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D&D 5E Assaying rules for 5E E6 (Revised)

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I think you and I must view E6 differently, because “a powered down version of regular advancement” is definitely not the motivating idea of E6 as I see it. The point of E6 isn’t to slow advancement but to halt vertical advancement entirely past a certain point, while maintaining horizontal advancement. It’s shutting off the level treadmill but still offering expanding character options. “Leveling up” stops being about accumulating more power and becomes about refining your expression of your character.
Agreed 100% here. The important aspect to me is that character doesn't get new features past a certain point, except for those feat choices I make myself. Sort of like the MMO idea of "the game really starts once you finish leveling". Now my character only progresses by achieving actual events in the game, which is a feel I really like.

Plus, I think it's easier to add new feats and new items/boons to the game to address any holes in horizontal progression than to have to plan out alternate advancement for every class.

I'd also say E5 is a much more natural stopping point in 5e than E6. It was only E6 in 3e to ensure all casters got their 3rd level slot; 5e's homogenous progression means that fix isn't necessary. It also makes Extra Attack and 3rd level spells a natural capstone, missing out on these makes any dipping a much riskier endeavor. E5 also serves to balance out subclass access; many but not all classes get their T2 subclass feature at level 6, while at level 5 every class just has gotten their T1 feature or features, no class gets a subclass feature at level 5.
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Agreed 100% here. The important aspect to me is that character doesn't get new features past a certain point, except for those feat choices I make myself. Sort of like the MMO idea of "the game really starts once you finish leveling". Now my character only progresses by achieving actual events in the game, which is a feel I really like.

Plus, I think it's easier to add new feats and new items/boons to the game to address any holes in horizontal progression than to have to plan out alternate advancement for every class.

I'd also say E5 is a much more natural stopping point in 5e than E6. It was only E6 in 3e to ensure all casters got their 3rd level slot; 5e's homogenous progression means that fix isn't necessary. It also makes Extra Attack and 3rd level spells a natural capstone, missing out on these makes any dipping a much riskier endeavor. E5 also serves to balance out subclass access; many but not all classes get their T2 subclass feature at level 6, while at level 5 every class just has gotten their T1 feature or features, no class gets a subclass feature at level 5.
Ooh, very good points in favor of E5!
 

Dausuul

Legend
I'd also say E5 is a much more natural stopping point in 5e than E6. It was only E6 in 3e to ensure all casters got their 3rd level slot; 5e's homogenous progression means that fix isn't necessary. It also makes Extra Attack and 3rd level spells a natural capstone, missing out on these makes any dipping a much riskier endeavor. E5 also serves to balance out subclass access; many but not all classes get their T2 subclass feature at level 6, while at level 5 every class just has gotten their T1 feature or features, no class gets a subclass feature at level 5.
Those subclass features tend to be character-defining ones, though. Many subclasses wait to "come into their own" until 6th level; moon druid, necromancer, Way of Shadow, etc. Worst of all is the bladesinger, who will never get Extra Attack if cut off at 5th.

I think 6th is still the most natural stopping point. Everybody gets their core class and subclass features, and nobody gets 4th-level spells. You could push it back to 7th or even 8th, but I don't see as much need for that (and I would definitely stop before 9th, which is when the "big magic" spells like raise dead and teleportation circle start to show up).
 

squibbles

Adventurer
There's probably some justice to that. As I have worked on this I have become more aware of the (mild) scaling built into in-between levels (i.e. levels that are not 5th or 11th, which are typically a marked step up in power for characters). Possibly some kind of reduced scaling on those features.
Funnily enough, I just noticed that as implemented in Fantasy Grounds, where I am running the E6 campaign from, I did adjust to let ki and sorcery points (and similar) continue to increase all the way to 11th.
The monk scaling is probably the more important of the two. Also, since sorcery points and metamagic are kind of similar to your enhancement slot mechanic, you might consider combining the two features for sorcerers somehow, i.e. new metamagic to upcast and some sorcery points to do it with.

