5e Banshee Wail

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5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Fri Apr 28, 2017 6:37 pm

In last Wednesday's session, I threw the banshee at the party. Now, this is fresh after an encounter from a previous session, so the party's 6th level thief is still unconscious and resting, the rest are huddled around a campfire in the outskirts of the Ruins...

The party has a new 1st level (human) fighter PC, a 5th level fighter (also human), a 5th level (elven) wizard with the Staff of the Magi, an 8th level (gnome) wizard with 86 hit points, and a 4th level (human) druid.

The banshee wails and the only one to fail the save is the gnome wizard, who (by the banshee's description) falls to 0 hit points. The other character in range takes 10 (3d6) psychic damage.

My gnome player nearly packed up and left, until I explained that 0 hit points is not dead - simply unconscious, and he argued that in that case, higher level characters will have to heal MORE than low level characters if they fail the banshee's saving throw, and that is unfair, accredited to poor rules design for 5e.

I kind of agree with my player's sentiments if this is an unintentional effect on high level characters, but if this is intentional, then I kind of like having monsters with marginal hit points (the banshee has something like 50-60 averaged hits?) that can scare the shit out of higher level characters.

To keep my players happy, I ruled that he could make a saving throw every turn, on a save, his gnome would wake up and only suffer 3d6 psychic damage (and I rolled a 14).

I have not had the time to research if other monsters, undead or not, have effects like the Banshee's Wail. It is usable only once per day, so I am inclined to think that in combination with it's Horrible Visage ability (usable every round) that this drop to 0 hits is an intentional rule to give the game the feeling that encountering a banshee sucks worse for high level characters.

Also please note that imc a short rest is 8 hours long, and a long rest is one week for healing purposes, so characters cannot heal after every encounter -- unless they are healed by potions, regeneration, or spells.

(I did this so clerics and healing potions aren't so useless imc; ironically, no one has a cleric character now...)

So, my question is two (or three)-fold: Do you think the banshee's Wail is appropriate or inappropriate?

Have you encountered (or thrown encounters) with other monsters with similar save or be reduced to 0 hits, and how were these encounters resolved - by the rules as written or a house-ruling, like mine above?
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Marco Fossati » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:02 pm

Imho it's the modern version of level draining in older editions.

Level draining was feared the most than high level characters than low level ones.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:25 pm

Level draining certainly had its place of fear in older editions. ;) I've seen somewhere (don't recall where) that on a successful "level drain" the maximum number of hit points and spell slots allowable goes down. I don't recall if this is canon or a house rule, but I like it for that old skull fear factor! ;)
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Marco Fossati » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:45 pm

I don't think your player was right about poor 5e's design.

This one of effects of bounded accuracy which mantains (or at least it tries) allows low CR monsters to still be dangerous even for high level characters.

In the spirit of it a high level wizard (11) with CON 16 (+3) has 55% to avoid wail's effect while a low level Barbarian (5) with Con 16 (+3) has 70%.

It seems perfectly believable to me.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby enderxenocide0 » Fri Apr 28, 2017 8:20 pm

5E works under a few key assumptions here:

1. Long rests are 8 hours, short rests are 1 hour.
2. Parties will be comprised of players of roughly the same level.
3. Instant death isn't typically fun.

A Banshee, because of #3, drops a character to 0 to avoid automatically killing them. Yes, they would have to heal more than a lower level character, but because of #2, this doesn't usually result in there being a big disparity between players. Even if it does, the game knows that thanks to #1, an adventuring party can heal to full automatically with a long rest that doesn't consume much time, relatively speaking. With these standards in mind, the Banshee works just fine. Since your long rests take longer, the characters would be forced to spend longer and use up hit dice to recover. Since your party has vastly different levels of players, they are affected differently.

The key thing for your player to remember, though, is that this isn't any different that any other creature in combat. A wizard with 10 hit points and a Fighter with 80 that are dropped to 0 from being hit with sticks have the same issue. The Fighter has to heal more. It's not a question of the monster, it's a question of who is taking damage.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby RobJN » Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:15 pm

The not-so-short rest and longer rest optional rules certainly aren't helping your case, but -- as was said -- the monster is engineered with the core assumptions in mind, not the optional/alternate takes on the rules.

So your 8th level PC has to heal "more" than the lower hp characters. The game assumes the PC will spend hit dice after a short rest to recover some of those hit points. His opportunity for healing is proportionally equal to his lower-leveled comrades. He shouldn't have rolled so high to gain all those extra hit points when he leveled up :P
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Sat Apr 29, 2017 3:38 pm

Marco Fossati wrote:I don't think your player was right about poor 5e's design.


I am beginning to see the cracks in our group's foundation, and I am fairly sure its not the rules. :ugeek: Two of my players really like to push the envelope of the rules, and one player is visibly chafed by 5e rules altogether, always attempting to foist off 3.5 or earlier rules to "fix" problems that only he sees, but that's a story for another thread. :roll:

enderxenocide0 wrote:5E works under a few key assumptions here:

1. Long rests are 8 hours, short rests are 1 hour.
2. Parties will be comprised of players of roughly the same level.
3. Instant death isn't typically fun.

A Banshee, because of #3, drops a character to 0 to avoid automatically killing them. Yes, they would have to heal more than a lower level character, but because of #2, this doesn't usually result in there being a big disparity between players. Even if it does, the game knows that thanks to #1, an adventuring party can heal to full automatically with a long rest that doesn't consume much time, relatively speaking. With these standards in mind, the Banshee works just fine. Since your long rests take longer, the characters would be forced to spend longer and use up hit dice to recover. Since your party has vastly different levels of players, they are affected differently.

