D&D General SD&D: Simply D&D

Design Parameters:
  1. SD&D is a mechanically minimalist way of playing through any and all D&D adventures, within the vast D&D Multiverse, with all character options (races, classes, feats, spells, etc.) available as lore (fluff).
  2. Battle (combat) is streamlined to one roll per encounter, or perhaps a series of rolls (like 4E skill challenges).
  3. SD&D is vastly simplified mechanically, but not lore-wise. All character options are are still there...as lore (fluff). Though the core presentation of SD&D may stick to the core races and classes from xD&D, there would be some sort of SD&D "complete character option compendium" which converts not only the entirety of official 5E character options into SD&D, but also all character options from all previous editions (races and racial traits, classes and class features, subclasses, backgrounds, kits, prestige classes, proficiencies, skills, feats, spells)...as lore. This is doable because the mechanics are almost entirely stripped out. Abstracting the mechanics enables these features to co-exist in a single "edition" (SD&D). In this regard, SD&D may be more rich and nuanced than D&D 5E.
  4. Mechanics are either completely mathless (e.g. Advantage/Disadvantage instead of adding modifiers), or very math-lite (like the Monster Slayers kid's D&D published by WotC).
  5. All "bean-counting" is done away with: XP, GP, encumbrance, etc.
  6. The SD&D character sheet has a box to draw in a sketch or symbol of each character feature or piece of equipment. A visual sigil helps with quickly remembering and seeing what the character can do.
  7. SD&D leans into the leading progressive edge of D&D, such as the trend toward freely mixing and matching racial traits. Which is also the way it was in Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick's Original Known World (OKW) campaign of 1976-1979: "A note about the races in OKW: they’re much less hard-edged and distinct than in Middle-earth or World of Greyhawk. It’s better to think of them as tribes or ethnicities. All the breeds of humanoid mortals in OKW are inter-fertile, so wherever they’re adjacent there’s a fair amount of intermixing. If you self-identify as an elf, you’re an elf."
  8. SD&D is explicitly set in the D&D Multiverse. The setting is not simplified. In fact, the presentation of the D&D Multiverse may be even more nuanced and complete than we've seen in 5E so far. For example, SD&D lore-books will explicitly refer to all worlds and planes from previous editions. Encyclopedic sources such as the 2E Spell Compendiums, 2E Encyclopedia Magica (magic item compendium series), and Echohawk's research into official monster lore from previous editions, are valued resources in SD&D...for lore (rather than for mechanics).
  9. SD&D is adventure-centered, rather than rulebook-centered. There must be a straightfoward way of converting any and all existing D&D adventures into SD&D. SD&D conversion documents might also provide bullet-pointed encounter summaries and story summaries for helping a DM prepare the adventure.
  10. Though each officially published D&D world exists in the SD&D Multiverse, the default world is a sandbox, hex-crawler homebrew world of the SD&D DM's creation. Based on the 2E World Builder's Guide and the 2E Spelljammer planet-creation book: Practical Planetology. World building is part of the game from the start. Just like rolling up a character. The world is "rolled up" too.
  11. SD&D must aesthetically look like D&D. SD&D sticks closely to official D&D terminology, though it may draw from terminology from previous editions. But SD&D doesn't draw from, say, Pathfinder terminology.
  12. To fulfill the hankering of each generational flavor of D&D nostalgia, the final SD&D PDF will be available in different "edition themes" which mimic the fonts and graphic design of each edition of D&D: OD&D manila, Basic Holmes/Sutherland, B/X Otus, BECMI Elmore, 1E orange-spine Easley, 2E Easley, Rules Cyclopedia Easley, 2.5E Skills & Powers black framed Easley, 3E Henry Higgenbotham gears and gems, 4E Wayne Reynolds, and 5E. But the text is the same. Only the graphic design differs.

Inspirational Quotes from D&D designers:

  • Mike Mearls and "A Streamlined Combat System":

"Would you be interested in a streamlined combat system that allowed you to resolve fights quickly? Is the concept appealing?" --Mike Mearls, Sept. 2017

@41:44

When i first started playing 3.0 one of the best Dungeon Masters I played 3.0 with, the first 3 sessions we used saving throws for everything....we were like 'whatever, you're the dungeon master that's what i'll do, and it was fine, it was great...and we had a fantastic time, I still remember being Bjorn the Dwarf in that broken courtyard with my flail dive-bombing on top of my cleric from the top of the ledge, and I'm sure we played nothing like the rules, like I'm sure he had the cleric make a reflex save and I made a fortitude save and I rolled higher so it meant I landed on top of him and...that's what's interesting about it, and then getting that balance, and I've seen that happen--you can picture the enthusiastic new dungeon master who's running the game, and everyone's having a fun time because there's this energy and the storytelling's great, and then someone either stops the game because 'oh that's not how the rules should work.' So then you have the question of is the rule helping us or is it getting in the way...if we instead looked it up and started implementing the rules, would we be having a better time. And that's a huge question in tabletop game design."

