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5E Making 5E Feel Old School

Archade

Azer Paladin
This week's blog, looking at the small changes I made to my 5E campaign to make it feel old school, without breaking the game ...

 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Generally good advice in there. :)

Have you given any consideration to bringing into your 5e such old-school elements as level drain, item saves if the carrier fails vs area-effect damage, and the like?
 

Archade

Azer Paladin
Generally good advice in there. :)

Have you given any consideration to bringing into your 5e such old-school elements as level drain, item saves if the carrier fails vs area-effect damage, and the like?
Interesting idea ... I looked at the Wight and it's level drain is pretty kind compared to AD&D days, but the old school permanent loss of XP is definitely too punitive. Maybe change it to a restoration of 1 hp per day? Or a level of exhaustion that requires a potent cure spell to remove?
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Nice article! Agree with slow leveling. In my current campaign I'm running the 5e version of Rappan Athuk. To give the old-school dungeon crawl experience, but still using 5e I do the following:

GP for XP. XP is earned by extracting gold and some milestones. Not by killing things. You kill things because they attack you, because you want their gold, because your characters think they are evil, etc. But there is no reason to turn the game into a slog of "clearing out the dungeon", though sometimes it makes sense to do that, to exert control over areas of the dungeon to have refuges you can retreat to.

This alone has done the most to make the game feel more old school.

The dungeon was designed based on old-school sensibilities and there are some save-or-die traps and creature attacks that are not common in 5e.

I do wish I made magic a bit more mysterious, but the dungeon itself can be pretty gonzo with magic. Also, I didn't want to deviate from 5e RAW too much and gimp identify, etc.
 

Archade

Azer Paladin
Nice article! Agree with slow leveling. In my current campaign I'm running the 5e version of Rappan Athuk. To give the old-school dungeon crawl experience, but still using 5e I do the following:

GP for XP. XP is earned by extracting gold and some milestones. Not by killing things. You kill things because they attack you, because you want their gold, because your characters think they are evil, etc. But there is no reason to turn the game into a slog of "clearing out the dungeon", though sometimes it makes sense to do that, to exert control over areas of the dungeon to have refuges you can retreat to.

This alone has done the most to make the game feel more old school.

The dungeon was designed based on old-school sensibilities and there are some save-or-die traps and creature attacks that are not common in 5e.

I do wish I made magic a bit more mysterious, but the dungeon itself can be pretty gonzo with magic. Also, I didn't want to deviate from 5e RAW too much and gimp identify, etc.
Love Rappan Athuk!
 

For OSR I'd do:
  • 3d6 in order
  • Increase Stats needed to MC to 15 for the new class (remaining at 13 for the current class)
  • Instant death if your HP drop to 0 and there is more damage left over than (Con score)
  • Slower healing (Short rest spend max 1/2 level HD), long rest recover 1/2 level HD and then spend as many as you want.
  • Resurrection drops Con by 2 permanently and is only successful on a Con ability check (DC 5) - this mirrors AD&D's system shock rolls.
And maybe a few other things.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Interesting idea ... I looked at the Wight and it's level drain is pretty kind compared to AD&D days, but the old school permanent loss of XP is definitely too punitive. Maybe change it to a restoration of 1 hp per day? Or a level of exhaustion that requires a potent cure spell to remove?

I prefer having hit point max, strength, intelligence, etc. being sapped to be recovered after a long rest or a long rest for one point recovered.

Not a fan of level or XP drains unless very rare and mystical high-level boss. Even then, I would prefer it to be the result of a cursed artifact than a creature attack. Maybe an effect that makes you forget a portion of your recent past. But I would rule that greater restoration could be used or that revisiting certain places in the past and encountering people from the forgotten past can help you recover lost XP. This would mostly be interesting for lower level play. Once greater restoration is available, it trivializes so many setbacks in the game.
 

