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D&D General My Low Fantasy homebrew mods to 5th Edition

Like another recent poster here, I like the feel of good old 1st edition AD&D, but I also like some of the design features that 5th edition brought. Additionally, like my games to have a much more "Low Fantasy" feel to them, instead of the "TippyVerse" assumptions that out-of-the-box 5th edition seems to have. The rules seem to reflect the designers evident favor of spellcasters over warriors, and I seek to correct that to a degree. I also enjoy medieval reenactment, and prefer a bit more accurate detail in certain aspects, so the following reflects that personal taste of mine as well.

Anyway, I thought I'd present my personal set of homebrew mods here in a separate thread in order to avoid clogging up that other thread with this huge post. I'm interested in hearing feedback. Here goes:


Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition House Rules for Low-Fantasy Medieval European-flavored Campaigns.

1. Ability scores are generated thus--you start with the following list of scores, which you may arrange in any order you desire: 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8. Alternately, you may use the following point-buy option: all scores start at 9. You have 7 points that you may distribute in whatever fashion you like, and you may select one score to lower to 8 in order to gain 1 additional point. If you want a character who is a savant in a particular attribute, you’ll have to settle for reduced effectiveness in other areas; over-specialization should have consequences.

2. The races permitted are as follows: Humans, which should be the most common by far. Optionally, the standard PHB Human might represent a rural/villager Human, and the “Variant Human” an urban Human, reflecting greater opportunity for personal development in the Big City, but a generally unhealthier lifestyle, and thus lower ability scores. Dwarves may be Hill Dwarves only. Once upon a time in the distant past of the world there were mighty civilizations of Mountain Dwarves, but their like is not in the world today; Hill Dwarves represent a debased and vestigial survival of this once-great people. Elves may only be Wood Elves. As with Dwarves, once there were great realms of High Elves, but the race has fallen from that exalted state, and persist only in small clusters of woodland tribes. Halflings are Lightfoots. Stout Halflings are to modern Halflings as Neanderthals are to Humans—an extinct, more robust, and imperfect version. All races receive their customary attribute bonuses and features. Optionally, very powerful NPCs may be of Mountain Dwarf or High Elf stock, and may have access to the Artificer class (if Dwarf) or the Eldritch Knight Fighter subclass (if Elf, representing a “Bladesinger” and reflecting a nod to old BECMI tradition).

3. Classes available: Cleric, which may only be of the Life domain, and further have the change of being limited to medium armour; if they want heavy armour, they must take the Feat. Fighter, which may only follow the Battlemaster archetype; the bonus for Archery Fighting Style is decreased to +1, and the Ability Score Increase at 6th level is replaced by a mandatory Feat selection. Rogue, which may only be Thieves. They are now granted proficiency with bucklers and with chain shirts. Wizard, which may select any Arcane Tradition in the Player’s Handbook, but are subject to spell limitations detailed later.

4. Levels: Level 6 is the absolute maximum level attainable in any class. Even the greatest hero you’ve ever heard of was no higher than level 6. Most of Creation never advances past level 1, so be content, you greedy min-maxer. 😉 Multiclassing should generally not be permitted.

5. Hit points: You do NOT begin level 1 with maximum possible hit points. Instead, you must either roll for your starting hit points, or you may opt to begin with the “average” roll as listed in parentheses in each class entry. You may add your Constitution modifier. Upon attaining each level after the first, you must roll for your additional hit points and must abide by the roll; you may not opt for the average. Fighters, however, are granted Advantage on this roll. Again, Constitution modifiers are added to hit points gained at each level. If you are reduced to 0 hit points, you immediately fall unconscious. Each round thereafter, you bleed for the loss of an additional hit point. You die automatically at -10 HP, modified by your Constitution modifier, e.g. someone with 14 Constitution dies at -12 HP, and someone with an 8 at -9, etc.

