Filling the Combat Magic Gap: Arcane Weapons

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D&D 5e establishes a pretty decent divide between physical and magic combatants. In particular, their core damage mechanic is split in two: physical attackers use weapons to deal damage, magical attackers use cantrips (and spells) to deal damage.

This leaves an underserved demographic in the gap: characters that want to be primarily physical (taking one of the physical-oriented classes, like Fighter or Rogue) but with a mystical twist to how they attack, slinging fire or whatnot. A few cantrips kinda serve this: Shillelagh does the opposite, kinda, letting a mage class use a physical weapon with their casting stat; the "bladetrips" are bit closer to this, but they're still cantrips, not weapons, and so can't be used with features like Sneak Attack or Rage, and are balanced on the cantrip scale (increasing at levels 5/11/17).

So, let's define something that actually works!

Arcane Weapons

Arcane Weapons are a new class of weapons that deal damage thru magic. These can take many forms, from rune-inscribed blades to magic wands to arcane blasters.

Rather than listing an explicit and limited set of Arcane weapons, Arcane weapons can be produced by starting from any Martial weapon's stats, and choosing a magical damage type to use for it instead, making appropriate modifications based on the damage type. The GM and player should then work together to decide on the actual physical form of the weapon.

  • If you choose Magical Slashing, Magical Bludgeoning, Magical Piercing, or Poison, the damage is unchanged.
  • If you choose Fire, Ice, Lightning, or Acid, the damage is reduced by one step.
  • If you choose Radiant, Necrotic, Psychic, Thunder, or Force, the damage is reduced by two steps.

Damage "steps" are: (1d12 or 2d6) => 1d10 => (1d8 or 2d4) => 1d6 => 1d4 => 1 => 1 => .... If you move to a step with a choice of damage dice, you can choose either option.

Alternately, one can start from a Simple weapon, and ignore one damage reduction step. For example, a Needler Wand produced from Light Crossbow stats (1d8 damage) switched to ice damage would still deal 1d8 damage on hit, but switched to radiant would deal 1d6 damage on hit. (This does not make the Arcane weapon a Simple weapon, it just expands the variety of weapon stats one can use, particular in ranged weapons.)

Wielding an Arcane weapon uses all the same rules as the corresponding weapon it's based on. For example, if you start from Greatsword stats to produce an Immolation Staff that deals fire damage, it's still a Two-handed Heavy Melee weapon, that happens to deal 1d10 fire damage on hit instead of 2d6 slashing. As another example, if you start from Light Crossbow stats to produce a Needler Wand that deals ice damage, it's still a Two-handed Loading Ranged weapon with an 80/320 range, that happens to deal 1d8 ice damage instead of 1d8 piercing.

Abilities that depend on or otherwise reference Martial weapons can also be used with Arcane weapons based off the specified weapon types. For example, Monks can choose any Arcane weapon they have proficiency in as one of their monk weapons.

However, no character has proficiency with Arcane weapons by default; they can gain proficiency in various methods, as described below.

Arcane Weapon Proficiency

Arcane weapons require special proficiency to use. Without this proficiency, an Arcane weapon can't be used at all; it's simply a magical stick or what-have-you.

Whenever a source would grant a player proficiency with one or more martial weapons (such as the first level of most martial classes, or some heritage choices such as Elf) you may choose to instead gain proficiency in Arcane weapons using the stats of any of those weapons. This is an all-or-nothing choice; all of the gained Martial weapon proficiencies are switched over to Arcane equivalents, or none are.

That is, a class that grants proficiency with all Martial weapons, like a Fighter, can instead choose to gain proficiency with all Arcane weapons based on Martial weapon stats. A class with limited proficiencies, like the Monk who receives only shortsword proficiency, can instead choose to gain proficiency with Arcane weapons based on shortsword stats.

(A player could use multiclassing to easily get both Martial and Arcane proficiencies, such as taking a level of Fighter and a level of Barbarian, if they so chose.)

Any class that gains cantrips can choose to replace one known cantrip with proficiency in all Arcane weapons instead.

Unarmed strikes do not have an Arcane equivalent in general, but Monks and similar classes that can make their unarmed strikes magical have additional options; see below for details.

The Weapon Master feat can, as any of your four chosen proficiencies, instead grant proficiency with Arcane weapons based off the chosen weapon's stats.

If you're proficient in at least one Arcane weapon, or can cast at least one spell, you're automatically proficient in all Arcane weapons based off of Simple weapons you're proficient in, as well.

When you gain proficiency with at least one Arcane weapon, choose a magical damage type to be your primary damage type. Whenever you attack with an Arcane weapon, you may choose to have it deal your primary damage type instead of whatever damage type it would normally deal, applying the same modifications to the base weapon's damage dice that you would if designing the weapon from scratch.

