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D&D 5E Free 60+ page Guide to Sword & Sorcery for 5E D&D

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Yeah well, that's not what I'm saying.

I'm saying 5th Edition can be a good choice for S&S. In many areas it is actually the best edition for S&S! It's just that you need to sacrifice the convenience of the regular spell framework. Actually I think you need to make far less intrusive changes than you might think. You do need to go further than just "no fireballs" though.

Instead of simply telling fans of the genre "this is as good as it gets, if you want more use a different system", I would be interested to discuss how to minimally tweak the D&D spell-casting rules to (much) better support S&S tropes (for player characters).
I'm not sure how "minimal" you'd consider this one, but I've implemented the following in my very Sword & Sorcery inspired 5e campaigns (which are really a mishmash of Primeval Thule, Xoth, and Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperboria):

1. No damage-dealing cantrips
1a. No spellcasters except warlocks
1b. Magic Initiate feat is OK, but see 1, above

2. Use the patron-specific Warlock class features from the Primeval Thule Player's Companion

3. Limit healing potions to Keoghtom's Ointment (renamed in my campaign as Nergal's Blessing

4. Spellcasters are feared and despised by everyone.

5. There is exactly one of most magic items, especially magic weapons. So you don't go seeking A flame tongue, you go seeking THE Flame Tongue. And you can be sure that others are seeking it too.

I ran a bunch of 5e campaigns using these guidelines, and it's worked pretty well.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
Thank you for inviting me to!

I'll assume a rule only deserves inclusion if it considerably strengthens D&D's ability to support S&S themes. Your product is not just some generic D&D supplement, after all.

  • while I understand the sentiment "Int is underused by D&D" I would like to argue not appreciating Int properly is actually appropriate for S&S ;) For general D&D, yes, rebalancing ability scores is a worthy houserule. But for S&S?
  • while some feats are overpowered I would argue they're actually very appropriate for S&S. I think your product is better off assuming individual DMs bring whatever general rebalancing from their other D&D games to your world of Xoth. It's not something you want to lock into place.
  • I don't immediately understand if you gain +1 to flanking on top of advantage or in place of it. Anyway, it's minor minutiae that has nothing to do with S&S so I would not add it to this Player's Guide
  • disadvantage after being proned or disarmed: If I squint I can see the low fantasy appeal that works in S&S too here. My concern is: they're pretty detailed rules for very specific corner cases. I'd try to rework it into a single general rule covering all kinds of disadvantageous positions. In fact S&S could do well strengthening improvisational ways of fighting, but that's out of scope here.
  • penalizing hit point loss further - again low fantasy, not S&S. At least not for the game of S&S (it works well in novels and on screen). I'd focus exhaustion more on environmental hazards (such as running out of water)
  • adding a "shield mini game" would be neat and even moderately S&S appropriate. Not sure it's worth the hassle though. I'd check supplements like New Argonauts (D&D for ancient eras) for possible ideas.
  • the core rule already is "long rest gives all hp back"? Anyhoo, I don't like how this forces the GM to either deny long rests altogether, or wipe the slate clean. When I run 5E I have long rests give back no hit points but all healing surges. I find this actually simpler than even the core rules (always a good thing) and also S&S appropriate: by spending all your healing surges right away, you're combat ready but you've used up your reserves. At least you have the choice. That is imo a much better implementation of "you're weary and worn out" since it doesn't mess with the basic fact D&D heroes need hp to do their job, while not forcing "you're fully fit even though yesterday was a disaster" upon the characters.
  • As for S&S, consider saying deserts swamps etc only give you back 1/2 or even 1/4 health (hp in the core rules, healing surges in my variant) but then make sure there are alternative ways for resilient tough-as-hell heroes to compensate. Perhaps something as simple as chewing tobacco or doing 'rooms or regular old physical intimacy restores a couple of healing surges during long rests? That is, not magical potions but the simple things of life (This would help explain the good old trope of barbarians carousing during downtime...)
 

Anyway I digress. I think S&S games like Xoth should have no instant death rules at all. This is more a theoretical post on how to implement it where appropriate.
You have your own strong opinion on this, but I disagree. I think it is appropriate to the genre, but it’s not my game to design.

