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

clearstream

(He, Him)
Here (and in the next post) are the class tables (still capped at 11th level, that might change later)

E6 bbn to mnk.png


Note there are a few changes to the general rules on page 1. For example, ki scales to 11th (one every other ki increment is costed for balancing.)
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
And the second set of six

E6 pal to wiz.png


Sorcery points scale just like ki (see previous post). Spells are capped at 3rd level except that the 11th level features for the three arcane casters all give very limited access to higher level spells. Fountainhead allows creation of 4th level slots using Font of Magic, and grants one 4th level spell known. Mystic Arcanum is per RAW. Arcane Theorem is essentially Mystic Arcanum for Wizards, i.e. a single 6th spell castable once per day.

I've created 'versatility' features for many classes based on TCoE. I'm not sure yet if they are necessary. The intent is these operate on the horizontal axis of growth, giving players ability to try a variety of options or just switch things up for themselves.

Note that enhancement slots are now used to cast spells with - three levels lower, and counting as one level up cast. So a 6th level enhancement slot can be spent to cast a 3rd level spell, counting it up-cast to 4th level if relevant (and for countering).
 
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Jaeger

That someone better.
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.

Yes. The genre I've always wanted D&D to be!

And IMHO one in which more people would come to prefer if they gave it a chance.


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.

5th is about perfect for me because I want that extra touch of vulnerability.

To help with that, and to cut down on combat time - I would cut monster HP in half across the board.

No sense in dealing with the PC hit point bloat if you are not going to do the same to the monsters.

I would also roll what inspiration does into Hit Dice.

Then players would have to make real cost/benefit choices based on rolling well now vs. their ability to heal themselves later. On a nat-20 I would have the PC gain a HD back or get a bonus one to be used that session.

Foe E5 D&D I would also have the PC's increase to 5 HD as normal, then +1 HD every three levels after that with no HP increases.

So now we have a game with fixed HP at level 5, and with a hero-point mechanic that doesn't get out of hand.


in 5th edition there are not the granular feats to make the original solution work.

I completely disagree. 5e is loaded with feats - they are called class/sub-class features. They are just feat trees on rails so you can't pick a bad build. (In theory...)

After 5th level just open them up as part of the normal "feat" selection, but only available to the class in question.

Of course you will have to break out your sharpie pen, and cut those class features/feats that would violate the spirit of E5 D&D.

For an easy Example: The Barbarian

I would outright ban / put the sharpie pen through the following: Persistent Rage, Indomitable Might, Primal Champion, Spirit Walker, Totemic attunement.

Everything else I would open up as "class feats" available only to a PC of that class.

So even by eliminating five class features/Feats that is still +11 more "Class Feats" in addition to the +42 standard feats now available just from the core PHB to a Barbarian PC. (Not that some of the standard feats might meet the tip of my sharpie pen as well...)

That's right, E5-5E will be more Class customization friendly than standard 5e D&D. Which of course means that I would eliminate multiclassing entirely because there is now just no need for it.

So just using the core, that is 53 "feats" to choose from over the next 15 levels. But I wouldn't let them fill it all with 15 feats.

While I would keep Proficiency bonus progression the same, I would make the Barbarian pay the XP per level to choose instead of adding a new Feat:

One of four possible +2 or 1/1 ASI's.
One of three possible +1 additional rages.
One of two possible +1 rage damages.

So they also will have to choose between an additional feat, or a long term bonus that will always help them.

And I would mandate that they have to choose at least 3 bonuses out of the next 15 levels. (5e PC's are already very front loaded with class abilities - and this will serve to keep the power level in check in the spirit of E5).

That is still a whirlwind of options after 5th level just for one class. At the very least that leaves room for two barbarian PC's in a party with neither of them being exactly alike.

Yes, you would have to curate each class this way, but I feel it would open up a lot more options for character progression to keep the char-op wonks happy with just the core PHB. And if you bring tashas or xanathars into it, you get an exponential jump in options...

And all you need to make it happen is a sharpie pen, some free time, and a sense of what power level you want the game genre to be.
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
5th is about perfect for me because I want that extra touch of vulnerability.