6. Spells: All cantrips that deal damage are reduced to doing a single point of damage. All spells have a casting time equal to 1 action plus the level of the spell. Yes, that means that only cantrips may take effect on the turn on which they are cast. Yes, this “nerfs” spellcasters somewhat; you already get to alter reality to suit your whims, so stop being selfish. The following spells are removed from the game in order to maintain proper balance: Heat Metal, Hold Person, Meld into Stone, Spirit Guardian, Charm Person, Witch Bolt, Enlarge/Reduce, Invisibility, Shatter. Somewhere in the world, scrolls or magic items may exist that produce these effects, but they are generally not available to PCs.

7. All coinage is shifted to reflect an economy based around silver coins being most common, with gold being a rarity. Prices given in the Player’s Handbook in Gold Pieces are now in silver Shillings; prices that were formerly in Silver Pieces are now copper Pence, and prices in Copper are now in Farthings. Taking the place of Platinum Pieces are now gold Crowns. Characters begin at level 1 with 3d6x10 Shillings to purchase starting equipment. If desired, add or subtract 1d6 to reflect greater or lesser social status within the presumed roughly medieval-esque society.

8. The following Armour Types DO NOT EXIST and are removed from the game entirely: Leather, Hide, Ring Mail. Padded is renamed “Padded Jack.” Studded leather is renamed “Reinforced Padded Jack,” and consists of a Padded Jack, plus a light helmet and one or two additional pieces, such as a mail coif or mantle, jack chains, and/or gauntlets. The Chain Shirt remains unchanged. Scale is renamed “Brigandine,” and consists of a brigandine jacket, plus maybe two or three of the following: a light helmet, light arm defenses, gauntlets, and maybe supplementary pieces like a mail standard, sleeves, or a skirt. Breastplate is now called “Cuirass,” and is clarified to include a backplate, a light helmet and gauntlets if the player desires. Half Plate is clarified to consist of a cuirass and light helm, plus the same component options detailed above under Brigandine. Chain mail is clarified to consist of a long hauberk worn over a padded aketon, and with a coif and helmet, plus some sort of hand and shin protection. Splint is renamed “Reinforced mail,” and consists of the pieces under Chain Mail, but worn under a coat of plates or breastplate, plus a heavy helm, and splint or light plate defenses for the limbs. Plate armour remains unchanged. Costs, weights, and other statistics of all these renamed armours remain the same.

9. Consider using the “Weapon vs. Armour Type” modifiers table from either 1st or 2nd edition. The 2e one is simpler, being just a set of mods to damage types rather than a different set of numbers for each individual weapon. It really isn’t that much more bookkeeping, honestly, and once you’re in the habit of doing it before every attack, it becomes second nature.

10. Shields are broken into the following categories: buckler, which provides a +1 bonus to AC and weighs 2 pounds, small shield, which has the statistics for a shield given in the PHB, and large shield/pavise, which grants 3/4 cover, but imposes Disadvantage on all attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws if carried instead of planted in place.

11. All monsters’ Attack Bonuses are decreased by an amount equal to their inferred proficiency bonus. i.e. if the monster’s challenge rating is below 5, its Attack Bonus is reduced by 2, if its challenge rating is 5-6, it decreases by 3, and so on.

12. The following Feats are removed from the game: Crossbow Expert, Elemental Adept, Sentinel, Sharpshooter, Spell Sniper, War Caster.


13. Consider using the “Gritty Realism” rest rules in the DMG. Alternately, short rests are 4 hours long. Long rests are 24 hours long.

14. The rules otherwise remain unchanged from those presented in the Players’ Handbook. When questions arise, adhere to realism/verisimilitude.

15. The DM’s word is Absolute Law.
 

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This is interesting. I have no doubt it would be a fun couple sessions. But for a sustained campaign might be difficult without huge player buy-in.

I am curious, how do adjust the creatures considering the max level for a PC is 6? Not opposed to it, just curious how you plan on seeing that part through.
 

The idea is that creatures would hit less often, as their attack bonuses are reduced, and the use of the "Damage Type vs. Armour Type" chart usually results in a small increase for the AC. So, less frequent hits that are somewhat more lethal due to lower HP and longer recovery times.

I admit that it's imperfect, and definitely places some powerful monsters out of reach of such a campaign.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Sound cool but I think you may run into an issue with Clerics being the obviously strongest class until Fighter get Extra Attack.

