Variant 5e?

dave2008

Hero
Variant 5e:

With the recent threads on 6e (here) and 5e on hard mode (here), I’ve been think about ways to alter 5e to create a different feel. So I wondered, what was the least I could do to the rules, and make the game feel significantly different.

EDIT: To clarify I am thinking about small changes to the existing game. So the existing books a generally usable as is.

Here is what I came up with (for a more custimizable hard mode variant of 5e):
  • PC HP: 1st lvl - no change; each level after you only gain your hit die (rolled or average) in HP (no CON mod)
  • Max ability score: 18
  • Death saves: each time you make a death save you gain one level of exhaustion.
  • Resting.
    • Short rest: spend 1 HD max and must use healer’s kit
    • Long Rest: regain all spent HD; spend 2 HD with a healer’s kit, or 1 HD without
    • Extended Rest: 1 week of bed rest, remove one level of exhaustion
  • Feats only, no ASI.
    • Up get additional skill, racial, tool (weapon) feats: you get 2-4 (not sure how many or at what levels yet) on top of the general feats your class allows
  • No multi-classing
What I think this does is make the game more challenging, while also giving players more customization options. I think this should expand the “sweet” spot as PCs will continue to be threatened as they have less HP and real consequences for dying without having to revamp all of the monsters. I just might try this in my next campaign.

What do you think? What ideas do you have to make small changes with big impacts?
 
Last edited:

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
My suggestion for a d20 Modern 2.0. or an universal d20.

- Goodbye to the sacred cow of the six abilities scores. Optional list with new. Courage, Astuteness (social manipulation and cold blood to think fast in stressful situations) Grace (karma/fate/luck, Con for your soul) and Talent (handcraft, art, playing music, some maneuvers of martial arts..).

- Difference between level of power and level of career (skills). A character with high power but low career would be like a teen superhero studying at school and low power but high career would be like a old man who has studied a lot.

- Racial traits could be replaced by racial traits.

- Levels of health. Life-drainer powers by monsters don't nerf your Con but you suffer an long-time penalty. They would be like the subzero ten hit points. If you lose more level of healths then under zero hit points is more dangerous because limit is lower.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Variant 5e:

With the recent threads on 6e (here) and 5e on hard mode (here), I’ve been think about ways to alter 5e to create a different feel. So I wondered, what was the least I could do to the rules, and make the game feel significantly different. Here is what I came up with:
  • PC HP: 1st lvl - no change; each level after you only gain your hit die (rolled or average) in HP (no CON mod)
  • Max ability score: 18
  • Death saves: each time you make a death save you gain one level of exhaustion.
  • Resting.
    • Short rest: spend 1 HD max and must use healer’s kit
    • Long Rest: regain all spent HD; spend 2 HD with a healer’s kit, or 1 HD without
    • Extended Rest: 1 week of bed rest, remove one level of exhaustion
  • Feats only, no ASI.
    • Up get additional skill, racial, tool (weapon) feats: you get 2-4 (not sure how many or at what levels yet) on top of the general feats your class allows
  • No multi-classing
What I think this does is make the game more challenging, while also giving players more customization options. I think this should expand the “sweet” spot as PCs will continue to be threatened as they have less HP and real consequences for dying without having to revamp all of the monsters. I just might try this in my next campaign.

What do you think? What ideas do you have to make small changes with big impacts?
I like a lot of it. I prefer 1E where your ability scores rarely changed. Now, in 5E the power-progression assumes at least some ASI will be used to keep your ability scores up.

I love multiclassing, though, in all editions. If I removed multiclassing, I would need enough subclasses to handle cross-overs.
 

Wiseblood

Adventurer
I’m not sure this would make it harder. Aside from the HP thing. Recovering would be more onerous sure but the players would just re-emphasize magical healing.

High level would be almost the same again excepting HP. They would be down 2-3 HP per level. Martial classes would take it on the chin and spell-casting would save the day.

I don’t remember who mentioned liking the zero to superhero arc but I would prefer a more compact arc. One that doesn’t require the use of demons and extra-planar baddies to keep up with the curve.
 

dave2008

Hero
My suggestion for a d20 Modern 2.0. or an universal d20.

