Download GRIMDARK RULES at the DM’s Guild today.
Grimdark is a system that allows for playing “Grim & Gritty” games of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. It changes the standard rules in aspects of Armor Class, Hit Points, Damage, and Recovery. The system is intended to make combat more dangerous for characters of any level.
Regular advice about “Gritty” role-playing is provided within the 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide on page 267. Here it is called “Gritty Realism” and suggests that it is a good option to promote role-playing rather than just simple “Hack and Slash” gaming.
In a GRIMDARK story, the characters experience dire consequences when entering into life-threatening situations. Unlike most games of Dungeons & Dragons, the player can no longer simply reference Armor Class and Hit Points to measure the survivability of a combat situation. Now any brush with combat could result in serious injury, maiming, or death. Unlike the typical game of D&D where action resembles an action movie, GRIMDARK focuses on a style of play suggests “realism” in that any wound could result in a loss of life. The 5th edition Dungeon Masters Guide discusses this very briefly on page 34. Nothing is sacred in Grimdark. Your character will die if the circumstances are right and poor choices are made within the narrative.
The GRIMDARK system is intended to emulate a subgenre of speculative “dark intrusive fantasy” with a tone, style, or setting that is particularly dystopian, gritty, amoral, or violent as seen in popular post apocalyptic fiction. The theme mixes reality with the fantastic. Although the stories may have dark and disturbing undertones, outcomes should aim towards showing the small gleam of hope and light within the bleak darkness.
The real key as with any role-playing session is to make it fun while keeping the tone somewhat serious. There can be moments of joy, comedy, and gallows humor through the sessions but the Storyteller, Dungeon Master, or Game Manager should always remember to return the overall tone to that of GRIMDARK. It’s a fine line to walk. The aim should be to keep the pendulum swinging between Righteousness and Evil, hope and fear, love and hate. Players need opportunities to have their characters make a small but significant impact during Grimdark adventures.
Your version of a “Dark Intrusive Fantasy” story may not be the same as mine. And that’s okay. The main thing is to present the material in such as way that it is true to the nature of the key elements of GRIMDARK. Below I have collected some changes to the standard 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules to reflect the nature of the GRIMDARK system.
Using GRIMDARK in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign can add the sense of “fear and trepidation” that normal games of Dungeons & Dragons often lack. The possibility of character death is a real thing, and it makes the role-playing sessions more interesting and “edge of your seat” because of it.
Give the system a try and then come back to let me know the results. And as always, keep rollin’ sixes!
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