5E Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy, Low Magic, Gritty Rules (New Version)

Matthew P.

Villager
This is my take on low fantasy, low magic and gritty Rules for D&D 5e.
It's for all of you out there who, like me, love the 5e rules but need to tweak them a bit to fit your low fantasy campaigns.

My PDF contains modified or variant rules for races, classes, equipment, resting and spells, but also some homebrew classes, new combat maneuvers, and rules for critical injuries and fumbles.

IronForged v1.1 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules (latest version):
https://www.dropbox.com/s/js5rw1fway8k7ux/IronForged v1.1 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules.pdf?dl=0

IronForged v1.1 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules - Printer-Friendly:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/pcg3ykukvd2wvri/IronForged v1.1 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules - Printer-Friendly.pdf?dl=0

IronForged v1.0 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vhgw86s04xdwxuz/IronForged v1.0 - Homebrew D&D 5e Low Fantasy Gritty Rules.pdf?dl=0

Link to my Equipment System:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/4dfy0r9rsm7bzda/Equipment Sheet For Fantasy RPGs - Lots-o-Dots System v1.0.pdf?dl=0

Enjoy!
 
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Salamandyr

Adventurer
Let us know how it plays out, if it gives you the feeling of "low fantasy" you're looking for. Got some interesting ideas there.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Below is a bunch of comments as I read through it, then I can back to write this. There's a lot of good stuff here. Don't take away I dislike it because I have some negative comments. On the contrary it looks good and I hope my critique can make it even stronger. Most of them are minor tweaks. The only thing I thought was a real problem is how high-magic the Magus is - not in terms of volume but in terms of ultimate flexibility. I'd rather see that curtailed but that may just be a table difference in "low magic" preferences.

Anyway, onto the read-through:

Fey Ancestry: Sleep magic is more powerful. Not what I was expecting for a low magic game.

Races: Various debuffs without anything to bring them back in balance with the other races. When taking away I'd give something back.

Classes: Good non-magic list of PHB classes. Here there was a swap to remove the "Use Magic Device" for Rogue (Thief) to keep it balanced.

New Bard: Bolster Morale is a weak version of the Inspiring Leader feat that gives les HPs and is only using once per long rest instead of per short rest. It scales very poorly, it's mostly a ribbon. I'd consider just giving the Inspiring Leader feat instead.

Not sure how College of Lore helps contribute in combat to be on-par with the other classes - barbarians and fighters with extra attack and rogues with sneak attack, and that's if for classes. Now, I'm personally okay with that myself but it's a break from D&D's "combat takes a lot of wall time so everyone must be able contribute and get equal spotlight".

Magus: More spells known then the sorcerer, able to cast multiple spells of high levels unlike the PHB classes, d8 HPs, metamagic (though delayed), huge spell lists to pick from, able to spam low-level utility spells like shield all day long.

I don't know if my DM in a normal game would consider this balanced vs. the other casters. It's got it's limitations, but it also has some places it's definitely better than PHB casters.

One thing I do like is that you don't get back all of your spell points every day. 5e has very limited multi-day attrition rules, with exhaustion and HD beign the only ones I can think of. This has a lot of the low magic feel for me that even if you can do big magic, you won't waste it on small things and be cautious in it's use. This is the Gandalf feel and it comes across well.

I'm surprised that if you were going to include a low-magic caster, it wasn't based around the warlock. They have a lot more hedge-mage vibe going with particular invocations that they can't change, and limited flexibility in casting due to having few slots. It might be a better chassis for low-magic casters huge spell lists, avoiding slot limitations, and metamagic.

New Ranger: "Loyal Companion" gives you a normal dog that never scales up. This is a ribbon ability at best. True story: my last ranger had this, but he just bought a hound from the PHB equipment list and had the right skills we said it was trained.

Feats: Just a question - you've got XGtE classes, I'm interested in the choice of not including any of the racial feats.

Also wondering about not allowing Mage Slayer from the PHB. It's non-magical, and seems like something that would be developed by those fearful of magic. It wouldn't come up as much, are you worried about it being a trap?

Resting: Nice and gritty. Good.

Encounter advice: Good. Though less encounters per day favor those with long rest recovery, which at this point seems mostly to be the Magus (and low level bards).

Flanking: I was prepared to dislike this, since it's not very 5e of advantage. But on consideration removing spells took out a lot of bonuses so you're not getting swamped in them, and this allow it to work with advantage or disadvantage as well. I'm good with it.

Assassinate: Like it for this sort of game. May I suggest expanding it to the "you have no weapon ready and the enemy has a blade at my throat" as well as stealthily and half CR, that fills a lot of story needs including when foes get the drop on the PCs.

Crits and fumbles: Cutting out casting speeds combat, we can afford this. They usually favor the foes - dead monsters don't take time to heal, they just get replaced.
 

