D&D General SD&D: Simply D&D

Seems like a great way to play through pre-written stories.
Not such a good way to resolve situations that have unknown outcomes.

Yes SD&D is oriented toward playing through the hundreds (thousands?) of D&D modules which have been written. Which is pretty fun.

But whatever official D&D charts and tables are used to run on-the-fly sandboxy D&D (e.g. random NPC generators, wandering monsters, random dungeon creation, worldbuilding tables, etc.) would be a part of SD&D too.
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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.
During the past couple years, I've converted several classic D&D modules into freeform format (Palace of the Silver Princess, Keep on the Borderlands, Elwyn's Sanctuary, Isle of Dread). Where the only mechanic was to draw a card to see how well you did in that round or scene. We played while traipsing through parks and woodlands. With me just carrying the module in hand, and the players each with a deck of cards. The outcome and course of the story were not known. We had a total blast! And it really did "feel" immersive, like we were in the D&D Multiverse.

If there is a "railroady" aspect to pre-published adventures, that applies just as well to any edition of D&D, not just SD&D. And SD&D could be used for an "on-the-fly" sandboxed hexcrawl just as well.

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.
In our Freeform D&D (FfD&D) LARP, the drawn card indicated roughly how well the characters did in the Scene. During a battle, I usually drew a card each round, but when I got tired and wanted to get on with it, I'd just say: "Okay, draw a card to see how the battle turned out."

A 7 or higher was some sort of success. The higher the card, the more dramatic the success.
6 or lower was some sort of failure. Actually a "failing foward."

I'd sometimes ask the player to describe the outcome themself, like: "So describe to me what fumbling disaster happened when you drew a 1 (ace)." Or: "You drew a 7 for this encounter. How did you barely overcome the Fire Beetle?"

I know I'll sound like a D&D heretic, but one of the rules in our Freeform D&D was that no PC could die unless the player decided that PC's story was over.

But PCs (and the whole party) could be captured, enslaved, wounded, scarred, sent to another plane, turned into ghosts, vampires, werewolves, etc....but the PC would live somehow, and the adventure would go on.

So it's not really a 50/50 outcome. It's not just: Victory or TPK.

SD&D is similar to that "FfD&D", but fleshed out a bit more: e.g. with a d20 Roll and Six Attributes and an "all-editions" book of Powers (fluff) to choose from.
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Thanks for your comments DND_Reborn!
By "options available as lore" do you mean fluff?
Yes. They're all mechanically the same: they grant Advantage on the Roll, when tapped by the PC's narration.
But some Powers do also have specific in-world effects. E.g. Read Languages does simply allow the character to read languages! (Besides being used to grant Advantage if used narratively for a Roll.)
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.
I've been looking at the 4E Skill Challenges. A simplified version of that could work for encounters which are supposed to be moderately difficult, or for a Boss encounter.

In any case, "mook" encounters should be resolve in one roll.
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?
Right, the fluff grants Advantage, when referred to by the player during a Roll. That's the mechanical impact. (Besides Powers which also have a specific narrative effect or utility, e.g. Darkvision.)
Other than that, it's "things about you." Yep, that's what stories are made of!
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?
5E is math-lite / number-lite compared to 4E and 3E. But it seriously still makes my head spin. I've been DMing since 1983 (BECMI), and have DMed 5E for a couple years, but even last weekend, it evoked stress for me when I need to call out and write down Stealth and Initiative rolls. Or how folks have to remember to add Proficiency or not. Or remember their spell DC. Or the petty "bean counting" of doling out XP and coinage droplets (who cares?)

Yeah, 5E is more streamlined than most previous editions, and I know there are optional rules which address some of these things (e.g. milestone advancement) but it's still very numerical. Honestly it's a strain for me.

Does this include AC, HP, and Level?
AC and HP: Not sure. Still working on that. I'd only include these for "D&D aesthetic reasons", if at all.

Level. Yes. In my draft text, the characters go up a level after every Session. They gain a new Power every other level. The levels are grouped into Tiers of 10 levels each. But Levels and Tiers are almost entirely fluff, though I may use them to calculate a sort of challenge rating (compared to the party's Level/Tier), to determine how many Successes are needed to complete a Battle.

