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One D&D Exhaustion Rules: Pros & Cons vs. 5e

Were I handed the reins to One D&D, fixing Exhaustion would be pretty close to the bottom of my things to do list.

In fact, given how much I like the 5th edition rules, and how they offer experimental DMs a cool tool to play with, it probably wouldn’t have been on the list at all.

Besides, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single DM gripe about them.

Given all that, I was surprised to see a comprehensive makeover of the ‘Exhausted’ condition crop up in the One D&D playtest material released on D&D Beyond.

I was even more surprised when these new mechanics seemed to gain near-universal approval amongst respected D&D influencers, such as Treantmonk and ThinkDM.

Only 10 more levels and I’m dead!

The latest One D&D playtest rules read:


While Exhausted (known in older books as Exhaustion), you experience the following effects:

Levels of Exhaustion. This Condition is cumulative. Each time you receive it, you gain 1 level of exhaustion. You die if your exhaustion level exceeds 10.

d20 Rolls Affected. When you make a d20 Test, you subtract your exhaustion level from the d20 roll.

Spell Save DCs Affected. Subtract your exhaustion level from the Spell save DC of any Spell you cast.

Ending the Condition. Finishing a Long Rest removes 1 of your levels of exhaustion. When your exhaustion level reaches 0, you are no longer Exhausted.

My immediate reaction when reading these new rules was to think… urgh, not lots of fiddly modifiers. Didn’t we all praise 5th edition precisely for getting rid of those? (For the most part replacing them with advantage or disadvantage). I also baulked at the idea of an entire 10 levels of exhaustion – well 11 technically! Dying of being exhausted sounds tediously exhausting in One D&D.

Those weren’t my only concerns. There’s no penalty to your movement speed at any point in the new system, which is kinda fundamental to my perception of what it means to be be exhausted; while a -1 modifier seems entirely trivial, as does gaining any additional level of exhaustion to the one you’re on (compare this with going from 4 to 5 levels of exhaustion in 5e, for example). The whole system is just way less scary than the 5th edition mechanics.

Finally, I’m pretty certain that anyone playing with pen and paper is just simply going to forget to apply these penalties half the time. (Sure, that can happen with the current system, but given how punitive exhaustion is in 5e, DMs and players tend to remember, for example, to apply disadvantage on all skills checks – much more easily than I suspect they will remember applying -1, -2 or -3 on d20 tests across the board).

Proponents of the One D&D playtest material, meanwhile, have mostly argued that the penalties in the new system are much easier to remember (although I find this a bit of a false argument, as if you invest 30 seconds to commit to memory that: 1 level of exhaustion = disadvantage on ability checks, 2 levels = half movement speed and 3 levels = disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws, then you’ve just mastered the 5th edition rules… on the very rare occasion anyone gets to 4 or more levels, then you can look it up).

Other pros for One D&D playtest rules include that they affect spellcasting; while you could also argue, I suppose, that a steady rate of decline across all d20 tests is a cleaner, better system. However, I feel exactly the opposite. One of the main reasons I prefer the old rules is that they feel more organic and ‘real’. Gaining two levels of exhaustion and being so tired you can hardly move is something players ‘feel’, while a mathematical formula that mildly reduces your effectiveness over time just doesn’t feel threatening at all, and won’t affect the way a player thinks or approaches the game in the slightest. They will just behave exactly as they would otherwise, but with a slightly lower chance of achieving whatever they attempt.

Let’s line these up then.

Pros & Cons of One D&D’s Exhausted (vs. 5e)


  • Easier to remember (although old rules not difficult)
  • Affects spellcasting
  • Less punitive (making it easier to hand out)


  • Fiddly modifiers (this shouldn’t be a problem on VTTs however, which D&D is clearly keen to lean into after purchasing D&D Beyond)
  • Doesn’t affect movement
  • Likely to trivialise the condition
  • While the penalties are easier to remember, I feel sure that DMs are more likely to forget to apply them (probably not an issue on VTTs).

