D&D 5E An Idea to Revise the Frightened Condition

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
I've been thinking about this for awhile, but I think I've settled on something solid. Let me explain, and then please give your thoughts in the comments.

I dislike the 5e Frightened Condition. I love the idea, I love how it's also often paired with the Charmed condition, but I don't like how it works, mechanically at least. It just doesn't fit how fear responses work in the real world. And I know, I know, before anyone says "D&D doesn't have to be realistic, because it's a fantasy game!", I agree most of the time, but I think that having the Frightened condition be a bit more realistic to how people work would be a good thing to have.

People typically have 3 responses to things that they are afraid of. Everyone know "Fight or Flight", but "Freeze" is also a very common reaction. And when someone is scared of something, you can't always predict which of those responses someone will have. So, in place of the Frightened condition from the base of the game, I propose the following Frightened condition:

Frightened​

Roll 1d4 to determine the result of the condition, consulting the results below to determine the effect of being Frightened, the effect lasting until the effect causing this condition ends.

1. The Frightened creature must use its turn to attack the source of this condition, and may not move away from it.
2. The Frightened creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear. While within line of sight of the source of its fear, the creature has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks made against it.
3-4. The Frightened creature is incapacitated and its movement is halved.

What do you think? Any ideas to tweak this version of the condition, or to change the character options that frighten enemies (Leonin Roar, Oath of Conquest, etc)?
 

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TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
Number 2. is closer to just being afraid but sticking around. Maybe something along of the lines of having to move away from the source of fear if possible, and stay at distance if not.
 

ECMO3

Hero
I've been thinking about this for awhile, but I think I've settled on something solid. Let me explain, and then please give your thoughts in the comments.

I dislike the 5e Frightened Condition. I love the idea, I love how it's also often paired with the Charmed condition, but I don't like how it works, mechanically at least. It just doesn't fit how fear responses work in the real world. And I know, I know, before anyone says "D&D doesn't have to be realistic, because it's a fantasy game!", I agree most of the time, but I think that having the Frightened condition be a bit more realistic to how people work would be a good thing to have.

People typically have 3 responses to things that they are afraid of. Everyone know "Fight or Flight", but "Freeze" is also a very common reaction. And when someone is scared of something, you can't always predict which of those responses someone will have. So, in place of the Frightened condition from the base of the game, I propose the following Frightened condition:

Frightened​

Roll 1d4 to determine the result of the condition, consulting the results below to determine the effect of being Frightened, the effect lasting until the effect causing this condition ends.

1. The Frightened creature must use its turn to attack the source of this condition, and may not move away from it.
2. The Frightened creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear. While within line of sight of the source of its fear, the creature has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks made against it.
3-4. The Frightened creature is incapacitated and its movement is halved.

What do you think? Any ideas to tweak this version of the condition, or to change the character options that frighten enemies (Leonin Roar, Oath of Conquest, etc)?
Overall I prefer RAW. This would be cool though, but I do have a couple recommendations:

1. The disadvantage should be automatic. I get what you are saying with "fight" on #1 but frightened people physiologically suffer from tunnel vision and do not think clearly or fight well even when they do fight. For example, IRL if someone threatens you and you are frightened, you might pull your gun and start shooting but you are likely going to miss and many times you will forget to even do slimple things like flip off the safety. If you were at range you could hit a 6 inch circle from 20 yards all day long, but when frightened can't reliably hit a man from 4 feet .... if you can get a shot off at all. Considering this there should always be disadvantage.

3-4. Flee should be an option. Maybe 3 is incapacitated, 4 is must use dash to run away from the source of the fear.

Other issues:
Balance - making someone potentially incapacitated is a big deal. That is a lot worse than the current frightened condition. This would take the 1st level cause fear spell from middle of the pack to being OP. The undead Warlock and Fey Wanderer Ranger would also be OP. The Fey warlock would go from being weak to being one of the better warlocks.

Conflict with spells description - Frightened is a condition, but spells cause specific effects. For example I think the Fear spell causes the frightened condition and requires that the target use his action to dash, which he can't do if he rolls a 1 or a 3-4.
 
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Lyxen

Great Old One
If I'm not mistaken, the result of 2 is the RAW anyway, 1 is really annoying for the caster, especially if it's in a 25% chance, and 3-4 is way to strong. In addition to the fact that it requires an additional dice roll every round, which slows down the game, and prevents the player from preparing what he is going to do. It's not too much of a drag, but I have a tendency to eliminate everything that goes against the streamlining of combat.

The ideas at the core are fine, it's just that I don't think that this level of detail is beneficial for a simple condition.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
If I'm not mistaken, the result of 2 is the RAW anyway,
That was the intent. The RAW Frightened condition certainly covers one type of fear response that people have, but not all of them. I wanted it included as an option, but not to be the only one.
1 is really annoying for the caster, especially if it's in a 25% chance
I'm considering adding disadvantage on top of that. And if I were to redesign certain classes/spells around this, I'd probably allow the player to choose different options from the list of results, depending on the level of the character/spell used.
and 3-4 is way to strong
Okay, any suggestions to nerf it?
In addition to the fact that it requires an additional dice roll every round, which slows down the game, and prevents the player from preparing what he is going to do. It's not too much of a drag, but I have a tendency to eliminate everything that goes against the streamlining of combat.
Correction: it's not every turn. You roll once when the condition is determined, and then never again. So if you fail the saving throw against a dragon's Frightening Presence feature or the Fear spell, you roll 1d4 to see which result happens. You stick with that result until the effect ends on you. It just adds 1 roll when the effect is activated (per creature), and no others later on.
The ideas at the core are fine, it's just that I don't think that this level of detail is beneficial for a simple condition.
Okay. I understand that opinion, I just disagree with it.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Correction: it's not every turn. You roll once when the condition is determined, and then never again. So if you fail the saving throw against a dragon's Frightening Presence feature or the Fear spell, you roll 1d4 to see which result happens. You stick with that result until the effect ends on you. It just adds 1 roll when the effect is activated (per creature), and no others later on.

