D&D 5E Simple Rules for Aging (+)

Laurefindel

Legend
My colleagues and I were discussing the other day how "we're not 20 years old anymore", pointing how it takes us longer to recuperate. We do have a lot more experience however and are better equipped to go through all sorts of difficulties where younglings struggle. This made me think of how D&D could represent age and experience. This houserule - if it ever comes to that - will unlikely ever be used so don't fret, but for the sake of the exercise, please indulge with me.

This is a "plus" thread so please contribute constructively. If you don't thinks it's a good idea, say something along the line of "I don't think this is a good idea because X, but if I were to do it, I would do..."


This houserule would be meant for character creation as soon as level 1, so experience-as-class-levels shouldn't be a factor. I don't want to deal with +2,-2 to physical and mental stats either; age shouldn't be a way to min-max and should benefit all character classes more or less equally. So starting with the statement of "With Youth Comes Vigour, With Age Comes Wisdom", here are some things that could come into play.

Youth could have a faster way of eliminating exhaustion level or recuperate HD on long rest.
Age could have an easier way of dealing with moderate challenge, like the ability to ignore disadvantage on certain rolls, or gain advantage on certain saves.
Youth could gain more on a short rest.
Age could be able to better conserve resources.

I'm thinking of four age categories because, hum, dragons? Child, Young, Adult, Ancient. Or maybe just "old" instead of "ancient". I'd also leave age categories relatively open, especially the adult category that should act as default with no changes by Raw. I'm cool with "my 60 y/o character is young at heart. I'm using adult", or "I'm 17 but rather grounded. I'm using adult".

Ideas?

'findel
 

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payn

Legend
I like the CONCEPT that 3e was going for 'you get wiser as you get older, but your body breaks down' but the Order of the stick showed the issue when getting old makes your eyes sharper (+3 to wis is +1 or +2 perception)
That's assuming that perception only applies to eye sight. It could also be experience in spotting things out of the ordinary and quickly recognizing the situation for what it is mentally. 3E tried to do this by sight, sound, smell?, etc... Was just a level too high of granularity for me. So, I am comfortable with things like perception not being so decidedly one note.
 

I'm not entirely convinced that stat modifications are really the best way to represent aging. I wonder if it might make more sense for older character to do something mechanically similar to choosing additional backgrounds to represent their additional experience. Or, perhaps, choosing skills to gain expertise in. That's really what has happened. You've had time to burn through a lot of downtime activities.

I'm not sure how best to represent the effects on the body of aging, or from just being out of shape and out of practice. Flat penalties are simple, but they don't seem like the most accurate solution. I would almost go for something like atrophied class abilities. In fantasy stories, we often see things like old fighters who are still very deadly, but they can't do everything they used to. Or old wizards who can cast many spells, but no longer have a grasp on their most potent spells. Maybe you keep your proficiency bonus and your hit dice, but everything else starts to fade after decades of disuse. You're still a 13th level Fighter, but you've only got the class abilities through level 5.

At the venerable stage where you're so old that you need dedicated care, I kind of feel like that would best be represented with steadily progressing permanent exhaustion.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
I don't see why aging should give any stat bonus. Just because someone is old doesn't mean he is more wise. I think everyone knows of examples of someone who did not get more wise with age.
Any accummlated knowledge is represented by level and not flat age bonus.

So aging should only give penalties.
I like the Traveller approach. Once you hit a certain age tresholds you have to roll endurance or get penalties to your physical scores.
 

This is interesting. I was going to start a thread about this. I've noticed, not just in 5e, although 5e really makes a point of making people 'die when it's their time'.

If you look at all the powers from various classes that stop ageing, it indicates that you cannot live beyond your 'natural' lifespan. I find this very odd. Especially in a game where elves live for 800 year, who cares if your human monk lives for 1000 years? Most campaigns don't go past a decade (some do) and some zip forward in time between groups but I don't understand the fixation on making sure humans don't live longer than 100 years or goblins live 60 or whatever.

Make a 1st level, 700 year old human that was cursed with immortality. It won't break the game. A 15tth level monk ability really shouldn't have these kinds weird caveats.

Anyways, to the OP:
If I make an 80 year old 1st level character, the stats I choose kind of represent that. I used to use the 3.5 ageing rules. They were neat but they lead to some min/maxing (I want to play a 70 year old wizard to get higher INT!)

