Variant 5e?

dave2008

Hero
Things have gotten a bit off topic - shocking! To steer them back to the OP a bit:

Is anyone else interested in posting there ideas for small changes to the 5e ruleset that can make a big change in the theme / feel of the game?
 

Xenonnonex

Adventurer
Things have gotten a bit off topic - shocking! To steer them back to the OP a bit:

Is anyone else interested in posting there ideas for small changes to the 5e ruleset that can make a big change in the theme / feel of the game?
Have you thought about using the variant 5e rules in the DMG?
 

dave2008

Hero
Have you thought about using the variant 5e rules in the DMG?
Of course and we do use some of them. In fact, your (or anyone's) suggest for this thread could be: "We use XYZ variant / optional rules to create W style of game. It works great." That is a completely on topic response.

The hope is to hear what small changes people do to their campaigns to get a different feel from the game.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I've now run two Tyranny of Dragon campaigns, two Curse of Strahd campaigns, and am currently in the middle of two Eberron campaigns, all for 5E. For all three sets of campaigns I have changed up my houserules for all of them-- number of hit points, lengths of rests, no feats, amended feats, changed Prepared spells to Known spells for all spellcasting classes, and a whole host of other small rules here and there. And as a result of all of that, I have come to one conclusion regarding making the game "feel different"...

...so long as I am the DM and my players are the same in each game, the game will never really feel different no matter how many little rules changes I put in.

That's the honest truth. The way I DM has so much more influence over the game than any house rules I use. I could house rule to my heart's content, but at the end of the day it doesn't ever really feel different. My style is what makes the game always feel relatively the same regardless of the little niggling rules changes here and there. Couple that with my group of players who also play exactly the same they always do (regardless of the genre of the game or how many house rules I put in)... all the games end up feeling the same.

When I can run a pair of gothic horror games and a pair of magitech games and have them both feel like they are one of a piece... it tells me that it ain't the changes in rules-- it's me and my players. And I would not be surprised if this is something that happens to every DM out there. Unless you are able to change the very way you DM for each and every campaign, rules changes just won't cut it. Your games will feel relatively the same each and every time.
 

dave2008

Hero
I've now run two Tyranny of Dragon campaigns, two Curse of Strahd campaigns, and am currently in the middle of two Eberron campaigns, all for 5E. For all three sets of campaigns I have changed up my houserules for all of them-- number of hit points, lengths of rests, no feats, amended feats, changed Prepared spells to Known spells for all spellcasting classes, and a whole host of other small rules here and there. And as a result of all of that, I have come to one conclusion regarding making the game "feel different"...

...so long as I am the DM and my players are the same in each game, the game will never really feel different no matter how many little rules changes I put in.
That is basically my experience as well. I have a long time group that I played D&D/AD&D with back in the 80's and 90's and then we switched to 4e when it came out. I couldn't understand all the complaints about it being a completely different game or being like a video game or class being to similar. It felt just like D&D to us. We played the game just like we had been play for the previous 20 years.

I guess I should have thought about that before I started this thread. It is probably a bit pointless for me and my group. Oh well, I still like to design and tweak the game and hear how others have done too - so there is that!
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
I guess I should have thought about that before I started this thread. I guess it is probably a bit pointless for me and my group. Oh well, I still like to design and tweak the game and hear how others have done so too - so there is that!
Don't get me wrong... I still tweak and houserule the game all the time simply because I find it fun. And I do introduce all kinds of new methods for creating characters and running combats for each and every game just because it's an enjoyable part of the game for me. And every idea for my campaigns I run after the current ones end have all manner of these tweaks and rules changes as it helps me solidify the type of game I wish to run.

I just no longer fool myself into thinking that the new game will feel massively different than all the previous ones. :)

It's the exact same reason why I don't go along with the other posters on the boards here who feel like the game needs many more character options (new subclasses, new feats etc.) because the game has grown stale for them. If the game is stale it's because the DM can't help but run their game the exact same way they always do, and the players can't help but play their characters the exact same way they always do. And having a couple new mechanical changes from a new subclass option or two is NOT going to solve their problem.

The style of how we play just matters so much more than the numbers we have on our character sheets and behind the screen.
 

3catcircus

Explorer
Of course and we do use some of them. In fact, your (or anyone's) suggest for this thread could be: "We use XYZ variant / optional rules to create W style of game. It works great." That is a completely on topic response.

The hope is to hear what small changes people do to their campaigns to get a different feel from the game.
I have several ideas for changes, some big, some small.