As well, when you gain proficiency with at least one Arcane weapon, if you don't already have a spellcasting ability from another source, choose Int, Wis, or Cha as your spellcasting ability. Whenever you attack with an Arcane weapon, you may choose to use your spellcasting ability instead of Str/Dex for attack and damage rolls using the weapon.

For example, if a character chooses Int and Psychic as their casting stat and primary damage type, then wields the Immolation Staff described above (greatsword switched to fire damage), they can choose to add either their Str or Int to attack and damage, and can choose to deal either 1d10 fire damage or 1d8 psychic damage on a hit.

If the same character wielded the Needler Wand (light crossbow switched to Ice damage), they can choose to add either their Dex or Int to attack and damage, and can choose to deal either 1d8 ice damage or 1d6 psychic damage on a hit.

Arcane Unarmed Strikes

Replace the Monk's 6th level Ki-Empowered Strikes ability with:

You gain the ability to make your unarmed strikes into Arcane Strikes. If you do not already have a spellcasting ability and/or an Arcane primary damage type, choose them as if you have just gained proficiency in an Arcane weapon.

Any time you make an unarmed strike, or attack with a monk weapon and replace its damage with your unarmed strike damage, you can choose to use your spellcasting ability instead of Str or Dex, and you can choose to replace its damage type with your Arcane primary damage type. If your chosen Arcane primary damage type would normally reduce a Martial weapon's damage die by two steps, your unarmed strike damage is reduced by one step when you replace its damage type (it is otherwise unaltered).

Your unarmed strike now counts as an Arcane weapon (for the purpose of applying Fighting Styles/etc).

For example, a Monk could choose Wis and Fire for their unarmed strike, allowing them to add their Str, Dex, or Wis to attack and damage for unarmed strikes, and deal Bludgeoning or Fire damage equal to their normal unarmed strike damage. If they are wielding a monk weapon and choose to replace its damage with their unarmed strike damage, they can also switch its damage type to Fire.

If they instead chose Radiant for their damage type, they can still freely add their Str, Dex, or Wis to their attacks, and can choose to either deal their ordinary amount of Bludgeoning damage, or deal Radiant damage reduced by one step.

If the Fire Monk from above wields a Radiant arcane weapon that they've chosen as a monk weapon, they can choose to have it deal Radiant or Fire damage, and its damage is not reduced in either case.

Arcane Fighting Styles

These additional fighting styles are available to any class, and all require that you have proficiency with at least one Arcane weapon.

  • Arcane Fire Style: Whenever you wield an Arcane weapon dealing fire damage, increase the damage die by one step.
  • Arcane Ice Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing ice damage, their speed is reduced by 10ft until the start of your next turn unless they're immune to ice damage. This effect only applies once per opponent; it does not stack if an opponent is hit multiple times.
  • Arcane Acid Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing acid damage, you may deal the weapon's base damage to another target within 5ft of the original target.
  • Arcane Lightning Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing lightning damage, you may spend your reaction to deal additional lightning damage equal to the weapon's base damage.
  • Arcane Poison Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing poison damage, they have disadvantage on the next saving throw they make before the start of your next turn unless they're immune to poison damage or the poisoned condition.
  • Arcane Radiant Style: Whenever you wield an Arcane weapon dealing radiant damage, your attacks with that weapon ignore half cover and three-quarters cover.
  • Arcane Necrotic Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing necrotic damage, increase the damage die by two steps if the opponent is missing any of its hit points.
  • Arcane Psychic Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing psychic damage, they have disadvantage on the next attack roll they make before the start of your next turn unless they are immune to psychic damage.
  • Arcane Thunder Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing thunder damage, you may deal the weapon's base damage to every target within 5ft of the opponent besides you, but your attack makes a thunderous noise that can be heard up to 100ft away.
  • Arcane Force Style: Whenever you hit an opponent with an Arcane weapon dealing force damage, you may choose to push them 10ft away from you in a straight line unless they are immune to force damage.

Arcane Weapon Strike

While arcane weapons interact well with martial classes' Extra Attack features, they don't compare well with cantrips for spellcaster classes that never get extra attacks. Green Flame Blade and similar bladetrips let casters flip a weapon into cantrip scaling, so let's run on that same principle:

  • Arcane Weapon Strike

  • Evocation cantrip

  • Casting Time: 1 action

  • Range: Self (5-foot radius)

  • Components: S, M (an arcane weapon worth at least 1 sp)

  • Duration: Instantaneous

  • You brandish the arcane weapon used in the spell's casting and make an attack with it as normal. On a hit, the target suffers the weapon attack's normal effects, and your magic flares thru the weapon to strike another target you can see within 5 feet of the original target. The second creature takes damage equal to your spellcasting ability modifier, and of the same type as the arcane weapon.

