Low Fantasy in D&D

Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ravenloft… almost all of the major campaign settings in D&D were built for epic high fantasy. In these worlds, a typical city might contain a shop with magic items for sale on the shelves, a temple run by a priest whose touch can heal wounds and disease, and a dwarf tending a bar where humans, elves, and half-orcs sit down for a drink.

There’s a certain whimsical charm to that sort of setting, but if you’re anything like me, after playing countless games like those, you start to yearn for a world where magic and monsters aren’t so mundane—where even a simple encounter with an elf or a dwarf feels, well… fantastical.


An elf, a dwarf, and a tiefling walk into a bar…

So when I was getting ready to run my first campaign in D&D 5E, I decided to go with a low fantasy setting. My approach was to put the research I did for my graduate degree to use (for once) and go back to the original folktales and legends that inspired D&D’s mythos. If you’re interested in doing something similar, here are some ideas for you to try in your next D&D campaign.


Magic in this setting is rare and widely distrusted. Most folk regard the use of magic as cowardly, dangerous, and blasphemous. Spellcasters tend to practice their art in secret, for if their sorcerous ways were exposed, they’d be accused of weaving curses and hunted down like criminals. At the same time, some towns have a chieftain or a mysterious hermit who is respected and consulted for their miraculous abilities. And it’s not unusual to see folk carrying charms to ward off evil or bring good luck. But this kind of magic is more subtle than the typical D&D spell. In fact, the players should have difficulty figuring out if the chieftain’s ritual sacrifice or the hermit’s ominous prophecy is true magic or mere superstition.

Non-Human Races

Elves look just like humans, but have a supernatural beauty and grace about them. They live in their own secret world known as Alfheim (essentially just another name for the “Feywild” of the D&D cosmos), which can only be reached through “elf-gates” hidden deep in the forests. An elf-gate is a portal tied to some prominent natural feature, such as an ancient tree or a cave shrouded by a waterfall. Usually the elf-gate is hidden by an illusion or enchanted to open only under special circumstances. Even when open, the elf-gate is invisible, so entering Alfheim is a seamless experience. That is, if you step into Alfheim, you might not even realize it at first. The high elves and the wood elves coexist, with the high elves serving as the nobility in the courts deep within Alfheim and the wood elves acting more as scouts and nomads who range around the borders between the two worlds. The dark elves are the descendants of a clan that was banished from Alfheim long ago. After their banishment, they hid in caves underground. Over time, their subterranean dwelling changed them into the dark-skinned, white-haired people they are now.

Half-Elves are extremely rare, since most elves never associate with humankind. However, an elf with a bit of a mischievous streak might seduce a human who wanders too deep into the woods alone. A man who has such an encounter may find an eerily beautiful babe on his doorstep several months later, for a half-elven child could never be raised in Alfheim.

Dwarves live deep in the bowels of the earth and have an innate affinity for stonework and blacksmithing. It’s no easy task to find a dwarf—they rarely travel to the surface, and the entrances to their subterranean fortresses are carefully camouflaged to resemble solid rock.

Gnomes and halflings live in burrows found in the mountains, hills, and forests. Humans have difficulty telling the two apart and refer to them both as “little folk.” Humans tend to leave the little folk alone, not because they’re hard to find, but because it’s considered bad luck to disturb them. And the gnomes and halflings, valuing their privacy, do nothing to dissuade humans of this age-old superstition.

Orcs have no permanent homes, roaming instead in rival tribes. If these tribes all came together and cooperated, they would pose a significant threat to the human kingdoms, but their enmity for each other is much too great. Unable to stand up to the might of organized human armies, the scattered orc tribes stick to forests, mountains, and caves, striking only when opportunity arises, and then retreating back into the wilderness. Survivors of orc raids are rare—people usually find only the burnt ruins and mutilated corpses they leave behind. The few hunting parties humans have sent out after the orcs have always failed to return.

Half-Orcs are, sadly, almost always the children of human women who have been ravaged by orc marauders. They’re practically unheard of since most orcs won’t let their victims escape alive. Sadder still, half-orc children who defy the odds and live to be born are generally abandoned due to their grotesque features. Half-orcs are strong, however, and one could easily survive in the wilderness on its own. When grown, a half-orc might even pass for an abnormally large and misshapen human, but it’ll have trouble finding a place in society other than as a beggar or some other kind of outcast.

Tieflings and dragonborn are regarded as demons and hunted by humans on sight. Only a handful remain, and they go to great lengths to hide themselves.