It would be interesting to, instead of stat penalties, you made exhaustion trigger more easily. Maybe you have to do a forced march after 7 hours instead of 8. Maybe you get disadvantage on con saves when doing strenuous, long term activities.

I always feel like, if age is a major factor for your character background, you should build it in as a flaw or bond or something. This gives the DM the option to give you proficiency when it's applicable: Giving proficiency on a history check because you were alive when event 'x' happened. Or giving disadvantage (and maybe an inspiration) for certain activities.
 


Osgood

Adventurer
Ever since one of our characters picked up 30 extra years after an encounter with a ghost I've been thinking 5E needed some sort of good aging rules. I like the idea of incorporating greater susceptibility to exhaustion or similar effects.

What about something like this. For every increment of aging past a certain threshold (say every 5 or 10 years starting at 40 for a human and similar races) a character selects or rolls for a limitation from a set list. Examples could include the following:
  • Tire Easily (disadvantage on saves to resist exhaustion)
  • Poor Sleeper (it takes twice as long to recover a level of exhaustion)
  • Forgetful (disadvantage on Intelligence checks to recall lore)
  • Arthritic (disadvantage on Dexterity check involving fine motor skill)
  • Hard of Hearing (disadvantage on Perception check that rely on hearing)
  • Near-Sighted (disadvantage on Perception check that rely on vision past 30 ft.)
  • Bad Knees (reduce speed by 5 feet)
  • Slow Recovery (reduce the number of hit points regained from each hit die spent by -1)
Perhaps it could be offset a bit by granting Inspiration whenever the player rolepays their limitations especially well.
 

  • Tire Easily (disadvantage on saves to resist exhaustion)
  • Poor Sleeper (it takes twice as long to recover a level of exhaustion)
  • Forgetful (disadvantage on Intelligence checks to recall lore)
  • Arthritic (disadvantage on Dexterity check involving fine motor skill)
  • Hard of Hearing (disadvantage on Perception check that rely on hearing)
  • Near-Sighted (disadvantage on Perception check that rely on vision past 30 ft.)
  • Bad Knees (reduce speed by 5 feet)
  • Slow Recovery (reduce the number of hit points regained from each hit die spent by -1)
EXCUSE ME...but who told you that you could base all of this off lesser versions of my issues?
 



Laurefindel

Legend
I'm not entirely convinced that stat modifications are really the best way to represent aging. I wonder if it might make more sense for older character to do something mechanically similar to choosing additional backgrounds to represent their additional experience. Or, perhaps, choosing skills to gain expertise in. That's really what has happened. You've had time to burn through a lot of downtime activities.

I'm not sure how best to represent the effects on the body of aging, or from just being out of shape and out of practice. Flat penalties are simple, but they don't seem like the most accurate solution. I would almost go for something like atrophied class abilities. In fantasy stories, we often see things like old fighters who are still very deadly, but they can't do everything they used to. Or old wizards who can cast many spells, but no longer have a grasp on their most potent spells. Maybe you keep your proficiency bonus and your hit dice, but everything else starts to fade after decades of disuse. You're still a 13th level Fighter, but you've only got the class abilities through level 5.

At the venerable stage where you're so old that you need dedicated care, I kind of feel like that would best be represented with steadily progressing permanent exhaustion.
Personally, I'm not fond of penalties, and I'm convinced stat modification isn't the best way to represent aging. In the way I mean to approach this, youth gets you something, and old age gets you a different something. There's no penalty except perhaps not having that something that youth had now that you're older.

Now why would you play the baseline adult if you have neither what youth nor old age has to offer? Well, that's what I'm brainstorming for. Working youth/old age into feats or backgrounds isn't out of the question either.

I like the additional background idea however.
 
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Laurefindel

Legend
Anyways, to the OP:
If I make an 80 year old 1st level character, the stats I choose kind of represent that. I used to use the 3.5 ageing rules. They were neat but they lead to some min/maxing (I want to play a 70 year old wizard to get higher INT!)