- Goodbye to the sacred cow of the six abilities scores. Optional list with new. Courage, Astuteness (social manipulation and cold blood to think fast in stressful situations) Grace (karma/fate/luck, Con for your soul) and Talent (handcraft, art, playing music, some maneuvers of martial arts..).

- Difference between level of power and level of career (skills). A character with high power but low career would be like a teen superhero studying at school and low power but high career would be like a old man who has studied a lot.

- Racial traits could be replaced by racial traits.

- Levels of health. Life-drainer powers by monsters don't nerf your Con but you suffer an long-time penalty. They would be like the subzero ten hit points. If you lose more level of healths then under zero hit points is more dangerous because limit is lower.
Those are interesting ideas, but not really the question of this thread. I am asking: What are the small changes you could make to 5e with the biggest impact in play. Ideally and still use the existing books. Minor changes with big impact.
 

dave2008

Hero
I love multiclassing, though, in all editions. If I removed multiclassing, I would need enough subclasses to handle cross-overs.
My thought is that with access to more feats and all the subclasses (we have 92+ now) there would be enough to get the flavor of multiclassing. Please note, I am talking about 5e as it is now and making the minor changes suggested.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Pro:
I like feats only a lot, I’ve considered doing the same myself. I like no multiclassing, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Using both together does make odd-numbered ability scores even more useless than they already are. I like the idea of a third category of rest that takes a week, though that is kind of a thing already in the downtime rules, it just isn’t called extended rest. I like healers kit uses needing to be expended to spend hit dice, this was a thing way back during the open playtest, I have no idea why they got rid of it in the final.

Con:
Gaining a level of exhaustion on every attempted death save is extremely brutal. I’ve tried the exhaustion on a failed death save thing, and in my experience that already creates an undesirable degree of death spiraling unless you make potions of vitality about as common as potions of healing. Nerfing rests is another thing I have experimented with (not with these specific rules, but in general) and in my experience, it just makes players spend a lot more time resting instead of adventuring. And since time spent resting usually gets narrated over anyway, it just ends up making your players feel hosed without really changing gameplay patterns nearly as much as you’d expect. No con to HP on level up without adjusting monster damage output is going to bork your combat math and lead to a lot of full-to-zero hits, which combined with your exhausting death saves is going to mean a lot of adventures stopped in their tracks for months of rest after one good hit. I guess if that’s what you’re aiming for it’ll be fine, but that doesn’t sound like a desirable play pattern to me.
 

dave2008

Hero
I’m not sure this would make it harder. Aside from the HP thing. Recovering would be more onerous sure but the players would just re-emphasize magical healing.
Exhaustion is a tough one to get rid off, and the HP is a real factor IMO. With less HP you go done more, and pretty soon you have disadvantage on everything and your moving at half speed.

High level would be almost the same again excepting HP. They would be down 2-3 HP per level. Martial classes would take it on the chin and spell-casting would save the day.
How would this affect martials more? Are you assuming they typically have higher CON scores?

I don’t remember who mentioned liking the zero to superhero arc but I would prefer a more compact arc. One that doesn’t require the use of demons and extra-planar baddies to keep up with the curve.
Agreed, I feel the less HP helps with that.
 

dave2008

Hero
Con:
Gaining a level of exhaustion on every attempted death save is extremely brutal. I’ve tried the exhaustion on a failed death save thing, and in my experience that already creates an undesirable degree of death spiraling unless you make potions of vitality about as common as potions of healing.
Well I am trying to make the game harder. This would be a variant 5e for those you think the base game is to easy (i'm looking at you @CapnZapp )

Nerfing rests is another thing I have experimented with (not with these specific rules, but in general) and in my experience, it just makes players spend a lot more time resting instead of adventuring. And since time spent resting usually gets narrated over anyway, it just ends up making your players feel hosed without really changing gameplay patterns nearly as much as you’d expect.
That is a worry. I just think non-magic healing is to easy (something @Saelorn always reminds me), and this was a simply way to fix that. It will be a problem for some. But again, this isn't intended to replace 5e, but a way to use the existing game in a different way.

