D&D 5E 5E Without Magic (PCs)


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Oofta

Legend
Changing features would be the homebrew classes part, and they do explicitly call Ki magic either way.

I've seen Pugilists in play, they seemed pretty good to replace the Monk. No idea what book they were from though.
They don't want elemental monks, same way I assume an eldritch knight wouldn't fit. Whether a monk that can heal (Way of Mercy subclass) is more borderline.

Kind of depends on what theme people are going for, there's a lot of variation. If you want a reality simulator, D&D isn't the game for that. If you allow a fair amount of supernatural for things like ghosts, zombies and any number of iconic monsters like giants (who, in the real world would collapse under their own weight) then I think a monk still fits. Just not a monk that can cast burning hands using ki points.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
First I'd create about six different Battlemaster Fighter builds and make each of them "their own class". So you'd have the great weapon Slayer, the dualwielding Dervish, the heavy armor sword and board Armiger, the ranged attacker Marksman, the movement and offering attacks based Tactician, and the polearm based Phalanx. They each have specific and most applicable fighting styles, and they each have pre-set combat maneuvers. This assures you of having definitively separate warrior types with little overlap.

Then you line up the five rogue subclasses-- Thief, Assassin, Scout, Mastermind, and Inquisitive and preset probably 3 of their 4 skills so that each one will have a different build-out. They'll get to choose their 4th skill and both background skills themselves, but at least if there ends up being multiple rogues in the party they won't completely overlap in ability, and you'll make sure a wider range of skills can be found in the group.

Then you add in Berzerker barbarian, add in the Hunter ranger but swap out its spellcasting for the Battlemaster combat superiority system instead, and Open Hand monk and do whatever little refluff you need to to wipe off some magical stench.

That gives you five(+) classes for players to select from with no magic or spells at hand (and what little bits that seem magical you just refluff to make it non.)
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Changing features would be the homebrew classes part, and they do explicitly call Ki magic either way.

I've seen Pugilists in play, they seemed pretty good to replace the Monk. No idea what book they were from though.
I believe they were created for DMsGuild or Drivethru as 3pp. At least, the Pugilist I use was.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
It depends how far down the « no magic » hole you’re aiming for.

Personally, I prefer keeping single sources, so either D&D only or use one third party set of rules (which may or may not directly rely on PHB). Assuming D&D only…

I’d keep everything from fighter, monk, rogue, and barbarian of PHB with the exception of third-caster subclasses (Eldritch knight and Arcane Trickster) and four elements monk. This means one type of barbarian has access to some (rather tame) nature magic and the monk (particularly shadow) is the king of supernatural gimmicks. Not even sure I’d go into Xanathar or Tasha, but I’d keep martials from SCAG (sans arcane archer) for little they can meaningfully contribute.

For another almost-magical class, allow ranger with Hunter’s Mark as its only spell (spell slots can also fuel natural awareness). Or as others have suggested, with Battlemaster manoeuvres à la martial ranger Unearthed Arcana.
 
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Tony Vargas

Legend
The exact opposite of what I would want (PCs are not special IMO), but people have different preferences.
5e D&D said:
In the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons, practitioners of magic are rare, set apart from the masses of people by their extraordinary talent.
While D&D in general, and 5e in particular, are starkly terrible at modeling fantasy genres, one way in which they're consistent with genre is that the PCs/protagonists are special in some sense. 🤷

Not that it's in anyway wrongbadfun to take D&D deviation from genre, and continue it in that direction, of course. It's not like D&D, a product of the iconoclastic 70s, is in any way trying to faithfully model genre.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
While D&D in general, and 5e in particular, are starkly terrible at modeling fantasy genres, one way in which they're consistent with genre is that the PCs/protagonists are special in some sense. 🤷

Not that it's in anyway wrongbadfun to take D&D deviation from genre, and continue it in that direction, of course. It's not like D&D, a product of the iconoclastic 70s, is in any way trying to faithfully model genre.
First of all, the passage you quoted said nothing about PCs, at all. It referred to "practitioners of magic", a setting consideration that you assumed PCs to be an exception to insofar as rarity is concerned.

Secondly, I am not and never have been concerned with modeling genre in D&D. I instead model setting. I create an imaginary world as a DM that has as much verisimilitude as practicality allows for my player's PCs to explore and with which to interact. When the rules help me I use them. When they don't I change them, again as much as practicality and my players allow.

Some versions of D&D are a better base for this than others, of course. For 5e, I use Level Up as a base. When I can get away with it, I use OSR games like ACKS or DCC. I have been looking into OSE and Worlds Without Number and like what I see there too.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
First of all, the passage you quoted said nothing about PCs, at all. It referred to "practitioners of magic", a setting consideration that you assumed PCs to be an exception to insofar as rarity is concerned.
That's the point. Players are free to play any class they want, no matter how 'rare' (and thus special) the game may make that class. A party of all full-caster classes would be band of "rare practitioners of magic," and nothing in the way 5e is presented in the PH prevents that. Indeed, the martial/caster gap kinda encourages it.

Now, it may be that some PC are special by virtue of picking a rare/special class (or background), while others are common as dirt... and, to circle back around to the topic, if you wanted to play all non-magical PCs in the typical magical D&D world, that could be a way of playing PCs that weren't special. And, well, it'd show.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
That's the point. Players are free to play any class they want, no matter how 'rare' (and thus special) the game may make that class. A party of all full-caster classes would be band of "rare practitioners of magic," and nothing in the way 5e is presented in the PH prevents that. Indeed, the martial/caster gap kinda encourages it.

Now, it may be that some PC are special by virtue of picking a rare/special class (or background), while others are common as dirt... and, to circle back around to the topic, if you wanted to play all non-magical PCs in the typical magical D&D world, that could be a way of playing PCs that weren't special. And, well, it'd show.
If you want to present a low magic setting where casters are rare, and you want this to matter in play, you either have to have the setting constantly throwing this in the PCs faces (whether it be by persecution, high attention from everyone around you, or some other way), or you have to limit PC spellcasters somehow. No amount of, "the game technically allows this" changes those things.

In short, if in your game PCs are regularly slinging spells left and right, and the world around them doesn't bat an eye, the setting is not in fact "low magic", no matter how few NPC casters there are.
 

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