Contrast to my suggested variant (above). It is borne out of the realization the exact numbers don't matter!

Yes exactly what I’ve presented from my first post. I think we are agreement here. Any such rule should be linked to critical’s, which could be done on the rare occasions when you roll max damage for you attack. It’s straight forward and doesn’t necessitate working out a proportion of your weapon damage. though it would be a rare occurrence.
I also like the idea of spending inspiration when you roll a critical to allow a chance of a roll on the DMG system shock table. The results are varied with stun, and dropping to zero hit-points being a possibility. Even with dropping to zero hit-points 5e’s death saves mean you rarely have instant death.

For me S&S needs a balance between heroic action, with gritty leanings, and a real threat of death. I think 5e can reach that compromise, but not in its standard form so well. My suggestions in my first post are how I envision achieving that.

The instant death rule in Xoth is not where I’d put the emphasis personally, though I’m not strongly against it. I could see a form of instant death being put to effective use in some circumstances to emphasis unique threatening monsters abilities that need to be overcome in unique ways.

A greater possibility of character/foe death creates a tension and drama that I believe S&S needs. The standard rhythm of chipping away at hit-points needs that rare unpredictable critical effect to colour proceedings and shake things up occasionally.

Think we agree on how to implement it, just not whether it should be done :) I think it’s clear where we both stand.

Anyway good luck with the game.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Looking forward to hearing any ideas you may have on making magic more dangerous/unpredictable for spellcasters... without making spellcasting PCs totally unplayable.
And therein lies the challenge.

D&D spellcasters are balanced. Just making life harder on them doesn't work, since that results in players sensitive to optimizing to avoid those classes.

I mean it kind of works, in that, sure, you can ask a player playing a caster to suck up the fact his spell selection is considerably worsened by making sure to play up the awe and fear that character evokes.

But ideally, you would offer spellcasting classes with the same balance compared to the rest of the classes as regular 5E, only differently implemented to support the notion magic is unreliable and dangerous instead of as reliable and uncontroversial as a tool.

In 3E spellcasters were very strong (overpowered even), but that's not the case with 5E. (At least not in games allowing all RAW feats)

(This has nothing to do with which classes your setting offers. I think I remember already discussing whether to allow most existing spellcasting classes, only tweaked to fit in)

This is to say that if anything, your magic needs to be stronger, not weaker, if you make it dangerous or unpredictable. Removing spells and cantrips might be needed, but isn't helping with this.

---

I would probably go with the themes of blood and corruption.

Blood points let you cast stronger spells than the RAW game, so you're tempted to use that. (This compensates for the nerfs elsewhere) Your blood... or someone else's...? (The simplest implementation is to allow you to cast your spell cheaper rather than more powerfully, using a lower slot, though possibly even above your regular max level)

Corruption accrues by casting spells. Too much magic in too short a time period and you risk... things. (Things that deserve a thread of its own)

The intent here is to let the player have complete control over the risks involved. Narratively the character takes risks by accumulating corruption, but the player needs to be able to predict how much corruption each spellcasting action yields.

Any given spellcasting action remains totally predictable just like in the core rules. Except the accumulated result of much spellcasting is not necessarily safe. Simply letting the player see the raising and falling of these scores help empathize the wicked nature of sorcery, even if there seldom is any practical consequences.

Again, the point isn't to make the game unplayable for the caster, just give off the illusion of just that :)

If you include such a system in your product, Xoth, you will have added value for everybody interested in such magics, not just fans of S&S.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
which could be done on the rare occasions when you roll max damage for you attack. It’s straight forward and doesn’t necessitate working out a proportion of your weapon damage. though it would be a rare occurrence.
That was my first thought, but I found it too illogical a dagger should have a much larger chance of killing a foe than a greataxe.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
You have your own strong opinion on this, but I disagree. I think it is appropriate to the genre, but it’s not my game to design.
I should clarify it is very much appropriate to the genre.

Except it somehow never happens to the Conan(s) of the story.

That is, D&D is a game. In which you fight hundreds of apemen and ghastly centipedes.

