Never Say Bloodied Again

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 27, 2014

wounded-pc-01As we transition from 4e D&D to 5e D&D we have seen significant changes to the way D&D works. The new edition has cherry picked some of the very best aspects of all previous editions to bring us into a D&D sweet spot called 5e. To make this work some things were left out, even things we felt made the game better. For example, the bloodied condition.

For those who may not have played 4e or who are so immersed in 5e they’ve completely forgotten what 4e was like, a creature is considered bloodied when it is reduced to half its maximum hit point. So a monsters with 40 hit points is considered bloodied when it’s down to 20 hit points or less.

I realize that conditions were streamlined and eliminated where possible for 5e so I understand the rationale for not including it as part of the initial base rules, but personally I liked knowing when monsters and PCs were bloodied.

During combat situations most players decide how they’re going to act based on what they know or can deduce about their opponent. Using the bloodied condition helped players get a better understanding of how powerful the monsters facing off against their characters were. A monster that needed five hits before becoming bloodied was clearly tougher than a monster who was bloodied with a single hit. Knowing this, a players could better judge when a monster was nearing death and could plan their turn accordingly. Why use a spell that deals 6d6 damage against a monster who went from full hit points to bloodied after taking one stab from a dagger?

Some may argue that this is just meta-gaming and removing bloodied is an improvement. I challenge this stance. Your character would be watching the battle and would see visual clues that would indicate how badly injured a monster might be at any given time. Mechanically they behave the same way with 1 hit point as 100 hit points, but the reality is that a monster who’s lost 99% of his hit points would likely be bleeding, staggering, wheezing, limping – all clear signs that it’s really, really hurt. So letting the player know when a monster drops below half its maximum hit points shouldn’t be seen as meta gaming.

life-giver-elmoreAnother good reason for using the bloodied condition is so that players know what’s going on with their allies. When we used the bloodied condition a player could look around the table, see which of their allies was bloodied, and quickly determine who was hurt and how badly they need help. Characters with healing powers or healing spells can better prioritize their actions when they know who’s on death’s door and who’s just got a flesh wound. Most players will announce when they need healing, but in-game there may be times when characters can see each other but can’t talk to one another or can’t hear one another.

Old habits die hard. In the few 5e sessions I’ve played with my home group (a hard-core 4e group) they still announce when their PCs are bloodied. As the DM I have not been announcing when the monsters are bloodied, mostly because the majority of monsters they’ve faced have only had about 10 hit points and dropped very quickly. However, when the party faces monsters with more hit points I think I will likely announce when the bad guys are bloodied. It’s a familiar convention at our gaming table and I think it will make things run faster. But that’s just the way I’m choosing to handle bloodied in 5e.

What do you think about using the bloodied condition in 5e? Do you think it gives away too much information that players shouldn’t have? If you’ve come from 4e do you think you’ll keep using bloodied as a house rule since it’s familiar?

Looking for instant updates? Subscribe to the Dungeon’s Master feed!

Share this:
1 Save Versus August 27, 2014 at 9:54 am

I don’t see it as a loss in any way. As a GM I’m comfortable and confident in relaying to my players if an opponent is severely wounded or barely winded. As for Player damage, I leave that up to my players to communicate to each other. Everyone needs to take a little responsibility in alerting the others if they are hurting and players should also be paying attention to what is happening to their allies anyway when it’s not their turn. /shutoff the phone!

2 Rob August 27, 2014 at 10:03 am

While I got my start with 4e, over the last few years I’ve taken the opportunity to study lots of different systems. In terms of fantasy, I really like what I’m seeing in the 5e rules. I did think it was funny that they removed the bloodied designation though. It’s such a simple thing and I think, as you point out, it actually models observations that combatants on both sides would have in battle. Fortunately, this is super simple to add as a house rule. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll use it for my games.

3 Liack August 27, 2014 at 10:18 am

I approve as both DM and player. Knowing which character is below a certain threshold does marvel for tactics. And no need to go about with the “okay, who needs healing” when checking the battlemat gives the answer.

4 Sp1d3y_75 August 27, 2014 at 11:19 am

I like the Bloodied condition idea, and agree with the general benefits that you presented, Ameron.

However, I don’t see its absence from the 5e rules a big problem, as this is something easy to implement by the DM, as noted in previous comments.

Personally, I prefer a well described battle scene (as opposed to just shouting out dice rolls) and the GM can certainly paint a picture of a struggling creature nearing its imminent death. I also agree that players should let their party know how badly they’re wounded, so again, it shouldn’t be a problem to have this “condition” ruled as part of the game.

5 Joe August 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

At least at low levels, PCs don’t have enough HP to worry about being bloodied, since they’re too worried about being killed. 4E had a much higher HP range, so being at half HP meant you were in the range of maybe needing some healing… even at 1st level, with characters starting in the 14-28 HP range.

In 5E, characters start in the 7-15 HP range, so there’s little time at “bloodied” before they’re dead. Even though healing abilities are less numerous now, it’s much more practical for the cleric/bard/druid to just heal whomever they just saw get hit, unless the hit only did 1-2 points of damage.

I had a black bear (CR 1/2) one-shot a PC last Encounters session (well, multi-attack, so technically it was a 2-shot), and she never had time to think about being bloodied.

6 poprik August 27, 2014 at 12:17 pm

In the basic rules there is a “Describing the Effects of Damage” section. When you drop below half your hit point maximum, you show signs of wear, such as cuts and bruises. So the usefulness of bloodied is still there, it just isn’t a condition.

7 wrathamon August 27, 2014 at 2:17 pm

They still have the notion of bloodied, its just not a condition anymore, and so far we haven’t seen any mechanics associated with something triggering at half hps (that I know of)

But, in the Basic Rules this nugget stands out to me.

