OSR: Death and Dismemberment Table + Early Retirement Tables

This is my Death and Dismemberment table, outright stolen lovingly adapted from Arnold K's v23 table. It's more complicated than most of the other subsystems, but it doesn't come up that often, and it creates a fun little panic-based minigame.

HP is "don't get hit points", or possibly "don't get hit in a meaningful way" points. Starting PCs have between 1 and 14 HP. 

Side Note: due to a quirk in character generation, it's possible (but unlikely) for a starting character to have 0 or -1 HP. If this happens, the character walks onto the scene, speaks one line, and then dies. Their body may be looted for valuables.

A PC reduced to 0 HP can still function normally.

Any damage dealt in excess of HP (resulting in a negative HP total) is Lethal Damage, and requires a roll on the table below. Lethal Damage usually kills monsters, but particularly large, vicious, or tenacious creatures can use the table below as well. Roll a d6 to determine the hit location for physical attacks.

Bayeux Tapestry

The Death and Dismemberment Table

Death and Dismemberment Roll (X): 1d12 + Lethal Damage + Number of Current Injuries

The effects are cumulative. If a PC with -8 HP and no current Injuries/Fatal Wounds rolls a 10 on a d12, to the leg, they take 4 Fatal Wounds, the leg is Mangled, and then Disabled for 18 days. If they took a further 1 point of damage (-9 HP), they would roll 1d12 +9 (Lethal Damage) + 1 (Mangled) +1 (Disabled) for 1d12+11.

1 Arm 2 Leg 3-4 Torso 5-6 Head
1+ Disabled X Days Disabled X Days Cracked Ribs X Days Concussed X Days
11+ 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound
Mangled Mangled Crushed Skullcracked
16+ X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds
Acid/Fire Cold/Frost Lightning Magic
1+ Burned X Days Frostbite X Days Burned X Days Anathema X Days
11+ 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound 1 Fatal Wound
Save or Blind Frozen Save or Deaf Save or Marked
16+ X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds X-15 Fatal Wounds

Fatal Wounds

A PC has 3 rounds to clear all their Fatal Wounds, or they die. They can attempt to remove a Fatal Wound at the end of their turn by rolling a 1 on a d6. An adjacent ally can attempt to remove a Fatal Wound by spending their turn doctoring the wounded PC and then rolling under half their Intelligence. Up to two allies can help at once, but no more (although they might lend bonuses to the roll), and only two Fatal Wounds can be removed per round by doctoring, no matter how many allies are present.

Magical healing removes 1 Fatal Wound per 2 points of HP it would normally restore. 

PCs with Fatal Wounds are unconscious. This does not mean they are quiet or asleep (they can be screaming their heads off, clutching their stumps, etc.), but it means that they cannot take any conscious or deliberate actions. No shouting advice, no hopping away, nothing helpful or useful or sensible. Remind them of that. If they try anyway, they automatically fail their next Fatal Wound roll.

An allied PC can run over to a wounded PC and help them in the same turn provided they act without hesitation. If they delay (other than to ask the GM to clarify what they see), they run over and help on the next turn.


The Death and Dismemberment table is not the only way to gain these Injuries. Injuries gained by any means count for the Death and Dismemberment Roll.

Anathema: Cannot benefit from magical healing or be the target of helpful magic.

Blind: Cannot see. -8 penalty to Attack and Defense. Automatically hit by some attacks (cones of fire, poison clouds, thousands of arrows, etc.)

Burned: Cannot wear armour. If the PC has also suffered a Fatal Wound from the same attack that Burned them, they must also Save or permanently lose 1d6 Charisma. If they pass, they gain an Interesting Scar.

Cracked Ribs: The PC's maximum HP is reduced by the PC's level.

Crushed: Save. If they fail, roll on the table below. If they pass, they gain an Interesting Scar.
1. Permanently lose 1 Strength
2. Permanently lose 1 Dexterity
3. Permanently lose 1 Constitution
4. Crushed Throat. Cannot speak louder than a whisper
5. Crushed Guts. Constitution is 4 for the purposes of holding your breath. Can swim; can't dive.
6. Broken Spine. Paralyzed from the neck down. Save to recover after 1d6 days. If failed, Save again after 1d6 weeks. If both Saves are failed, the PC is permanently paralyzed.

