3.5 is pretty lethal, and I always felt it was a little weird that a sorcerer was unconscious for the same amount of time before dying as a barbarian. So I've been tinkering with the following house rule

Characters don't die from negative hit points until they reach -10 or their ECL * CON mod, whichever is higher.

I feel like it will power up the Die Hard feat, but this is ok as that feat could probably do with a buff. Is there anything else I should watch out for that this would effect and possibly break?

EDIT: Usually I use a heavily houseruled version of random ability scores, which usually results in better scores and more interesting characters. So characters start by rolling 2d6 for each ability and picking the highest. Then they roll a final 2d6, pick the highest and can replace on score with this roll. Next they roll 3d6 and drop the lowest 7 times, assign the best 6 as they want.

This has resulted in pretty good stats for PCs, with some low stats where you might not expect them. It sounds complicated, but it usually goes pretty quickly ime

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    \$\begingroup\$ not an evaluation of your house rule, but did you consider using the variant death and dying rules from UA? \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 2 '18 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hadn't seen these before, I quite like them. Have you ran them before? It definitely makes fortitude more valuable \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Aug 2 '18 at 12:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've not run them personally, but I remembered reading about them, and thought you might want to peruse. I can't really judge them either way; they definitely make death/dying more mechanically interesting, but they are also rather more complex to run than the default rules (such is the case for most of the UA variant material, I feel). \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 2 '18 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a lot of the benefit of this house rule will depend on how ability scores are determined in your campaigns. Could the question also include that information? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 2 '18 at 14:49

Pathfinder uses a similar rule (instead of \$-ECL \times Con\$ it uses \$-Constitution\$ (that is, the whole score), which is going to be a wider area for “dying” than your rule at low levels, and a narrower area at high levels—but pretty comparable all the same. Pathfinder has no particular issues with this rule.

That said, even with this rule, “dying” is going to be pretty unlikely. The damage dealt by characters is just too colossal; going from “alive” to “dead” with no stop in “dying” is going to remain very, very common at higher levels. This change makes Diehard and other options focusing on the “dying” state somewhat better, or rather, improves their longevity: where before, they were pretty much worthless by 2nd or 3rd level, now their utility will extends to maybe 8th to 10th level, because you actually might reasonably wind up “dying” and therefore care about that state.

But it doesn’t change the fundamental problem that “dying” is going to be a relatively rare state, so things that benefit that state are going to be very low-value. Diehard is less of a trap in this case, but it still is one.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I once made a Deathless Fighter that kept swinging Full Attacks through to about negative 150 or 200 iirc. Definitely an edge case, not the norm though. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 2 '18 at 18:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried the Pathfinder approach, but found it was still pretty weak in mid levels (6-12), which is when spells like reincarnate and resurrection are still sizable investments, but -10-18 hp is pretty inconsequential to a barbarian with 60 odd hp or more. \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Aug 3 '18 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gaynorvader Sure, I wasn’t suggesting that you use the Pathfinder rule, just pointing to it as comparison and demonstration that making the area wider won’t hurt anything. I don’t think you’ve actually accomplished something that will be consequential most of the time, though. (Also, what barbarian has Con 10? That’s suicidal; 14 would be a bare minimum.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 3 '18 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan What barbarian has con 10? Only PC barbarians :) \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Aug 3 '18 at 13:58

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