This basic activity* cannot be penalized by death, since there's no way around it.
*) I mean the activity of fighting. Entering combat. Obviously you can run out of hit points and die that way.

Therefore. Appropriate to the genre, yes, but not when implemented as a game.

If anything, make criticals deal more damage. This neatly avoids all the issues of the common Instant Death rule implementations, while still offering the odd brutalizing hit. If so, make sure to allow players ways to mitigate them (such as by that shield idea from Xoth's house rules).

But I will stop arguing against instant death now. I've said my piece.
 

That was my first thought, but I found it too illogical a dagger should have a much larger chance of killing a foe than a greataxe.
I guess it depends on how you imagine the attack. A knife to a critically vulnerable area can be deadly, as can an axe blow to the head. One may look more spectacular though.
For me it remains a simple way to implement an exceptional critical, without disrupting the familar 5e game too much. All weapons can be deadly in the right circumstances. I feel this rule reflects that.
 


S'mon

Legend
Death saves are a pretty strong safety net, but there isn't nearly enough feeling of danger and excitement that I’d expect from an S&S game.

I definitely haven't experienced this as an issue running eg 5e Primeval Thule. There are two easy fixes if it is for you (which I use in all my games):

(1) No raise dead/resurrection
(2) Wildly unbalanced encounters; ignore encounter-building guidelines and expect PCs to flee when overmatched.

As Zapp says, random PC insta-death (or crippling) seems more suited to WHFRP and other genuinely low-fantasy (GoT/ASOIAF?) than to the Sword & Sorcery genre. Fafhrd & Mouser, Elric, Conan, don't get randomly taken out. Neither do their 'NPC' equivalents, who die a lot for dramatic effect, but usually as a result of some Unimaginable Horror, not from a lucky attack roll by the city guard.
 
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I definitely haven't experienced this as an issue running eg 5e Primeval Thule. There are two easy fixes if it is for you (which I use in all my games):

(1) No raise dead/resurrection
(2) Wildly unbalanced encounters; ignore encounter-building guidelines and expect PCs to flee when overmatched.

As Zapp says, random PC insta-death (or crippling) seems more suited to WHFRP and other genuinely low-fantasy (GoT/ASOIAF?) than to the Sword & Sorcery genre. Fafhrd & Mouser, Elric, Conan, don't get randomly taken out. Neither do their 'NPC' equivalents, who die a lot for dramatic effect, but usually as a result of some Unimaginable Horror, not from a lucky attack roll by the city guard.
The critical effects from the system shock table are mostly short term hindrances, with one result being fall to zero-hit points and death saves. There are no lasting wounds there, which is why I thought it appropriate.
With my first suggestion was using the limited resource of Inspiration to trigger a roll on the table after rolling a critical. It would be a much more player focused tool, as mooks wouldn’t have access to inspiration.

If you did use the random max damage option as well, then I think there’s real mileage in using the developers house rule of allowing a shield or weapon to be broken to mitigate the effect.
If inspiration is to be used more creatively, you could also allow that to be spent to mitigate a critical effect. Though you may need to change the inspiration rules to allow a small pool for each session. A maximum of 3 for example.

like I’ve said there’s plenty of safety mechanisms in 5e to prevent instant death already. it’s not a system that engenders a great feeling of risk against the odds, particularly after 6th level. The odds are already stacked up in favour of the pc’s. Don’t think there’s a danger of it turning into wfrp :)
 

1) No raise dead/resurrection
(2) Wildly unbalanced encounters; ignore encounter-building guidelines and expect PCs to flee when overmatched.
Yes both good points.

I still feel there’s an element of danger missing from standard 5e play though. As it stands it models high heroics in high fantasy well. The lower levels still have a slight edge which I like, but higher levels tend to become quite bland for my taste as the risk becomes less and less.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want death for the sake of death, but as a device to create tension and excitement at all levels of the game. Sometimes a deadly threat is necessary to achieve this. If you fear the poison from a venomous giant snake, or the real threat of a knife wielding assassin then the mechanics are doing their job. If you approach those encounters knowing that your hit-point pool is going to be a safety net, the fear and tension has gone before the encounter has began.