For me, the existing rules are clear winners, as I only consider ‘affects spellcasting’ to be a significant pro of the new rules. As such, I might just add a ‘-2 penalty, per level of exhaustion, to your spell DC’ to incorporate the benefits of the new system into my 5e games.

Other Ways to ‘Fix’ Exhaustion

One thing that is not clear yet, is how One D&D proposes to give out exhaustion. Perhaps these minor, gradual penalties hint that more monster abilities will inflict the exhausted condition on players; or perhaps the designers will incorporate a common 5e house rule and hand out a level of exhaustion to anyone who is reduced to 0 hit points, or who fails a death saving throw. If so, the proposed changes would make more sense than they do currently.

Still, I would rather fix this issue using the 5e rules as a base, and I would rather propose inserting a milder first level of exhaustion, than rip up the playbook. Something along the lines of:

1 level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on mental skills checks (Int, Wis or Charisma)

2nd level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on physical skills checks (Str, Dex and Con… including initiative rolls, of course).

3rd level of exhaustion. Half movement speed.

4th level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws.

The main problem I have with exhaustion in my game is that I really want to hand it out more often, especially to players who are reduced to 0 hit points, but low level characters in particular are reduced to 0 hit points all the time, and consequently quickly gain cumulative penalties that render them useless.

Thinking about it, it might be cleaner to cut it this way.

1 level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on skills checks.

2nd level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on saving throws.

3rd level of exhaustion. Half movement speed.

4th level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on attack rolls.

This is easy to remember and protects players a bit more from the debilitating effects of halving one’s movement speed or gaining disadvantage on attack rolls, by pushing these penalties down one level.

Aside from reducing / slowing down the crippling effects accumulated levels of exhaustion, I think the game could also benefit from an easier way to get rid of exhaustion levels. Lesser Restoration feels like it should do this, and one of my DMs already house ruled that it does. I would allow that too.

I would probably also allow someone a Con check to remove a level of exhaustion after a short rest, restricting that mode of recovery to once a day, and only on the condition they have over half their hit points at the end of said rest.

I am also toying with introducing a new pre-Exhaustion mechanic called ‘Fatigued’. Being fatigued wouldn’t do anything in itself, but if you get an additional level of fatigue you get a level of exhaustion. The idea came to me in a recent wilderness adventure I ran… I wanted my players to feel the dangers of pushing their bodies hard in a difficult terrain, without dropping exhaustion penalties on them straight away. A new mechanic like Fatigue would enable players to understand their bodies are being tested and that they are on the edge of a mechanical penalty, without sticking them directly on the downward spiral, without warning.

Potentially, one could be Fatigued, instead of Exhausted, when falling to zero hit points (effectively giving them half a level of exhaustion, instead of a full one). Or maybe you could be Fatigued whenever you find yourself on less than half hit points (if you want to be more gritty), and then include a few more common ways you might get it… such as when suffering a critical hit. Meanwhile, players might have to roll a Con save to avoid Fatigue after a full day’s travel, or sleeping when exposed to the elements.

Where Do You Stand?

Let me know in the comments where you stand on the One D&D vs. 5e exhaustion mechanics and any pros and cons I forgot about!


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  1. Daniel

    Wow. This is the first time I have seen someone talk positively about current 5e exhaustion rules. No one gripes about them because no one ever uses them.

    Unless someone is playing a bezerker, and then they are usually house rules away.

