Monday, July 24, 2017

The Zak Hack (Old School 5e D&D)

Note to redditors:

This post has been Reddited, which--as usual--means a bunch of weird comments. The top comment at the moment is that there's no reason to use hacked 5e instead of an old school system. There are lots of reasons, of course, to take a random example: the saving throws are better. Like, having written literally hundreds of pages of old-school modules I can tell you that going "save vs dragon breath" when there's slippy oil on the floor never makes any more sense than it did the first time. Anyway, if you have sane comments, feel free to leave them...
David Decree made this

How to play fifth edition D&D old school style:

EDIT: This is all summarized in a nice clean fan-made pdf document here.

Character gen like this

8 hour rests to get spells/abilities back

No cantrips

No bards

No feats

No inspiration

Group initiative (each side rolls a d6)

Old school healing + Death & Dismemberment

"Concentration" spells sometimes require literal concentration--depends on the spell. It's not just "you need to be awake", sometimes you won't be able to do other stuff.

Starting at 5th level non-casting classes and monsters add their naked d20 to-hit roll to damage (to counter Caster supremacy once fireballs kick in)

Monsters are custom-built when the players are over 5th high level, the monsters roll d20s and d30s for damage.

Rangers like this

Paladins like this

Witch/Warlock like this

Clerics like this

...ideally I'd like to rewrite all the classes and spells and so not have to do the +d20-kludge, but this works for now better than any other game so there we go.


G. B. Veras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zak Sabbath said...

-1 hp if you rest 8 hours

-magic works


-otherwise see "Death & Dismemberment"

Hakdov said...

Just play White Box S&W instead. It's a lot easier to do than hack up 5e.

Zak Sabbath said...

I don't want "easy" I want perfect.

It's been working out fine for years.

Casmarius said...

When running old school nature magic, Do you prefer Druids as their own class (AD&D) or as a specialized subset of Cleric (2e)?

I have players who love their hippie magicks, and a lot of it bleeds over to other classes as well.

Zak Sabbath said...

I don't care how they're defined, really.

Zak Sabbath said...

Just as long as they have more sense than that idiot in the Jackson Hobbit.

cadorette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jojiro said...

Is it possible to turn the Zak Hack into a Google Drive PDF document? It's layout work on your end, but the result is something more easily shareable/printable.

Zak Sabbath said...

I won't stop someone else if they want to do it

s7610ra said...

Not my cup of tea, but shows how hackable/moddable 5e is. This edition, with caveats, has delivered a core that can be modded a lot or a little for every game table. The fact that it can be a simple blog post evidences this well.

Matsz said...

I think the PDF / post could use a core mechanic explanation (or did I miss it?). I'm not sure if it's roll under stats, thac0 like, etc.

Zak Sabbath said...


It's the same as 5e.

TheDiceMustRoll said...

Do they still pick archetypes and shit when they level up?

Zak Sabbath said...



Dicey said...


I mean the characters. I don't see any specific rules for leveling up, how saves change, if they get to pick archetypes and such. What the level cap is and so on.

Zak Sabbath said...

@the Dice Must Roll

anything not changed is as defalt 5e

Anonymous said...

once again whoever keeps spamming this please stop spamming it in /5eg/, you're an annoyance

Zak Sabbath said...


Is someone spamming this link? If so, where? Can you please link?

Zak Sabbath said...

@ erased Anon

The link you provided appears to be a link to a harassment site, so: erased.

If the spamming was only done there, your complaint's not legitimate, since people who are active on a site are bad actors and waived their right to complain about people annoying them long ago.


In fact, so obviously, it's weird you'd waste your time posting a complaint like that here.

Zak Sabbath said...

@erased anon

your post was erased because commenters aren't allowed to post misinformation

I don't know what your board is, so I doubt I've ever posted there, and I am sorry you and your players are so bad at D&D that you'd casually assume the Zak Hack is meant to kill players.

Zak Sabbath said...


1.No anonymous comments
2. No misinformation allowed in the comments