What Do I Know About Houserules? Alternate Gritty Rules (D&D 5e)

DnD_5E_CoreCE_DMG-copy.jpgAlternate Gritty Rules

After running several sessions using the slow natural healing rules and the gritty realism rules for D&D 5e, as expressed in the optional rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, those are punishing. Careful resource management is a key to making a game feel more or less super heroic, but shifting rests to 8 hours and 7 days really changes the pacing of the game.

Below are some options I’ve been exploring for expressing a gritty version of the game, without drastically shifting the time scale of adventuring. It is meant to make resource management more important, rather than expanding the time scale of the game.

These rules also assume one aspect of the slow natural healing rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Characters do not regain their hit points on a long rest, only half their total hit dice.

Taxing combat

Under these rules, combat is a rush of adrenaline and physical exertion, and this can take a toll on those that participate in combat. After each combat is resolved, each character that participated makes a Constitution save versus a difficulty of 8 + number of rounds of combat. If the character dropped to 0 hit points at any time during the fight, this save is made at disadvantage.

If the character fails this save, they gain a level of exhaustion. These levels of exhaustion can be removed under the same circumstances where exhaustion is normally removed. A character may spend a hit die and add the result of the hit die to their save.


  • After combat, save versus Constitution, with a difficulty of 8 + number of rounds of combat
  • Characters may spend a hit die to add the result of the hit die to the save
  • If the character dropped to 0 hit points during the fight, make the save at disadvantage
  • If the save is failed, the character gains a level of exhaustion

Surge of Excitement

Characters may take a short rest using only five minutes of downtime. This represents a surge of excitement where characters regain some of their clarity. To do this, they accept a level of exhaustion.

Cantrip Access

Spellcasting characters with access to cantrips only have access to cantrips if they have not spent all their spell points. Whenever a character is at 0 spell points, they no longer have access to cantrips, until they regain spell points.

Magical Recovery

This rule assumes the use of the spell point optional rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. The reason for this is that it is easier to change the rate of recovery for spells when using spell points, instead of figuring individual spell slots.

Under these rules, when a character takes a long rest, instead of regaining all their spells (or spell points), they instead only regain half their spell points. Because the original rules did not quantify spell points for warlocks, use this progression:

Warlock Spell Points

Warlocks are not detailed in the spell point system, so to use them with this, warlocks are modified in the following ways:

Warlocks regain 50% of their spell points when they take a short or long rest. Warlocks have a minimum spell point cost when they spend spell points to cast a spell. This is equal to the number of spell slots needed to cast one spell of the spell slot they have access to normally.

Level Spell Points (Minimum Spent per Casting) Slot Level
1st 2 (2) 1st
2nd 4 (2) 1st
3rd 6 (3) 2nd
4th 6 (3) 2nd
5th 10 (5) 3rd
6th 10 (5) 3rd
7th 12 (6) 4th
8th 12 (6) 4th
9th 14 (7) 5th
10th 14 (7) 5th
11th 21 (7) 5th
12th 21 (7) 5th
13th 21 (7) 5th
14th 21 (7) 5th
15th 21 (7) 5th
16th 21 (7) 5th
17th 28 (7) 5th
18th 28 (7) 5th
19th 28 (7) 5th
20th 28 (7) 5th

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