  2. Justin

    Let’s see…

    * I use exhaustion rules, including as a punishment for the healing word yo-yo. I play in another game where the DM does the same, and also has us battling environmental effects that can cause up to 2 exh in a day in extreme cases.
    * I still find them hard to remember, and they do risk being too punishing – but both my groups have adjusted combat tactics around them, and haven’t encountered the claimed ‘death spiral’ as a result.
    * I allow Lesser Restoration to remove them, and had 2 PCs capable of casting the spell in my last game, so that became a common next-day refresher
    * My first reaction to the new playtest rules was “I like the simple elegance of these”
    * I agree with Duncan that they do violate one of the core design principles of D&D though, which is to reduce/remove floating modifiers. I haven’t tried them out yet, so can’t comment on how well remembered they would be in practice.
    * I also agree that the new downslope might be too slow, and 10 levels of exhaustion = death will only work if the plan is to hand exhaustion out like candy. I guess we have to see what they plan there.
    * I also agree that not impacting on movement speed was a mistake, and have seen others suggest -5 movement per level of exhaustion.
    * I like your revised ‘original’ exhaustion scale, which seems more elegant and therefore easier to remember than RAW.
    * I think a new 1st exhaustion level that is less punishing than ‘disadvantage on all skill checks’ (and then push the others back one) would remove half the issues with RAW

    • Derek

      *I also agree that the new downslope might be too slow, and 10 levels of exhaustion = death will only work if the plan is to hand exhaustion out like candy. I guess we have to see what they plan there.

      I was thinking have players roll 1d4 when they take a level, or 1d6 CON. The dice roll would add some tensions, tick to 10 faster and if we use CON to mitigate it makes it more useful as a stat. Also the dice roll can make the GM seem less the bad guy when he is taking away player abilities, which might incline more GM to use it. Subtracting numbers w/o having to remember what happens at each level can be very useful for a GM to enforce at the table even if it doesnt feel as realistic.

    • duncan

      Hi Justin

      Thanks for the comment, yes, seems like we play Exhaustion more or less the same way and have the same concerns going forward.

      The -5 feet per level is a good idea, and were I to use the One D&D rules as a base for redoing the mechanics, I would say:

      Each level of exhaustion = -2 on all tests and -5 on movement

      You die on 6 levels of exhaustion.

      I think that’s playable, easy to remember, and addresses some of my concerns (exhaustion becoming trivial, with far too many levels).

      Thinking this over has made me aware of another minor advantage of One D&D over the 5e rules, and that is negative modifiers can work in tandem with disadvantage. Given that disadvantage doesn’t officially stack in 5e (it probably should!), being exhausted and then shooting at range etc wouldn’t be any different to just shooting at range. Not a huge deal, but perhaps worth noting.


      • Rick Coen

        We got tired of Advantage (and Disadvantage) not stacking for attack rolls, so we modded that. There was never incentive to use spells (Faerie Fire) or abilities when simple Flanking worked. And never a reason for baddies with Pack Tactics to use… tactics. Add up ADs and subtract DISADs. From the result, whether positive or negative, the first point works as normal; each additional point adds/subtracts 2 from the roll’s total. This is the general rule, and applies to attacks, saves, and skills. There is a “1.5” point for damaging attacks, though – the second point gives ADV or DISADV on the damage roll, then the *third* point and up starts giving +/-2.

        Example 1: Wolves (pack Tactics) flanking a foe they’ve knocked prone = 3 ADV = ADV + “damage advantage” + 2 to hit.

        Example 2: Bard is Exhausted (5e style), and Poisoned; his skill checks are at DISAD *and* -2 besides.

        Example 3: Same severely (4 levels) exhausted poisoned bard is shooting at a prone target at long range (4 DISADV), which the druid has faerie fire’d, and that can’t see the bard: 2 final levels of DISAD, so his shot has DISAD, and will inflict reduced (roll twice, take worse) damage if it even hits.

        • duncan

          Cool, might trial that – damage advantage feels like a great solution.

          Meanwhile, I know Dungeon Coach does advantage, then +2, then +5 (like cover works, using 5e’s most common modifiers).

          One of my DMs just stacks them up, and it’s also fine… albeit you’re pretty much guaranteed to succeed / fail when you get to double of either.

          • Rick Coen

            So far, it’s playing well. The druid has started using Faerie Fire to help the warriors land harder hits, and the PCs are properly terrified (instead of just “concerned”) about any foe that has Pack Tactics. Especially the goblins’ Dire Wolves, with that “knock prone” feature stacking up on it!

