Dimgaard campaign – Houserule miscellany

Initiative

Each character rolls initiative using the normal PHB d20+ DEX modifier, and adds the highest of their feat or gadget based modifier, or proficiency.

The implication of this: as character levels increase, the advantage of having Alert feat’s +5 to initiative reduces, though it’s still better.

In a different 5E campaign, I would also be perfectly happy using something like the character’s middle modifier out of DEX, WIS and INT, plus the best of proficiency or Alert. I would not like to use Perception, because I don’t like systems where one skill dominates all others.

Inspiration

The main variant from RAW options on Inspiration is the usage rule. In my Dimgaard campaign, Inspiration works exactly like a benny or fate point: a player can choose to spend it after seeing the initial roll result. One d20 is rerolled.

If the character already had advantage, it acts as a third d20, or double advantage. I guess if a player wanted to they could use Inspiration to cancel disadvantage before rolling, but I don’t think anyone has done that since season one.

Just like RAW, a player can choose to donate their character’s Inspiration to another character. It’s supposed to be role-played but so far, no-one has role-played it. It’s just been “Seck gives Cat his Inspiration,” kind of thing.

For the first five seasons of Dimgaard I used Inspiration to encourage roleplaying character background and development, focusing on Flaws in particular, because they drive a narrative arc. Then, at the beginning of season six, I said (in effect) “guys, I love the narrative, but two characters are headed towards serious mental disorders or manias. That’s going to be a chore for me, and I’m not sure you would enjoy it.” Three players voted to not go there. So now there aren’t consequences for flaws, so I’m not awarding Inspiration for that.

Surprise round

All creatures or “things” that initiative apply to, roll initiative. Creatures achieving surprise act in their order. Creatures that rolled an initiative lower than them can then proceed as normal at the bottom of their order – they do not “skip a turn.” At the bottom of that first run of initiative, Round 1 begins.

I do know this is wrong. On the other hand, I’m more generous with conditions where surprise would apply in characters’ favor, than the rules guidelines. If I switch to “doing surprise” properly, I’ll also try to follow the guidelines properly!

Attuned Items

Attuning and de-attuning

A short rest is required for each and these cannot be taken in one “go” – but if a long rest can be taken, both operations can be considered achieved.

Familiar, beast companion

Your own maximum of three attuned items includes those you assign to a familiar or companion.

Sidekick

A sidekick may possess and attune their own three maximum, but this only alters their use to a character in terms of probability or cheapness. The exact degree of cheapness/better effect should relate to item potency and rarity.

Example: AoE item. A Caster sidekick in possession of an AoE item costs 1 Charm points to shift scene, instead of 2, but the nature of the shift must, in such case, follow the item’s strength.

Example: Offensive item. A Warrior sidekick in possession of an offensive item activates at least 1 point better when the intent is assisting in an attack. Therefore a d10 result of 1 cannot result in “unhelpful.”

Example: Defensive item. As offensive above, but for the case of assisting defensively.

Medium-term SV

I really dislike inflicting a sequence of rolls on players and look to “one roll” options.

Example: the DMG outlines the chase sequence where characters run away from/in pursuit of some other agent. One a character uses 3+CON modifier dash actions, it’s a DC10 CON check (not SV) or gain one level of “temporary” exhaustion. All levels recover on a short rest, though for preference if someone hits five levels and simply can’t go on, that sounds like one “real” level to me.

I would rather assign one resistance SV after a prolonged burst. “Make a DC12 CON SV” – “made it!” “Great! OK your lungs are burning but you haven’t lost any speed.”

I use this approach on forced march and similar efforts too. Carrying heavy gear in poor conditions is the life of many a medieval soldier and yes, such soldiers did fall out of the line of march and collapse or simply get left behind. But why would you want to do that SV (not check) each hour? Wouldn’t the weaker character signal that not all is well, or the more perceptive character figure that the weaker is going to need help? I look to one SV and then to supplementary information that makes the team pull together, or else fall apart. That’s part of the exploration pillar.

Fatigue and temporary exhaustion

A related mechanism that I’ve used in espionage/social elements is stress from attempting a task under speed or from attempting to outwit a social adversary. I believe it would be possible to harmonize with the above chase and march check/SV but have not fully thought it through.

Under this approach the character attempts the DC, or makes a resisted check for social adversaries. If they win, fine. If they do not but are close, they have the option of “upping the ante” at the cost of temporary exhaustion. So far as I’ve tested, a d6 on top of the original roll has sufficed. But one could look at a d4 for momentary inspiration (like a Bless effect) a d8 for high levels of risk (like a bardic effect) and so on.