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Alternate Rule Modules

Who is this document for?


This document is intended for D&D 5e players who think
their characters no longer have the level of customization that
they came to expect from a D20 game. The modules in this
document add more crunch to 5e for groups who desire
it.

by Chris Scalabrini

Summary of Modules
Alternate Proficiency and Feats
If you want to add a further level of specialization in your
campaign. Inspired by earlier editions of Dungeons &
Dragons.

What to Expect

Alternate Exhaustion

Presented in this document are a number of alternative


rulesets to the base D&D 5e game. In addition, I present my
rationale and design goals, allowing you to tweak the
mechanics as you see fit if you disagree with my conclusions
or motivations. Each new rule module is standalone, which
allows DMs to pick and choose mechanics to suit the tone of
the campaign they wish to run.

If you want to make Exhaustion great (again). Reward players


with higher Constitution with a greater level of survivability.
Included are additional suggestions for when to use
Exhaustion.

Compatibility
Each additional rule module was designed to be as fully
compatible with the base game as possible. Any module that
replaces a mechanic from the base game is documented as
doing so. Some modules have interactions with other
modules.

Alternate Carrying Capacity


If you'd like your campaign to require careful curation of gear
and supplies. Inspired by games like Darkest Dungeon.
Included are 2 variants: Items on Hand vs Items Carried.

Alternate Backgrounds
If you find backgrounds as-written underwhelming or
restrictive. Inspired by Burning Wheel and earlier editions of
Dungeons & Dragons. Included are additional suggestions to
provide players with gameplay or story benefits.

Alternate Inspiration
If you find your table forgetting that Inspiration even exists as
a mechanic. Inspired by RPGs with player currencies such as
Savage Worlds and Burning Wheel.

Alternate Attunement
If you want to make Magic Items a bigger part of your
campaign. Inspired by earlier editions of Dungeons &
Dragons.

Alternate Maneuvers
If you want yet another set of grappling rules. Inspired by
Pathfinder.

Alternate Proficiency and Feats


Variant Mechanic: Mastery Bonus

Any time the base game references your


Proficiency Bonus, instead refer to your Mastery
Bonus for the roll in question. For example, if you
are a Novice in Strength Saving Throws, when
making a Strength Saving throw, you would roll the
Novice bonus for your level + your Strength
modifier.
Any time your class would grant you Proficiency
in a weapon, skill, saving throw, or item, you are
instead Proficient in it. In isolation, this provides no
mechanical difference from the base game.
Any time your class would grant you Expertise in
a weapon, skill, saving throw, or item (as in the
Rogue and Bard class benefit), you are instead
Expert in it. In isolation, this provides almost no
mechanical difference from the base game.
Binary proficiencies, such as languages, are
unaffected. For any effect that requires proficiency,
you are considered to have proficiency if you have
a positive Mastery Bonus.
If an effect instructs the player to increase their
Mastery for a specific effect, a Novice becomes
Proficient, Proficient becomes Adept, Adept
becomes Expert. There is no bonus above Expert.
This system also replaces Feats as written in the
Player's Handbook. The two are incompatible.

Design Goals
Provide a consistent and predictable mechanical
advantages in increasingly narrow and specialized areas
of focus.
Bring back the ability to specialize from earlier editions,
while preventing the "+2 spam" that it was known for.

Mastery Bonus
Level

Novice

Proficient

Adept

Expert

Feats

1st

+1

+2

+3

+3

1st

2nd

+1

+2

+3

+3

3rd

+1

+2

+3

+4

2nd

4th

+1

+2

+4

+4

5th

+1

+3

+4

+5

3rd

6th

+1

+3

+4

+5

7th

+1

+3

+5

+6

4th

8th

+1

+3

+5

+6

9th

+2

+4

+5

+7

5th

10th

+2

+4

+6

+7

11th

+2

+4

+6

+8

6th

12th

+2

+4

+6

+8

13th

+2

+5

+7

+9

7th

14th

+2

+5

+7

+9

15th

+2

+5

+7

+10

8th

16th

+2

+5

+8

+10

17th

+3

+6

+8

+11

9th

18th

+3

+6

+8

+11

19th

+3

+6

+9

+12

10th

20th

+3

+6

+9

+12

Rationale

Custom Feats

One of the biggest complaints I hear of 5th edition is that it is


homogeneous. Not as bad as 4th edition where every class
felt identical despite huge numbers of options, but where
each member of the same class seems more or less identical.
Multiple progression tracks and finer granularity of feats
gives characters the ability to specialize in specific areas by
giving them more choices to make over their career.

Players may want to use feats from the PHB, or may want to
reference feats from an earlier edition of D&D or another
similar game. DMs are advised to use the following
guidelines for designing feats:

Math
At first glance, it may seem the numbers are a bit
overpowered, and to be sure, this will increase character
power. However, every monster in the Monster Manual
follows the exact same formula for deriving combat statistics.
By subtracting the "Proficient" bonus for the monster's CR
(for example, a CR 5 monster has a +3), and adding a
different bonus depending on the monster's skill, you can
balance the player character's advantage. This also provides a
powerful hook for customizing monsters, since each of the
otherwise identical monsters may be better at a different one
of their abilities.