            And it makes abilities giving advantage on skills and saves appropriately powerful… and able to achieve (when stacked) results that are out of reach (like being +4 picking a DC 25 lock… with double-advantage, you just might!).

      • Rick Coen

        Also, to your point, RAW, yes, now Exhaustion stacks with Disadvantage (and Advantage. Which I think is great… and also – matching another comment of yours – is a step away from 5e’s normal KISS policy. At the end of a gruelling day fighting orcs, Legolas still has Advantage [because Legolas!] to shoot orcs, but he’s still [hypothetically] -3 to hit because of exhaustion…

        -2 on everything, and -5′ movement, with only 5 levels of Exhaustion… that’s harsh and crippling fast. Needs playtesting. My gut tells me you’re probably right, though… unless *everything* starts causing Exhaustion, 10 levels and “just a -1” isn’t enough.

  3. Highland Troll

    I like that we now have a mechanic that can represent physical trauma, that doesn’t fully heal just because you got a good night’s sleep.

    • duncan

      Yes, I love the Exhaustion concept… but we’ve had this since 2014, no? Or did I misunderstand you?

      • Highland Troll

        No, I just didn’t explain myself very well. My table uses D&D Beyond, but we’re kinda stuck with the coding so it’s impossible to house-rule rest, lingering injuries, etc. The new Exhaustion could represent ongoing wounds, as opposed to hp which I conceive of as stamina or “will to go on” (since it refreshes each sleep).

        • duncan

          Yes, I think a more accurate way of describing Hit Points would be ‘Fighting Endurance’, and there’s definitely space for Exhaustion to widen into a broader category, linked to being wounded as well. This ties in with how many people use it already anyway (for being reduced to 0 hp), and how Rick and I were suggesting using it (for being hit by a crit) going forwards.

          I was just searching for a new potential word for Exhaustion to maybe sync better with the notion of being wounded, as well as exhausted, but without success (levels of ‘Impairment’ or ‘Devitalization’ are not really doing it for me!).

          However, I don’t think there’s anything stopping the old system doing this either.

          • Derek

            I was thinking about this and just thought about not using Exhaustion in combat and instead rely on HP as you suggest. Best example I can think of is Clarissa Mao in The Expanse can kick her adrenal glans into over drive in combat, but when it wears off she near or is unconscious. This can can help keep combat moving and just use the Exhaustion for Skill checks during RP story-time, and maybe hinder the Recovery HitDie or Spell/Ability resets during rests in someway, this should indirectly affect future combat.

    • Rick Coen

      Yes, Exhaustion sticks around at least 1 day per level. IMC, it’s CON save DC 8 to get rid of with a Long Rest [plus other house rules], so even one level can stick with you for several days.

  4. Rick Coen

    I already added “-5′ movement per 2 levels of Exhaustion, round up” to the OneD&D idea. (i.e. 1 level = -5′, 3 levels = -10′) And, like Justin, I felt that this rule style made it more elegant and easier to remember. As a DM, I also do “exhaustion at 0hp”; as of level 8, the party has had maybe three tough fights where multiple characters ended the fight with 3 or even 4 levels of exhaustion. Usually only 1.

    I also make sure to track Forced March rolls, with failures inflicting Exhaustion. Everything is always *just* a little bit farther than they can make it in an 8-hour day… especially if they have a battle and want to Short rest afterwards. And the PC with the ex-marine background really appreciates his benefit of not rolling on Forced Marches!

    In practice what happens, though, is the skill-monkey characters tend to be the ones who are always suffering from Exhaustion and impaired skills. (As they tend to have fewer HP, and worse CON saves.) Which means the Bard is always feeling underwhelmed and useless, and frequently the intrigue-focused Warlock does as well. I don’t think that’s good for my game. Whereas being only -1 or -2 on the Expertise skills is *almost* negligible.

    (I also don’t remove Exhaustion automatically, though. A Long Rest gives a DC 8 Con Save to remove one level; DC 12 if you have any Wounds (inflicted from critical hits and massive HP loss). I do allow you to remove 1 level on a Short Rest – same save DC – *if and only if* you have only 1 level. [That’s a sop for the Berserker, but applies to everyone.]