There's a maximum of ten Powers (or maybe twenty Powers), so that the character sheet doesn't get untidy. Yet there's no limit to number of levels (30, 100, etc). You can switch out a Power between Sessions, and in that way, evolve your character with more higher-level Powers (which are still fluff). You eventually get to Epic level Powers (fluff), and fight Epic and Legendary monsters, but the Powers still just grant Advantage!

Like in Tinyd6, there's no statistical power curve in SD&D. Even Epic levels of play still use an unmodified d20, with Advantage or Disadvantage.
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?
I realize it sounds eccentric, and may not be essential to D&D. But I've found that it helps the player "own" and remember what Powers they have. Even a stick-figure, hastily scribbled, pencilled-in symbol which took 5 seconds to draw (e.g. a firey ball for fireball) provides a quick visual handle.

The draft SD&D character sheets do have a slot for writing in the name of the Powers (and Equipment), along with a box to draw a symbol or illustration for each.

SD&D has "dramatic encumbrance."

Everyone has 10 slots for Equipment. It doesn't matter how strong the PC is. Boromir and Aragorn could've theoretically carried a lot more gear than the Hobbits, but Sam is about the only Fellowship member who we see actually use gear (e.g. pots, pans, rope).

"Coin" counts as one slot. No coin amounts are noted in SD&D adventures. PCs only carry Coin if they choose to use a slot for it. All normal gear can be automatically acquired when in town.

(Though since SD&D values "lore", we'd tend to enhance the existing classic adventures by providing illustrations of exactly what the coins actually look like...e.g. Karameikan coins found in the Caves of Chaos. Or Neverwinter coins used in Phandolin. But just as fluff.)

In the draft text, a player can spend an XP (SD&D's name for "Inspiration") to narrate a flashback which explains how they actually brought any piece of normal equipment with them.

SD&D values tidiness. :)

Since this [races] is still simply fluff material, sure. Or players could adhere to traditional D&D definitions of racial traits if they wanted to.
Exactly. The racial traits (=Powers) from all editions are compiled for each Race, so that a player knows what Powers are archetypal for that Race. But they're free to mix and match. Yet the Powers are still sourced from a specific Race. So if a Character chooses Darkvision from the Dwarf Power list and Fire Breath from the Red Dragonborn list, they are a Half-Dwarf/Half-Red Dragonborn. It's not totally willy-nilly: it's not like Dwarves have fire breath in SD&D, unless the DM creates/approves a Dwarven lineage in their world that has that Power (e.g. "Fire Dwarves" or something).

BTW, though the term "Race" is aesthetically D&D, if an official replacement term for "race" has started to appear in D&D products, SD&D might go with that. Since "Race" is becoming passe. Maybe "Lineage." (Since in SD&D, the Ravenloft Lineages are mechanically indistinguishable from "race", and serve the same purpose. "Species" (from 3E Savage Species) is another option.

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.

Right. It'll depend on what SD&D looks like. Though I do want to keep in mind what is included in monster stat-blocks which appear in xD&D adventures, since this might inform the design of SD&D.

IME "rolled up" worlds don't work so well, but perhaps SD&D would come up with a viable system for doing it.
Well, the chart would ideally reverse-engineer the principles which were actually used to craft Blackmoor, Oerth, Mystara, Toril, Krynn, Athas, Eberron, etc.

And, from the start, would inculcate the principle of placing whatever adventures (you happen to own) on the map, in the vicinity of the adventurer's hometown. And building the campaign from that seedpoint. An adventure-driven approach.

Really, from a mechanical standpoint, the various adventure sites found in, say, the Lost Mine of Phandelver, could've been placed on a blank map. Only where the terrain, vegetation, and travel distance actually matters that would be noted (i.e. the ruins of the village of Thundertree should be near to a volcano, but far enough from the adventurer's hometown that that town was not affected by the ash.)

And SD&D would explicitly encourage the DM to modify or replace any proper names [NPCs, place-names, deities] found in the published adventures.
Since this [graphic design and layout] 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. :)
I'll try!
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Hopefully I can get an SD&D playtest document put together and post it here for feedback.

In the meantime, here's a minimalist prototype of SD&D which I crafted and ran for the MystaraCon last fall. It's still sort of idiosyncratic (e.g. the Mystaran zodiac and d12s), but you can see the gist. There are proto-SD&D-style character sheets there too.

