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Hanging by a Thread

Characters die much too abruptly in standard TFT. So we use this alternate rule; not enough to unbalance things, but enough to make it imperative to win that battle quickly...

A figure's remaining strength (remST) is calculated by subtracting any fatigue and wounds from his basic ST. If you're also using our fatigue rules, fatigue counts towards unconsciousness, but not towards death; the figure's dying strength (dyST) is calculated by subtracting woulds from basic ST. If you're not using our fatigue rules, the figure's dyST is equal to its remST.

  • Healthy: remST 4 or more. No penalty, just like standard TFT.

  • Reeling: remST 2 or 3. Figure is at -3 adjDX and MA is halved.

  • Unconscious: remST 1 or less, and dyST greater than 0. The figure can't do anything, but heals normally, just like standard TFT.

  • Dying: dyST from 0 to -ST. The figure's life is "hanging by a thread." Make a “Thread Roll” each turn versus the figure's ST (raw vitality) or IQ (mind over matter) as the player wishes. On the first turn (the turn in which the figure took the life-threatening damage), the roll is 1 die. The second turn, the roll is 2 dice. On the third turn, the roll is 3 dice, and so on. If the Thread Roll is failed, the figure is dead. If the Thread Roll is successful, the figure lives for another turn and gets to make another, harder, Thread Roll.

  • Dead: dyST < -ST. The figure is too badly broken, burned, sliced or mangled for anything short of a wish or revival potion.


When someone is dying, he can be “stabilized” by someone else acting as a medic. Once he's stabilized, he's at ST 1 (unconscious), and recovers normally.

A Physicker rolls 4d/ IQ to stabilize someone. A Master Physicker rolls 3d/IQ. A Veterinarian or Scholar may roll 5d/IQ to stabilize, while a character with none of these talents rolls 7d/IQ. Lower these rolls by one die if the medic applies Healing Potion. Failing the roll means that the medic may not attempt to stabilize the dying character further (although a different medic would be able to try).

Stabilization takes 5 minutes of substantially uninterrupted work; the saving roll is made at the end of that time. During the stabilization attempt, no Thread Roll must be made; the character is being helped, and things are not getting worse. If the stabilization attempt is interrupted, the dying character resumes his Thread Rolls by rolling half as many dice (rounded up) as the last roll made before stabilization was started.

The stabilization process is in place of the ordinary healing done by a Physicker or Master Physicker. A Physicker can’t stabilize you, and then heal you for two more points to bring you back to consciousness. However, if the medic is able to bring your remST back up to 1 with the standard first aid, then the first aid takes the place of stabilization and no saving roll is needed. This may bring the dying character back to consciousness, if the wounds are slight enough. For example, a character of ST 8 who's been wounded for 9 points has -1 dyST. A Master Physicker could heal the dying character for 3 points, bringing his remST and dyST up to 2 and leaving him reeling, instead of unconscious.


Lenny, Eragin (a Physicker), James, and Claudio are fighting two orcs. Lenny and Eragin engage one, and James and Claudio engage the other. By the third turn, things are going badly for Claudio; he’s been wounded for 6 points, and his ST is only 8. Lenny and Eragin, however, are doing a bit better; their orc is heavily wounded, and neither of them have been scratched. James is unhurt.

On the fourth turn, Claudio’s DX is at -3 due to his wounds (he’s reeling). On that turn, the orc hits Claudio for 4 points damage; Claudio’s dyST is now -2; he falls, dying. No one else (including the orcs) was hit on turn 4. Claudio makes his saving roll of 1 die against his IQ, which is 14; there was no chance of failure.

On turn 5, during the movement phase, Eragin (who was behind the orc he was fighting with) runs over to Claudio. James remains engaged with one orc, and Lenny remains engaged with the other orc. Lenny enters HTH combat, ensuring that his orc won’t interrupt the heroic efforts to save Claudio. During the action phase, Eragin starts to stabilize Claudio. Lenny and his orc trade hits, with Lenny being wounded somewhat badly. James defends, and his orc misses him. Claudio does not need to make a Thread Roll, as Eragin is attempting to stabilize him.

On turn 6, no one moves. Eragin continues to stabilize Claudio. Lenny gets hit by his orc, taking enough damage to knock him unconscious but stable (13 wounds against an ST of 14, for a remST and dyST of 1). James defends, and his orc misses him again. Claudio once again does not need to make a Thread Roll.

On turn 7, Eragin quickly moves over to the orc that was in HTH with Lenny; he gets a +4 DX for his swing, since the orc is still on the ground. Eragin swings and hits, killing the orc. James defends, but unluckily for him, the orc rolls a double damage, putting 16 hits on James and leaving him dying as well. Claudio must resume his Thread Roll (1d/IQ), and James makes his (1d/IQ). Lenny is already stable.

On turn 8, the remaining orc engages Eragin; the orc misses but Eragin hits the orc hard enough to knock him over. Claudio makes his Thread Roll (2d/IQ), and James makes his (2d/IQ).

On turn 9, Eragin hits and kills the orc. Claudio makes his Thread Roll (3d/IQ), and James misses his (3d/IQ; he rolls a 13 but his IQ is 11). James is now completely dead, and can’t be stabilized.

With no more enemies to worry about, Eragin moves over to Claudio and stabilizes him. Fortunately, nothing interrupts him, and he’s able to spend the 5 minutes stabilizing Claudio. At the end of this time, Eragin makes a 4d/IQ roll, rolling a 12 against his IQ of 13. Claudio is now out of immediate danger, although unconscious. James’ death has relieved Eragin from choosing which of his two comrades he could save.

Eragin then moves over to Lenny, and heals him of 2 wounds using his Physicker talent. Eragin collects some items from James’ body for the next of kin, and the party limps home—Eragin is dragging Claudio on an improvised travois, while Lenny walks brokenly. Claudio recovers consciousness in the next day or two.

Fatigue House Rules

If you're not using our fatigue rules, remST and dyST always have the same value.


If you use our fatigue rules, they may or may not be the same. For battle mages, they will often be different, and a clever GM may find ways to add a fatigue point or two to other characters. The advantage of this combination is that a slightly fatigued character is more likely to be knocked unconscious instead of killed outright.

A character with fatigue damage may end up with enough wounds and fatigue to kill him using standard TFT rules, but instead will be unconscious and stable under these rules combined with the fatigue rules. For example, if Malken the Mage (ST 8) has cast three illusions (2 points each, for 6 fatigue points) and then takes an crossbow shot for 7 points of wound damage, Malken falls unconscious but stable (-5 remST, 1 dyST). Had the crossbow done 9 points of damage, he would be dying (-7 remST, -1 dyST); if stabilized by a physicker he would have 7 points damage (1 dyST) but would still have the 6 fatigue points (for -5 remST).


This rule was inspired by Murray Lindsay's similar rule. True to his "Axiom of Gaming," I've tweaked it.

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