    This spell's damage increases when you reach certain levels. At 5th level, the damage to both targets increases by 1d10/1d8/1d6 (depending on arcane damage type) for melee attacks, or 1d8/1d6/1d4 for ranged attacks. They increase by another die at 11th and 17th level.

Hades Rareboon Run

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I love the game Hades (GOTY 2020), and I hit the epilogue last year, at the end of November. I put it down for a little bit, since it was then my wife's turn to play in the evenings (we switch off playing single-player games with each other), and intended to pick it back up on my own to finish out the last few bits of completion I had left. Of course, I then didn't do it.

But yesterday, my friend Manish (@manishearth) posted about doing a gimmick run with his friend Jane, where you are forced to pick up as many and as high-quality boons as possible. (They got this from @Duunko who termed it Shiny Boon Run, but I like the alliteration of my term.)

I thought it would be a fun challenge to jump back onto the Hades saddle, so I did one today (and escaped! yay!). I had to ping Manish several times for clarifications on the run rules, so I thought I'd write them down more formally, in case anyone else wants to do Rareboon Runs:

Rareboon Run Rules

The general policy underlying these rules is to collect as many boons as possible, of as high a quality as possible, to show just how much Olympus loves you and how good a boi you are.

  1. Whenever you're given a boon choice, you must choose the rarest boon you can: Legendary > Duo > Heroic > Epic > Rare > Common.

    • If there are multiple boons of the highest rarity, you must choose randomly. Alternately, if someone is watching with you, have them choose the one that's the most lulz.
    • If you have boon rerolls, you can only reroll when there are multiple highest rarities.
    • This includes primary-boon replacements! If they're the highest rarity (and they usually will be) you must choose them!
    • If you're choosing from Chaos's boons, you must choose a Favor boon if possible. Otherwise it follows the standard highest-rarity rules.
  2. Whenever you're given a door choice, you must choose the most boon-ific door: Trials > Shop (if you have at least 300 gold) > Challenge Boon > Chaos == Shop (if you have at least 150 gold) == Boon > everything else.

    • Again, if there are multiple best choices, choose randomly or have someone choose for you. Or reroll a door, if you have door rerolls.
    • In Styx, you must complete all boon hallways, even if you find the fountain before you're done with them. You can do them in whatever order you want, tho. If there are still boons in the Styx shop after this, you must continue doing hallways until you're either done with hallways or done buying boons.
    • Note that "everything else" includes hammers :(. If you get unlucky with hammers being paired with boon doors, shops will sometimes offer hammers if you're behind, as can Styx hallways. However, you are free to choose whatever hammer ability is best for you, as this run can be hard enough as it is without saddling you with a random-ass hammer ability. Or choose randomly if you want the challenge.
  3. If you're in a shop, you must buy as many boons as possible. In Styx, this applies after every hallway clear. You can spend money on whatever you want beyond that (even if it would reduce your gold to below 150 before a shop room). If you don't have enough money to buy all of them, choose randomly or have someone choose for you.

  4. You must check Pools when they come up. If they offer the "your next boon is increased rarity" choice, you must buy it if possible. (You can buy the others if you want.)

  5. If you get Sisyphus's room, you must give Bouldy a Nectar if possible. If you get Eurydice's room, you must choose the "next 3 boons are of increased rarity" benefit.

  6. You cannot purge boons. Every boon is precious.

Use whatever weapon/form/companion/keepsakes/mirror/punishments you want. We're a self-imposed challenge, not a cop.

Try It Out!

The end result usually isn't that bad, and the enforced variety keeps you from falling into a rut. It was pretty fun, and I might do more!

A Better Temperature System

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Yes, it's time for another installment of "Tab gives a utopian vision of an alternate today where people knew better in the past about some minor topic". Today we're talking about temperature.

What's Wrong With Temperature?

There's a lot wrong with temperature, unfortunately. The metric system uses Kelvins to measure temp. Kelvins are defined as "the same degree size as Celsius, but 0 is absolute zero". This has some issues:

  • having the scale's zero be a meaningful zero, so that doubling the number actually corresponds to doubling some physical quantity - is good
  • but having that zero be very far away from human-meaningful quantities, particularly the two primary things humans use temperature for on a regular basis (outside temp and body temp) is really inconvenient
  • the Celsius zero and the Kelvin zero are not a round, or even whole, number of degrees apart, so interconverting involves an awkward "273.16" factor.

