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Author Topic: House rules for immersive 5e  (Read 1004 times)

jhkim

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House rules for immersive 5e
« on: October 24, 2018, 06:15:03 pm »
So I'm trying out starting up a D&D 5th ed game. I've played and run a few games using only the standard rules, and now I'm thinking of branching out with more house rules.


1) Something close to the DMG option for 8 hour short rest / 7 day long rest.

Ideally, I'd like resting to be more of a smooth transition rather than nothing at 6 days and fully recharged at 7. However, it seems complicated to get this to work under the current rules.

2) A variation of my older "death charm" idea, to address 1 hit point healing from being down.

I don't like the way that regardless of how much damage was done, a person pops back up with 1 point of healing. I understand that there is a game play reason for it, but it was jarring for me in practice. Instead, I replace "Healing Word" with "Wound Charm" - which is cast as a reaction, and instead of healing X points, it means that a single source of damage is ignored but the creature is stunned until its next action. Also, any healing ability can be used to create a "Wound Charm" instead of 3 or more hit points of healing. This will work on whatever the next source of damage is to them. In turn, hit point totals do go negative, and they go more negative the longer someone is down. Characters need more healing if they have taken more damage.

Wound charms should have a similar effect to having characters bounce up from being down, but with a different explanation. i.e. The character didn't really take that damage, rather than taking a bunch of damage and popping back up with 1 point of healing.

3) An option to restrict nova of spellcasters

I picture that a bunch of play in my campaign won't be restricted to having many combat encounters in a day or even in a week. I'd like play to sometimes stretch across months of travel or ordinary life. Going from zero to hero will take years rather than weeks. Given this, some encounters will be rare clashes in relatively safe places, like a fight in town or as part of a months-long voyage. Even with 7 days long rest, there will be times when the PCs aren't worried about being ambushed or attacked upcoming - so it would make sense to use all resources. So I am thinking about a restriction on spell slots in an encounter for clerics and wizards in particular.

In the longer term, I'm thinking about creating a variant of cleric and a variant of wizard that are both a little easier to play, and less long-rest restricted. They would be closer to the warlock class in balance (more abilities that are at-will or at most short rest), but with different flavor.

Steven Mitchell

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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2018, 07:39:42 pm »
At the moment, only have an opinion on the first one.  I spent considerable time tweaking hit point recovery for my current campaign, both before it started and then after some initial play.  Here are some thoughts that may not exactly fit what you want, but may help:

A. You can set the recovery time for short/long rests to whatever works for the feel you want.  Whether that is 1/week, 1/day, or something else, it can all work, if close enough to the desired feel.

B. The key to me is some variation of another option in the DMG, where hit points do not automatically come back with rest.  Instead, Hit Dice must be used for recovery, and then most of your recovery rules deal with getting Hit Dice back, not hit points.  Regardless of the rate chosen, this point will allow characters to be worn down slowly at times, more quickly in others.

C. I had several (semi-complicated) rules for the recovery of hit dice.  After some play, I threw them all out for a simpler version.  The default is half the hit dice recovered on a long rest (round up).  Then I modified that by GM adjudication if the conditions were notably good or bad for recovery.  Instead of set rules, I gave the players some examples of what could contribute to a better or worse rate.  Those include hot food or not, the quality of the shelter compared to the weather, etc.  Sleeping under the stars when it's pleasant out in the fall?  No problem.  Try the same thing in winter, better find a cave or construct a shelter instead, and arrange for a fire.  

D. Working the exhaustion rules into the mix more can cover any holes in the above.  There are several things you can do, as it fits what you want, such as having death saves (failed or even attempted) cause exhaustion, making exhaustion need to heal before hit dice can, and so on).  I wanted exhaustion more tired to the worry of directly dying than hit die recovery, so I did the first one.  But other approaches can work too.

If you think of rests, hit die recovery, and exhaustion as your three tools, it is not too difficult to allocate different pieces of the natural game play to each one, in a way that will allow the players to simply try to get good conditions for themselves, and let you handle the mechanics.  That should help immersion on that front.  Hit dice available then become the clear proxy for how much natural healing can happen.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2018, 09:49:04 am by Steven Mitchell »

mAcular Chaotic

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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2018, 12:22:33 am »
For more immersion, option #1 is sufficient; you can make it only restore Hit Dice too if you want.

I also have used Exhaustion applied when someone hits 0 hp. At least then even if they get up, it makes people more wary of getting dropped, since there is a long lasting consequence.

But you will have to design your encounters and campaign around this; if you try to pursue the same breakneck "the world ends at midnight and we have to hurry" pace then you're going to run ragged your players to death since they won't be able to rest. It also makes extended outings, like say, being trapped and sneaking around an enemy town, a lot harder to make work. So some kinds of situations have to be ruled out.