To help with that, and to cut down on combat time - I would cut monster HP in half across the board.
Great post! I agree about monster HP. I am cautious of over-rewarding alpha-strike gameplay, where a combat participant has a reasonable likelihood of downing an opponent in one hit if they go all in. 5th level might not be the watershed for that, but it is somewhere around there.

It's not so much that I am wholly against that gameplay - I've enjoyed it in other settings - but I think of it as a choice for your campaign. Were I to prefer that extra vulnerability, and given my immersionist preferences, I'd work it into my campaign setting and that would take it in a different direction.

That all said, I am keeping an eye on this and actual play is usually the strongest indicator. Have you play of the 5th level cut-off, say at the point those characters are late tier 2 or tier 3 equivalent?

I would also roll what inspiration does into Hit Dice.
Interesting! Do you mean that a character can spend an inspiration during a rest to recover HP as if it were one of their HD?

I completely disagree. 5e is loaded with feats - they are called class/sub-class features. They are just feat trees on rails so you can't pick a bad build. (In theory...)

After 5th level just open them up as part of the normal "feat" selection, but only available to the class in question.

Of course you will have to break out your sharpie pen, and cut those class features/feats that would violate the spirit of E5 D&D.
Yes, I agree that the sum of feats from PHB, XGE and TCoE, plus the higher tier features of each class and subclass made available as picks as if they were feats, would provide enough choice. The secondary challenge for design is that giving players the ability to freely sequence those features leads to a very large number of combinations and permutations. E6 (or E5 in your case) might envision a dozen to one score picks from perhaps around 80 options (feats + features). Supposing we don't care about sequencing as much as we do combinations, then its 80! / 20!(80 - 20)! which you can see is a pretty large number.

One of the motives (and pay offs) for D&D's commitment to class tables, and something that was I think fairly well shown by the many early RPGs that experimented with freeform characters choosing from lists of powers, is that constraints are a virtue when it comes to delivering a balanced and playable game to your audience. The point being of course that D&D class and subclass features have been balanced under the constraint that they can't be picked from freely. The results are therefore unpredictable, meaning that my playtesting resources would be unlikely to be up to the task of solving for balance. Conversely, so long as I use the pre-balanced parts of the game system without too much alteration, and focus on changing the smallest number of dimensions necessary to deliver the experience - which I believe comes down to HD/HP, PB, and the class power watersheds - then I get the most impact for effort.

I like a great deal of what you say. The contention that I would offer back to you is that once we go from theorycrafting to a mod intended to be resiliently useful to a large number of players, what do you think the fewest possible changes are to deliver the E6 experience? To my reading, many posters see the customisation as the most exciting part of E6. I am not in the camp. I see the vulnerability and heroes-not-super-heroes as being the heart of E6.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
I'm curious, what's the meaning of the "1,2,4" heading at the top of the columns for each class?
It's an approximate evaluation of each feature, in ASIs. One ASI = 2. A half-ASI is 1. Greater than an ASI = 4. So a d12 HD is greater than an ASI on the theory that
  • 0 ASI would be a d6 (4)
  • Con +2 gives +1 HP/Lvl max HP and some other benefits,
  • Tough gives +2 HP/Lvl max HP
  • So a d12 (7) is giving +3 HP/Lvl max HP + a bigger HD for recovering them
Similar thinking goes into evaluation of spells and so on.

[EDIT I should clarify that I have recently simplified these tables - cutting out unnecessary differences from PHB - and extending them to 12th. I haven't yet posted those updates!]
 
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Jaeger

That someone better.
It's not so much that I am wholly against that gameplay - I've enjoyed it in other settings - but I think of it as a choice for your campaign.

I like a bit of what I call "cinematic" genre in my fantasy gaming. I see PC's being able to one-shot an Orc or Goblin as a feature, not a bug. Even Tolkien had Legolas and Gimli doing an impromptu Orc killing contest in the battle at helms deep... Yet if either got struck with a solid blow that would have been a big deal.

I like a similar level of emulation in my game play. Yes you can kill several Orcs, but a hit is a hit, and if one scores a crit on you that should still be a Big Deal. Especially for the non fighters.


Yes, I agree that the sum of feats from PHB, XGE and TCoE, plus the higher tier features of each class and subclass made available as picks as if they were feats, would provide enough choice.

An Important note is that the higher tier features of each class and subclass has seen the sharpie pen so that the outright OP stuff is gone.

