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

lichhouse

Dreamer
Reynard, reading your campaign idea sounds like you are aiming for an old-school style wilderness based sandbox with challenging site-based dungeons out in the wilds. Love it. Plus you want to make sure the players need to do some planning and resource management. Here are some thoughts:

Encumbrance
Use encumbrance. A strength 10 character can carry 150lbs all day, no problem, according to the core rules. That's patently ridiculous (I'm sure lots of folks here are veterans and hauled heavy rucksacks all day - these are extremely fit people and they didn't haul 150lbs). Using encumbrance (PHB p176) that 10 str character is now limited to less than 50lbs. Water and rations are heavy, as well as armor and weapons. Trust me, the carrying capacity will go fast, tough choices will be need to be made, and they'll be looking for pack animals or hirelings and dealing with real logistics.

XP for Gold
I believe this is the biggest change to drive an exploration game (unfortunately it's a big change). Return to a pre-WOTC approach like XP for Gold and little or no XP for fighting. The math is simple to implement, but you need to alter your campaign so there are meaningful uses for money along the way. I prefer allowing building of structures and castles like in older editions and encouraging a settle-the-wilds domain game in downtime.

Part of the reason wilderness fights are unsatisfying is characters go super-nova, they get regular experience for winning an easy encounter, and it's a 5-minute workday (sometimes two fights in a day if random encounter rolls were unkind). Thus many referees want to change the rest system and the healing system so characters don't recover daily in the wilds. Shifting to alternate XP makes wilderness combat a time-waster and distraction from the real goals of exploring dungeons and finding treasure - in other words, return random encounters to acting more like obstacles to be avoided through smart play instead of cakewalk XP.

Leave Utility Magic Alone
I'm of the opinion that you leave utility magic alone and don't overhaul the magic system. If a Druid wants to use their level 1 spells on Goodberry to make up for lack of rations, that's a valid choice and they're hurting their combat abilities to do it. Ditto with Create Water for Clerics. "You're going to wish that was healing word when you're in the dungeon..."

Furthermore, if you go with XP for Gold, there will be plenty of trouble dealing with encumbrance issues for coins, crystals, jewelry, fine statues, and whatever other oddball (and heavy) treasure they recover.

Healing and Gritty Realism
Changing the rest cycle from daily long rest to weekly (or longer durations) has downstream effects on the whole system. One house rule I've heard is simple - just add a level of exhaustion to any character that goes to zero hit points. 5E combat can be a bit like an elevator (up and down, up and down) and this rule may be too punishing, but I intend to try it out and seems to scratch that 'combat damage should be a scary' itch while leaving other systems intact. Each long rest only heals a level of exhaustion so a brutal fight could force several days of rest on a party, which seems to be what you are after (at least until the clerics are high enough to burn lots of lesser restorations).

I used most of these suggestions in my current Tomb of Annihilation campaign, and it's really felt more like 70's D&D (albeit with gonzo over-powered player characters, but the players love it). As the characters level up and the focus of the game changes, it's okay if some of the resource management from lower levels gets easier through magic- it actually feels like an accomplishment after slogging around with rations and worrying about encumbrance.

I'm an old school blogger in the process of making peace with 5E - I posted some of these thoughts a few months ago:
Can 5E Play Like an Old School Game
Make Treasure Great Again
 

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not-so-newguy

I'm the Straw Man in your argument
Healing and Gritty Realism
Changing the rest cycle from daily long rest to weekly (or longer durations) has downstream effects on the whole system. One house rule I've heard is simple - just add a level of exhaustion to any character that goes to zero hit points. 5E combat can be a bit like an elevator (up and down, up and down) and this rule may be too punishing, but I intend to try it out and seems to scratch that 'combat damage should be a scary' itch while leaving other systems intact. Each long rest only heals a level of exhaustion so a brutal fight could force several days of rest on a party, which seems to be what you are after (at least until the clerics are high enough to burn lots of lesser restorations).

Something I'm considering:

Gain a level of exhaustion when PC drops to 0 hp; but this exhaustion, and only this type of exhaustion, can be removed with a short rest.

The intention is to avoid the "wack-a-mole" situation without forcing the party to retreat or take a 5 Minute work day.
 

Reynard

Legend
Something I'm considering:

Gain a level of exhaustion when PC drops to 0 hp; but this exhaustion, and only this type of exhaustion, can be removed with a short rest.

