So, I finally feel the urge to create my "minimalist D&D". Blame the fact that currently all of my games are online, and and I dislike the endless dice-rolling even more over the internet (dice rollers didn't help much, really).
I'm calling it Dark Fantasy Hack for now, because why not.
Bear in mind that, to be honest, I don't want minimalism "per se", but efficiency.
If that requires clarification, I'll give you some examples.
The six basic ability scores could be easily reduced to five, four, or even three without losing much. However, I'm not interested in doing that because I think the familiarity of having the same ability scores you already know beats the ease of having fewer. Likewise, I could reduce the four basic classes to three or even two, but unless I can get rid of classes altogether I don't se much reason to do that since I believe the basic four classes to have some interesting balance. And saving throws? Easily reduced to two or even one, but if you can use the six ability scores you already have, you're not adding too much complexity.
Basically, I want to cut redundancy instead of reducing everything to the "essentials". Maybe it is the same thing. So let's just say I want to write my version of D&D in 20 pages instead of one or two.
Anyway, here is a poll I made on Facebook (BTW, if you are on FB and want to talk about games, feel free to add me).
This is something I created on a whim, so there is stuff missing. I added "damage rolls" and "initiative" after creating the poll, because someone suggested it. I didn't say "feats" or "multi-class" because these are already optional in 5e. So this is not comprehensive or precise... but it can give you a rough idea.
So, spell slots are the first to go (with 159 votes IIRC). I agree. We already solved this issue.
Now, skills is an obvious one, although I was reluctant at first.
I say its obvious because there are already optional rules in the 5e DMG that do away with skills in favor of ability scores and classes. In addition, skills were often unimportant (except for thief skills) in old school D&D.
I was reluctant because Dark Fantasy Basic is skill based, and for me there is something so EASY about making classes through skill combination... "Spells + nature" make druids, "Combat + nature" make rangers and barbarians, etc.
Well, you can do the opposite and replace skills with classes. The important thing is that you have SOME method of customization for different characters.
Initiative we've discussed briefly before. I think it is completely unnecessary. That might deserve a post of its own.
Level and HP, well, these two are hard to do. Possible, sure, but they are really close to the "core" of what D&D is in the first place, IMO. Giving levels and HP to single figures is basically what separated D&D from wargames at the beginning of the hobby. They could certainly be replaced - for something like "wounds" and "character points" - but it sees that if you've got to replace them with SOMETHING, instead of simply cutting them out, I'd rather stay faithful to D&D.
Damage rolls are pretty redundant, IMO. 5e already calculates average damage for monsters, do the same for PCs. Critical hits are there to add some variety. So, 1d8+3 becomes 7 damage (a critical hit becomes maximum damage: 11 points).
Then we've got classes and ability scores. Also tricky. Seems to me that you can have classes but no ability scores - OD&D seems easy to play without them, for example. B/X too. Them you have games like Knave without classes, relying solely on ability scores. But, you've got to have some customization, in one way or another, to differentiate PCs.
In short, most of these things are easy to cut, but we've got to keep at least some semblance of skills OR ability scores OR classes to allow for some customization - as we'll see.