5e Fear Effects

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Other editions of TTRPGs have always had a fear track, which was very useful for showing a level of granularity between being a little spooked, and bawling in tears on the floor. These mechanics will re-introduce that for 5e, a game that invented other condition tracks like exhaustion, but for some reason dropped the one for fear. I’m publishing mine, so I can share other homebrew that references it, and I’d recommend a full re-write of any abilities that grant the Frightened condition before you really break it out full scale (a condition track without things to cause the conditions is not super helpful). But that’s a project for another day.

Some special abilities, monsters, and hazards, such as beings from beyond, ghosts, and the wailing of the wind through a cave can lead to a special condition called Afraid. Fear is measured in four levels. An effect can give a creature one or more levels of fear, as specified in the effect’s description.

Levels of FearEffect
1Disadvantage on ability checks against the source. 
2Disadvantage on all ability checks.
3Gain the Frightened condition.
4Gain the Prone and the Helpless condition.

If an already Afraid creature suffers another effect that causes Fear, its current level of Fear increases by the amount specified in the effect’s description.

A creature suffers the Fear of its current level of exhaustion as well as all lower levels. For example, a creature suffering level 4 Fear has disadvantage on all ability checks, the frightened, prone, and helpless conditions. 

An effect that removes Fear reduces its level as specified in the effect’s description, with all Fear effects ending if a creature’s Fear level is reduced below 1.

A creature can make a saving throw to reduce their Fear level by 1 at the end of any turn where the originator of the Fear effect is no longer visible. Creatures can automatically remove a level of fear by spending a hit die at the end of their turn. Fear can never be reduced on the turn in which a creature becomes Afraid.

Special: Any ability that currently grants the Frightened condition should instead grant 3 levels of Fear. 

Special: The Intimidation skill can be used to grant a single level of Fear to a creature. As an action, make an intimidation check. The creature makes a Wisdom saving throw with the DC equal to the Intimidation results or gains a level of Fear. 

Rough guidelines for converting other Fear based abilities to this system.

Monster powers that inflict fear effects should instead provide levels of fear based on the CR of the foe. Spells should provide levels based on the level of the spell. These are rough guidelines, and there are probably situations where the DM will want something to be more, or less, scary and should adjust as needed.

AbilityLevel or CRFear Level
Spells
Cantrip-21
3-52
6-73
8-94
Monster Powers
0-51
6-102
11-153
16+4

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