One Alternate Feat should be between a third and half as


powerful as a PHB Feat. Players gain twice as many of
these feats and ability score improvements, after all.
Alternate Feats should only increase Mastery one stage at
a time and only for specific situations.
Alternate Feats should not be class specific, though they
can be mechanic-specific (such as referencing specific
spell schools).
Alternate Feats can form a "feat tree", with each additional
feat further improving the same mechanic, rewarding
investment and focus in a specific area.
Feats can have pre-requisites, which can be other feats,
being of a particular character level, having a certain level
of mastery in something (such as a skill), ability scores, or
common class mechanics, such as spell casting or extra
attacks.

Feat Ideas
General Feats
Academic

When performing an ability check involving recalling


information previously learned, you may increase your
Mastery one stage.

Actor

Prerequisite: Charisma 13 You have advantage on ability


checks for trying to pass yourself off as a different person.

Acrobatic

When performing an ability check involving balance or


graceful movement, you may increase your Mastery one
stage.

Alert

You have Novice level mastery on Initiative rolls. In addition,


you can't be surprised while you are conscious.

Animal Affinity

When performing an ability check involving taming,


understanding, tracking, or communicating with animals, you
may increase your Mastery one stage.

Athletic

When performing an ability check involving might, fitness, or


physical power, you may increase your Mastery one stage.

Aware

Prerequisite: Alert
You have Proficient level mastery on Initiative rolls. In
addition, other creatures don't gain advantage on attack rolls
against you as a result of being hidden from you.

Durable

When you roll a Hit Die to regain hit points, the minimum
number of hit points you regain from the roll equals twice
your Constitution modifier (minimum 2).

Endurance

You have advantage on Constitution saving throws to resist


the effects of extended physical exertion, hot and cold
environments, and suffocation.

Fleet

Your speed increases by 10 feet.

Gumshoe

When performing an ability check involving deducing


information through logical conclusions, you may increase
your Mastery one stage.

Heavily Armored

Prerequisite: Proficient with Medium Armor You gain


Proficiency with Medium Armor.

Heavy Armor Training

Prerequisite: Proficient with Heavy Armor While you are


wearing heavy armor, non-magical piercing, bludgeoning, and
slashing damage is reduced by 3.

Impersonator

Prerequisite: Charisma 13 You can mimic the speech of


another person or the sounds of animals. You must have
heard the person speaking or the animal sounds for at least 1
minute. A successful Insight check contested by your
Deception check allows a listener to determine the effect is
faked.

Cosmopolitan

Lightly Armored

Dabbler

Linguist

You gain proficiency in 2 languages of your choice.


You may gain Novice mastery in 3 skills.

Deceitful

When performing an ability check involving lying or


disguises, you may increase your Mastery one stage.

Deft Hands

When performing an ability check involving careful manual


dexterity, you may increase your Mastery one stage.

You gain Proficiency with Light Armor.


Prerequisite: Proficient in 4 languages You can create written
ciphers. They may only be deciphered if you teach them, if
they succeed on an Intelligence check (equal to your
Proficient bonus + your Intelligence score), or with magic.

Lip Reader

If you can see a creature's mouth while it is speaking a


language you understand, you can interpret what it is saying
by reading the movements of its mouth.

Dungeon Adept

Medium Armor Mobility

Dungeon Expert

Medium Armor Training

You have advantage on checks made to detect the presence of


secret doors. You can search for traps while traveling at a
normal pace.
You have advantage on saving throws to avoid or resist traps.
You have resistance to damage dealt by traps.

Prerequisite: Proficient with Medium Armor Your maximum


Dexterity bonus, when wearing Medium armor, is raised from
2 to 3.
Prerequisite: Proficient with Medium Armor Your maximum
Dexterity bonus, when wearing Medium armor, is raised from
2 to 3.

Feat Ideas (continued)


General Feats (continued)
Mobile

When you use the Dash action, difficult terrain doesn't cost
you extra movement during that turn.

Moderately Armored

Prerequisite: Proficient with Light Armor You gain


Proficiency with Medium Armor.

Observant

Prerequisite: Wisdom 13 When calculating your passive


Perception or Investigation values, you may increase your
Mastery by 2 stages.

Orienteer

You always know which way is north, and you always know
how many hours until the next sunrise or sunset.

Perceptive

You may increase your mastery on ability checks involving


perceiving situations or emotions and finding information.

Persuasive

You may increase your mastery on ability checks involving


convincing others overtly.

Practiced

You may gain Proficient mastery in 2 skills for which you


have Novice mastery.

Prodigy

You may increase your mastery on ability checks involving


performances or crafting.

Resilient

Choose an ability score. Either gain Novice mastery or


increase your mastery for saving throws for that ability score.

Self-Sufficient

You may increase your mastery on ability checks involving


wilderness survival and health.

Shield Proficiency

You gain Proficient mastery with Shields.

Shine Job

Dim light doesn't impose disadvantage on your ability checks


relying on sight

Skilled

You may gain Adept mastery in 1 skill for which you have
Proficient mastery.

Skulker

Prerequisite: Dexterity 13 You may try to hide when you are


only lightly obscured from the creature from which you are
hiding.

Stealthy

You may increase your mastery on ability checks involving


hiding and escaping.

Tough

Your hit point maximum increases by an amount equal to


your character level when you gain this feat. Whenever you
gain a level thereafter, you gain an additional hit point.

Tougher

Prerequisite: Tough
Your hit point maximum increases by an amount equal to
your character level when you gain this feat. Whenever you
gain a level thereafter, you gain an additional hit point.

