Recently translated from the ancient manuscripts discovered in a cave deep in the coast where the Wizards have made their dwelling:
Though the sages have decreed that a falling character will take no more than 20d6 damage from falling, we have determined that this is not the case. Their postulation is that falling 200 feet is exactly the same as falling 2,000 feet. Experience will teach anyone (strong enough to survive a 200 foot fall) that 2,000 feet is much more painful.
These are our calculations:
Given that the terminal velocity of a spread-eagled falling body is roughly 120 miles per hour (56 m/s), we determined how long and what distance is required to achieve this terminal velocity. Acceleration due to gravity being (-)9.8m/s/s this is relatively simple to figure.
Time Increment: Velocity: Distance Traveled:
Second 1 9.8 m/s 9.8m / 32 ft
Second 2 19.6 m/s 29.4m / 96 ft
Second 3 29.4 m/s 58.8m / 193 ft
Second 4 39.2 m/s 117.6m / 386 ft
Second 5 49.0 m/s 166.6m / 546 ft
Second 6 58.8 m/s 225.4m / 740 ft
From this handy chart, we see that it takes approximately 6 seconds to achieve terminal velocity, and it takes 740 ft of free fall to get to this speed. Change in speed being the primary cause of injury in these cases, once terminal velocity has been reached, no more sudden change in speed is possible. Thus, after falling 740 feet no faster speed is reasonably possible. Thus, with a damage indicator of 1d6 per 10 feet fallen, we arrive at the new max falling damage of 74d6.
Admittedly, this is all academic, and most (NP)Characters will in fact die from a fall of 30 feet. However, heroic characters could very conceivably make the decision to jump off a cliff because “Eh, it’s just 5,000 feet, max of 120 damage, I’ll be fine.” Now, with a more realistic max damage of 444 points, that decision is much tougher to make logically.
Note: I recently played a game featuring airship to airship combat, which brought about this line of thought. Not that anyone actually fell off (due to a bag of holding inside of a bag of holding incident), it was a distinct possibility.