    I do like your idea of a Fatigue condition, as a sort of “level 0” or “level 1/2” of Exhaustion. It should have some impairment – maybe losing that first 5′ of movement? – so it is still to be avoided. Maybe I could do away with my Wound / Lingering Damage system, too, and fold it into a Fatigue + modified 1D&D exhaustion chart?

    Here’s a Brainstorm:
    * Take a Crit, lose 25%+ of HP in a single blow, or hit 0, take a Fatigue.
    * Lesser Restoration will remove 1 Fatigue.
    * At the end of a fight, after the adrenaline surge is over, any Fatigue after the first is converted to Exhaustion Levels.
    * Every 2 Exhaustion levels (rounded up) impairs movement by 5′
    * Every Exhaustion level reduces MAX HP by 5. [Or maybe just prevents you from healing those 5 HP, to avoid triggering Massive Damage checks sooner.]
    * Fatigue imposes -5′ move speed, and removes your Reaction.
    * 1D&D: every Exhaustion Level is -1 to everything (attacks, saves, skills, and spell DCs).

    So getting knocked down in a fight is impairing – slower, and lose your Reaction – and worth removing (with Lesser Restoration). It encourages a Short Rest after a hard battle (to remove the Fatigue). And Exhaustion still has “teeth”, because you lose speed and full healing, as well as cumulative penalties on your actions?

    • duncan

      Hi Rick, yes, it’s getting a bit crunchy but your logic stands up if you’re willing to do the bookkeeping during combats. One issue: I like the idea of reduction of max. HP, to go with the other penalties, but that would make exhaustion disproportionately tough on low level characters, so not sure it can really be done like that. Maybe a reduction of HP equal to your proficiency bonus, per level of exhaustion… but then we are making things even crunchier.

      In an ideal world, I’d like to take away some spell slots from exhausted spellcasters, but not really doable in any easy to remember way.

      Btw, if you’re requiring successful con saves to remove Exhaustion at the end of the long rest, aren’t your players getting lumbered with exhaustion for annoyingly long?

      • Rick Coen

        Well, that’s where playtesting is showing some “rich stay rich, and poor get poor-er” results, yes. The CON 12 Warlock and Bard tend (also, unluckiest players when it comes to rolling dice!) to stay Exhausted for a few days. The Fighter rarely gets exhaustion (essentially immune to Forced March, high HP, proficient in CON saves), and quickly recovers from it. [The rogue, sneaky sneaky, almost never gets *hit*, and pretty much never gains Exhaustion.]

        And yes, most of my ideas seem to make a lot of sense, and lead to the next one that makes sense… and then you have lots of little modifiers and situations that aren’t playable without a computer to track them all. My curse! 🙂

        As for lowering max HP… since I use a mechanic of “how injured is the target” (no hp for PCs or monsters, just 75%/50%/25%/10%), changing the “MAX HP” value is a hassle; have to recalc stuff. Ick. Which is why I was thinking “can’t *heal* the last few points”. If you’re already at max HP, but get exhausted from, say, a Forced March, you haven’t lost anything yet… until you take that first hit, and just can’t quite recover from it. And as for the impact on lower level characters… well, yeah, it adds more “suck” to the 1st level experience. I don’t have a great answer for that. The fast answer is “they need to be really careful – adventuring is lethal, that’s why more people don’t do it.” But that isn’t fun to play (usually). So maybe exhaustion only impairs – thinking off the cuff here – HP over 20? The fighter starts feeling the pinch (maybe) by 2nd or 3rd level, while the wizard might not feel that particular pinch until 4th. [Interestingly, the characters most likely to recover from exhaustion – i.e. high CON – breach the “newbie benchmark” soonest!] Or just call it “not until you hit 3rd”, and not a fixed number. [I know some DMs that don’t allow Critical Hits on PCs until 3rd, for example.]