Feat Ideas (continued)


Combat Feats

Defensive Duelist

Prerequisite: Precise Shot, Dexterity 17


Your ranged weapon attacks ignore half cover and threequarters cover.

Prerequisite: Dexterity 13
When you are wielding a finesse weapon with which you are
proficient and another creature hits you with a melee attack,
you can use your reaction to add your Novice bonus to your
AC for that attack, potentially causing the attack to miss you.

Bodyguard

Double-Slice

When a creature within 5 feet of you makes an attack against


a target other than you (and that target doesn't have this feat),
you can use your reaction to make a melee weapona ttack
against the attacking creature.

Prerequisite: Two-Weapon Focus


When making attacks with your off-hand weapon with a
bonus action, you may add your ability score modifier to the
damage.

Brawler

Dual Parry

Accurate Shot

You become Proficient with unarmed strikes and improvised


weapons. Your unarmed strikes do 1d4 bludgeoning damage.

Bulwark

Prerequisite: Dual Wield


You gain a +1 bonus to your AC while you are wielding a
separate melee weapon in each hand.

Prerequisite: Shield Brace


If you aren't incapacitated, you may add your shield's AC
bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell
or other harmful effect that only targets you.

Dual Wield

Called Shot

Duelist's Parry

Prerequisite: Proficient with a ranged weapon


Before making an attack, you may choose to subtract your
Proficient bonus to add your Expert bonus to the attack's
damage.

Charger

When you use your action to Dash, you may use a bonus
action to make one melee weapon attack.

Cleave

Prerequisite: Power Attack


On your turn, when you score a critical hit with a melee
weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with a melee
weapon attack, you can make one melee weapon attack as a
bonus action.

Crashing Charge

Prerequisite: Charger
When making a melee weapon attack as a result of the
Charger feat, you may add your Adept bonus to the damage of
the attack, or you may shove the creature 10 feet if the attack
lands.

Crossbow Expert

Prerequisite: Proficient with a crossbow


You ignore the Loading property of crossbows with which you
are proficient.

Dirty Fighter

Prerequisite: Brawler
When you hit a creature with an unarmed strike or an
improvised weapon on your turn, you can use a bonus action
to attempt to grapple the target.

You can draw or stow two weapons with a free action instead
of one. When wielding two weapons, only one needs to have
the Light property.
Prerequisite: Defensive Duelist, Dexterity 15
You may use your Proficient bonus rather than your Novice
bonus for the purposes of the Defensive Duelist feat.

Far Shot

Prerequisite: Point-Blank Shot


Attacking at long range doesn't impose disadvantage on your
ranged weapon attack rolls.

Magebane

When a creature within 5 feet of you casts a spell, you can use
your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that
creature.

Mage Slayer

Prerequisite: Magebane
When you damage a creature that is concentrating on a spell,
that creature has disadvantage on its saving throw to
maintain its concentration.

Parting Shot

Prerequisite: Point-Blank Shot, Dexterity 15


When making an Disengage action, you may use your bonus
action to make a single ranged attack.

Pin Down

Creatures within 5 feet of you provoke opportunity attacks


from you even if they take the Disengage action before
leaving your reach.

Feat Ideas (continued)


Combat Feats (continued)
Point-Blank Shot

Prerequisite: Proficient with a ranged weapon


You no longer have Disadvantage when attacking a target
within 5 feet of you with a ranged attack. You still have
disadvantage of you are attacking a further target with a
hostile creature within 5 feet of you.

Polearm Expertise

When you take the attack action and are attacking only with a
glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, you can use a bonus action to
make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. It
deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage.

Polearm Master

Shield Focus

Prerequisite: Proficient with a Shield, Extra Attack


Gain Adept mastery with Shields.

Shield Wall

Prerequisite: Shield Brace


If you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a
Dexterity saving throw to only take half damage, you may use
your reaction to instead take no damage if you succeed on the
saving throw.

Silencer

When you are hidden from a creature and miss with a ranged
weapon attack, your position is not revealed.

Snap Shot

Prerequisite: Polearm Expertise


While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, or a quarterstaff,
other creatures provoke opportunity attacks when they enter
your reach.

Prerequisite: Rapid Shot


You may make attacks of opportunity with your ranged
weapon. Your threat range is 5 feet.

Power Attack

When you hit a creature with an opportunity attack, the


creature's speed becomes 0 for the rest of the turn.

Prerequisite: Proficient with a melee weapon, Strength 13


Before making an attack, you may choose to subtract your
Proficient bonus to add your Expert bonus to the attack's
damage.

Precise Shot

Prerequisite: Point-Blank Shot, Dexterity 13


When making an Attack action, you may make an additional
attack with your ranged weapon using your bonus action. You
do not add your ability score modifier to the damage dealt for
this additional attack.

Rapid Shot

Prerequisite: Point-Blank Shot, Dexterity 15


When making an Attack action, you may make an additional
attack with your ranged weapon using your bonus action. You
do not add your ability score modifier to the damage dealt for
this additional attack.

Savage Attacker

Once per turn, when you roll damage for a melee weapon
attack, you may roll twice and use either result.

Shield Bash

Prerequisite: Dual Wield, Novice or greater with a Shield


Your shield is no longer an improvised weapon for the
purposes of performing melee weapon attacks with it. As a
weapon, it gains the Light property and deals 1d4
bludgeoning damage.

