The topic for today's article comes directly from Gary Gygax himself, found in the pages of the original Dungeon Masters Guide. Although dismissed by some in the Old School Renaissance as apocrypha, much of the material in the DMG originated in articles written for the original Dungeons & Dragons game.
"If any creature reaches a state of -6 or greater negative points before being revived, this could indicate scarring or the loss of some member, if you so choose. For example, a character struck by a fireball and then treated when at -9 might have horrible scar tissue on exposed areas of flesh - hands, arms, neck, face." - AD&D DMG p.82*
* The above text is only applied in games using the -10 hit point threshold. Some games allow a negative hit point threshold up to the dying character's Constitution score, in which case the scarring will apply at negative half the CON score of the character.
For the purposes of this article, the following rule used is.. "A character remains alive (although bleeding to death at the rate of 1 hp/round if no assistance is rendered) until the character reaches negative hit points equal to the character’s level." Swords & Wizardry Complete, p.43.
Any time a character falls into negative hit points, but does not die, they may be subject to scarring, or dismemberment. In this case dismemberment is minor so as not to cripple, or whittle away at the character. Some DMs might apply more severe penalties, but this is not recommended.
Here, in our home campaign, we use the following 2d6 table for hit location (assuming that the target is humanoid):
2 Head (Upper Portion)
3-4 Right Leg
5 Right Arm
6 Upper Torso
7 Lower Torso
8 Upper Torso
9 Left Arm
10-11 Left Leg
12 Head (Lower Portion)
The use of 2d6 was chosen because it reflects set percentages, instead of a flat 1 in 6, or what have you. There are special 1d12's that have body locations printed on them, but again that just makes everything a straight 1 in 12 chance of being struck. Each DM is encouraged to use their own preferred system.
Effects of Scarring:
- Depending on hit location, the character may be missing a piece of finger, toe, ear, nose, patch of hair, teeth, etc.
- The character might suffer scarring appropriate to the type of damage that drove them into negative hit points.
- The character might have a visible limp, favor a particular body part, etc, especially when the weather is cold, or about to change.
- The character may end up with an appropriate nickname, such as Ninefinger, One-Ear, Scarface, the Gimp, Flamekissed, etc. Be creative.
In our home campaign, Antaria: The Lion, The Bear, and The Dragon, we only use these rules for role-playing purposes, to add verisimilitude to the ongoing story of the adventure. Players often enjoy them because they help distinguish their characters, making them that much more memorable.