Drowning & Asphyxiation

Drowning occurs when a character cannot breathe because their lungs contain liquid. It is a specific, though common, form of asphyxiation.

Drowning generally starts when a character has a movement fumble whilst attempting to swim. The Drowning card represents a character who is coughing or spluttering because they have accidentally breathed in water or are otherwise struggling to catch their breath. A character does not have to be totally submerged in water to drown and is perfectly possible to drown whilst bobbing along the surface. This is how most people drown in the real world.

The dice value of a Drowning card is generally 1d6+0 but may be higher if the character is in rough water.

The Drowning card has the Start-Of-Turn keyword so it attacks the character with its dice value at the beginning of the character's turn. Resisting the attack is fairly easy if the character is on the surface and able to breathe. Using Will Power to fight the panic and stay calm, Toughness to endure the coughing fit or a Swimming card to tread water are all obvious ways of resisting. However if a character is completely submerged and unable to reach the surface there are fewer plausible ways of resisting the attack.

To stop drowning a character must make a pool attack against the Drowning card (see Removing Status and Hazard Effects). Many of the same cards used to resist the drowning attack can be used to remove the card from the pool. Allowing the character to use a pseudo-card is appropriate as most creatures have a reflexive response to drowning.

Removing a Drowning card whilst underwater is pointless as it will return at the end of the character's turn unless they can reach breathable air.

The process of drowning should be conducted in rounds, like combat, because flow is critical. A character will probably want to use at least one card to resist the attack and another card in an attempt to remove the Drowning card. This accounts for an average character's flow for a round and only gives the character a roughly 50/50 chance of resisting and/or removing the hazard card. It also prevents the character from spending flow on movement, making it hard for the character to reach safety.

Time is against the drowning character. Probability dictates that sooner or later they will fail the resistance and take damage. Given enough time, this will happen multiple times and be fatal. The Game Leader should also apply situation bonuses for exhaustion if appropriate.


Asphyxiation occurs when a character cannot breathe because their airways are obstructed (e.g. choking) or there is an absence of breathable air (e.g. in a vacuum). The process is handled exactly like drowning. There is no real difference between being underwater or in a vacuum - in both the character lacks a breathable atmosphere. Which cards are appropriate to use to resist or remove the asphyxiation depends on the circumstances.

Strangling a character, either with bare hands or with a weapon, is a normal combat attack.

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open/mechanics/universal/drowning.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/10 12:33 by tregenza
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