Optional Rules - Leg and Job Cycle

Duncehack Edition

So who are you?

Just some tosser with an over inflated sense of self importance.

Send verbal abuse via Minds.com

What is the Duncehack?

It emerged from a place of frustration. There's quite a number of areas where 5e could be improved but... it's not going to happen for various reasons.

The Duncehack is my attempt to fix these problems I have. Plan is to go through the whole game - all of it - and homebrew it into the game I think is should have been.

Feel free to disagree with me, but ultimately I think there's no harm in putting my thoughts out there, at the very least if even one DM decides to adopt these rules, then my job is done.

No DM Guild? No OGL Release?

I chafe under binding contracts and both of these are exactly that.

The DM Guild gives you more room to mess with established rules, but basically demands that all be under the service of flagship settings.

The SRD on the other hand gives more room for interesting settings but clamps down extremely hard on what established rules you're allowed to use. Their biggest contention is that they don't want someone to sell a sourcebook that removes the need for core books. Translation: they don't want Pathfinder to happen all over again.

More to the point, both assume money will change hands. I don't want money, I just want Wizards to fix their game.


Groundrules for the Duncehack are as follows:

  • No Nerfs: the goal is to bring weaker archetypes on the level of the stronger ones.

  • Remove Traps: incentives built into classes and archetypes should provide an active payoff, rather than be the suboptimal choice.

  • Frontload Agency, Backend Power: Generally speaking, people like having more options to do things, rather than more raw power. As a design rule: things that feel like core class features, or are defining class mechanics, should happen in the first ten levels, sheer numeric increases in power should come after that.

No money changed hands here

This is a passion project. I want to keep it that way.

I also want to avoid legal issues for self-evident reasons.

No UA?

Too much changes between UA and official release.

The fewer corrections I have the do between UA changes, the better.

Obligatory Natural Crit Plug


Someone else made a thing that lets me make homebrews without having to post them on pastebin or something. They deserve a lot of credit for that.

Obligatory /tg/ Plug

The feedback I got from various Anons on this helped me build it into something that wasn't bad and stupid.

No Images?

Needed to get it under 8mb so I could upload it literally anywhere.

So what is this?

So Red Markets is a zombie horror survival tabletop RPG that's all about the horrific economics of post-apocalyptic America (pro-tip, poverty will get you before the undead will). Damn good game. Highly recommend. One of few zombie setting that remembers spears exist. Worth is just for the DM tools.

What's this got to do with D&D 5e though?

Well, Red Markets has a 'Leg' system for handling its adventuring, it's a clearly structured outline of handling things like random encounters and, as I hope to demonstrate here, works almost seamlessly with 5e's short/long rests.

It's not suitable for all games mind. Doesn't do the heroics that Dragonlance would want for instance, but the crushing weight of Dark Sun's setting might be more appropriate.



The DM follows these points under this system.

  • Legs are a set number of expected (potentially random) encounters between the party and the plot relevent task (or Job Site). If the destination is 4 legs away, that's 4 potential encounters. Players should know the number of legs going in.
  • Legs are a unit of narrative time, not actual physical distance. An 8 leg journey could be within a couple miles of where the characters begin if the terrain is just that trecherous.
  • A Leg can be skipped for an interlude, skipping the random encounter and having a Short Rest in its place. Under this system, an entire Job (the journey there and back) only allows for one Short Rest. Long Rests cannot be taken during the Job
  • The only time players can take a long rest is between jobs under this system.
  • This system assumes that the characters have somewhere to 'return' to. While this generally means a 'hub' of some sort (such as a town the characters are loyal to), a Dark Souls style bonfire can suffice if the DM is willing to construct the world that way. Whatever form 'home' takes, it should allow the players a place to restock resources and items, as well as a place to manage equipment and interact with NPCs.
  • The 'return' journey doesn't need to be played out, the characters learn enough/clear enough on the way out that they can avoid those same obstacles on the way back. If you're doing more of the Dark Souls Bonfire idea, then the trek to the bonfire follows the same rules - the climax was the job site, any instance of 'dragon out of bloody nowhere!' afterwards is a great way to cause an anti-climactic TPK that'll just murder the game's momentum.
  • This this system was built with a negotiation system for payment in mind, but to be completely honest doesn't require one. A literal guardian angel directing the journey could be the one handling the jobs. The concrete structure of 'Legs > Job > Rest' is the part that matters.
  • A fourth part of the cycle, 'Scavenge' can be added to that cycle depending on the setting - where the players spend time scouring for resources after the Job. This part is quiet, and should serve as denouement for the party.
  • Generally speaking if a spell has a duration of 1 hour or less, it doesn't last between legs. If you cast fly to completely bypass one leg, the spell will have worn off by the time the next leg comes up. Spells with longer duration are completely up to the DM.
  • Features that normally refresh as initiative is rolled are instead refreshed at the beginning of every Leg.
  • Magical items that restore their usage at Dawn only refresh at the whim of the DM under this system. Unless otherwise stated, it's safe to assume that they only restore as part of a long rest.
  • Temporary HP without any other time stipulations lasts an entire leg and fades at the end of the leg. Other time stipulations are up to DM discretion, along similar rationale to spell duration stipulations. (e.g. Inspiring Leader as a feat gives its bonus for a whole leg, fading when the leg ends).
This seems... overly structured

