Dying and healing

I have 2 questions, which address situations that happen every night we play:
Where can I find a comprehensive list of healing bonuses and modifiers? On page 104 of the ACKS book, we have the example of Marcus dying and getting healed. On page 105 is the example of the ogre being saved from nonlethal damage. In both examples, modifiers are applied that affect the outcome. Where did those numbers come from? Can I see a list of all the modifiers, collected in 1 location?
Secondly: my 1st level characters start with 1d4 or 1d6 HPs. Many attacks of enemies are 1d8 or 1d6. So my characters invariably die all the time. What can I do about this?


all the modifiers are listed underneath the table “mortal wounds” on page 106.

low level combat is inherently risky, and one should not create a 1st level character with the implicit assumption they will live, especially fighters and thieves who must put themselves in harms way in order to deliver the value of their class.

Ways you can control lethality include:
*hiring henchman and letting them absorb the risk.
*wearing heavy armor and a shield. Though a single hit could kill you, plate and shield can make hits very rare.
*attacking from the 2nd rank with spears, though the people in front are still at risk of dying.
*getting the drop on the enemy through clever tactics and killing them before they can hit you back. especially effective if you make them fail their morale check.
*blow all of your money on wine, women and song… or beers, bards and boys… or liquor, lovers and lyrics… whatever floats your boat. Spending your money in a way that confers no in game benefit creates reserve XP, which means that even if your character dies, your next character is not much farther behind.

Other ways to reduce lethality:

  • War dogs are like henchmen, except about as good as 2nd-level fighters, don’t take a share of XP or loot, and unfailingly loyal. <3 war dogs at low levels, especially with the armor upgrade mentioned in the monster description.
  • Our fighters usually stacked plate+shield+fighting style shield as their first class prof. We also saw some high-dex medium-str statblocks become fighters rather than thieves because front-liner AC was deemed that much more important than damage and levelling speed.
  • High charisma + diplomacy + mystic aura can help avoid combat entirely via good reaction rolls.
  • Sleep can win most low-level encounters, or turn a potential TPK into one casualty and a retreat. Turn Undead can win most of the encounters Sleep can’t. Use clerics and mages wisely; don’t just fighterstack (this is a problem for my players).

Also, every party should have either a Mage or, better yet, a Dwarven Craftpriest with Healing III. A Cleric with Healing III is fine too, but Mages get a lot of proficiencies at first level, and Craftpriests get a proficiency bonus.

The big thing is that, if your low-hp character is getting hit regularly, you might need to revise your tactics.

ACKS is pretty deadly: my players’ party had 3 PCs and 4 henchmen, with one sleep-capable Mage (the most powerful 1st-level character by far; the rest of the party exists to keep the Mage from getting taken out before he casts the spell), and B4 killed 2 of the PCs and 1 of the henchmen before anyone got to level 2. After hitting level 2, though, the PCs became much hardier. Getting out of 1st level is the big hurdle, and if you’re running traditional modules/by-the-book dungeons, there’s plenty of treasure around to level up on.

might need to revise your tactics.

The biggest thing, in my experience, is realizing that retreat is not only an option, but often the best option. I’ve had veteran 3E players who refused to retreat, and they died pretty regularly until they figured it out. If the front liners start falling, cut your losses and run like hell! Come back later with more military oil and unused spell slots.

And yeah, Healing-stack on a mage is great. We tend not to put it on craftpriest because they level so slowly, but it would work well on them (or Delver from ACKSPC). Laying on Hands saves lives, too.

Ah, crap, submitted before I was finished.

I tend to think of proficiencies in three categories as they relate to combat:

  • Combat Ability - stuff that makes you better at fighting. Fighting Style, Ambushing, Acrobatics, Battle Magic, Precise Shooting, Combat Reflexes, and so forth. My players don’t have any trouble picking these out as useful.
  • Post-Combat Damage Mitigation - Laying on Hands, Healing, Contemplation, and similar abilities that let you reduce the costs of fighting. My players grudgingly acknowledge that these are important to survival, but often don’t want to be the guy stuck having to take them (fortunately, henchmen!).
  • Combat Avoidance - Reaction roll bonuses like Diplomacy and Mystic Aura, divination abilities like Sensing Evil and Prophecy, and Thiefy stealth-bonus and listening profs. Things that let you avoid combat entirely and go straight for the unguarded treasure. These are an unacknowledged source of longevity - you don’t die in any of the battles that you don’t fight. Unfortunately, almost all of my players are meatheads who like fighting, and as a result they avoid these proficiencies and don’t listen to the one guy who takes them. If they did, though, they might live longer!

So consider whether your party strikes a balance between these three ways of dealing with combat. You want to not fight the battles you don’t have to, you want to win the battles you have to fight, and you want to minimize the resource expenditure of winning the battles you have to fight in case anything goes wrong on the way out of the dungeon.