[RPG] Can a character survive a fall from 2 miles up

dnd-5efalling

By the rules as I understand them, the maximum damage for falling is 20d6. Does this mean that characters with enough hit points (above 70 on average) can simply leap off airships or cliffs (no matter how high), impact the ground, and simply walk away?

Even if the damage is enough to knock a character unconscious, it seems as if it is unlikely to cause "instant death" if the character has more than 35 hit points or so. Which means someone could come along and simply do a quick heal spell or first aid to get them back on their feet.

Are there any other consequences to falling a great distance (like 2 miles)?

Best Answer

Are there any other consequences to falling a great distance (like 2 miles)?

No

Why not?

Because there aren't and there never have been - the 20d6 limit has existed since at least AD&D and is supposed to represent terminal velocity.

Much ink was spilled in Dragon Magazine arguing the merits of the system. In my youth as a student physicist and engineer I was keenly interested in such issues: now I agree with the Grognardia blogger:

The very idea of having to understand acceleration, terminal velocity, and the like to arrive at a "realistic" representation of falling damage is bizarre

The hit point system in D&D has nothing to do with the way real people get and recover from injury - the rules explicitly tell you this (PHB p.196)

Hit points represent a combination of physical and mental durability, the will to live, and luck.

A guy with lots of hit points can survive a really high fall because he is physically and mentally tough, has a strong will to survive but mostly because he was a lucky bastard.

If you insist ...

However, for those who have not yet reached the enlightened uplands of "Who cares, let's just play the game" - terminal velocity for a human is "around 53 m/s (195 km/h or 122 mph)." To simulate this you can stand on a car on a German Autobahn in the fast lane while it runs into a bridge.

"A typical skydiver in a spread-eagle position will reach terminal velocity after about 12 seconds, during which time he will have fallen around 450 m (1,500 ft)." That's well less than a third of a mile - if you are higher than that it makes no difference. D&D has decided that you reach terminal velocity after 200 feet so they are off by an order of magnitude.

There have been people who have survived such falls, however, they usually have catastrophic injuries. Indeed, my wife works in spinal cord injuries and parachute accidents are in the top 10 causes of para/tetraplegia - usually these impact at less than maximum terminal velocity as survivors generally have a partial 'chute rather than a total 'chute failure.