The intention is to avoid the "wack-a-mole" situation without forcing the party to retreat or take a 5 Minute work day.
I want to do a level of exhaustion for any failed death save rather than just dropping to 0.
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Any of those exhaustion options work well. We have been doing a level when you reach 0 for a long time now and it helps. PLUS, if you get healed, and go back to 0 AGAIN, it is ANOTHER level of exhaustion! Trust me, the whack-a-mole goes away DARN QUICK!!!

For the new game where I am nerfing HP, I've added a benefit to high CON (because HP bonuses aren't related to CON in our games). Your CON mod gives you "free" levels of exhaustion. They still have to be recovered normally (i.e. a long rest), but you won't feel the negative effects until the free levels are spent.
 

Laurefindel

Legend
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.

I think a curated spell list for all casters would go along way to achieve this goal*, and a slower magic regeneration (aka longer or less available long rests) would make foraging/climbing/stealthing the #1 option, and magic a fallback solution.

I've seen a few propositions of "food as rest" or variations on the idea that rest must be prepared, long rest only in established camp, hit dice healing only with meal/water etc.

*(actually, I think curated and re-shuffled spell lists is the way to achieve low-magic in D&D, but that is another subject)
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I want to do a level of exhaustion for any failed death save rather than just dropping to 0.
This isn't bad and I might go that way myself.

One other thing that bugs me about death saves (so we changed them) is the flat DC 10 check. Screw that. How does that make any sense?

A PC with CON 6 (-2 mod) has the same chance to stabilize as a CON 20 (+5) PC??? Ridiculous. Higher CON means better health in general, and you are more likely to recover from serious injury.

So, make it a CON check, but make the DC 15. That pasty, snot-nosed sickly character with CON 6 will have to roll 17 or higher! In other words, get him HELP! That pro-athlete, health-nut with CON 20 only needs a 10 and has a 60% chance (roughly) of stabilizing without help at all.

Makes more sense to me. :)

EDIT: also makes things like Remarkable Athlete and Jack-of-all-Trades better because your half prof bonus will apply to this check! Again, makes sense with Remarkable Athlete and bards should be better at self-stabilizing because they got beat up all the time growing up and no one wants to help them now. ;)
 

I really like exhaustion on a failed death save as a good option. (I’m borrowing that one).

The effect of it is that it pushes players towards the 5MWD. When they get exhaustion levels, they'll be much more inclined to long rest.

The effect of the rule is you'll see more long resting, and more 5MWD's.

I'd avoid it.
 

Reynard

Legend
Here's the list of guidelines I sent to my group for a playtest this week just to see what we may or may not cover in a 3 or 4 hour session:

CORE BOOKS ONLY

Create 4th level characters.

Available Backgrounds: all PHB backgrounds

Available Races: Human, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Halfling. NOTE: Any race that has Darkvision has Low light vision instead.

Available Classes (and Archetypes): Barbarian (Berserker), Bard (Lore), Cleric (Knowledge, Life or War), Fighter (Champion or Battle Master), Paladin (Devotion), Ranger (Hunter), Rogue (Thief), Wizard (all PHB traditions allowed).

No feats. No multiclassing.

Equipment: Starting equipment plus up to 200 gp additional gear. No magic items.

Spells: The following spells are banned
Continual Flame, Create or Destroy Water, Darkvision, Gentle Repose, Goodberry, Purify Food and Drink, Rope Trick

OPTIONAL RULES IN PLACE

Slow Natural healing: You only heal by way of spending hit dice, which you recover normally (½ your total after a long rest).

If you use a healing kit and succeed at a DC 15 medicine check, you may spend hit dice outside of a short rest by taking 10 minutes.

If you are not safe and secure (such as in town or a fortress), Short rests take 8 hours and long rests take 72 hours. When in town or similar, normal rests apply.

On a failed death saving throw you gain a level of exhaustion.

Encumbrance will be counted, along with consumables such as ammo, rations and components.

Lingering injuries on critical hit.

Madness.

Massive damage.

NPC/monster Morale checks.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
The effect of it is that it pushes players towards the 5MWD. When they get exhaustion levels, they'll be much more inclined to long rest.

The effect of the rule is you'll see more long resting, and more 5MWD's.

I'd avoid it.
Well, that really isn't up to the players, is it? It is up to the DM.

We rarely get long rests during an adventure or while traveling unless we know we can expect relative safety. As I wrote we've been playing that 0 hp imposes a level of exhaustion and we've had characters recover full HP through healing, but have 2 or even 3 lingering levels of exhaustion but still "on the adventure" simply because we aren't at a point where we can take a long rest.

The idea of the 5MWD is completely at the whim of the DM IMO. If you don't want it, just don't let it happen.
 

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