In a game unlike the literature, I feel you need the opportunity to fail, or fear failure for this dark S&S atmosphere to be created, other wise it remains a high heroic, high fantasy game with little risk

But yes there’s more then one way to skin a cat.
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I guess it depends on how you imagine the attack. A knife to a critically vulnerable area can be deadly, as can an axe blow to the head. One may look more spectacular though.
For me it remains a simple way to implement an exceptional critical, without disrupting the familar 5e game too much. All weapons can be deadly in the right circumstances. I feel this rule reflects that.
Maybe I didn't convey my point clearly enough?

"Instakill on max damage crits" means that a dagger has a 25% chance of inflicting that (when you roll a 20), while a battleaxe (a d8 weapon) has exactly half that chance (12,5%).

Why is that? It is because rolling a 4 on a d4 is much more likely than rolling a 8 on a d8. Twice as likely, in fact. A knife to a critically vulnerable area can indeed be deadly, as can an axe blow to the head. I don't contest that. What I do contest is that a knife is twice as likely to instakill your opponent as a battleaxe, not to mention a greataxe.

The only way to achieve parity here, so that the kill chance remains equal for all weapons, is either to not focus on the weapon die at all, or to change the criteria from "rolling max on the die". For instance, if you say a dagger needs to roll 4, a battleaxe needs to roll 7+ and a greataxe needs to roll 10+, then you have achieved parity. Now the chance of a crit instakilling your foe is equal for all three weapons.

I just expanded on that to make weapons more likely to inflict instakills as they grow larger and heavier.

Another way of implementing parity could be "if you roll even on your damage die". Then 50% of all critical hits kill the foe, regardless of weapon. Or you could (as already stated) forget about the weapon die entirely. "If you crit, roll a second d20. 16 or higher means an instakill." results in 25% of all crits kill the opponent, for instance.

Best regards and apologies for the statistical aside,
Zapp
 

Maybe I didn't convey my point clearly enough?

"Instakill on max damage crits" means that a dagger has a 25% chance of inflicting that (when you roll a 20), while a battleaxe (a d8 weapon) has exactly half that chance (12,5%).

Why is that? It is because rolling a 4 on a d4 is much more likely than rolling a 8 on a d8. Twice as likely, in fact. A knife to a critically vulnerable area can indeed be deadly, as can an axe blow to the head. I don't contest that. What I do contest is that a knife is twice as likely to instakill your opponent as a battleaxe, not to mention a greataxe.

The only way to achieve parity here, so that the kill chance remains equal for all weapons, is either to not focus on the weapon die at all, or to change the criteria from "rolling max on the die". For instance, if you say a dagger needs to roll 4, a battleaxe needs to roll 7+ and a greataxe needs to roll 10+, then you have achieved parity. Now the chance of a crit instakilling your foe is equal for all three weapons.

I just expanded on that to make weapons more likely to inflict instakills as they grow larger and heavier.

Another way of implementing parity could be "if you roll even on your damage die". Then 50% of all critical hits kill the foe, regardless of weapon. Or you could (as already stated) forget about the weapon die entirely. "If you crit, roll a second d20. 16 or higher means an instakill." results in 25% of all crits kill the opponent, for instance.

Best regards and apologies for the statistical aside,
Zapp
Yes, good points.

Allowing the use of inspiration to achieve a special result on a critical seems a good fit for this. No extra rolling, and very player /hero facing.
Though I’ve no objection to making an extra roll, for the sake of evening out the probability.

The rolling evens on damage 50% of the time is a good streamlined option, but probably even more risky for pc’s then I would have gone.
Having said that there’s already a low chance of rolling a crit in the first place, so maybe a good solution too?
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Yes both good points.

I still feel there’s an element of danger missing from standard 5e play though. As it stands it models high heroics in high fantasy well. The lower levels still have a slight edge which I like, but higher levels tend to become quite bland for my taste as the risk becomes less and less.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want death for the sake of death, but as a device to create tension and excitement at all levels of the game. Sometimes a deadly threat is necessary to achieve this. If you fear the poison from a venomous giant snake, or the real threat of a knife wielding assassin then the mechanics are doing their job. If you approach those encounters knowing that your hit-point pool is going to be a safety net, the fear and tension has gone before the encounter has began.