Knocking on Death’s Door: Alternative Rules for Lingering Injuries & Losing Consciousness in D&D 5E

Ever noticed how tough battles in D&D tend to turn into a game of whack-a-mole? One hero reaches 0 HP and falls over. One of their friends runs over and casts cure wounds or force-feeds them a potion and they’re back up again. A round or two later, someone else drops and the cycle repeats.

I think the main reason for this is the sudden transition from up and fighting to comatose and bleeding out on the floor. True, the players can see their HP dropping, so they know they’re getting closer to death, but there’s no mechanic that really drives that home, that says, “Hey, buddy—maybe it’s time to cut your losses and retreat.” Without that nudge, players tend to keep fighting until they drop, and at that point there’s nothing they can do but wait for someone to tag them back in.

To address this issue, I’ve added a house rule to my D&D games. It gets the job done, and my players enjoy it, too. But before I explain how it works, let me give credit where credit’s due. I modeled this idea off of a post by the Angry GM. I tweaked it to suit my taste, but he’s the one who came up with the basic concept.

It involves adding a new condition called “dispirited.” A PC becomes dispirited when they reach 0 HP. When the PC becomes dispirited, they gain 1 level of exhaustion. As soon as they have at least 1 HP, they’re no longer dispirited.

The effects of being dispirited are:

  • You can’t attack or cast spells.
  • If you’re damaged again, you suffer a lingering injury. Also, you must make a Constitution saving throw. If the result is lower than 10 or the amount of damage you just took (whichever is higher), you become unconscious and unstable.

The idea here is to encourage the PC to pull back by cutting off their ability to contribute to the battle while adding the threat of real, long-term consequences. It also has the benefit of giving players something to do when they reach 0 HP and giving the GM a fair mechanic for introducing lingering injuries, which make the battles feel more brutal and realistic.

Speaking of lingering injuries, I find the table in the Dungeon Master’s Guide too complex for my taste. Here’s my own trimmed down version:

Lingering Injury. If you take damage while at 0 HP or if the damage is of an especially serious nature, you gain a lingering injury. The GM can choose something from the table below or have you roll 1d20. Only magical healing of 6th level or higher removes a lingering injury.

  • (1-5) Permanent Scar. A nice conversation starter.
  • (6-8) Impaired Arm. Disadvantage on any action that requires the injured arm, such as attacking, climbing, grappling, or swimming. Heals after a 10-day rest.
  • (9-11) Limp. Total movement speed reduced by 5. Disadvantage on climbing, jumping, etc. Heals after a 10-day rest.
  • (12-13) Internal Wound. You must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution save in order to take any combat action or reaction. Heals after a 10-day rest.
  • (14-15) Festering Wound. Your maximum HP drops by 1 each day. If you reach 0 max HP, you die. Heals after you have been successfully treated five times (DC 15 Medicine check once per day).
  • (16-17) Disfigured. Disadvantage on Persuasion. Advantage on Intimidation.
  • (18) Ruined/Lost Leg. Your total movement speed is halved. Disadvantage on climbing, jumping, etc.
  • (19) Ruined/Lost Arm. You can’t use your left or right hand. Disadvantage on climbing, grappling, swimming, etc.
  • (20) Lost Eye. Disadvantage on Perception. If you have already lost an eye, you become blind.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to D&D 5E

Let’s face it. D&D’s a great game, but it can get a bit overly complicated at times. I know not everyone agrees, but I like my game sessions to be fast-paced and relatively simple. And, as a GM, I prefer to spend as little of my prep time as possible flipping through rulebooks. If you feel the same way I do, this rant is for you. Here are all the cuts and edits I’ve made to D&D’s core rules in order to keep my gaming nights moving and the headaches at a minimum.


Ah, combat. The focal point of D&D’s mechanics and yet arguably the part of the game that needs the most work. Where to begin?

Special Attacks. I think there are several separate mechanics here that can be combined. You can replace a normal attack action with any of the following actions.

  • Disarm. Make your attack roll, but instead of rolling against the opponent’s armor class, the opponent sets the DC with an Acrobatics or Athletics roll. If the opponent is wielding a two-handed weapon, make your attack roll with disadvantage.
    • Note: One of my house rules is that a creature gains advantage on an Athletics roll when facing off against a smaller opponent. And if the creature is larger by 2 sizes or more, the larger creature wins the contest automatically.
  • Grapple, Throw, or Trip. To attempt any of these moves, roll Acrobatics or Athletics (your choice). The opponent resists by rolling Acrobatics or Athletics as well (their choice). If you throw a creature, you can move it up to 5 feet away and deal 1d4 damage.
  • Overrun or Shove. If you want to force your way past an enemy creature or push it to an adjacent space, make a contested Athletics roll with it.