A lot of this comes from the fact that we invented temperature scales long before we realized that temperature even had a physically-meaningful zero. Instead, Celsius just tied its 0 and 100 to measurable, somewhat-meaningful values for humans: the freezing and boiling point of water. The resulting delta from the "real" zero, and the size of the degree, thus have no particular reason to be convenient or "round", and yeah, they're really not.

We can do better!

But What About Fahrenheit?

Yeah, what about Fahrenheit? It's not SI, but it is still metric (base-10), and I think it has some very nice qualities as well (plus some pretty bad ones).

Obvious bad thing is that its 0/100 points are meaningless; 0°F is the freezing point of saturated salt water (which, tbf, was easier to obtain than purified water, and so a more reliable liquid for gauge calibration) and, uh, for some reason 100°F is based on him setting human body temperature to 96°F? So 100 wasn't even meaningful from the start??? Nowadays of course we use the same freezing/boiling point of water definition, which gives us the convenient 32/212 pair, how nice.

Fahrenheit actually has some great qualities, tho. While the freezing point is pretty rando, it does at least mean that the 0 point is roughly as cold as it gets in temperate parts of the world. (And measuring subzero is basically just for fun anyway; below that it's all "lethally cold" and the precise number doesn't matter anyway.) Similarly, 100 is roughly as hot as it gets in temperate parts of the world. This means that outside temps range nicely over the 0-100 range (vs the roughly -15 to 45 range for Celsius).

As well, the degree size is, in my opinion, a bit better. Ten degrees Fahrenheit is more or less the minimum temperature difference that makes a difference for how you dress and respond to the weather - you'll feel 70 and 80 as different and respond accordingly, but 70 and 75 are too close to care about the difference. (Celsius's similar bands are 5 degrees apart, which is kinda round but not as good.)

So Fahrenheit gives us a meaningful 0-100 range for our daily temperature usage, and has meaningful 10-degree bands as well. That's really nice! Sure would've been good to keep that around.

Let's Get It Right

Just to get one difficulty out of the way, we can't make a temperature system that's both human-meaningful for small numbers, and useful for physics. The two desired zero points (deep space vs frozen water) are too far apart.

What we can do, tho, is make it so that converting between the "human" and "absolute" scales is as easy as possible, so the two zeros are a whole, round number of degrees apart.

Taking all the above into account, I present to you the Degrees Temp (°T), or Absolute Temp (°AT) system, an ideal system that combines the best parts of everything:

Degrees Temp, the human-usable system, is defined by the freezing point of water at 20°, and absolute zero at -500°. °AT is just °T + 500.

The freezing point of water is not 0, but it is a round, easily-memorized and easily-recognized number. 0°T, instead, is a sub-freezing temp that is, again, roughly "as cold as a temperate climate gets", similar to Fahrenheit. Also similar, 100°T is roughly as hot as a temperate climate gets.

(Converted back into existing units, 0°T is 14°F/-10°C, and 100°T is 107°F/42°C.)

By a lucky coincidence, average human body temp is 90°T, another convenient number. (Compare to 37°C or 98.6°F, both awful.)

Not that it usually matters in reality, but the boiling point of water is 210°T, yet another convenient number. I'm not imposing excess rounding here to make it look good, either: 100°C really is 210.4°T!

Swapping between human- and physics-friendly versions of the unit is also, as I mentioned earlier, trivial in this system, you just add or subtract 500° from the temperature. A far cry from 273.15°! (Or the equally horrible 459.67 for converting between Fahrenheit and Rankine.)

(If you want to convert more temps, the conversion factor between °AT and K is .5253. To convert from °C to K, add 273.16; to convert from °AT to °T, subtract 500.)

Here's a quick table with some convenient numbers:

°T°F°CK
0°T13°F-10°C263K
10°T22°F-5°C268K
20°T (water freezes)32°F0°C273K
30°T41°F5°C278K
40°T50°F11°C284K
50°T60°F16°C289K
60°T70°F21°C294K
70°T79°F26°C299K
80°T89°F32°C305K
90°T (body temp)98°F37°C310K
100°T108°F42°C315K
210°T (water boils)212°F100°C373K

Bonus: What About Heximal?

Real Tab-heads know that base-6 is the best base for numbers to be, substantially better than base-10. This temperature scale seems pretty well-tailored to base-10, with a great 0-100 range and a round absolute zero. Can it be adapted to base-6 while maintaining its good properties?

Yes! It's not perfect, but it's slightly better in some ways, slightly worse in other ways, and overall fairly similar.

Short form: Absolute zero is now at -1000₆°T, and water freezes at 10₆°T. The rest of the system extends from that.

