Raising a Family (5e Variant Rule)
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Raising a Family
This downtime activity is really only for mature players. Not necessarily only adults specifically, but it deals with some pretty intense subject matter, and if not handled responsibly and respectfully, can result in some seriously hurt feelings. This downtime activity has the potential to bring up subjects such as the death of a loved one, spousal abuse, infant mortality, unfairness of medieval gender roles, infertility, character sexuality, and more. It has the potential to write stories that are deep, emotional, and possibly tragic. If you incorporate this material, please tread lightly and respect each other.
A character may spend their downtime doing what most humans want to do with their life at some point- finding a partner, settling down, and raising a bunch of kids. Adventurers are not like most people though, and many wind up being the end of their family line, either due to accidental death, or simply because they don't want to risk opening themselves and their loved ones to attack from their enemies. Another common reason adventurers choose to never take this path, is because they know that their lifestyle is dangerous, and do not want to put their loved ones through the hardship of long times apart or unexpected death. Still though, some heroes defy these fears and take the leap, choosing love over security. This downtime activity allows the player and DM to develop the story of how their family grows over time, and incorporate that family into the game as NPCs.
Players may notice that this set of activities and rules are pretty negative, focusing extensively on relationship problems. Why is that? First, it's because when there aren't any problems, that means nothing needs to change, so there's nothing to say. Second, a relationship isn't just about the good times, and it also isn't just about how much hardship you need to face. Love is about overcoming hardships, regardless how many or how severe they may be, and still coming out in love on the other side. And, finally, good times in a relationship don't just happen the way bad things do. Hardships are foisted upon you by the cruel and arbitrary nature of reality, but happiness? That only comes from you making an effort at it. Simply having a wife isn't enough to enjoy being married, you need to make the most of whatever time you have with your loved ones in order to get anything out of it. If you don't, the relationship becomes hollow and meaningless. So, in otherwords, if you don't want your character's relationships to be a meaningless trudge through human misery, you're going to have to go out there and roleplay up some joy in their life.
When a player takes this activity, it either consumes time, or permanently adds to a character's lifestyle expenses.
- Find a Lover.
- Takes 10 days. The player invents, and the DM modifies or confirms, an NPC to represent such a character. Depending on the nature of the relationship, this may involve creating additional NPCs, such as the lover's parents, ex-lovers, rival courtiers, current spouse, or pre-existing children. From then on, the character spends 1d6gp per lover on dating and gifts, in addition to their lifestyle expenses. Track how many years the character has been involved with each lover.
- Every 10 days that pass, if the PC has more than one romantic partner, the player must make a DC15 charisma check to determine if their infidelity is discovered. The DC increases by 5 per partner beyond the second. The DM decides how the characters react to such a discovery, and what the local customs regarding infidelity are. At any time, a character may spend one day to end a relationship.
- (Optional) Not what they seem. After a lover has been created, the DM secretly makes a d100 roll. On a 1, the character is not what they appear to be. Roll 2d10 on the following list to find out what they really are.
- You normally can't roll a 1, but if the DM hates you, your spouse is secretly the main villain for the campaign.
- Outsider (A person from another plane, typically another material plane)
- Polymorphed Dragon
- The Chosen One
- Deity/Demigod/Celestial in disguise
- Aside from the player-driven mechanism of infidelity by starting new relationships, it is also possible for their partners to be unfaithful. When the relationship is formed, the DM secretly rolls 1d20. On a 5 or less, the character will be unfaithful to the PC. The DM then rolls 1d20*1d20 to determine how many years will pass before such infidelity will occur. (Note that, for some races, even if the partner may desire to be unfaithful, they may die of old age long before they actually work up the courage to do it) After the character begins their unfaithful relationship, every 10 days the PC spends with that character, the DM secretly has their partner make a deception check against the PC's passive perception. If the NPC fails, the PC discovers a clue of the infidelity. (It is up to the DM how obvious the clue is, and up to the player to figure it out)
(Optional) Abusive Relationships.
- Any character that is abusive to their partner automatically becomes evil.
- An abuse check must be made whenever...
- A relationship is formed
- The characters move in together
- The characters get married
- One of the partners becomes pregnant
- A child is born
- The abuse check is simply a 1d20 roll without modifiers. On a 1, the character becomes abusive, and 1d6 is rolled to determine the severity of the abuse. If the character is already abusive, the severity of their abuse increases by one step. Every 1d6 days the two characters spend together, the abusive partner inflicts damage to the abused partner, using the damage die from their abuse severity. This damage is highly symbolic, and does not literally represent one character physically assaulting the other. It could represent the harmful effects of neglect, or self-harm induced by emotional abuse. It might even just represent emotional suffering manifesting as physical illness.
- 1. Mean. 1d4 This level of abuse may have actually been acceptable in public in some ancient societies, and was typically acceptable in private.
- 2. Harsh. 1d6 This level of abuse was not typically acceptable in public, and was also generally frowned upon in the home if non-family was present.
- 3. Cruel. 1d8 This level of abuse was typically unacceptable, but was often legally tolerated by ancient cultures.
- 4. Brutal. 1d10 This level of abuse has never been acceptable in any civilization, and is typical only of savage and barbaric cultures.
- 5. Homicidal. 1d12 This level of abuse is not tolerated by any human civilization ever.
- 6. Insane. 1d20 The abusive character is, by definition, a monster. Their mistreatment of their partner likely extends to pretty much everyone around them.
