D&D 5E Death saves, Temporary math penalties & Exhaustion

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
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My group is testing some house rules and I wanted to share. If anyone has attempted something similar, and has constructive feedback, please share!

#1: Death Saves
Limit - 3 per long rest. There’s only so much a mortal body can handle before death cannot be reversed.

#2: Temporary math penalties (annoying to track)
For instance, undead attacks that reduce a player‘s strength (shadow) or their hit point maximum (specter, wight, wraith).
Instead, I’ll be dropping levels of exhaustion for each ‘touch’ with the cumulative effect heading towards death.

As a result of using more exhaustion levels, we’re going to allow lesser restoration to remove one level of exhaustion, and greater restoration to remove all levels of exhaustion.
 

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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
#2: Temporary math penalties (annoying to track)
For instance, undead attacks that reduce a player‘s strength (shadow) or their hit point maximum (specter, wight, wraith).
Instead, I’ll be dropping levels of exhaustion for each ‘touch’ with the cumulative effect heading towards death.
That can get very harsh very fast. I'd consider capping the amount of exhaustion that can be inflicted in this manner. The fourth level of exhaustion, for example, halves hit points. And if it's coming from wraiths, they're already probably losing hit points off their max.
 

My group is testing some house rules and I wanted to share. If anyone has attempted something similar, and has constructive feedback, please share!
I hope you share your results
#1: Death Saves
Limit - 3 per long rest. There’s only so much a mortal body can handle before death cannot be reversed.
I tried something like this a few times over the years. The time I remember it failing the worst was when I combined it with the gritty rules, and the time it worked the best was when I did 3 per short rest instead of long.
#2: Temporary math penalties (annoying to track)
For instance, undead attacks that reduce a player‘s strength (shadow) or their hit point maximum (specter, wight, wraith).
Instead, I’ll be dropping levels of exhaustion for each ‘touch’ with the cumulative effect heading towards death.
the math penalties I am not big on... but I still would love to hear how it works
As a result of using more exhaustion levels, we’re going to allow lesser restoration to remove one level of exhaustion, and greater restoration to remove all levels of exhaustion.
I am pretty sure that is already a common house rule when ever people are useing exhaustion... cause it is a MAJOR pain in the back side to get rid of even with magic
 

That can get very harsh very fast. I'd consider capping the amount of exhaustion that can be inflicted in this manner. The fourth level of exhaustion, for example, halves hit points. And if it's coming from wraiths, they're already probably losing hit points off their max.
ouch... that sounds... like a game I would need to have 3 full character concepts and sheets for.
 

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
Publisher
That can get very harsh very fast. I'd consider capping the amount of exhaustion that can be inflicted in this manner. The fourth level of exhaustion, for example, halves hit points. And if it's coming from wraiths, they're already probably losing hit points off their max.
This would be in lieu of the HP drain from the traditional monster stats.
 

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
Publisher
What is the outcome in terms of the play experience you're trying to achieve with these house rules? Knowing the goal helps with judging whether these rules are suitable to that goal.
Grittier play. More thoughtful decision-making from players who take the current system for granted. Most players don’t really think there’s much of a chance that their character can perish in 5e.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Grittier play. More thoughtful decision-making from players who take the current system for granted. Most players don’t really think there’s much of a chance that their character can perish in 5e.
Based on what I can see, you're likely to experience more in-combat healing, spare the dying (which basically means a player is "out" until they receive healing), and long resting to get rid of exhaustion. You might see some more cautious play, but it's likely to be centered around healing and resting than anything else. I would say make sure you include time pressure in your games else they'll just long rest as much as they can. Make it a meaningful choice with trade-offs, I say.
 

Grittier play. More thoughtful decision-making from players who take the current system for granted. Most players don’t really think there’s much of a chance that their character can perish in 5e.
Re: #1

Ok, and you're aware that this is going to specifically target anyone who plays a melee or tank, because as an experienced DM, you're well aware that death saves are absolutely not evenly distributed throughout the party?

So you specifically want the players who play to tanks and melees to "feel the grit", but not the players who play other classes?

The reason 90% of "make it grittier" stuff focuses on HP regen is that all classes lose HP, but not all classes end up making lots of death saves.

Also, are you talking three failed, or three rolls at all? These are very different scenarios. Three rolls at all means you're going to get 5MWD syndrome if your players value their PCs, because no-one in their right mind would continue after even making one death save. Three failed has a bit more flexibility, because players are willing to gamble with RNG, but not so dumb they'll mess with a sure thing.

If your problem is solely overconfident melees get whackamole'd, then go ahead (though I'd say failed rather than all). Also be aware that this will be "solved" at level 5 when Revivify kicks in. If you feel like it's not just melees, or you don't want to single them out and punish them for playing those classes/specs, then drop this and go with something that makes it harder to regain HP (very much including HP from magic).

Re: #2

This is also going to impact melees and tanks far more than others. They're up front and will catch far more in the way of touches, won't they? So you'll have the Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin and Rogue limping around on various levels of Exhaustion, whilst the Wizard, Sorcerer, etc. stand smugly at the back with none - and who also aren't having to worry about death saves much (I've literally never seen either class have to make 3 death saves before a long rest).

However, with the restoration changes this isn't killer and I honestly think they should have used Exhaustion in a lot of cases with these monsters.

Based on what I can see, you're likely to experience more in-combat healing, spare the dying (which basically means a player is "out" until they receive healing), and long resting to get rid of exhaustion. You might see some more cautious play, but it's likely to be centered around healing and resting than anything else. I would say make sure you include time pressure in your games else they'll just long rest as much as they can. Make it a meaningful choice with trade-offs, I say.

Exactly right. And if you just time pressure them and do this, in the long run the only PCs will die will be ones who play melees and tanks, and that's likely to mean your players just move away from playing those, rather than being "cautious". Caution is hard in a game as RNG-heavy and DM-strategy-dependent as D&D - particularly as an awful lot of caution relies on casters buffing/protecting the people up front, and they're not the ones who will be suffering here.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
My group is testing some house rules and I wanted to share. If anyone has attempted something similar, and has constructive feedback, please share!

#1: Death Saves
Limit - 3 per long rest. There’s only so much a mortal body can handle before death cannot be reversed.

#2: Temporary math penalties (annoying to track)
For instance, undead attacks that reduce a player‘s strength (shadow) or their hit point maximum (specter, wight, wraith).
Instead, I’ll be dropping levels of exhaustion for each ‘touch’ with the cumulative effect heading towards death.

As a result of using more exhaustion levels, we’re going to allow lesser restoration to remove one level of exhaustion, and greater restoration to remove all levels of exhaustion.

I am all for using exhaustion levels more often. The only issue I have is that as-written the earlier penalty on ability checks, which might seem lesser than the combat penalties, is actually a bigger deal for many characters. I'd rather randomize the exhaustion levels effects instead of keeping the default progression.

That said, I absolutely do not think that ability damage is annoying to track, in fact 5e is the easiest edition to handle ability damage, and I wish there were more than just shadow attacks using ability damage.
 

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