5E The Tales from the Yawning Portal Classic-Dungeon-Crawl Variant Rules Package
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  1. #1

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    Join Date
    Sep 2016

    The Tales from the Yawning Portal Classic-Dungeon-Crawl Variant Rules Package

    I'm putting together a list of rules (a "package") that best suits the classic dungeon-crawling environments of Tales from the Yawning Portal. The idea is to emulate AD&D and 3rd Edition as closely as possible within the official rules of 5E, without sacrificing too much simplicity.

    This is what I've come up with so far:

    • Roll for Ability Scores (4d6, drop the lowest) (PHB, p.12). People often forget that this is the default rule. For hard-mode, go with 3d6, or don't allow the scores to be re-arranged.
    • Variant: More Difficult Identification (DMG, p. 136). You need to cast identify to discover a magic item's properties. Alternatively, players can start using an item and hope it isn't cursed. This is how it worked in AD&D.
    • Variant: Encumbrance (PHB, p. 176). Alternatively, just use the carrying capacity default rule if you aren't already doing so. This is easily done in an online game (where the virtual tabletop does all the math for you), but it might be too fiddly for real-life tables.
    • Variant: Training to Gain Levels (DMG, p. 131). I'm not so much interested in the cost or finding a suitable trainer (those requirements can be removed, as far as I'm concerned), but characters should at least have to visit a town and rest before gaining a level.
    • Variant: Wands Don't Recharge (DMG, p. 141). This is how it worked in previous editions.
    • Use and Keep Track of Rations. Just a reminder for those who, like me, run roleplay-heavy campaigns and often forget that rations exist.
    • Use Experience Points (instead of milestone leveling). Hopefully WotC did their math correctly and there's actually enough XP to level up in the adventures (I think some of them originally used the XP-for-gold rule, which doesn't exist anymore). If there's not enough XP, then this rule needs to be reconsidered. Also, don't forget that you get XP for defeating enemies. That doesn't necessitate killing them.

    I'm also considering a house-rule for resting that does away with short rests and spending hit dice. I haven't decided on the final wording yet, but I expect it will be similar to 3rd Edition's rules for natural healing:
    • "With a full night's rest (8 hours of sleep or more), you recover 1 hit point per character level. For example, a 5th-level fighter recovers 5 hit points with a night of rest. Any significant interruption (such as combat or the like) during your rest prevents you from healing that night" (PHB 3.5E, p. 146).

    Or 2nd Edition:
    • "Characters heal naturally at a rate of 1 hit point per day of rest. Rest is defined as low activity -- nothing more strenuous than riding a horse or traveling from one place to another. Fighting, running in fear, lifting a heavy boulder, or any other physical activity prevents resting, since it strains old wounds and may even reopen them."

    This is very similar to the Slow Natural Recovery variant found on p. 267 of the DMG. If one wants to stay within the realm of official rules, then using that variant would be the way to go.

    A few other possibilities to consider are the flanking and facing rules found in the DMG. Personally, I find these too fiddly for my tastes, but they have their basis in AD&D.
    Last edited by Prakriti; Thursday, 30th March, 2017 at 07:13 PM.
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  2. #2
    Good stuff!

    It's also worth thinking about dropping the "Death save" idea, and just having a character die when they hit zero- I'm doing that when I run Tomb of Horrors.

    I also feel like one of the big differences between 5e and the older editions is how quickly characters blow through the earlier level, but if we're just playing through this book, there's probably no way to work around that without throwing off the general challenge level.
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  3. #3

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    I'm also considering a house-rule for resting that does away with short rests and spending hit dice.
    This requires more retooling than I first thought. If short rests are removed, then certain class abilities become useless (Arcane Recovery and Natural Recovery, for example). There are also a few things that interact with spending hit dice (the Durable feat, potions of vitality). So maybe the Slow Natural Recovery variant is the way to go.

  4. #4
    I thought AD&D were very different in style and substance. So are they should suitable for the same mods?

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  5. #5
    My current list:

    Ability scores:
    Roll 3d6 in order. Once finished you may swap a single ability score of your choice with a 14. Then apply racial modifiers.

    Small Races:
    Small races get -2 Strength. They also get +1 to AC and Dex saves.