Low stats, Nerfed equipment, Nerfed feats, Nerfed health, and Nerfed Archery means a Melee Cleric will not be much behind a Melee Fighter. And Ranged Fighters will be weak and squishy.

5e isn't like pre4e D&D where fighter's equipment outclasses cleric's by a noticeable amount early. It relies more on Ability score choices and sing equipment to make up for MAD. Your rules inadvertently and heavily encourage dumb foolish strong tough melee fighters to be the only viable why to play the class
 


Quartz

Adventurer
That will make for an interesting game. You might want to raise the max level to 8 for the second Feat / ASI.

Historically, scale armour was a real thing (lorica squamata) and it seems that you actually want brigandine for splint armour.
 

Anyway, I thought I'd present my personal set of homebrew mods here in a separate thread in order to avoid clogging up that other thread with this huge post. I'm interested in hearing feedback. Here goes:
Interesting. How long have you been playing with these houserules in place? What does the party consist of?
Do you use a much slower level progression as well as capping max level?
 

Stalker0

Legend
So a lot of the rules are for flavor, and they look pretty good. I like that notion of normal humans being rural and variant being city humans.

I'll just dig into a few.

1) On your hitpoints, one idea you could offer as a "bail-out" if your players just rolls absolutely horrific on HP. A change to the Durable Feat: Upon taking this feat, you may change your hitpoints to the average per hit die. When you gain a level, you may choose to take either the average result or roll the hp".

Durable is generally a weak feat anyway so it just provides a little cushion for the worst case scenario. I can say that I have also gone back to the -10 system in my game and I've really enjoyed it, game feels more deadly and certainly less whack a mole.

2) 6. Spells: All cantrips that deal damage are reduced to doing a single point of damage. All spells have a casting time equal to 1 action plus the level of the spell. Yes, that means that only cantrips may take effect on the turn on which they are cast. Yes, this “nerfs” spellcasters somewhat; you already get to alter reality to suit your whims, so stop being selfish. The following spells are removed from the game in order to maintain proper balance: Heat Metal, Hold Person, Meld into Stone, Spirit Guardian, Charm Person, Witch Bolt, Enlarge/Reduce, Invisibility, Shatter. Somewhere in the world, scrolls or magic items may exist that produce these effects, but they are generally not available to PCs.

So this is the one we need to look at. As written, I can't imagine anyone if your game wanting to play a spellcaster unless combat is rare in your games and you are focused on utility over combat. Even a 1st level spell requires 2 rounds to activate, so basically you have cut the power of 1st level spells in half. A 3rd level spell (the highest in the game) takes 4 rounds, most of my combats are over before then!

So combat spells are basically worthless, a caster is only going to take utility spells where the casting time doesn't really matter. As such, of the spells that you banned, the only ones that are actually worth banning are charm person and invisibility, because of their duration and possible impact. The other spells no one will use anyway.

Personally I would go with something like this:

"The casting time of your highest spell level requires 2 actions".

3) Shields: I think making your large shields have disadvantage on attack rolls is enough. You have effectively trade a strong offense to get a strong defense. But disadvantage on saves means you are again trading in your defense, and ability checks is also unneeded imo.

This means the big whammies like fireball always take some time to get off (2 actions is still a lifetime in 5e combat), but otherwise the fact that the most "powerful mages in the land" can get off a 2nd level spell "so quickly" gives them reasonable power, but 2nd level spells at 5th and 6th level are not breaking the game compared to fighters with 2 attacks.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Re: Spells

I think its a little harsh. I'd go with something like this:
- Concentration: You speed is reduced to 10 ft when concentrating unless your speed was already lower.

- Cantrips only deal INT mod damage on a hit + their normal effect. (Invokers get to add their Prof bonus to Evocation cantrips)

- Spellcasting: You can spend a spell slot action only if you haven't moved during this turn, and after you spent a spell slot, your speed is 0 until the end of the current turn.

- Spells that require a roll to hit add their DEX (not spellcasting stat) for a ranged spell attack and STR for melee spell attack. The caster adds its proficiency bonus to the roll.

