d6 for 30 feet and so on.

    I was thinking about using that as default fall damage; and allowing for a check (probably based on your Acrobatics DC, and using Athletics as well because DEX is already to overpowered and STR need some love) to roll RAW fall damage when in control of the fall.

    Basically, Gygax damage when you fall and 5e damage when you jump (if you manage to pass the check).

    That would make things more lethal, which is fine to me — I’m just worried it might be too lethal.

    I wish I had a way to introduce the “fell from plane (dragon) but survived” by making it possible but not too likely. Perhaps by allowing the check to differentiate both damages — but that would override the difference I designed between falling and jumping.

    It also reduces complexity over your method (which I really liked, but I’m not sure I want to put two possible types of check on falling).

    What do you think?

    • duncan

      Hi Enagonius

      Thanks for the comment. The Gygax method makes a lot of sense! I would like to see a table though, I don’t really want to have try to calculate what 100 feet of falling damage would be on the fly… I guess it would go

      10 ft – 1d6 (3.5 hp)
      20 ft – 3d6 (10.5 hp)
      30 ft – 6d6 (21 hp)
      40 ft – 10d6 (35 hp)
      50 ft – 15d6 (52.5)
      60 ft – 21d6 (73.5)
      70 ft – 28d6 (98)
      80 ft – 36d6 (126)
      90 ft – 45d6 (157.5)
      100 ft – 55d6 (192.5)

      Now I can see the damage, I can also see that it’s quite a leap (pun intended) between 1st edition and 5e on a 100 foot fall… 192.5 hp on average vs. 35 on average.

      Also what happens when someone falls 230 feet… that’s a 15 minute break to calculate the damage! So you’d probably have write the table out in full and have it handy if you did go with the original G.

      I have some thoughts on what you say here: “Basically, Gygax damage when you fall and 5e damage when you jump (if you manage to pass the check).”

      The problem is that once you get much over 30, 40 or maybe 50 feet (which is already really high… stand on top of a 3-5 floor building and look down!), then I don’t think jumping vs. falling makes much difference. Certainly not the massive difference you’re proposing in your rules there…

      Overall there’s no super tidy way to do it, it seems – I’m not even a huge fan of my own solutions!

      One advice I could give, if you can’t find a fixed solution that works for you in multiple scenarios, is simply to stress to players [both out of game ‘hey guys, I’m going to be ad libbing some more dangerous falling rules in this adventure’… and in game ‘you sidestep the minotaur’s axe, and the rope bridge sways beneath your feet… a glimpse down tells you that falling into the gorge would mean almost certain death’] that falling is going to be more dangerous in your campaign and then ad lib a ruling appropriate as per the occasion. That’s probably what Jeremy Crawford would want 🙂

      Final thought: I guess the fall from the plane/dragon could be a DC 30 checkpoint on a saving throw or ability check. And if they roll a natural 20 you give them another d10 to roll. (Or it’s rolling a 1 on each of their damage dice… improbable but so is surviving such a fall).

      • Coen

        Change it to “Gygax damage on a fall. If you leap, the first 30′ are 1d6 each, then the Gygax-damage resumes?

      • Kev

        I will be testing a little tweak really soon. First I need to convert the classes that fudge fall damage to fugde number of dice instead (monk fall damage reduction of 1 damage per level becomes remove one die per 3 lvl)

        Once this is done, fall damage is 1d6 per 10ft multiplied by the pc level, which basically makes the fall as deadly as it is at level 1, but for every level. Same trick for monsters, since it is pretty straightforward to deduce their level from the stat block

        • Frederick Dale Coen

          (I cast “animate thread”!)

          This is kinda the direction I was heading, but from a different angle. I like it as simple – roll damage, multiple by level, done. No new charts, no modifers, autoscales with level. Wizards have a good chance of death from a 10′ fall, while warriors need only worry about 30’+ falls… but that 10′ pit trap is potentially lethal no matter what – I don’t have to put 6d6 of spikes at the bottom!

          My unformed solution was to shift the “damage” to something that doesn’t change with level: CON. And steal a damage technique from CHAMPIONS (HERO system): roll a d6; 1 = 0 damage, 2-5 = 1 damage, 6 = 2 damage.

          So a 30′ fall is still 3d6… but averages 3 CON damage. Not lethal by any means; you’d need a 40′ fall and all 6s to threaten even a CON 8 PC (the minimum by point-buy). You can see the idea was not fully thought out. (straight d6 damage to CON on the other hand could kill you outright in 20′, and is virtually guarranteed even for high-CON characters at 50’+). And don’t forget, even if the shock (CON damage) doesn’t kill you, it reduces your MAX HP, making you more vulnerable to other effects, like Instant death.

          Hmmm… maybe “roll damage as normal, but also… CHAMPIONS damage to your CON?”

          (For the record, in my campaign, we just said “d10, not d6”, and moved on.)

          • duncan

            there’s a lot of sense in just upping the dice, and improvising a lingering injury or stunned effect (as I think you suggest in another comment).

            Not sure about reducing CON though… players tend to hate that!