  • Matt Mercer and "Ability Modifier Only" D&D:

@48:53

Matt Mercer: "In Theory you could play the whole game with just those modifiers, if you really really wanted to...in theory everything could be condensed down to that...if you were a first-time dungeon master you could in theory run the whole game based just off ability modifiers if you really really needed to."

  • Tom Moldvay's "d100 D&D" mini-game from the 1981 BASIC D&D Rulebook:

"That's not in the rules!" The players will often surprise the DM by doing the unexpected. [...] One quick way for a DM to decide whether a solution will work is by imagining the situation, and then choosing percentage chances for different possibilities." --page B60

  • Tom Moldvay's "Ability Check D&D" mini-game from the 1981 BASIC D&D Rulebook:

"There's always a chance." The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on ld20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to + 4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail." --page B60

Official Precedents for Simply D&D:
  • Monster Slayers (4E and 5E children's version of D&D): Heroes of Hesiod (pdf) and The Champions of the Elements (pdf)
  • Tom Moldvay's "d100 D&D" and "Ability Check D&D" subgames within B/X D&D.
  • D&D 4E Skill Challenges
  • Other streamlined D&D-branded expressions, such as how characters are statted in the various D&D Miniatures Games, D&D Game Books (e.g. Super Endless Quest), D&D Card Games, and D&D Board Games.
Note however, that unlike these expressions of D&D, SD&D doesn't simplify the lore or cut out character options; only the mechanical aspect (within each character option) is streamlined.

Other Inspirations: (though any borrowed features are fully re-clothed in D&D aesthetic and terminology)
 
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An ability-only game works better if the abilities themselves work better.

Eight abilities:
Strengh/Constitution
Dexterity/Athletics
Intelligence/Perception
Charisma/Wisdom
I can see some of the reasoning, but have you or others in another thread written about the reasons for combining?
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
I can see some of the reasoning, but have you or others in another thread written about the reasons for combining?
Several threads.

Basically, these eight are about equally valuable. Dex is no longer the superstat.


Athletics takes the reflex save from Dex, and combines Athletics and Acrobatics, to become the go-to swashbuckling stat.

Intelligence is lore, investigation, and intuition. Perception is strictly to describe the five senses, sights sounds, etcetera, but also saves against hiddenness and illusion. Charisma includes empathy and is the go-to for social skills and emotional intelligence. Will is willpower and sanity.
 
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Probably not D&D.

I purposely included several examples of "simplified D&D-branded" products which have already been published by TSR or WotC. Along with ideas for "Simplified D&D" which have been voiced by D&D designers.

And SD&D would be fully pervaded with the D&D Multiverse as the setting. Furthermore, unlike a D&D-branded boardgame or minis-game, SD&D would be a TTRPG, with any and all classic D&D adventures available for playthrough.

Though it would be a very divergent line of D&D compared to how D&D has evolved over the course of decades, it'd certainly be an "expression" of D&D, in some sense of the word.
 
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Several threads.

Basically, these eight are about equally valuable. Dex is no longer the superstat.


Athletics takes the reflex save from Dex, and combines Athletics and Acrobatics, to become the go-to swashbuckling stat.
Oh, I thought the "/" meant those two abilities were combined somehow, for four sets of two.
 


Yaarel

Mind Mage
Oh, I thought the "/" meant those two abilities were combined somehow, for four sets of two.
Actually yeah.

I started off with four abilities. But discovered that these eight in particular balanced against each other pretty well.



The resulting four roughly correspond to four attack versus defense pairs. They can work as eight separate abilities - or as four by giving each in a pair the same value.



For a minimalist mechanics that only uses abilities, probably go with eight.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I’d develop this further, but I’m in transit for vay-kay.

Love the idea. That said, if I were going to do this I’d just run it as FKR with an assumption that D&D is the genre (or if you prefer, the “world” if you were thinking of this as “play worlds not rules”).

It works really well if you have a table familiar with the conventions of D&D.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I’d develop this further, but I’m in transit for vay-kay.

Love the idea. That said, if I were going to do this I’d just run it as FKR with an assumption that D&D is the genre (or if you prefer, the “world” if you were thinking of this as “play worlds not rules”).

