Let's Talk About the Meatgrinder Mode for a Bit

Wizard by Peter Andrew Jones

This weekend I was reading a bit more about Wizards of the Coast's latest storyline, The Tomb of Annihilation, when I ran across this tidbit on i09 that got my attention: ". . . There’s even a new difficulty modifier called “Meatgrinder Mode” that makes it even harder for players making their Death Saving throws—the check they make when they’ve reached 0 health points to see if they cling on to life or actually die—to emphasis the fact that the stakes in Chult have been well and truly heightened . . ." (Whitbrook).

"Meatgrinder Mode?" 

Well, shit, let's talk about that motherfucker for a minute. 

untitled by Jose Antonio Domingo

Currently D&D 5e runs with a three strikes policy on death. Essentially you have to succeed on three of six possible stabilization rolls before you fail three times. It's really a generous system designed to give dying players an opportunity to do something during the game that is meaningful for them besides going into the kitchen, getting a soda, and crying in a corner. I kind of hate it. There's no noticeable difference for the player if they succeed on their first three saving throws or if they've failed two and succeeded on their fifth roll. It all amount to the same thing: they're fine.

So the idea that now we're going to add in a "Meatgrinder Mode" intrigues me. How grinder-esque are we going to get here?

In my black, crass heart I want the Meatgrinder Mode to truly get vile for the players. I want it to cast lingering effects on them for each failure --- limps, seeing dead spirits, hearing the screams of the damned in their sleep so they can never fully rest again. I want the player's brushes with death to impact them and to matter to their character for the remainder of their time in the game. I want players to sit down at the table and to wonder if maybe they shouldn't have started drinking earlier in the day instead of after their third death. 

I want it to be a game that makes life and death matter to the players. 

Odds, though, are against the game going down this route. The Wizards of the Coast design team has consistently erred on the side of the players by being generous towards them in their rules on saves, magic, and the like. Even their "Meatgrinder Mode" will ultimately follow this pattern as their ultimate goal isn't to satisfy black-hearted bastards like myself but rather to appeal to the largest cross section of players possible without offending their delicate sensibilities. I can't fault them for this. 

No, no, no. Likely as not we'll find that the "Meatgrinder Mode" is a change to the Death Save where players must either succeed or fail on a single roll. Of course they could dispense with it entirely and make those who get raised have to work on a time clock or have their character permanently dead and turned into some sort of ghoulish beast working for the main bad guy. That would actually be pretty cool now that I think about it.  

Oblivion and subservience. Now there's a downside any player can recognize and fear. 

AA74, by Zdzislaw Beksinski


Works Cited
Whitbrook, Jason. The Mind Behind Adventure Time Helped Craft Dungeons & Dragons' Newest Story. i09, June 5, 2017, http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-mind-behind-adventure-time-helped-craft-dungeons-1795816921. Accessed June 17, 2017.

Comments

  1. I like your idea of lingering effects due to death's proximity. "When I pierced the veil of death what I saw terrified me, now I no longer rush into the fray." Gamewise this could explain a fighter taking levels in Wizardry. Or even becoming a cleric. "I saw my god and He said it wasn't my time yet. Now I am devoted fully to Him."

    Follow that up with a little more dibilitating stuff. Failed two death saves, well your constitution couldn't handle you bleeding out like that so it has dropped. Or, sorry you went a little brain dead there Wisdom or Intelligence is hit.

    Or as you say the screams of all I have killed now haunt me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This ^^ is good stuff and I like where you're going with it.

      Delete
  2. From what I gather, "Meatgrinder mode" just means a DC 15 death save instead of a DC 10.

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