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

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).
Whilst the (optional) wound tracker is a departure from standard 5e, it’s done in a way that slots into the existing rules with very little extra adjustment. It’s effectively a new condition, working in the same cumulative way exhaustion does. But Importantly the levelling and Hit-point progression remains inline with 5e (which is what I meant by structure of level progression). The recommended play is only going to 10th level. There are options for progressing beyond that if you wish.

As an optional condition the wound tracker is very easy for players who don’t want to use it to ignore, but it does help to shape the character of the different setting.

Games like Trudvang 5e, Beowulf, and AIME, are really good examples of how you can you turn 5e into a genre appropriate game, but still keep the basic 5e expectations IMO.

To be clear I’m not saying the Trudvang wound tracker is necessarily appropriate for this game. Though it does a good job of modelling combat fatigue (without graphic limb loss, and permanent injuries).
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Whilst the (optional) wound tracker is a departure from standard 5e, it’s done in a way that slots into the existing rules with very little extra adjustment. It’s effectively a new condition, working in the same cumulative way exhaustion does. But Importantly the levelling and Hit-point progression remains inline with 5e (which is what I meant by structure of level progression). The recommended play is only going to 10th level. There are options for progressing beyond that if you wish.

As an optional condition the wound tracker is very easy for players who don’t want to use it to ignore, but it does help to shape the character of the different setting.

Games like Trudvang 5e, Beowulf, and AIME, are really good examples of how you can you turn 5e into a genre appropriate game, but still keep the basic 5e expectations IMO.

To be clear I’m not saying the Trudvang wound tracker is necessarily appropriate for this game. Though it does a good job of modelling combat fatigue (without graphic limb loss, and permanent injuries).
It would be helpful to know exactly what you're talking about. Is the following what you mean by Trudvang's "wound tracker"?

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Assuming "yes", I would note this is reminiscent of games such as Hârnmaster. Getting injured makes you worse at fighting, which makes you more likely to be further injured, which makes you even worse at fighting etc. Or, in layman's terms the perhaps unfair term "spiral of death".
As for my feedback to the specific rule: too complicated and featuring exactly the kind of -1's and -3's D&D 5E don't do. Consider the much more simple "you're fine until you're below 1/3rd maximum health. When you're below 1/3rd maximum health all rolls, checks and saves are made with disadvantage" instead.

While mechanisms like this is probably a simple way to implement quasi-realistic combat, and while I'm not familiar with Trudvang's specific nuance of fantasy, I do know there's a reason Hârnmaster used it, I would argue it is out of place in a Sword and Sorcery setting.

The way D&D does not impose any penalties on you until you actually drop is what I would call the perfect fit for S&S games.

While I am fully aware many people like their games to be grim and gritty, I would still like to argue that's a different genre than S&S. Adjacent, but technically separate, in that S&S does not require grim & gritty.

More relevant to this discussion, however, is that Xoth clearly isn't positioning the 5E Player’s Guide to the World of Xoth as an especially gritty game.

So I'd like to remind y'all of why we're having this discussion in the first place - the inclusion of an instant death rule in the Player's Guide. This implementation is not very different from the official massive damage rule in that it doesn't allow kill shots to characters with lots of hit points, only characters with few. (The difference is that it at least triggers off current hp rather than maximum hp - the core rule means you can basically forget about it once you're off the first few levels altogether, not a terribly functional implementation imo.)

Then I argued neither the PHB nor the Xoth rule does what it says on the tin, since you can't be instakilled while having lots of hit points. I illustrated with a rule that affects characters equally regardless of how many hit points they have.

Then I argued no instakill rule is appropriate for S&S, or at least the Xoth variety of S&S, since a game based on this genre features heavy combat, and its heroes don't die to random arrows to the knee.

Now I'm arguing that at least for purposes of this thread we shouldn't assume grim and gritty Sword and Sorcery, even though that in itself is a mighty fine genre.

What I'm suggesting instead is two things:
  • Make heroes have less big hp buffers so heroes aren't "too far out", meaning too far removed from the possibility of death. Extending the "sweet spot" to higher (and lower?) levels
  • Refocus discussion from grim and gritty physical combat to instead "grim and gritty" magical spellcasting

Cheers :)
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
This is an example where the structure of level progression changes.
I should add that when you first started discussing wound trackers, I thought about games with abstract wound levels instead of hit points. (In case I came across as not getting your point)
 

It would be helpful to know exactly what you're talking about. Is the following what you mean by Trudvang's "wound tracker"?

View attachment 133305

Assuming "yes", I would note this is reminiscent of games such as Hârnmaster. Getting injured makes you worse at fighting, which makes you more likely to be further injured, which makes you even worse at fighting etc. Or, in layman's terms the perhaps unfair term "spiral of death".
As for my feedback to the specific rule: too complicated and featuring exactly the kind of -1's and -3's D&D 5E don't do. Consider the much more simple "you're fine until you're below 1/3rd maximum health. When you're below 1/3rd maximum health all rolls, checks and saves are made with disadvantage" instead.

