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

GreenTengu

Villager
I probably shouldn't bother replying to this again, but... since it did come up to me as a notification, maybe I will take one more shot at this.

If you want your world to be gritty and semi-realistic, you really should get id of the Elves all together. The very idea that there could be a race where the average member lives on for hundreds of years without issue really undermines any attempt at the setting being gritty. Elves really require a high-magic setting where using magic is as common as craft skills. Otherwise, they fundamentally do not function.

Dwarves and Gnomes probably need a massive personality overhaul, perhaps far more greatly emphasizing their flaws so that they are no longer on average morally superior to humans. Otherwise, again, you undermine your whole concept.

And you should mix in more morally gray races there-- races that have a lot of flaws and negative traits, but individuals are not beyond altruistic behavior. Races whose nature dictates that a character of that race is likely to have certain personality flaws that would likely bring them into conflict with the world around them would work far better for a gritty setting than the typical D&D system of any race that is playable except humans is almost always going to be classified as "good" far more often than humans are.

Gritty inherently implies an anti-hero bent and those who one wouldn't expect to be heroic rising up to be so.
If your racial choices include only those that are expected to be good all the time without exception, then you entire lose that element.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Game of Thrones has it's elves, and is generally considered a gritty, low magic setting. You just put them in distant, obscure parts of the world, rather than have them walking up and down the high street.

Extended lifespans shouldn't be a problem (they are common in science fiction settings as well as fantasy) but the implications need to be thought through a bit more thoroughly.

There is no reason not to have heroic characters in a gritty setting, they just don't have the plot armour they have in less gritty settings, so they tend not to live long.
 

Bad Ape

Villager
I just finished my first campaign with your rules and it went great. My players liked it very much and we captured that gritty, low fantasy feeling. The only thing they said was that it would be useful with one or two more classes.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
If you want your world to be gritty and semi-realistic, you really should get id of the Elves all together. The very idea that there could be a race where the average member lives on for hundreds of years without issue really undermines any attempt at the setting being gritty. Elves really require a high-magic setting where using magic is as common as craft skills. Otherwise, they fundamentally do not function.

A couple of things come to mind that I think you are missing:

1) Gritty does not need to equal semi-realistic

2) The concept of Elves is not universal in historical folklore / mythology or modern conceptions of them. It is completely fine to have elves (or any fantasy creature/race) in a gritty setting. It seems you are being rather unimaginative in your concept of elves and "gritty." A few examples:

2a) Elves could have, generally, removed themselves from the world and are extremely rare. Spoken of in hushed whispers and have become almost like the bogeyman to the general populace.
2b) Elves are defenders of nature and have serious issues with humans because of it (think Game of Thrones elves hear - heck didn't you say GoT was a "gritty" setting)
2c) Elves are feared but also coveted for their magic. Humans hunt them out of fear and to use as magical ingredients.
2d) Elves keep to themselves. Tolkien is really pretty darn gritty and this basically his approach. Though elves are pretty much universally good, they keep to themselves and are treated suspiciously by many people.

3) Gritty does (at least to me) imply an anti-hero bent. That is definitely a possibility, but not a requirement.

4) You don't need to assume that any race is "good all the time." In a gritty setting you could easily revise races / alignments. Heck, 4e made metallic dragons unaligned instead of "good." You can do the same for elves and such in a gritty setting.
 
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Matthew P.

Villager
I just finished my first campaign with your rules and it went great. My players liked it very much and we captured that gritty, low fantasy feeling. The only thing they said was that it would be useful with one or two more classes.
Nice to hear!
I will consider making more classes when I got the time!
 

GreenTengu

Villager
2) The concept of Elves is not universal in historical folklore / mythology or modern conceptions of them. It is completely fine to have elves (or any fantasy creature/race) in a gritty setting. It seems you are being rather unimaginative in your concept of elves and "gritty." A few examples:

2a) Elves could have, generally, removed themselves from the world and are extremely rare. Spoken of in hushed whispers and have become almost like the bogeyman to the general populace.
2b) Elves are defenders of nature and have serious issues with humans because of it (think Game of Thrones elves hear - heck didn't you say GoT was a "gritty" setting)
2c) Elves are feared but also coveted for their magic. Humans hunt them out of fear and to use as magical ingredients.
2d) Elves keep to themselves. Tolkien is really pretty darn gritty and this basically his approach. Though elves are pretty much universally good, they keep to themselves and are treated suspiciously by many people.
Here are the things you would have to fundamentally change about Elves in order to get them to work in any setting that would be considered "gritty".