This means that 0₆°T is equal to about -7°C, or 19°F, slightly higher than the decimal version, and 100₆°T is equal to... 37°C or 98.4°F! That's body temperature, baby! That was a very common calibration target for older temperature scales, and is just a fun number to have at such a round value.

It does mean that the range overall is a bit narrower; negative and >100₆°T temperatures will show up more often. They'll be "very cold" and "very hot" temps, but not "hoo boy these never happen" temps, like in the decimal version. But that's okay! Realistically, readouts will have to be able to display these values anyway, so it's not a huge loss. The vast majority of outdoor temperatures you encounter will continue to be in the 0-100₆ range.

Bonus points for the fact that "room temperature" (72°F/22°C) is a nice round 40₆°T. How nice!

(You can see me working thru the logic here at https://twitter.com/tabatkins/status/1308226259374149633.)

Some Conversion Code For Nerds

If you wanna play with this system a bit, here's some JS for converting between it and C/F/K:

Decimal version:

function atFromK(degK) { return degK / 273.16 * 520; }
function kFromAT(degAT) { return degAT / 520 * 273.16; }
function tFromC(degC) { return atFromK(degC + 273.16) - 500; }
function cFromT(degT) { return kFromAT(degT + 500) - 273.16; }
function fFromT(degT) { return cFromT(degT) * 9/5 + 32; }
function tFromF(degF) { return tFromC((degF - 32) * 5/9); }

Heximal version:

function atFromK(degK) { return degK / 273.16 * 226; }
function kFromAT(degAT) { return degAT / 226 * 273.16; }
function tFromC(degC) { return atFromK(degC + 273.16) - 216; }
function cFromT(degT) { return kFromAT(degT + 216) - 273.16; }
function fFromT(degT) { return cFromT(degT) * 9/5 + 32; }
function tFromF(degF) { return tFromC((degF - 32) * 5/9); }

(You'll want to call .toString(6) on the heximal results, and/or use parseInt(X, 6) on the heximal inputs, of course. Like fFromT(parseInt("100", 6)) or tFromC(0).toString(6).)

Dramatic Mage Duels in D&D 5e

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I shadow-DM my little brother's D&D game, helping him plan story arcs and dramatic battles. His next session will be a boss fight, where the sorcerer PC will be facing off against their evil spellcaster mother. He thought it would be both dramatic and thematic for the two of them to fight in a "mage duel" while the rest of the party fought the enemy horde, which sounded bad-ass to me. But how should we represent this?

Right off the bat, "just use normal spellcasting" was out. It's boring, and would largely just be a matter of "try to cast, get counterspelled, they try to cast, you counterspell, etc" until one of them runs out of high-level spells. Boring and frustrating, far from dramatic, and in the meantime the other characters might be actually beating up the mom in melee, which isn't thematically appropriate either.

Bro recalled that Mage Hand Press, his favorite 5e imprint, had published a simple Mage Duel ruleset, as part of a larger set of "wizarding contests". This looked like a good starting point, but it was clearly designed to be a fast, simple resolution mechanism as a small part of a larger roleplaying session around a wizarding carnival or tourney. It really didn't have any strategic depth (just choose your highest-level slot each time and hope you roll well), which didn't suit our dramatic boss fight.

So we iterated on this a bit, and ended up with something that I think will be quite fun at the table. It has some actual strategic choice, rewards predicting the opponent's moves, and lets the duel have an effect on the rest of the battle being waged around them.

Dramatic Mage Duels!

At the start of each round, before anyone else takes actions, the two duelists secretly choose a spell slot they want to expend, and a dueling stance. They reveal both, then make an opposed Arcana check, using their spellcasting ability. Each duelist gets a bonus to this check equal to half the chosen slot's level (round down, as usual). The loser of the opposed check takes (winner's slot)d6 damage. A tie causes both characters to take (their slot)d6 damage, as the spells rebound.

There are three dueling stances: attack, shield, and tricky. The two opponent's stances are compared in a rock-paper-scissors fashion: attack beats tricky, tricky beats shield, and shield beats attack. If one of the characters win, they get advantage on the Arcana check. (Ties have no effect.)

In addition to the direct damage the duelists deal to each other, the chaotic energies of their duel spill out and buff/debuff the rest of the combatants. Each duelist also makes a roll on the Chaotic Buff and Chaotic Debuff tables, adding their expended slot's level to the Buff roll and subtracting it from the Debuff roll. Everyone else on the duelist's side of the combat benefits from the rolled buff and suffers the rolled debuff.

Finally, the chosen stance has additional effects. If you choose Attack, you deal 3d6 damage to your opponent (whether you win or lose the Arcana contest). If you choose Tricky, you roll on the Buff table twice and choose the result you prefer. If you choose Shield, you roll on the Debuff table twice and choose the result you prefer.