Shield Brace

Prerequisite: Proficient with a Shield


As an action, you may enter a defensive stance until the start
of your next turn. While in this stance, your shield's AC bonus
is equal to your Mastery bonus with Shields.

Stand Still
Step up

When a hostile target within 5 feet of you uses the Disengage


action, you may use your Reaction to move up to half your
movement speed. You must follow the target that used the
Disengage action.

Two-Weapon Focus

Prerequisite: Dual Wield, Extra Attack


When using your bonus action to attack with an off-hand
weapon after taking an Attack action, you may make two
attacks with your off-hand weapon instead.

Weapon Focus

Prerequisite: Proficient in chosen weapon, Extra Attack


Gain Adept mastery in a weapon of your choice.

Weapon Proficiency

Gain Proficient mastery in 2 weapons of your choice.

Weapon Specialization

Prerequisite: Weapon Focus in chosen weapon


When you deal damage with the chosen weapon, you may
add your Novice bonus to the damage dealt.

Other Ideas
If combined with other modules, consider feats that allow for
additional Exhaustion points, additional Gear slots, or
provide mechanical improvements to maneuvers (such as a
higher Mastery bonus for specific maneuvers, or additional
effects like provoking opportunity attacks).

Feat Ideas (continued)


Magic Feats
Battlemage

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells, War Caster


You have advantage on Constitution saving throws for the
purposes of maintaining concentration on a spell when you
take damage.

Elemental Adept

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells, Elemental Novice in the


chosen element
Choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire,
lightning, or thunder. Spells you cast ignore resistance to
damage of the chosen type.

Elemental Novice

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells


Choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire,
lightning, or thunder. When rolling damage for these spells,
you may treat any 1 on a damage die as a 2. You can select
this feat multiple times, choosing a different damage type
each time.

Elemental Master

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells, Elemental Adept in the


chosen element, Intelligence 13
Choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire,
lightning, or thunder. When casting spells that deal damage
of one of the types listed, you may instead cast the spell using
a spell slot one level higher to change the damage type to the
chosen element.

Ritual Caster

Prerequisite: Intelligence or Wisdom 13


You have learned how to cast rituals from a ritual book. When
you choose this feat, choose a class that gains cantrips.
Choose one 1st level spell from that class's spell list that has
the Ritual tag. Your spellcasting ability for your ritual spells is
the same as the class you chose. You may add more spells to
your ritual book if they are found in written form, such as a
magical spell scroll or a wizard's spellbook. Any spell you
copy must be on the spell list for your chosen class, the spell's
level must be no higher than half your level (rounded up), and
it must have the Ritual tag. Copying a spell takes 2 hours per
level of spell, and costs 50 gp per level.

School Specialist

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells


Choose one school of magic: Abjuration, Conjuration,
Divination, Enchantment, Evocation, Illusion, Necromancy, or
Transmutation. For the purposes of casting spells in the given
school you:
Use your Adept bonus instead of your Proficient bonus
when casting the spell.
Use your Adept bonus instead of your Proficient bonus for
calculating your Spell Save DC.
You may take this feat multiple times, naming a different
school each time.

Snapspell

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells, War Caster


When a hostile creature's movement provokes an opportunity
attack from you, you can use your reaction to cast a spell to
attack the creature. It must have a casting time of 1 action,
and must target only that creature.

Pinpoint Spell

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells, Spell Sniper


Your ranged spell attacks ignore half cover and three-quarters
cover.

Spell Sniper

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells


When you cast a spell that requires you to make an attack
roll, its range is doubled.

Spell Specialist

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells


Choose one spell you know and are able to cast. For the
purposes of casting that spell, you may increase your Mastery
by one stage for the purposes of spell attacks and spell save
DCs.

War Caster

Prerequisite: Ability to cast spells


You may perform the somatic components of spells even
when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.

Alternate Exhaustion
Variant Mechanic: Exhaustion

Math

You have a number of Exhaustion Points equal to


6 + Constitution Modifier
When the base game instructs you to you take a
level of Exhaustion, instead lose one of your points.
Every long rest, you may regain one of your
expended Exhaustion Points.
In addition, you suffer the following ill effects, if
and only if you have at least one Exhaustion Point
lost:

Generally speaking, a player character will have between 5


and 10 points of exhaustion, though a 20th Level Barbarian
who has read a Manual of Bodily Health (dmg) could have up
to 13!
Since most characters will have at least 10 Constitution to
the detrimental effect a negative modifier has on HP, this
module can be seen as a net power increase unless the DM
doles out Exhaustion damage in more situations.

Exhaustion Points Remaining

Optional Variants

Points
Left Effect
5

Disadvantage on all D20 rolls that are not


attacks or saving throws

Movement speed is halved

Disadvantage on all D20 rolls

Max HP is halved

Movement speed is 0

You are dead

Note that these effects are cumulative; a


character with 1 point remaining suffers all
exhaustion effects short of death.
If you are killed by reaching 0 points of
exhaustion and are resurrected, you return to life
with 1 Exhaustion Point remaining. If you are killed
by reaching 0 Hit Points and are resurrected, you
return to life with the same number of Exhaustion
Points you died with.

The following variants are suggested additional uses of the


Alternate Exhaustion mechanic. They are strictly optional.

Exhaustion Hit Dice


Whenever a character has an opportunity to expend hit dice
but has none remaining, that player may instead lose
Exhaustion Points. For each Exhaustion Point lost, that
character regains 1 expended Hit Die, which is immediately
available for use. A character may only use this option once
per rest.

