Five Torches Deep strips 5e to its skeleton and fleshes it out with elements from prior editions of the game. The goal is to provide an old-school experience to those familiar with 5e. It’s self-contained and playable as is, assuming familiarity with fantasy rpgs.


This game is meant to ease the introduction of “old-school” mechanics and principles to those familiar with 5e. The classes and monsters are (largely) compatible with 5e, and can be plugged in and out as you see fit. The more of the rules here you add, the more ?OSR? it feels.

Quick Primer

  • Core mechanics based on 5e
  • Four OSR-related classes
  • Four OSR-common races
  • Race and class restrictions
  • Ascending AC
  • Rolled abilities and HP
  • Skills reduced and simplified
  • Magic system re-tooled, flattened
  • Spells can cause magical mishaps
  • Semi-compatible with 5e math
  • Semi-compatible with B/X math
  • Load and encumbrance
  • Incorporates dis/advantage
  • Slower and weaker rest and healing
  • Equipment can be broken
  • Ability scores determine limits
  • Retainers, morale, and reactions


The old-school renaissance or revival (OSR) is a category of adventure game rpgs that focuses on perilous quests for loot and glory, eschewing the modern epic fantasy norms of the current edition. FTD adheres to the principles and mechanics below:

Danger is Real

The world is legitimately dangerous, PC death is always around the corner, and even a small mistake can lead to disaster.

Cunning Over Crunch

The game relies on a certain amount of player ingenuity, cleverness, and cunning. You shouldn’t brute force your way through every obstacle because you have a high skill modifier. The game demands a thoughtful approach that minimizes the need to roll.

Magic is Haphazard

Magic can be plenty common, but it’s hard to wield with any consistency. Even mages of the highest order must face the strange mutations and dire mishaps from their eldritch energies and hope to survive.

Travel & Resources

A significant portion of the game and its rules focus on traveling through predatory wilderness; managing rations, light, and rest; keeping morale high; and trying not to get yourself killed from harsh terrain.

FTD vs. 5E

The main differences between FTD and 5e are summarized below: Weaker PCs Ability scores are, on average, much lower than in 5e. Proficiency bonuses scale the same, but apply in fewer instances. HP is similar to 5e, but damage is often higher. Rest and healing are more demanding, while checks to carry on through exhaustion and arduous travel more frequent. Default DC 11 DCs don’t change much, and the assumption is most things (other than AC) are DC 11. The GM is encouraged to minimize the need to roll checks at all given the PC’s approach.

No Dump Stats

Ability scores play just as much role in the game as ability modifiers (such as a PC’s STR score determining how much they can carry, or their CON score showing how many hours they can travel without rest, or their CHA score limiting their max retainers). The ?sub-optimal? abilities of other games have been bolstered to encourage ability variety.

New Mechanics

New and reincorporated mechanics that reinforce the tropes of old-school games and the neo-clones that explicitly lean into the tolling, souls-esque grindhouse.

Core Mechanic

Any time a character attempts a risky action that has a chance of failure, the player rolls a check. Roll 1d20 + modifier and compare against the action’s Difficulty Class (DC). Both the GM and the PC roll checks depending on who is acting in the fiction. If a character has an overwhelming advantage, they can roll 2d20 and take the better. Likewise, disadvantage forces them to roll 2d20 and take the lesser.

Let it ride: only a single roll is permitted until circumstances significantly change.


The DC is determined by the GM and based on the difficulty of the action; it can either be static (based on an obstacle) or opposed (like rolling against another character).

You succeed if you meet or exceed the DC.

The default DC is 11, but may range between 5 and 20. The GM can state if a task is impossible or doesn’t require a check.

Check Modifiers

Each check can have modifiers which add or subtract a number to the base 1d20 roll (listed as 1d20 + N). PC checks have ability and proficiency modifiers, which represent their capability. Whenever a PC is proficient, they add their proficiency bonus to checks. Each modifier source is added once per roll.

Core Mechanic

A party of four PCs – a warrior, thief, zealot, and mage – head deeper into a cave.

GM: the party descends into the massive cavern; the only sound they can hear is the snapping of their torches and the constant dripping of stalactites. An hour passes so mark one travel turn. The warrior, thief, zealot, and mage each subtract 1 Resilience and 1 torch. The GM rolls for the travel turn’s outcome. Since it’s low, there’s an approaching enemy patrol.

Thief: I just hit my CON limit, so I’m out of Resilience right? I’ll make a check. They roll 1d20 + CON mod and get a 13, pass.

GM: you feel weary, but carry on for now. As you swap out your torches, the party hears the faint slapping of bare feet.

Warrior: goblins! Let’s form up to fight. The GM allows the thief to roll for the entire party’s collective chance to hide. They get a 12, just enough to pass. They set an ambush.

GM: the goblins approach, wary. It seems they heard you before, but now lost you. You all get to attack with advantage. Each PC rolls a ranged attack (even the mage fires a bow). Since it’s advantage, they roll 2d20 a piece. The warrior is the only one to land a hit with a natural 20.

GM: your dice are cursed. Oh well, Warrior roll for damage and double it. The warrior rolls 1d12 + 3 (STR mod), 7. Doubled is 14.

GM: one goblin falls, but now the ambush is over and we’re into initiative. Their DEX is 12, so Thief you’re first, then Warrior.

Thief: Quick action to hide. Succeeds with a 16, and moves around to flank the goblins.

Warrior: I charge in. Full movement, swap to my sword and shield, then attack the closest one. They roll and kill another.

GM: okay, so now it’s the four goblins? turn. Checking morale… they hold the line. Since the thief is hidden and the others are far away, the goblins attack you four times Warrior. The GM rolls four attacks, comparing to the Warrior’s AC. Four hits!

Zealot: you shouldn’t have run in!

GM: sorry; Warrior is knocked to 0 HP. But now it’s your turn Zealot.

Zealot: I’ll heal you. I get into range and cast Suture. That needs a check right? Zealot rolls 1d20 + WIS mod + proficiency against the spell DC of 12. A 17, success!

GM: okay with Zealot’s healing, you’re back up to 6 HP Warrior. Roll on the Injury Table. Warrior rolls a 17. Right, so that means you get disadvantage on all checks.