Concussed: The PC's Wisdom becomes 4 for Initiative purposes. Spells have a 1-in-6 chance of failing. 

Deaf: Cannot hear. If ambushed, always last in Initiative order.

Disabled: The injured limb becomes unusable. A Disabled arm cannot hold anything; held items are dropped. A Disabled leg cannot support the PC's weight; they fall prone, and their movement speed is halved. A PC with two Disabled legs but two working arms can crawl at 1/20th their normal movement speed.

Frostbite: The PC's Dexterity becomes 4 for the purposes of delicate tasks (card tricks, lockpicking, tying shoelaces) Fingertips, ears, and nose go black and may fall off. 

Frozen: Save. If they fail, roll on the table below. If they pass, lose 1d6 digits (randomly chosen, use a d20). Lost digits are still attached, but will snap off or melt away.
1. Lose 2d6 digits (random chosen)
2. Lose all but 1 digit (randomly chosen)
3. Lose both hands
4. Lose both feet
5. Lose both hands, both feet, and nose (-2 permanent Charisma)
6. Lose both hands, both feet, nose, and eyes (-2 permanent Charisma, Blind)

Mangled: Save. If they fail, they lose the limb. It is permanently Disabled. If they pass, Save again. If they pass this second Save, they gain an Interesting Scar. If they fail, they lose a digit.

Marked: Save. If they fail, any magical attack against the PC automatically deals double damage, applies a -4 penalty to Save, or has a suitably nasty enhanced effect, like cursing their bloodline or stealing all their memories. If they pass, any magical attack against the PC automatically deals 1 extra damage or has a minor extra effect, like setting their hair on fire or cursing their dog. They also gain an Interesting Scar, usually known as a curse-mark.

Skullcracked: Save. If they fail, roll on the table below. If they pass, they gain an Interesting Scar.
1. Permanently lose 1 Intelligence.
2. Permanently lose 1 Wisdom.
3. Permanently lose 1 Charisma.
4. Left eye lost. -1 to ranged attacks. If both eyes lost, Blind.
5. Right eye lost. -1 to ranged attacked. If both eyes lost, Blind.
6. Coma. Save to recover after 1d6 days. If failed, Save again after 1d6 weeks. If both Saves are failed, the PC is permanently unconscious.

Interesting Scars

The scar must be a mangled, gnarled thing, a worm of flesh buried under the skin. A gouge. Flesh warped and bent, like paint scraped before it fully dried. The player must describe their PC's Interesting Scar. It provides a +2 bonus to Charisma when interacting with people who appreciate scars (barbarians, deep-cave salamanders, suitors attracted to danger, poets). They can also be used to identify you.

Scars can trump other scars. Generally, if comparing scars, it's wise to start with the least interesting and work your way up. If anyone has a else more interesting scar (as judged by the table or a roll-off), they get the +2 bonus. Use the HD of the creature that inflicted the scar as a guide for which scars are more impressive. Alternatively, lie.

Feldtbuch der Wundartzney, 1519, Hans von Gersdorff

Design Notes

Arnold's latest version is a much more subdued, toned-down table. It's designed for heroics. This table is not. It's lethal and unforgiving. 

This isn't because it's "realistic". It's because injuries are motivational. They provide interesting challenges. They heavily penalize getting injured. If your HP is zero, and you could retreat, and you didn't, then the consequences are on your head.

They also make retirement much more tempting. If your PC survives to reach Level 5, they can retire to safety. They get to escape the Death and Dismemberment Table, the Early Retirement Table, and the whims of fate forever. That's the risk-reward balance. Risk injury to get money. Get money to avoid risking injury, possibly forever. Or risk it some more to possible, maybe, become a legend.

Early Retirement Tables

Tito the Toadling lost a leg and a toe in Session 2 of my Tomb of the Serpent Kings game. He wasn't dead, exactly, but an Assassin with a missing leg and a strong distrust of the rest of the party wasn't going to be useful as a PC. Tito retired early.

Whenever it feels relevant or interesting, or when the PCs ask, I've been rolling on Tito's Retirement Table to see what Tito's got himself into now. Spoiler alert: it's not going well. 