It works really well if you have a table familiar with the conventions of D&D.
I think this would be one of the best, if not the best solutions.

D&D really is its own thing. You either play FKR (Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance), or you play some cobbled together version of D&D, yet another fantasy heartbreaker.

Stats, hit points, and AC could be the same. Race, class, theme, kit, background, could provide advantage on any relevant checks. Most of the rest is flavor.

 

JEB

Legend
Black Hack
Yeah, that was one of the first things that came to mind when reading your idea. Or some version of Fate.

I'd certainly like to see an implementation of this! A game where I can have a mystic from BECMI, a hornhead saurial chronomancer from 2E, and a shardmind warden from 4E all easily usable in the same game sounds fun to me...
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
Seems like a great way to play through pre-written stories.
Not such a good way to resolve situations that have unknown outcomes.
All you need is uncertainty. No railroad required. That’s why most FKR games use opposed rolls. Do you accomplish the task? Roll for it. What’s the difficulty? Roll for it. When the outcome is variable, you have unknown outcomes.
 

Single roll to resolve an encounter means that the odds are extremely predictable. And anything but 50/50 means that their is one single preferred path. One preferred path means the story can easily be pre-written and leaves less creative room for the players to go in unplanned directions.

Not absolutes, not a railroad, but less opportunity for creative chaos.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
1. SD&D is a mechanically minimalist way of playing through any and all D&D adventures, within the vast D&D Multiverse, with all character options (races, classes, feats, spells, etc.) available as lore.
By "options available as lore" do you mean fluff?

2. Battle (combat) is streamlined to one roll per encounter, or perhaps a series of rolls (like 4E skill challenges).
I think a series of rolls maybe would be better. Even that would remove a lot of the time devoted to combat, but keep it interesting enough to make it worth while. Otherwise, with a single roll, if you want to follow "typical" D&D the players should only "lose" maybe 10% of the time, often with severe consequences.

3. SD&D is vastly simplified mechanically, but not lore-wise. All character options are are still there...as lore. Though the core presentation of SD&D may stick to the core races and classes from xD&D, there would be some sort of SD&D "complete character option compendium" which converts not only the entirety of official 5E character options into SD&D, but also all character options from all previous editions (races and racial traits, classes and class features, subclasses, backgrounds, kits, prestige classes, proficiencies, skills, feats, spells)...as lore. This is doable because the mechanics are almost entirely stripped out. Abstracting the mechanics enables these features to co-exist in a single "edition" (SD&D). In this regard, SD&D may be more rich and nuanced than D&D 5E.
I am failing to see how fluff will be impactful without mechanics. Otherwise, they are just "things about you" and "things you can do". Is that your thrust?

4. Mechanics are either completely mathless (e.g. Advantage/Disadvantage instead of adding modifiers), or very math-lite (like the Monster Slayers kid's D&D published by WotC).
5E (anyway) is already fairly math-lite IMO, so I am not sure how much lighter you are thinking here. Could you provide an example?

5. All "bean-counting" is done away with: XP, GP, encumbrance, etc.
Does this include AC, HP, and Level?

6. The SD&D character sheet has a box to draw in a sketch or symbol of each character feature or piece of equipment. A visual sigil helps with quickly remembering and seeing what the character can do.
Frankly I would think this is overkill and only fun for people who might enjoy drawing. Having a character sheet with slots for writing things down (if you had enough "boxes" you could use them I suppose) on an outline of the PC would be better and more functional IMO. If you think about the PCs with slot systems for encumbrance, that would be a fair starting point--just make the slots large enough to draw something if you wanted to?

7. SD&D leans into the leading progressive edge of D&D, such as the trend toward freely mixing and matching racial traits. Which is also the way it was in Tom Moldvay and Lawrence Schick's Original Known World (OKW) campaign of 1976-1979: "A note about the races in OKW: they’re much less hard-edged and distinct than in Middle-earth or World of Greyhawk. It’s better to think of them as tribes or ethnicities. All the breeds of humanoid mortals in OKW are inter-fertile, so wherever they’re adjacent there’s a fair amount of intermixing. If you self-identify as an elf, you’re an elf."
Since this is still simply fluff material, sure. Or players could adhere to traditional D&D definitions of racial traits if they wanted to.

8. SD&D is explicitly set in the D&D Multiverse. The setting is not simplified. In fact, the presentation of the D&D Multiverse may be even more nuanced and complete than we've seen in 5E so far. For example, SD&D lore-books will explicitly refer to all worlds and planes from previous editions. Encyclopedic sources such as the 2E Spell Compendiums, 2E Encyclopedia Magica (magic item compendium series), and Echohawk's research into official monster lore from previous editions, are valued resources in SD&D...for lore (rather than for mechanics).
Ok.

