Emotion-Based Conditions Cover for Blog

Emotion-Based Conditions for D&D 5e – More drama and more fun

‘Emotion-based Conditions’ is my new, quick design.

To set things up, let me start that this is specifically designed for my table and might not work on other’s tables. Nevertheless I’ve decided to share it, since, well, it can be either useful for some in its current state, or perhaps will be a starting point to design even more thoughtful, interesting sub-system.

Here is how it looks like

D&D Emotion Based Conditions

Short Background aka Why I Need Those New Conditions:

  1. I’m running Eberron campaign with Daelkyr manipulating emotions and using it to create new elements in the world – so thematically it seemed fitting.
  2. There are new types of symbiotic weapons draining strong emotions and using them to utilize magical power
  3. I needed a way to cue players on how their emotional state could change through mechanical elements of the game, but without overtaking the PC and rob the players from agency.

Emotion-Based Conditions – Design Principles

It is based on Paul Eckman’s six basic emotions: Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Surprise. For contextual reasons and to imply slightly less the permanent characteristics of the PC, I’ve changed the language to be more suitable. I think it emphasises the current, changing state – so you might not be Happy (Permanent State) but be Cheerful for an hour (Temporary State).

Preserve the Agency. What it does – in my opinion – is more to inform player how they might feel and give them a cue, rather than changing their personality.

Double-Edged Sword. In order for those conditions to be fun, I wanted them to have potentially both positive and negative impact. It can be used by creatures on themselves, in order to gain that edge over some thread or use it entirely against someone. This also inform another design principle – interactivity.

Interactive. I really like when Conditions allow to do something more. I personally call them compound Conditions which means that they act by itself and add new layer of interactivity to it. For instance, a creature makes PC Frightened but also, when they are Frightened it can deal more damage to the PC. It creates more tension and drama (which is what you want in the game, btw).

Distinctive. A lot of Conditions in 5e D&D are very similar and, honestly, dull. As DM I still have to check what’s the difference between paralyzed, stunned, incapacitated etc. They are just so similar!

General Mechanics

The condition is over when you take a long rest or spend 1d4 hours of specific activity to end it. Some abilities can specifically limit the condition to time or other requirements.

Lesser Restoration spell and other abilities suppressing emotions works on those as well. I would recommend DMs to make decisions regarding what ends the condition having in mind two things:

  1. This is not NATURAL EMOTIONAL STATE but magically induced one.
  2. The emotions come from within the PC – they’re fueled by what’s inside the PC mind, soul, heart. Nevertheless it’s a cue for a player to explore the emotional aspects of the character as well as game mechanics.

Example on using the Emotion Condition

Here is an example of re-worked Werewolf using Furious condition [it is one of my NPC’s for the campaign]
Example Statblock.

DND 5e werewolf statblock - reworked

Printable Emotion-based Conditions

Here you can download PDF to print it on your home printer on A4 paper. It is designed to be easily cut out, almost as a card that your players can hold and familiarize themselves with it.
Printable PDF

Visual Design

It’s deliberately cute to make my female players have slightly more fun (they love cute things) and so it doesn’t overwhelm the players with new mechanics and heavy art style. Take it or leave it 😉

Btw. If you need new conditions for you table, just create them or look for cool homebrews. Lately MCDM in their new book on Monsters introduced Dazed conditions. I’m still not sure if it’s not too broad for me, but it still has potential to be more interesting than stun, paralyze, incapacitated…YAWN.

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