Let Your Players Build Momentum in 5E D&D!

Let Your Players Build Momentum in 5E D&D!

There's a new rule that can make your 5E game a lot better!

Anyone who's followed the $4,500,000+ crowdfunding campaign of the MCDM RPG knows that this new TTRPG is rethinking many of the concepts we know from 5E – and there's one concept in particular that's caught my attention: Victories!

What's the Problem?

If you've ever run a 5E dungeon you know how it goes: Halfway in, the characters have stepped into a trap, had three combat encounters, and are now about to go down to the next level of the dungeon. But before they do, they agree to take a long rest, because the wizard's low on spell slots and the fighter's almost out of hit points.

And just like that, the pacing of your session is completely off, because now you have to come up with more encounters to interrupt the party's rest or re-drain their resources in some other way to make the final few rooms of the dungeon as exciting and challenging as you wanted it to be.

A bummer all around.

The Usual Solution

While you can't exactly yell “come on, you cowards, press on!" at your players (or, you can, but it might not go over well), you can avoid this issue by creating urgency early on. If the quest is urgent, the players know that taking a long rest may have consequences – they'll be too late to save the princess or the villain might escape and regroup!

Sound advice and an all-around good way to deal with this issue – BUT it comes with a few downsides…

First, urgency is mostly a story thing, and a long rest will often still be the best choice mechanically.

Second, sometimes the story just doesn't have that urgency – or the players have little way of knowing exactly how urgent their mission is.

Finally – and the reason you don't yell at your players to continue on in the first place – you really don't want to take the choice away from your players.

How Victories Fix the Issue

In short, the concept of Victories (as described by James Introcaso and Matt Collville of MCDM RPG in this video), is that characters who overcome significant challenges will earn a Victory (or several), which they can use to fuel their abilities or make them stronger – but they lose all their earned Victories if they take a long rest. 

This means that your players' choice to rest or press on will be more nuanced. The long rest won't always be the obvious tactical choice, because resting and regaining resources is now weighed against losing the Victories already earned.

Using Victories in 5E

The concept developed for MCDM RPG is of course more complex, but here's how I think Victories can be used today to make your 5E game better!

First, I'd call it Momentum. Your players gain 1 Momentum when they overcome a significant challenge, or 2 Momentum if it's a particularly difficult challenge or they've overcome it in a very creative or heroic way.

Second, to keep things balanced, I'd not allow a character to have more than 3 Momentum at any given time – and, of course, you lose all Momentum when you take a long rest.

Third, I'd want Momentum to be genuinely useful so the choice between taking that long rest and keeping your Momentum is a real choice. Momentum shouldn't be used to recover ability uses, spell slots, or hit points, because that's what resting does. So instead, Momentum can be used for the following:

  • Luck. Momentum replaces Inspiration, and can be used to reroll any d20 roll you make AND any d20 roll an enemy makes on attack roll against you (really handy against those critical hits)
  • Surge. Momentum can be used at the start of a character's turn (no action required) to grant the character a flat +2 bonus to all d20 rolls it makes until the start of its next turn, as well as the save DC of its abilities and spells.

With these two use cases, going into that final boss battle with 3 Momentum might be comparable to taking a long rest that'd give you back half your hit points and spell slots. It'd at least make it a worthwhile choice where the players feel more compelled to do what makes sense for the story and the session's pacing – which is what we want!

Anyway, I intend to test out Momentum in my 5E games and would love to hear your thoughts on it, if you try it out. And, of course, a huge thank you to MCDM RPG – I've yet to see if it'll be the TTRPG to me (it's early in development), but anything that shakes up the scene and brings new, cool concepts to the game is good in my book.

Have fun!

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