The moment you say "Well, by all means play Marisoo the Elven Ranger Princess who sneaks better than the thief and fights better than the fighter thanks to her super human 20 Dexterity at level 1 and is old enough to know all the other PCs grandparents but still has the body and attitude of a 17-year old thot Instagram model and is instantly beloved by everyone in the world for being the physically and morally superior master race."

You've lost all "grittiness" to your world regardless of what mechanical rules you throw in there.

And, no, saying "She is the only one like her... unless someone else in the party wants to play one or she dies, then another will appear out of thin air. But, otherwise-- they'll only be super high level NPCs."

* They cannot all universally be hundreds of years old. If grisly death is a common occurrence and a looming threat at all times, NOTHING that isn't the biggest, brutalist, nastiest thing in the region is going to survive long. And even in those cases it is likely only going to survive by cutting itself off from the world and lurking in places no one goes and working through intermediaries. Everything else will almost certainly die before it is 35.

* They cannot be described either explicitly or implicitly as automatically more attractive than everyone else-- an entire people who down to the very last member look entirely like porn models unless they do something akin to eating people's souls to achieve and maintain this beauty doesn't belong anywhere in anything that intends to be considered "gritty"-- they should be just as broken, scarred, damaged and warped from the experiences of living in such a world as everyone else.

* They cannot as a culture automatically have access to all the best everything and have all of their wants and needs automatically fulfilled without a single one of them having to make any actual sacrifices. Unless they are employing slavery, raiding or other evil methods to reap the rewards of other's dirty work, they are going to have to be shoveling crap, working fields, burning bodies and bleaching their pure white woolen garments with piss the same as everyone else.

* They cannot be universally the moral arbiters of right and wrong and always right about absolutely everything (except for the dark skinned ones which are naturally always evil except when even they revert to being always good because they are too sexy to be allowed to be evil). If there is an entire race of people whose side is always "good" and one knows they are "good" purely by how aligned they are to those people's will and benefit-- sorry, any grittiness is lost. The moment there is a pure white in-world solution to problems and that pure white solution is handily indicated by the master race-- it stops having any nuance at all and no matter how dark you make the black parts, your pure white master race that just dominates everything removes that from the picture. So however their culture is different, it ought to be just as royally screwed up and disturbing as everyone else's cultures with just as many drawbacks and just as much morally compromises in order to survive.

* And, finally, if you make them rare or special, they cannot be PCs. ESPECIALLY if you say "they are super rare" or "they hide from the world"-- the moment the PCs are not just a cut above average because of their skills, but they are out-and-out born superior to everything known in this world and have to deal with none of its problems any more than they choose to-- in general that they are the one unique, special, ultra rare, one-of-a-kind, priceless snowflake and everyone in the world automatically sees just how much better they were from the day they were born than anyone else could possibly hope to attain and having just taken a single glimpse of them is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all those lucky normal folk who have the privilege that all the world envies to have even laid eyes upon such a perfect, flawless being... yeah, all your attempts at grittiness are dead. You absolutely cannot have the option for a PC to start off in that kind of position of absolute privilege and power and still call your game "gritty". The very idea that any PC has the freedom, at will, to just say "shove all this" and go back home where they, and everyone else, can just live like royalty without any responsibilities, problems or distress where everyone can live for hundreds of years without ever having to put in a single day of hard work and have every one of their wishes and desires automatically fulfilled through magical means.... it really takes the piss out of any sort of "danger" you introduce into an adventure.

* They also cannot be treated exactly as if they were humans, just hotter, if every other race in the world is going to not be treated like typical humans. However you have altered them, there should be something about elves that an average non-evil person would be justified in being cautious or uneasy about. And that should be true of all the races. If everyone gets along and treats everyone like equals and lives together and can interbreed- why would the world even have "races" to begin with. There needs to be big social barriers keeping them all separate if they are still separate after presumably thousands of years of occupying the same spaces.
 
