D&D General Help Me Build the D&D Game I Want to Run

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
This is somewhat related to my recent "Let's Talk About Chapter 9 of the DMG" thread, and informed by a recent playtest I did of Five Torches Deep (which is an OSRification of 5e). Going back and forth and thinking about things, what I decided is that I want to create the game I want to run out of 5e using optional rules, house rules, 3rd part supplements and bits and bobs from other games.

So first, let me describe the game I want to run:

The aesthetic is relatively gritty and "realistic" in the sense that Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings or Abercrombie's worlds are: people need to eat, they get tired, wounds hurt and while fantastical elements exist and may even be prominent and powerful, they aren't common.

The play loop I want is a cycle of: wilderness exploration to the adventuring sight (moderate peril); exploration and problem solving at the adventuring site (high peril); return to the relative safety of civilization where character development and interaction with the world takes precedence (low peril). I use the term "peril" because I don't necessarily mean "deadliness" although that might be included; it is more about lasting negative consequences, from injury to disease to magic curses to losing what one cares about.

Although this main loop is episodic, it should support characters growing over time, discovering more, exploring farther and gaining competence, without necessarily significantly transforming over time (becoming superheroes).Long term stories should emerge from this sort of play and be largely informed by the interactions in civilization based on events that occurred out in the wild or in the dungeons.

Now, I know some folks are going to say "Use something besides 5E" and that is a totally fine suggestion, except that I WANT to use a modified 5E for this. I think Zweihander is likely a good fit for all the above, but I don't want to have to learn and master a whole new system and have to convince players to do the same (not to mention the monetary cost of everyone coming on board for a new game).

So, with all the above presented, what comes to mind for optional rules, house rules, bits stolen from other games, etc... to get 5E where I want it to be?

Thanks.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I think 5e can accommodate this style no problem. Maybe lean on conditions a little more than normal. Not just exhaustion and poison (poison esp is easy to fix with magic) but maybe toss in some light curses and other light debilitating stuff that isn't HP. That gives you more than one knob to twist for level of peril.

I'd probably do some work on the exploration rules too. Out of the box they're a little uninspiring. AngryGM has some good suggestions there, and I also tend to use a plethora of neat random tables to keep things interesting.
 

not-so-newguy

I'm the Straw Man in your argument
His writing style can get annoying, but The Angry GM has some good things to keep in mind for traveling and exploring.
Getting There is Half the Fun

I plan on lifting some idea from another system that combines OSR and 5e called "Into the Unknown." One rule is healing:

Short rest: a pc can expend one hit dice to recover hit pounts. With a healing kit, heal an extra hit dice. (house rule) Max: 3 Short rest a day.

Long rest: can expend any amount of available hit dice. These are rolled with advantage. Regain one spent hit dice. Max: Once per day. Pc must have at least one up to gain benefits from a rest. Going 24 hours without a long rest causes a level of exhaustion.

It's a middle ground between RAW and Gritty Realism.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I was just checking the giant tome and the overland travel rules from Zweihander are both pretty solid and look easy to port (converting from d% to d20). They are granular enough to be interesting but not so fiddly that it should be a slog.
 

Doug McCrae

Legend
people need to eat, they get tired, wounds hurt
Now, I know some folks are going to say "Use something besides 5E" and that is a totally fine suggestion, except that I WANT to use a modified 5E for this.
Yeah it seems like default 5e D&D is a terrible fit for this. The PCs have far too much magic. Even at level 1, goodberry means food is a non-issue. The core rules have never had much to say about tiredness or injury. A D&D PC can charge up a hill, march 20 miles, or spend an hour chopping wood and still be in perfect fighting condition. Losing hit points = flesh wounds at best (depending on your interpretation of hit points) + call for a cleric (again the problem of too much magic).
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I'd probably change Goodberry to equal a single days rations for one PC. Probably still too much, but it would get in the way of realistic concerns about food supplies as-is, for sure.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I like your style and the direction you are going. I think I, personally, would enjoy this game.

There is a balance between gritty realism and playability. Making rests take long slows the pace of the game, but had little other effect IMO. Making magic and healing rarer and less effective is a BIG thing.

I don't know if this would appeal to you, but off the top I would suggest:
  1. Make money scarce: I've seen too many games get ruined because of an excessive award of treasure.
  2. Make magic scarcer than money: Magic items should be unique and interesting, providing an edge but not overly powerful.
  3. Have few "adventurers": Most people should be commoners. A village "priest" should be a commoner with religion proficiency, not a 5th-level caster.
  4. Nerf healing: Make it only 1 HD per short rest, max 1/2 HD during a long rest for regaining HP. You gain 1/2 your max HD after your long rest.
  5. Nerf healing more: Cure spells heal d4s instead of d8s, and d4s become 1 point only.
  6. Make going to 0 HP HURT: You gain a level of exhaustion when you reach 0 HP.
  7. Make going to 0 HP REALLY HURT: You cannot regain HP while you have any levels of exhaustion.
  8. Double the XP needed to level. That will also slow down advancement.
  9. Better yet, use milestone leveling and just decide if an "episode" was sufficient to gain a level. You control the pacing.
  10. Make death scary: Remove Revivify.
  11. Become an accountant, and make your players become one, too: Track everything. Rations, water, spell components, grain for animals, everything!

There are more, but that should get you started. ;)
 


Reynard

Legend
Supporter
I like your style and the direction you are going. I think I, personally, would enjoy this game.

There is a balance between gritty realism and playability. Making rests take long slows the pace of the game, but had little other effect IMO. Making magic and healing rarer and less effective is a BIG thing.

I don't know if this would appeal to you, but off the top I would suggest:
  1. Make money scarce: I've seen too many games get ruined because of an excessive award of treasure.
  2. Make magic scarcer than money: Magic items should be unique and interesting, providing an edge but not overly powerful.
  3. Have few "adventurers": Most people should be commoners. A village "priest" should be a commoner with religion proficiency, not a 5th-level caster.
  4. Nerf healing: Make it only 1 HD per short rest, max 1/2 HD during a long rest for regaining HP. You gain 1/2 your max HD after your long rest.
  5. Nerf healing more: Cure spells heal d4s instead of d8s, and d4s become 1 point only.
  6. Make going to 0 HP HURT: You gain a level of exhaustion when you reach 0 HP.
  7. Make going to 0 HP REALLY HURT: You cannot regain HP while you have any levels of exhaustion.
  8. Double the XP needed to level. That will also slow down advancement.
  9. Better yet, use milestone leveling and just decide if an "episode" was sufficient to gain a level. You control the pacing.
  10. Make death scary: Remove Revivify.
  11. Become an accountant, and make your players become one, too: Track everything. Rations, water, spell components, grain for animals, everything!

There are more, but that should get you started. ;)
A lot of these are woth considering. Except #9. Never #9. You get XP for what you do.
 

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