Dragon’s Dungeon Rules

After a lot of revisions, and tormenting my game group during one-off sessions, I’ve finally crystallized my D&D hack (that I posted about months ago) into a 2-page system. Cool features include:

  • a semi-classless system, using templates and backgrounds for structure and flavour.
  • a wound system, which is basically the same as the hit point system, but does away with all the fiddly little numbers.
  • a port of Burning Wheel’s beliefs, traits, and instincts, and its Wises (in a manner of speaking).
  • a mana-based casting system.
  • a stamina mechanic.
  • a free-form weapon creation system, balanced for 5e.
  • simplified encumbrance.
  • concise combat rules that allows for a lot of tactical thinking and not just swing-swing-miss-swing.
  • non-combat conflict resolution systems – one based off Savage Worlds’ social conflict mechanic, and one from Dungeonesque’s montage rules.
  • a simple and unobstrusive skill proficiency system which allows for plenty of customization if the player wants (inspired by the GLOG and Telecanter‘s House Rules Selection). It includes the Talent mechanic from Advanced Old-School-Style Microlite20.

It’s pretty flexible (in my opinion): you can make just about any class with the right combination of templates, background, wises, and skill selection (and magical powers, for full casters). Races are pretty easy. You can plug in the spell list of your choice, although I have posted my own here.

And, most importantly, I think there’s lots of material for all of you to hack out for house-rules of your own. That’s how this started. I’m just passing more ideas onto you guys.

Download it here.

Ritual magic for D&D

A wizard can cast a spell without spending a spell slot (or spell points or whatever) . This ritual requires:

  • 10 minutes per spell level squared in the casting. During this time, the caster must devote all their energies into this: they cannot be riding, or be interrupted, or eat (they may drink, if the drink is handed to them).
  • Incense and so forth equaling 10gp per spell level (in addition to any other material components required by the spell). Each assistant reduces the cost by 1gp.
Spell Level Casting Time
1st 10 minutes
2nd 40 minutes
3rd 1.5 hours
4th 2 hours 40 minutes
5th 4 hours 10 minutes
6th 6 hours
7th 8 hours 10 minutes
8th 10 hours 40 minutes
9th 13 hours 30 minutes

If the spell wasn’t prepared, the caster must succeed at an INT check (DC 10 + spell level, or with a penalty = spell level, whichever is more appropriate). Otherwise the spell fails and the time and incense are wasted.

[This has the effect of making spells like detect magic much easier to use – there’s no need to skip it because you want an extra magic missile. 5e came close, but it only allowed a few spells to be rituals (which I feels stifles creativity). Also, I quite like the idea of high-level spells being cast as all-day rituals.]

Another option: allow PCs to study/pray to swap out memorised spells during the day: this takes 10 minutes per spell level, and a successful INT/WIS check (as above).

A Casting Mechanic, and a Stamina System

Based on The Black Hack’s usage die concept:


Every caster has a spellcasting die (based on their level – d4 at 1st, d20 at 20th). Casting a spell means the caster rolls their spellcasting die after the spell takes effect. If the number rolled is equal to or lower than the level of the spell, the usage die drops one step (and if it was a d4, magic is gone). Sleeping for the night resets the die back to maximum (or only one step, if you wanna slow things down for casters).

As an aftertought, this is probably only good for players if you’ve got DCC dice with wacky numbers of sides, due to the lack of granularity between levels. But I reckon it’ll be great for NPCs – I reckon you’ll want a 50/50 chance of the die dropping after they cast their highest-level spell.


Everyone has a stamina die based on their Constitution (or Strength). Whenever they do something potentially exhausting (combat, chasing, climbing, etc.), they roll their stamina die. If it rolls equal or under their encumbrance limit, the die drops one step. If it goes from a d4 to nothing, the character needs to rest NOW. Sleeping for the night resets the die back to maximum (or only one step, if you wanna slow things down for everyone).

  • CON 8 or less: d4
  • CON 9-12: d6
  • CON 13-15: d8
  • CON 16-17: d10
  • CON 18: d12

Encumbrance (in stones):

    • weight under half STR: 1
    • weight under STR: 2
    • weight under STR x 1.5: 3
    • weight under STR x2: 4

    Anything over STR x2 is just too much. Make them roll their stamina die for walking a few steps.

