I recently discussed the pros and cons of the current 5e exhaustion rules vs. those appearing on ‘One D&D’ playtests, and since then I’ve felt a bit frustrated with both systems.
Is it too much to ask to have an easy to remember system, that affects both movement and spellcasting, is punitive enough to be meaningful, stacks with disadvantage (a pro of the One D&D system I forgot to mention in my earlier post) and doesn’t drag on for an interminable 10 levels?
Having given it some thought… no I don’t think it is! Here, then, are my new Hipster Remix exhaustion rules, currently being playtested in my in-person Barcelona game.
Exhaustion Table: Hipster Remix
|Exhaustion Level||D20 Tests Penalty||Movement Penalty||Spell Slots Lost|
|4||-8||Half - 5 ft.||4|
|5||-10||Half - 10 ft.||5|
The table below should be fairly self-explanatory, but two quick notes:
- The D20 Tests penalty also applies to a spellcaster’s saving throw DC
- The spell slots lost start with your highest available spell slots.
And now here comes the clever part…
In my new house rules, you can expend a hit die to temporarily relieve one level of exhaustion. To do so, you roll the die and you remove a level of exhaustion for a number of rounds equal to the die roll (no modifiers).
We can even name this mechanic “energy surge”, “burst of life”, “powering through” or perhaps “dying wind” (if you want to be cruel!).
Why I am pleased with this solution? Because now DMs can hand out exhaustion more readily, without it being incredibly tedious for players, or the beginning of an inexorable downward spiral. Instead it’s just another tax on their resources… moreover one that nicely ties hit points and exhaustion together. Because now being exhausted is going to make it harder to recover hit points through hit dice.
Now for an example of how it might work in play. Shin Bravestar, a 4th level fighter, has had to journey hard through inclement weather to complete his mission to accompany a priest of Lathander to the Monastery of the Morning Glory. He arrives at the monastery with two levels of exhaustion. When orcs attack at dusk, Shin doesn’t want to have to take a -4 penalty to hit in a crux battle. So he uses two hit dice to offset the exhaustion penalties by ‘Powering Through’. He rolls a 3 and a 6 on two d10. The two rolls are applied simultaneously, so for three rounds he can act as if he has no exhaustion levels, and for rounds 4-6 he can act as if he has only one level of exhaustion. By round 7, his two levels of exhaustion kick back in; and he has two less hit dice for recovering hit points later, or for carrying into the next day (remember PCs only recover half their hit dice on a long rest, so it’s a noteable disadvantage to end the day with less than half your hit dice remaining).
That’s it! That’s how I’m playing exhaustion for now, and I thought it was worth sharing… let me know if you give a try on your table. (I’ve only managed one or two sessions trying it, as during summer it’s always hard to convene my in-person group! But so far so good…).