In a game unlike the literature, I feel you need the opportunity to fail, or fear failure for this dark S&S atmosphere to be created, other wise it remains a high heroic, high fantasy game with little risk

But yes there’s more then one way to skin a cat.
I sincerely recommend you to use lower hit points in that case.

It is the hit point buffer, and more specifically, the size of it, that is the root cause of your concerns. Instead of adding mechanisms that randomly bypass the hit point buffer, why not make it smaller?

As we seem to agree, D&D is plenty lethal and scary at low levels (up to perhaps 6th level as you suggest). I would argue that at 1st level, D&D is actually even more fantasy-fracking-vietnam:ish than WFRP! :unsure: (Yes, not only old D&D obviously, but even more contemporary versions of the game)

If heroes gain hit points slower, the "sweet spot" is prolonged.

For regular D&D, general consensus seems to agree that's from perhaps 4th through 9th level, but that's because grim and perilous death at low levels isn't what most people want out of regular D&D. For S&S that is clearly different, at least for you. (@xoth.publishing what do you think - what's your idea of an ideal level to play D&D in your world?) If we were to agree, the tension is starting to lose its edge at sixth level in regular D&D, that means we're saying the turning point is when a fighter has more than ~55 hit points. Isn't the obvious solution then to delay that occurrence?

Details on how to accomplish this is maybe best discussed in a different thread, but if heroes only gain 75% as many hit points then that fighter only reaches 55 hp at level 9 instead of level 6, and the sweet spot has been prolonged. (Actually, it's probably prolonged even more than that, since damage output goes up. Having 70 hp at level 11 is still scarier than having 95 after all)

Actually I mean that "give them 75%" quite literally. Any direct change, such as reducing hit dice one step, or removing the Constitution bonus to hit points each level, impacts classes very unevenly: the first change is bad for Wizards, the second for Barbarians. Much better imo to keep calculating hit points just as usual, only to then reduce it to 3/4ths, since this keeps the ratio between classes.
 
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S'mon

Legend
Yes both good points.

I still feel there’s an element of danger missing from standard 5e play though. As it stands it models high heroics in high fantasy well. The lower levels still have a slight edge which I like, but higher levels tend to become quite bland for my taste as the risk becomes less and less.

I agree, and my players do comment on this. My solution has been to go back to more 1e style (at least 1e UK style, eg '70s-'80s White Dwarf scenarios) where 1-4 is low level, 5-8 is medium to high, and 9+ is very high to 'endgame' levels - so King Conan might be Barbarian 11th or 12th, not 20th. Using the standard 5e XP rules (halved at 11+) with most fights being lots of weak enemies works very well to keep advancement slow and danger high. Also I now start all new PCs at 1st level, which gives death a nasty sting.

I was looking at advancement IMC yesterday, it looks like after 3rd level PCs are looking at around 3 months of weekly play to gain a level. The PCs who started in August 2020, played regularly (1-2/week) and haven't died, are at 4th level now.
 
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xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
(@xoth.publishing what do you think - what's your idea of an ideal level to play D&D in your world?)
I'd say the sweet spot -- where the gameplay and Conan-style S&S fiction generally overlap -- are between levels 3-8 or so. Anything below and the PCs are too fragile, and anything above (say, around levels 10-11) it starts to get too "far out" to resemble the fiction. It helps if you restrict magic items and the most genre-breaking spells, though.
 

I sincerely recommend you to use lower hit points in that case.

It is the hit point buffer, and more specifically, the size of it, that is the root cause of your concerns. Instead of adding mechanisms that randomly bypass the hit point buffer, why not make it smaller?

As we seem to agree, D&D is plenty lethal and scary at low levels (up to perhaps 6th level as you suggest). I would argue that at 1st level, D&D is actually even more fantasy-fracking-vietnam:ish than WFRP! :unsure: (Yes, not only old D&D obviously, but even more contemporary versions of the game)

If heroes gain hit points slower, the "sweet spot" is prolonged.