“Describing the Effects of Damage
Dungeon Masters describe hit point loss in different ways.
When your current hit point total is half or more of your hit
point maximum, you typically show no signs of injury. When
you drop below half your hit point maximum, you show signs
of wear, such as cuts and bruises. An attack that reduces you
to 0 hit points strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or
other trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.”

Some DMs may call this “Bloodied” others may use a different term.

There might be something in the DMG but I loved the Bloodied Condition and I use it for a slower healing variant in my home game.

8 dither August 27, 2014 at 2:27 pm

I liked features and powers the keyed off the Bloodied condition, like the Dragonborn’s frenzy and the Tiefling’s Bloodhunt — so I’m really pretty disappointed that the Bloodied condition is gone.

We might see Bloodied surface in a supplement months or years down the line. I won’t be playing 5e so I don’t care how long it takes them to figure it out — they lost my business a long time ago.


9 Naclox August 27, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Out of habit more than anything we’re still using bloodied as well as more general descriptors in our games because both the players and DM agree that you can tell when something has been seriously injured.

I agree that I don’t like powers that trigger off of being bloodied for PCs, but I think it makes a lot of sense for monsters. Having a monster go into a frenzy or change tactics after it’s gotten severely injured seems like it would be realistic.

10 Scott August 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

I think this has been covered, but I try to be a very descriptive DM, so my players can easily follow the decline of a monster’s hit points through the way I have him act. Did the bloodied condition have any mechanics in and of itself besides telling players something is half dead? I don’t remember, but if not, I say just RP it.

Table Top games like this have always been a mix between the people who want to play efficiently, for the feeling of having ‘won’ (looking at the math behind which ability to use and when to get the maximum effect, using the letter of the rules like pieces of lego in an awesome flying machine of NPC destruction) and people who want to play for fun (not the best word, as the efficient people have fun too, but I can’t think of another), to feel like they’ve been true to their concept and taken part in a great story. The latter players won’t look to the phb for the weapon with the best stats, but for the one that best fits who they want to represent.

I feel like this edition is putting emphasis on the narrative in a way I haven’t seen in the past, and I really like it. Bloodied isn’t a condition I need.

11 Dominick Riesland August 27, 2014 at 5:06 pm

I go with what the players like. If they want to use it, great. If not, I don’t bother.

12 Dave Ellis August 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm

My stack of 10 Red Allea Tools wishes it was still there.

13 cro August 27, 2014 at 7:21 pm

I’m a Pathfinder DM and I have borrow the bloodied condition from 4e. When the players give every things they’ve got against a monster and it is not yet bloodied, they run ! (sorry for my English)

14 Mik Calow August 28, 2014 at 3:30 am

I’ve continued to use the Bloodied condition to describe enemies though as others have stated pcs are currently too low hp for it to be majorly relevant to them yet.

15 Bart H August 28, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Given that the 5e rules are giving us the freedom to return to a narrative based adventure, why worry about that? Simply using the phrases above (Staggering, wheezing, limping) all give a very colorful and interesting way to describe its condition. I say let it go and start really describing what’s going on. 🙂

16 Redgar August 29, 2014 at 6:47 am

My players are still sat around the table asking me “is it bloodied” after a few decent hits on a monster, and I’m happy to tell them if so. Seems some of the 4e parlance will stick around, at least for a while.
I also liked the fact that some 4e monsters changed in some way (subtle or otherwise) when bloodied, or where it triggered an automatic attack like a breath weapon.
I think little mechanical tricks like this will find their way into my 5e game, even though I don’t miss the heavy crunch of 4e tactical combat.

17 Sean September 1, 2014 at 1:24 am

Yup, Poprik and Wrathamon are 100% correct. The word “bloodied” isn’t used, but it is clearly included in the rules that 50%HP is the magic number when damage is noticeable.

I assume the term was removed because the events triggered by that condition in 4E (permadeath on -bloodied HP, bonuses to vampires, etc) are no longer present. But as a way of letting your players know the state of the enemies? It’s very much still there.

18 Jordan Leigh September 10, 2014 at 12:01 am

I haven’t missed the “bloodied” keyword in D&D 5e. If it helps the players, I’ll describe the creature as wounded or hurt when they reach about half their HP.

19 seti September 11, 2014 at 7:47 pm

I miss it. I liked monster and PC abilities it triggered, and I liked how it indicated damage in a way that didn’t involve numbers.

I don’t hate 5e, but there is a lot of stuff 4e had that 5e should have. The bloodied condition is just one on my ever-growing list of houserules I’ll want to implement if we switch to 5e in the future.

20 Ganjalf September 14, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Since the bloodied condition doesn’t actually add any mechanical value into the game, I’ll be refraining from using it. I’ve always been plenty apt at describing battle gore to my players and, while monsters may not act any differently between 1 to full HP because of any rule, it still factors into my decision as to how the monsters act. All in all, bloodied just seems like another jargon term to throw at my players. I don’t dig it. Especially since it has no mechanical downsides such as the conditions recognized in the 5e rules.

21 crimsyn September 20, 2014 at 11:17 pm

I honestly don’t see the point of hiding monster HP from players. If they ask, I’ll tell them the monster’s current HP as well as the max. What’s to be gained by a player not knowing if a monster has 5 or 30 hp left? What’s to be lost if they do know?

22 Erechel February 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm

Crimsyn, hit points are an abstraction. Let the people know exactly how many Hit Points it’s a major metagaming factor, that it doesn’t add anything to roleplaying: just the opposite in fact. When a player ask if the foe looks damaged, I tell him roughly if it seems little, pretty or grossly injured. I think it’s enough information, that adds sufficient tactical advice with a non metagaming scope.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: