Moving parts of 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons are designed for heroic fantasy gaming. Mid-level characters are mighty heroes, slayers of dragons, and ready to take on any danger. Their resilience makes them brave, dangerous and deadly threats, with the resources to overcome any obstacle.Usually these are planned adventure arcs. Here's a bad guy. Here's his evil forces. Here's a variety of deadly environments, ripe for heroic activity.
I don't have bad guys. I don't have expectations about what will happen when the game starts. I'm here to play a game to find out what happens. The core cycle of play for 5th edition doesn't match that style.
What changes do I make to my game so that I can play 5th edition in the classic style?
5th Edition to Classic/OSR style play
- Give 1/100th the experience for killing monsters. Give 1 experience per gold piece value of treasure collected.
I also recommend against using the milestone system, because this either presumes an outcome or distances player skill from advancement. They should advance comparable with their skill at securing treasure and power, commensurate with the risks they take. They should not advance simply by reaching numerical thresholds.
However, granting experience for surviving your first in-game month, witnessing a death, locating a new feature, exploring a new area, or other tasks that create a sense of adventure or exploration is encouraged, as long as these rewards are delineated ahead of the game and accessible to the players.
- Change long rests to take a week and short rests to take 8 hours
- Eliminate Death Saves
- Give Inspiration Strictly for Creative Play
- Recalibrate Encumbrance & Light
- Consider the Ability Check Proficiency variant rule on page 263 of the 5th edition Dungeons Masters Guide
- Remove individual initiative checks and always consider morale
- Finally, understand that unlike low level games that cap at the lord stage, 5th edition allows characters to consider growing in power far beyond the first 9 levels, making them powerful in a similar way that demigods are powerful.