Matthew P.

Villager
Blue, thank you for taking the time to give feedback! I think you have a lot of good points. I am currently working on an updated version and I will try to address those points.

Regarding XGtE Feats, the answer is that I just missed them.

Regarding Mage Slayer, I thought that in a world with very few spell users, no one would have the chance to train to fight against them.
 

GreenTengu

Villager
You should get rid of races.

Elves, Half-Elves and Gnomes in the very least do not belong in a gritty, low-magic game at all. You can maybe justify Halflings or Dwarfs, but only if you make them far more flawed peoples than generally presented in the game.

In fact, it is incredibly weird that you would remove the half-orc. In a more grounded, gritty, dark world, Orcs would probably be far more mixed in with humanity, even if the vast majority of them are generally bad actors. A strain of "humanity" that is far more animalistic, brutish, simple and superstitious could totally fit a dark, gritty world and yet despite that all, in such a grounded world the line blurring them and humanity would be far less distinct than in an idealistic, hyper-magical world where all the good peoples stay in their little box and all the bad people stay in their little box and never shall the two meet.

Goblinoids would definitely fit in well do if done correctly-- again, some off-shoot of humans who form an ultra-stringent caste based culture, but however many get cast out of their system and end up slumming it with humans and dwarves, even if no one likes or respects them.


But Elves? The ultimate perfectionist elite race of immortal beings who are far more beautiful and graceful and refined and wise and intelligent and moral and adaptable and ideal who never have to work a single day in their lives which could possibly cause blemishes to their perfect form thanks to their endless well of magic to have all their needs simply met for them at the flick of their fingers? That doesn't belong in a gritty world at all. And the more you take away from that, the more they flat out stop being "elves" at all.

The same can more or less be said about Gnomes whose entire shtick is pretty much just being a specialist mage version of Dwarves.


Don't design your world thoughtlessly just because something has been the standard. You want a low magic world? Throw out the peoples whose entire identity revolves around magic and raise the prominence of those who don't. You want the world to be bleak and gray and gritty? Get rid of the peoples that are claimed to be universally good practically without exception and make those that are said to be generally immoral far more common and far more accepted as evil, or simply survival of the fittest mentality, within the world is allowed to be far more successful, if not required to get through another day.


Of course, the ideal thing in this regard would be to get rid of non-human races all together and instead perhaps introduce various cultures so that everyone is just human, just instead of that wide-open human template in the standard game, there are certain versions of the human race based on which culture the character is from.

Afterall-- Game of Thrones is pretty much the perfect gritty, grounded, realistic, low-magic fantasy world and didn't in the least bit need to have any dwarves or elfs or halflings... and the non-human races that exist are definitely NPC things as they are very, VERY much non-human and not accepted within human society and do not in the least bit get along with humans under normal circumstances.
 

Matthew P.

Villager
TheHobgoblin, I can see what you mean, and if you would use my rules to play Game of Thrones you should definitely get rid of the races. But this is not a world setting, it is a set of rules, and it is made to be somewhat universal. There is levels of gritty and levels of low fantasy. If you would like to play Lord of the Rings you need some races, and the same goes for the gritty settings of Andrzej Sapkowskis The Witcher.

Regarding Half-Orcs I think you have a good point, and I might include them in the next version.
 

superstition

Villager
You should get rid of races.

Elves, Half-Elves and Gnomes in the very least do not belong in a gritty, low-magic game at all. You can maybe justify Halflings or Dwarfs, but only if you make them far more flawed peoples than generally presented in the game.

In fact, it is incredibly weird that you would remove the half-orc. In a more grounded, gritty, dark world, Orcs would probably be far more mixed in with humanity, even if the vast majority of them are generally bad actors. A strain of "humanity" that is far more animalistic, brutish, simple and superstitious could totally fit a dark, gritty world and yet despite that all, in such a grounded world the line blurring them and humanity would be far less distinct than in an idealistic, hyper-magical world where all the good peoples stay in their little box and all the bad people stay in their little box and never shall the two meet.

Goblinoids would definitely fit in well do if done correctly-- again, some off-shoot of humans who form an ultra-stringent caste based culture, but however many get cast out of their system and end up slumming it with humans and dwarves, even if no one likes or respects them.


But Elves? The ultimate perfectionist elite race of immortal beings who are far more beautiful and graceful and refined and wise and intelligent and moral and adaptable and ideal who never have to work a single day in their lives which could possibly cause blemishes to their perfect form thanks to their endless well of magic to have all their needs simply met for them at the flick of their fingers? That doesn't belong in a gritty world at all. And the more you take away from that, the more they flat out stop being "elves" at all.

The same can more or less be said about Gnomes whose entire shtick is pretty much just being a specialist mage version of Dwarves.


