Experimental Mechanics for a D&D Next Campaign

Sometime within the next month or two, I plan to start up a new campaign, now that my Mage chronicle of a year and a half has ended. There are a few other short-run games that we’ll play first, which means I have a bit more time to plan both rules and setting. I was proud of myself for not throwing too much time at Aurikesh while the DtD event was looming – which is why the notes below are mostly in wishlist or early-draft form. Any number of these rules and good intentions might get changed between now and the start of play.

Early-stage Rules Ideas

I’m currently expecting to run this game with a total of ten or so players, no more than five of whom are at the table at any one time. Ideally, the party roster will change from adventure to adventure, as players return to town. The game has a hardcap for XP that starts at the minimum amount necessary for second level, and gradually rises; players who take part in every adventure will exceed this cap and lose any extra XP. The idea here is that they’ll either play alts or skip a session so that another person can take their place in the party lineup. I’m looking for a low-commitment game to appeal to people who can’t necessarily be there all the time; also, something that might allow pickup games with unusual team rosters. This is also necessary because a significant percentage of my playerbase might move to another state without much warning, and I would like this to not automatically end the campaign.

To play with this idea a bit further, I want to create rules for Friendly Rivals, Sidekicks, and maybe other types of connections between characters. When two characters are declared Friendly Rivals, the person with the lower XP total receives a percentage (5-15%) extra XP, and the person in the lead receives (TBD). A Sidekick designates an Exemplar that they work with. The two characters can transfer Hit Dice for purposes of healing one another, and further gain some kind of benefit (TBD). Other relationship structures are okay as well. It’s conceivable that these relationships would be mechanically handled as Specialties instead of free abilities.

The basic structure of the game is that all characters belong to an adventuring company or something like it that works for the same patron. This patron is a frequent, though not exclusive, source for adventure hooks and funds. The patron is intended to be largely trustworthy and likable, because I want the motivation for the players to go on adventures to be as quick and painless as possible, rather than players needing to agonize over whether or not they trust this guy. The continent of Balioth has not been thoroughly explored, and a great deal of gameplay may involve wilderness exploration. Ideally, I will also write personal storylines for each player, so that they might talk the rest of their party into helping them pursue those quests (for when they want to do something different for awhile). Unlike the West Marches style of campaign that this whole plan draws from, though, there absolutely can be adventures in the main city – it’s just that the players will probably always have that city as their home base, unless they all agree to relocate.

Spells and Magic

One part of this game that is very important to me is the possibility of writing lots of new spells for arcane and divine casters, with the intention of creating more engaging mechanics than the core spells. The odd things that show up in DtD’s ritualism give you a good idea of what I’m imagining here. I would like complexity to stay manageable, and I don’t intend for any of the spells to include “stumbling blocks” – times when you’re reading the spell’s description, it’s sounding pretty cool… and then suddenly you see the one feature of the spell that means it’s useless. (Rabbit frequently has this complaint about AE.) To this end, I want to develop a compelling cosmology and spell research system for the game.

I love the idea of magic items having Secrets, as well as attunement limits. I would like every spell to have secrets as well, as a kind of achievement-based advancement. The main trick is to find something within the purview of fighters and rogues that can similarly have secrets as part of their core functions.

Downtime Actions

Since the timeline will advance even when some heroes are inactive, I want to create a system of downtime actions. The idea here is that when a player has missed a few adventures, we’ll start the session by getting them caught back up in the timeline; for every week that they missed, they get to do something interesting and useful, often based on their Background. If this is to eventually include magic items, I have a lot of system-writing ahead of me, since D&D hasn’t yet published very much at all about the magic item system of 5e. The goal, though, is that characters will not be particularly depending on magic items, and charged items will be more common than permanent, passive-bonus items. I’d also like to come up with a coherent way for players to “go do some politicking” as a downtime action, since Knight, Noble, and Spy are all valid Backgrounds.


I’ve mentioned Upkeep rules a few times in Harbinger as way to remove money from the economy – I’d like to implement some of those ideas here, since I plan to have the timeline advance by a week or two reasonably often. I also want solid mechanical benefits to reward paying higher levels of upkeep. I’d also like the heroes to have a guildhall or similar home base that has an upkeep cost. Samhaine has done some neat things with this idea over in his blog. I’d be going for something a bit less squalid, but broadly similar in concept.

Weekly Upkeep in Silver  Modifier
0 -2 hit dice per day of healing available
10 -1 hit die per day of healing available
50 No modifier
100 Minimum roll on all hit dice for healing is set to 2
250 +1 hit die per day of healing available
500 Minimum roll on all hit dice for healing is set to 3
1000 +2 hit dice per day of healing available
5000 Gain the skill High Society at +3, or increase existing bonus by +2
10000 Gain advantage on all saving throws against disease effects
50000 Tentative: gain the Backgrounds Noble or Knight if you maintain this status for six months


So… I love Birthright. A lot. The reason Aurikesh has domains and provinces is so that I could someday run it with Birthright’s domain-management rules, because I am absolutely crazy about them. This is getting a bit ahead of myself, but I’d like to create a number of bloodlines of power – anywhere from four to nine. PCs probably can’t start with those bloodlines as their original characters, but they might be able to join or awaken them in the course of play, or pick them up with replacement characters. I don’t yet know if Aurikesh bloodlines come from the gods, as Birthright bloodlines do, or something else.


I want more support for alchemy – in the full range of reasonable effects, cf. DtD’s Alchemy – than D&D generally offers. I am not yet sure how I want this to happen, but it is important to the kagandi racial story.

Player-Side Wiki

I’d like to encourage the players to maintain a player-side wiki, in which they exchange information (with the rest of the players) about what they’ve encountered in their adventures and boast of their exploits. I have no idea if this will catch on, but it’s what I’d like. I might wind up using Shieldhaven Wiki for this. It would also be a place for me to post session logs, assuming I show some discipline and write them. I’m not sure what kind of carrot might help here, if any.

Miscellaneous Stuff

One of the things that I like about 5e’s rules is feeling like game balance won’t splinter and crack if I give players additional small bennies. I don’t know what these might be yet, but I want to feel like I can give out a minor power at the end of a storyline rather than just cash, XP, and magic items. (Well, the XP is not negotiable.) With 5e’s potentially open-ended skill system, additional skills are one of my favorite options here, but I want lots of options on the table and I am open to hearing more.

Comments and suggestions welcome! Especially if you’re one of the people in this area who is reasonably likely to play in this campaign.

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