Health and Dying

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In a game about commandos saving the galaxy from impossible odds, it’s good to know what exactly is required to kill a character. Some of this information is also covered on the Health page, presented here again for completeness.

Dropping to 0 Health or Below – Downed

Losing all health doesn’t mean a character is dead, but it certainly indicates that he’s in trouble. Once the character’s Health total reaches 0 or less, he is said to be ‘down’. He physically drops prone, and cannot perform Standard or Minor actions. He can still perform free actions (but not minor actions downgraded to free actions).

The character is often conscious, or at least semiconscious, but too weak and in shock to continue fighting. The good news is that a character who is at 0 Health or just below will survive just fine until the end of the fight, whereupon he can be healed up if his team wins.

Races that can regenerate, like Krogan and Vorcha, as well as those with special training and drugs to do so, like Soldiers, do not regenerate when they are reduced to 0 Health or less. Their system is maxed out just staying alive, so instead of health regeneration they get a bonus to their rolls to avoid death.

Stims and certain powers can get a downed character back in the fight, but unless the character is also healed, this is dangerous. Downed characters are rarely attacked unless the enemies have some kind of personal vendetta, because it’s much more important to concentrate on the people who are still shooting at them. However, a character who gets back into the fight, or is downed in some kind of bad environment (fire, an explosion, etc) and who takes even more damage is in danger of dying.

Negative Health – Critical Condition

When a character’s Health goes far enough into the negatives that they reach or exceed half of the maximum value (in absolute terms), the character is said to be Critical. At this point, he can’t just lie on the battlefield and groan in pain, but be fine when the action wraps up. Unless the character gets medical attention during the battle, he will risk death when the battle finishes.

It’s not difficult to stabilize a character with a decent Medic skill and some Medi Gel, but it does require an ally getting to the Critical character physically, and having the time to heal him up. Often it’s best to drag the critical character into cover if he’s exposed, both to keep him safe, and to be able to do the healing without coming under fire.

Characters in Critical condition who don’t get medical attention by the battle’s end must make a Toughness check to avoid death, as detailed below.

Very Negative Health – Dying

When a character’s Health drops so low that it exceeds his maximum health in absolute terms, he is dying. Medic checks to stabilize the character become much more difficult, and he may even die during the battle, rather than at the end of it.

When the character first takes damage that puts him in Dying condition, he immediately drops again, if he used stims or other abilities to get back up and fight. He also must make a Toughness check to avoid death. The target number for this check is usually 20, meaning the average person has a 75% chance of biting it under these conditions. Commandos like Spectres are usually at more like 50%. The target number might be increased or decreased depending on the conditions that dropped the character with so much damage.
  • For instance, if the damage was caused in small amounts, lots of little superficial wounds, the check to avoid dying might be 15, or even as low as 10.
  • If instead the damage came from a character getting back up, running into combat and getting filled full of lead, the difficulty for the check could go as high as 25 or 30.

Regenerating races and classes get a bonus to death checks, generally the bonus to the roll is the same as the number of Health points they usually regenerate in a round. Other bonuses can apply, such as a bonus for getting immediate medical attention from an ally who was standing nearby, having an armor mod that injects medicine, etc.

If the Death check succeeds, the character is stable but still in a lot of danger. A quick trip to an infirmary is in order. If the check fails, then the character is dead.

Death isn’t so bad. (Maybe)

Medicine in Mass Effect is extraordinary, making even death something that might be defeated. The allies of a dead character have until the end of the battle, and then one more scene to try and revive him under normal circumstances. Doing the reviving during the battle is much easier as far as the revive roll goes, but might be more difficult to pull off logistically, depending on what’s happening.

Using the Medic skill to revive a recently dead character is an Extended Action if performed in combat, requiring at least 3 standard actions, perhaps more if the damage is especially bad. The following modifiers apply to the roll:
  • If the character is dead because he was Critical and unattended until the battle’s end, the check gets a +5 bonus.
  • If the character is dead from massive damage and failing a death check, but attended to in the same battle, the check is made normally.
  • If the character is dead from massive damage, and attended to after the battle is over, the check gets a -5 penalty.

The standard difficulty for a check to revive someone is 20, but can be higher if the damage is particularly bad. When the character was shredded by multiple gunfire attacks, or a vehicle weapon, the check can easily have a difficulty of 25 or 30.

If this last measure fails, the character is truly dead, barring advanced alien technology, or billions of credits and years of mad science work.

Health and Dying

At the Heart of the Abyss Drascus