        • duncan

          I was thinking about this the other day, as I’m not 100% happy with my own proposal on this post, and I came up with something similar to what you propose, but less extreme.

          Falling damage is 1d6 per 10 feet as written, and then for every 30 feet fallen you add damage equal to the fallen’s hit dice (ie. level for PCs). So a 90 feet fall would be 9d6 + (3 x your level).

          • Frederick Dale Coen

            Hmm… I’ll run this past my fellow DMs. We’ve been discussing ideas back and forth this past week, and we ended up working on something of “any fall can kill you” idea. I did a little research, and a quote from an article in USA Today talking about a fall at Six Flags says “Falls from more than 20 feet usually result in a trip to the emergency room, but even low-level falls can cause serious head injuries, according to the American College of Surgeons. The median lethal distance for falls is four stories or 48 feet, according to the reference book Trauma Anesthesia.”

            So we went this basic idea – much more complicated, because I can’t help myself: Every 10′, roll a d10. Take the highest roll, multiply by 10%; add 1pt per die rolled. Take that much damage. Make an Acrobatics or Athletics check (DC 10) to reduce the damage by half your roll IF YOU ARE PROFICIENT; otherwise, it’s a CON save.

            Of course there are modifiers (jump down = -1 die; monk slow fall = -1 die/level; die roll indicates if you are stunned and/or prone, etc.; -1 die per Size class over Large and +1 die if Small or smaller)

            The basic result, though, is that an average 6hp person takes about 4 damage from a 10′ fall, about 9 from a 20′ fall, and averages 14 from a 50′ fall. A 40hp 5th level character takes about 16 from the same 10′ fall (50%+1 – 5 for a simple DC 10 check). A 10′ could kill you though, if you roll a 10 = 100% +1 = dying…. and a 50′ fall *could* result only in minor injuries, IF you roll all 1s (10% + 5 damage). But *every* fall is potentially lethal…

          • Frederick Dale Coen

            So, we talked it over, and ended up with this more deadly version of your idea, Duncan:

            — 1d6 per 10′ fallen, as normal. [We use d10, but that’s not important.]

            — +1d6 per Level/HD per 20′ fallen.

            — if Proficient in Acrobatics or Athletics, and succeed DC 10 check, subtract half your total from the damage.

            (plus other modifiers based on size (-10’/class), jumping down intentionally (-10′), monk slow fall (-10’/level), etc.)

            So your average 6hp human is taking 3 dmg at 10′, 10 dmg at 20′, 13 at 30′, 20 dmg at 40′, and 23 at 50’… a 20′ fall is an ER trip, 30′ is lethal on average, and 50+ guaranteed dying (7, if you roll all 1s). With a little “learn how to fall” training, though, Mr. Average is reducing the damage by an average of 5pts, which keeps him healthy after a 20′ fall, and… well… don’t fall 40′, m’kay?

            Your average 40hp 5th level adventurer is taking the same 3pts for the basic 10′ fall, but taking about 24 from a 20′ fall, and 27 from a 30′; a 40′ fall is going to cause 48, and knock him to Dying. But all 1’s could result in just 14 pts. Acrobatics is still going to only reduce the damage an average of 5 to 13 pts at this stage (+3 proficiency, stat +0 to +4, and d20 roll of 10 to 20).

            Can you fall 100′ and survive? possibly… 10 1s on the base damage, and 25 1s on the 5 iterations of 20’… sure, you can even walk away from it (35 dmg, possibly reduced by another 5-13!)! Luckiest person on the planet, but it *is* possible.

            Can you fall 200′ and survive? No. Ok, well, barbarian maybe, raging, rolling 1s on all dice (70 dice!) takes just 35 damage, and has probably 70. at 5th level, or more… so I guess he can afford to roll 2s! 🙂

            TL;DR = falls of 40′ or more are deadly!

          • duncan

            Pretty deadly!

            I didn’t understand this bit though… “subtract half your total from the damage.”

            Half your total what!? Do you mean that you halve the second block of damage (the block dictated by level/HD)?

          • Frederick Dale Coen

            I’m sorry I wasn’t clear!! No, not the bonus damage. Roll your Acrobatics skill check; as long as that roll is 10 or higher, divide the *roll total* by 2 and apply that as damage negated.

            Say, Araylia, DEX 18, 5th level rogue with expertise in Acrobatics, rolls a 13 on her Acrobatics check. 13 + 6 (expertise) + 4 (DEX) = 23 result = 11 damage blocked from the fall. I thought about making it *more* effective, like halving damage, but then I figured I needed scaling DCs, and I thought this was achievable, and simple.

  5. Coen

    IMC, I went with 5e’s KISS style, but upped the damage die to d10. No other adjustments, because my players are currently in love with 5e’s simplicity.

    However… I exercise my right as GM to make bad falls actually “bad”, with effects ranging from being dazed/stunned to Lingering Injuries (usually broken bones and an inability to regain some or all HD with rest). The players are actually more comfortable with that than to think I might actually be following a set of complicated rules! (Go figure…) They were all appalled when one player completely did the textbook “The castle wall’s only 35′ high? I jump down and chase the badguy crossing the drawbridge. What? It’s only 3d6, I’m a 5th level Fighter!”