        Last thought — I love this topic, a whole side-mechanic that can tie into everything! — about your spell slot comment. Simply lose a level of (ok ok… a single spell slot) of spellcasting per level of exhaustion. You can tie it to “your maximum” or “your weakest”, or objectively tie it to “1st” or “9th” level. Examples to follow:

        Option 1: Exhaustion Impacts Your Weakest Spells. (tiny to tiny)
        Bromnum the 5th level dwarf cleric has 1 level of exhaustion. He loses and cannot regain one of his 1st level spell slots while exhausted. If he gains another level of exhaustion, he loses *another* 1st level spell slot; if he has no more, he starts to lose 2nd level slots, and so on.

        Option 2: Exhaustion Impacts Your Strongest Spells. (need a clear mind for your biggest powers)
        Jacquot the 5th level human bard has 1 level of exhaustion. He no longer has a clear enough mind to truly master his 3rd level spells, and loses one 3rd level slot.

        Option 3: Exhaustion Steadily Impairs Casters
        Independent of the caster, each level of exhaustion removes one spell slot of the same level. Bromnum has 2 levels of exhaustion? He has lost a 1st and a 2nd level slot. [This is subtly different from Option 1; a 2nd level caster with 4 levels of exhaustion has only lost a single 1st level slot in this Option, because he *has* no higher level slots to lose.]

        Option 4: Exhaustion Barely Impairs Casters… until it does
        Same as Option 3, but in reverse. Bromnum is a 5th level cleric… he loses *no* spell slots until he has 6 levels of exhaustion (first is a 9th level slot, second is an 8th level slot, etc…)… but he loses a 3rd level slot at that point. Or, harsher, just plain loses the ability to cast *any* of that level or higher!! Shut down the archmage by imposing a level of Exhaustion, taking away all his 9th level slots!

        Just spitballing….

        • Rick Coen

          Just had another couple thoughts regarding spellcasters…

          What if having someone break your concentration inflicted a level of Fatigue/Exhaustion? (the magic snapping back, or causing feedback)

          What if casting spells of a certain power level inflicted a level (or more) of Fatigue/Exhaustion? Yeah, the spellcasters can bend time and space while the fighter swings his stick a little harder… but that Ice Storm will take him a day to recover from, and maybe that Foresight spell leaves him drained for a couple days?

  5. Nice analysis and divergence in opinion is healthy. Personally, I like the new exhaustion rules but I acknowledge a bias as we’ve been playing something similar for a couple of years now, since seeing it on a forum. Similar to the sensible suggestions above, we apply -5′ movement per level and you gain exhaustion for dropping to 0 or failing a death save (or from overexertion – our equivalent of plot armor/hero points/inspiration). Our version also had -1 to AC and damage rolls but I can see why that’s less popular. What I will say though is that 10 levels of exhaustion would be brutal and we had kept death at 6. Each level of exhaustion is nearly the equivalent of losing 2 in every one of your ability stats, so the downslope doesn’t feel slow (although acknowledging that our scale was a little more punishing).

    • duncan

      Yes, I am not militantly against the new system, and if you did add the movement penalty I think it’s actually pretty good… esp. on a VTT that might do the calculations for you! Thanks for sharing!

  6. As DM I’ve tried lots of different Exhaustion schemes over the last 5 years. In the end I’ve converged to the point of view that Exhausted should simply be a condition (non-scalar). Here’s my home rule at the moment:

    Exhausted. You get disadvantage on d20 rolls and your speed is halved.

    I played yesterday with the latest 10 point scale from playtest, and the rogue forgot they had 2 points of exhaustion because they had been knocked to 0 twice. I forgot too. Too many bonuses.

    Looking forward into the OneD&D era – the play test has suggested the “Slowed” condition too (I think this has more utility than the fatigued condition). And, if a “Dazed” condition was added (lesser stun) such that “Your d20 Tests are at Disadvantage”. …then Exhausted could simply lean on those conditions:

    Exhausted. You are Dazed and Slowed. After you finish a long rest you can make a DC 10 Constitution ability check. If successful the condition is removed.

