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

Friday, March 12, 2021

Minimalist D&D IX - Sidekick D&D, the easiest 5e available!

I've been trying to make a minimalist version of 5e for a while, because I think a simpler game would be easier for my players. I recently realized, however, that WotC already did half the job for me. 

Part of the answers I've been looking for are here: 

These rules are not created for PCs, mind you, but their "sidekicks". I am not particularly interested and in giving my PCs (or myself) even more powers and features to take care of, so adding allies to the party is something I'd do very cautiously. 

HOWEVER, these rules for sidekicks distill the things I find most interesting about the "three classes" in 5e (warrior, expert, spellcaster).

People that have been playing 5e for a while mighty find these classes too simple; but they are ideal for new players (or, to be honest, old players that keep forgetting half the features past level 10, or are just tired of the number for existing options, which seems to be my case).


You'll notice their warrior is similar to my own. Theirs came first, of course, so I probably copied it unintentionally. I still like mine a bit better! But WotC seems to have come to similar conclusions about which features are most important...

The expert is also GREAT. Instead of getting sneak attack, she gets some "help" actions - so she can act as a bard (or leader) as well! I miss the sneak attack a bit (giving her "extra attack is not a great idea IMO), and "Reliable Talent" still sucks IMO (more on that later), but it is a great start. 

And the spell-caster is mercifully short. 16 spells known, 5 cantrips, a total of about 75 "spell levels" total... This is manageable! You can customize him a lot by just choosing the right spells (and signature spells, spell list, spellcasting ability). It's enough. Shape-shifting can become a spell. Turn undead too. 

I know there's another version in Tasha's, but I've skipped that book for now, and from what I've seem the one in the PDF is slightly more interesting for my purposes.

So let's revise what we have: 

- The warrior gets more (and better) attacks. 
- The spell-caster gets more (and better) spells. 
- The expert gets more of anything else - mostly skills, but also bonus actions. Notice that bonus actions are very "rogue-ish". Another one of the rogue's idiosyncrasies... something I'll have to analyse later.

What about everything else? We can make them feats (if they aren't already - Sharp Mind is similar to the Resilient feat, only weaker; same goes for Danger Sense, and I don't see why a Rogue shouldn't be able to have Danger Sense, os a spell-caster Sharp Mind, etc.).

So, what do you think? Could we run a campaign - or at least a one-shot - with minimalist classes such as those? Should we add such classes to the existing ones, so that new players can try something simpler first? Or are those only for sidekicks after all? 

Let me know in the comments!


  1. I think it'd be fun to lean into this and have a campaign where the PCs are all actual sidekicks who get thrust into the limelight when the real heroes meet disaster!

    1. That's a cool idea!

      "'At least for a while,' said Elrond. 'The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strenght nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

  2. I'd think just using the Basic 5e rules https://dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/basicrules would give a similar effect, at least for Fighters & Rogues. Wizards & Clerics are a bit more complex and could be replaced by the UA Spellcaster. But you can dial down complexity a lot just by starting at 1st level & using XP with relatively slow advancement - having most fights be with multiple low XP critters does the trick. :)
    If you want simple fast play I advise against using Feats.

    1. Well said, (champion) fighters and rogues are lean enough, clerics and wizards not so much.

  3. It seems that back in December Brenton Stover posted about the concept of having players use Sidekicks as PCs in what they called "5e Hard Mode": https://www.lightheartadventures.com/dungeon-master-tips/dd-5e-hard-mode/. They suggest a few tweaks (such as using pseudo-class appropriate Hit Dice) that I don't find appealing: if someone want to be a Pixie warrior, they bloody well better learn to deal with the lousy hit points.

    1. Cool stuff! Some great ideas. I agree about the HD.