Climb a Creature. As an action, you can climb on top of a creature larger than you. Make a contested Acrobatics roll with the creature.

Dash. As an action, you can double your total movement for the turn. You gain a point of exhaustion if you dash for a number of consecutive turns equal to 3 + your Constitution modifier.

Search. This isn’t specified as an action in D&D, but in my opinion it should be. As an action, you can make a Perception roll to check the area around you for hidden creatures and objects. The DC for detecting a hidden creature is 10 + its Stealth bonus.

Opportunity Attack. When a creature within reach of your weapon moves out of your reach or takes a non-combat action, you can use your reaction to make an immediate attack against them, even if it’s not your turn. Only one adjacent creature can make an opportunity attack for each space the target creature moves through (otherwise you get into ridiculous situations where 7 enemies stab you all at the same time as soon as you take a step in the wrong direction). You can’t make an opportunity attack if you used the Dash action on your last turn.

Mobs. For something that comes up all the time, D&D has a really convoluted way of handling a violent mob trying to attack the same target at once. I think it’s fair to say simply that, when a large group of creatures gang up on a single target, the DM can forego making attack rolls to save time and just assume that they get 1 hit in for every 3 attackers or so. This also serves to make large groups of enemies more threatening to the PCs. If you play by the rules as written, you may find that a PC with heavy armor can essentially wade through a sea of smaller enemies without getting scratched.

Cover. In D&D 5E, they came up with this brilliant advantage/disadvantage mechanic so the players wouldn’t have to keep track of a whole bunch of circumstantial plus and minus modifiers to rolls. But for some reason they decided hiding behind cover in combat needed its own special mechanic. Bollocks, I say! If you have cover, attacks against you have disadvantage.

Underwater Combat. This one doesn’t come up too often, but D&D has some overly complex rules here, too. The following simplified mechanics should work just fine.

  • Bludgeoning and Slashing Attacks. Unless you have a swim speed, you attack with disadvantage when using a bludgeoning or slashing weapon underwater.
  • Ranged Attacks. All ranged attacks have disadvantage at normal range and miss automatically at long range.
  • Fire Attacks. All creatures have resistance to fire damage while underwater.


Counting spaces during a battle isn’t usually so bad, but there can be a lot to keep track of once you start getting into nitty-gritty stuff, like difficult terrain. The following rules are based on the actual D&D mechanics, but with some of the details removed to make them easier to remember and apply during play.

Slow Move. Each time you move 1 space (5 feet), count 1 extra space from your movement total if any of these factors apply: climbing, crawling, difficult terrain, or moving through an occupied or tight space.

Half Move. It costs half of your movement total to do any of the following: dismount an animal, mount an animal, stand up.

Encumbrance. If you’re pushing or pulling something heavier or larger than what you can normally carry, your total speed is reduced to 1 space (5 feet) per turn and you have disadvantage on all rolls you make.

Jump. Roll Acrobatics or Athletics. For a long jump, the result of the roll is equal to the number of feet you can cover (a roll of 15 means you can jump a distance of 15 feet). For a high jump, divide the result by 3 (a roll of 15 means you can jump up to 5 feet). If you can’t get a running start, roll with disadvantage.

Tumble. If you want to dodge around an enemy creature blocking your path, you can use a bonus action (not a normal action), to make a contested Acrobatics roll with the creature. You don’t need to roll if the creature is larger than you by 2 sizes or more (i.e., if you’re medium and it’s huge).


Is it just me, or are the D&D conditions largely redundant? After some tinkering, I managed to smush the similar ones together to make for a more streamlined, easier to remember list. (The conditions that I didn’t change aren’t included here.)

Disadvantaged (Frightened, Poisoned)

  • You have disadvantage on attacks and ability rolls.
  • If you’re frightened, you can’t approach the object of your fear or take any offensive action against it.

Hindered (Grappled, Prone, Restrained)

  • You have disadvantage on attacks and Dexterity saves.
  • Melee attacks against you have advantage.
  • Ranged attacks against you have disadvantage.
  • If grappled or restrained, your speed is reduced to 0. You can roll Acrobatics or Athletics to escape.

