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D&D 5E Assaying rules for 5E E6


Be just and fear not...
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. Generally, the problem to solve is how might we constrain characters to heroic fantasy, powerwise? No Wuxia. No superheroes! So scaling ended at 6th level, and thereafter a feat was gained per so-many-thousand XP (an amount based on the XP to get to 7th level). That worked well in 3rd, where feats are plentiful and granular.

I read a proposal for 5E where a feat or class-feature-pick would be gained. An issue I see there is the disparity in power of class features. I drafted some points-buy rules for features, but felt that strayed too far from one of D&D's core values, which are class levels housing multiple elements (HD, features, PB). Class levels aid balancing (ribbons balance stronger features) and give a class a specific feel in play.

Thus, I've drafted rules that end scaling at 6th, and then offer "demi-levels". I'd love some criticism. Does the overall structure feel right? Are the four example classes fairly balanced? Any obvious gotchas or omissions? Note that the intent is that demi-levels are much weaker than normal class levels. Although they go up to 6+5, the third attack for Fighters (and all the scaling implied around that!) is cut. Below, the proposed rules,

5E E6

Normal character level advancement stops at 6th level. After that, a character who gains the specified experience point total to gain a new level, advances instead by an increment called a demi-level. Their level is then denoted 6+1, 6+2, 6+3 etc. No further full levels can be gained, and scaling terminates. Meaning that,
  • The maximum number of hit dice is 6
  • The highest proficiency bonus is +3
  • Cantrip effects don’t increase past 6th level
  • Class and subclass features granted by full class levels, like Extra Attack, Sneak Attack, Spellcasting or Wild Shape, don't scale further
In summary, demi-levels are ignored for features that scale with class or character level. That notwithstanding,
  • Features that trigger replacements, such as sorcerer spellcasting allowing a character to replace one spell they know at each level, continue to do so at each demi-level
  • Class and subclass features granted by demi-levels are gained at their lowest level, and don’t scale further
  • Demi-level advancement tables can contain express exceptions to the above
A character cannot advance more than five (5) demi-levels. Beyond that, further features might be gained through deeds, sacrifices and perilous research, or as boons won from supernatural entities.

Beyond 6th Level

Characters can gain demi-levels in a class only if they are a 6th level character. They are granted the features from the appropriate class table on the row – from +1 to +5 – matching the demi-level that they have reached. For example, a fighter advancing to 6+2 is granted the features on the second row of the Fighter table.

Hit points after 6th level

No additional hit dice are granted beyond 6th level. Instead, each time you gain a demi-level, roll all your hit dice, adding your Constitution modifier and any bonuses from features like Toughness to each die. If higher, the roll replaces your hit point maximum.

Spell Enhancement Slots

Some demi-levels grant enhancement slots, noting a level. An enhancement slot can be expended at the same time as the spell slot when casting a spell. The spell is cast at the level of the enhancement slot for effects that count the spell level, like dispel magic, and if it has increased effect at a higher level, it takes effect at the level of the enhancement slot, instead of the spell slot. Enhancement slots refresh when you finish a short rest.

Calculating Encounter Thresholds

Use total levels + demi-levels ÷ 2 to determine what might be an appropriate challenge for a character.

Example Demi-level Advancement Tables

Demi-level Cleric Fighter Rogue Wizard
6+1Spells Prepared +1, Spell Enhancement Slot 5thMartial Archetype FeatureSneak Attack +d6Add 2 Spells, Spell Enhancement Slot 4th
6+2ASI, Divine Domain FeatureASIASIASI
6+3Spells Prepared +1, Spell Enhancement Slot 5thIndomitableRoguish Archetype FeatureAdd 2 Spells, Spell Enhancement Slot 5th
6+4Divine InterventionMartial Archetype FeatureASIArcane Tradition Feature
6+5Spells Prepared +1, Destroy Undead CR2ASI, Indomitable ×2Reliable TalentAdd 2 Spells, Spell Enhancement Slot 6th
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