9. SD&D is adventure-centered, rather than rulebook-centered. There must be a straightfoward way of converting any and all existing D&D adventures into SD&D. SD&D conversion documents might also provide bullet-pointed encounter summaries and story summaries for helping a DM prepare the adventure.
Since most of D&D is combat-centered, really the big thing you would need to develop is a way to translate various encounters from all editions of D&D into SD&D. Frankly, I could envision anything from super-complex to insanely simple.

10. Though each officially published D&D world exists in the SD&D Multiverse, the default world is a sandbox, hex-crawler homebrew world of the SD&D DM's creation. Based on the 2E World Builder's Guide and the 2E Spelljammer planet-creation book: Practical Planetology. World building is part of the game from the start. Just like rolling up a character. The world is "rolled up" too.
IME "rolled up" worlds don't work so well, but perhaps SD&D would come up with a viable system for doing it. Having all material in your setting is fine, of course, and most DMs IME use material from various editions in their own worlds anwyay.

11. SD&D must aesthetically look like D&D. SD&D sticks closely to official D&D terminology, though it may draw from terminology from previous editions. But SD&D doesn't draw from, say, Pathfinder terminology.
Sure, you would want cohesion.

12. To fulfill the hankering of each generational flavor of D&D nostalgia, the final SD&D PDF will be available in different "edition themes" which mimic the fonts and graphic design of each edition of D&D: OD&D manila, Basic Holmes/Sutherland, B/X Otus, BECMI Elmore, 1E orange-spine Easley, 2E Easley, Rules Cyclopedia Easley, 2.5E Skills & Powers black framed Easley, 3E Henry Higgenbotham gears and gems, 4E Wayne Reynolds, and 5E. But the text is the same. Only the graphic design differs.
Since this would be the final stage, you can pretty much do it however you want to format it, but for the sake of sanity please make it better organised than history has given us. :)
 

Love the idea. That said, if I were going to do this I’d just run it as FKR with an assumption that D&D is the genre (or if you prefer, the “world” if you were thinking of this as “play worlds not rules”).

It works really well if you have a table familiar with the conventions of D&D.
Honestly, I didn't know what "FKR" is until a subsequent poster referenced it as well! Glad y'all introduced me to it!
 

I think this would be one of the best, if not the best solutions.

D&D really is its own thing. You either play FKR (Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance), or you play some cobbled together version of D&D, yet another fantasy heartbreaker.
You introduced me to the term "Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance"...yay!

Stats, hit points, and AC could be the same. Race, class, theme, kit, background, could provide advantage on any relevant checks. Most of the rest is flavor.
Good suggestions.

Thanks for the video -- I enjoyed it. Well said.
 

Yeah, that was one of the first things that came to mind when reading your idea. Or some version of Fate.
Though I've heard good things about FATE, it's "aesthetic" is un-D&D. So yeah, I'm working on something along the lines of The Black Hack, but with even less rules...and with all the official D&D character options and lore/fluff folded back in.
I'd certainly like to see an implementation of this! A game where I can have a mystic from BECMI, a hornhead saurial chronomancer from 2E, and a shardmind warden from 4E all easily usable in the same game sounds fun to me...
Exactly.

In the draft text I'm working on, each Race and Class (from all editions) have a list of Powers by Level.

Yet all Powers are identical mechanically, but not narratively:
1) All Powers simply give you Advantage on the Roll if you narratively tap one of them. This is the only mechanical aspect of racial traits and class features.
2) Some of the Powers also do something specific narratively (besides granting Advantage on narratively tapped Rolls). E.g. Knock does open the door. Fire spells do light things on fire. Fly does enable you to fly.

So, the character options you mention would each have its own Powers list, compiled from all editions in which that race/class appeared. But all the mechanics would be stripped out and replaced with simple Advantage.
  • Monk (aka Mystic). This Class' power list includes all the Powers of the 1E Monk, BECMI Mystic, Rules Cyclopedia Mystic, 2E Fighting Monk kit, 3.0/3.5 Monk, 4E Monk, 5E Monk, and the default 5E Monk of the Open Hand subclass.
  • Saurial
  • Chronomancer
  • Shardmind
  • Warden
One of the features of SD&D is that it's "educational" in regard to D&D history and lore: SD&D provides footnoted references where each Power came from (e.g. which edition and rulebook).
 
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