    Reimagining HP for D&D 5e

    (Aside: if you want to read the version of this I wrote at midnight after a session, it’s on my Tumblr, here.)

    I’ve always disliked tracking hit points for monsters, and I know that it irks my players sometimes. I’ve tried various methods, like poker chips or using percentile dice; but high-level characters & monsters have so many hp, and dice are liable to be knocked around. So, a solution, inspired by the Wound system from Savage Worlds.

    Everyone (PC, NPC or monster) has a Wound Threshold, which is equal the average roll of your hit die and add your CON modifier (and any effects that increase your maximum hit points with level, as from the Toughness feat). Now, whenever you take damage, round it to the nearest multiple of that number. If it’s x1, take 1 Wound. If it’s x3, take 3 Wounds. When you take Wounds equal to your level (or number of hit dice), you start saving vs. death.

    Healing works the same way. Round the number of hp healed that the cure wounds gives you, and heal that many wounds. If you take a short rest, you can heal a number of wounds; you have “healing surges” equal to your level, and regain half that number after a long rest. If you get hit by a wight, and fail the saving throw, the number of wounds you can take is reduced by the same number as you were hit for, etc.

    Now, the practical effect of this is that it averages out damage taken. A solid fighter is likely to have a Wound Threshold of 8. So, if they take 4 damage, nothing happens. If they take damage between 5 and 12, they take a wound, and so on. In 5e, I’ve found that damage outputs are fairly high, and everyone is throwing around damage between 4 and 13 most of the time. Most monsters and most PCs have WTs in this region, so it all balances out in the long run. But wizards and sorcerers are more likely to take a couple Wounds at once, and fighters and barbarians are only rarely going to take more than one in a single hit.

    To adjust the lethality of damage (because, I think, it’s a bit swingier like this), you can fiddle with how you round damage. Up, down, or Swiss-style; my personal backup if Swiss doesn’t work is if the damage is one or two below the Threshold, I’ll round up, otherwise I’ll round down. This keeps foes with piddly damage averages from constantly wounding fighters with 5 damage, while keeping wizards fragile. It’ll take a bit of play-testing, I think. I mean, Ancient Dragons have d20’s for hit points, so that’s a WT of, like, 15, so they’re going to require a LOT of HARD hits. But, then, that’s kinda the point of a dragon encounter, right?

    Summoner – A Sorcerous Origin for 5e

    I haven’t been on here in a while. My gaming passions have changed – my systems of preference are 5e and Savage Worlds. But having played Pathfinder recently, I’ve still got the flavour of a couple of classes in my mind. I always appreciated the neatness of Pathfinder, especially in its improvements over 3.5. But after playing it for a few months, the complexity got to me. 5e turned up at just the right time for me, and it seemed like a veritable god-send. Savage Worlds is my catch-all for any games I want to play that aren’t D&D-like.

    Anyway, to the point of this post. In the wake of the release of the 5e PHB, wrathofzombie posted a whole bunch of 5e sub-class options. One of those was the Oracle. Flavour-wise, I always liked the Oracle. I also liked the Summoner. Those two, I think, are the two flavour-ful classes that aren’t really represented in 5e. So, with the Oracle in good hands, I decided to hack the Summoner for 5e. Here we go.

    The Summoner – A Sorcerous Origin for 5e. (PDF, hosted on Google)

    What happens while the PCs are on watch

    Whenever my PCs stop for camp, they always organise a watch roster. Magic-users and clerics usually take the last watch, and the person with the most hit points takes the middle. There’s usually some negotiation to stop the thief from being on watch alone (or at all). It’s all very organised these days.

    Behind the screen, I’m really just making stuff up. If I’m not planning on an encounter, nothing happens. If I am, I’ll fiddle with some dice until I make up my mind whether or not to spring it on them. But after a session today (with newbies – they were so much fun!), I’ve finally come up with a table to determine whether or not something interesting happens in the night.

    Roll 1d4 if the party is camped in quiet or peaceful territory, 1d6 if it’s normal territory, 1d8 if it’s rough country, and 1d10 (or higher…) in the deep wilderness.

    Night Watch Encounters

    • 1-3: nothing to report.
    • 4-5: minor disturbance (heavy rustling, lights, bats, etc.)
    • 6-7: minor encounter
    • 8+: major encounter
    Roll separately for each watch (if you’re feeling nasty), or if you roll something, roll 1d6 to determine which watch it occurs on (1-2: first, 3-4: middle, 5-6: last).

