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Stat Death

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if (terse)
desc += "stupidity";
else if (_species_is_undead(race))
desc += "Forgot to exist";
desc += "Forgot to breathe";
Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup source code

A rule where death occurs as a result of a primary stat being reduced to 0. Your extremely out-of-shape Wizard tried out an unidentified -5 ring of strength? His bones and organs are crushed under his own weight. Your profoundly stupid fighter got his Intelligence sapped by a Mind Flayer? He forgets how to breathe. And woe to the hero whose Dexterity falls to 0, who suddenly slips on a banana peel and breaks his neck.

Stat death is used in RPGs to counteract extreme Min-Maxing. Players who fail to invest in their Dump Stat face extreme risk of embarrassing and anti-climactic death.

Has nothing to do with rendering The Grim Reaper subject to the Lord British Postulate.


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    Tabletop Games 
  • In older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, zero Constitution is fatal. Zero in Strength or Dexterity means you're physically helpless and immobile, but you can still use some mental or magic powers. Zero in any mental stat means you're comatose and drooling. (In 4th edition, stat damage was no longer possible; 5th Edition brought it back, though it tends to be very circumstantial. Instead, 5th Edition prefers draining max HP.)
    • Certain monsters do circumvent this, however, by having "non-abilities", i.e. lacking an ability score altogether. Non-living creatures like golems and undead lack a Constitution score, immobile things have no Strength or Dexterity score, and a completely mindless automaton following basic instructions has null Intelligence.
    • Strength drain is normally nonfatal, but if some undead like Shadows bring your strength to 0 they'll instantly kill you and turn you into one of them. Similarly, if a Gray Jester reduces a creature to 0 Charisma then it will remain conscious but become an Empty Shell who obeys the Jester's orders without question.
  • In GURPS, you die if aging causes any stat to drop to zero. If some other force drops a stat to zero you're rendered all but helpless — details may vary. Mindless machines and such that are statted up as characters for some reason (e.g. robot bodies with no AI currently installed) may have IQ 0 but not die of it.
  • In Mutants & Masterminds, Constitution drain won't kill you outright unless you would have been drained below zero, but landing at 0 will still put you in a very bad way.
  • Variants in Magic: The Gathering:
    • If a creature has 0 Toughness, then it dies. No, you can't regenerate it; no, being Indestructible won't save it. Creatures simply can't exist if they don't have positive toughness. The same clearly doesn't apply to Power.
    • A player loses the game if they need to draw a card and there are none left in their Library. As the Library represents the player's mind, with many cards that disturb it implying cracks in sanity, this can be thought of as the player finally succumbing to madness from intelligence draining. There is one card, Laboratory Maniac, that turns this into an Instant-Win Condition; presumably it turns this onset of complete madness into something much more dangerous.
  • This is the way damage works in Traveller, where the only damage is to your physical statistics — if two of your physical stats hit zero, you're helpless; when the third joins them, you die.
  • In the New World of Darkness:
    • In most game lines, having your Stamina brought to zero causes you to swiftly weaken and die of illness in days.
    • Each Splat has a combined Sanity/Karma Meter (Morality for mortals, Humanity for vampires and Prometheans, etc.) rated from one to ten. If it hits zero, the character suffers Death of Personality and becomes an unplayable monster, either literally (like vampires losing themselves to the Beast) or figuratively (like a Hunter becoming a Slasher).
    • Its second edition has a Sanity Meter instead for mortal humans, Integrity…which cannot actually hit zero except under very special circumstances (read here; there's precisely one monster that can do that, and it does so explicitly as part of eating its target). Rather, an Integrity 1 character automatically gains a Condition representing his or her fraying sanity, but it's always possible to buy your way back up.
  • In RuneQuest, losing all your hit points isn't the only way to die. If you lose all your Pow, it means your soul is gone and your body dies eventually. Lose all your Intelligence and you go into a coma and will die in days if not cured, etc.
  • Warhammer:
    • Warhammer 40,000 has a rule that states: "If a model's Strength or Toughness are ever reduced to zero, it is immediately removed as a casualty." Though in practice this is a very, very rare occurrence. Other stats (apart from Wounds, obviously) can be reduced to zero without penalty, though that usually means the model will be very easy to kill if attacked.
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Creatures generally die if their Toughness score is reduced to zero, such as from disease.
  • Exalted: An interesting case where there is a long-winded explanation about this sort of demise, and nothing to do with your Stamina having just been reduced to 0. All sapient beings possess five graces: Heart (Willpower), Sword (Valor), Ring (Temperance), Cup (Compassion), and Staff (Conviction). If your Heart grace is reduced to 0, you simply cease to be something that matters. You're even less transient than the dream of a creature made of dreams. This is not something that Creation-born have to worry about, but they can still have this if all their other graces are reduced to 0, which is usually the result of being soul-ravished by the aforementioned dream-creature.
  • Can generally happen in games where aging is represented by the periodical lowering of attributes. At least one edition of RuneQuest even spells out that yes, it's possible to "ugly away" by Charisma dropping to 0 from old age.
  • Inverted in Dark Heresy and its spinoffs. Two of your character's stats are Insanity and Corruption; if either of them ever reaches 100, the very least that will happen is the character is unfit for use by a player. 100 Corruption in particular usually means becoming either a lesser daemon or a Chaos Spawn.
  • Ars Magica: Inverted with the rules for aging. Middle-aged characters start to make annual dice rolls to avoid life-threatening maladies; they also get a new "Decrepitude" ability score that increases over time. At Decrepitude 5, the character is on their deathbed and beyond the reach of mortal magic to save.
  • In Betrayal at House on the Hill, if any of a character's four stats (Speed, Might, Knowledge, and Sanity) are reduced to the skull at the bottom of its counter and the haunt is in effect, that character dies.