Immobilized (Incapacitated, Paralyzed, Petrified, Stunned, Unconscious)

  • You can’t move, speak, or take actions of any kind.
  • Attacks against you automatically hit.
  • You automatically fail all saving throws.
  • If you’re petrified, you have resistance to all damage and any poison or disease in your system stops affecting you (it starts affecting you again as soon as you stop being petrified).


The rules for how much exhaustion you gain due to lack of water, sleep, and food are convoluted and make little sense. Here’s a simpler system, which is also closer to the real-world effects of dehydration, sleep deprivation, and starvation:

  • Gain 1 level of exhaustion after 1 day with no water.
  • Gain 1 level of exhaustion after 2 days with no sleep.
  • Gain 1 level of exhaustion after 3 days with no food.

Exhaustion gained in this way does not “stack.” For example, if you’re already gaining exhaustion due to lack of water, you can ignore any exhaustion you would gain from lack of sleep or food.

A Critical Look at Critical Fumbles in D&D 5E

Most players of D&D are familiar with this little optional rule—when a character rolls a 1 on an attack roll, they not only whiff but hit themselves in the face or send their weapon flying out of their hands, or any number of other harmful or at least embarrassing screw-ups. Of course, it’s not terribly realistic. While someone who’s never held a sword before may do more damage to themselves than the enemy, the majority of people who make attack rolls in D&D are trained—if not expert—fighters. A battle-worn champion shouldn’t be flailing wildly with every twentieth swing.

So if you prefer to run serious, dramatic, and realistic scenes, you’re probably better off doing without critical fumbles. But I’ve always preferred to keep my games on the silly side. There’s nothing like a hero accidentally conking an ally over the head at the worst possible time, or a villain delivering a menacing monologue and then immediately tripping over their own feet. Some of the most memorable moments from my games have come from critical fumbles.

The problem is in finding a quick and dirty way to resolve these moments when they do pop up. Combat in D&D is already a bit clunky and stilted under the best of circumstances—the last thing it needs is another complicated series of tables to slow things down.


Yeah, no thanks. I’m good.

Fumble Charts - Google Docs.png

Please stop…


Oh god why

As you can see, some people out there really like their critical fumbles. And if you’re one of them, hey, don’t let me stop you. But after considerable experimenting, the approach I’ve had the most success with is this little table of mine:

Critical Fumble! When you roll a 1 on an attack, roll 1d6.

  1. Distracted. Your turn ends. You can’t use a reaction until your next turn.
  2. Opening. One enemy may use a reaction to attack you now.
  3. Trip. Stumble 5 feet in a random direction or fall prone (GM’s choice).
  4. Self-Inflicted Wound. Roll your weapon damage. You take half that amount.
  5. Friendly Fire. Deal half your weapon’s damage to the creature closest to your original target.
  6. Disarmed. Your weapon (or something else you’re carrying) flies off in a random direction for 15 feet or until it hits a creature or obstacle. If it hits a creature, that creature takes 1d4 damage. If it hits an obstacle, the item becomes damaged or stuck (roll Athletics DC 10 to dislodge).
    • Ranged Attack Variation: If wielding a bow or crossbow, the drawstring breaks.

It may not look like much, but that list is robust enough to trigger some interesting situations without totally derailing the scene. It also works well because about half of the items on the list aren’t all that bad and seem like something even a skilled fighter might do from time to time (like getting distracted by something around them or swinging too wide and leaving an opening for the enemy to take advantage of). And, finally, it has the benefit of being short enough that you can memorize it pretty easily. After a few sessions, you won’t even need the table anymore.

Welp, that’s all I’ve got for today. Happy rolling!


The Rules: A Blessing in Disguise


This rant should really be called a “GM Rumination”—it’s more a memo to myself than a piece of advice. But I’ve decided to make it a “GM Tip” anyway, on the offchance other like-minded GMs find it helpful.

I’ve experimented with homebrew mechanics for as long as I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs (holy crap, I just realized it’s been over 20 years). Ahem, anyway—I started homebrewing because I didn’t have the right rulebooks on hand; I just made my own, starting with whatever I could remember from flipping through the books my friends had and throwing in bits and pieces of other board games and video games I had played. Once I had a good set of books handy, though, my main motivation for homebrewing was that the official rules seemed so unnecessarily clunky. I felt that most of them didn’t add anything to the game and could be thrown out.

I made several attempts at building my own systems from scratch over the years. These worked well enough, but they inevitably required tweaking during gameplay as unforeseen situations came up and hidden glitches were revealed. My systems were rarely balanced and lacked the depth of a long-standing classic like D&D.