    [This is the first post I’ve made in a while here… Not that anyone reads this blog anyway, apart from one of my players.]

    Play report & status report

    It’s been a while since I made a post of any sort. Thought I’d catch you up on what the party’s been doing lately.

    They’re hunting for the Horn of Tirea, a holy artefact designed to battle demons–even destroy them utterly, if their true name is known. The dungeon it is contained in is a deep series of levels, around a deep, potentially bottomless pit.

    In one area, the party encountered heavy resistance from a lot of Drow, and learned that there is an entire Drow city down there, on the other side of a Khazad-Dum style bridge. In the first encounter with the Drow, I totally forgot to apply their magic resistance, so they all got fireballed to death. Every fight after that, though, ended up being fairly skin-of-their-teeth escapes for the party, except for the last one, in which the Illusionist/Assassin PC was totally awesome. First, he sneaked up behind the Drow leader while she was praying with her armour off, and backstabbed her to nearly dead (with the d30 rule), then let loose on the rest (still resting in their barracks) with a Wand of Ice, rolling nearly maximum on the spell penetration. One small negotiation (admittedly at the fangs of some giant spiders), and the Drow fled, leaving their loot behind.

    In another area, there are crumbling corridors and collapsed rooms. Open-air cells look out over the pit, and the players have found what appears to be a subway system. At the top of the deeps, the dungeon was a dwarven mine, but now the architecture has changed dramatically, and there’s ancient writing all over. Oh yeah, and in an arena in the centre, there’s a chained demon who says that he knows where the Horn is. Whoever unchains him, he’ll tell them how to find the Horn, and also give them their greatest desire. It took a while, but I finally have something for all the PCs. Now, if they decide to deal with the demon (which the cleric is very much against), I can watch them all fight for who gets to do the deed.

    In other news, I’ve been working with a generic RPG called LORE (available here), outfitting it for use in a sci-fi campaign I plan to run someday. LORE is quite a lot like GURPS, but simpler, with elements from other RPGs thrown in. There’s no sci-fi sourcebook, so I shamelessly ripped off Stars Without Number, GURPS Space, d20 Future, and whatever else I could find. I hope it ends up being palatable. I would have been fine with SWN, but I think the guys want a change from the D&D system. The only problem is that, now that I’ve finished it, it’s probably going to be months (if not years) before the current campaign ends. *sigh*

    Spell fumbles table

    Since I just posted a couple of class variants which call for spell fumbles, I thought I’d post a table for such things. Like most people, I haven’t found one I like, so I cobbled my own together from a bunch I’ve found across the internet. (I’m being very original lately).

    01-05    No effect (spell simply fails)
    06-15    Minor backlash of arcane power. You are dazed/dazzled for 1d6 minutes.
    16-30    Spell hits a random target within 100′ (or the AoE is centred at a random location).
    31-40    You are wreathed in unearthly fire; take 3d6 points of damage.
    41-50    You believe that the spell has been cast normally, and are dazed for 1d6 rounds.
    51-60    A minor-level demon is summoned, and attacks you.
    61-70    You are forced to glimpse into the Beyond. You take 2d6 points of subdual damage, are stunned for 1d10 minutes, and must make a WIS check or gain a random madness.
    71-75    Moderate backlash of arcane power. You must save vs. spells or suffer a critical failure each time you cast a spell for 1d6 minutes.
    76-80    Minor spell storm. 1d10 random spells (of level 1d3) are targeted/centred on you.
    81-84    A medium-level demon is summoned, and attacks you.
    85-90    Your blood begins to freeze in your veins. You must save vs. spells at -6, or take 2d6 points of cold damage, and then save again each round at +1 until you make the save.
    91-94    You arm is shattered by the backlash; take 2d6 points of damage.
    95-97    Major backlash of arcane power. You are dazed for 1d6 rounds, and cannot cast any arcane spell or use a magic item for 2d6 hours.
    98-99    Major spell storm. 1d10 random spells (of level 1d10; roll twice on 0) are targeted/centred on you.
    100    You explode in a shower of gore and energy. You are dead, only to be resurrected by a true resurrection or wish. All within 30′ must take 6d6 points of force damage, and make a CON check or be nauseated for 1d6 minutes.