For regular D&D, general consensus seems to agree that's from perhaps 4th through 9th level, but that's because grim and perilous death at low levels isn't what most people want out of regular D&D. For S&S that is clearly different, at least for you. (@xoth.publishing what do you think - what's your idea of an ideal level to play D&D in your world?) If we were to agree, the tension is starting to lose its edge at sixth level in regular D&D, that means we're saying the turning point is when a fighter has more than ~55 hit points. Isn't the obvious solution then to delay that occurrence?

Details on how to accomplish this is maybe best discussed in a different thread, but if heroes only gain 75% as many hit points then that fighter only reaches 55 hp at level 9 instead of level 6, and the sweet spot has been prolonged. (Actually, it's probably prolonged even more than that, since damage output goes up. Having 70 hp at level 11 is still scarier than having 95 after all)

Actually I mean that "give them 75%" quite literally. Any direct change, such as reducing hit dice one step, or removing the Constitution bonus to hit points each level, impacts classes very unevenly: the first change is bad for Wizards, the second for Barbarians. Much better imo to keep calculating hit points just as usual, only to then reduce it to 3/4ths, since this keeps the ratio between classes.
Yes that’s certainly one way to approach it.
My only criticism of that is that it may go against the expectations of many 5e players that this is aimed at. 5e players are very used to the level progression structure of the game. Structural change like that might make them feel they’re not playing 5e anymore?

I’ve backed a game called Trudvang Adventures for 5e by Riotminds on ks. Really worth having a look for inspiration if you get the chance. They’ve developed a wound tracker (think exhaustion but for wounds) and a lowish wound threshold that only increases by proficiency bonus. The magic is really worth looking at too, very dark and dangerous.

edit: not saying it’s necessarily appropriate as is to this game, but it may spark ideas.

Also Beowulf for 5e (just released) is a marvellous example of clever use of the 5e engine. Innovative ideas with Inspiration and contextualising it into the game, amongst many other ideas. Highly recommended.
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
I would probably go with the themes of blood and corruption.
Having slept on it, here's a draft for y'all:

Corruption Points

Each time you cast a spell, you gain corruption points equal to the spell's level. Cantrips count as half your level, rounded down. Yes, this means level 1 casters cast cantrips for free.

You have a corruption threshold that increases as you level up. For a quick and dirty idea of appropriate thresholds, use your maximum spell level squared. At level 1, your corruption threshold is... 1. At level 9, you can cast level 5 spells so it is 25.

Taking a short rest reduces your corruption total by your level. Taking a long rest resets it to zero, assuming you were able to meditate, pray or cleanse during the night.

Accumulating corruption is risk-free until you exceed your threshold. Then you must immediately roll a d20 adding the surplus corruption and face the consequences:

[Add table here with various S&S themed results. If there are changes to the environment, it's okay not to give the caster a way to prevent this. This should represent the risk of the caster getting mistrusted by villagers or thrown out of town. More direct results like twisted limbs or the spell being redirected to the wrong target should allow for a saving throw]

For instance, if Akiro the 5th level Wizard have 10 Corruption and casts a third level spell, his new total is 13, which triggers a roll on the Corruption Table since his corruption threshold is 9. To the d20 we add 13-9, so d20+4. If we roll 19, thus getting a result of greater than 20, that should definitely be outright crippling, I suggest permanently. Maybe we can entice the player of Akiro to turn to the dark side (see what I did there ;) ) by offering him a save by transferring the crippling curse onto a hapless bystander, say a beautiful warrior named Valeria...

If you want you can even skip keeping track of spell slots, using the above as a variant spell point system.

---

Dev notes:

The intent is to allow a caster to be able to use up roughly half of the daily allotment of the official spell point variant, and then have to take two short rests to get access to the other half. Without risking corruption rolls, that is. I know it doesn't come across from the above, but that corruption results table is definitely intended to be bad news. It's not like the Wild Magic Sorcerer which is built on the assumption you want to roll on its table!

