In my previous post I outlined a house rule about replacing max hit point reductions from undead with exhaustion. To be clear, this rule is untested, but I intend to use it fully in my next game sessions.
Sandra replied that wights are already scary, with a few good points. I would like to reply to these points.
New players don’t know that the HP max can get restored on long rest, which makes wights super scary to them.
I can see how this might work with new players, but my players are past this point by now. I wouldn’t rely on it long-term.
They are undead
Diegetically they are undead (in older Swedish lore “vandöd” which means more maldead, misdead, wrongdead). That’s messed up right there. There are so many ways to make undead (or any monster) scary.
I agree with this point, but… This is, in my (limited) experience, a recurring problem with D&D in general and 5e in particular: things are supposed to be scary, but they have no mechanical reason to be.
Combat in 5e is heavily skewed toward PC victory. So wights, or even zombies, may be scary, but they can be easily defeated by any moderately competent 2nd level party. The game rules don’t match expectations here. This is what I am trying to fix with this house rule.
There would be a lot more to say about combat and attrition in 5e, maybe in a future blog post.
[W]ights can insta-kill since they have an attack that bypasses death saves. That’s also pretty scary!
Life drain deals a paltry 1d6+2 hit points of damage, and may not be used twice as part of a multiattack. There is simply no way a wight may reduce a 3rd level PC max hit points total to zero before being destroyed.
The lowly Shadow is much more likely to insta-kill a PC relative to its CR. Now this CR thing is a whole other can of worms I don’t want to open; I only use CR as a rough guide at most anyway.
The reason I mention the Shadow, though, is because its attack has the same kind of effect as my house rule: target something that does not change as a character gains levels, or only very little (compared to hit points which scale linearly with level).
[W]ight’s life drain is a “messy” attack that inflicts actual wounds.
This depends on a house rule so I’ll happily ignore it.
I would like to say I quite like Sandra’s house rules on defense and injuries, but this kind of change mid-campaign is too large for me. On the contrary, adjusting a few monster stat blocks is easy and something I already do from time to time.
They can turn you into a zombie. Sprinkle some wights in with your zombies and you have the contagious walking dead army of your dreams.♥
Yes! I have not used this yet, but I wery well may. Thanks for the idea. :-)