I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Minimalist D&D VI - SUPER-FAST 5e COMBAT!

Here is part V. That was the theory. 

Here is what I'm doing in practice. 

I am NOT using 5e rules exactly as written... but I am convinced you COULD use these rules and keep 90% of 5e. At least until level 5... see below.

In short, the idea is this: you only roll ONE d20 PER ROUND. Everyone rolls at the same time, saying what they plan to do.

The result will tell you: 

- Initiative. 
- Attack roll. 
- Damage. 
- Saving throws.
- "Luck".

This is really simple but I'll explain some details.

Let's use a fighter as our example. She has a +4 Strength bonus. She rolls 12 on the d20.

Her initiative is 16. Forget adding Dex to initiative, it is unnecessary and not necessarily realistic.

Her attack roll is 16. That works as expected.

Her damage is a fixed number (say, 10). 5e D&D already suggests this when dealing with monsters. In our example, let's say her weapon deal 6 points of damage, plus 4 from Strength. a natural 20 would cause 20 damage instead.

Her saving throw is 12+ability score. Saving throws work as intended in 5e. 

(Alternatively, you don't roll for saving throws anymore. Instead, saving throw is a number like AC; 10+stat+proficiency. Since the attacker is always rolling a d20, this also works).

Her "luck" seems decent (12). Here is one cool thing I improvised hen trying this system for the first time. I had a few goblins archers shooting at the PCs. Rolled all at once. One of them hits... but who was hit? The PC who rolled the lowest number on the d20. Of course, you're free to ignore this part.

And that's basically all of it.

Combat example:

Fighter, wizard and rogue are fighting three orcs.

Everyone attacks - except the wizard, who cast fireball, hitting all three orcs. The wizard rolls 12 (+4 from Int, 16 total), the fighter 17 (21 total). The rogue (trying to "sneak attack") rolls a natural 1 (obviously a miss). The orcs roll 14 (17), 3 (6), and 5 (8).

First, fighter hits an orc. Unless he has chosen an specific orc, just chose the one with the lowest roll. The orc is injured.

Then, one orc (17) sees the rogue trying to sneak around and hits him (since he has the lowest roll; however, circumstances might dictate otherwise, if only the fighter is in the front line, for example).

Wizard casts fireball; two orcs failed the save (since they rolled lower than the wizard). One dies (he was injured). The other is engulfed in flames and misses the attack. (Let's just assume for the sake of argument that the fireball didn't hit the wizard's allies in the first turn).

End of turn.


Since most of the system is unchanged, there are few problems to be found. The MAIN problem is advantage and disadvantage, but I'm inclined to apply it as written. Attacking underwater? Seems obvious that the disadvantage should apply BOTH to initiative and the attack roll. Etc.

A bigger problem happens if you have multiple attacks. But I'm okay with having separate attacks. Fighter attacks, then goblin attacks, then fighter attacks again and again, etc.

There are other problems, surely... but I've found nothing insurmountable so far.

Other consequences

Combat is faster and more random. A bit more exciting, maybe a bit less tactical. I like it so far. Need to test it further.

What's next?

The play-test of this "minimalist D&D" is going very well. I'll probably make the whole system public very soon, I just have to adjust a few things.

I will post a bit more about Strahd soon, too; sorry for the delay.


  1. I like this idea, and do like the idea of martial characters having different actions throughout the round (works well with having high level monsters having similar traits as well).

    One idea I like from the previous article that doesn't really apply to 5e as written is the idea of just having AC and saves as a low bonus that could be used to raise the floor of a successful attack (so leather armour requires a roll of 3 or higher to work, a Dex save of 3 requires a spell to be a 4 or higher to succeed). This means that you get to lower end of initiative you have characters just overwhelmed. This does make combat a little chaotic as more experienced characters can be equally overwhelmed from moment to moment. Would it work in your head to allow for one die roll to be adjusted per round (ex. adjust a singe die roll by your proficiency modifier). This allows for a high level character to turn a miss into a hit, but means that a very low roll can still be effected by defenses)

    The other question I have is using skill contest in these scenarios, because currently if you go before an opponent, you beat them at what ever you are doing. Could this instead be a use of some use of a similar skill method as saves (or even just use the saves themselves) as a means that an opponent that you move just faster than can still prevail against a skill contest, but a really slow opponent can be overwhelmed)

    As far as earlier discussion on weapons/encumbrance/armour: I think that the slot system could still be used to develop a decision tree on how players approach armour/weapon/and equipment with weapon choice being reduced to something like:

    Light Weapon - roll an additional attack at the same target when you roll a critical (your Str or Dex score). Can be used 1 handed

    Medium Weapon - 1 or 2 handed allowing for choice between damage vs defense

    Heavy weapon - 2 handed. Can cleave through a second in reach if 1st target is killed and more damage is possible.