    Video Games 
  • In Arx Fatalis, max health is calculated by formula "Max health = 2*Constitution*(Your Level +1)", meaning that simply leveling up gives you enough health, even if your Constitution is at absolute minimum of 6, and making CN a Dump Stat. However, Hilarity Ensues if a lich randomly decides to cast a Curse spell, decreasing all your stats by 10 — which, according to the above formula, means instant death for anyone with CN below 11.
  • Given that BioWare's AD&D games follow the source material quite strictly in most cases, this is to be expected in games like Baldur's Gate, Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Icewind Dale, and others. However, your LEVEL dropping to 0 is also fatal, seeing your character simply blow apart as they're literally destroyed from the loss, and it's common for a number of powerful undead to drain a couple levels for hitting you. It's such a persistent deadly problem that it requires the sheer divine might of either Lesser Restoration or Restoration, a mid-level or high-level spell respectively that utterly trashes your cleric until they can rest again just to even prevent your character from being completely destroyed.
  • Characters in Darklands are incapacitated when their endurance is reduced to 0 and killed if their strength is reduced to 0.
  • Dungeon Crawl which, as shown above, had specific cases in the source code for KILLED_BY_STUPIDITY, KILLED_BY_WEAKNESS, and KILLED_BY_CLUMSINESS. 0.13 and later versions don't kill you anymore after your stats dropped to zero, but still give you debilitating penalties. So, you are probably going to get eaten by the first enemy that comes by…
  • Zigzagged in the first two Fallout games: under normal circumstances, stat loss cannot drop any primary stat below 1 (or 2 if the stat in question is boosted by a trait). However, if the stat loss is caused by radiation sickness and it would drop any primary stat to 0 or negative, the player character keels over instantly, even if they haven't actually reached deadly dose yet.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, some enemies — thankfully not the player characters — are subject to this. Certain creatures (like Ultima Weapon and the monsters in the Cultist's Tower) are made of magic, and thus will die instantly if their MP is exhausted. This is why the game gives you the Rasp spell.
  • In Liberal Crime Squad, aging lowers base health, and once it drops to 0, the character dies.
  • Mewgenics: Disorders in general can drop your cats' stats, but only diseases like rabies, which lowers Intelligence and raises Strength after each combat, can make them actually reach zero. If a cat actually gets to zero Intelligence, it will no longer generate Mana every turn and will no longer be controlled by you- instead trying to shred whoever's nearest to bits, be they friend or foe. Worse, this if it actually manages to down a team member in combat then rabies will spread to them, starting a chain reaction that can end with a party that autoplays itself incredibly poorly. Rabies also replaces their basic attack with a melee claw swipe or bite.
  • In NetHack, if your intelligence drops to zero, you die of "brainlessness", and not even an Amulet of Life Saving will save you, you are Deader than Dead. This mostly happens because of Mind Flayers, which drain your intelligence by eating your brains.
  • One of the lesser-appreciated mechanics of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is the fact that running out of MP incapacitates your characters just as well as running out of HP: however, enemies are also subject to this, you gain enough MP that this isn't a huge issue against most common enemies, and a good number of special attacks also cost HP to use. Using MP-damaging attacks is actually a highly effective means of taking down some otherwise powerful enemies quickly.
  • The old DOS text-based game Wizards Castle has three stats for the player: Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity. Player death occurs whenever any of these fall to zero, though the strength stat gets the lion's share of fluxuations during gameplay. Intelligence can be reduced using the Fireball Spell, but won't lower it below 14, at which point no spell can be cast. The only other subtractors are the magic pools, three per level. Pools can add to or subtract from (randomly) any one stat by one point at a time. Notably, the player's purse of gold coins can fall to zero, but this isn't damaging, just inconvenient.
  • In World of Horror, any stat hitting 0 will automatically set the DOOM meter to 100%, which means the Old God of the playthrough successfully arrives and the city is screwed; implicitly, having a 0 in a stat renders one unable to do basic functions necessary for life, let alone defeating the Old Gods. Most of the time, you'd have to be REALLY trying to do this, but it can happen if you're playing, say, Toshiaki Wakamatsu on Harbinger of Doom (which reduces starting stats) and subsequently get Frostbite. It can also happen if facing Zhectast, the Horror from the Stars, an Old God who reduces all of your stats by 1 whenever the Doom track passes a multiple of 20%

  • In Luck Stealer, getting your luck drained to zero means you will soon die from a freak accident. The main character uses this ability to perform assassinations, as there will be little evidence of it. Inversely, he can boost his own luck using the stolen one to survive an unfavorable situation.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, a person's "Power of Existence" is roughly their Charisma stat - a flamelike energy corresponding to their self-esteem, wealth and personal influence. As a person's PoE dwindles, they gradually become an Empty Shell, then Invisible to Normals, then vanish from existence and fade from memories and photographs. As this event causes strain on the fabric of reality, one of the duties of the Flame Hazes (humans waging a secret war against PoE-eating monsters) is to leave behind "Torches" of PoE in the image of devoured humans, acting as an exact recreation of that person who will slowly flicker out over time. Yuuji, the viewpoint character, discovers that he is a Torch and doomed to experience this fate, but manages to avoid it due to having a powerful MacGuffin stashed inside him which replenishes the holder's energy each night at midnight.