MM 3 Lethal Damage Rules

Return to Mutants and Masterminds

In some campaigns, it makes sense for the heroes and villains to be faced with a constant choice: Do I hold back in the name of saving lives, or do I give in to the expedient and take the killing shot? In such a gritty game, there are no truly nonlethal Damage attacks; Damage always has the potential to maim or kill.

For such a game, two forms of damage exist:

  • Standard Damage: While some people call this "nonlethal damage," it would more accurately be called "less-than-lethal." The attacker is willing and able to pull their punch, strike non-vital areas, and so on, making it unlikely (but not impossible) for the attack to kill the victim.
  • Lethal Damage: This attack is meant to kill. It goes for the weak spots, cuts deep into the body, and so on. Many bad guys will automatically choose to inflict lethal damage, because it gives them huge advantages -- read on.

Standard damage uses the existing MM3 rules, except as noted on the table below (basically, Dying and Dead become possible, though unlikely, options).

Lethal damage has a few significant changes:

  • The Toughness DC to resist is at an extra +2 -- basically, a free +2 Damage! Tempting, isn't it?
  • It cannot cause knockback (if using MM3 Knockdown and Knockback rules).
  • The potential effects are much worse; see the table below.
  • It takes much longer to heal! Use the existing rules, reading "rounds" as "minutes" and reading "minutes" as "hours." This applies to the effects of Regeneration as well, unless Regeneration has the "Hardcore" extra (+1 cost/rank).

Each time you make a Damage attack, decide if you're inflicting standard or lethal damage (unless it has the Quirk "Can't Be Lethal" or "Must Be Lethal").

In the following table, "Bruise" is shorthand for taking a cumulative -1 penalty to resist further Damage.

Degree of FailureStandard Damage
DC = Rank + 15
Lethal Damage
DC = Rank + 17
One Degree
(-1 to -4)
-1 Bruise-1 Bruise
Two Degrees
(-5 to -9)
-1 Bruise and either Dazed until the end of next turn or knocked Prone-1 Bruise and either Dazed until the end of next turn or knocked Prone
Three Degrees
(-10 to -14)
-1 Bruise and Staggered -- or one shift down if already Staggered or worse-1 Bruise and Disabled and Staggered -- or one shift down if already Staggered or worse
Four Degrees
(-15 to -19)
Incapacitated -- or two shifts down if already Staggered or worseDying -- or Dead if already Staggered or worse
Five Degrees
(-20 to -24)
Six+ Degrees
(-25 or worse)

Note that the above isn't as harsh as it looks for standard damage. Even a Toughness 0 bystander has a 50% chance of surviving a Damage 20 "less than lethal" attack. But once someone is Staggered, or if a lethal attack is made, death becomes a serious risk.

Lethal Afflictions

With GM permission, an Affliction can take one of two new Extras: "Can Be Lethal" (flat +1) or "Always Lethal" (+0). In general, the Affliction should be Cumulative and it must be able to cause Incapacitation (or a similar third-tier condition, such as a near-death Transformed).

A lethal use of Affliction gets +2 to its normal DC (so, Rank + 12), its third-level effect becomes Dying, and failure by four or more degrees makes the target Dead.

Return to Mutants and Masterminds