Don't design your world thoughtlessly just because something has been the standard. You want a low magic world? Throw out the peoples whose entire identity revolves around magic and raise the prominence of those who don't. You want the world to be bleak and gray and gritty? Get rid of the peoples that are claimed to be universally good practically without exception and make those that are said to be generally immoral far more common and far more accepted as evil, or simply survival of the fittest mentality, within the world is allowed to be far more successful, if not required to get through another day.


Of course, the ideal thing in this regard would be to get rid of non-human races all together and instead perhaps introduce various cultures so that everyone is just human, just instead of that wide-open human template in the standard game, there are certain versions of the human race based on which culture the character is from.

Afterall-- Game of Thrones is pretty much the perfect gritty, grounded, realistic, low-magic fantasy world and didn't in the least bit need to have any dwarves or elfs or halflings... and the non-human races that exist are definitely NPC things as they are very, VERY much non-human and not accepted within human society and do not in the least bit get along with humans under normal circumstances.
Without contrast, gritty is meaningless.

This is one of the biggest traps people fall into. They forget that contrast is essential for defining anything.

You have to have things that aren't "gritty" to make the "grittiness" seem more apparent and more meaningful.
 

GreenTengu

Villager
Without contrast, gritty is meaningless.

This is one of the biggest traps people fall into. They forget that contrast is essential for defining anything.

You have to have things that aren't "gritty" to make the "grittiness" seem more apparent and more meaningful.

Well, the contrast would be with any other D&D world.
If you want it more grounded, then the lines between "good peoples" and "bad peoples" would need to be blurred. Once you have an "always good, always right, never capable of mistakes" people existing within your world, any grounding of the world just goes away.

For instance-- back when White Wolf was doing World of Darkness in the 1990s and you had those vampire clans...
If one single clan had it all completely figured out and could totally co-exist with humans without causing any harm at all and had all of the best stuff and was immune to all of the vices and pitfalls and weaknesses of all the other clans...

Well, it would seem kind of silly to be any other clan.

And, unfortunately, elves kind of inevitably end up being this. Because it is kind of difficult to say that individuals can live on for hundreds of years universally and any single individual among them who is not good is a total aberration, a super rare deviation from the model... well, unless they have everything totally figured out.

If they were prone to all the pitfalls and vices and dangers that a human would, then they would generally have a human lifespan and they would most definitely be abusing their edge on others in selfish and cruel ways that would definitely not have them labeled universally good.


And the whole other Elf problem, shared with Gnomes, is that if magic is just generally not seen within the world, and there is no high technology that breaks the general laws of physics as one would get in Steampunk, then there really isn't a place for races whose central identity is totally contingent upon them having natural magical powers (or exclusive access to high tech).


If you remove these elements-- if your elves are no longer immortal, no longer have natural magical powers that allow them to not have to bother with manual labor to exist as a society, if they are no longer naturally more beautiful and ethically superior to all humans... what exactly are you left with? Just pointy-eared humans with 0 actual identity. Maybe if you toss out the High Elf and lean heavily on the Wood Elf, you could at least have them be pointy-eared tribal humans who live in the forest, I guess.

But you would be far better off getting rid of those and instead having the races of the world, if there are going to be any, to be things that don't generally live longer than humans, are not expected to be ethically superior (in fact, better if they are expected to be crasser and crueler), who have clearly defined strengths and weaknesses when compared to humans and don't need magic to explain their existence.


Or, to put it another way, Deep Space 9 is the gritty Star Trek show. And you don't have the ultra long-lived, ethically superior Vulcans who can easily exist without a brain, transfer their mind into someone else's to allow themselves to be resurrected and have superior intellect, strength and technology compared to humans....

Instead, in the main cast you had Ferangi, Klingons, Cardassians, and Bejorans.... all but the last generally being considered "bad guys" because of their general questionable ethical principles and none ever really being presented as vastly superior to humanity in any respect-- rather, any advantage they might have tended to be offset by a glaring weakness. In fact, I think the couple times they had a Vulcan on the show at all, they tended to be far less perfect than the race had been depicted since the 1960s show.
 

Psikerlord#

Explorer
I like the persistent injuries and hit locations - how do they interact with cure wounds, etc?

Are the dying rules the same as normal 5e?
 

Matthew P.

Villager
I like the persistent injuries and hit locations - how do they interact with cure wounds, etc?

Are the dying rules the same as normal 5e?
Thank you!

This is the rule for magical healing of critical damage from the text:
For every 10 Hit Points you are healed from one spellcasting, the healing time is reduced by 1 day. So if a spell user heals you for 12 Hit Points, your healing time is reduced by 1 day. If the spell user tries again and heals you for 26 Hit Points, the healing time is reduced by 2 more days.
If you have lost Hit Points when you are healed in this way, the healing also give you Hit Points back.

Dying rules are the same!
 

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