Tito's Retirement Table

1. Windfall. Promoted, freed, gifted money, flush with success, in love, in control.
2. Moderate Success. Some luck, some love, some reward.
3. Minor Success. Things got slightly better. Found some money, a free meal, a kind word.
4. Very Minor Success. Things stayed the same, but Tito is in a better mood. He might even have a plan.
5-6. No Change. Things stayed the same.
7. Very minor Failure. Things stayed the same, but Tito is depressed, lost, or has a terrible plan in the works.
8. Minor Failure. Things got slightly worse. Lost some money, lost a boot, had a bird shit on his head.
9. Serious Failure. Broke, homeless, pursued, injured.
10. Dire Peril. Imprisoned, blamed, seriously injured, destitute.

Tito is a gambler, a con-toad, and an opportunistic swindler. His Retirement Table is very swingy. Some weeks, he might be trying to get promoted to Reeve. Other weeks, he's in jail for stealing apples. If he has a streak of good luck, his table might be altered to remove the worst results. Similarly, after a stretch of notorious crimes, his table might start to include "hanged" or "chased out of town" as options.

Each Early Retirement Table is customized for the ex-PC. A PC who loses an eye and a few fingers and who retires to a life of monastic devotion is going to have a very different table compared to a PC who loses both hands, both feet, and his sanity. Only roll if the PCs are interested in the outcome or ask about the ex-PC. The tables below are suitable for retiring low-level characters who have no resources, no useful trade, and no prospects.

Generic Farmer Retirement Table

If the Plague has recently passed, tenant farmers will always be in demand. As long as they can cut reeds, chase geese, or work the fields, they are welcome, no matter how mangled they are. If the ex-PC swears loyalty to a knight or baron, they will be given a plot of land, a hut, and a long list of demands.
1. Prosperity. Extra food, good weather, or good luck.
2. Rumour. May have 1 interesting rumour for the PCs.
3-7. Stability. Just on the edge of starvation.
8. Inconvenience. A leak in the roof, a rat in the grain, a cracked tooth.
9. Demands. Taxed to the point of madness, worked to the point of collapse. No actual effect other than stress and frustration.
10. Dire Peril. Starvation looms. The War approaches. The Plague may return.

Generic Monastic Retirement Table

Almost anyone can leave the secular life and become an Initiate. It can be a hard life, full of labour, prayers, and deprivation. Your crimes are forgiven. Only the most prosperous order would accept a completely crippled initiate, but the ability to read and write is always valued. In disordered times, monks and nuns might be no better than idle and debauched laymen. At the very least, a veneer of religious devotion is required.
1. Tranquility. The PCs hear a distant rumour of their former companion. They are doing well.
3-9. Isolation. No word of the ex-PC one way or the other.

10. Danger. The PCs hear a distant rumour that their friend's order is threatened by war, plague, famine, or disorder.

Generic Criminal Retirement Table

No one can live outside the law forever. This option is open to anyone, but it's a risk.
1. Escape. Stole enough to start again. The ex-PC vanishes. One day, in a distant land, they might see their old companions and nod slyly.
2-6. Edge of Starvation. No change, but the outlook is bleak.
7-8. Caught. Imprisoned and accused. Might be released, might be tortured, might be forgotten.
9-10. Executed. Or exiled, which is more or less the same thing when your money and goods have been confiscated.

Generic Beggar Retirement Table

Should an ex-PC be so cursed, mangled, mentally damaged, or dangerous as to make any other option unsuitable, they might be forced to live on the streets of a town or city. If the PCs send their friend money, or otherwise see to their well-being, the GM can reroll on the table and pick a better result.
1. Head Above Water. Food, a warm corner, a position in the local hierarchy of beggars, the favour of the local Church. Might even lead to some minor position out of the rain.
2. Minor Improvement. New pants, a hat, a few more coins than last week.
3-6. Edge of Starvation. No change.
7. Lost. No one has heard from the ex-PC for some time. They might emerge later, or they might be forgotten forever.
8. New Injury. Cold, disease, knife-fighting, trampled by a horse, kicked by a knight, poked by an urchin.

9. Crime. Accused, tried, locked in the stocks, beaten, robbed, cast out again.
10. Death. By disease, an accident, in a brawl, or by their accumulated injuries.


  1. Vaguely disappointed to see that no early retirement tables included "invest 75% of your take-home in a low-cost index fund; become financially independent in 7 years." Otherwise, superlative post.

    1. I might write a section on "Early Retirement for Characters with Money". This is for poor level 1 schmucks who don't even get their full share from the bit of the dungeon they explored.