The key thing for your player to remember, though, is that this isn't any different that any other creature in combat. A wizard with 10 hit points and a Fighter with 80 that are dropped to 0 from being hit with sticks have the same issue. The Fighter has to heal more. It's not a question of the monster, it's a question of who is taking damage.


I agree with what you say, and I know the formula gets a little funky when you (and I mean: I) mess with #1 and #2, but since I reserve the right to make those changes, I am left with cleaning up after my own experiments. LOL.

RobJN wrote:The not-so-short rest and longer rest optional rules certainly aren't helping your case, but -- as was said -- the monster is engineered with the core assumptions in mind, not the optional/alternate takes on the rules.

So your 8th level PC has to heal "more" than the lower hp characters. The game assumes the PC will spend hit dice after a short rest to recover some of those hit points. His opportunity for healing is proportionally equal to his lower-leveled comrades. He shouldn't have rolled so high to gain all those extra hit points when he leveled up :P


Heh. I'll be sure to mention this to him the next time he gets dropped to 0. :lol:

From here on in, I will assume that the Banshee Wail was an intentional design in the game, and it definitely has the potential to piss off players, and coupled with my own feelings of "video-gamey" short rests = 1 hour really diminishes the potential for tension and drama for the characters. Although I understand that getting dropped to 0 hits can cause drama for the players too.

Honestly, the only reason I made short rests = 8 hours & a long rest = 1 week is to actually give the clerics & healing potions a reason to exist in the game.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby pawsplay » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:07 pm

I think the banshee's wail is the least 5e thing in 5e I have encountered. Most other insta-kill effects have been changed to level-appropriate necrotic damage. If I were designing it, I would have made it do necrotic damage; I wonder how they even calculated its offensive challenge?
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby willpell » Sat Apr 29, 2017 8:24 pm

Dread Delgath wrote:Level draining certainly had its place of fear in older editions. ;) I've seen somewhere (don't recall where) that on a successful "level drain" the maximum number of hit points and spell slots allowable goes down. I don't recall if this is canon or a house rule, but I like it for that old skull fear factor! ;)


This was true in 3E at least. Level drain would make you lose spells of your highest level, while the loss of HP was calculated in some fashion I don't recall, but it certainly did limit what you could heal back to.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Mariutti82 » Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:34 pm

Marco Fossati wrote:I don't think your player was right about poor 5e's design.

This one of effects of bounded accuracy which mantains (or at least it tries) allows low CR monsters to still be dangerous even for high level characters.

In the spirit of it a high level wizard (11) with CON 16 (+3) has 55% to avoid wail's effect while a low level Barbarian (5) with Con 16 (+3) has 70%.

It seems perfectly believable to me.


I totally agree ... the player was just pissed off by being put KO while lower level players resisted.
In 5ed it's totally intended that even low CR monster can pose a threat to all level characters, in the same way
low level character can scratch high CR monsters.
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Sat May 06, 2017 3:28 pm

pawsplay wrote:I think the banshee's wail is the least 5e thing in 5e I have encountered. Most other insta-kill effects have been changed to level-appropriate necrotic damage. If I were designing it, I would have made it do necrotic damage; I wonder how they even calculated its offensive challenge?


I've noticed this, also with poison damage in 5e. IME, ongoing poison damage is no longer a threat when the characters can make a save every round, and "save ends", as the kids in my group say.

I'm tempted to have a house rule stating that necrotic damage resists most forms of healing; no Hit Dice can be spent on healing necrotic wounds, healing potions and spells do minimum healing, and necrotic wounds can only be completely healed by completing a long rest, and IMG a long rest is one week!
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Sat May 06, 2017 3:30 pm

willpell wrote:
Dread Delgath wrote:Level draining certainly had its place of fear in older editions. ;) I've seen somewhere (don't recall where) that on a successful "level drain" the maximum number of hit points and spell slots allowable goes down. I don't recall if this is canon or a house rule, but I like it for that old skull fear factor! ;)


This was true in 3E at least. Level drain would make you lose spells of your highest level, while the loss of HP was calculated in some fashion I don't recall, but it certainly did limit what you could heal back to.


Ah, look at the Wight in the 5e MM; that type of 'level draining' was what I'd seen in the game and was vaguely recalling during my last post. (Still vaguely recalling atm...) :oops:
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Re: 5e Banshee Wail

Postby Dread Delgath » Fri May 19, 2017 5:22 pm

As a final wrap up of my thoughts on the use of Banshee Wail, (wait.... did I already post this?) I am now convinced that the use of the rule as written is right after all, and my player simply overreacted (due to his continuous run of consistently bad die rolls over the last few months) to being reduced to 0 hits.

Also, I am not dismayed on my on-the-spot ruling that instead of being reduced to 0 hits, he is simply knocked unconscious, and upon making a successful saving throw in later rounds, he awakens with a loss of 3d6 hits instead - attributable to the use of a theoretical "Inspiration Point" that we never, ever use.

I have informed my players of this ruling, and I will suggest that from here on out, they seriously consider employing a NPC cleric, or someone roll one up in order to make use of the highly underrated "Turn Undead" ability, which in canon 5e is usable only once per rest.

In my game Turn Undead is a clerical class ability usable every round, but only once per day on a specific target. :mrgreen:
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