No con to HP on level up without adjusting monster damage output is going to bork your combat math and lead to a lot of full-to-zero hits, which combined with your exhausting death saves is going to mean a lot of adventures stopped in their tracks for months of rest after one good hit. I guess if that’s what you’re aiming for it’ll be fine, but that doesn’t sound like a desirable play pattern to me.
That is basically what I am going for in this variant: Hard mode (as noted in one of the other threads I linked too). I am interested in the idea of how we can get a different experience from the same game with minimal rule changes. I would be interested in examples with a different goal as well.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
Which part of the game specifically do you want to "adjust the feel of?" Most of your proposed changes make failure more likely and consequential. In play this disincentives combat more while encouraging "weird" builds instead of improving to-hits and ancillary properties like HP and skills. It feels like a game where the PCs spend a lot more time considering and planning. Non-combat play zooms into focus as players avoid fights and have longer recovery periods.

RAW D&D is a bit of an action movie. This moves away from that smartly. A bit more Indiana Jones where they're beat up, tired, and pushing for that last stretch at the end. Only your PCs don't have multi-movie contracts.

Personally I think the addition of "type" actions to monsters would do a LOT to improve the feel and danger of D&D with roughly as much work as this (though it would all fall on the DM vs. the PCs). Giving humanoids access to a pool of reactions and bonus actions; monstrosities with others... or just giving "leader" and "boss" monsters these extra actions that boost other creatures in the combat.

The MM is showing its age and while it was a big win initially I think it could really use an update to freshen the game.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
My thought is that with access to more feats and all the subclasses (we have 92+ now) there would be enough to get the flavor of multiclassing. Please note, I am talking about 5e as it is now and making the minor changes suggested.
I figured that was your thought process, but IMO most of the archetypes really aren't that good. I can't tell you how many times a player is making a character, looking over the archetypes when the times comes, and not thrilled about any of the choices. More often than not it becomes a which is the least bad choice. :(

Simple "multiclass-like" subclasses would be fine. Things like Arcane Trickster, but without the limit on what types of spells they choose (same with Eldritch Knight).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Well I am trying to make the game harder. This would be a variant 5e for those you think the base game is to easy (i'm looking at you @CapnZapp )


That is a worry. I just think non-magic healing is to easy (something @Saelorn always reminds me), and this was a simply way to fix that. It will be a problem for some. But again, this isn't intended to replace 5e, but a way to use the existing game in a different way.

That is basically what I am going for in this variant: Hard mode (as noted in one of the other threads I linked too). I am interested in the idea of how we can get a different experience from the same game with minimal rule changes. I would be interested in examples with a different goal as well.
I’m all for tweaking the parameters of 5e to make it more challenging, I just don’t really think nerfing player HP and rest values really accomplishes that. D&D is fundamentally a game of resource management. If you want to up the difficulty, you need to spread the player’s resources thinner, rather than depleting them faster. And increasing the amount of in-game it takes to replenish their resources doesn’t accomplish that because players will always spend whatever amount of in-game time they need to fully replenish their resources once they are depleted, which will always take little to no table time. What you need to do instead is restrict the conditions under which resources can be replenished.

In 5e as written, hit points are an encounter resource and hit dice are an adventuring day resource. To up the difficulty, make HP an adventuring day resource and make HD an adventure resource. To accomplish this, limit players to one short rest per day (you could make it take 8 hours if you want, the amount of time is inconsequential, it’s the daily limit that matters) and make long rests take downtime (again, how much downtime doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that they have to be in the safety of town to take one.) Where decreasing HP just makes the players have to hit the rest button sooner, limiting the conditions under which they can hit the rest button will force them to be more conservative with their resource expenditure, thereby making the attrition game harder.

I suppose if you wanted to really go whole-ham, you could make HP an adventure resource and make HD a campaign resource, but that might be a bit too brutal even for the hardest of hardcore.
 
Last edited:

Wiseblood

Adventurer
Exhaustion is a tough one to get rid off, and the HP is a real factor IMO. With less HP you go done more, and pretty soon you have disadvantage on everything and your moving at half speed.


How would this affect martials more? Are you assuming they typically have higher CON scores?

Agreed, I feel the less HP helps with that.
Exhaustion definitely is a tough one to get rid of. If you get knocked down you kinda proved your HP let you down already.