Worth noting that this pass needed to be good enough to start using in my campaign. I expect in six months or so I will have enough information from play to say what is really required.
Cool, make sure to necro the thread and let us know how it goes (y)


Very true. As I have it today, monks and rangers keep their features, but paladins lose their improved smite. That is because most of the analysis on these classes suggests that monks are very likely to be fine with their 11th subclass feature, rangers might be, and paladins are strong enough without.
Those monk and ranger power spikes vary A LOT in usefulness. Some like, say, drunkard's luck are pretty rubbish. You might consider just picking a subclass feature or other higher level feature and using it for all of them.

I only recently figured out the role that relentless rage had for barbarians. I will be changing it. Any thoughts on what to swap in for it? I was thinking perhaps persistent rage?
Yeah, persistent rage would probably be good. You have the 6+5 demi-level set up as a quasi-capstone for some of the classes (monks, rangers, rogues, afaict), and as a relatively smaller boost for others. Persistent rage fits into the relatively smaller boost group.

Some features have built in scaling. My current thinking is that they shouldn't get that scaling. I might be wrong on that. For example, battle master superiority dice scale. Should they get that scaling?
It seems like a case by case thing to me. I don't think battlemasters need continued scaling, especially with full casters short resting to get their enhancement slots back--but others may.

It's probably not a huge deal either way. Probably best to start with scaling turned off and then adjust the tuning upward if your PCs feel weak.

It is lumpy, for sure. As these levels come more into play the correct design should become clearer. The first cleric enhancement slot was a typo! It should be 4th.
Yeah, its another case by case situation, I think. It's hard to say at a zoomed out level if a thing that affects all spells would be an issue--but you definitely don't want to tarpit yourself by going through the whole spell list with a fine toothed comb.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Agreed 100% here. The important aspect to me is that character doesn't get new features past a certain point, except for those feat choices I make myself. Sort of like the MMO idea of "the game really starts once you finish leveling". Now my character only progresses by achieving actual events in the game, which is a feel I really like.

Plus, I think it's easier to add new feats and new items/boons to the game to address any holes in horizontal progression than to have to plan out alternate advancement for every class.

I'd also say E5 is a much more natural stopping point in 5e than E6. It was only E6 in 3e to ensure all casters got their 3rd level slot; 5e's homogenous progression means that fix isn't necessary. It also makes Extra Attack and 3rd level spells a natural capstone, missing out on these makes any dipping a much riskier endeavor. E5 also serves to balance out subclass access; many but not all classes get their T2 subclass feature at level 6, while at level 5 every class just has gotten their T1 feature or features, no class gets a subclass feature at level 5.
Snap! I assayed '5E E5' in my design arc! The symmetry of the letters appealed to me, and I noted the capstone just as you describe, so I tried and tested it. I ended up moving to 6th because to my assessment 5th level didn't give characters enough HP to face a wide enough range of challenges. Also, as @Dausuul noted, you miss out on an interesting feature for many sub-classes.

When I read the articles and forum post about 3rd edition E6, for me what comes across more than the mechanical solution is the intent of "a game about d20’s first two quartiles, and focuses on continuously delivering exciting heroic fantasy, even in a very long campaign." That said, differing solutions to the same problem are still different. Unfortunately, in 5th edition there are not the granular feats to make the original solution work.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Maybe I’m not expressing myself clearly. Part of what makes your system not feel like E6 to me is the fact that any vertical scaling remains. The rolling of hit dice for the chance to increase your HP, the gaining of spell enhancement slots, continuing to gain ability score increases, these things all feel very not-E6 to me. The hit dice procedure also contribute to the feeling of greater complexity than E6, because it’s a leveling up procedure that must be followed, beyond just picking a Feat.
That seems like a good point. I think I will cut the rolling for HP bumps beyond 6th level. That will be simpler, and also favour more consistency up to 6th level with the normal game (i.e. the group rolls for HP or takes the average according to their normal method.)