    Home rules in support of this:
    1. Greater Restoration – remove the Exhausted condition from the target.
    2. Lesser Restoration – spell caster can make a spell casting ability check (vs DC 10) to remove the Exhausted condition for the target.

    [Aside] Unpopular Opinion: ADV and DIS are now way too common. This needs to be paired back from all the features as its become so overloaded.

    • duncan

      Hi PK

      Ok interesting concept that Exhaustion could be a flat condition. That would presumably mean you couldn’t die of it though. So no longer useful for extreme cold or heat etc? Or how would you use it in a exposure / survival situation…?

      Btw. there is a new Dazed condition, in the latest One D&D playtest…. it reads:

      While Dazed, you experience the following effect:
      Limited Activity. You can Move or take one Action on your turn, not both. You also can’t take a Bonus Action or a Reaction.

      Meanwhile latest Slowed reads

      While Slowed, you experience the following effects:
      Limited Movement. You must spend 1 extra foot of movement for every foot you move using your Speed.
      Attacks Affected. Attack Rolls against you have Advantage.
      Dexterity Saves Affected. You have Disadvantage on Dexterity Saving Throws.

      • PK

        Hi Duncan,

        I ran the winter wonderland cartoon of RIME of the FROSTMAIDEN was. A complete disappointment. In 10 minutes my players solved the “cold problem” with a shopping trip – Winter Clothing and sled with firewood. And after 5th it was simply Leomund’s Tiny Hut with Long Rests to get rid of Exhaustion. This was very dull.

        When I switched to cold damage – things picked up.
        Winter Clothing. DC 15 CON save for half, every 6 Hours, against 10 hit points of cold damage.
        Without Winter Clothing: 10 cold damage every hour.
        Resistance helps reduce the damage but not prevent it.
        * With OneD&D conditions I would also now add the Slowed and Dazed. (Aka Exhaustion) if you take more than your CON in cold damage.

        Cold Damage also turned out to be better for the players too, they began to acknowledge the environmental threat and travel time.
        The Tiny Hut problem vanished – you have to leave the hut to go somewhere else.

        The real can of worms here is that the exploration pillar of 5e is the skill system – IMO there are no good 5e rules for sandbox play! Magic stuffs it up at every turn – shape water, goodberry, tiny hut.


        • Rick Coen

          PK… great switch up! The damage mechanic makes the weather a significant threat, even with precautions. Note that it also makes the weather straight-up *deadly*… this is polar weather, with the average human (5-6hp) dying of hypothermia in an hour, and a healthy/robust guardsman (11hp) maybe lasting two. Checking the NWS Wind Chill chart, 0 degrees with a 20mph breeze gives you frostbite in 30 minutes. Alaska get down to -30 degF, where even a 10mph gives you frostbite in 10 minutes. Antarctica, on the other hand, averages -76degF, which is frostbite in 5 minutes. Hypothermia can (varies by body type) kill you in about 3-5 times this.

          So cold in Michigan will kill you in about 3 hours; Alaska in about an hour, and Antarctica in “30 minutes or less, or your next death is free!” How cold should RIME OF THE FROSTMAIDEN be?

          • PK

            Hi Duncan,

            I live in the mild subtropics of Australia – so am not very familiar with Snow and Cold. I just chose easy to remember numbers to set a winter threat level.
            I found it worked well at my table because it forced choices on the players. If they did Tiny Hut for bad weather to pass, their ax-beak mounts would freeze. And then they would be at snow-shoe pace. Or do they burn through healing spells and push through their travel. The ranger did build a snow holes for the sled dogs, and I allowed the Druid to upcast Shape Water to 3rd level for an 8 hour igloo.

            For bad weather: the only thing that I had to change was the *time*. Blizzard was half the time between tests, good weather double the time. Snow holes and igloos doubled the time between tests, etc.
            I did override temporary hit points with weather tests too. You just can’t use short lived heroic courage to boost against something so persistent.