    If you have a high enough str score and are unencumbered, you can treat a Heavy weapon as a Light weapon (additional attack roll on a critical roll)

    This can still allow for either static damage or dice rolls if wanted.

    I know that the dynamic system for armour/weapons/encumbrance is more than the minimalist style is initially intended, but I think the fact that it is resolved outside combat (so no maths during play) you end up with just a few numbers to compare to, with some flexibility so that you there is some adaptability to approach to a problem. It's less the idea of just "weapons and armours" and more "physical interaction with the world as the weight of what your are carrying effect how you move, and how the environment responds to you." One can probably translate a "slot" to an approximate weight to allow for quick adjudication of things such as "can you drag a person out of the way" for example.

    It might be more complexity than you want (perhaps something like this would be additional rules that could be added with the base rules being more what you already suggest).

    As always thank you for putting this writing up for everyone to read, and allowing for a comment system to take other opinions!

    1. Thank you very much for commenting and for the throughout analysis of the matter!

      I moved away from roll-under for a while, since I'm running something close to 5e, so I abandoned some of these ideas for now.

      I haven't tried many skill contest, but one thing came up in the last game. One goblin was trying to run, the PCs were trying to attack him. I made it a contested roll, two PCs rolled better than the goblin and killed him.

      As for encumbrance, I am currently using "Str+Con/3 slots" for unencumbered characters. I like the idea of high enough str making heavy weapons become light in your hands. I am quite certain I need something like this form the last playtest... more on that later.

      I'll post the whole thing here soon, just need to adjust some more. When I do, I'm looking forward to hear your thoughts on that too! Cheers!

    2. Entirely fair. I guess the value that I see with a roll under system is that there is no real maths required during play (the only thing I can see is if you want a "roll adjustment system" during the setting the stage of a round.

      More thoughts following....

      As I think of it, I am fine with the idea of declaring general action in order based on Wisdom etc., rolling the dice, adjusting the die score as required, then the DM runs the scene.

      This means that one can sythesise a "round based" initiative and a "player go - DM go" in a way that works well. You have all the discussion done at once, actions are locked in, then you see how well the plan works.

      A refinement for skill contests and dice adjustment are as followed.

      Player classes grant proficiency in specific saves that allow for a basic save progression of 2 full prof saves, 2 half prof saves, 2 3rd prof saves. Player backgrounds are more a free formed story to argue for competency for skills. I would say that every X levels, players gain a proficiency bonus increase like 5e, but also have a generic pool of points generated by high ability scores (but no negative points from low scores)

      In an stressed situation (combat/chase scene/limited time), players run on the "encounter system" of plan, declare, resolve. When players roll their dice, they can then spend the "proficiency points" to adjust the die roll if they are proficient. In this case, you would have a soft cap at 19 instead of 20, and additional stat bonuses just increases this pool of "adjustment points" you can use on the rolls using that ability.

      However, if you do not adjudicate those points, you can spend them that round on opposed rolls or saves. If you have committed to an action, and are opposed in a way that you could counter in a way that makes sense (ex. grapple against a Str or Dex attack), you can use the die roll to instead negate the action, spending points to counter. If it is not a comparable counter (ex. Hold person (wis save)) you can then boost your save to try and break the spell. The reason for avoiding using the die for everything is that you end up tuning the die for a specific type of action, and it breaks emersion for me to say that you can then reapply the die on a completely different resolution.

      When it comes to saves, since the score will be lower than a roll (as they represent a floor for the roll to get over) I think spending points at an inverse relationship to the saves (+3/point on proficient saves, +2/point on half proficent,+1/1/3rd proficient saves). This avoids fractional maths.

      These points do reset every round. Perhaps you have a regain rate to represent short term stamina being spent at X per round (perhaps proficiency bonus to represent your "sustainable limits")

      Then again, isn't the above practically a ki system? At least in physical combat, it's all "martial arts", and class features dictate how you have developed your skills.

      This does give a bit more maths to track, but considering the various resource style board games I have played, I don't think it ends up being too much choice paralysis. Or at least it's choice paralysis that has different tools that may resolve it more efficiently.