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If you receive more damage than your current hitpoints, you are Knocked Out. Among other things, "You immediately move your initiative position to directly before the turn in which you were reduced to 0 HP"

What is the mechanical impact of this? What would change if I didn't use this rule?


I am aware guessing developer intent is off-topic, but this might have a very obvious explanation, which just eludes me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm putting in a VTC despite the note, because I think the answers available are correct and there is no other answer than developer intent. I'll let the community decide if that's the right call or not \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ifusaso I don't see this as designer intent; a mechanical explanation that people have seen during play (play can provide 'aha!' moments that just reading a rule won't offer), can suffice to answer. Sometimes, until we play with a rule for a while it doesn't seem to make sense until we get used to it. (In D&D 5e, our first group to include the DM didn't really grok short rests and using HD to recover HP until we used it a number of times and got used to it). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 18:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Rather than asking for the point of this rule, you could ask what the impact of the rule is. Answers can then cover all the ways it affects gameplay and tactics and you can then decide for yourself which of those the designers were aiming for. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 23:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's... an excellent point. I'd support reopening under that context \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 3:38

4 Answers 4

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This rule helps avoid Healing ping-pong!

I find it helpful to consider the inverse -- what might happen when the initiative order doesn't change. (Sadly, I mention this from personal experience playing 5e...)

Consider a hypothetical combat between three parties, Fighter, Cleric, and Monster. The initiative order is Cleric, Monster, Fighter.

Round 1

  • Cleric casts a cantrip, damaging Monster.
  • On their turn, Monster attacks Fighter, downing them.
  • It is Fighter's turn next, and they can do nothing but make a recovery check.

Rounds 2+

  • Cleric is next, and spends their action to 2-Action Heal, restoring Fighter to positive HP.
  • Monster is standing next to a healed but prone Fighter, and -- since they cannot reach Cleric in a single round -- decide to attack Fighter again. They hit, and Fighter drops to Dying once more.
  • It is Fighter's turn, and again they can do nothing but make a recovery check.

As you can see, Fighter is essentially locked out of combat -- they will never get a turn again unless Monster misses.

Now consider what happens if the initiative moves when Fighter is downed.

Round 1 PF2e

  • Cleric casts a cantrip, damaging Monster.
  • On their turn, Monster attacks Fighter, downing them.
  • Fighter does not get a turn this round, as their initiative is now before Monster's

Round 2 PF2e

  • Cleric is next, and spends their action to 2-Action Heal, restoring Fighter to positive HP.
  • It is Fighter's turn, and they wisely stand up and fall back.
  • Monster charges after, but no longer has the damage to bring Fighter back to Dying, since they spend some of their actions chasing down Fighter

With this rule, Fighter might lose one round of actions, but if they are healed, they are guaranteed to have a turn before whatever brought them down, meaning they have a chance to withdraw, heal up, or otherwise prevent further downings.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Deleted my answer because this one is better. Yes, this avoids infinite loops where one player doesn't get any turns. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael W.
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 23:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelW. I was impressed we wrote essentially the same thing at the same time! Just 53 seconds different! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 1:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also the other order of Fighter, Monster, Cleric where the loop is basically "monster drops fighter, cleric heals fighter, fighter gets back up" and you never miss a turn in combat. The initiative order either makes going down super punishing or practically irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 17, 2021 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik: That's the cycle that the PF2e mechanic settles into, if the monster keeps knocking the fighter out and the cleric keeps healing them. However, in this case the fighter has the option to break the cycle if they want by disengaging from combat. (Depending on the actual game and edition being played, they may need to be careful not to provoke an opportunity attack from the monster, though.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 12:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen in the PF2e mechanic the cycle settles into it, but by skipping a turn for the fighter (always). Without that mechanic, sometimes the cycle settles into the same thing but without the fighter losing a turn. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 13:38
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Since as far as I know there's no reasoning behind that rule present in the books, I'll give you my guess:

It's that way so that every other participant in the combat has a chance to act before the fallen PC has to roll his first recovery check.

For example, this way other party members have a chance to help or heal the fallen PC before dying because of a failed roll at Dying 3.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Currently in a fight... ally went down to a crit, enemy used a "continue damage" ability similar to constrict that causes bleeding. Ally went down at Dying 3 and was about to act on Initiative. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 18, 2021 at 0:53
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Moving the PC to the end of the initiative order when they drop gives everyone else in the party a chance to act before the downed PC rolls their first dying save. This doesn't make much of a difference at dying 1, but if the PC is wounded, drops to a critical hit/failure, or has persistent damage, everyone getting a chance to act first can be critical to their survival.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, it can make a great difference: I've seen far too many times, in other editions of D&D, someone being dropped right before their turn and raised into the positives right after. Net result? One round lost. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 18:47
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In addition to the reasons others have given there's the fact that you effectively did act at that point--by going down.

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