Player characters have a marvelous (and, to the DM, vastly amusing) tendency
to fall off things, generally from great heights and almost always onto hard
surfaces. While the falling is harmless, the abrupt stop at the end tends to cause
When a character falls, he suffers 1d6 points of damage for every 10 feet
fallen, to a maximum of 20d6, which for game purposes can be considered terminal
velocity. This method is simple and it provides all the realism necessary in the
game. It is not a scientific calculation of the rate of acceleration, exact
terminal velocity, mass, impact energy, etc., of the falling body.
The fact of the matter is that physical laws can describe the exact motion of
a body as it falls through space, but relatively little is known about the
effects of impact. The distance fallen is not the only determining factor in how
badly a person is hurt. Other factors might include elasticity of the falling
body and the ground, angle of impact, shock waves through the falling body, dumb
luck, and more.
People have actually fallen from great heights and survived, albeit very
rarely. The current record-holder, Vesna Vulovic, survived a fall from a height of
33,330 feet in 1972, although she was severely injured. Flight-Sergeant Nicholas
S. Alkemade actually fell 18,000 feet--almost 3.5 miles--without a parachute
and landed uninjured!
The point of all this is roll the dice, as described above, and don't worry
too much about science.
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