My inclination toward simpler systems has naturally drawn me to what I’m going to call “improv RPGs,” which encourage the GM and players to make up most of the story without many rules as they go. And that brings me to the point of this rant—those games sound awesome in theory, but each time I try one, I remember that I actually kind of hate them.

Before I explain why, let me make sure we’re on the same page. When I say “improv RPG,” I’m talking about games like The Window and Fate. In Window, players have a set of ability scores and a handful of skills, and the skills are totally up to the players to invent out of the blue. A “skill” in that system is just a phrase describing an aspect of your character with a die assigned to it. The lower your roll, the better the success, so a small die (like a d6) is much better than a large die (like a d20). And that’s it. Those are the rules. There are no concrete rules telling you how to create balanced characters, what to do when a character gets hurt, how equipment could help you, or what spells a wizard can cast… you’re just supposed to resolve each action however it makes sense in the story, with the die roll as inspiration.

For me, there is (or at least used to be) enormous appeal in such a streamlined system. You can teach someone the rules in under a minute and create a character in however much time it takes to write down your concept. Everything you need to know about your character can fit on an index card. No need to buy rulebooks or pause to consult them during play. Most attractive of all, the only limit on the kinds of characters and scenarios you can play is your imagination.

I have no doubt that something like The Window works wonderfully for lots of people out there, but after giving it several tries and having little luck, I went running back to D&D. It’s not that the games I ran fell apart or anything like that—the system worked well enough. The problem was that it was an enormous headache trying to keep the game going. As all GMs know, running a game in any system is a daunting mental exercise. While the players are each responsible for a single character, the GM is in charge of describing and keeping track of literally everything else. Picture it this way: if you’re a player, you’re throwing a ball back and forth with the GM. If you’re the GM, you’ve got to play catch with each of your players while simultaneously juggling several more balls.



When you don’t have a set of rules to determine what happens in at least the most commonly encountered situations, that freedom just adds to the number of balls the GM needs to juggle. Your character was hit? In D&D, I’d just check my monster’s stats, roll for damage, and tell you to subtract the result from your hit points. Describing how the blow landed is an optional piece of narrative flair I sometimes add in for especially dramatic moments, but just as often leave out in order to get on with the scene. The damage carries its own weight. Without any narrative input from the GM, a player winces when their character takes a big hit.

But, in a system like The Window, narration is everything, so I’m constantly having to come up with new and interesting descriptions for how each and every attack hits or misses. There is a loose set of rules for determining when a character loses consciousness, but about half the time a hit has no lingering game effect on the character. Unless the GM decides to impose some kind of arbitrary penalty, there’s nothing in the rules to reinforce the fact that your character is taking a beating. If the narration isn’t suitably dramatic, the event loses its gravitas.

This is just an example. I understand that The Window is not a combat-centric system. But these sorts of problems come up in any situation when using those kinds of rules. Playing D&D, I can automatically figure out what roll is required in most situations and what the roll means, but in The Window, it’s all up in the air, which means it falls on the GM to figure it out on the spot. And that shit is exhausting!

I also understand that systems like The Window encourage the players to share in the role of determining the narrative, but despite constantly reminding my players that they have that ability, they rarely take up the reins. Perhaps it’s because they’ve been trained by systems like D&D, but I find that most of my players prefer to propose an action and let the dice and the GM tell them how it goes down. Giving the players narrative control robs them of a sense of immersion—you can’t pretend you are your character if you are simultaneously deciding what happens to your character.

Another problem with The Window is it lacks tactical depth. When the rules are so streamlined, the players have few options available to them other than simply rolling and hoping for the best. There are no rules for multiple characters trying to work together, for example, or for flanking an enemy. If I want to reward player ingenuity, I’m forced to either come up with a bonus myself or tell the players their plan isn’t going to do any good.

Finally, running a game in The Window makes it difficult to keep things fair and consistent. So much burden is on the GM to invent rulings on the fly that, inevitably, you’re going to make a bad call. I found myself often wanting to undo decisions I had made earlier.

In my longest running Window adventure, I tried to save myself some trouble by coming up with charts for things like injuries and options for tactical combat. That’s when I realized I was basically recreating D&D, but in a much less efficient form. With the set of Window combat rules I came up with, a single attack action required multiple rolls: one to decide if the attack itself was any good, another to decide if the target was able to dodge, a third to decide if their armor could absorb the hit, a fourth to decide what kind of injury they received if the attack finally landed, and a fifth to decide if the character lost health or not as a result. In D&D, you’ve got the time-saving abstraction of Armor Class and Hit Points. One roll compared to a target’s Armor Class to decide if they dodged or if the armor blocked the hit, and a second roll to decide how much damage they take if they are hit. And best of all, the numbers have already been carefully playtested and balanced, and the players will feel the sting of each hit whether or not the GM decides to describe it.