The duel is over when either duelist yields, or dies.

Buff And Debuff Tables

These are taken with only slight modifications from the very nice Sorcerer tweak by SwordMeow (direct link to PDF), which presents a much more interesting Wild Magic Sorcerer than the original.

Party Buffs
d20Effect
1No effect.
2A pleasant smell fills the air around the party.
3Small plants grow to bloom around the party's feet.
4The party's clothes become cleaned, and faded dyes return to full brightness.
5The party becomes sheathed in a thin layer of protective energy. They each gain temp HP equal to the spell's level + your spellcasting modifier.
6The party is innervated. Their movement speed increases by 15' until the start of your next turn.
7The energy of the spell flashes brightly around your party. On each party member's turn, an enemy of their choice within 5' must make a Constitution saving throw against your Spell Save DC or be blinded until your next turn.
8The energy of the spell swirls around your party and sheathes their weapons. Until your next turn, they can choose to have any damage they deal become Force damage instead.
9With a surge of energy, your party is able to shift their position. During each of their turns, your party can teleport up to 10' as a free action.
10Arcs of chaotic energy emanate from your party. A random hostile creature within 15' of each party member takes 1d8 lightning damage.
11Enemy attacks are pushed away. The next attack against each party member before the start of your next turn is made with disadvantage, or the next saving throw each party member makes before the start of your next turn is made with advantage, whichever comes first for each party member.
12The air around your party crackles. Until the start of your next turn, if a creature with 30' of a party member hits them with an attack, they can use their reaction to deal {level of the slot}d4 lightning damage to the attacker.
13At the start of each party member's next turn, they roll on this table and gain the effect on themselves only.
14Your party becomes energetic. They gain the effects of the Haste spell until the start of your next turn, ignoring the lethargy.
15Your party's strength amplifies. Once during each of their next turns, they can add {level of the slot}d6 to the damage of an attack or ability they make, of one of the damage types already dealt by the attack.
16If a party member takes damage from a spell before the start of your next turn, they can roll 1d8 and subtract the result from the damage they would take.
17Your party's defense seem to deflect the enemy's attacks. Until the start of your next turn, all attacks made against your party have disadvantage, and all saving throws your party members make have advantage.
18Your party's attacks seem to guide themselves to their destinations. Until the start of your next turn, your party gains advantage on all attack rolls, and impose disadvantage on all saving throws their opponents make.
19The spell is efficient, allowing you to siphon excess magic. You regain the spell slot you expended for the duel this round.
20Roll twice on this table and gain both effects, rerolling additional 20s.
Party Debuffs
d20Effect
1Roll twice on this table and suffer both effects, rerolling additional 1s.
2The spell requires additional energy to cast. You must expend another spell slot of the chosen level, or else you automatically lose the opposed Arcana check this round. If you have the Font of Magic feature, you can choose to instead expend sorcery points equal to the slot's level.
3The party's movements become erratic and difficult to control. Until the start of your next turn, they have disadvantage on any attack rolls they make, and enemies have advantage on saving throws against their effects.
4The party's movements seem to have them dodging directly into enemy attacks. Until the start of your next turn, enemies have advantage on all attacks against your party, and your party has disadvantage on all saving throws.
5If a party member takes damage from a spell before the start of your next turn, they take an additional 1d8 damage of a type the spell already deals.
6The party's energy bleeds away. If they deal damage before your next turn, the damage decreases by {level of the slot}d6.
7Electricity courses thru your party's muscles, causing them to tense up. They suffer the effects of the Slow spell until the start of your next turn.
8At the start of each party member's next turn, they roll on this table and suffer the effect on themselves only.
9Static energy builds up in your party, waiting for something to ignite it. Until the start of your next turn, if a party member is damage by an attack, they take an additional {level of the slot}d4 lightning damage.
10Enemy attacks are drawn to your party. The next attack on each party member before the start of your next turn has advantage, or the next saving throw they make against a hostile effect has disadvantage, whichever comes first.
11Arcs of chaotic energy emanate from your party. A random friendly creature within 15' of each party member takes 1d8 lightning damage.
12Your party's position becomes unstable, and they blink side to side wildly. Each party member immediately teleports to a random unoccupied location 10' away from their current location.
13Your party's attacks are blunted, unable to penetrate defenses. Until the start of your next turn, all enemies with resistance to some type of damage instead have immunity.
14A flash of light bursts in each party member's face. They must make a Constitution save against your Spell Save DC or be blinded until the start of your next turn.
15Your party is enervated. Their movement speed decreases by 15' until the start of your next turn.
16Some of your spell's energy backfires. Each party member takes force damage equal to the slot's level + your spellcasting ability modifier.
17The party suffers a faint ringing in their ears for the next minute.
18Fractal, lightning-like scars appear on your party's hands and arms, which disappear when they receive any magical healing.
19Your party immediately becomes thirsty and hungry.
20No effect.

