The current major quest in my campaign centers around regaining lost limbs. The party is quite invested in the pursuit, which makes sense given that 3 of the 7 PCs are missing an appendage. How did this come about? Well, it’s this critical system I’m using. The gist is that when a PC should normally die (0 hp), I instead give him a critical effect which is a set of die rolls on two tables, one for location and one for severity. Lest you think I’m being soft, this only belays death for a moment, as anyone suffering from a critical that gets hit for more damage is immediately killed, and some of results on the critical chart also end in death anyway. The severity boils down to three possibilities: broken, maimed, or severed. Originally this was a d6 roll, but I’ve since changed it to a d8, reducing the likelihood of severed down to 1-in-8.
The thing is, severed is the only really lasting result. Broken bones will heal in time, as will maiming (a result that requires some interpretation based on location) though the latter may leave scars. Waiting weeks for these to heal was becoming a logistical pain in early testing, so I ruled that a Cure Light Wounds spell could be used to completely heal a break or maiming instead of healing hit points of damage (riffing off the idea that it could already cure paralysis according to the ghoul entry). Anyway, this has worked pretty well and adds an interesting dimension to the lowly cure light wounds spell. However it does not restore lost limbs, which means over time the party has accumulated a fair number of lost limbs, and they’ve been quite intent on finding a cure for it. There’s no spell in the game that really applies to this, so I’ve invented a rather interesting adventure that involves a certain mage with a crazy idea about building parts of golems and fusing them to people.
That said, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve gone too far with this system. Having all these characters running (or limping) around with missing limbs skews the visual of the party just a bit from what feels like a traditional D&D game to me. It seems inevitable that with this system no high level party could possibly exist without a fair number of prosthetics. Which I grant you is actually kind of cool (look what it did for pirates), but still is also just a little off from what my inner 12-year-old wants in his D&D games. Finally, one can’t help but wonder why a spell exists on the standard cleric spell list for bringing the dead back to life but they can’t reattach a missing digit.
One thought I’ve had is to latch onto cure serious wounds as I have cure light wounds. In B/X it’s the only other cure spell, and it’s conveniently 4th level, one level lower than raise dead. I’m thinking something like it can be used to re-attach a severed limb if cast within a few hours (much as raise dead is time limited in days since death), and obviously the limb must be available for reattachment. It’s got a nice symmetry with the cure light use, and while it doesn’t completely eliminate the potential for limb loss it does at least allow for higher level parties who actually have all their limbs.
I think I’ll let that one simmer for a while. Even if I do eventually adopt it, I don’t want to do anything to undermine the excitement of the current party’s quest. Perhaps once that’s resolved I can re-evaluate if this is a ruling I’d like to introduce.