It’s not the 6+5 cap that bothers me, it’s the fact that some sort of leveling occurs after the cutoff point (be it 6th level or 8th or whatever) at all. In E6, you stop gaining levels after 6th, though you could theoretically continue gaining Feats forever (or until you run out of Feats in the books that you meet the prerequisites for).
Noting that in the original E6, it is estimated that vertical progression continues at a rate of roughly a level per 5 feats, and caps at 20th. Meaning that in the original, characters progress vertically 6+4 levels, versus 6+3 in my version (as each level is worth about half.) They're actually more similar than they are different, from the point of view of vertical progression.

The Rubicon I needed to ford was how to bring that sort of reduced vertical progression - and as you say, lean more into horizontal progression - into 6th edition, given the fewer, less granular feats? I suspect 8th as the cut-off for normal progression will be too strong to meet the intent of E6, because in my normal campaigns I see a marked jump in player power after 6th. They stop feeling very mortal, as they do up to 6th.

What I think I could - and probably should - do, is run the horizontal-advancement levels up to 6+8. Making for a much longer possible arc, and hitting the 6+4 or 10th level cap that the original system found effective. Saying that, my intent is to benefit from what was discovered by the original experiment... I truly value that preexisting knowledge.
 

Jaeger

That someone better.
As part of design for my next campaign, I wanted to look at how E6 might look in 5E.

I'd also say E5 is a much more natural stopping point in 5e than E6.

I agree, 5th is a better cutoff.


This guy did a good take on E6 for 5eD&D:
Why mod D&D 5e, isn’t is perfect already?
A lot of people get frustrated with high level D&D and tend to avoid it altogether. Typically there’s 3 reasons for this:

1. Combat is too slow; a turn takes too long.

2. Combat doesn’t feel heroic or epic; high level monsters like Giants and Dragons become just another encounter.

3. Encounter planning requires a substantial amount of prep time from the DM because encounters are often defeated or circumvented by a single ability.

On this page we’re going to walk through the design of a simple, but thorough mod to the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition base games that addresses all these issues. If you’re not interested in the theory behind the design of the mod, skip down to the TLDR section.

High level D&D, it’s sort of like this but slow and less exciting.

Goals and theory of modding D&D 5e
I found high level D&D to be a bit of slog. Somewhere between the 20+minute turns and the seemingly never ending combats the feeling of Epic Deeds and Heroic Actions was lost.

Fortunately, many others felt the same way and so the E6 mod for D&D 3.5 was born. This was one of the most popular system mods for D&D 3.5 and I encourage any budding modder to read over it.

Inspired by this mod I set out to modify D&D5e with the goals of:

1. Make combat quicker. This requires:

a) lower HP caps

b) less player decision paralysis

2. Make fighting legendary/epic/truly monstrous foes feel epic. This means that encountering these creatures is:

a) deadly

b) not routine

3. Reduce encounter planning time. This means:

a) DMs can use smaller encounters

b) DMs do not need hyper-aware monsters that have planned for every contigency

Choosing a cutoff point
At what level high level play begins is a bit contentious. Some say 10, others 6, some even say 12, or 14. The truth is that it doesn’t matter.

The following rules can start at any level you choose, just pick the level that feels right for you and set it as the target level. In this example we’ll be using a target level of 6, in other words, playing the 5eHeroic6 mod.

Capping HP
Capping HP forces encounters to be both short and deadly: either one side runs out of HP first or the other side runs out. We first have to pick a ‘final’ level after which characters will no longer gain HP.

I defined my starting point by deciding on two monsters that I wanted to always be memorable encounters: Beholders and Storm Giants, both CR 13.

Looking at the Beholder, it shoots 3 eye rays per turn. Each of these can have a nasty effect, but the death ray will outright kill a low-HP enemy with its whopping 55 (10d10) damage.

The Storm Giant on the other hand can make two attacks in a round dealing 30 (6d6+9) damage per hit (60/round).

To keep these as epic battles and not Just Another Encounter they need to be deadly. Two rounds alone with either of these monsters should spell almost certain doom for any single character. Therefore we need HP to cap out around 60.

How encountering a giant should feel.
A fighter gains 10 +CON HP at level one and 6+CON every level after that. With a +3 CON we’re looking at the following:

level 6: 58 HP

level 8: 76 HP

level 10: 94 HP

I chose level 6 after considering that with buffs, healing, and class abilities a front-line fighter will consistently stay up for two or three rounds when fighting either of these monsters and potentially much longer.

