Looking for rules for what to do when a character starts getting a little long in the tooth? Me too. And here’s the easy answer, there aren’t any.
The writers of 5th ed purposely trimmed down the multitude of rules that governed, well, everything, and tossed out what happens when a character ages.
The idea was that these are fantasy characters and that age shouldn’t be a limiting factor. Consider, with guantlets of giant strength kicking around, does it matter if your characters back hurts in the morning? So, yeah, I can see their point. The want age to be a character factor, not a game one. All well and good.
Except, there’s also magical aging. Ghosts can scare someone into adding decades to their characters age. There HAS to be some sort of side effect once happens a few times? Do you just retire the character? How much magical aging will kill a character?
Started thinking about this when one of the characters in my party got hit by a ghost, blew the saving throw, and aged 30 years! From 26 to 56 overnight. Now what? According to the rules as is, nothing. Yep, life goes on as normal, they just get wrinkles and a little grayer. This led me to research what other DM’s have done and come up with some rule ideas. Most homebrew rules I found were pretty convoluted though so came up with my own simple house rule to handle player character aging. I mean, age drags us down enough in real life, so why have it too heavy-handed in a fantasy game that’s supposed to be about fun?
HOME RULES: AGING
Aging won’t affect a character’s stats until they are getting to the end of the projected lifespan of the race they are playing. I call it the 20% downward spiral rule. Let’s take a tiefling with a projected lifespan of 100 years. At eighty-one, the max physical stat a character can have goes from 20 to 19. Next year, 19 to 18, etc. Mental stats are unaffected (sorry, not getting into that debate, it’s fantasy, so people can keep all their mental faculties in the game if they want to keep playing that character). So, yeah, you can have a pretty kick-ass older fighter, still fantasy, but thanks to magical aging, they will be reaching the end of their natural life span faster.
For a dwarf that can live to 400, the 20% downward spiral would start at 320, and kick in every 4 years after that. Halflings live to 150 so it would start at 120 and slide down every 1.5 years. Half-orcs live to 75, so at 61 it would kick in and I’ll do that math for the downward progression if I have a half-orc character get that old, ok? (ok, every 8.4 months, there, you happy now?)
This 20% progression downward spiral of maximum stats will eventually start to drag down their actual physical stats as it goes down below what they have.
Of course, magic could boost them over their max. allowable, but the max. will go down. Say for instance we have a 90 yr. old tiefling now with 10 strength that has guantlets that give a stat bonus of +2, so 12 strength. Next year, max goes down to 9, +2 from the guantlets, for 11. Magic gives a boost, but doesn’t stop the eventual progression downward. Unless, of course, it does. It’s fantasy, after all, and there are many ways to boost your life span, give you spring in your step, and keep that dark guy in the cloak and scythe away. Whole adventures can be based on searching for fountains of youth to save a player’s character.
I don’t expect this to come into play too often but this campaign may go a long time so only time will tell if time plays heavily on my characters.
Any thoughts on this rule, please comment below.