I’m a big fan of condition tracks, and alternate win conditions outside of just dealing piles of HP damage until death. Since I’ve been playing Star Wars Saga Edition a lot lately, I’ve rediscovered my love of their condition track. It’s an elegant solution to the problem D&D games have where a creature is either 100% effective, or dead. Essentially, when struck for [creature specific threshold] damage, the creature moves down a notch on a condition track. Each notch imposes a series of escalating penalties. Scaling from Normal, -1 to defense, hit and skills, -2 to the above, -5, -10 and half movement, unconscious.
5e creatures and PCs have different hit point values, and there’s not really a 1-1 translation that one could apply to monsters and also PCs, so I’m not sure the damage threshold mechanic works, but someone pointed me towards the exhaustion track as an existing, similar mechanic. In SWSE, your damage value is your Fort Defense (equivalent to 10+Con save) translated to 5e.
When a creature takes damage equal to its constitution score + level (or CR for monsters) damage in a single attack, it gains a level of exhaustion. Potentially, you might consider adding a saving throw, Constitution save DC 15.
To play this way, one would also add the exhaustion track to the front of a character sheet for ease of play. These rules also allow for the addition of some new class features and feats to tie into these.
You can aim at specific vulnerable targets on a creature.
- +1 Strength or Dexterity
- As an action, you can make a single attack against a target. If this attack hits, the target does not get to add its proficiency bonus to its damage threshold.
Shake it Off
You can shake off blows others would call debilitating
- +1 Constitution
- You gain advantage on saving throws made against exhaustion.
- You can spend an action and a hit die to remove one level of exhaustion.
Example Class Features
Your barbarian is a berserker enraged by the sight of their own blood.
- Bloodlust: At third level, whenever you succeed on a saving throw vs exhaustion, you can make a melee attack as a reaction against any creature within reach.
- Unstoppable: At sixth level, you can ignore the negative effects of exhaustion, although you still move along the condition track and die at maximum stacks as normal.
- Blood in the Water: Additional, at sixth level, If a target has stacks of exhaustion, you can add your proficiency bonus to your damage rolls.
- Scarred Berserker: At tenth level, you actually function better after some wounds. When you enter a rage, you can voluntarily take the minimum damage required to gain a stack of exhaustion. If you do, you gain advantage on attack rolls for the duration of your rage. Alternatively, if you gain a stack of exhaustion for some other reason, you can activate this ability.
- Relentless Threat: At fourteenth level, you no longer die from exhaustion.