Rule 1: After characters reach the target level (6) leveling up no longer increases their maximum HitPoints . Characters continue to gain HitDice as normal.

This has the benefit of gradually reducing characters dependence on magical healing over time, making it trivial to full heal while resting when they are high level.

Removing Decision Paralysis
Players with too many options, even players who are not optimizers, are often overwhelmed when they have too many possibilities during their turn. While the player agonizes over their next course of action, the game grinds to a halt.

To remove the decision paralysis and to keep high level monsters from being “one-shot, walk-over” encounters, it’s important to limit spell progression.

Rule 2: Characters can no longer learn, memorize, or prepare spells above the target spell level (3rd level).

You should adjust the target spell based on target level i.e. if target level is 8 then the target spell level is 4th level, if target level is 10, then the target spell level is 5th level.

Keep Caster Progression Rewarding
It’s important to note that characters still gain class features, can learn/prepare new spells, and gain spell slots which allow them to upcast spells. However, this rule by itself would make casters frightfully dull to play and make leveling a caster a non-event. Hence the third rule:

Rule 3: When a character would normally gain a new spell above the target spell level (3rd level) i.e. at Wizard or Sorc level 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, or 17. They instead gain a Magus Arcanum.

When a character gains a Magus Arcanum they can choose any spell of any level they would normally learn i.e. a 4th level wizard spell at wizard level 7, a 5th level sorcerer spell at sorcerer level 9, etc… The character learns that spell as a Magus Arcanum.

A Magus Arcanum is cast as a normal spell except that it may only be cast once and it does not use a spell slot; for scaling effects it is treated as being cast at the lowest spell level. All uses of all Magus Arcanums are regained at the end of a long rest.

Now single class casters are rewarded with signature spells via Magus Arcanum, but are not able to spam these spells and negate multiple encounters per day. The DM no longer needs monsters that plan for every contingency because high level magic is now rare and non-spammable.

Reduce Encounter Planning Times – Adjusting CR
One of the immediate benefits of using this method is that DMs can run high level encounters with fewer monsters. The side benefit is that there’s a very easy way to calculate the difficultly of an 5eHeroic encounter.


That confident stride – he’s either really epic, very well prepared, or soon to be very dead.
Up until the level limit (6) encounters are calculated exactly the same for CRs up to the character level. For the level following the level limit, add 1 to the CR of any encounter.

After characters are two or more levels past the target level, take the monster’s CR and add the corresponding proficiency bonus that a character of level equal to the CR would have minus 2 i.e. +2 at level 9, +3 at level 13, +4 at level 17.

TLDR
Rule 1: After characters reach the target level (6) leveling up no longer increases their maximum HitPoints . Characters continue to gain HitDice as normal.

Rule 2: Characters can no longer learn, memorize, or prepare spells above the target spell level (3rd level). Characters continue to gain spells known. Characters continue to gain spell slots above the target spell level.

Rule 3: When a character would normally gain a new spell above the target spell level (3rd level) i.e. at Wizard or Sorc level 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, or 17. They instead gain a Magus Arcanum.

Other than the 3 rules above, characters gain XP and level as normal.
The 5eHeroic mod keeps the game feeling heroic and fun by making combat short, fast, and deadly.

When characters encounter high level monsters it is never just a level appropriate encounter, but a deadly encounter requiring planning, prep, and a good reason. Defeating a Dragon, Beholder, MindFlayer, Aboleth, or Giant feels epic and becomes memorable again.

Meanwhile the DM can reduce encounter size to speed up combat, spend less time crafting mundane encounters, and spend more time focusing on the world and plot for the players.

Final Thoughts
This mod is not for everyone. If you find yourself growing red in the face at the thought of being able to cast disintegrate of teleport only once per long rest, then you will not enjoy this mod.

