Friday, October 21, 2016

What I Mean By 5e Lite

Yesterday, when I mentioned the idea of a 5e Lite, Michael Bugg enthusiastically agreed by pointing out the large about of fluff text that exists in the 5e core books. Whereas that would reduce the page count and give an editor an opportunity to make the rules clearer and more concise (meaning I might be willing to buy to them), this is not what I had in mind. My vision of 5e Lite is far more radical.

If we strip down each class to their fundamental core, what we find are Hit Dice and several categories that players are allowed to apply their character’s proficiency bonus to:

  • Armor
  • Weapons
  • Tools
  • Saving Throws
  • Skills
  • Spells and Spell-like Abilities

There are four types of hit dice (1d6, 1d8, 1d10 and 1d12). There are four types of Armor (light, medium, heavy and shield). There are four categories of weapons (a partial list of simple weapons, all simple weapons, simple weapons plus a partial list of martial weapons and all martial weapons). There are up to six Saving Throws (one for each ability score). There are any number of tools and skills. Spells and Spell-like Abilities can be categorized any way you like.

What we have here is a framework for a character build for just about any genre you want. Arbitrarily assign a number of build points that can be assigned to any of the above categories. For example, a Fighter might look like this:

  • HD: 3pts (d10)
  • Armor: 4pts (all armor)
  • Weapons: 4pts (all weapons)
  • Saving Throws: 2pts (Str & Con saves)
  • Tools: 0pts
  • Skills: 2pts (two skills)
  • Spells: 0pts

This build would cost 15 points.

Spells could be broken down to their mechanical core, as I have done with the spell list from 0e in my Ye Auld Skool Spell Creator. Each character build point could purchase the character an ability to use one of the 16 base spells. Each spell would have a basic DC in order to cast it (say 5 or 10 DC). Thus, characters should be able to auto-cast some of the simplest spells. As mechanics are added to these basic spells, the DC goes up by 5 for each mechanic. As the character goes up in level, it is possible to cast harder and more powerful spells. Due to the mechanical nature of this set-up, these “spells” can be dressed up any way the genre requires: mental powers, mutations, super powers, etc.

With this approach, 5e is transformed from the complicated mess it is now to a simple, streamlined system that can do just about anything you want it to without a lot of complications.

This is what I mean by 5e Lite.


  1. Checking in -- how do you see advancement working? Is this something where you use XP to level up the personalized 5e class you made with points, or does improvement through play involve getting more "class-building" points?

    1. This is why I love the internet...I hadn't even considered "class-building" points as experience. Now that you mention it, though, it does give players a lot more control over who their character becomes. In addition, these character points could be spent in game to give advantage for critical rolls...

  2. Hey -- your stuff inspired me to crunch out a shorter spell list and enchantment system. I reference your Auld Skool spell maker. Here'/ a link to the google document. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for this. I think this is a really innovative way to use 5e to express a different kind of spell system while still building on the 5e chasis. I will certainly try to find a way to use this!