It will also further encourage players to pull back and rest, 15 minute adventuring day style, if there's long term consequences to hitting 0 hp. Why keep going when you can rest?
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S'mon

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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2018, 03:16:45 am »
Long rest - I do it that overnight you get back 1 hp per level. But normally the LR is treated as out of play downtime, I don't play through it, so no issues around partial recovery.
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Vic99

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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2018, 06:10:58 am »
If you like simple for A:

Long rest: 10% of full HP/day (rounded up).  That last seventh day, get all back.
Short rest: 1 HD

Good luck

Daztur

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« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2018, 08:11:57 am »
Declaring what you do before you roll initiative for the round makes such a difference for me.
 

fearsomepirate

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« Reply #6 on: October 25, 2018, 09:43:45 am »
1) pretty much restricts spellcaster nova anyway.  If you want to make less of a discrete jump from 6 days rest to 7 days, maybe do something like restore 1 level of spell slots per day of rest.

2) I use side based initiative loosely adapted from BECMI. If you go unconscious, you cannot get back up and fight the same round you get healed. You also take a level of exhaustion when you go down. Seems to work.
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mAcular Chaotic

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« Reply #7 on: October 25, 2018, 11:29:15 am »
Quote from: S'mon;1061749
Long rest - I do it that overnight you get back 1 hp per level. But normally the LR is treated as out of play downtime, I don't play through it, so no issues around partial recovery.

This is another good approach. But again, you have to put some limits/exercise control over what scenarios the players get into.
Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

jhkim

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« Reply #8 on: October 25, 2018, 01:19:01 pm »
Quote from: fearsomepirate;1061777
1) pretty much restricts spellcaster nova anyway.  If you want to make less of a discrete jump from 6 days rest to 7 days, maybe do something like restore 1 level of spell slots per day of rest.

2) I use side based initiative loosely adapted from BECMI. If you go unconscious, you cannot get back up and fight the same round you get healed. You also take a level of exhaustion when you go down. Seems to work.

Regarding #2...  Speaking personally, as a game-player and strategist, I should explain my issue. In standard 5e, I will at first avoid high-damage opponents. Instead, I will try to wipe out multi-attack and mooks, and try to run around the high-damage enemies. Once I am low on hp, then high-damage attacks and low-damage attacks are exactly the same to me. Any hit will take me down, and just 1 point of healing will bring me back up. If it is a tough enough fight that I am going down, that is the better time to take on high-damage enemies. Obviously this has to be tempered with the specifics of the situation, and use other strategies as well. But if you leave around some low-damage sources, it's all too easy to be killed outright by a goblin blow once you are at zero.

I don't have a problem with this strategically, but it conflicts with how I see the world. Even if I'm heavily wounded, there should be a difference between a goblin slingshot and a dragon bite.

Regarding spellcaster nova... I think you're assuming more of a standard adventure where PCs take on a string of foes within a few days - i.e. a standard "adventure". However, I'd like the option for there to be weeks and months going by during play like a long journey. On these greater timescales, going nova makes more sense, so I'd like to restrict it.

Franky

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« Reply #9 on: October 25, 2018, 01:30:20 pm »
PCs recovering from 0 hit points don't just stand back up.  The PC has the stunned condition for some number of rounds, say 2-8 rounds.  I'm thinking of boxers who need a few moments to gather themselves after getting knocked down.  This is easily implemented.

Also, for every Death saving throw the PC rolls, save or fail, the PC gains a level of exhaustion.  At most a PC will roll 5 Death Saving throws, and will not get that 6th level of exhaustion, unless it already had one or more.  This really cuts out the whack-a-mole mechanic.  If the PC can be revived before rolling, no exhaustion, of course.

Steven Mitchell

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« Reply #10 on: October 25, 2018, 02:04:05 pm »
Quote from: Franky;1061821

Also, for every Death saving throw the PC rolls, save or fail, the PC gains a level of exhaustion.  At most a PC will roll 5 Death Saving throws, and will not get that 6th level of exhaustion, unless it already had one or more.  This really cuts out the whack-a-mole mechanic.  If the PC can be revived before rolling, no exhaustion, of course.

That's what I do, and it cuts out whack-a-mole even more than the mechanic will account for by itself.  Because any level of exhaustion is something players want to avoid, and thus they will take active measures to keep an ally from going to zero in the first place, if they have any control over the situation at all.  I've even seen players break off chasing a wounded, defeated enemy because of the risk of someone dropping.

fearsomepirate

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« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2018, 02:57:24 pm »
Quote from: jhkim;1061819
Regarding #2...  Speaking personally, as a game-player and strategist, I should explain my issue. In standard 5e, I will at first avoid high-damage opponents. Instead, I will try to wipe out multi-attack and mooks, and try to run around the high-damage enemies. Once I am low on hp, then high-damage attacks and low-damage attacks are exactly the same to me. Any hit will take me down, and just 1 point of healing will bring me back up. If it is a tough enough fight that I am going down, that is the better time to take on high-damage enemies. Obviously this has to be tempered with the specifics of the situation, and use other strategies as well. But if you leave around some low-damage sources, it's all too easy to be killed outright by a goblin blow once you are at zero.