If you like the idea of a giant, a lich, or a dragon being an epic encounter that cannot be won without a lot of preparation and sacrifice; if you dislike the idea of cleaving through giants on your way to the grocery store, then this mod is for you.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Snap! I assayed '5E E5' in my design arc! The symmetry of the letters appealed to me, and I noted the capstone just as you describe, so I tried and tested it. I ended up moving to 6th because to my assessment 5th level didn't give characters enough HP to face a wide enough range of challenges. Also, as @Dausuul noted, you miss out on an interesting feature for many sub-classes.
Fair, although E5+feats puts Tough on the board for players worried about squishiness.

I'd note that for your demilevel approach, you can also simply put "Xth level subclass feature" as one of your pseudoclass features in the progression. So yea, the base numbers for hit points and such are really more pressing for the cutoff point in your system.

When I read the articles and forum post about 3rd edition E6, for me what comes across more than the mechanical solution is the intent of "a game about d20’s first two quartiles, and focuses on continuously delivering exciting heroic fantasy, even in a very long campaign." That said, differing solutions to the same problem are still different. Unfortunately, in 5th edition there are not the granular feats to make the original solution work.
I'd argue that 5e's feats' relative chunkiness also correlates with their lack of synergy. Having 10 feats in 5e doesn't enable power builds in the same way it did in 3e. (Outside of XBE/SS and PAM/GWM, of course.)
 

Rune

Once A Fool
As part of design for my next campaign, I wanted to look at how E6 might look in 5E. The mode was designed for 3E by Ryan Stoughton inspired by an article proposing that Gandalf was level 5. The Alexandrian discusses it, and you can find more on StackExchange and Reddit.
Or in this thread, for folk who don’t feel like going off-site.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
I think you and I must view E6 differently, because “a powered down version of regular advancement” is definitely not the motivating idea of E6 as I see it. The point of E6 isn’t to slow advancement but to halt vertical advancement entirely past a certain point, while maintaining horizontal advancement. It’s shutting off the level treadmill but still offering expanding character options. “Leveling up” stops being about accumulating more power and becomes about refining your expression of your character.
Precisely this.

But I would also add that part of what made E6 what it was is a redefinition of what “epic” means to the game-world. Teleport? Plane Shift? Not possible. Greater Invisibility? Nope. The pinnacle of magical achievement in the world for mere mortals is the fly or fireball spell.

But it’s not just that the players are limited to 3rd level spells. The game-changing thing is that the world views them as the stuff of legends. That alone reshaped D&D into an entirely different genre.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
But I would also add that part of what made E6 what it was is a redefinition of what “epic” means to the game-world. Teleport? Plane Shift? Not possible. Greater Invisibility? Nope. The pinnacle of magical achievement in the world for mere mortals is the fly or fireball spell.
Very much agree. That is fundamental in the original design, and retained in most variants I have seen. It's one reason why I am cautious of following the Magus Arcanum or similar route.

But it’s not just that the players are limited to 3rd level spells. The game-changing thing is that the world views them as the stuff of legends. That alone reshaped D&D into an entirely different genre.
This seems not quite right. To quote one of the original discussions - "E6 recognizes that 6th level characters are mortal, while providing a context where they are epic heroes." Emphasis mine. I believe that D&D normally aims for characters to - over time - become the stuff of legends. What E6 uniquely re-injects is that they remain mortal. Hence the original E6 - and every variant I have so far read - caps hit points.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Or in this thread, for folk who don’t feel like going off-site.
I referenced StackExchange as I believe it is important to look at for anyone attempting an E6 design for 5th edition. For example, I found the thoughts in this thread helpful. In fact, it was by trying out such proposed variants - testing the characters that could be created at various levels - that I was able to make visible the problems with approaches such as using 5th edition feats or features ad-lib.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Fair, although E5+feats puts Tough on the board for players worried about squishiness.
I'd urge you to try creating a few characters in each class and see what you find with E5+feats. I did do that using Fantasy Grounds to make chargen easier. To be honest, at a single table where one sees only a dozen or so characters anyway, a house rule using feats can work. My aim is to create something that can be used more broadly - successfully supporting as many characters as possible. With that in mind, I also have a draft for multiclassed E6 characters, but it introduces some complexity so I want to get the basis straight first.