The remaining higher tier features are only available to PC's of that particular class. Like in my example a Barbarian PC can access all the class and subclass features as feats, and select from the general feat list.

But that Barbarian cannot access the class and subclass features from a different class. So your Barbarian PC is not loading up on Ranger class abilities, and your Ranger PC is not getting a Barbarians Totem feature.

And after thinking about it a bit more - referring to my Barbarian example - I would have the ASI's kick in at the standard levels.

So now the Barbarian only has 11 selections to make over 15 levels. And I could see making the selection even less free form than that.

The 3 +1 rages are now assigned a level when they kick in, which takes 3 feat slots.

The +2 Rage damage is assigned a level when they kick in taking 1 more feat slot.

So then the Barbarian PC will only have 7 feat choices to make over the next 15 levels (about one every other level.)

That seems about right to me.

It keeps down on the ability tracking, and overall power level. While the PC does get a something that is a positive at every level.

In fact my E5 Barbarian actually will have three fewer class features/Feats by level 20, but that is counterbalanced IMHO by having Feature/Feat selection after level 5 being entirely free-form, and IMHO the limitations just making things faster in play at the table in the long run.

I now only have to go through every other class in the PHB in a similar way...


Interesting! Do you mean that a character can spend an inspiration during a rest to recover HP as if it were one of their HD?

Not quite. Inspiration is flat out gone. Hit that character sheet with a swipe of white-out.

HD now can also can be spent to give advantage on a given roll. But its recovery remains the same.

So PC's need to weigh their ability to heal themselves on rests, with their desire to have a better chance of succeeding in the moment.


The contention that I would offer back to you is that once we go from theorycrafting to a mod intended to be resiliently useful to a large number of players, what do you think the fewest possible changes are to deliver the E6 experience?

For the fewest possible alterations to base 5eD&D...?

Fixing HP at levels 5 or 6. Cap magic at 3rd level. Rituals for the rest, and they have to be learned during play.

All Monster HP in Half.

Sharpie pen to OP class features and feats after that. (Sharpie pen to higher level magic rituals too).

I think that would be fairly playable.


To my reading, many posters see the customisation as the most exciting part of E6. I am not in the camp. I see the vulnerability and heroes-not-super-heroes as being the heart of E6.

I completely agree.

Any additional ability for players to engage in PC customization I regard as a complete side-effect of the intent.

But for purposes of getting people to try out a game of E5/6 - it is an aspect of the mod that should not be downplayed...
 
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clearstream

(He, Him)
I like a bit of what I call "cinematic" genre in my fantasy gaming. I see PC's being able to one-shot an Orc or Goblin as a feature, not a bug. Even Tolkien had Legolas and Gimli doing an impromptu Orc killing contest in the battle at helms deep... Yet if either got struck with a solid blow that would have been a big deal.

I like a similar level of emulation in my game play. Yes you can kill several Orcs, but a hit is a hit, and if one scores a crit on you that should still be a Big Deal. Especially for the non fighters.
I'm thinking more of one-shots on PCs, but I agree with you: it's really a feature. I am after lethality. Capped at 6th an average fighter has 40HP, while an average wizard 26HP. At 5th they might have 34 and 22 respectively. The difference is still meaningful against higher CR creatures because in most cases the fighter will need to be hit an additional time by an attack dealing average damage, compared with the wizard. I'll keep an eye on the level capped at as something to possibly change.

I plan to leave MM creature HPs where they are for now. Change a few mechanical dimensions at a time and prove those out, is my thinking.


An Important note is that the higher tier features of each class and subclass has seen the sharpie pen so that the outright OP stuff is gone.

The remaining higher tier features are only available to PC's of that particular class. Like in my example a Barbarian PC can access all the class and subclass features as feats, and select from the general feat list.

But that Barbarian cannot access the class and subclass features from a different class. So your Barbarian PC is not loading up on Ranger class abilities, and your Ranger PC is not getting a Barbarians Totem feature.

And after thinking about it a bit more - referring to my Barbarian example - I would have the ASI's kick in at the standard levels.

So now the Barbarian only has 11 selections to make over 15 levels. And I could see making the selection even less free form than that.