1. Change hit points from a "subtract until you hit zero" system to a "when you take a hit of at least x damage, you suffer an injury of severity y, with the following effects."

2. Change to a dice pool mechanic (qty based upon how many skill ranks you have), with margin of success determining total damage, crits and fumbles. Combat would be skill-based.

3. Armor as damage reduction - not used as-is as the DC for attack rolls in most cases.

4. Ability to block, dodge, or parry as an active defense (opposed attack rolls) instead of standing still and using AC as the DC on attack rolls.

5. Healing modified to allow low/no magic campaigns. Short rest only restores you to 1hp (akin to first aid), can only burn HD to heal less serious wounds on a long rest, and must take an extended rest (duration based upon injury severity) to remove all injuries.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Things have gotten a bit off topic - shocking! To steer them back to the OP a bit:

Is anyone else interested in posting there ideas for small changes to the 5e ruleset that can make a big change in the theme / feel of the game?
Yeah, I know, shocking! ;) Sorry for the derail.

Back to topic:

IMO we've seen a lot of posts of things you can try, reflected even in your OP.

I think the easiest changes are:
  • Increases in DC for skills (+2 boost per Tier of play, so +8 at highest levels)
  • Boosting opponents AC (my suggestion is +1 per 5 levels of CR)
  • Boosting attack bonus and saves (same rate of increase)
  • Make death saves more meaningful. Even adding a level of exhaustion with no other impact, using recover RAW would be a good start.
  • Remove bonuses from magic weapons. For example, a +1 longsword would still be magical to overcome resistance, but add no bonus to hit or damage.
  • Have charged items (like staves) only recover 1 charge per day.
  • Have spellcasters only recover a number of spell level slots equal to their caster level. Example: A 5th level caster normally has 4 1sts, 3 2nds, and 2 3rds, for a total of 16 spell levels worth of slots they can cast, but they can only recover 5 spell level slots per long rest. In this case, maybe 1 2nd and 1 3rd, or 3 1st and 1 2nd, etc. If the 5th level caster expended all their slots, it would take over 3 long rests to get them all back.
Of course there are other ways as well. How major or minor the changes are really depend on taste.
 

dave2008

Hero
I have several ideas for changes, some big, some small.
Thank you for sharing!
1. Change hit points from a "subtract until you hit zero" system to a "when you take a hit of at least x damage, you suffer an injury of severity y, with the following effects."
OK, I would consider that a major change as you have to change every character and monster and basic combat and encounter assumptions. If it could be done simply maybe, but I think it is probably beyond the scope of the small change I was talking about. What are you hoping to get from this change?
2. Change to a dice pool mechanic (qty based upon how many skill ranks you have), with margin of success determining total damage, crits and fumbles. Combat would be skill-based.
Ya, another big change IMO
3. Armor as damage reduction - not used as-is as the DC for attack rolls in most cases.
Yes, we do that now, although we still use AC. DR only comes into play when your bloodied.
4. Ability to block, dodge, or parry as an active defense (opposed attack rolls) instead of standing still and using AC as the DC on attack rolls.
That is already a variant rule in the DMG. I have thought about using it, but haven't tried it yet with my current group.
5. Healing modified to allow low/no magic campaigns. Short rest only restores you to 1hp (akin to first aid), can only burn HD to heal less serious wounds on a long rest, and must take an extended rest (duration based upon injury severity) to remove all injuries.
I thought per #1 you were using a wound system and not HP. Can you clarify?
 

snickersnax

Explorer
Want a different feel for magic? Go with prepared slots for wizards. Hear me out...

Not the old memorize/forget style, but rather all wizards can prepare spells by spending 10 minutes/spell to create a scroll by writing the spell into their spell book. When they read the scroll/page in the spell book the writing disappears. At slightly higher levels some wizards may also get to prepare spell slots as potions or as charges in a wand or staff.

All consumables / charged items are really just prepared wizard spell slots.

Creating permanent items requires permanently sacrificing the appropriate spell slot.

This creates all kinds of fun shenanigans in the wizard world.
 
we still use AC. DR (from armor) only comes into play when your bloodied.
Ooh, that's one of those 'why didn't I think of that' good ideas.

At slightly higher levels some wizards may also get to prepare spell slots as potions or as charges in a wand or staff.
All consumables / charged items are really just prepared wizard spell slots.
that one I had thought of, though specific to a 2e-style 'school' of Alchemy back in the day.

Creating permanent items requires permanently sacrificing the appropriate spell slot.
Logical extension of the idea. Nice.

