Shattered Empire D&D 5th edition modifications (untested)

Taking my lessons from the Inixon campaign a year ago, I’ve put together a list of all the changes that I want to make to the default D&D 5th edition rules. I thought this was a pretty extensive rebuild of the system, but apparently having less than a page in total is really rather modest.

Character Rules
  • Ability scores are 4d6, keep best three, arrange in any order.
  • Character races are limited to human, high elf, half-elf, goliath, and tabaxi.
  • Character classes are limited to barbarian, bard, druid, fighter, monk, rogue, and warlock.
  • Only PHB class specializations, excluding moon druid, eldritch knight, shadow monk, four elements monk, and arcane trickster.
    • Druids’ circle of the land is defined by their homeland; one type of terrain for each of the Six Lands.
    • Rogues have access to the scout specialization.
  • Hard level cap for PCs and NPCs is 10th level. Spells of 6th level or higher do not exist in the setting.
  • Short rest is one night. Long rest is “a few days” in a town, castle, or other secured and hospitable place.
  • Exhaustion is reduced by 1 level every short rest instead of every long rest.
  • Cantrips use level-0 spell slots equal to the number of known cantrips, which are fully recovered on a short rest.
  • Warlocks can use either Intelligence or Charisma as their spellcasting attribute. (Intelligence default for the setting, but players’ choice.)
  • Encumbrance is tracked by items instead of weight:
    • Unencumbered: Items up to the character’s Strength score.
    • Encumbered: Items up to two times the character’s Strength score.
    • Heavily Encumbered: Items up to three times the character’s Strength score.
    • Goliath characters add their Strength bonus to their Strength score for encumbrance levels instead of having double the normal carrying capacity.
    • Items below 1 pound are not counted towards encumbrance. Items above 10 pounds count as multiple items. (Weight divided by 10, round up.)
    • Coins count as 1 item for every 100 coins (round up).
  • Food and water will be tracked.
  • Ammunition and light sources will be tracked.
  • Upkeep costs are used to cover common expenses.
  • Reduced weapons and armor lists to reflect the technology of the setting.
Adventure Rules
  • Encounter XP are reduced to 10% their default value.
  • Milestone XP are awarded for returning from the wilderness with treasure. The XP amount is equal to the gp value of the treasure. (Expect 1/5 of total XP to be from encounters, and 4/5 from treasure.)
  • Wandering Monster checks are made in the wilderness four times per day. Three during the day and one during the night. By default, the chance is 1 in 6. (That means on average 2 encounters for every 3 days.) Players make the roll to eliminate GM bias.
  • Wandering Monster encounters make a 2d6 reaction roll, unless the context of the encounter makes the reaction obvious:
    • 2: attack at first opportunity
    • 3-5: threaten the party to leave their turf
    • 6-8: observe the party, repeat roll with advantage or disadvantage depending on the party’s behavior
    • 9-11: retreat from confrontation, but might talk if able to speak
    • 12: friendly, offering aid and cooperation
  • All PCs and enemy factions act as groups on the same initiative count. Turns get resolved in order of players being ready to take their actions. Other players can continue to consider their turn at the same time as other characters resolve their actions, significantly speeding up encounters.
  • Morale Wisdom save are always made for opponents and hired mercenaries when applicable.
  • All effects with a duration of 1 minute or 10 minutes become “1 turn”, a time tracking unit of roughly 10 minutes on average, and equating “one scene” or “one area” in practice.
  • Searching a room takes 1 turn. Searching as a group counts as working together, and the character with the highest Intelligence (Investigation) modifier makes the check with advantage. Only one check can be made per area and it can only produce one discovery. The roll is best made after the players exhausted their ideas for what they want to look at specifically, wich doesn’t require any checks.
  • Lockpicking and disarming traps takes is 1 turn by default. Thieves’ Fast Hands ability allows doing it as a main action with disadvantage.
  • Wilderness travel is tracked in 6 mile hexes. Travel speed per day depends on both encumbrance and terrain:
    • Unencumbered: 6 hexes (normal) / 3 hexes (difficult)
    • Encumbered: 4 hexes (normal) / 2 hexes (difficult)
    • Heavily Encumbered: 2 hexes (normal) / 1 hex (difficult)
    • Cautious Pace: -1 hex per day, Stealthy movement.
    • Hurried  Pace: +1 hex per day, -5 to passive Perception

This is the current state of affairs. I might be updating it in the future as I run into more things that I feel need adjusting.

2 thoughts on “Shattered Empire D&D 5th edition modifications (untested)”

  1. Love these rules and is exactly the sort of thing that I am working on at the moment for my next 5e campaign. I was looking before at rules for “readied” and “stowed” items, which I think would be quite interesting as what is available when in combat (weapons, potions, scrolls all would need to be readied otherwise they would require an action to open and get out before using).

    Will you cover adding expenses or things to spend gold on in this? I’m looking over the downtime stuff from 5e and making it a requirement for some downtime to level up, get training, carouse or craft etc based on those rules. Also looking to add my own version of rules for magic oils for weapons (e.g. adding fire damage for a minute), and making finding actual magic swords (like Flame Tongue) rarer than in most of my old games.

    Keep up the awesome blog, I’ve been reading for the last 6 months or so, and you have inspired me greatly with taking my games in a more Sword and Sorcerer direction than I had before.

    1. Readied and stowed items is an interesting concept from Worlds Without Number. But I think in practice counting the encumbrance of items differently based on how they are packed away is more granularity than it’s probably worth it. For the sake of simplicity, I’m not planning on using something like that.

      I’ve not planned to do anything special with training and downtime activities. Characters can still craft equipment between adventures when they are not doing long rests. I got to read up the default rules for that again, but I think last time I thought they looked good enough as it is.

      I do plan to have players pay the upkeep cost for expenses while in town, or all the time if they maintain a permanent home. But I did check the math and a character who has reached 10th level and saved it all up has enough to cover a wealthy lifestyle for 36 years. That’s basically the rest of their lives. I don’t expect it to be a significant drain on character wealth in a campaign that might span four or five years of adventures, but it should be interesting to see how much players will spend on that and how it affects the social standing of their characters in the game world.

      I still have to check the math on that, but in B/X the amounts of treasures you’d be hauling would grow huge pretty quickly and require considerable logistics to haul back to a town. Getting the required animals, servants, snd guards could rack up quite the bills, but those are already on the equipment lists and not any new rules additions.

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