The 3 +1 rages are now assigned a level when they kick in, which takes 3 feat slots.

The +2 Rage damage is assigned a level when they kick in taking 1 more feat slot.

So then the Barbarian PC will only have 7 feat choices to make over the next 15 levels (about one every other level.)

That seems about right to me.

It keeps down on the ability tracking, and overall power level. While the PC does get a something that is a positive at every level.

In fact my E5 Barbarian actually will have three fewer class features/Feats by level 20, but that is counterbalanced IMHO by having Feature/Feat selection after level 5 being entirely free-form, and IMHO the limitations just making things faster in play at the table in the long run.

I now only have to go through every other class in the PHB in a similar way...
These are reasonable measures to constrain the number of combinations. Something to look at would be cherry-picking sub-class features. Say with barbarian. Some sub-classes have fantastic 3rd level features, while others have better features at 6th. Free choice will let mechanically minded players choose the strongest features from across levels. That should show itself in play as some features hardly ever taken and others almost always taken. I tried measuring feat preferences with a survey here awhile back and got some reasonable data: a similar method might be used if several groups were playing using your rules.

Committing players to picking only within a class and then only within one subclass allows a game designer to balance across levels (a stronger feature can be balanced against a weaker one at a different level). Allowing free-form picking means the balance really needs to be approximately absolute (all feats and features must be of equal value). You mentioned creating a list of features that can't be picked. I think that is essentially attempting to achieve absolute balance. It will trim the top. Players will still be able to cherry-pick from the rest (and new players perhaps walk into trap picks.)

Maybe it would be worth at least saying that the pick must be of a feature that would be available to the barbarian at their current level?
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Note that I have simplified my proposed E6 changes to focus on the core mechanical dimensions that deliver the intended increased vulnerability and fallibility of player characters. See the OP for details. The suggested rules can now be used with the standard class tables almost as is. I've hopefully listened closely to criticisms (thank you!) while staying close to the design goals I've set for myself.
 
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Jaeger

That someone better.
I'm thinking more of one-shots on PCs, but I agree with you: it's really a feature. I am after lethality. Capped at 6th an average fighter has 40HP, while an average wizard 26HP. At 5th they might have 34 and 22 respectively. The difference is still meaningful against higher CR creatures because in most cases the fighter will need to be hit an additional time by an attack dealing average damage, compared with the wizard. I'll keep an eye on the level capped at as something to possibly change.

Well, my solution to that would be that in addition to cutting monster HP in half, would be to dial back the drama a bit on the higher CR monsters damage. Dial back the damage dice one die step, knocking the number of damage dice in half, or something similar. One would have to use a sharpie pen and their judgement on a case by case basis.

Part of the reason IMO The HP count and damage on some of the creatures is so high is so that they can remain a threat to PC groups as they continually level up and their HP increases. With an E5/6 mod that is just not needed.

But ultimately IMHO, that extra 6 HP or so will not make much difference if the PC stands in front of a creature after taking a good shot.

For me part of E5/6 feel is the complete paradigm shift of how many, and of what kind of creatures you can throw at your PC's.

E6 games can no longer be monster-of-the-week campaigns. Humanoid creatures like people and Orcs should be the bulk of the enemies that they fight. A single hill giant should be a Big Deal for the entire party!

The days of the players taking down a group of marauding Giants by themselves are over.

IMHO; Appendix A and especially B should be the most used parts of the 5e MM in an E5/6 campaign.

As for dealing with things like Dragons - well there was a reason long polearms were once a thing in the game back in the day!

IMO rules for creating/setting big traps, the use of long polearms like Pikes, and ballista should be a thing. If not outright necessary for the bigger creatures in the MM.

Also Henchmen/Hirelings; Dragon hunting is a group event.


Maybe it would be worth at least saying that the pick must be of a feature that would be available to the barbarian at their current level?
You mentioned creating a list of features that can't be picked. I think that is essentially attempting to achieve absolute balance. It will trim the top. Players will still be able to cherry-pick from the rest (and new players perhaps walk into trap picks.)

I don't think so. Looking at how my Barbarian would work and the remaining class features there are no real "trap" abilities. Everything is useful.

Of course you will get people who will do the math and figure the ideal "build" for dealing the most damage in this or that circumstance, but they were doing that already in normal 5e with multiclassing...