While mechanisms like this is probably a simple way to implement quasi-realistic combat, and while I'm not familiar with Trudvang's specific nuance of fantasy, I do know there's a reason Hârnmaster used it, I would argue it is out of place in a Sword and Sorcery setting.

The way D&D does not impose any penalties on you until you actually drop is what I would call the perfect fit for S&S games.

While I am fully aware many people like their games to be grim and gritty, I would still like to argue that's a different genre than S&S. Adjacent, but technically separate, in that S&S does not require grim & gritty.

More relevant to this discussion, however, is that Xoth clearly isn't positioning the 5E Player’s Guide to the World of Xoth as an especially gritty game.

So I'd like to remind y'all of why we're having this discussion in the first place - the inclusion of an instant death rule in the Player's Guide. This implementation is not very different from the official massive damage rule in that it doesn't allow kill shots to characters with lots of hit points, only characters with few. (The difference is that it at least triggers off current hp rather than maximum hp - the core rule means you can basically forget about it once you're off the first few levels altogether, not a terribly functional implementation imo.)

Then I argued neither the PHB nor the Xoth rule does what it says on the tin, since you can't be instakilled while having lots of hit points. I illustrated with a rule that affects characters equally regardless of how many hit points they have.

Then I argued no instakill rule is appropriate for S&S, or at least the Xoth variety of S&S, since a game based on this genre features heavy combat, and its heroes don't die to random arrows to the knee.

Now I'm arguing that at least for purposes of this thread we shouldn't assume grim and gritty Sword and Sorcery, even though that in itself is a mighty fine genre.

What I'm suggesting instead is two things:
  • Make heroes have less big hp buffers so heroes aren't "too far out", meaning too far removed from the possibility of death. Extending the "sweet spot" to higher (and lower?) levels
  • Refocus discussion from grim and gritty physical combat to instead "grim and gritty" magical spellcasting

Cheers :)

That’s the orginal bespoke Trudvang Chronicles example you have there. The 5e version (currently in beta) looks like this, I’ve taken this from the freely available sample adventure WurmsTongue, which was on their website, but may have been removed now?

A8EA0408-9B3C-4C80-8985-F5AD684D3294.png
307BB27B-9FAA-4EAB-A30C-10411DB0F799.png

Once again I’m not advocating using this for Xoth, I agree I think it’s not entirely reflective of S&S. It’s much grittier. But ideas may spring from it.
With the wound Tracker Inspiration (called Raud) can move you one step up the wound tracker. You have a maximum of 2 inspiration at the start of each game. 2 remains the cap. Inspiration still works in the standard way as well. Some class abilities and healing also move you a step up on the wound tracker.

Games like Beowulf and Trudvang play with the inspiration mechanic and expand on it from 5e. I could see inspiration being used in innovative ways in Xoth too, not just for adv. For example triggering an exceptional critical as I mentioned originally.

Magic certainly needs a think and I like your suggestions there. To my mind it’s not a player facing thing in S&S, but this is D&D so almost certainly should be allowed for. It needs consequences to be feared as you said.
 
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That’s the orginal bespoke Trudvang Chronicles example you have there. The 5e version (currently in beta) looks like this, I’ve taken this from the freely available sample adventure WurmsTongue, which was on their website, but may have been removed now?

View attachment 133313View attachment 133314
Once again I’m not advocating using this for Xoth, I agree I think it’s not entirely reflective of S&S. It’s much grittier. But ideas may spring from it.
Inspiration (called Raud) can move you one step up the wound tracker. You have a maximum of 2 inspiration. It also works in the standard advantage way. Some class abilities and healing also move you a step on the wound tracker.
Games like Beowulf and Trudvang play with the inspiration mechanic and expand on it from 5e. I could see inspiration being used in innovative ways in Xoth too, not just for adv. For example triggering an exceptional critical as I mentioned originally.

Magic certainly needs a think and I like your suggestions there. To my mind it’s not a player facing thing in S&S, but this is D&D so almost certainly should be allowed for. It needs consequences to be feared as you said.
Riffing off of the TA wound Tracker, and Exhaustion tracker, you could develop a new one specifically for the cumulative consequences of using Sorcery.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
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
It does what it says, nothing more: You gain +1 to attack rolls when flanking.

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.
It doesn't say "hit points", it says "Hit Dice" (aka what you call "healing surges", which is a 4E term I believe...). "A long rest restores all Hit Dice (not just half your Hit Dice as per the standard rules)." Because it's too fiddly to keep track of Hit Dice otherwise.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
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:)
I'm not saying the campaign should end at a certain level, I'm just saying the sweet spot is below level 10. Statistics (from D&D Beyond and elsewhere) show that most campaigns tend to end before getting into the really high levels anyway... possibly because high-level D&D (and Pathfinder!) is a complex, time-consuming mess.

