The Cliffside Campaign World

20 years ago I ran a one shot game I refer to as "Cliffside".

Everything in the world (that the PCs knew of) lived on the Great Cliff, which spanned from the ocean below and disappeared into the sky. If they travelled too high up they ran into lots of monsters and air that was difficult to breath.

Every character got Mountaineering and Rope Use as bonus skills. This was to help them to climb and stay alive.

People and monsters lived in caves and ledges on the side of the Great Cliff. Whole villages of humanoids would live either inside the caves or on large ledges.

Trees and plants grew out of the side of the cliff, and birds were the most common animals. Monkeys, mountain goats, squirrels and similar fauna who were adept at climbing were also common.

During the first game session of what I was hoping to be a longer game, the party wiped. Not because of the monsters I threw at them - which were easy. It was because players didn't take the whole falling damage thing seriously. They started jumping from place to place, taking falling damage so that they wouldn't have to climb down via a rope.

So while I had envisaged swashbuckling style combat of people fighting while in swinging ropes, what happened was...

"I have 6 hp left. I am going to jump down 30 feet so I can fight that kobold."

And splat.

And it happened multiple times. Seriously. They just didn't take falling damage seriously.

They also had missile weapons and rocks they could have dropped on the kobolds. But nope, jumping down and taking 3d6 damage seemed like a good idea to them.

I still think Cliffside is a great idea for a campaign. But you need to give the players a serious talking to about the real risks of falling damage.

At higher levels they would get access to Levitate, Fly and eventually flying mounts, but at low levels they need to be using ropes and taking falling damage seriously.

I was going to add gliders at some point when the party encountered a Gnome village. There were also mechanics for sliding down ropes faster using either a device or bare hands (if using bare hands they would take 1 hp damage from rope burn).

So they had many options but chose not to use them.


PS. There is also a number of arguments for scaling falling damage. I haven't really had that problem however as even higher level games, my games are balanced very well and they still take a lot of damage under the normal rules if they don't take falling damage seriously.

Maybe in some games (the kind where the average PC has a really high Con and lots of hit points) this might be a problem, but in my games PCs get killed by falling sometimes... And it is their own fault for not using a rope, backup safety rope, taking the stairs, etc.

Haven't had any party wipes since that incident 20 years ago, but I have come close. (Ask my Friday Night players about their trip to the Ice Nymph's Mountain and they will tell you how several PCs died, and the last man standing had to drag their bodies back from the mountain... Slippery + Falling Damage + Monsters on Higher Ground = Near Party Wipe.)

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