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dave2008

Adventurer
Here are the things you would have to fundamentally change about Elves in order to get them to work in any setting that would be considered "gritty"...
Well I appreciate the effort, but I don't agree with many of your points. You seem to look at this as an issue in high contrast, where I can see plenty of space for gray. I don't see a lot of point in responding in detail now, but maybe later. The fact is I disagree with you and I don't think we are likely to convince each other.
 
Gritty rules?

I mean the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot is a monster, and thus logically could be statted out, but I'm not sure why one would want to create an entire ruleset centered on him, no matter how popular he is...

;)
 

ehren37

Villager
You all are way too focused on the presence of elves and ignoring the bigger issue. No game with PC spellcasters using the D&D rules is ever low magic. They can cast spells DAILY without risk of arcane feedback, insanity, corruption, or some other mechanic to avoid making magic the default solution. What you have is basically a superhero in a world without the means to thwart them, and companions that don't have the magical gear required to balance out their ridiculous levels of utility. Imagine the chaos a 3rd level mage could cause in our world, with invisibility, detect thoughts, charm person, and illusions.

i'd say at most the magus should have spellcasting on par w a ranger. top out at 5th level spells, with a VERY small number of spells known. They should in no way be balanced against a 5E spellcaster. By virtue of having ANY magic, they're already at the top of the spotlight.
 

Satyrn

Villager
Well I appreciate the effort, but I don't agree with many of your points. You seem to look at this as an issue in high contrast, where I can see plenty of space for gray. I don't see a lot of point in responding in detail now, but maybe later. The fact is I disagree with you and I don't think we are likely to convince each other.
I think he's just making a giant metajoke: He's arguing for the elimination of Elves simply because that what hobgoblins do, and he's The Hobgoblin.


(I mean, that's what I'd be doing if I had his name)
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I think he's just making a giant metajoke: He's arguing for the elimination of Elves simply because that what hobgoblins do, and he's The Hobgoblin.


(I mean, that's what I'd be doing if I had his name)
That would be awesome - I certainly hope that is the case ;)
 

calvnnhobs

Villager
Hi Matthew,

I'm preparing a low fantasy campaign with minimal (though growing) magic use, and was considering going to 1st or 2nd ed (or even the Cyclopedia), since 5th is so loaded with magic. I'm excited to find these rules and will give them a go.

One thing that came up in the preparation is turning undead. Is that ability missing, and if so, have you encountered any challenges? Or is that function hidden in some feat or spell and I'm just being daft?

Thanks!
 

Matthew P.

Villager
Hi Matthew,

I'm preparing a low fantasy campaign with minimal (though growing) magic use, and was considering going to 1st or 2nd ed (or even the Cyclopedia), since 5th is so loaded with magic. I'm excited to find these rules and will give them a go.

One thing that came up in the preparation is turning undead. Is that ability missing, and if so, have you encountered any challenges? Or is that function hidden in some feat or spell and I'm just being daft?

Thanks!

Hi Calvnnhobs!

I´m glad you might find my rules of use!

I have removed the cleric class from the rules (since a lot of low fantasy settings doesn't have gods that interfere or listens), and therefore also the ability to turn undead.

But if you like to have clerics in your setting, go for it (use the standard rules), or just use the turn undead ability as a feat. My rules is just a suggestion and you should add or remove what you like.

It would be nice to hear your thoughts on the rules when the campaign is finished!
 

clearstream

Explorer
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.
A worthy project, for sure! I took a look at your resting rules, as I believe these are a crucial matter for low magic / gritty campaigns. I'd like to give some input from my own experience.

I suggest using something like the resting cadence in the DMG for gritty realism. If you think about the goal of low-magic, then it is helpful if strategic spells (that would form a backbone of technology and realpolitik) are restricted. So far fewer revival spells, transport, world-shaping, or sustained summonings or conjurings.

And for the goal of being gritty, I found in play that removing the full heal is kind of moot, as characters tend to be able to heal themselves pretty thoroughly whenever they are about to take a long rest e.g. clerics (or any healing classes) just dump any remaining spell slots into heal, etc. I found it better to stress HP and HD through fewer long rests, rather than changing that aspect.
 
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