Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Gritty Realism

Short rest = 8 hours
Long rest = 7 days

Ever since I read the passage on Gritty Realism in the Dungeon Master’s Guide I’ve wanted to try this. Imagine a game where going to sleep doesn’t heal every wound. Imagine a game where getting hit by an ogre with a greatclub matters. I think it’d be pretty cool. My players, on the other hand, had different opinions.

They were adamant that Gritty Realism would not be fun. They were almost unwilling to try it, but offered a reasonable concession in the form of a variant. Natural recovery of hit points proceeds as per the rules of Gritty Realism, but spell slots and class abilities recharge at the normal pace. So just to break things down, a wizard could regain their full spell slots after 8 hours of rest but wouldn’t regain full hit points without a full 7 days of rest.

I’m intrigued by the possibilities here. It does seem unfair and strange that a wizard, for example, could only manage their complement of spell slots once per week. However, the human body is frail. If the same wizard (no matter the PHB race) is hit by an axe, there’s no way he’s going to be good to go by the next morning.

On the other hand, what about a cleric doling out all of that magical healing every day? As things are, the Medicine skill completely gets the shaft and the players are almost entirely reliant on cure spells. Slowing hit point recovery will make those cure spells all the more important. I predict clerics, or any other class with healing, will simply hoard their spell slots and focus on some aspect of combat.

The idea of Gritty Realism is interesting, but the game is balanced for daily recharges. What if there was another way to bring verisimilitude to the mechanics of taking damage? There is, and it’s in the Dungeon Master’s Guide on page 272.

Lingering Injuries
Damage normally leaves no lingering effects. This option introduces the potential for long-term injuries. It’s up to you to decide when to check for a lingering injury. A creature might sustain a lingering injury under the following circumstances:

  • When it takes a critical hit
  • When it drops to 0 hit points but isn’t killed outright
  • When it fails a death saving throw by 5 or more

To determine the nature of the injury, roll on the Lingering Injuries table. This table assumes a typical humanoid physiology, but you can adopt the results for creatures with different body types. Instead of using the effect described in the table, you can put the responsibility of representing a character’s lingering injury in the hands of the player. Roll on the Lingering Injuries table as usual, but instead of suffering the effect described for that result, that character gains a new flaw with the same name. It’s up to the player to express the lingering injury during play, just like any other flaw, with the potential to gain inspiration when the injury affects the character in a meaningful way.

So the DMG’s answer is to provide a random table with nine different kinds of injuries, and it’s completely at the Dungeon Master’s discretion when these injuries occur. They do give some suggestions on the matter. Then the book proposes an alternative system of completely removing the mechanics in exchange for having the PCs roleplay it. There’s nothing wrong with a purely RP approach, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

Since the book says this is all completely at my discretion, I’m going to tweak things to my liking.

Lingering Injuries (revised)
A PC suffers a lingering injury from the following:
  • suffering a critical hit
  • falling to 0 hit points
  • or by rolling a natural 1 on a death save.

I haven’t really changed much so far. See, the table has different injuries keyed to a d20 roll, with the lower the roll yielding worse results. Let’s introduce some dice tricks to reduce the randomness, and give consequences for how a lingering injury was received.

  • When a lingering injury is received by taking a critical hit, roll on the table with advantage.
  • ...by dropping to 0 hit points, roll on the table normally.
  • ...by taking a critical hit which drops the PC to 0 hit points, roll on the table with disadvantage.
  • ...by rolling a natural 1 on a death save, roll on the table with disadvantage (in addition to suffering two failures).


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