April 21, 2016

Dark Souls Rules Variants

Variant Rules
Comments from the Finger: Bonus post, because I just finished Dark Souls 3! 


The undead in Dark Souls are quite unlike the undead of other fantasy roleplaying settings. While the undead cannot truly die, they gradually undergo a process called Hollowing as they die again and again, which ultimately robs them of their mind and spirit. Generally, an undead will continue being lucid and will not hollow completely while it still holds a deep purpose or mission.

When you are reduced to 0 hit points, you die without making any death saving throws. You then return to a bonfire and become partially hollow. Your maximum hit points decrease by 10 each time you die, to a minimum of half your hit point maximum. Consuming a humanity restores your hit point maximum.


A tiny black sprite found within living humans, humanity is an enigma to the residents of Dark Souls. It is certain, however, that all undead lack humanity, and find it fleeting. Consuming humanity reverses hollowing, but does not cure undeath; it merely postpones hollowing until the undead dies again. Powerful creatures, and sometimes the very lowliest, can be harvested for their humanity. It is said that humanity can be found in the deepest pit of the Abyss, but why it can be found in abundance there is a mystery.


The lands of Dark Souls are lined with singular points of heatless flame, each marked with a coiled sword and a heap of undead bones. These bonfires link the world and provide moments of respite for countless undead. When you take a short or long rest at a bonfire, you regain all expended hit points and refill all your estus flasks. Estus flasks and bonfire healing replace Hit Dice; you cannot rest apart from at a bonfire or recover hit points by expending hit dice.

Estus Flasks 

The undead treasure these dull green flasks, which promise survival in a land dominated by death. Estus flasks provide swift healing, and are replenished at bonfires.

You have a number of estus flasks equal to half your level, rounded up. You can drink an estus flask as a bonus action, which restores hit points equal to 1d6 + your Constitution modifier. All empty estus flasks restore when you rest at a bonfire.


Because of the more abundant healing, and because Dark Souls is renowned for its considerable difficulty, all enemies deal twice as much damage. Especially dangerous enemies, like those which drop humanity upon their deaths, deal three times as much damage.

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  1. In the first paragraph you say "still holds still holds" other than that this is pretty cool. And dark souls fits better in 5e than 3.5 as I see it.

    1. Nice catch! That's a weird error my phone inserts sometimes when I write stuff on it.

    2. Thanks. I've only recently discovered this site. The next time I multi class in my current 5e session or start a new one I plan on using some of your material. It's pretty expensive and feels balanced.

    3. Thanks. I've only recently discovered this site. The next time I multi class in my current 5e session or start a new one I plan on using some of your material. It's pretty expensive and feels balanced.

  2. I would add 2 points to this:
    1. As undead you do not have the ability to heal through hit dice, you may only heal through magical means.
    2. The issue with lethality in 5e has nothing to do with monsters doing too little damage. The primary issue is the HP growth rate of players, especially those who focus on Con. This combined with how easy it is to get players back up if you have a healer makes it very hard to keep someone down in 5e. My suggestion would be to halve (at least) the hit point growth of characters when they level up (once every 2 levels or only gain 1/2 as much). Additionally, to add to lethality of creatures, add class levels, nothing in Dark Souls is a bad fighter, so adding a few levels in battlemaster adds to the feel.

    Speaking of the hit points issue, I'm considering alternatives (firstly for a campaign I'm planning and secondly for an RPG system) and I've come to 2 solutions (in my head, not tested yet).
    The first is to start players with lvl 4 hit points but then never increase them (except through feats, Con increases or magic items). This will naturally lead to some damage rebalances.
    The second is to entirely replace hit points with an injury system, so on a hit (separated into light and heavy) the target will get an injury and gradually be rendered incapable of fighting (open to a coup-de-grace instant kill or killed by a lucky shot). I need to refine the latter method so it can be applied to monsters more easily.

    1. @Hit Dice: Totally covered under Bonfires

      @Class levels: Giving enemies battlemaster levels is probably the correct solution, but asking DMs to customize every enemy with class levels is just too much. Buffing the damage with a multiplier is a catch-all. Also, it just occurred to me that I should remove the death saving throws mechanic completely.

      @Balancing Hit Points: Do some preliminary math to make sure you're system is in the right ballpark for what you want, and then playtest. Playtest, playtest, playtest.

    2. I do feel that auto failing death saving throws fits quite nicely

  3. I was just about to write the first few sessions of our DS 2 campaign,thanks for the inspiration :)

  4. Any thoughts on an experience system? To me, while these rules are great, the most important part of dark souls is missing. The souls. Part of what makes it great is the ability to at any point lose the souls you've been gathering as well as deciding whether to spend your souls to improve a stat, or a weapon, or purchase an important item. Without a particular leveling system I feel like these rules fall shortly short if perfect. (They are still great though!)

    1. You know, in retrospect, the reason I didn't consider adding experience as souls, and giving the ability to lose souls upon death, is because it's been years since I've played with xp in an actual game. I'll try to find a good way to make this work

  5. You can actually do the souls thing by saying if you die while not in a state of Humanity, you lose all XP since the last level up. Regained by defeating the trap, foe or threat that did you in?

    1. That sounds somewhat like in BloodBorne (from what i understood from 5mins of playing at fiend's)