There’s been an interesting development in cooperative multiplayer games over the last few years. The idea of a “downed” state that precedes “death,” from which your character can be revived. Some games will even allow you to continue acting. The first game I saw an “active” downed state was Borderlands, but I was already familiar with the “downed” state from Ragnarok Online and Guild Wars.

You know, I’ve been thinking about how to make solo adventuring in Dungeons & Dragons more viable and less immediately fatal, and I think the idea of an “active downed state” is a good place to start. Looking at these modified conditions, can you see a combination that could work for a character who’s down but not out?

Consider this possibility: when you hit zero hit points, your character is dazed and disabled. They’re unable to use any of their special powers (encounter or daily), and they’re only allowed one action per turn as it stands. That rules out the normal use of Second Wind, ’cause it’s an encounter power. Sorry, you missed your window.

Based on Borderlands and Guild Wars, it might also be prudent to prevent the player from moving. Perhaps they’re also immobilized or slowed while in a downed state? I see no reason to kill a character when they reach their negative bloodied value, when they could simply be rendered unconscious. Without the character, is there a story?

I guess the next question is, “what triggers a character’s revival from a downed state?” As suggested by the normal healing powers of a cleric or other leader class, all it takes is throwing down a heal to restore a character to positive hit points from zero. In a solo adventure, it would have to be from taking down an enemy.

I’m sure you can already see how this would work in Fourth Edition, the game’s practically built to handle it already. Consumable healing items are only a minor action to retrieve, and a minor action to use, which makes them ideal for a speedy recovery, and dropping an enemy while downed allows you to spend a healing surge.

Rinse and repeat until you run out of healing surges.