    To balance things though, I do allow basically what you suggested, and semi-stolen from 4e: Make an Acrobatics check for your landing, and reduce the damage taken by half your check if you jumped intentionally; if you fell, you reduce it only by your Proficiency bonus. You cannot take less than minimum damage. So Joe Fighter leaps off the 35′ wall, he takes 4d10 (22) minus 1d20/2, or about 11 damage. Sally Rogue does the same thing, she reduces the effect by (1d20+6)/2, or about 9 damage. Jack Sorcerer gets thrown off the castle, he takes 22 damage (not proficient in Acrobatics, poor guy). They all dropped more than 30′, they get a side effect from the fall, based on a CON check.

  6. Tom

    Nice.
    My homebrew version is based on Gravity acceleration is roughly 30’ per second per second so:
    For every 30’ they fall the dice increase a die step:
    Up to 30’ 1d6 per 10’
    40 to 60’ 1d8 per 10’
    70’ to 90’ 1d10 per 10’
    100 to 120’ 1d12 per 10’
    Above 120’ 1d20 per 10’ maxing out at 20 dice (terminal velocity/nod to the rules).

    So the max is 20d20 for falling 200’+

    A character can make an acrobatics check to reduce the number of dice rolled, regardless of dice. I had set the base DC at 15 to knock off one dice and an extra one per 5 thereafter but 10 would be fine as well – maybe it’s 10 if they jumped intentionally or can react easily but 15 if they are caught by surprise.

    So a character falling say 110’ feet looks like taking 11d12 but if they make the acrobatics roll by 3 success levels they only take 8d12.

    • duncan

      Hi Tom

      I like that, possibly more than I like my own solutions…

      Having a flat Acrobatics check in some ways doesn’t make sense over a certain height, but for ease of use your rule works well as the reduction is meaningful on a low fall, but less so on a big fall anyway.

      I guess the only thing the DM needs to remember, when implementing this is that the die goes up every 30 feet. Or just have a small table handy on their DM screen.

      Thanks for the input to the conversation!

      d

  7. Ford Prefect

    Let’s homebrew! TLDR:

    1d6 minimum + ((Height – 15) × 1d4):

    DC 15 Reaction to reduce; Nat 20 = min 1 HP left.

    If damage >50% of MaxHP, Incapacitated 1 round.

    (Regarding distance fallen per 6 second round: Crawford’s answer of ~580 ft in 6 seconds seems rather slow, but even assuming Toril has less gravity than Earth, the _damage_ is low. Perhaps Toril has a far thicker atmosphere? (Might explain the size of some flying creatures…) 672 ft in six seconds sounds closer to reality… Also, 30 + 60 + 90 + 120 + 150 + 180 = 630… So let’s split the difference for simplicity’s sake, shall we? 600 ft per Round.)

    If they’re falling, a character has probably already failed one check. So…

    If they have _not_ used their Reaction this round, the falling character can use it to roll a DC 15 [Dex Acrobatics], or Str (Athletics), or Con (Save), their choice. If successful, the number rolled (including bonuses) becomes their “reduction” to the fall damage. If they roll a Natural 20, their HP cannot be reduced below 1 by damage from this fall. If the character falls more than 600 ft, they may repeat this DC 15 Reaction roll at the beginning of each round, using their highest roll (with bonuses) as their “reduction”.

    *Do not count fall Height greater than 600.

    Subtract their “reduction” (if any) from the Height that they fell, in feet.

    The character takes a minimum of 1d6 Bludgeoning damage. Up to a maximum of 600 feet, their (remaining) fall Height, minus 15, times 1d4, equals the additional Bludgeoning damage inflicted.
    Minimum = 1.
    *Maximum @ 600 ft is 1d6+(1d4×585)=2346.

    If this damage amount is more than half their Max HP, they are Incapacitated until the end of their next turn, even if this damage will be reduced to less than half their Max HP by other effects, such as Resistance.

    Not that you’ll really need a table to calculate the rolls, but here’s how this homebrew shakes out…

    DC 15 failed:
    15 ft or less = min 1, median 3.5, max 6
    20 ft = min 6, median 16, max 26
    30 ft = min 16, median 41, max 66
    40 ft = min 26, median 66, max 106
    50 ft = min 36, median 91, max 146
    100 ft = min 86, median 216, max 346
    *600 ft (max) = min 586, median 1466, max 2346

    DC 15 passed with a roll totaling exactly 15:
    30 ft or less = only 1d6 damage! (min 1, median 3.5, max 6)
    40 ft = min 11, median 28.5, max 46
    50 ft = min 21, median 53.5, max 86
    60 ft = min 31, median 78.5, max 126
    100 ft = min 71, median 178.5, max 286
    600 ft = min 571, median 1428.5, max 2286

    So it’s “fall Height” in feet, minus 15, times 1d4, plus 1d6.
    If they pass a DC 15 roll, it’s
    “fall Height” minus 15, minus their roll, times 1d4, plus 1d6.
    Nat 20 on the DC grants 1 HP left.
    Fall Height calculation caps at 600 ft. Repeat DC every 600 ft, keep high.
    Incapacitated for 1 round if damage is over half their Max HP.

    … Looks more complicated than it is.
    Basically it adds a d20 check, then rolls a d6 & a d4 to determine damage by multiplying the modified Height of their fall. Calculates fast & kills hard, with some wiggle room for survival, even at Lvl 1 or 4800 feet.

    Thoughts?

  8. Jeff Thompson

    I really don’t understand the damage from jumping down 10 feet. I can jump down 10 feet no problem over and over without much chance of injury, and I’m a heavier person at 220. We’re saying that jumping down 10 feet can kill an average person? I get that falling is different. I tend to ignore the first 10 feet for any ‘jumping down’

    • Paul R

      It’s a good point & its the short falls/jumps that I have trouble with too.

      IF 10ft is OK to jump down without injury, how about 11 or 15 or 19?

      Less than 10ft parts are ignored in the rules, so 15ft is the same as 1D6 you don’t qualify for 2D6 until it is 20ft.

      So perhaps we should say 9ft is OK to jump down & 10+ is getting risky.
      If you look at a 15ft drop Im pretty sure you will agree you are going to get hurt if your feet are up there & you jump down.

      Also Intentionally jumping down should be better outcome than slipping & falling.
      So if you slip & fall 15ft, that’s 1D6
      If you intentionally jump down 15ft, shouldn’t it be a better outcome?

      I think I will rule under 10ft, free jump.
      10-19ft 1D6 damage: make an Acro check to cancel 1D6 damage. Perhaps a trivial DC10.
      20-29ft 2D6 damage: Make an Acro check to cancel 1D6. DC15
      30ft+ 3D6 damage ?? I’m thinking no matter what now you take the damage & trying to land well isn’t going to help. or maybe DC20 from here on to reduce 1D6.

      I wondered about the Athletics vs Acrobatics, but I think STR is for lifting, pushing & power, landing gracefully is DEX.

      • Philip

        I would really like to do a comparison of the method I posted against the values you have posted:

        DC 15 failed:
        15 ft or less = min 1, median 3.5, max 6
        20 ft = min 6, median 16, max 26
        30 ft = min 16, median 41, max 66
        40 ft = min 26, median 66, max 106
        50 ft = min 36, median 91, max 146
        100 ft = min 86, median 216, max 346
        *600 ft (max) = min 586, median 1466, max 2346

        DC 15 passed with a roll totaling exactly 15:
        30 ft or less = min 1, median 3.5, max 6
        40 ft = min 11, median 28.5, max 46
        50 ft = min 21, median 53.5, max 86
        60 ft = min 31, median 78.5, max 126
        100 ft = min 71, median 178.5, max 286
        600 ft = min 571, median 1428.5, max 2286

        Compare that to Duncan’s Method (named for suggesting a simpler approach)
        Using a 220 pound body weight, rolling a d8 for grassy terrain, use a 10 acrobatic as a “fail” roll and a 20 as a “success” roll:

        Acrobatic roll of 10:
        10 ft = min 3, median 14, max 24
        15 ft = min 5, median 22, max 39
        20 ft = min 6, median 29, max 51
        30 ft = min 9, median 39, max 70
        40 ft = min 11, median 48, max 85
        50 ft = min 12, median 55, max 98
        100 ft = min 18, median 81, max 144
        600 ft = min 41, median 184, max 327

        Acrobatic roll of 20:
        30 ft or less = min 0, median 0, max 0
        40 ft = min 1, median 3, max 5
        50 ft = min 2, median 10, max 18
        100 ft = min 8, median 36, max 64
        600 ft = min 31, median 139, max 247

        Granted, the method I suggest involves a calculator able to do cubed roots.

        Duncan’s method doesn’t cause quite as much damage overall but it can cause more damage for short falls, or no damage at all if the roll is good.

        The 2 methods differ greatly in how the damage escalates. Duncan’s Method does present a range of damage based on impact terrain type and character size. So it will still allow for slightly higher or lower damage.

        Rolling a d12 instead for rock terrain type and the same weight of 220 lbs.

        Acrobatic roll of 10:
        10 ft = min 3, median 20, max 36
        15 ft = min 5, median 32, max 59
        20 ft = min 6, median 42, max 77
        30 ft = min 9, median 57, max 105
        40 ft = min 11, median 69, max 128
        50 ft = min 12, median 80, max 147
        100 ft = min 18, median 117, max 216
        600 ft = min 41, median 266, max 491

        Acrobatic roll of 20:
        30 ft or less = min 0, median 0, max 0
        40 ft = min 1, median 4, max 8
        50 ft = min 2, median 15, max 27
        100 ft = min 8, median 52, max 96
        600 ft = min 31, median 201, max 371

        Duncan’s Method (at this weight class) does not reach damage of several thousand but it still manages a greater variability of damage for each fall height.