Also for me part of it would be taking a sharpie pen to parts of the feats that are OP as well. Like the Alert feat; I'd either re-write it, or it is out! It's a bit ridiculous. So for my E5 I'd have to go through the feats with my sharpie pen as well and take out stuff that crosses into the superhero ability spectrum as well.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Well, my solution to that would be that in addition to cutting monster HP in half, would be to dial back the drama a bit on the higher CR monsters damage. Dial back the damage dice one die step, knocking the number of damage dice in half, or something similar. One would have to use a sharpie pen and their judgement on a case by case basis.

Part of the reason IMO The HP count and damage on some of the creatures is so high is so that they can remain a threat to PC groups as they continually level up and their HP increases. With an E5/6 mod that is just not needed.
Intuitively, I wouldn't both limit character HP and reduce monster damage dealing. That seems self-defeating (characters have fewer HP, but monsters deal less damage!) My feeling is not at all that monsters deal too much damage - only a reality check that fighter HP will still feel meaningfully different from wizard HP. Also, by my estimation capped at 5th a wizard is fairly likely to be taken down in one round by many of higher CR creatures (at least CR 5, and upwards), while at 6th I think they generally will survive one round.

But ultimately IMHO, that extra 6 HP or so will not make much difference if the PC stands in front of a creature after taking a good shot.
Agreed!

For me part of E5/6 feel is the complete paradigm shift of how many, and of what kind of creatures you can throw at your PC's.
Also agreed, and a strong reason not to weaken monsters! In my experience the great majority of by-the-book creatures are not too challenging for characters.

As for dealing with things like Dragons - well there was a reason long polearms were once a thing in the game back in the day!

IMO rules for creating/setting big traps, the use of long polearms like Pikes, and ballista should be a thing. If not outright necessary for the bigger creatures in the MM.

Also Henchmen/Hirelings; Dragon hunting is a group event.
Agreed.

I don't think so. Looking at how my Barbarian would work and the remaining class features there are no real "trap" abilities. Everything is useful.

Of course you will get people who will do the math and figure the ideal "build" for dealing the most damage in this or that circumstance, but they were doing that already in normal 5e with multiclassing...

Also for me part of it would be taking a sharpie pen to parts of the feats that are OP as well. Like the Alert feat; I'd either re-write it, or it is out! It's a bit ridiculous. So for my E5 I'd have to go through the feats with my sharpie pen as well and take out stuff that crosses into the superhero ability spectrum as well.
As an example, for Clerics interested in joining melee, it is hard to see why anyone would pick the Bonus Proficiencies feature from Life or Nature when they could instead gain the strictly better version from Tempest or War. Getting martial weapons and heavy armor, rather than heavy armor. I don't see why any fighter choosing Combat Superiority from Battlemaster would invest a pick in Student of War or Know Your Enemy when they could instead add Spellcasting or Arcane Charge from Eldritch Knight. Similarly, what prevents a player taking say Totem Spirit and then Retaliation?

For me, the fundamental issue with offering class and subclass features as picks is that they are not equal in value. That isn't a matter of a minor discrepancy: it's between a ribbon and a near-double-feat. One option I tried in my earlier drafts was to price features in ASI-equivalents (the 1, 2, 4 scale where 2 = an ASI) and give characters 2 points at each level which they could save up if desired. I set it aside for two reasons. One is that it is very hard to correctly anticipate and cost all combinations that result in imbalance, even where the parts are individually balanced. Second, it was tangential to my goals as it delivered on customisation, but not at all on vulnerability or mortality.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
As for what to gain on level up… I feel like “demi-levels” are too complex, and also wouldn’t feel like an E6 system. Just a powered-down version of regular level advancement. Instead, I would look at what scaling you want to remove. HP? Proficiency bonus? Class features? Damage per round? ASIs? Then just remove whatever you don’t want to scale from level up, and keep the rest.
Well, I believe you turned out to be right. In my defense, it was not so much a matter of complexity, as clarity of concerns. I realised I had taken on a class balancing project hidden within my E6 heroes-not-super-heroes project. Once I dropped the former, I found that it was possible to deliver the latter much as you suggested - by limiting scaling along a few fundamental dimensions. (OP revised to capture that.)
 

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