Failed Fitness Ability Checks


If there is an important ability check representing some great
feat (such as scaling a cliff, pushing a boulder, or or bending
bars) whose progress would halt the game, the DM may
instead treat a failure as a success, with the caveat that the
player takes a point of exhaustion. Alternately, a point of
exhaustion may be a suitable punishment for a Natural 1, in
such circumstances representing a pulled or strained muscle.

Generic Poisons and Diseases


Design Goals
A character with 10 Constitution is no different than a
character without this rule module.

Rationale
The effects of Exhaustion all indicate a character is slowly
succumbing to a malaise, whether it's lack of sleep,
overexertion, illness, or even distraction. Thus, this implies
this mechanic (even in the base game) may be used more
often. For example, applying Exhaustion can replace Energy /
Level Drain, which makes monsters with such abilities quite
potent and scary!
Constitution is arguably the second most powerful ability
score after Dexterity, and therefore in the least need of a
power boost. However, the Barbarian class feature, Frenzy, is
univerally regarded as being terrible due to the woeful effects
of Exhaustion. Because Barbarians are likely to have a higher
Constitution score than others, they benefit the most from
having extra Exhaustion Slots over, say, a Wizard.

As a catch-all mechanic for poisons and diseases that have


progressive symptoms, each progression of the disease may
simply subtract an Exhaustion Point from the afflicted.
Furthermore, particularly nasty ailments could prevent the
restoration of Exhaustion through non-magical means (or
even magical means). Some afflictions may have a set
number of stages (and thus be potentially non-lethal without
an additional source of Exhaustion damage), while others
could progress until it is cured. Be creative!

Alternate Energy Drain


Several monsters have an Energy Drain attack, which as
writte, reduces the maximum hit points of a character. Such
an ability can be made quite scary if the attach simply dealt
damage to a character's Exhaustion Point pool, rather than
Hit Points. DMs are warned to be careful with this mechanic.
Any Energy Drain attack should deal at most 2 points of
Exhaustion!

Alternate Exhaustion Synergy


Other Alternate Modules
Many alternate modules benefit greatly from Alternate
Exhaustion, due to the fact that they offer mechanics that
allow a player to expend Exhaustion in order to achieve some
other taxing effect. While these mechanics can be used on
their own, with this module, it acts as a balancing act,
allowing other characters to benefit from other modules at
the cost of another of their character's strengths.

Alternate Feats
Catch Breath

Prerequisite: Constitution 15
Once per Long Rest, during a Short Rest you may attempt a
Constitution saving throw (DC is equal to 12 + number of
spent Exhaustion Points). On a success, you may recover one
point of Exhaustion.

Energetic

Prerequisite: Constitution 13
Your Exhaustion Point maximum is increased by 1.

Push to the Limit

Prerequisite: Constitution 13
You may spend an Inspiration to stave off one of the effects of
Exhaustion until your next short rest.

Alternate Carrying Capacity


Variant Mechanic: Gear Slots
You have a number of Gear Slots equal to
6 + Strength Modifier
For each item you carry, assign it to one of your
gear slots. During a round of combat, a single item
may be retreived or stowed using a free action.
Retrieving or stowing an additional item costs a
Standard Action.
If you are wearing Medium Armor, a slot is
reserved and may not be used, representing the
inconvenience of wearing armor. Heavy Armor
similarly reserves 2 slots.
Worn magic items (such as boots, hats, and
belts) do not consume any slots. Carried magic
items (such as extra boots, hats, and belts)
consume slots.

Math
Generally, a character will have between 5 and 10 gear slots,
though a character wearing a particularly sweet magic belt
may have as many as 14. Because this module provides a
restriction, it can be seen as a net power decrease.

Optional Variants
Necessities
A DM may choose that gear slots are in addition to
necessities. That is, things like food, water, coins, and basic
camping gear don't consume gear slots (up to a reasonable
amount). This limits the amount of crunch inherent in this
type of mechanic.

Magic and Specialized Containers


Items on Hand
A DM may choose to use gear slots to represent items on
hand, such as items on bandoliers or belt pouches. This
means that while characters may continue being walking
armories, only the items in their slots are accessible, much
like a wizard may know more spells than they have prepared.
DMs are encouraged to figure out how items may or may not
stack, as items like ammunition or darts may be carried in
bulk while items like greatswords and helmets may not. Note
that wielded items, like swords and shields, are items on
hand. Any items carried but not in a gear slot require an
action to retrieve.

Items Carried
A DM may choose to use gear slots to represent total items
carried, forcing players to very carefully prepare before
adventures.

Some of the most iconic D&D magic items are strictly for
carrying things, namely a Bag of Holding and a Handy
Haversack. A DM may opt that said items simply add
additional gear slots.
In addition, a character may desire a specialized container,
such as a bandolier for holding vials or a quiver for holding
arrows. This increases the character's total carrying capcity
while limiting the types of items carried. In general, a player
should be able to trade 1 general gear slot for 3 specialized
gear slots by using a specialized container.
If using both styles of gear slots, a DM may choose to have
specialized containers specific to one of the types. For
example, a Quiver may provide arrows on hand, while a
magic backpack may provide a bonus to items carried.

Pack Animals and Vehicles

A DM may choose to use both mechanics, one representing


hauling capacity and the other representing things at-theready.

