In my last campaign, some combat encounters got pretty ridiculous, mainly due to some player characters falling unconscious and getting back up every turn. I remember one combat encounter in particular, during which the cleric of the group had his turn right before the rest of the party in initiative order. They got knocked down by the enemies, and then the cleric brought them back to consciousness with a mass healing word. They stood up, had their turn and were reduced to 0 hp again. This happened like 4 or 5 times in a row.
The players were glad that they survived this encounter, but agreed with me, that this little procedure of losing consciousness, then bouncing back, over and over again, is kinda stupid. So, I envisioned a homebrew rule to deal with this situation:
After regaining consciousness, the character would roll a Constitution save with DC 10. A successful save would result in no bad consequences, but the next time this happens, the DC would be increased by 5. On a failed save, the character would gain a level of exhaustion and the DC for the next time this happens would be back to 10. After a long rest, the DC is set back to 10 as well.
This way, there is an inherent downside to repeatedly falling unconscious, but it’s not immediately crippling for the character. (Plus, this house rule would be applied to enemies as well, unless they are undead or constructs).
Note: In my campaign, NPCs make death saves as well. The number of death saves they are allowed to fail depends on their importance to the campaign. Named NPCs (regardless of whether they are allies or enemies) usually die after two failed death saves, whereas unnamed NPC die immediately or after one failed death save, depending on the situation. This allows NPCs to roll a Natural 20 and rise with 1 hp, which has led to some really awesome moments in my campaigns.
Now my questions are:
- Will this houserule unbalance my game?
- Do you see any likely troubles that will result from this?
- Does this unfairly favour/disadvantage any characters (classes, races, archetypes)?