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Which name do people like best?:

Simply D&D (SD&D)
Archetypal D&D (ArchD&D)
Quick D&D (QD&D)
Easy D&D (EZD&D)
Free D&D or Freeform D&D (FD&D or FfD&D)
Free D&D Revolution (FD&DR)
Free Revolutionary D&D or Freeform Revolutionary D&D (FRD&D)


B/X Known World
You introduced me to the term "Free Kriegsspiel Renaissance"...yay!

Good suggestions.

Thanks for the video -- I enjoyed it. Well said.
You're welcome. It's a whole thing. There's a few discords, a subreddit, magazines, dozens of blogs, dozens or hundreds of games. Another great resource to check out is Tracy Hickman's XDM. Professor Dungeon Master did a review here:

And a similar idea/book/game is Over the Edge 3rd Edition. The entire system can fit on a 3x5 card.

If you're looking for ultra-light gaming, there's some great resources.


The High Aldwin
An idea for combat:

Level. Yes.
Ok, so to be clear of your intent, along with what I am envisioning, is you retain level and ability scores in some fashion (6, 8, 4 pairs, whatever). The idea is the only number you ever need to worry about adding to your d20 roll is your ability modifier (again, in whatever manner that translates into). Your Level is used for comparison to the creature(s) you're fighting, and determines if your d20 roll is with disadvantage, straight, or with advantage.

Each PC gets to roll, and the DM rolls for each creature (or group of creatures if they are "mook"ish enough). Adding your ability modifier, you get your total.

The group compares all the rolls from both sides (party vs. DM's creatures). The highest roll beats out the other side's highest roll, and both are removed. This continues until all the dice on one side are used up. Extra dice for the other side are lost (meaningless). The side with the greater number of higher dice gains one mark towards victory. When one side has three marks, the battle is over and that side wins.

Here is an example:

A party of five 6th-level PCs is fighting two hill giants (CR 5).

My default guideline for comparing PC level to CR will be using half the PC level, which in this case would give us a 3 (6/2). Since this is more than one point different from the giants' CR 5, let's say the two giants will have "advantage" (getting to each roll 2 d20s, but using both not only the higher of the two).

Let's say the PCs ability modifiers are +5, +5, +4, +4, and +4. The hill giants get +5 (for STR).

The PCs roll 16, 4, 18, 4, 18, adding their bonuses give them: 21, 9, 22, 8, 22.

The DM rolls four dice for the two giants (they get "advantage" due to their higher CR over the PCs' levels) and gets 17, 10, 7, 15; adding their bonuses makes their totals 22, 15, 12, 20.

The highest PC roll is 22, matching the giants' high roll, so both are removed.
The next highest roll (another 22) also belongs to the PCs, and beats out the giants' second highest roll, 15; so the PCs win that match.
The next highest roll (21) also belongs to the PCs, and crushes the giants' 15, giving the PCs another match win.

The next highest roll (12) belongs to the giants and beats one of the PCs' 8's. Giving this match to the giants.
The last roll (the party's other 8) is discarded.

So, in this set has the PCs winning two rolls, the giants one roll, and one roll was a tie. Since the PCs have the greater number of wins, they gain the first mark towards winning the encounter.

The rest of the battle follows:
PC rolls (with bonuses): 21, 14, 5, 19, 7
Giants rolls (with bonuses): 9, 21, 16, 22

High roll (22) is giants', removing the PCs' high roll (21).
Next high roll (21) is also giants', removing the PCs' next high roll (19).
Next high roll (16) is the giants', removing the PCs' 14.
Final high roll (9) is the giants' as well, removing the PCs' 7.

The PCs' last roll (5) is discarded.

The giants won three matches and crush this set, gaining a mark of their own!

PCs: 20, 9, 14, 11, 17
Giants: 22, 19, 16, 23

23 beats 20; goes to giants
22 beats 17; goes to giants
19 beats 14; goes to giants
16 beats 11; goes to giants

9 is discarded.

Wow, the giants are thrashing the PCs! This is NOT looking good for the party as the giants gain their second mark...