Archade

Azer Paladin
For OSR I'd do:
  • 3d6 in order

I'm a huge fan of 3d6 in order for my DCC games, but I am not sure that would work in a 5E game, as stats are a lot more critical to character success in the long run where 1E/AD&D stats are less integral without skills and lower bonuses/penalties to combat and saving throws.

That being said, I'd say anyone brave or foolhardy enough to start a character with 3d6 in order deserves some sort of reward -- either a bump on starting experience, or a bonus feat. I'll think on that ...
 


I'm a huge fan of 3d6 in order for my DCC games, but I am not sure that would work in a 5E game, as stats are a lot more critical to character success in the long run

I've done it with a caveat of 'You may replace 1 score of your choice with a 13, and treat any score of less than 6 as a 6'.

Another option is roll stats on 2d6+4
 

darjr

I crit!
Use skills as saving throws.

In old school characters just did stuff. Do that in 5e and only roll those skills if they do something really dumb or something that gets them stuck or in a bind. Like saving throws. That way you can play very old school like but yet those players that wan't to use those skills still can.
 

Use skills as saving throws.

In old school characters just did stuff. Do that in 5e and only roll those skills if they do something really dumb or something that gets them stuck or in a bind. Like saving throws. That way you can play very old school like but yet those players that wan't to use those skills still can.

Thats how 5E is supposed to work though.

Most things (climbing a tree or a rope etc) are just 'you do it'.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Only Thieves could climb sheer surfaces, or use stealth for example. Wizards couldn't use swords.
Only Thieves were any good at climbing sheer surfaces; anyone else would probably fall (much like real life) but could still try it.

A Magic User could pick up a sword and try using it, but would be at -5 non-proficiency penalty to hit. A Fighter, on the other hand, couldn't cast a spell.
 

darjr

I crit!
On the flip side that was actually a critique of older editions.

Only Thieves could climb sheer surfaces, or use stealth for example. Wizards couldn't use swords.
The idea came from a blog trying to use the “new” thief skills with older classes in a white box game.
 


Monayuris

Adventurer
Good luck.

I think you can get close and I've tried, but I've given up.

I reached the conclusion that if I want an old school experience, I'll run Old School Essentials or B/X or Basic Fantasy. If I want a 5E experience, I'll run 5E. All the work you are going to put into making 5E old school... all the house rules you will present... you are just better off offering to run a real old-school game.

You don't gain much by converting 5E to old-school.

You want to advertise 5E because you want the players... you want the acceptance of a current D&D, but you are bait-switching with a way stripped down version that will be unrecognizable to any potential 5E player.

Better to be straight and offer an old school game. You may get less interest, but the interest you get may be the same as what's left after the 5E players drop from your 'old-school' bait-and-switch rules.

The point is if you want to run an old-school experience just run an old-school game. Don't trick your players with a 5E but heavily house-ruled... just present an old-school game from the start. Old school games are current, viable, and very accessible.

As far as DM'ing, there really isn't much of a difference in running old-school games compared to 5E.

Encourage old-school game-play by offering an old-school game. You can use Basic Fantasy or Old School Essentials. Both are either free or have free SRD's. Both are way better games than 5E will ever be, if you want an old-school experience.
 
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Coroc

Hero
This week's blog, looking at the small changes I made to my 5E campaign to make it feel old school, without breaking the game ...

Take the best of both worlds, i see no wrong in calling for or offering a a nature check to identify a creature. In old school it would have been an Int or Wis check instead, and i nboth cases the DM can adjust the DC appropriately and if the players should have no clue no mattter how high they roll then the DM can simply apply rule zero: they will not have any clue even if they roll 25 with a nat 20.
 

for me the best way to make 5e feel like old editions (and I love both) is to limit races (no Dragonborn, tiefling etc) and limit classes and sub-classes. I’m still working on this but only elves can be eldritch knights, arcane tricksters etc. It mimics 1st edition multiclassing.
 

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