        It can also be scaled up depending on weight.

        Here it is using a d8 for terrain type and a weight of 660 lbs.

        Acrobatic roll of 10:
        10 ft = min 9, median 39, max 70
        15 ft = min 11, median 52, max 92
        20 ft = min 14, median 61, max 109
        30 ft = min 17, median 77, max 136
        40 ft = min 20, median 89, max 158
        50 ft = min 22, median 99, max 177
        100 ft = min 30, median 137, max 243
        600 ft = min 63, median 285, max 507

        Acrobatic roll of 20:
        30 ft or less = min 0, median 0, max 0
        40 ft = min 10, median 44, max 78
        50 ft = min 12, median 54, max 97
        100 ft = min 20, median 92, max 163
        600 ft = min 53, median 240, max 427

        Heavier heroes, when using this method, are simply taking a bigger risk leaping down than a smaller hero.

        Big guys have bigger hit-points and essentially become invulnerable to fall damage. However, falling is fundamentally different from other damage, in that it is their own mass working against them. A 660 pound person will land harder for any jump than a 220 pound person and it is not just a matter of accelerating through the air faster but also hitting the ground harder, for simply weighing more. It also adds one natural advantage to having an extremely light character.

        Duncan’s Method has a realistic damage curve going to 600 feet. Linear schemes cannot produce curved damage potential, in the way speed increases along a curve due to the nature of gravity. Duncan’s follows this curve nicely.

        It can account for more particular in-story effects.

        Let’s say your planet has high gravity, or an area where that has been increased through magic. That can be accounted for by increasing the weight of your players.

        It can also be used to calculate damage caused by something falling on the character, based on the weight of the object.

        And also importantly, a super successful acrobatic roll has a chance of reducing damage to nothing, allowing for some very far dives, and quick dodges, all in a manner well-suited to a skilled acrobatic hero. Being able to simply leap down where other heroes may need to rely on strength or magic, would be a key asset in the acrobat’s arsenal. Other larger or less acrobatic heroes would simply not be able to follow suit.

        And while this may effectively eliminate sub 50 foot fall damage for an acrobatic hero, unless they critical fail, the acrobat feat is less and less helpful for ridiculously higher and higher dives.

        But most importantly, the DM who makes a cliff 300 feet is making a real hazard for the entire team. It can be overcome, but will still be physically dangerous. No amount of skill (not even a 40 acrobatic roll) can make a 300 foot fall go without being harmed. And a bad roll might still lead to some serious damage.

        The cap at 600 feet is the same, per se, as any arbitrary cap on damage. The largest damage multiplier for the dice is 80 for “terminal velocity”. Meaning that a fall will never kill something with 841 hit points, unless they impact the ground multiple times. This does, however, prevent ultra-massive damage one-hit kill from a teleportation exploit on a boss, for instance.

      • Philip

        Adding the weight of equipment would also be possible and 840 was the average roll of a d20. The theoretical maximum would actually have been 1600, in that unlikely terrain.

        The cap of 80 for the DC could be substituted by a cap on height, 1400 feet for instance, which is even slightly more realistic. making maximum fall damage greater for extremely large enemies.

        You might also modify things by only removing half the acrobatic roll from the DC, instead of the entire roll.

  9. Scott

    Used this in my campaign, when my son’s gnome fell down a levitation shaft that a beholder turned off. He fell 120 feet, and most definitely had an “oh shit!” moment when I had him do the hard fall save and the massive damage rule. He survived, though.

  10. David Morton

    Great stuff! Thanks for all your thought and hard work on this!
    Any idea how to calculate this kind of damage, etc when a creature is thrown?
    I have a homebrew (Gargantuan) Ancient Armoured Gorilla and one of its abilities is to toss any creature it has grappled that is up to one size smaller than itself.

    • duncan

      Thanks David for checking in.

      Re: being thrown. Maybe just the same as falling damage but with distance calculated horizontally? With the beast’s strength modifier added for the extra fury of the blow…

      Or same distance + 1 extra die.

      Or swap d6s for d8s… (or higher. Different dice for different sized monsters doing the throwing!?).

      A few ideas for you!

  11. Philip

    Step One. (Height)

    Use fall height to set the initial fall DC.

    Fall height of 5 feet, DC is 8.

    Fall height of 10 feet, DC is 12.

    Fall height of 20 feet, DC is 16.

    Fall height of 30 feet, DC is 20.

    Fall height of 45 feet, DC is 24.

    Fall height is 60 feet, DC is 28.

    Fall height of 80 feet, DC is 32.

    Fall height of 100 feet, DC is 36.

    Fall height of 135 feet, DC is 40.

    Fall height of 200 feet, DC is 48.

    Fall height of 300 feet, DC is 56.

    Fall height of 500 feet, DC is 64. (6 second fall)

    Fall height of 800 feet, DC is 72.

    Fall height of 1400 feet, DC is 80. (12 second fall)

    Fall height of 2500 feet, DC is 80. (18 second fall)

    Fall height of 3500 feet, DC is 80. (24 second fall)

    . . . every additional 1000 feet adds 6 seconds to the fall time.