PCs: 15, 23, 5, 17, 8
Giants: 13, 22, 16, 10

23 beats 22; goes to PCs
17 beats 16; goes to PCs
15 beats 13, goes to PCs

10 beats 8; goes to giants.
5 is discarded.

Since the PCs won most of the matches, they gain the set and gain their second mark as well!

PCs: 25, 21, 7, 16, 19
Giants: 19, 15, 21, 23

25 beats 23; goes to PCs
21 = 21; tie, both are discarded
19 = 19; tie, both are discarded
16 beats 15; goes to PCs
7 is discarded.

YEAH! the PCs gain victory barely in the last set and the combat is over!

With this system, you are only ever adding one number, and then comparing rolls to see which "wins". Also, combat must be resolved in 5 sets at most.

In the above example, if the giants had a group of 3-4 orcs, compared to 6th-level PCs they would be "mooks" and the DM would give them a single roll as a group.

If you wanted combat to end sooner, you could make it 2 marks to win (instead of 3), or even just 1... But IMO it would be too random then. I haven't looked at the numbers to see how likely a group of PCs would win. Maybe this weekend I will write a simulation to try it out.

Anyway, hopefully that isn't too complex, but it was an idea I had while driving.


The High Aldwin
Hmm...looks good! I hope to have a closer look this weekend. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
I am meeting with my group on Saturday, so maybe we'll try some "mock combats" using this idea and see if it works well. Otherwise, I'll have to write a simulation to try it out. Anyway, it might be too complex, but let me know once you have time to mull it over.

Looking more closely--I like your idea. There are various things that I would want to playtest, in order to calibrate for maximum fun and quickness. Several things could be toggled one way or another. I do wonder if the couching of sets within matches is too much for "EZ D&D."

Yet the biggest immediate snag of that approach in regard to my own conception, is that I want the race/class "powers" to play some role, by granting advantage when tapped narratively. In that case, I'd either do...

A) Something like: If the encounter has the same number of monsters as party members, and the highest-CR monster is in the same Tier as the highest-level party member, then a Battle consists of 3 Successes before 3 Failures (which would result in "failing forward"). But: for every monster and/or CR more (or less) than the party, requires one more (or less) success (yet 3 Failures is still a "failing forward"). And of course, there's a bit of DM narration after each set of rolls.

B) Or, for quickness's sake, just say that the usual (moderate, medium-difficulty) monster encounter is resolved in two rolls. The party says what their goal is for this encounter, and their roll determines whether they succeed or "fail forward". If it's an Easy encounter, it's resolve in one roll. If Hard (such as the Boss fight), it's resolved in 3 rolls.

But I like the gist of what you shared. It inspires me.

I'm kind of tied up with "real life" commitments right now, yet I'm aiming post a playtest doc sometime. So that people can see what I mean. It's hard to piece it together in a piecemeal series of forum posts.

I am meeting with my group on Saturday, so maybe we'll try some "mock combats" using this idea and see if it works well. Otherwise, I'll have to write a simulation to try it out. Anyway, it might be too complex, but let me know once you have time to mull it over.
Did you have a chance to try it out?


The High Aldwin
Did you have a chance to try it out?
No. One of my players was DMing (we just started a new campaign) so we were busy.

But, I discussed it with one of them today and a couple ideas came out.

1. With each set, the lowest die from the losing side is removed and not rolled in further sets. If the set is a tie, the lowest die from both sides are removed and not rolled in further sets.

2. If a die rolls a natural 1 it is removed and no longer rolled.

3. If a die rolls a natural 20, another die is added for that PC/creature/group.

4. As an option, you can keep rolling until all dice are removed from one side or the other. The side with dice remaining, wins the combat.

I've got a full couple weeks coming up so I'll work on some analysis of it when I can.


There are already systems that do this. I wish those systems got more love so I wasn't stuck looking for games in a system everyone is trying to change. If we want a better system, why bother with WotC at all? The hobby is so much bigger than D&D. The system dosn't matter, the person running it does.