    • Sorcerers and Wizards get 3 (d4) HP per level. Warlocks and Bards get 4 (d6). College of Valour and Blade Pact Warlocks get +3 HP on taking the pact/ entering the college and gain +1 per level thereafter.
    • Any ability useable 1/day is usable 1/ long rest.
    • Berserker Barbarians ignore exhaustion while in Frenzy.
    • Barbarian danger sense cannot be used in heavy armour. Barbarians get a fighting style at 2nd level chosen from Great weapon fighting, Two weapon fighting, Duelling and Protection.
    • Champion remarkable athlete now reads: Starting at 7th level, you can add half your proficiency bonus (round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make.
    • Delete Magical Secrets from the Bard (Lore Bards retain it as usual as part of their college). Instead, Bards gain improved bardic inspiration at 10th, 14th and 18th level. At 10th level this lets them grant a use of bardic inspiration to two creatures as a single bonus action. This increases to three creatures at 14th level and 4 creatures at 18th level. This only uses one use of bardic inspiration, but the bardic inspiration die type reduces by one step.
    • Moon Druids are limited to CR forms at 2nd level. At 4th level this increases to CR 1. At 6th level onwards it progresses normally. Replace the Druid Capstone with: Archdruid You gain resistance to fire, lightning, thunder, cold and acid damage. You may cast plane shift 1/ long rest (elemental planes only).
    • On a successful save vs stunning strike, the creature is immune to your stunning strike for 24 hours. Ki dodge may be declared as a reaction to being attacked. Increase monk martial arts damage dice by one step (1d10 becomes 2d6). A 20th level Monk deals 2d8 damage with unarmed strikes.
    • Paladins can only use Divine Smite a number of times per short rest equal to their Charisma modifier (minimum once) and no more than 1/ turn. Each use expends a spell slot as usual. Evil paladins (or neutral paladins of evil deities) deal necrotic damage with their smites.
    • Paladin auras do not stack with other auras; take the best one.
    • Unearthed arcana ranger is the ranger is in play. Delete Primeval awareness. Instead Rangers get expertise in 2 skills of the rangers choice from the ranger skill list at 3rd level. Change natural explorer to no longer grant advantage on the first round of combat or boost initiative; it now grants +5 movement. Rangers score a critical hit on favoured enemies on a 19-20. It takes a week to find a replacement animal companion.
    • Sneak attack is only usable 1/ turn, on your turn.
    • A creature cannot be affected by repelling blast more than once per casting. Warlocks can use Arcanum slots to upcast pact magic spells of equivalent level. Blade pact warlocks may turn sentient weapons and artifacts into their pact weapons, but cannot shunt them to a demi-plane. Reduce the Warlock level prerequisite for the life-drinker invocation to 11th level. Add the following line to the Life drinker invocation: In addition, when you reduce a hostile creatures hit points to 0 with your pact weapon, you may choose to instantly gain the benefits of the haste spell. Your weapon maintains concentration on this spell for you. Once you use this ability you cannot use it again until you finish a short rest.
    • Add the following invocation: Improved Familiar: Pact of the Chain, 5th level. Your familiar grants you magic resistance while within 10 of you. You may add your proficiency bonus to its AC, attack rolls, damage rolls, as well as to ay saving throws and skills it is proficient in, and to the DCs of any special ability it may have. Finally its hit point maximum now equals its normal HP maximum or 4 times your Warlock level, whichever is higher.
    • The archery F/S allows you to fire a shot as a reaction to an enemy creature you can see moving or taking an action before your turn on the 1st round of any combat as long as you have a loaded ranged weapon in your hands. This shot may occur before the triggering action is resolved.

    • Change the text of Sharpshooter to say When you take the attack action on your turn you may take a penalty of -5 to hit on one of your attacks. If this attack hits it deals an extra +10 to damage. In addition you may treat cover as half cover and you ignore half cover. You also ignore disadvantage for shooting at long range.
    • The -5/+10 of the Great Weapon Master feat is usable 1/ attack action.
    • The lucky feat is usable 1/ short rest.
    • You must be wielding the weapon two handed to gain the benefits of Polearm master.
    • The Martial adept feat grants 2 superiority die.
    • New Feat: Skill mastery: Select one skill you are proficient in. You gain +1 to the ability score linked to that skill (to a maximum of 20) and your proficiency bonus in that skill is doubled.
    • New Feat: Weapon specialisation: Prerequisite Fighter 6th. Choose one type of weapon. You gain +1 to hit and +2 to damage with weapons of this type. You have advantage on checks and saves made to resist being disarmed of your weapon. When you score a critical hit with this weapon you can force your opponent to make a Con save (DC 8 + your proficiency modifier + your Str or Dex) or be staggered by the blow, suffering disadvantage to all attacks made until the end of that creatures next turn. You can spend a month of downtime retraining the weapon you selected when you chose this feat to a different weapon. During this month, you lose the benefit of this feat.
    • New Feat: Brutal thug. Prerequisite sneak attack 1d6+, Str 13+ You may sneak attack with any weapons, not just finesse and ranged weapons. You may substitute Strength for Charisma when making intimidate checks. Increase your Strength score by +1 to a maximum of 20.
    • New feat: Graceful duellist: Dex 13+. You treat any melee weapon you wield as if it had the finesse quality as long as it does not also have the heavy quality. You get +1 to your Dex score to a maximum value of 20.
    • New feat: Strong grip: Prerequisite Str 13+. When using a versatile weapon one handed, you may use the higher versatile damage dice. You get +1 to your Strength to a maximum score of 20.