    Step Two. (Flying, Braking)

    For creatures moving in flight at the time of the fall, add 4 to the DC.

    Each substantial break during a fall (e.g. attempted a grab or busted through a roof, below 1400 feet) reduces the DC by 4.

    Step Three. (Roll)

    The falling character must now make an acrobatic saving roll; this is subtracted from the DC. If the DC falls below 0, the character takes no damage; otherwise, the character is knocked prone and damage is calculated.

    If the jump or dive was intentional, roll an acrobatics check with advantage. If the character is falling out of control, roll with disadvantage.

    Step Four. (Size)

    Double the DC for each step in size above medium. (Large x2, Huge x4, . . .)

    Halve the DC for each step in size below medium. (Small ÷2, Tiny ÷4, . . .)

    Step Five. (Damage)

    For damage, roll a hit dice based on the impact site and multiply the value by the remaining DC.

    Roll a d4 for deep running water

    Roll a d6 for snowy pine forest

    Roll a d8 for fresh spring meadow

    Roll a d10 for dry ground with sparse vegetation

    Roll a d12 for bare rock and glacial ice

    Roll a d20 for jagged metal spikes

    Note: When landing on a creature, the damage it receives would be calculated separately, using this method. Notably, decide if it has the awareness to use acrobatics (Step Three).

    • duncan

      My thoughts are that you’re unlikely to make the Acrobatics check for large falls, and so the big change here is just the different size dice per terrain type… which I like.

      For me Acrobatics would half damage not reduce to 0.

      Not sure about the changes you are suggesting for a creature’s a size. A 30 foot fall might be nothing for a truly gargantuan creature, but enormous for a tiny creature, but you’ll going the other way with your ruling… would just remove that bit.

      • Philip

        Thank you. I edited the reddit post and made sure to make it optional.

        The reason for adjusting the sizes in this way is because fall distance is not relative to your size. A 5 foot fall accelerates a massive creature the same as a tiny creature. This is based on the height from the top of the ground to the bottom of your feet.

        A more massive creature does not increase in drag (the profile area used to calculate drag) at the same rate as it increases in mass. In this way it achieves higher velocities in falling. Secondly, the increased mass also increases the final energy released upon impact.

        Imagine taking this to the extreme, having a snowflake fall 5 feet versus a grand piano.

        Creatures in D&D tend to increase their hit-points with greater mass, making them nigh invulnerable to fall damage.

        In the real-world, truly massive creatures can barely walk without crushing their own bones, let alone jump, and small creatures (cats, bugs, etc.) tend to survive extraordinary falls and make high leaps, despite their relatively low force absorption capabilities.

      • Philip

        So you are saying if you have a DC of 20 and roll a 19, you would take the full damage?
        I was really thinking you would reduce the damage 95%. I guess the exact method doesn’t matter a whole lot, it is just that some people can jump down 20 feet to the ground without hurting themselves or can dive 200 feet into water without too much trouble. The heros would be able to do those things no problem.

        Maybe use a height multiplier 10 for ground. Then use modified height to calculate DC = cube root of Height * Modifier * Weight

        Then use that as your initial DC

        • Philip

          OK. So the world record for high dive is less than 200 feet but divers regularly hit 150 feet.

          Average weight of 150 lbs:
          crt(200*150)=31

          So the hero has to have huge acrobatic skill to pass this. But failing in water is generally better than failing on land.

          A drop to the dirt, the parkour guys seem to say anything over 6 meters (20 feet) is likely broken legs. And statistics say, basically, a 50 foot falls kill 50% of people and 100 feet kills 100%. Half the height of water.

          Average Joes are comfortable making a 50 foot dive. So that should be nothing. Yet on land it kills half of the people and breaks legs at least.

          Here the hit dice do part of the work of the ground, where a d4 (average 2.5) for water and a d6, d8, d10, or d12 for land makes the ground an average 2x multiplier. So about double the damage. 100 feet onto dirt = 200 feet into water

          We need to reduce damage from the DC with acrobatic rolls when diving into water, not just pass/fail. Hitting water at 100 feet is very low risk, hitting ground at that height is just about certain death.

          So maybe all water below 200 feet is just straight height and reduced damage, but water above 200 feet and all drops to dirt get a height multiplier of 10. Raising the damage substantially. Cube root of 10 is around 2.

          crt(48*10*150)=42 so that surviving this without injury is virtually impossible.

          crt(20*10*150)=31 and this takes a lot of skill to get put of injury.

          • Philip

            Or rather, reduce character weight by a factor of 10 for dives under 200 feet.

            I can’t really see any other way around this particular phenomena of water.

          • Frederick Dale Coen

            Wow that was lots of math. The end result is “1 die of damage for each point you fail DC”, with a variety of “damage die” types based on the landing terrain? And a lot of math to determine the initial DC?

            How do various rules interact with this? Most notably, Monk’s Slow Fall, but also Feather Fall, or gliding, or a Bullywug’s ability to jump straight up 20′, or the Jump spell, etc?