Houserules in my D&D Games

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I'm starting a new D&D campaign next week (just did our Session Zero last week), and part of that is finally gathering together what new houserules I want to apply to my games going forward.

A Whole Lot Of Things Are Flexible

First of all, everything in the [Class Features UA](https://media.wizards.com/2019/dnd/downloads/UA-ClassFeatures.pdf] is allowed. This is mostly just a lot of things giving players a little more flexibility - letting them swap out spells and other abilities for ones of equal level, etc. It's all solid.

Second, casting classes can use any mental stat you want. Want a Wizard that casts with Cha rather than Int? Go for it. Want a wise Bard? Cool. A smart Warlock? Excellent. The mental stats are all more or less interchangeable with each other, and the assignment of stats to classes (and the attendant ease or difficulty of multiclassing as a result) is 100% flavor-based, not balanced-based. (Other classes that use mental stats for abilities are similarly flexible - Monks can use Int or Cha for their AC, abilities, etc.)

Third, damage types are interchangeable. Want a lightning-themed wizard, and annoyed at the relative paucity of lightning damage compared to fire? That's fine, take any damaging spell and swap it to lightning damage. In general, fire/ice/lightning/thunder/poison are all equivalent and can be swapped, and radiant/necrotic/psychic/force are also equivalent and swappable. Swapping between the groups is a minor balance concern; it's possible, but requires some manual tweaking (usually just adjusting the damage dice).

Finally and most generally, anything can be reflavored. The mechanical skeleton - the actual rules and numbers - are important to maintain, but if you wanna make it present differently, fuckin' go wild. Nothing is canonical, please take whatever rules can best be bent to your concept and reuse them.

Justification

D&D's default flavor can work for a lot of people, but there's so much more you can do when you open it up a little.

Unearthed Arcana and Decent Homebrew Is Fine

Stuff from Unearthed Arcana is often quite fun and reasonable; unless something's been rewritten since, consider it usable.

Homebrew stuff is also generally fine; I've been doing homebrew design on a personal level for 20 years, and am pretty good at eyeing balance and tweaking when necessary. We can always adjust on the fly if it turns out too weak or strong.

Justification

There's just a lot of great homebrew stuff! I particularly like a lot of stuff from Mage Hand Press, like the Warmage (cantrip-focused fighter) and the Craftsman (item-crafting warrior). And 5e is far easier to balance for than previous editions, so a lot of it is pretty high quality.

Mundane Equipment Is In The Wagon

Source

You can track your personal equipment normally; whatever you want to make sure you have on you.

Otherwise, all your mundane equipment is considered to be in the Wagon (/Backpack/Home Base/whatever). Everyone contributes money to the Wagon's pool; whenever you need any equipment, you just get it from the Wagon and deduct the cost from its total.

If the item is an obvious thing you'd definitely have packed (basically, anything from one of the premade item packs they start characters with), it's definitely in the Wagon.

Otherwise, you can provide a justification for why you'd have definitely bought the item sometime in the past. Based on the plausibility of the excuse, I'll determine a DC, and you make an Int or Wis check. On success, your character did indeed have the foresight to purchase that, and it's in the wagon. On a failure of 5 or less, you didn't quite get what you needed, but there's something close. On a worse failure, you didn't actually pack that, and you can't retry for it until you have a chance to restock.

Justification

Jeezus, tracking mundane items is a fuckin' slog. In general the prices become utterly insignificant past 3rd level or so, so it becomes purely a game of "did someone read the equipment chapter and just transcribe a bunch of it to their character sheet". Just assume people have what they need, with a little bit of game-ness to make it fun and reasonable.

Fast And Slow Initiative

Described in more detail in another blog post, but in general, rather than rolling initiative and establishing a battle order for the rest of the combat, each round players decide whether they're going "fast" or "slow". All the fast players take their turn, in whatever order they work out amongst themselves, then all the fast monsters, then the slow players, then the slow monsters. Next round you make the fast/slow choice again.

Going fast is a normal round. Going slow lets you impose advantage or disadvantage to a single roll that anyone makes during your turn (as you have taken some time to watch the unfolding situation and take a more optimal action). If you have initiative bonuses from some feature, the linked blogpost describes how to translate that into fast/slow bonuses.