It's certainly better that way, at least from my perspective, it's just that 3-4 is way too strong, but I'm not sure how to do something less strong, as disadvantage is already strong and in result 2. Maybe general disadvantage instead of just the source of its fear ?

Okay. I understand that opinion, I just disagree with it.

It's fine, it was just an opinion, you should really playtest the change in your game to see what it brings.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I feel like this particular rule is both

A) Too Harsh
B) Too Complex

Needing to roll a separate die on the fear application, and then once a round to determine reaction, feels uncomfortable, to me. Cumbersome.

Instead, consider the initial d20 Save against the fear effect and apply Critical Failure!

Even people who do freeze from fear tend to do so only briefly before reacting as their brain is temporarily overwhelmed by surprise, though Fainting due to fear is a thing that can happen, it's sort of a one and done shock-induced collapse or paralysis.

Nat 1: Critical Fear, your character faints and becomes incapacitated for 1 round.
2-5: Frantic Violence, you can only attack the source of your fear and are unable to flee for 1 round.
6+: Fear as described in the PHB.

After the 1 round in either the first or second cases, you go back to normal Frightened condition.
 

Amros

Explorer
...
People typically have 3 responses to things that they are afraid of. Everyone know "Fight or Flight", but "Freeze" is also a very common reaction.
...

Frightened​

...
3-4. The Frightened creature is incapacitated and its movement is halved.

What do you think? Any ideas to tweak this version of the condition, or to change the character options that frighten enemies (Leonin Roar, Oath of Conquest, etc)?
I like your idea very much, but I think -- as you also pointed out -- this steps on other mechanics too much. For example, the Oath of Conquest's and Oath of Vengeance's Fear (Aura of Conquest and Abjure Enemy, respectively) are special because they freeze the enemy in place. If you could achieve that with a 1st-level Cause Fear, well... poor paladins.
But I want to throw a solution in, not just criticize: extend the roll to a d12, or 2d6, and leave the "special options" in the opposite ends. This way you can still inflict different types of fear, but not overshadow too much other classes/features.

d12 (2d6)
1-2. The Frightened creature must use its turn to attack the source of this condition, and may not move away from it.
3-10. The Frightened creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear. While within line of sight of the source of its fear, the creature has disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks made against it.
11-12. The Frightened creature is incapacitated and its movement is halved.

What do you think?
 

Stalker0

Legend
My only issue here is that the frightened condition isn’t actually that condition in practice. If you look at many spells and monsters, the condition often comes with riders.

“while frightened, you run from the source of fear”

“while frightened, you are paralyzed”

Etc

so changing the base text will be in some cases, and may have weird interactions with others
 

Number 2 is actually slightly (much?) weaker than RAW. RAW imposes disadvantage on all attack rolls and ability checks, not just those made against the source of the fear.
 

Composer99

Adventurer
I am not convinced that a (more) naturalistic fear response needs to be more accurately modeled in D&D 5e. However, as far as it goes, I do think this proposed change to the frightened condition, with perhaps a bit of finessing [*], does a reasonable job of elegantly modeling such a response. To my mind, I don't think it's suitable for D&D 5e default gameplay, but I imagine it would work for horror-themed games or for low-magic or modern settings.

As far as finessing goes:
  • Regardless of the fear response a creature expresses, it should have disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks while the source of its fear is in its line of sight.
  • Also, the flight response isn't exactly modeled in the original post - some result that has the frightened creature behave in a manner similar to a turned creature would be appropriate.
 

From a DM perspective, I would rather have a separate condition and divvie up which spell gets which. I was thinking Staggered to cover "freezing": can't take reactions, cut speed in half, and disadvantage on dex and wisdom saving throws.

Of course, if we are adding conditions, Enraged (can't concentrate, advantage on everything strength related), would be first. It seems like that would be a great condition for bards, in particular, to inflict on enemy casters and demons (except maybe the Glabrezu) should all have an aura that inflicts that condition (other demons in the aura get to chose if they are affected) as it would mechanically make demons very distinct from other fiends.
 

MechMan57

First Post
Why not make it based on the total save rolled by the creature?
Say the DC for the save is 17. If the creature rolls a 15 or 16, the response might be to fight with disadvantage. If they roll like 3-6 below the save, why not make it like the PHB rules? Any numbers below that like a roll of 6 against a DC 17 might cause the creature to be incapacitated. Depending on how severe the fail against the DC is scales roughly with how powerful and intimidating a creature is because the DC will increase, therefore increasing the amount of odds they can suffer worse effects if the roll is in the single digits.

Ignores having to roll any extra dice and takes into account a character's wisdom (will) to persevere through the fear.
 

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