          • Philip

            “Wow that was lots of math. The end result is ‘1 die of damage for each point you fail DC’, with a variety of ‘damage die’ types based on the landing terrain? And a lot of math to determine the initial DC?”

            Sorry for all the long paragraphs but this is basically it:

            The DM looks up the character weight and uses the height of the fall and the special cube root formula. It is a simple calc using 2 variables:

            weight^(1/3) * height^(1/3) = DC

            Next, the player rolls a d20 to (hopefully) reduce the DC. As they do on practically every turn.

            Next, the DM might decide to raise or lower the DC by 4 points, or have the player roll again, depending on what-what. Clever DM.

            The last step, the DM rolls a hit-dice, and the result is announced. The DM probably has one d4 (water) and one d12 (concrete) that they pick between for just about every fall. Maybe they have them stacked in a little box made just for fall damage, with labels for each die:

            “-water
            -mud
            -grass
            -dirt
            -rock
            -spike”

            with the DC formula printed near the top:

            “[w^(1/3) x h^(1/3) – dex +/- 4] * hit-die”

            and a list of perfect cube roots near the bottom:

            “(3)27 . (4)64 . (5)125 . (6)216 . (7)343 . (8)512 . (9)729 . (10)1000 . (11)1331

            So they can estimate the values and do the calculations by hand. I dunno.

            When a fall happens, and it rarely does, it is essentially an attack by the terrain, with a few caveats. I think most all special situations can be handled by adding or subtracting 4 points from the final DC. Forget what I said about the water, it is a mess, just take 4 off the DC for a ~100 foot dive.

            “How do various rules interact with this? Most notably, Monk’s Slow Fall, but also Feather Fall, or gliding, or a Bullywug’s ability to jump straight up 20′, or the Jump spell, etc?”

            Excellent question.

            Slow Fall – running backwards through the math I would suggest this formula:

            (Level*0.8 + 8 + DEXMOD)^3 / weight = safe height

            Maybe use this as a starting point.

            The basic stats involved with fall damage don’t change often and after a couple of falls, everyone will have an idea of what to safely ignore and what to bother checking. Just based on the DC and their own skill level.

            When the DM does decide to calculate the DC and work out the fall damage for a monk, they take the damage and subtract 4 times the Monk’s level, just as the feat describes. No changes needed.

            Featherfall – This is done just as the spell describes, use the height the character falls after the spell wears off and add 4 to the DC for the special circumstance that they were already slowly falling before they started quickly falling.

            Bullywug special jump – I believe many DMs choose to play jumps as jumps and falls as falls, and ignore this. I would recommend ignoring the jump unless you find it reasonable that the Bullywug might not land perfectly in the middle of battle swinging their weapon while flying through the air and clashing armor against steel. There is no harm in that, but in some cases I would almost expect something bad to happen.

            This formula may need to break some old habits. The fall damage is being renewed and there will be a few perhaps surprising results to come out of it.

            Let’s assume a 20 foot vertical jump by a 300 pound Bullywug (it is actually 10 max but OK, this is just an example . . .) If the Bullywug tried to jump up onto a ledge or fly over an enemy and the ledge or enemy suddenly disappeared or struck them down, I would expect a fall check.

            In the ledge case, the jump was intentional; so, the acrobatic check would get advantage.

            An average d20 roll with advantage would be 13.825.

            We will assume this is a rock-hard surface, so our d12.

            As a DM I would reduce the DC by an additional 4 due to the nature of the leg power, in the case of a the natural springy-leg ability (for any special circumstance it is always recommended to +/- 4 points from the final DC).

            Bullywug also has a DEX modifier of +1.

            The math goes like this:

            (20*300)^(1/3) – 4 = DC of 14

            With advantage there is an average d20 roll of 14 and on average we would get 0 damage from this fall and leave the Bullywug standing where it landed.

            On average the result would be no damage; however, with a DC of 14, and +1 DEX mod, the damage increases for each consecutive roll that falls below the average: 13=0 12=6 11=13 10=19 9=26 8=32 7=39 6=45 5=52 4=58 3=65 2=71 1=78.

            For the Bullywug a modest roll of 11 would knock it unconscious. A roll of 9 would be fatal. Even for a roll with advantage, such an injury seems fairly likely (~30% chance).
            http://zerohitpoints.com/Articles/Advantage-in-DnD-5

            If this happened because the Bullywug was knocked out of the air, there is a very good chance it would be knocked out or killed.

            A check would be recommended in this particular circumstance. If they were jumping 10 feet, I would still recommend a check.

            A Bullywug of only 100 pounds, jumping up 10 feet and landing rough after being hit, the DC is 6, and the risk of injury: a roll of 6 or lower, has a 9% chance of happening. It could probably just be ignored or it can be played out. It just depends on the play style. A 9% chance of taking someone out inna single hit versus making a second attack? I think I know what most players would choose.

            Jump Spell-
            So, a healthy strong person (39+ hit points) uses the jump spell to soar 20 feet into the air but they botch it and land straight back down on their head, onto the cobblestone pavement.