It would be interesting to, instead of stat penalties, you made exhaustion trigger more easily. Maybe you have to do a forced march after 7 hours instead of 8. Maybe you get disadvantage on con saves when doing strenuous, long term activities.
Yeah, I really don't want the 3e stat adjustment rules. I would rather take your proposition upside down; old age doesn't get exhausted easier; youth is harder to exhaust.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Personally, I'm not fond of penalties,
In which case you've run aground before you've left the dock.

The baseline assumption is that (most) adventurers are doing so while at the peak of their combined physical and mental prowess - they're as good and healthy and robust as they're ever gonna get, and have enough mental capacity to get by and then some.

Which means that any adjustments away from this peak rather have to be downward in sum total - e.g. the mental abilities might increase a bit with old age but the decline in physical abilities will more than offset this - or else it's not really the peak, is it.

That said, there are other ways for aging to have mechanical impact beyond just stat changes. For example one easy thing to change with old age is to apply a 10% or 25% (or whatever amount) penalty to self-powered movement rates - you're slowing down. Natural healing might also become slower as it takes your body longer to regenerate itself. And so on.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
While I am all for ability modifiers due to aging, I don't think absolute changes would really work. Besides, IME 5E games barely run a few years in game time before they are done--not giving PCs the "time" to age enough to make it worth it.

Also, aging really doesn't make someone smarter or wiser IME, or if so, barely. It rarely makes them more charismatic, either. Physical loses also aren't significant IF you remain active. I work with a man who is 71 and power-lifts 3 times a week. Despite being in good shape and over 20 years younger, the man is certainly stronger than I am!

But for the OP, perhaps what I would do is have a six age groups: Child, Young Adult, Adult, Old, Venerable, Ancient.

Then make each group cover 15-20% of the age range. For example, humans in the PHB "live less than a century," so let's say their normal max is 100 and then each years would be 1%.

Child = 0- 15
Young Adult = 16 - 30
Adult = 31 - 50
Old = 51-70
Venerable = 71-90
Ancient = 91-100+

As a quick idea, one way to determine when your human PC would die of natural causes would be to roll 2d20 (or 3d20 for living longer) when you reach an age group. If the total takes you into the next group, you won't die of natural causes in the current age group.

For example: a human PC is 30 and becomes 31, entering the Adult group. The player rolls 2d20 and gets 27 total. This puts him well past the maximum for adult (50), so he won't die of natural causes while an Adult.

When he reaches 51, he rolls 2d10 again but only get 9. Meaning he will die of natural causes at 59.

Or something like that?

When you pass from one group to the next, you gain a +1 ASI IF you accept a -1 ASI as well. This represents your changing priorities as you age. You might emphasize STR by neglecting CHA or whatever. If you don't want to change, you don't.

That is where I would start anyway...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
In a (+) manner, I'd suggest don't put any hard rules to changing age categories. Leave it up to the players as long as it fits the narrative they want to tell. (And you're the DM, do whatever the heck you like with NPCs, just like now.)

In other words, don't put in a hard limit where "oops, it's your birthday, these things change". I've met a man in his 80s who was more active then I was in my early 20s, I've met old souls who were mature when children and wise before their time. I've met 60 year olds who are more child-like than 30 year olds, who in turn are very "okay, I'm an ADULT adult now, what I am supposed to do".
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If you go with the concept of giving out Background Feats like which have begun being introduced... you could create classless "age feats" that could be available to be taken (instead of the other feats that would be available for backgrounds.) So you could make an "Elder" feat that gives specific bonuses for being a certain age, and a "Youth" feat that does as well. That way there's no "penalty" for being older or younger... but it also doesn't stack with any other features you might acquire at character creation. Everyone still starts the game with one background feat... these two are just based on age rather than former occupation.

What you might get for these two feats, that I don't know... you'd probably need to look at the other background feats and find comparable features to give for both of them... but at least you have a balancing factor in place.
 

I would start with RAW as young adults, and probably not doing anything for younger that that (though if I did, it would probably be stat adjustments). And then until very old age I would not impact stats. Then as they age you could give them situational modifiers and maybe additional skills or proficiencies.

Things like;
Old means you only recover 1/4 hit dice per long rest, but you gain a bonus skill or save proficiency.
Very Old you gain a +2 bonus to either diplomacy/persuasion/intimidate/etc

In short, affect skills, saves and healing, not ability scores.
 


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