I have realised - reading this thread - that it is better to simplify anything that isn't absolutely necessary. It feels like each piece of additional design - such as the method I stole from WWN for HP - comes at a high cost in terms of acceptance. Such methods can bring something worthwhile, but too subtle to be worth hitting the potential barrier of player skepticism... and not aligned with the concerns of everyone.
 


Horwath

Hero
personally, I would cap it at 9th level, call it E9.
you just get +4 prof bonus, full casters get single 5th level slot, halfcasters get to 3rd level spells.

After that, for every "level" I would just give ASI or a level on a second class beginning from 1st level OFC. If second class has more HP per level that current adjust accordingly. I.E. 9th level wizard takes 1st level of fighter instead of ASI, increases his HPs by 4 as 1st level fighter gets 10 HP and wizard gets 6, and gets +2 HP they take a "level" of fighter after 1st level. Fighters levels are still capped at 9th as normal.
 


TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I'd urge you to try creating a few characters in each class and see what you find with E5+feats. I did do that using Fantasy Grounds to make chargen easier. To be honest, at a single table where one sees only a dozen or so characters anyway, a house rule using feats can work. My aim is to create something that can be used more broadly - successfully supporting as many characters as possible. With that in mind, I also have a draft for multiclassed E6 characters, but it introduces some complexity so I want to get the basis straight first.

I have realised - reading this thread - that it is better to simplify anything that isn't absolutely necessary. It feels like each piece of additional design - such as the method I stole from WWN for HP - comes at a high cost in terms of acceptance. Such methods can bring something worthwhile, but too subtle to be worth hitting the potential barrier of player skepticism... and not aligned with the concerns of everyone.
I guess my concern is that the demilevel system ultimately feels like a diminishment on the current system. "So I get levels like before, except they no longer give me hit points or spell slots like they used to?" Whereas getting new feats feels like a different type of game, a new kind of reward system. I mean, we as players are used to the idea that we don't normally get our full level progression; stopping a game at level 6 or level 8 is hardly novel. And everyone knows feats, and knows they're a limited resource in 5e; getting to take 5 feats on the same character you couldn't before is actually novel.

So I think if you want to create a system with broad acceptance and easy uptake, you definitely want to limit the novelty factor. Most especially a novelty that feels like a nerf.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I guess my concern is that the demilevel system ultimately feels like a diminishment on the current system. "So I get levels like before, except they no longer give me hit points or spell slots like they used to?" Whereas getting new feats feels like a different type of game, a new kind of reward system. I mean, we as players are used to the idea that we don't normally get our full level progression; stopping a game at level 6 or level 8 is hardly novel. And everyone knows feats, and knows they're a limited resource in 5e; getting to take 5 feats on the same character you couldn't before is actually novel.

So I think if you want to create a system with broad acceptance and easy uptake, you definitely want to limit the novelty factor. Most especially a novelty that feels like a nerf.
That's a useful insight! Would the framing work better as E11 or E10? With the presentation being the adjusted level progression tables, dropping the 'demi-level' language altogether?

What I am aiming for is to cleave extremely close to the expressed goals of E6. Statements such as -
Levels 1 to 6 was the period where a character comes into his own, where a crash course in action and danger transforms them from 1st-level commoners into capable fighting men (or corpses). Once transformed by their experiences, a character’s growth is no longer a continuous, linear progression. There are still major differences between the master warriors and the veteran mercenaries, but it’s not a change of scale.
Emphasis mine. And -
Q: What if I want there to be a higher level magical effect, but still use E6?

A: The rules for rituals in Unearthed Arcana are an excellent fit for E6, to support things like opening portals to another dimension, higher-level divinations, and so on. When a spell is a 3-day event requiring 20 mages, it’s more of a plot point than a spell itself, and that maeks it a great a springboard for challenging the players.
These are goals that resonate with me.

The E6 game design is more correctly understood as a meta-game design, with distinct consequences for play - such as no ordinarily available 4th level or higher spells for player-characters. I'm confident that the kinds of mechanics I am working with produce the same consequences in play, but people seem invested in the meta-game design.