- (Optional) Abusive PCs. Players should not generally be allowed to choose to be abusive to their spouse. However, as a psychological problem, people generally do not realize that they will become abusive until it happens, making the behavior traumatizing for the abuser as well. Most people who become abusive of a partner do not want to be, feel guilty for their actions, and feel powerless to control themselves. They may react by becoming self-destructive, self-medicating through alcohol or drug abuse, or they may self-justify their actions- possibly becoming even more abusive in the process. If you do allow for abusive PCs, then the abuse check must be made for them as well.
- Marry a Lover.
- A character may propose to any partner already created through this downtime activity. To propose, the character spends 1 day, and must make a DC20 charisma check. If they succeed, their partner accepts, otherwise their partner rejects the offer. The DC is reduced by 1 for each year the characters have been in a relationship for. The DC can also be reduced by spending gp on the proposal, by buying gifts, a ring, fine clothing, taking her out to a special event, etc. The DC is reduced by 1 for every 100gp spent on the proposal. As for the expenses of actually hosting the wedding, please refer to,
- Dowry, Peasant (5e Equipment)
- Dowry, Esquire's Daughter (5e Equipment)
- Dowry, Baron's Daughter (5e Equipment)
- Wedding Feast (5e Equipment)
- ... Or just have the DM make some stuff up with you. Your wedding can be as grand or plain as you feel is appropriate. It may be necessary to resolve some social dilemma before the marriage may procede, such as completing a duel with a rival courtier, or eloping to avoid consequences of an illicit relationship.
- There is always a chance that the marriage doesn't go through. On the wedding day, the DM makes a d20 roll. On a 1, the partner gets spooked and rejects the marriage, leaving you at the altar! It is up to the DM and player whether the relationship is reconcilable after that.
- Divorce. A marriage is a legal contract in most settled civilizations, and carries many legal obligations. In some cultures, it may even be legally impossible to divorce. In most medieval cultures, a divorce resulted in the female being left homeless and abandoned.
- Live With a Lover
- Whether you move into the lover's property, or they move into yours, you as the hero are expected to cover the expenses. In addition to the dating expense, you must also cover your lover's lifestyle expenses. Your lover should normally be expected to live the same lifestyle as you, but you may decide to separate the two. If you spend your downtime living with your partner, you only need to pay lifestyle expenses for the partner. Depending on society's values, living with a lover before marriage, or not living with your lover afterwards, may actually be considered inappropriate, sinful, or even illegal. This can only be done if either you or your partner have property to live in.
- Raising a Child
- This can only be done if the relationship is capable of producing offspring. It is up to the DM which race combinations are capable of producing viable offspring, and what race those offspring would be. It is also up to the DM to determine whether the gestation period of other races is different from that of humans. The character may spend 10 days to try and achieve pregnancy, by making a DC10 check. No ability scores apply to this roll. On a success, the female character becomes pregnant. Keep in mind that it is both tasteless and socially unacceptable to roleplay out explicit details of sexual activities at the gaming table. As in real life, a person's private life should remain behind closed doors. This is not about sexual activity, but the introduction of a child character.
- (Optional) Infertility. If the check is failed 5 times in a row, the female is infertile, and cannot attempt this check any more. (If you and your group are not comfortable with the subject of infertility, disregard the subject entirely)
- Childbirth. After 270 days have passed in any way, the female character gives birth.
- (Optional) Birth Mortality. The female must make a DC10 constitution save during this event. The female takes 2d10 damage, or half that on a successful save. The save is then repeated by the mother for the infant, who has 10HP. On a fail of this save, the infant receives 1d10 damage. (Note that this means it is possible to lose both the mother and infant. If your character is the mother, and your HP is too low, this may also kill your character. Birth in ancient times was dangerous, and often tragic. If you and your group are not OK with this subject matter, disregard it entirely.)
- Childcare. Once the child has been born, the PC is expected to cover the financial expense of raising the child, which is 5cp per year of age, per day, (5cp/day at age 1, 5sp/day at age 10, 1gp/day at age 20, etc.) until the child becomes independent. (So, if you are an overprotective parent who hangs on to their children late into life, you could be paying to care for a 35 year old manchild, or something else similarly unusual) Additionally, if the PC is the birth mother, then they are also expected to personally care to the child's needs until they are at least capable of feeding and dressing themselves, at about age 5. This requirement can be avoided by hiring a wet nurse, which costs 2gp per day of care. When the PC is adventuring, the child is assumed to be in the care of the partner.
- Care for an Elder
- You may find yourself in a situation where you become the caretaker of a grandparent, parent, or aunt/uncle, who has become incapable of living alone any more. Mechanically, this just means you need to cover their lifestyle expenses as well.
- Family Events Chart. (1d8)
- Every 1d100 days that pass, the DM may instigate a spontaneous event in the character's family.
- Death in the family.
- The relatives visit.
- Sudden illness.
- A kidnapping or runaway.
- An argument begins.
- Mental illness.
- Romantic interference or competition.
- Legal complication with relationship.
Keep in mind for everything above, the NPCs in a character's family are not manakins, props, or paper dolls. They are supposed to represent people with complex emotions, values, desires, fears, etc. They are independent, and should be made to act independently of the PC. The value of these rules is not to give the player a bunch of caged pets to torment, but to expand a character's roleplaying environment.