That said, I would love trying something like this with a competent GM. One of the best games I ever played was roughly Theatrix with no flowcharts, only the GM had dice (a small handful of d6), and it was entirely due to the quality GM. It was RP and "plot points" that players could spend. Combat was basically "go around the table and state strat/tactics." GM decides from there based on how we've characterized ourselves during play through RP. Important moments/battles would have more interaction or discussion. Maybe a couple back-and-forths simulating rounds. That's it. Good ol' fashioned backyard Cops and Robbers fun with a quality ref. (for the record, the same GM ran the best crunchy ass GURPS games too. He had a talent.) One of the most influential decisions I've ever seen happened in that game. We were playing teens in the '90s. Blah blah blah we were stuck out on our own and a player spent a plot point to say "I stole my dad's credit card before I left." It was totally in character, the timing was on point, and it changed the course of the game entirely. I remember it more than 20 years later. It's a different experience than today's D&D, and I guess if you get it you get it.

Real life games are practically impossible for me now that we've all grown up, and most GMs I find online are honestly just bad (but hey, at least they are trying, and I have had some exceptions. Two new GMs in particular if you are reading this- I hope you know I mean you. Delebean and Ribbles love you. I like gnomes, fight me.) I don't want the job these days; complaining is kind of asinine, I know. I'm not really as dickish as I sound.

Before I get nailed- I know my own limitations too, so don't think I'm being elitist or something. Active roleplay (as opposed to descriptive) takes me outside my comfort zone. It's something I wish I was better at. I'm self conscious as all hell and I love it when a GM, and at least as importantly other players, draw me out of my shell. Running a game is a tough job, but you might be great. If not now, maybe after a few tries- PLEASE don't let my dumb ass discourage you. I feel like I do a crap job, but my players always disagreed heartily. Which of the two matters more? You might be The Guy if you give it a few shots. Heck, it might even take a few more. Don't give it up.

I know this is half support, half rant. I'm a little bit of mess, but who isn't? After all that if anyone still wants to give me shot for something like this, hit me up. I'm not going to judge harshly, even if it seems otherwise. The creativity in these ideas runs for miles; I hope, and would love, to be inspired by it. (jeez, is that an essay? My teachers would be like WTF?)
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The High Aldwin
Did you have a chance to try it out?
So, I spent some time working on the combat sim and here are some quick/early results for the five 6th-level PCs versus:

1. Hill Giant - 96.7% wins (out of 10000 runs) (easy?)
2. Two Hill Giants (the original example) - 70% wins (hard?)
3. Three Hill Giants - 15% wins (deadly?)

For the fun of it, a CR 12 Adult Green Dragon: about 18% PC wins (deadly).
Also, against four CR 2 Ogres, about 85% wins (moderate).

I made an excel file to build encounters and determine easy, moderate, hard, or deadly rating (shown in the parenthesis above), and it matched pretty well with the results of the sim.

So far I am pretty pleased with the results. I haven't added any of the optional stuff yet, just in the first post. I'll probably have more time to work on it this weekend.

In my edition, no pc will die unless they decide to for drama’s sake. All failed battles are “failing forward”. Ogres enslave. Dragon temporarily charms them as followers, or to hand over a magic item in exchange for their lives. Even mindless foes will lose interest and move on.

Like in a PG show.


The High Aldwin
In my edition, no pc will die unless they decide to for drama’s sake. All failed battles are “failing forward”. Ogres enslave. Dragon temporarily charms them as followers, or to hand over a magic item in exchange for their lives. Even mindless foes will lose interest and move on.

Like in a PG show.
Just wanted to give you a quick update:

At the end of our session we ran several of the combats using the proposed system and it works well. It is quick, fairly balanced, and the parties won and lost battles as expected compared to running RAW combats.

It works well IMO with either the first to three wins or by eliminating the low roll each round.

I hope everything else with your SD&D is moving forward well.

Just wanted to give you a quick update:

At the end of our session we ran several of the combats using the proposed system and it works well. It is quick, fairly balanced, and the parties won and lost battles as expected compared to running RAW combats.

It works well IMO with either the first to three wins or by eliminating the low roll each round.

I hope everything else with your SD&D is moving forward well.
Thanks for the update! Your playtest inspires me.
I have a public newcomer game probably coming up in a couple weeks. So I'm honing in on what exactly I'm going to offer: 5E (ignoring the fiddly bits), a specific existing ultralight ruleset (ICRPG, H&M, TBH), or a self-crafted distillation of D&D (which you and I've been talking about here.)

I think they're all good options, yet I'll need to settle on something as the day approaches. :)

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