Justification

Already explained in the blog post. Initiative is just a fuckin' slog, man. Fast/slow is fast, dynamic, and encourages strategy and paying attention.

Resting Is Harder

Short rests are left as they are.

Long rests now restore all Stamina (see next section for Stamina/Health details), regain one hit die, recharge anything that recharges on short rest, regain spell slots of combined level equal to your character level, and recharges one ability that would normally recharge on a long rest (besides "spell slots").

A new Rest downtime activity (spend ~a week resting or doing light activity; can be combined with other downtime activities if they're not physically stressful) restores all Health and Stamina, all hit dice, and recharges all abilities that would restore on short or long rest, including spell slots.

Justification

The D&D overall ability economy, balancing classes focusing on constant and short-rest abilities (like the Fighter, Monk, and Warlock) against classes focusing on long-rest abilities (like the Barbarian, or most casters), is predicated on the assumption of 3-5 encounters between long rests, with a short rest every 1-2 encounters. This is intended to allow short-rest classes to exhaust their relatively small resource pool in approximately every combat, while long-rest classes have to ration themselves across several battles.

In practice, however, in the ~20 years I've been playing D&D, this is almost never the case. Instead, it's almost always 1-2 encounters per day; or when it looks like it'll be more, the players usually contrive to long-rest in the middle. This ends up unbalancing the classes in a frustrating way, giving casters especially more power than intended.

Splitting rests into three categories as shown should let me continue to play D&D as I always have, while bringing long-rest classes back into reasonable balance with the other classes. This does rely on inserting downtime potential between distinct "adventures", but that's something a DM should be doing anyway; downtime is fun, and helps alleviate the "peasants to gods in 30 days" leveling-speed dynamic that can accidentally happen otherwise. I like designing explicit "missions" into the structure of my game anyway, so it should slot in nicely.

I am going to be playing with the exact balance of the "recharge one Long Rest ability" thing, especially for casters, so don't take that as set in stone currently.

Health/Stamina Instead Of HP

Rather than a single pool of HP, players have separate pools of Health and Stamina. Stamina is lost first when a player takes damage; when it's all gone, excess damage goes to Health. (Same as the existing Temp HP vs HP mechanic; Temp HP of course also continues to exist, and is lost before Stamina.) Players are unconscious/dying only when both their Health and Stamina reach 0.

Stamina represents your ability to turn attacks aside at the last moment, or suffer only bruises or scratches, etc. These are things that, with a breather, you can recover from and get back to fighting fit. Health is your literal physical health; losing it means you're actually taking injuries.

All healing effects - spells, rests, etc - restore Stamina only. There is no way to recover Health while out adventuring (normally); it can only be restored by bedrest (the Rest downtime activity from the previous section).

At first level, if a player has a 1dX hit die, they now have 4 Health and (X-4) Stamina. At later levels, they gain 1d4 Health, and a flat (X-4) Stamina. Any other effects that raise max HP (Con bonus, feats, etc) raise Stamina.

Justification

D&D's binary health system, where you fight at 100% full strength from max HP to 1 HP, then immediately fall to the ground and start dying at 0, has always been silly. It also means that, sometimes, the most efficient move is to let a player that's almost out of HP tank a big hit and drop unconscious, then heal them up a tiny bit to get them back fighting. That's ridiculous!

I've always liked the idea of systems representing graded damage levels, but they've all been bad - either they're too fiddly and require constant adjustment of numbers, or they cause death spirals when things start to go bad, or both.

This is an attempt to give a tiny bit of the feeling of graded damage, without significantly affecting balance, particularly within a battle. As long as you stay fairly topped up in HP, there's no change. If you get down to your last few HP, nothing changes stat-wise, but after the combat's over and you heal back up, those HP stay lost until the adventure's over and you can heal up properly. So there's incentive both to keep yourself topped up when possible, and to break between adventures to rest and heal.

Note that Health is intentionally meant to be a relatively small fraction of your overall HP, especially for front-line fighters with a d10 or d12 hit die and good Con. (A 10 Con Wizard will have about half their total HP as Health, but a 14 Con Barbarian will only have about 1/6 of their total as Health. The Barb can take a lot of beating before they actually suffer an injury that'll stick around.) Also, especially for large hit-die classes, Stamina by itself is equal or larger than HP normally would be, so it shouldn't even hurt them balance-wise anyway; if you play exactly as you would with normal HP, you'll stay in Stamina anyway and never suffer a wound.

Finally, this allows you to still reasonably roll your hit die to determine your HP growth as you level, which some people really enjoy, without allowing someone to get absolutely crippled by a low roll, or even a few low rolls in a row! The diff between min and max roll is just 3 Health each time, which is a fairly small part of your total.