I know that's not exactly what the above simplified system results in, but I didn't like the idea to actually use the spell point numbers in a first draft like this since I feel those are overly complicated (hard to remember). I mostly wrote it up quickly to get the idea across, not present it as a carefully calibrated publication-ready submission :)

---

Blood Points

You can supercharge a spell by accruing Blood Points instead of Corruption Points. (An equal amount)

Each time you get to cast the spell at one spell level higher than your maximum and with +2 to your DC.

Blood points are summed together with your corruption points when comparing to your corruption threshold.

The difference is that it's far harder to get rid of blood points. Assuming you run episodic adventures (rather than counting exact days during downtime), the GM might let you halve your total at the end of each adventure. At the heroic end of the scale, you might be allowed to remove 1 blood point for each long rest, though this is likely too good if there's long uneventful journeys or long stretches of downtime where you count the days between scenarios.

Dev notes: The intent here is to compensate casters for the reduced variety in spells by allowing them to supercharge their casting for the cost of increased risk of corruption.

Do note that if HP totals are reduced, this might not be necessary assuming the caster still has access to some multi-target damage spells.

---

As a final note, both corruption and blood points should be possible to transfer elsewhere - having somebody else pay the cost, to explain why most sorcerers are dark and evil in this setting.

For corruption, this is probably best handled when resolving Corruption table rolls, rather than actually tracking corruption points injected into NPCs. (See example above).

For blood points, simply say you can substitute blood points for hp damage and an equal reduction in maximum hit points. (Paying with actual Constitution points isn't appropriate for 5E the way it could work in 3E). The easiest approach is to say this damage can't be healed (short of Regenerate spells etc), since the point isn't to boost player character casters, but to lure them to (ab)use NPCs.

It is when the game mechanics explain why villains drag along sacrificial victims you have a rule set that supports S&S. :devilish:

Also note that there is no rule such as "if you do this too much your alignment shifts to Evil". In S&S, your actions might come to haunt you later, or they might not. But that's between the GM and the player, and not for the game rules to moralize over.

Cheers
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'd say the sweet spot -- where the gameplay and Conan-style S&S fiction generally overlap -- are between levels 3-8 or so. Anything below and the PCs are too fragile, and anything above (say, around levels 10-11) it starts to get too "far out" to resemble the fiction. It helps if you restrict magic items and the most genre-breaking spells, though.
Great - then you can easily translate that into actual hit points.

A 3rd level fighter have maybe 25-30 hp or thereabouts, and at 8th level ~70 hp.

So if anything, replace the instant death rules with rules that start you off at (or quickly reach) 25 hp and then slowly inch upwards to 70 at the upper bounds of the campaign. For a fighter that is.

Do note I'm assuming you'd be alright with still playing the Xoth campaign at higher level than 8 - that the fighter should reach 70 hp at level 11 or level 14 or wherever your actual pain threshold is. (Note: If what you're really saying is instead "the campaign should end at 8th level and its fine for characters to have the core amount of hit points" then obviously we're discussing different things! :sneaky:)

Good luck with your rules design :cool:(y)
 

CapnZapp

Legend
Yes that’s certainly one way to approach it.
My only criticism of that is that it may go against the expectations of many 5e players that this is aimed at. 5e players are very used to the level progression structure of the game. Structural change like that might make them feel they’re not playing 5e anymore?
Well, in my suggestion nothing about the structure of level progression changes, it's just slightly smaller numbers.

I’ve backed a game called Trudvang Adventures for 5e by Riotminds on ks. Really worth having a look for inspiration if you get the chance. They’ve developed a wound tracker (think exhaustion but for wounds) and a lowish wound threshold that only increases by proficiency bonus. The magic is really worth looking at too, very dark and dangerous.

edit: not saying it’s necessarily appropriate as is to this game, but it may spark ideas.
This is an example where the structure of level progression changes. (And yes, I agree this is likely much more invasive measures than what XOth intends with the product of this particular thread).

Also Beowulf for 5e (just released) is a marvellous example of clever use of the 5e engine. Innovative ideas with Inspiration and contextualising it into the game, amongst many other ideas. Highly recommended.
Thanks!
 

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