Martial classes are more likely to put a score in constitution that is higher than 14. In addition to that they are the ones most frequently attacked. High AC and sometimes resistance are the mitigators. The magic using classes are targeted less.
 

dave2008

Hero
Which part of the game specifically do you want to "adjust the feel of?" Most of your proposed changes make failure more likely and consequential. In play this disincentives combat more while encouraging "weird" builds instead of improving to-hits and ancillary properties like HP and skills. It feels like a game where the PCs spend a lot more time considering and planning. Non-combat play zooms into focus as players avoid fights and have longer recovery periods.
That sounds about right for what I am looking for.

But I am interested in the concept really. How can we make minimal changes to 5e with the biggest impact in how it plays. Simple sets of rules or modifications that change how we play, but still let us use the existing material.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
  • Death saves: each time you make a death save you gain one level of exhaustion.
This is, as has been pointed out, extremely brutal. You could instead steal an idea from Pathfinder 2: when you recover from being at death's door, you gain a level of Wounded. This has no immediate effect, but if you start dying again, every level of Wounded counts as an immediate failed death save (the rules implementation in PF2 is slightly different, but the same basic idea: bouncing up and down reduces your margin for error).

You lose Wounded when you receive medical attention (a successful Medicine check taking 10 minutes - in PF2 this also heals you some, taking the place of 5e's short rest) or if your hit points become full and you rest for 10 minutes.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
You need to start by identify what "feel" you're aiming for? Marvel Cinematic? Conan Gritty? Game of Thrones? Masters of the Universe?

Adventures in Middle earth does a good job of a "low magic" feel D&D. Might not be what you're after though.
 

dave2008

Hero
I’m all for tweaking the parameters of 5e to make it more challenging, I just don’t really think nerfing player HP and rest values really accomplishes that.
I am not sure either, but I think it would for my group.

In 5e as written, hit points are an encounter resource and hit dice are an adventuring day resource. To up the difficulty, make HP an adventuring day resource and make HD an adventure resource. To accomplish this, limit players to one short rest per day (you could make it take 8 hours if you want, the amount of time is inconsequential, it’s the daily limit that matters) and make long rests take downtime (again, how much downtime doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that they have to be in the safety of town to take one.) Where decreasing HP just makes the players have to hit the rest button sooner, limiting the conditions under which they can hit the rest button will force them to be more conservative with their resource expenditure, thereby making the attrition game harder.
That doesn't sound like the type of game I want to play, but it might work for you.
 

dave2008

Hero
This is, as has been pointed out, extremely brutal. You could instead steal an idea from Pathfinder 2: when you recover from being at death's door, you gain a level of Wounded. This has no immediate effect, but if you start dying again, every level of Wounded counts as an immediate failed death save (the rules implementation in PF2 is slightly different, but the same basic idea: bouncing up and down reduces your margin for error).

You lose Wounded when you receive medical attention (a successful Medicine check taking 10 minutes - in PF2 this also heals you some, taking the place of 5e's short rest) or if your hit points become full and you rest for 10 minutes.
I noted that idea myself in the thread I linked to in the OP. I am looking for brutal in this case. So mission acomplished I guess. However, I really want to get a discussion on other peoples idea of small changes to make the game feel different.
 

dave2008

Hero
You need to start by identify what "feel" you're aiming for? Marvel Cinematic? Conan Gritty? Game of Thrones? Masters of the Universe?

Adventures in Middle earth does a good job of a "low magic" feel D&D. Might not be what you're after though.
My example was more customization + more brutal. But I am really interested in the concept of small changes to make to 5e that make big changes to the theme of the game. Less a question about what I have done and more about what you would do to capture whatever theme base 5e doesn't do well in your opinion.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
My example was more customization + more brutal. But I am really interested in the concept of small changes to make to 5e that make big changes to the theme of the game. Less a question about what I have done and more about what you would do to capture whatever theme base 5e doesn't do well in your opinion.
I just play the game designed to do that thing. Why hack Monopoly to mimic Cluedo when you have Cluedo?

D&D does D&D better than any other game, and if you want to play in the D&D genre, D&D is utterly your best choice.

You can put it in an ill-fitting dress or clumsily chop it into a different shape, and it will kinda do the job, but why? That's not what it's designed to do. People have gone out of their way to construct those games you seek from the ground up, and they're amazing.
 

Advertisement

Top