Better to focus on domain management, armies and battles, diplomacy, etc in such high-level campaigns, rather than dungeon-crawling.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
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.
Here's a variant for your consideration:

Deadly Critical: When you score a critical hit against an opponent, roll another d20. If you roll a natural 20 on this second roll, the opponent's hit point total is instantly reduced to zero. For player characters, this means they must start rolling death saves. For NPCs and monsters, it usually means instant death; the GM may rule that certain monsters are immune [you will not be able to insta-kill Great Cthulhu with a lucky die roll]. If you are using the rule where the opponent can sacrifice a weapon or shield to negate the critical hit, the decision must be taken before the second d20 is rolled.

This rule is simple (in the spirit of 5E), applies equally to all (so even high-level characters will feel a little worried), yet won't happen very often, and won't instakill PCs (but rather bring them to zero hit points). Also, it's fun to roll dice, and crits become more interesting.
 

Here's a variant for your consideration:

Deadly Critical: When you score a critical hit against an opponent, roll another d20. If you roll a natural 20 on this second roll, the opponent's hit point total is instantly reduced to zero. For player characters, this means they must start rolling death saves. For NPCs and monsters, it usually means instant death; the GM may rule that certain monsters are immune [you will not be able to insta-kill Great Cthulhu with a lucky die roll]. If you are using the rule where the opponent can sacrifice a weapon or shield to negate the critical hit, the decision must be taken before the second d20 is rolled.

This rule is simple (in the spirit of 5E), applies equally to all (so even high-level characters will feel a little worried), yet won't happen very often, and won't instakill PCs (but rather bring them to zero hit points). Also, it's fun to roll dice, and crits become more interesting.
I really like that. It makes combat more exciting and dangerous. It’s simple and elegantly done. Immediately changes the tone and atmosphere of the game.

Also it will interact with the Assassin abilities very nicely, particularly when they have an auto crit.

Yep, that does it for me. Congrats that’s great.
 
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cbwjm

Hero
Here's a variant for your consideration:

Deadly Critical: When you score a critical hit against an opponent, roll another d20. If you roll a natural 20 on this second roll, the opponent's hit point total is instantly reduced to zero. For player characters, this means they must start rolling death saves. For NPCs and monsters, it usually means instant death; the GM may rule that certain monsters are immune [you will not be able to insta-kill Great Cthulhu with a lucky die roll]. If you are using the rule where the opponent can sacrifice a weapon or shield to negate the critical hit, the decision must be taken before the second d20 is rolled.

This rule is simple (in the spirit of 5E), applies equally to all (so even high-level characters will feel a little worried), yet won't happen very often, and won't instakill PCs (but rather bring them to zero hit points). Also, it's fun to roll dice, and crits become more interesting.
Maybe change the second roll to be "if this is also a critical hit" to work with the expanded critical hit range of the champion.
 

Regarding Magic I do feel HP sacrifice, whether self, someone else, or both should be part of the magic system. A system where hp’s can power spells, and also help cure accrued corruption, is really appropriate for Xoth.

CapnZapp magic suggestions feel very appropriate.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
Regarding Magic I do feel HP sacrifice, whether self, someone else, or both should be part of the magic system. A system where hp’s can power spells, and also help cure accrued corruption, is really appropriate for Xoth.

CapnZapp magic suggestions feel very appropriate.
Note that there are already rules for this in the Player's Guide. The Sorcery chapter (pages 40-41) notes that life force that is restored via healing spells "must be transferred or taken from somewhere else, typically via sacrifice".

The Cultist class (page 30) is built on this concept and has the Blood Healing, Blood Ritual, Triumphant Sacrifice and Steal Life abilities. Sacrifice is also relevant for the Idolatry ability.

The Druid (page 34) has a defiler-like ability that allows him to drain the life force of nearby plants in order to fuel healing, creating a wasteland in the process.

And the Warlock (page 25) "must perform a sacrifice or service on behalf of his patron, as determined by the GM" to advance a level.

Thus all the spellcasting classes feature the concept of sacrifice in different ways. While "corruption" is not a mechanic, the roleplaying potential of each should be obvious ("How far do I want to go to use these special abilities to help myself and my companions"?).
 

Here's a variant for your consideration:

Deadly Critical: When you score a critical hit against an opponent, roll another d20. If you roll a natural 20 on this second roll, the opponent's hit point total is instantly reduced to zero. For player characters, this means they must start rolling death saves. For NPCs and monsters, it usually means instant death; the GM may rule that certain monsters are immune [you will not be able to insta-kill Great Cthulhu with a lucky die roll]. If you are using the rule where the opponent can sacrifice a weapon or shield to negate the critical hit, the decision must be taken before the second d20 is rolled.