Do you take it as far as, once they wizard who made it dies, the item stops working?
 
Is anyone else interested in posting there ideas for small changes to the 5e ruleset that can make a big change in the theme / feel of the game?
I know this isn't going to /sound/ like a 'small change,' but it is just one mechanical deletion that doesn't add complexity or require not using the rulebooks or anything...

Remove slots. That is, you have cantrips, and you have rituals, and that's it. Casters are still contributing in combat via cantrips (and indirectly via rituals) and out-of-combat via rituals and skills.

The more complicated version is that you can cast other spells that aren't normally rituals as such. Or, have other interesting/dangerous ways of getting spells off, depending on how you want magic to work in the world.
Either way the big change in the theme/feel of the game is that magic can be made to behave a bit more like it does in genre.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I know this isn't going to /sound/ like a 'small change,' but it is just one mechanical deletion that doesn't add complexity or require not using the rulebooks or anything...

Remove slots. That is, you have cantrips, and you have rituals, and that's it. Casters are still contributing in combat via cantrips (and indirectly via rituals) and out-of-combat via rituals and skills.

The more complicated version is that you can cast other spells that aren't normally rituals as such. Or, have other interesting/dangerous ways of getting spells off, depending on how you want magic to work in the world.
Either way the big change in the theme/feel of the game is that magic can be made to behave a bit more like it does in genre.
I love the idea of replacing slots with scroll manufacture. You'd have to speed it up, but it would really really move the game. You'd change the dynamics of economy too as the party finally had a proper money-sink to manage. There would then also be physical assets for the party to stockpile and protect.

This would make a wonderful campaign theme all by itself.
 

3catcircus

Explorer
Thank you for sharing!

OK, I would consider that a major change as you have to change every character and monster and basic combat and encounter assumptions. If it could be done simply maybe, but I think it is probably beyond the scope of the small change I was talking about. What are you hoping to get from this change?

Ya, another big change IMO

Yes, we do that now, although we still use AC. DR only comes into play when your bloodied.
That is already a variant rule in the DMG. I have thought about using it, but haven't tried it yet with my current group.
I thought per #1 you were using a wound system and not HP. Can you clarify?
The use of hit point thresholds prevents PCs or NPCs from being at 100% effectiveness at 1hp.

Let's say you have 50 hp. I'd pick thresholds of 1, 17, 34, 50. Get hit for 12 points - you have a slight wound. Hit for 42 - a serious wound. Take a 2nd wound of the same level and it increases your wound level by 1 (additional wounds beyond the second don't also increase the wound level) . This is where the dice pool and your margin of success comes in because it adds to the amount of damage but a margin of zero (just hits) can only do a slight wound. You aren't subtracting hp, you are just saying "if I get hit by an attack that does this much damage, a wound of this severity occurs."

Healing would remove wound levels or hp, depending upon whether or not you use a wound system or straight up - they're two different bolt-on changes...
 
I love the idea of replacing slots with scroll manufacture. You'd change the dynamics of economy too as the party finally had a proper money-sink to manage. This would make a wonderful campaign theme all by itself.
Once you get rid of the last vestiges of Vancian, you are free to take it any direction you want.
I first had the idea when thinking of ways to get more of an S&S sub-genre feel from D&D.
I'd considered things like specific spells being possible only at very specific times "The stars are not right!" or carrying tremendous risk (from 'mere' exhaustion to insanity to death to permanent loss of the ability to use magic, at all) requiring magical power from rare (like questworthy rare) components, monopolized commodities, and/or sacrifice or each form of magic carrying a progressive risk of losing control of the PC (wizards would risk insanity, warlocks possession, and sorcerers transformation, for instance).
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
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?
For a fun 5e variant, check out Darker Dungeons. I didn't see it in the "hard mode" thread.
 

dave2008

Hero
For a fun 5e variant, check out Darker Dungeons. I didn't see it in the "hard mode" thread.
Really interesting, I will have to look at it in more detail, but the Modes of Play are exactly want I am think about: a set of changes that allow you still use the game pretty much as is, but with a different theme/flavor. Thank you for sharing!
 

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
Really interesting, I will have to look at it in more detail, but the Modes of Play are exactly want I am think about: a set of changes that allow you still use the game pretty much as is, but with a different theme/flavor. Thank you for sharing!
Welcome. There are a ton of different options/variants in that document. Not all of them have to be "turned on" or played at the same time though you could.

It's fun, I'm in an online PBP game using it. it's a VERY different feeling play style.
 

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