            You’d probably draft a much better set of rules for cold weather than me being a local to the snow and all. If you do, would be great to see.
            I haven’t used this hack for punishing hot climate threats, so can’t comment on if it suits that.

      • PK

        Hi Duncan,

        Sorry – forgot to address the last concern of you comment – can’t die with my exhaustion home rule. This is true. But I have never had a character die, or get higher than 3 levels of Exhaustion with current RAW.

        If environmental damage isn’t appropriate, I would use the Shadow’s strength drain mechanic – but against Constitution. i.e. Your CON ability is reduced by 1d4. If it goes to 0 you die. This reduction lasts until the target finishes a long rest and make a CON save vs DC 10.

  7. Pedro

    I agree with your concerns about “fiddly modifiers.” If it were up to me, I would place half movement last and give monsters advantage on saving throws against spell casters with 3 levels of exhaustion.

    1 level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on skill checks.

    2nd level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on saving throws.

    3rd level of exhaustion. Disadvantage on attack rolls. Monsters have advantage on saving throws against your spells.

    4th level of exhaustion. Half movement speed.

    • duncan

      Hi Pedro, I would be happy with that.

      Although I am beginning to wonder if the disadv. on saving throws starts a death spiral a little too quickly, esp. in situations where PCs are saving against extreme heat or cold, so on second thoughts I might have to drop that down to level 4…

  8. MR

    I love the One DnD proposed rules way more than the current, because of the very reasons you’ve outlined as a negative.

    Current rules are too harsh and so giving and playing around exhaustion feel way too punishing. Even at level one, you heavily restrict skill checks, meaning all FUN interactions coming from attempting neat and flavorful uses of skills are disincentivized right out of the gate

    By making it a sliding scale, you can add a few levels of exhausting, and put in more ways to add / remove exhausting, creating a much more useable mechanic, and one that doesnt flatly just inhibit characters from attempting fun inside the game.

    The new mechanic gives room for growth and expansion, while the old mechanic is just too punishing to use, except in the situations where you want to stifle the characters, therefore we only see that mechanic on spells and effects that are meant to impact the game that hard.

    The new mechanics will see much much more interplay with exhaustion.

  9. Avenging Blowfish

    No one complains about regular 5E exhaustion because they’re so punitive that no one actually uses them except in extreme cases.

    The only “Con” I see about the OneDnD proposed exhaustion rules is that it doesn’t affect movement speed, but it can easily be fixed with either half movement after 5 levels of exhaustion or maybe -5 feet of movement for every 2 levels.

    I think you underrate the idea that DMs can hand out exhaustion more easily under the new system. In situations where a character might get 1 level of exhaustion a DM can potentially give out 2-3 levels of exhaustion. One of the common complaints about 5E is how a long rest magically restores everyone to full. When a DM can hand out 5-6 levels of exhaustion after a grueling journey or battle where someone gets a level of exhaustion every time they get reduced to 0 HP, it takes days for that character to be at full strength again, as it should.

    • Rick Coen

      Last night in my game, the party was caught unprepared for the year’s first snow. (They had plenty of warning, but weren’t really paying attention.) One character had cold weather gear – ironically, also the PC who had high CON, Athlete feat, and soldier background (ignore Forced Marches). The bard and warlock both failed their saves against the cold and gained a level of Exhaustion. According to the Icewind Dale rules, that would have been another save every hour for the 6 remaining hours to get to the nearby town. I didn’t require it – it was only 28 degrees, light wind, not “Extreme Cold” – but the warlock went ahead and rolled the six CON saves. He failed four of them – critical fail one – and because of the accumulated penalties of 5 levels of exhaustion, he failed the last one as well.

      Under the 2104 core rules, he would have died (6 levels of exhaustion). Under the OneDD rules, with 10 levels, he made it to town with a whopping -6 to all rolls. Crippled with frostbite and exhaustion, but alive. Either way, 6 days of rest required to fully recover from the bitter cold. Knowing we were using the new 10-level Exhaustion system, this was shocking but acceptable. Using the old rules – which we started the campaign with – losing a character suddenly to the environment… oof!

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