Pack animals, such as Mules and Horses, have a number of


gear slots equal to their Strength score with the appropriate
bindings or bags. For a vehicle (such as a cart), decide how
many pack animals it was designed for. For every animal it
was designed for, it has 20 gear slots. For every 20 filled slots
filled, an additional pack animal is needed. For example, a 4ox cart with 1 ox has 80 slots, though the oxen can only pull it
if it has 20 or fewer slots consumed.

Design Goals

Heavy Loads

Both

Armor is encumbering for a character wearing it.


Provide boundaries for item capacity without weight
calculation or tracking.
Characters with high Strength have utility outside of
pushing or hitting things.

Rationale
Few gamers like calculating or tracking weight. Some games,
such as Luke Crane's Torchbearer, provide an emergent
trade-off mechanic due to limited gear: Do you ditch the
torches to take this sweet loot, or do you leave the loot
because the light is too important to give up?

For each additional item beyond the character's available


gear slots carried, the character gains 1 level of Exhaustion.
This level of Exhaustion is permanent until the the
character's equipment load once again fits within the
character's available gear slots.

Gear Packs
A DM may choose that a set of related gear, as a pack, only
consumes a single slot. For example, a climbing kit, despite
having a harness, pitons, and rope, might only consume a
single slot.

Alternate Carrying Capacity Synergy


Alternate Exhaustion
This module greatly benefits from the Heavy Loads optional
variant and the Alternate Exhaustion module. This allows a
player to make the conscious decision to overexert their
limits with a well-defined mechanical downside, which is
quite important when all that loot needs to find its way out of
the dungeon.

Alternate Feats
Strong Back

Prerequisite: Strength 13
You have 2 additional Gear Slots.

Alternate Backgrounds
Variant Mechanic: Story Points

During character creation, you have a number of


Story Points equal to:
6 + Intelligence Modifier
You may spend Story Points to write life-defining
experiences that taught you your skills, called a Life
Experience. Each Life Experience provides an ingame mechanical benefit in addition to defining
your character's history.
In addition, any time you would increase your
Intelligence Modifier due to Ability Score increases
granted by your class, Feats, magic items, or boons
that permanently improve your Intelligence, you
gain 1 Story Point that must be immediately spent.

Design Goals
Provide a greater level of customization while
encouraging player backstory.
Incentivize the Intelligence ability score, which is
otherwise a "dump stat" for most classes.

Rationale
Intelligence is woefully underpowered in 5e. Benefiting only
Wizards (and the rare Eldritch Knight or Arcane Trickster),
Intelligence is something of a near universal "dump stat." In
previous editions of D&D, Intelligence provided a hook into
the Exploration and Social aspects of the game by providing
additional skills and languages. This variant mod is simply
bringing that concept back.
If a player wants some sort of perk not listed here, let them
be creative! Remember that anything that provides something
equal to a Background Power from the PHB roughly costs 1
story point.

Optional Variants
Balance Maximums
A free-form point-based system is ripe for min/max abuse. A
DM can therefore enforce that a character may only have up
to a specific maximum number of a given style of Life
Experiences. For example, a DM might decide a character
may have at most 3 Life Experiences that provide a Skill
Proficiency.

Faster (alternate) Learning


A character who works smarter makes much more progress
than one who works harder. When learning a new language
or a tool proficiency, a character must make 1500 points of
progress towards their goal. Each day, a character may spend
8 hours and 1 GP in order to make a number of points of
progress equal to the number of Story Points they would
have. For example, a character with 10 Intelligence would
make 6 points of progress a day, requiring 250 days and 250
gp to learn the new proficiency.

Life Experiences
Each Life Experience proviudes one of the following benefits.
Remember that these represent the character's experiences
before becoming a seasoned adventurer at first level, and
should be selected at first level if making a higher level
character.

Class Skill (1 Story Point)


You gain proficiency in one skill in your first level class's skill
list.

Non-Class Skill (2 Story Point)


You gain proficiency in one skill not listed in your first level
class's skill list.

Common Language (1 Story Point)


You gain proficiency in one language commonly spoken
within your campaign setting.

Exotic Language (2 Story Points)


You gain proficiency in one language not commonly spoken
within your campaign setting.

Item Proficiency (1 Story Point)


You gain proficiency with one toolkit, vehicle, or other nonitem, such as a gaming set.

Group Relationship (2 Story Points)


You have a relationship with an organized group, such as a
guild, a faction, a military, or even a local club. During play, at
your DM's discretion, you may invoke your relationship with
the group to get a favor. This may be represented as
advantage on a specific ability check, a discount on
merchandise, or something story appropriate at your DM's
discretion. Note that this relationship does not imply current
membership with said group. For example, if you are a
former guard in a particular city, you may be able to get some
free mundane equipment from them, be better able to rally
them when needed, or more easily get otherwise classified
information.

Local Reputation (2 Story Points)


You have a positive reputation around a particular location for
some good deed, such as among the patrons of a particular
tavern, a neighborhood in a city, or even a whole village.
During play, at your DM's discretion, you can invoke your
reputation in order to make an NPC from that region more
amenable to you. This may be simply a story effect (such as
being let in an otherwise forbidden location), or it may
provide a mechanical effect, such as discounted goods or
advantage on an ability check. Your Life Experience must
detail how you gained your reptuation.

