Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why I Hate Energy Drain

Over at B/X Blackrazor there is post about how the author loves Energy Drain. Energy Drain is one of the little banes of my existence as both GM and Player.  I don't agree with the rules for it at all.  

It's simply not conceptual.  Why should I lose my skills because my life force is gone?  Simple fact: Energy Drain is stealing your life force.  It is not retrograde amnesia affecting procedural memory.  

It's also a pain in the patootie.  If you reduce someone's level, it could affect attack rolls, saving throws, thieving skills, class abilities, and spells.  That's a lot of bookkeeping! 

I finally figured an easy way to do Energy Drain (even easier than losing a level) and have it be true to what I feel Energy Drain actually is.

Make it a stackable -1 modifier to every roll.  

Even easier than losing levels, and more effective.  Someone drained 3 times would be at Energy Drain -3.  You may only be drained a number of times equal to your level.  If the penalty from Drain is equal to or greater than your Level, you are dead.  Energy Drain can only be "cured" by a Restoration spell or potion.  Since those spells are not only high level in my world but it is necessary to find them in ruins, tombs, etc, it would take awhile to get that life force back.   

Players whose characters were drained would write it on their character sheets, along with the penalty (e.g., "Energy Drain -2").  In the case of percentiles (frex for thief skills), it would be -5%. 

Another option is to have the victim of an Energy Drain make a CON Check (8 or less + CON Modifier) 24 hours after being drained.  A successful Check means a -1 penalty is gone.  Other penalties still remain, so if you were drained to -3, and you healed one, you'd still have a -2 to deal with.  Only one Check can be made each day (or if you want to be cruel, each week).

Obviously, YMMV.  I'm messing with a rule that's been in place for nearly 30 years.  But still, the rule has bothered me for about that long...         


  1. I've never been a fan of energy drain either for the same reasons you give. My solution to the problem was to make any hit points suffered by an energy drain attack where gone and could not be healed. A Restore spell or something similar needed to be done. That way it remained a devastating attack without all the bookkeeping.

  2. Good idea. Definitely a scary thing to be down hit points and not be able to do a thing about it!

  3. That's a super easy fix to the level drain conundrum! My problem with Energy Drain, which I like, is that it's inexplicable in game terms, but this would be easier to throw at players.