I'm not sure if reflecting on the relative impoverishment of discarding all the rich class and sub-class features above 6th level, that do not derail the core objectives, would help others understand the value of 'not-just-feats'? 5th has about 75 feats. 3.5ed had hundreds by the time E6 was created. The granularity and class coverage (feats given classes care about) is entirely different, for example meta-magic was all contained in feats in 3.5ed, whereas casters have a short list in 5th, many of which are well-known to be low in value.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
The E6 game design is more correctly understood as a meta-game design, with distinct consequences for play - such as no ordinarily available 4th level or higher spells for player-characters. I'm confident that the kinds of mechanics I am working with produce the same consequences in play, but people seem invested in the meta-game design.
I think the general goals for an E6 project are twofold.

1) Limit magic commonly accessible to the PCs to 3rd level (with the possibility of very limited access to 4th+ spells). Higher level magic is limited to the DM, and generally the realm of powerful monsters and legends.

2) PCs at the peak of progression should still be mortal heroes. A max-level warrior might be able to fend off 5-6 guards, but a dozen crossbowmen is going to be a fatal encounter.

I think for item 2, we need to ascertain a benchmark for what makes a mortal hero. 3e used 6th level, of course, but I think we all know 3e scales much faster than 5e with bounded accuracy in place.

Personally, I like about 60 HP for a warrior-type as a good benchmark for a mortal hero. It means a long fall (doing 20d6) is more than likely to kill you. 12 crossbowmen doing 1d10+2 will probably kill you in a round, assuming about a 60-65% hit rate.

So a 5th level warrior would have about 49 HP, normally, assuming 16 Con. 6th level would be 58 HP. So yea, 5th or 6th level both work pretty well; 6th lets you start right around 60, 5th lets you grow into it (assuming increased Con over time and dice shenanigans like the WWN rule.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I think the general goals for an E6 project are twofold.

1) Limit magic commonly accessible to the PCs to 3rd level (with the possibility of very limited access to 4th+ spells). Higher level magic is limited to the DM, and generally the realm of powerful monsters and legends.

2) PCs at the peak of progression should still be mortal heroes. A max-level warrior might be able to fend off 5-6 guards, but a dozen crossbowmen is going to be a fatal encounter.

I think for item 2, we need to ascertain a benchmark for what makes a mortal hero. 3e used 6th level, of course, but I think we all know 3e scales much faster than 5e with bounded accuracy in place.

Personally, I like about 60 HP for a warrior-type as a good benchmark for a mortal hero. It means a long fall (doing 20d6) is more than likely to kill you. 12 crossbowmen doing 1d10+2 will probably kill you in a round, assuming about a 60-65% hit rate.

So a 5th level warrior would have about 49 HP, normally, assuming 16 Con. 6th level would be 58 HP. So yea, 5th or 6th level both work pretty well; 6th lets you start right around 60, 5th lets you grow into it (assuming increased Con over time and dice shenanigans like the WWN rule.)
I agree with you on your key points. Remember we have to think about other classes for HP. At 5th a wizard or sorcerer could have 30 HP assuming primary in Int and secondary in Con. At 6th, 36. A bard or rogue may well go primary Dex/Cha, secondary Cha/Dex (or Wis), so they might well have at 5th 25HP, and 6th 30 HP. They're unlikely to boost Con given their interests. At 5th one fireball will do enough damage on average to incinerate all four.

Another kind of modelling I did was to check how many rounds each might stay in combat against foes for their level. Again, at 5th it feels just a bit tight, whereas 6th they are palpably threatened - a barbarian can still one-shot a rogue - but they should survive an average damage roll.

Regards shenanigans. The play-feel of the WWN method feels good - tough, but fair - especially allowing continued re-rolling after 6th. But it seems like a hard sell. In play, it comes up only on levelling - a fraction of the time - but included it in the rules test it sticks out as something to question. I don't see it as make-or-break, so in the interests of an easier sell I believe cutting it is the right move.
 

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