Alternate Background Synergy


Alternate Feats
Savant

Prerequisite: Intelligence 15
For any tool check, you may roll as if you had Novice mastery.
You do not count as proficient for tool checks that require
proficiency.

Studious

Prerequisite: Intelligence 13
When attempting to learn a new language or tool proficiency,
you may cram 2 days of work into 1. The GP cost remains,
but the number of days required is halved.

Alternate Inspiration
Variant Mechanic: Instincts

All player characters have 3 Instincts, determined


when selecting the character's background.
Your maximum number of Inspiration points you
may have is equal to
(6 + Wisdom Modifier) / 2
You may spend Inspiration points for the
following effects:

Cost Effect
1 Gain advantage on a d20 check before it is
made
1 Grant disadvantage on a d20 check that
targets you before it is made
1 Grant Inspiration to another player
2 Reroll one die of any of your d20 checks after
is it made.
When you would improve your Wisdom score
due to an Ability Score Improvement granted by a
class, a feat, a boon, or a magic item that provides
a permanent improvement, recalculate your
maximum Inspiration.
In addition to the usual ways of gaining
Inspiration listed in the base rulebooks, at the DM's
discretion, whenever one of your Instincts is used
to great effect (either positively or negatively), you
gain 1 point of Inspiration.

Design Goals
Provide predictable player hook for predictable actions
Provide players with an additional tool for character
description
Provide the players with an additional tool for causing
non-disruptive shenanigans
Provide character-defining hooks for gaining Inspiration,
as it's an underused mechanic

Rationale
Instincts sort of provide a more actionable version of the
Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws. They allow a player to define their
character's immediate gut reactions to certain situations,
which often are more telling of a character than what they
say. They also provide the DM with a clue as to what sorts of
adventures the players want to see, and also provide the DM
with a tool to cause trouble or to spotlight a character.

Instincts
While not a hard and fast rule, instincts generally follow the
following forms:
If or When [something happens], I [reaction]
Always or Never [statement]
Players and DMs are encouraged to craft instincts that are
beneficial, flavorful, or potentially detrimental.

Sample Instincts
Feel free to use these outright or to craft your own using these
as a template.
When I am offered a drink, I always accept
When I wake up, look at the weather
Shoot first, ask questions later
Always give others a chance to explain themselves
If I see danger, hide immediately
Always have a guard when resting
If I don't understand something, I taste it
Never hand my sword to another
Always keep a dagger in my boot
When I am lost, prayer will show the way
Always order the house beer
When I'm somewhere new, I always look for exits

Optional Variants
Additional Sources of Inspiration
Consider the following events as possible avenues for giving
players inspiration:
Gaining a level
Completing a plot arc or module
Stabilizing after 2 failed Death Saving Throws
A natural 20
A natural 1

Inspiration Vote
At the end of each session, players (and DM) can discuss the
session and hand out Inspiration to players who embodied
their characters well and defined the session. Some possible
awards to give inspiration for include:
MVP: The one who saved the day with the "clutch" roll
Workhorse: The one who kept the game going by having
the right skills at the right time
Story Driver: The one who drove the story the most, even
if it's way out in left field.

Alternate Inspiration Synergy


Alterate Feats
Extreme Meditation

Prerequisite: Wisdom 13
Once per long rest, you may gain a point of Inspiration by
taking a level of Exhaustion.

In-Tune

Prerequisite: Wisdom 13
You have 1 additional Instinct.

Inspired

Prerequisite: Wisdom 13
Your maximum Inspiration is increased by 1.

Alternate Attunement
Variant Mechanic: Force of Will

You have a number of Attunement Slots equal to:


(6 + Charisma Modifier) / 2
For each Attunement Slot, you may have 1 Magic
Item attuned.

Design Goals
A character with 10 Charimsa is no different than a
character without this rule module.
Provide a detriment to "dumping" Charisma.

Rationale
Charisma represents far more than a character's charming
good looks. It encompasses their presence and force of will.
The ability to have a commanding presence is independent of
having fantastic hair.
In prior editions of Dungeons & Dragons, the ability to use
magic devices was governed by your Charisma. It
represented your ability to forcibly dominate the magic item
into obeying your commands.

Math
Any character will have between 2 and 5 magic item slots,
with this module. Having 5 magic items attuned is rather
powerful, as would be expected of someone who specializes
fully in Charisma. This may be somewhat balanced by magic
items being rarer. This module more than any other needs to
be used carefully. DMs are encouraged to include the
Alterante Exhaustion module and the Overexertion variant.

Optional Variants
Overexertion
A character may attune magic items past their attunement
limit to a limit of 5. For each magic item attuned over their
limit, the character gains 1 level of Exhaustion. This may not
be healed by any means until the item is unattuned.
Note: This variant is especially effective at balancing
Charisma-based characters versus Consitution-based
characters with Alternate Exhaustion. This would allow a
burly Barbarian with low Charisma to equip the full 5 Magic
Items without gaining detrimental effects from Exhaustion.
This exhaustion represents the mental toll and tax of
dominating a force that does not want to be dominated past
your limits.

Attunement Levels
Some Magic Items may have levels of Attunement, where
they may consume more than one Attunement slot for
additional power. Consider a particularly powerful Artifact
that will only reveal its true nature or power once someone's
entire force of will is devoted to it (and then some).
This can also be used with particularly nasty cursed items,
which may not be unattuned, but may begin to consume
additional Attunement slots.

