Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Villains and Vigilantes falling damage off the charts

Jerry Stratton, October 23, 2011

Can someone explain Villains and Vigilantes falling damage? I can’t be reading it correctly.

Falling speed seems to make sense. It is calculated per turn rather than per second, which makes things easier to calculate at heights lower than 500 feet, but that’s a decent abstraction.

Damage, however, is wacky as described.


For background, the average human has about 40 power points and 4 hit points. That means 8 points of damage will knock them unconscious1 and 44 points of damage will kill them. A large bomb will knock the average person unconscious (21 points average, from 2d20) but not kill them. A small nuclear bomb will kill the average person (53 points average, from 5d20).

A large nuclear bomb will kill just about anybody, doing 20d20 points damage for an average of 210 points.

Given comic book physics this makes sense. Bombs throw heroes around, knock some of them unconscious, and leave a few conscious to survey the carnage.

Falling damage

Falling damage is in another league altogether. Damage taken is the distance fallen during the last turn (fifteen seconds), in “inches”, where a V&V inch is five feet, times the square root of the character’s basic hits2. Falling off of a 500-foot building will mean 100 points damage times 2 (the square root of basic hits) for 200 points damage.

That’s a large nuclear explosion. But it gets worse: if you have size change to small and you’re down to a quarter inch, you multiply by your height factor of 288 for a total damage of 57,600 points.3 That can’t be right. What am I missing?

Falling from an airplane has crazier numbers. Depending on height fallen, the height number will be anywhere from a hundred (as in the above example) to a thousand (terminal velocity in Villains and Vigilantes). Two thousand points damage for falling ensures death, even if you’re lucky enough to share it with the ground. That’s five large nuclear bombs.4

A solution

The thing is, there is already a system in Villains and Vigilantes for damage from high-speed impacts. Brawling weapons do damage based on both weight and velocity. Assume that falling means maximum damage, and falling from 500 feet does 12 points damage, ensuring unconsciousness for the average person. Terminal velocity means 44 points damage, killing the average person.

Now, that’s lower than I’d like. And given that just about everything else in the game provides random variability, it would be nice if this were random, too. So how about this? Divide maximum damage by ten and round up for the d20s to roll for falling damage. That would mean 2d20 for falling off the tall building, and 5d20 for the airplane.

That puts falling at terminal velocity equivalent to merely a small nuclear explosion. Remove the second paragraph of section 8.2 and replace with a reference to the brawling damage tables, and the instruction to find the d20s to roll by taking the maximum damage, dividing by 10, and rounding up.

However, I would go one step further. Instead of assuming maximum damage because falling is “unavoidable damage” I would add a special class of unavoidable damage, of which falling is the only current member. Normally, when a character runs out of hit points they start running through power points. For unavoidable damage, how about they run through basic hits instead? Zero basic hits means death. Some basic hits lost means really messed up: a character without their full basic hits is always unconscious, and each basic hit point lost means a chance of death just as normal hit point losses mean a chance of unconsciousness. Where hit points heal per night of rest, basic hits heal per month, but otherwise conform to the rules for healing hit points.

Also, for unavoidable hits there obviously isn’t a roll to hit, so double ‘to hit’ bonuses and add that for each die of damage instead.

In that case, with falling from a 500-foot building doing d8+d4+4 damage, the average roll will be 11 points. That will take four points from power and four points from hit points, knocking the character unconscious; and then three points to basic hits, putting them in a coma for three months and giving them a 3% chance of death. But the terminal velocity fall will do 4d10+d4+10, for an average of 34 points. That’s four power, four hit points, and then twenty-six off of basic hits, mangling the average person deader than dead.

Not perfect but very close. The main issue with it is that the brawling weapon velocity table only starts at 31 inches, which means that falls of 150 feet or less aren’t affected by the height fallen. Might make sense to add the following rows for unavoidable damage:

Projectile Velocity (inches per turn)Damage Bonus
up to 2nil
3 to 6+1 point (unavoidable damage only)
7 to 15+1d2 (unavoidable damage only)
16 to 30+1d3 (unavoidable damage only)

With those rows added, falling fifteen feet means 1d4+3 points damage to the average person, and falling 35 feet means 1d2+1d4+4 points damage.

A comparison

Here is a comparison of all of the options so far, using an average person of 151 to 199 pounds:

Height fallenOriginal rulesBrawling MaxBrawling Max (d20)Unavoidable damage+to hit
15 feet6 points5 points1d20 (10.5 avg)1+d4+2 (5.5 avg)
50 feet20 points6 points1d20 (10.5 avg)d2+d4+4 (8 avg)
100 feet40 points7 points1d20 (10.5 avg)d3+d4+4 (8.5 avg)
500 feet200 points12 points2d20 (21 avg)d8+d4+4 (11 avg)
terminal velocity2,000 points44 points5d20 (52.5 avg)4d10+d4+10 (34.5 avg)

Remember that the “unavoidable damage” variant is not really comparable, since it involves losing basic hits; for the average person, any damage taken above 8 will be taken from basic hits for the unavoidable damage variant, putting the victim into a coma and potentially killing them.

For any of these variations of falling damage, there is no longer any need for the odd difference in how invulnerability works when falling compared to when taking any other kind of damage.

This may, of course, turn into an Emily Litella moment when it turns out I really am reading the existing rules wrong, and they really do make sense.

In response to Brawling weights in Villains and Vigilantes: Thrown things do damage according to their weight in Villains and Vigilantes. But how much do they weigh?

  1. And five points of damage or more have a chance of unconsciousness.

  2. I’d normally have a problem with requiring a square root for an on-the-fly calculation, but given the small range of basic hits—one for every fifty pounds a character weighs—it isn’t a problem in this case.

  3. I understand dividing size change/larger characters’ damage by their height factor, because their basic hits increase when their size does. But size change/small doesn’t affect basic hits. And technically, even for size change/large characters, their larger size is reflected in their larger basic hits.

  4. And it’s even more ridiculous for that hypothetical small character—576,000 points damage.