It was that realization that caused me to give up on using The Window and continue the adventure with D&D 5th edition. But, about a year later, I discovered a little system called Fate. Long story short, Fate is considerably more robust than The Window, but it’s riddled with many of the same pitfalls. Too much is left open, meaning the GM and the players are constantly forced to improvise new ideas to resolve even the simplest of actions. Paradoxically, just like The Window, the pared-down rules of Fate end up being more complicated than just having books full of rules in the first place.

And that’s the whole reason I’m writing this rambling rant—to share with you a realization that probably should have been obvious. Systems like The Window and Fate may seem easier, simpler, and faster on the surface, but that’s an illusion. They replace rules with improvisational storytelling, and improv is no easy or simple task. As any actor or comedian can tell you, improv is a difficult skill that takes long sessions of practice to get right. Personally, I think rules-intensive games like D&D already demand enough improv to keep me busy, and learning the rules is easier and faster for me than making them up as I go.

That being said, balance is key. There are lots of systems out there that have far too many rules for my liking. I think D&D has struck a pretty good balance. At least it’s come a long way since I started playing it 20 years ago. It’s much simpler now than it used to be. And I still have my own streamlined homebrew rules that I use when I play. The key, I think, is to find what amount of rules work well for you and your group.

D&D co-creator Gary Gygax once said, “The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don’t need any rules.” And he’s right—we don’t need the rules, but they certainly come in handy. So hats off to you, Gary, whether you think you deserve it or not. RIP.

Fixing Rest in D&D 5E

Tired of dealing with rest in D&D? (See what I did there?) Then read on…


In 5th Edition D&D, players decide how many hit dice they wish to expend after a “Short Rest” (one hour of downtime). A character could take a Short Rest and spend, for example, 1 hit die, and then take another Short Rest and spend 4 hit dice. This makes resting a matter of strategically managing resources, which some players may enjoy. However, as The Angry GM points out in “Hitting the Rest Button,” this makes absolutely no sense if you think of the player’s choices as representing the character’s. In order to obtain the benefit of rolling more hit dice, characters don’t actually have to rest longer, eat more food, or tend to their injuries more closely. The player arbitrarily decides how much their character will heal after each rest, which is deducted from their daily allowance, as if the character could somehow control how quickly their own wounds heal through sheer willpower.

You may argue that the mechanic represents the varied rate at which wounds heal and puts the variation in the control of the player rather than leaving it up to random chance. Even though the player is in control, it doesn’t necessarily mean the character is controlling anything. But, like The Angry GM, I prefer my games to be more immersive than that. By asking the players how much their characters heal, you shatter the illusion that they are their characters. What’s more, I find that the resting mechanic as presented in 5E tends to slow the game down, with little payback. When players are asked to manage their hit dice, more often than not it feels like a chore instead of a strategic deliberation. Especially to people just getting started with D&D (as many of my players are), it’s just one more thing to keep track of on an already crowded character sheet.

That’s why I’ve opted for a fixed rest mechanic in my games. By “fixed,” I don’t mean that I’ve repaired a broken system (though I like to think so). I mean that the rate at which each character heals is set—it’s not up to the players to decide.

My solution is a little different from the ideas The Angry GM came up with:

After a Short Rest, the player rolls half of their hit dice (rounded up) and adds their Constitution modifier to each roll. For example, a Level 8 Fighter with 14 Con rolls 1d10+2 four times. These hit dice are not “spent”—the character may take multiple Short Rests per day, rolling 4 HD each time, but not without seeing some action between each resting period. Also, at a certain point (GM’s discretion, but usually after two Short Rests), the character must take a Long Rest before they can benefit from further Short Rests. In other words, a character heals roughly half of their HP after taking a Short Rest, which they can do around twice per day, but not twice in a row.

This system is roughly equivalent to the 5E resting system (assuming the PCs take about two Short Rests before settling down for a Long Rest), but it’s faster, easier, and more immersive.

After a Long Rest, a player is fully healed, as per standard 5E rules.

If you’re looking for a grittier system, cut the allotted hit dice in half (1/4 HD for a Short Rest and 1/2 HD for a Long Rest). Under those rules, our Level 8 Fighter would roll only 2 HD after a Short Rest and 4 HD after a Long Rest.