Alternate Maneuvers
Grapple
Variant Mechanic: Combat
Maneuvers

Choose an ability score: Strength or Dexterity. This


is your maneuver ability for your maneuvers. In
addition, you use your Maneuver ability when
setting the saving throw DC for a maneuver and
when you make an attack with one.
Maneuver Save DC = 8 + Proficiency Bonus +
your Maneuver ability modifier
Maneuver Attack Modifier = Proficiency Bonus +
your Maneuver ability modifier
In order to use a combat maneuver, your target
must be within range of the maneuver. To use a
Maneuver, you must take the Attack action. Each
melee weapon attack made as a result of an Attack
action can be replaced with a Maneuver instead.

Design Goals
Don't overshadow the Battlemaster Fighter, but allow
other players to do a worse version of similar abilities.
Battlemasters have much better action economy than
these maneuvers do.
Bring a consistent mechanic separate from the Skill
module present in the base game for non-attack
maneuvers.
Treat maneuvers like spells wherever possible.

Rationale
The lack of combat maneuvers outside of a class
specialization feels like an oversight to me. Any combatant
who is proficient in melee combat should be able to fight dirty
or fight creatively.

Maneuvers
Dirty Trick
Range: 5 feet

Choose one of the following effects: Half movement speed


until the start of your next turn, Disadvantage on their first
attack made before the start of your next turn, Advantage on
the next attack affecting the target before your next turn. The
target must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save,
they suffer the chosen effect.

Disarm

Range: 5 feet
The target must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed
save, the target drops one item it's holding, which lands at its
feet. If the target fails its save by 10 or more, it instead drops
2 items.

Range: 5 feet
You may only grapple a creature up to one size category
larger than you. The target must make a Strength or
Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the target is
Grappled by you, as per the Grapple condition. The target
may attempt to Escape the Grapple as an action. To do so,
you must succeed on a Strength saving throw against the
target's Maneuver DC. A creature larger than you
automatically succeeds on this check. When you move, you
may drag or carry the grappled creature, but your speed is
halved unless the creature is two or more size categories
smaller than you.

Pin

Range: 5 feet
Prerequisite:Target is grappled by you
The target must make a Strength or Dexterity saving
throw. On a failed save, the target is restrained, and you gain
the grappled condition. You may still release the grapple at
any time. The target may attempt to Escape the pin, identical
to escaping a grapple. If the pin is escaped, the target is prone
and grappled, and you are no longer grappled.

Push

Range: 5 feet
The targeted creature must make a Dexterity saving throw.
On a failed save, the target is pushed 5 feet. If the target failed
the save by 5 or more, it is instead pushed 10 feet. If the
creature hits a solid surface or a creature of equal size
category or larger, they stop moving. If it hits a creature
smaller than it, the smaller creature is moved out of the way
to the nearest unoccupied space. You may not push a target
more than one size category larger than you. Creatures
pushed do not provoke opportunity attacks with this
movement.

Reposition
Range: 5 feet

The targeted creature must make a Dexterity saving throw.


On a failed save, the target is moved 5 feet. If the target failed
the save by 10 or more, it is instead moved up to 10 feet. The
creature must end within 5 feet of you, though you are able to
move while repositioning it. If a creature would not fit in its
new location, it simply stops moving. You may only reposition
a creature one size category larger than you. You may not
reposition the target somewhere dangerous, such as off a cliff
or into a fire. Creatures repositioned do not provoke
opportunity attacks with this movement.

Trip

Range: Melee weapon reach


The targeted creature must make a Dexterity saving throw.
On a failed save, the target is knocked prone. Creatures with
more than 2 legs have advantage on this saving throw.
Creatures without legs are immune to being tripped.

Alternate Maneuvers Synergy


Alternate Feats
Chessmaster

You have Adept mastery on your Reposition maneuver.

Dirty Fighter

You have Adept mastery for your Dirty Trick maneuver.

Disarm Adept

You have Adept mastery for your Disarm maneuver.

Disarming Strike

Prerequisite: Disarm Adept, Extra Attack


When you successfully disarm an opponent, the dropped
items are thrown 15 feet in a direction of your choice.

Feinting Sweep

Prerequisite: Sweep, Extra Attack


When you succeed in your Trip maneuver, the target provokes
opportunity attacks.

Filthy Fighter

Prerequisite: Dirty Fighter, Extra Attack


When you use your Dirty Trick to impose disadvantage on
your target's next attack, it instead affects all their attacks
until the start of your next turn.

Powerful Shove

Prerequisite: Shove, Extra Attack


When you succeed in your Push maneuever, the resulting
target's movement provokes opportunity attacks.

Shove

You have Adept mastery for your Push maneuver.

Subjugator

Prerequisite: Wrestler, Extra Attack


You have Adept mastery on your Pin maneuver.

Surprising Tug

Prerequisite: Chessmaster, Extra Attack


When you succeed in your Reposition maneuver, the resulting
target's movement provokes opportunity attacks.

Sweep

You have Adept mastery for your Trip maneuver.

Opportunistic Maneuver

Prerequisite: Extra Attack


When choosing this feat, choose a Maneuver. When you use
your reaction to perform an Opportunity Attack, you may
instead perform the chosen Maneuver.

Press Advantage

Prerequisite: Extra Attack


When choosing this feat, choose a Maneuver. When you score
a critical hit, you may use your Bonus Action to perform the
chosen Maneuver.

Wrestler

You have Adept mastery on your Grapple maneuver.