D&D 5E Making Combat Mean Something [+]

TheSword

Legend
It does stop (or seriously hamper) you from using your abilities as a martial.

Rogues are totally denied sneak attack class feature with even a single level of exhaustion.

Vs AC 15 a 7th level Rogue (Dex 20, shortsword) has a DPR of 15 (65 percent chance of 4d6+5). The same Rogue with a single level of exhaustion has a DPR of 4 (42 percent chance of 1d6+5).

Fighters core class feature is 'making attacks'. You're imposing disadvantage on those attacks, which is seriously harming their core class feature, which is 'Fighting'.
Casters will utterly dominate in such a game. Firstly, you're penalizing martials far more than casters with exhaustion (for no other reason than doing their jobs) and secondly, you're running a game where Casters only ever have to deal with a few encounters before getting back their entire suite of spells (meaning they can nova with relative impunity).

Now not only can they Nova much more easily, they're also encouraged to do so, in order to avoid everyone getting levels of exhaustion. Nuke them, before they nuke us, then fall back to long rest.

If you want 'rocket tag' to be the games default play style, your rule changes are the way to go.
It’s really frustrating that you keep repeating the same arguments when I’ve already said I will be using One D&D exhaustion (so no disadvantage) and that the adventure structure means that resting unnaturally will result in failure of their goals. These are events based adventures not location based. I’ve also made it clear that casters will definitely want to use spells in the investigative parts of the adventure.

Simply making failed death saves stack (even after being brought to positive HP) does this, without forcing a player to play a crippled PC. They drop by 1 save per long rest, and if ever brought to 3 failed saves, you die.

Let me give you an extreme example. Say I brought in a rule that 'any PC reduced to half HP or less, takes a -10 penalty to all D20 rolls, till that PC finishes a long rest'.

What would be the natural consequence of that rule? That meta channels players into seeking to avoid getting hit (avoid heroics, play ranged PCs or casters) and further channels them into Long resting as soon as they have the above penalty (grinding play to a halt, and forcing the DM to do extra work to maintain pacing) or alternatively into playing the game without having any fun.

While your goals might be noble, none of those things are desirable outcomes.
That’s one possible solution. It is simple and would increase the risk of death. It doesn’t stop the problem of the PC popping back into full health the next morning as if nothing has happened.

The way this proposal works (which you’re allowed not to like) is the carrying over of a wound into the rest of the adventure (not just the combat parts). It moves away from Hp being the only metric of fighting strength towards a more nuanced set of criteria to evaluate. I don’t expect it to happen every session and sometimes when it does it will be the end of the session and won’t impact the adventure. But occasionally it will the risk that it might will factor into the players considerations.

You seem to be of the opinion that you can’t have fun if you are at a disadvantage. I disagree. Problems are more interesting and dynamic if they are complex and dynamic. If what you said was correct nobody would have fun if they went into a fight with anything less than full hp. The truth is we want ideal circumstances as players, that’s our job to approach an encounter with as much advantage as possible to minimize risk. One of the DMs jobs is to make this a challenge. To increase risk.

At the moment 5e combat has negligible risk… particularly in an investigation/mystery style campaign. That’s not tenable. Your proposed solution increases immediate risk and has a small increase longer term risk. I would definitely consider it as a plan B if my proposal doesn’t work.

If you want more co-operation from your PCs, or to increase the stakes for them as your goals, there are other ways of doing it, without forcing your players to not have fun, or implementing a rule that pushes them towards the 5MWD, Nova strikes, and massive class imbalance.

Pause for a second and consider the above sentence. Trust me mate, I dont doubt your goals are sincere, I just want you to step back and consider that there are better ways of achieving those goals, that dont also have an adverse effect elsewhere.
You’re still not taking into account the campaign. For the purpose of Hp and combat difficulty all those things are there already in this campaign. It’s about mitigating that so combat is still challenging.

Again I reject the idea that challenges aren’t fun. They may not be your idea of fun. In the campaign @GuyBoy is currently running we were betrayed, and had all our belongings taken - with no immediate (next several levels) chance of recovering them. It was excruciating. It was also good fun. We appreciated the con. However had a sleep spell not taken us out when we were wounded it is very likely we would have fought to the bitter end and been TPK’d. because those behaviors are ingrained in us by the rules. The rules need to change to make the risk profile more appealing.

Let me give you an example. You’ve just rested and are at full strength and a foe ambushes you offering you and the party a chance to surrender. How likely are you to surrender? Now imaging you need to rest - you have a character on 1hp and the poisoned condition and you casters are out of spells? Now are you more or less likely to surrender?

I’m trying to allow the game to create situations where these circumstances happen naturally and not because the DM has taken advantage of the party’s weakness in a calculated way. @GuyBoy ’s con worked because we walked into it eyes open. Had the same group attacked us coming out of the dungeon wounded and expanded it would have felt more personal I suspect. Still our own fault if it had been signposted but personal nonetheless.
 
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That’s one possible solution. It is simple and would increase the risk of death. It doesn’t stop the problem of the PC popping back into full health the next morning as if nothing has happened.

No, but the Gritty realism rest variant does that (or some variation on the above).