Right. And my rule largely gets rid of that because exhaustion is a significant penalty. The first one isn't so bad, but 3 levels and you're now rolling disadvantage on all attacks and moving half speed.

Quote

I don't have a problem with this strategically, but it conflicts with how I see the world. Even if I'm heavily wounded, there should be a difference between a goblin slingshot and a dragon bite.


Treat damage as a sum for instakill, i.e. roll all the attacks inbound at a character, determine which ones hit, then roll the sum of all damage. Makes a couple big attacks from a multi-attacking monster or a lot of goblin slings much more dangerous.
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jhkim

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« Reply #12 on: October 25, 2018, 03:26:05 pm »
Quote from: Franky
Also, for every Death saving throw the PC rolls, save or fail, the PC gains a level of exhaustion. At most a PC will roll 5 Death Saving throws, and will not get that 6th level of exhaustion, unless it already had one or more. This really cuts out the whack-a-mole mechanic. If the PC can be revived before rolling, no exhaustion, of course.
Quote from: Steven Mitchell;1061824
That's what I do, and it cuts out whack-a-mole even more than the mechanic will account for by itself.  Because any level of exhaustion is something players want to avoid, and thus they will take active measures to keep an ally from going to zero in the first place, if they have any control over the situation at all.  I've even seen players break off chasing a wounded, defeated enemy because of the risk of someone dropping.
This doesn't really address the particular issue I have with believability. I don't have a problem with the believability of magical healing per se. It's magic. To my mind, it's no more or less believable that magical healing will exhaust you than if magical healing makes you fresh.

My problem is with the principle that once you're low, a big hit is *exactly* the same as a small hit. For example, if that there is no magical healing available, the same principle applies. Once you're low on hp, then a number of little hits are much more dangerous than one big hitter. Someone low on hp but high on AC will be the one to send against the big hitter. If they go down, then stabilize them and they're in the same state as if they took a small hit. After a long rest, they'll be better and in the same state regardless of how much damage they took.

The game effect of whack-a-mole is a good one, I think. PCs stay in the fight at a cost, which is better than a player being forced to sit on the sidelines during the resolution of the climactic battle. It also reduces the PC party death spiral, which is good because death spirals result in anticlimactic fights. If everyone stays in, then all the players are engaged, and its more of a nail-biting finish if they're close to being taken out.

Steven Mitchell

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« Reply #13 on: October 25, 2018, 03:31:05 pm »
Quote from: jhkim;1061834
The game effect of whack-a-mole is a good one, I think. PCs stay in the fight at a cost, which is better than a player being forced to sit on the sidelines during the resolution of the climactic battle. It also reduces the PC party death spiral, which is good because death spirals result in anticlimactic fights. If everyone stays in, then all the players are engaged, and its more of a nail-biting finish if they're close to being taken out.

Somewhat.  However, the closer one tends to the default 5E rules, the more likely the game is to have a "party death spiral" effect.  That is, characters bounce up and down, but unless the players are careful to collectively manage the party as a whole, the chances of a death spiral causing a TPK goes up to compensate.  

In some cases, they may be an acceptable or even happy result.  I'm careful to not completely nullify it, because I rather enjoy the sense it gives the players of being in a desperate fight.  However, given 5E as the base system, we are talking questions of degree here.

jhkim

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« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2018, 08:40:26 pm »
Quote from: Steven Mitchell;1061836
However, the closer one tends to the default 5E rules, the more likely the game is to have a "party death spiral" effect.  That is, characters bounce up and down, but unless the players are careful to collectively manage the party as a whole, the chances of a death spiral causing a TPK goes up to compensate.

In some cases, they may be an acceptable or even happy result.  I'm careful to not completely nullify it, because I rather enjoy the sense it gives the players of being in a desperate fight.  However, given 5E as the base system, we are talking questions of degree here.
I think we might be using "death spiral" in a different sense here. I'm talking about the purely mechanical effect. In terms of mechanics, if you change D&D 5e so that a downed PC has more difficulty getting back up upon healing (like gaining exhaustion), that is more of a death spiral. It means there is more of a feedback loop where bad luck or bad twists early in the fight mean it's harder to win in the end. Given the same fight, the fight is going to be easier to predict the outcome of halfway through.

On the other hand, there is a psychological effect where if there is less of a death spiral, then players may get more daring. They choose to take on tougher fights, which might overall increase the chance of a TPK. That could be a real effect, but it's not what I would call a death spiral.

I think to some degree, there is a fundamental clash. In character, PCs will want to only choose fights they can definitely win. A GM can dissuade them from taking on tougher fights by a stronger death spiral. That means they will try to choose fights that are safer for them, which will be more anticlimactic.