This rule is simple (in the spirit of 5E), applies equally to all (so even high-level characters will feel a little worried), yet won't happen very often, and won't instakill PCs (but rather bring them to zero hit points). Also, it's fun to roll dice, and crits become more interesting.
I feel an exception for unarmed attacks from medium and smaller sized opponents should be made. Instead of falling to zero hit points and death saves, fall to zero hit-points but stable.
This then does a good job of modelling the knock out punch.
 

Note that there are already rules for this in the Player's Guide. The Sorcery chapter (pages 40-41) notes that life force that is restored via healing spells "must be transferred or taken from somewhere else, typically via sacrifice".

The Cultist class (page 30) is built on this concept and has the Blood Healing, Blood Ritual, Triumphant Sacrifice and Steal Life abilities. Sacrifice is also relevant for the Idolatry ability.

The Druid (page 34) has a defiler-like ability that allows him to drain the life force of nearby plants in order to fuel healing, creating a wasteland in the process.

And the Warlock (page 25) "must perform a sacrifice or service on behalf of his patron, as determined by the GM" to advance a level.

Thus all the spellcasting classes feature the concept of sacrifice in different ways. While "corruption" is not a mechanic, the roleplaying potential of each should be obvious ("How far do I want to go to use these special abilities to help myself and my companions"?).
Thanks, sounds good. I need to thoroughly read those.
 

xoth.publishing

Swords against tentacles!
I feel an exception for unarmed attacks from medium and smaller sized opponents should be made. Instead of falling to zero hit points and death saves, fall to zero hit-points but stable.
This then does a good job of modelling the knock out punch.
No need for exceptions here. From the 5E core rules: "When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable."
 

No need for exceptions here. From the 5E core rules: "When an attacker reduces a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack, the attacker can knock the creature out. The attacker can make this choice the instant the damage is dealt. The creature falls unconscious and is stable."
Ah yes. Also something easily ruled on by the GM if killing punches aren’t appropriate to the encounter, and the pc thinks otherwise....and still allows for Conan to have the potential to punch a horse out :)
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Riffing off of the TA wound Tracker, and Exhaustion tracker, you could develop a new one specifically for the cumulative consequences of using Sorcery.
Here it becomes really important to reflect on a given rule's aim - what does the rule try to accomplish?

I would argue the goal of limiting magic use (i.e. provide an alternative to spell slots) is different from the goal of making sorcery unpredictable or dangerous.

I'm saying this because again I feel steadily increasing penalties isn't central to the S&S genre. Obviously there must be some kind of check to magic use or every spell becomes a free cantrip. My point is that switching from spell slots to a "death spiral" is something you'd do to make a game grimmer and grittier, and that's just a separate goal from sword-and-sorcifying it.

Instead I maintain the important aspect of standard D&D spellcasting that needs to change is it's clean uncontroversial use. Since it's still D&D this should ideally be accomplished without actually nerfing the casting classes relative to the fighter classes.

Therefore I'm arguing that the emphasis on sacrifice or side-effects is more central to a product like Xoth. Keeping standard spell slots is fine.

Again, I appreciate you wanting your S&S games to be grimmer or grittier and I have no problem with that. Cheers!
 

CapnZapp

Legend
I'm not saying the campaign should end at a certain level, I'm just saying the sweet spot is below level 10. Statistics (from D&D Beyond and elsewhere) show that most campaigns tend to end before getting into the really high levels anyway... possibly because high-level D&D (and Pathfinder!) is a complex, time-consuming mess.

Better to focus on domain management, armies and battles, diplomacy, etc in such high-level campaigns, rather than dungeon-crawling.
Okay.

You don't comment on it, but I take it you realize we were discussing the impact of hit points specifically on arriving at this sweet spot. The theory being that if you still have fewer hit points at level 10, that level too might be included in the sweet spot. And to get to the point: that compressing the hit point range (as it were) might therefore be a potential candidate house-rule for inclusion in your S&S-related product, especially as a viable alternative to massive damage rules.

Thanks for your other posts, Xoth! :)
 
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CapnZapp

Legend
Here's a variant for your consideration:

Deadly Critical:
Thanks. My suggestion was designed to avoid the extra die rolling (and I must confess I personally believe rules need to happen more often than once every 400 rolls for me to be able to justify including them), but otherwise accomplishes much the same aims.
 

Here it becomes really important to reflect on a given rule's aim - what does the rule try to accomplish?
Yeah it’s the cumulative effect of corruption through use of sorcery, perhaps only when you don’t take the proper precautions like blood sacrifice.

The effect could take many forms, maybe premature aging etc
 
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