Your HP (and HD) are expected to last you 6-8 medium to hard encounters. Whether they're scattered out over the course of a month or a single day, doesnt matter.
The way this proposal works (which you’re allowed not to like) is the carrying over of a wound into the rest of the adventure (not just the combat parts). It moves away from Hp being the only metric of fighting strength towards a more nuanced set of criteria to evaluate.
But you could do that without forcing the players to choose between either playing a game of suck or encouraging the players to Long rest.

If you wanted to encourage teamwork, pushing on despite adversity, and not sucking, how does this sound (very rough idea):

Rule: Every time a PC is brought down to 0 HP, the DM receives 1d4 Doom Points. The DM can spend a Doom Point at any time to re-roll a dice roll and take the result of his choosing. If the Party complete the Adventure [as determined by the DM] and the DM has less than 3 Doom Points in his pool, the Party gain a bonus of [extra XP]. At the end of the adventure, Party Doom points reset to 0.

In addition, a PC can spend inspiration gained by Roleplaying to lower the Doom Point total by1. Finally, a Heroic act of teamwork by a Party member, in furtherance of the parties' goals in the Adventure, also lowers the total by 1.'


You've now got a mechanic that works to encourage the PCs to 'not go down, roleplay well and work together as a team' without encouraging them to Long rest (or have a sucky play experience).

That's one of many rules you could implement that works towards your goals, and that wont have the side effects (making it suck to play the game half the time, and encouraging the party to long rest)
 


Long rests give the DM 1d6 Doom Points.

Would be another option if you wanted to dissuade Long Rests mechanically.

As would an increasing XP bonus for each encounter done (after the 1st) in between Long resting.

It also seems a lot more fun than 'forcing my players to embrace the suck a lot of the time, with the side effect of incentivizing rocket tag and the 5MWD, while disincentivizing heroically entering the fray and pushing on'.
 


TheSword

Legend
No, but the Gritty realism rest variant does that (or some variation on the above).

Your HP (and HD) are expected to last you 6-8 medium to hard encounters. Whether they're scattered out over the course of a month or a single day, doesnt matter.

But you could do that without forcing the players to choose between either playing a game of suck or encouraging the players to Long rest.

If you wanted to encourage teamwork, pushing on despite adversity, and not sucking, how does this sound (very rough idea):

Rule: Every time a PC is brought down to 0 HP, the DM receives 1d4 Doom Points. The DM can spend a Doom Point at any time to re-roll a dice roll and take the result of his choosing. If the Party complete the Adventure [as determined by the DM] and the DM has less than 3 Doom Points in his pool, the Party gain a bonus of [extra XP]. At the end of the adventure, Party Doom points reset to 0.

In addition, a PC can spend inspiration gained by Roleplaying to lower the Doom Point total by1. Finally, a Heroic act of teamwork by a Party member, in furtherance of the parties' goals in the Adventure, also lowers the total by 1.'


You've now got a mechanic that works to encourage the PCs to 'not go down, roleplay well and work together as a team' without encouraging them to Long rest (or have a sucky play experience).

That's one of many rules you could implement that works towards your goals, and that wont have the side effects (making it suck to play the game half the time, and encouraging the party to long rest)
Probably not my bag. firstly we don’t use XP, secondly dropping to zero is not something that happens often enough for the doom points to change behavior. I’m a big believer that the closer the consequence is to the event, the more impactful and memorable it is. It’s quite possible that there might not be time to reroll 1d3 meaningful dice within the adventure. I can see it working for a dungeon crawl though with more encounters.
 

What is "rocket tag?"

It's what happens when DMs dial up encounter difficulty to counter strong PCs' by introducing really over CR-ed encounters.

It actually entrenches the problem.

Combats invariably come down to:

Step 1: Do everything in your power to win initiative and go first. Ambushes, Stealth, Initiative buffs.
Step 2: Nova your best ability and highest and most potent spell. Action surge, dump all your sup dice. Rage. Spam flurry and Stun on every single attack that hits. Quicken spells.

Rocket Tag Gameplay

It gets boring (and Samey) fast, and usually leads to a TPK (at some stage, your crazy over CR-ed opponents will win initiative, and rain fire down on your first).

The better solution is to increase the number of encounters between long rests (and not simply stick with only 1-3 Deadly ones that you increase to 'Ultra Deadly'). Slowing the taking of Long rests (instead of increasing encounter difficulty) leads to more interesting tactical decisions (do I rage/ action surge/ use that high level slot now... or save it for later?) via careful use of resources.

Rocket tag is largely just button mashing once combat starts.
 

Probably not my bag. firstly we don’t use XP, secondly dropping to zero is not something that happens often enough for the doom points to change behavior. I’m a big believer that the closer the consequence is to the event, the more impactful and memorable it is.

Ok, so lets work on a different solution.

What are your goals. Tell me what you want to see at the table.
 

You have the right idea with the slow healing, but the other two adds too much complexity beyond just "die at 0 hp.".

Having a player roll for an injury (broken arm/leg, et cet) is a very cool idea though, I've wanted to employ something like that myself.

It might be better if you have the character roll for those injuries (even mental trauma) once they've reached below their level in hit points, and leave the dead-at-zero rule alone. This would even be compatible with the bloodied mechanic from 4e, and to simplify things, the character starts to bleed out once at or below that bloodied threshold. You get knocked unconscious if you fail a CON save after taking critical damage.
 


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