- Clerics have not cantrips.

As for max 6th level, I'd say its a good idea, but with a few caveats:
- Instead of ASI and Feats, I'd give the classes extra features.

Fighter 4:
Expert Warrior: When you make an attack, you can gain a penalty equal to up to your Prof. Bonus. On a hit, you deal damage equal to twice the penalty you took.

Fighter 6:
Improved Resilience: Whenever you make a saving throw, roll 1d6 and add the die to your saving throw total. If applying this bonus to a death saving throw increases the total to 20 or higher, you gain the benefits of rolling a 20 on the d20.



Cleric 4:
Destroy undead CR 1/2, Advantage on Religion rolls.

Cleric 5:
Channel Divinity (2)

Cleric 6:
Destroy undead CR 1, Archetype Features


Wizard 4:
Eyes of the Runekeeper:
Expertise in Arcana, can read any language.


Rogue 4:
Delver (as per the feat).
 

Personally I'd say level 6 is not a satisfying level cap for 5e, as different classes and subclasses very quite a bit in whether a key feature comes at level 6 or waits for level 7. Level 7 or 8 seem better balanced as everyone mostly just gets the ASI at level 8, so they tend to be in fairly comparable places at both 7 (getting the last of the stuff they get before that ASI) and 8.

12. The following Feats are removed from the game: Crossbow Expert, Elemental Adept, Sentinel, Sharpshooter, Spell Sniper, War Caster.

I think removing a feat as lame as Elemental Adept is, if anything, just increasing the power of PCs.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Hard and gritty, me likes! The class and race restrictions will probably offer the opportunity to many players to actually try some more classical PC if they haven't already.

But ouch... those spellcasting times are seriously gonna hurt :) Do you mean to apply concentration rules while a Wizard is spending actions in multiple rounds to cast a higher level spell? I think the casting times are already harsh enough without making the Wizard subject to disruption.

Just a marketing advice here: you don't need to openly advertise that the level progression caps at 6th. Just tell your players that so far you have more or less established your house rules to work for the first 6 levels, so they should not plan their character builds beyond that point because you are not sure the game of the afterwards. Many players out there dislike games with a sort of set "finish line", even if it doesn't imply that the game will end but only their own progression. The same players probably don't realize that the majority of games don't even reach 6th level, but if you tell them there's a cap they might get a bad mood since the start.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Yeah, my only reaction was on the spellcasting as well. The rules effectively eliminate all magical combat because no player will take any spells of that sort. All magic will be out-of-combat. Which in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing... if you want magic to seem rare but powerful, making all spells essentially like Rituals where the caster HAS to spend a period of time building up the power to cast them can work well. The only thing to note though is that it WILL change the load out of what spells will appear in the game, as your caster players will only select those spells for which time is not of the essence. So probably a lot of exploration spells, divinations, defensive spells during rest and so on.

Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with that, as it will effect a significant change in campaign style. No longer will you see Shield, Fireball, Thunderwave, etc. etc. dominate your games... more esoteric spells will come into play. Which of course does garner an important question-- if your spellcasting rules are going to effectively cut down your cleric and wizard spell lists to those spells that aren't hamstrung by the casting time requirements... why not just customize both spell lists even further? Create spell lists for both classes that only include those spells you are comfortable having in your game. That way you are assured of maintain a certain style of magic, rather than hoping you get there by making rules that nudge players in that direction. Your rules are passive-aggressively telling your players "I only want to see X, Y and Z spells in the game". Why not just be straight with them and say "Here are the spells I'm allowing in the campaign and all of them are considered Rituals and have to be cast as such."

Of course... if that was the case, then what all players should really do is just play Fighters and Rogues and then select party members can decide to take the Ritual Caster feat to bring magic into the game. That way you can REALLY curtail the amount of spellcasting, plus all PCs will at least have some combat skill for fights (since no one is using magic in them anyway.) ;)
 
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dave2008

Legend
Some interesting ideas that I could get behind, but we already have a set of more low fantasy rules we like. I may introduce a few of these in a future campaign.
 


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