            Seems a bit deadly; it *could* definitely kill someone. In fact, if it was a 150 pound person and they rolled a critical failure here, they could easily die.

            The result (after rolling a d12) has a maximum of being156 damage.

            It would be up to the DM to decide in each instance if the roll seems necessary or fair. The DM could ignore every 5 foot step into the basement of a giant’s house if it seemed un-necessary. Otherwise, players would have to decide to crawl down over each step, rather than rush down the stairs. It could slow their decent considerably. Jumping down 5 feet over and over again, definitely seems like something that *could* eventually cause an injury.

            Once the DC is established, it is just a matter of rolling an acrobat check for each step until someone fails their roll. Then comes the damage.

            If they are higher level, sure you can just ignore it. If one of them is carrying a 150 pound key, that might be enough of a concern to check if the level 10 barbarian can handle the extra weight: a +2 to the DC.

            At each step.

            Often in such case, under the 0d6 system, gravity is ignored, disrespected, and abused.

            Jumping straight up 60 feet to attack a flying enemy over and over again might actually be a bad idea. If the DM asks you to check your landing after each attack, I mean. It is quite a feat to do that over and over again while attacking an opponent 60 feet in the air.

            Rolling and adding 6d6, is not really that quick and easy, and it could only cause damage from 6 to 36 damage to your 360 hit point barbarian, regardless of the circumtances.

            However, just a few crunchy falls of a 500 pound barbarian, risking between 6 and 195 of damage each attempt, might make it stop, assess the risk, and consider another tactic.

  12. Philip

    Obviously, use the falling creature for height, size, etc.

  13. Chriss

    This might have been asked and answered already but I couldn’t see it while scrolling.

    How would you implement the monks 4th level ability “slow fall” into this?

    In RAW it negates 5 times level in damage. So at 4th level it’s 20hp at level 20 it’s 100hp

    Would you hold this the same with your rule or would you buff this ability in some way shape or form?

    • duncan

      Hi Chriss

      I’m still toying with falling damage in my mind, but using the rules I laid out, you could give monks of 4th level and above advantage on their Hard Fall save (plus of course the RAW ability… reduction in damage).

      Cheers!

      d

  14. Philip

    Duncan’s Simplified Method (of my proposed method):

    Fall Damage: Step 1. Take the cubic root of, fall height times weight, to set initial DC. Up to a maximum of 80.

    Step 2. Make an Acrobatic saving throw and subtract from the DC.

    Step 3. Roll a hit dice and multiply by the DC to generate the fall damage.

    Roll a d4 for deep running water

    Roll a d6 for snowy pine forest

    Roll a d8 for fresh spring meadow

    Roll a d10 for dry ground with sparse vegetation

    Roll a d12 for bare rock and glacial ice

    Roll a d20 for jagged metal spikes

    Example: A fall from 20 feet generates an initial DC of 19. Player rolls an 18. DM rolls a 5. Damage is 5.

    Suggested Adjustments. For higher or lower speed, due to effects occurring near the end of falls, add or subtract 4 to the DC.

    Suggested Fall time. First 500 feet = 6 seconds. Each additional 1000 feet = +6 seconds.

    Example: A 2500 foot fall gives a player 3 turns to react.

  15. Philip

    Duncan’s Method is a bit terrifying because most players won’t be able to guess what their DC will be. At the same time, I really feel that the damage they receive will feel intuitive.

    Sorry for all the edits [feel free to remove], but this took a while to get it simple and fix all the problems I have found players complain about.

  16. Philip

    I ran some randomized scenarios using the method on this page and the Duncan’s method and generated more or less random weight, fall height, dexterity, and terrain and rolled away for damage a few times. Here are the results:

    h=860 w=276 d= 17 (spikes)
    300; 180
    300; 180
    300; 360
    300; 90

    h=13 w=133 d=15 (rock)
    3; 0
    3; 0
    1; 0
    2; 0

    h=169 w=167 d=3 (water)
    96; 27
    96; 27
    96; 27
    96; 27

    h=702 w=219 d=3 (grass)
    300; 255
    300; 255
    300; 102
    300; 306

    h=85 w=31 d=29 (soft)
    20; 0
    21; 0
    31; 0
    30; 0

    h=8 w=41 d=7 (shallow)
    0; 0
    0; 0
    0; 0
    0; 0

    h=15 w=192 d=14 (grass)
    3; 0
    2; 0
    2; 0
    3; 0

    h=25 w=42 d=21 (spikes)
    6; 0
    5; 0
    5; 0
    6; 0

    h=142 w=107 d=14 (hard)
    84; 77
    84; 44
    84; 77
    84; 88

    h=9 w=291 d=3 (shallow)
    0; 11
    0; 11
    0; 22
    0; 22

    h=53 w=151 d=4 (spikes)
    30; 64
    30; 48
    30; 304
    30; 128

    h=59 w=140 d=11 (spikes)
    30; 54
    30; 9
    30; 144
    30; 144

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