    Setting Rules/ Variant Rules
    • Death: You die at -10 HP or of your Max HP (whichever is higher). When reduced to 0 HP or lower you must attempt a DC 15 Con check at the end of each of your turns. On a success your HP remain the same. On three successes, you stabilise. On a failure, you lose 1 HP.
    • The grappled, restrained and poisoned condition require a spellcaster to succeed in a DC (10+spell level) Con save or lose the spell (and waste the action) as does having 3 or more levels of exhaustion. This also applies when casting spells with verbal components and you have the deafened condition.
    • The blinded condition imposes disadvantage on attack rolls. Unlike normal disadvantage, this cannot be negated with advantage. A blinded creature must move at half pace or fall prone unless they succeed in a DC 10 Dexterity save.
    • If a spell requires a costly material component, that component is expended when cast.
    • Increase the material component cost for the Revivify, Raise dead, Simulacrum, Clone, Resurrection and Reincarnation spells by a factor of 10.
    • A simulacrum has half the hit points and half the spell slots of the original, rounded down.
    • Magic items can only be properly identified with the identify spell.
    • A natural 20 always succeeds a save. A natural 1 always fails.
    • A creature with legendary resistance can expend a use of that resistance to automatically pass an opposed athletics skill check to shove, disarm or grapple it.
    • A short rest is 8 hours. A long rest is a full week of light activity. A character regains all spent Hit Dice at the end of a long rest. With a short rest, a character regains Hit Dice equal to his or her level divided by four (minimum of one die).
    • As an action, a character can use a healing surge and spend up to half his or her level in Hit Dice (minimum of one). For each Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character's Constitution modifier. The character regains hit points equal to the total. The player can decide to spend an additional Hit Die after each roll. A character who uses a healing surge can't do so again until he or she finishes a short or long rest.
    • Bonus spell slots created with sorcery points expire on a short rest.
    • You recover 1 level of exhaustion on a short rest.
    • When casting a spell of 5th level or lower, you may choose not to expend the slot and instead suffer a level of exhaustion that takes effect immediately after the spell is cast. You cannot use this option if you have 3 or more levels of exhaustion, or you are otherwise immune to exhaustion.
    • Magical shields require attunement.
    • Find familiar: If your familiar dies, you gain a level of exhaustion.
    • Variant encumbrance rule is in use

  6. #6
    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)

    TerraDave's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    A Nation's Capitol
    I know you are focused on the rules, but more generally...

    You want to introduce more risk and randomness. You also want to encourage strategic play and challenge the player (vs the character), so you are on the right track.

    So you do want to think about rest and healing. One issue in dungeons like these is where they can rest safely. Maybe no where, or maybe only certain areas. Consider penalizing or not allowing resting in any random old place (note that slow healing does get at this from another angle). As you suggest, it is also a good idea to limit leveling to more civilized areas.

    Some of the adventures down play random encounters. Always have random encounters. Including some harsh one. And yes, make sure to have cursed items.

    One rules change: make crits harsher, maybe with wound tables or that sort of thing. Not strictly AD&D but very old school.

    As per the guidance in the DMG (and UA article) make the PCs really play out exploration and trap finding. Don't give away too much just with one check (or worse from passive perception).

    On the other hand, once you have ramped up the danger level, you can also reward planning and more creative play. So you can allow for henchmen, potential allies in these dungeons, and other ways they can use all that treasure they would find as part of preparing for the next excursion.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by TerraDave View Post

    As per the guidance in the DMG (and UA article) make the PCs really play out exploration and trap finding. Don't give away too much just with one check (or worse from passive perception). .
    On this one, never ever ever have a player tell you what skill they are going to use. They narrate the action and then you choose the skill and ability score and set the DC if necessary.

    None of this 'I roll perception' shenanigans. I want to hear: 'I walk up to the door and press my ear to it listening intently for 30 seconds then I peer through the keyhole and see if I can see anything on the other side'.
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  8. #8

    The Great Druid (Lvl 17)

    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Paladin auras not stacking is now an official rule. A rule similar to the stackibg magic rule was retroactively added to the DMG in the second errata.

    I do like some of your rules. I thought about adding some of them myself, but until now it worked well without them.
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  9. #9

    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)

    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    I made my players roll 3d6 for Ability Scores <E> in our Yawning Portal game.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Prakriti View Post
    I'm putting together a list of rules (a "package") that best suits the classic dungeon-crawling environments of Tales from the Yawning Portal. The idea is to emulate AD&D and 3rd Edition as closely as possible within the official rules of 5E, without sacrificing too much simplicity.

    This is what I've come up with so far:
    I'm afraid I wouldn't be surprised in the least if it turns out things that needed careful conversion wasn't.

    Things like enough xp. Milestones isn't just easier on the writer, it can actually work better, so no wonder if the... meticulousness required for XP is simply lost.

    Even the levelling rate at levels 1-3. Take Sunless Citadel: Unless the volume of actual adventure has changed, what previously brought you to level 2 or 3, should now whizz you right past well into level four.

    You can't just say "you need half as much xp to reach level 3" without that having consequences.

    (They really should have addressed these points right into the module, or at least as an Unearthed Arcana free download, say.)

    D&D has moved on sufficiently that just plugging in old-school dungeons requires active support from the write/design-team. I hope it's in there, but when I see stuff such as unupdated trap damage etc I can't muster any hope.

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