That's the point - It's giving up some narrative control for a tighter bounding in the mechanics themselves as a source of narrative stakes.

So... how do DMs run these?

The number and the content are entirely DM decisions. There's some key considerations however.

Firstly, random encounters shouldn't just be combat, they should be a mixed bag of good and bad events - a burbling stream where the characters can potentially find rations should be in the realm of possibility, but so should getting caught in a flash flooding creek bed. While I err on the side of 'DMs shouldn't fudge dice', I'm also on the side of 'but rolling up random encounters really isn't the same as rolling for damage from that kobold who keeps nailing crits on the wizard'. Be mindful that Legs offer the DM a lever to pull to throttle punishment upon the players - each leg is a hard, bounded box wherein the DM can break up action. If they start bragging about how easy things are, you can always punish them next leg. If they're genuinely asking if it's time to reroll because the state of the party, you can always ease off.

Secondly, players are restricted to one short rest per long rest under this ruleset, and cannot take long rests until the job is completed. This means that the more legs there are, the more the DM has to account for the fact that the players will run out of resources before they even reach the job site. Consider inspiration/fate point systems as an additional safeguard in the event that the legs are accidently on the brutal side.

Thirdly, downtime between jobs only affords the benefit of a long rest. This means that Hit Dice management between jobs becomes critically important as long rests only restore half of them. The DM should be aiming for burning half the hit dice pool by the time the players hit the short rest, not the full hit dice pool. If the player burns more than half every now and then, they might just be taking a lot of risks. If the party is burning more than half every Job, the Legs are too harsh. If the players haven't burnt half of the hit dice, but are tapped out of resources on the short rest, that's still close enough. If they're not tapped out and are hitting the short rest simply to skip a leg immediately before the Job, feel free to utterly ramp the lethality.

Number of Legs
Narrative 'Proximity' Die Type Avg.
Close/Easy Journey 1d4 3
Near/Some Obstacles 1d6 4
Moderate 1d8 5
Far/Difficult Journey 1d10 6
Distant/Suicide Mission 1d12 7

If you're unsure of the proximity, you can choose to roll 1d5 + 2 legs (giving you a range of 3-7, matching the above Avg. column).

(A 1d5 is handled by rolling a d10, dividing the result by 2, rounded down).


Leg Content
d10 Result Subject
1 Critical Misfortune No matter what, this is a lose-lose situation that's unavoidable in some way. The characters cannot avoid spending resources, and every potential gain is undercut by a net loss. Maybe they stumbled into the ruins of an old keep, that's filled to the brim with zombies, or maybe a hag appears with an 'offer' for one of the characters. The characters always leave this encounter worse than when they started.
2 Fortunate Nature The terrain is favourable. Food is bountiful, the path is clear, the way is lit. At minimum, this should provide unhindered passage. Wild places aren't typically known for safety, so characters looking to profit from this fortune must incur some kind of risk, or spend some kind of resources, but all such risks/expendatures should be reasonably compensated.
3 Unfortunate Nature The terrain is dangerous. Landslides, blizzards, flash floods, hostile wildlife. Avoidance is possible, after all Rangers stake their entire reputations on coping with such turns, but doing so requires expertise. Resources aren't necessarily expected to be spent here, but pushing through it is fraught with risk. The characters can wind up with a net benefit with some careful planning, but doing so should always be difficult and/or risky.
4 Fortunate Supernatural Something unnatural happened, and its an opportunity for the party. Maybe they encountered a ley line, or come upon a self-maintaining safehouse courtesy of a benevolent wizard. Magic is always a risky proposition, especially those without the skill to wield it - but its a rare party that travels without a spellcaster. Given what magic can provide, the choice to interact with it alone is where much of the fortune lies.
5 Unfortunate Supernatural Something unnatural happened, and it's a threat to the party. Maybe they encountered a violent storm of raw mana. Maybe they stepped foot into a house only to discover that it was a giant mimic. Maybe those lights in the swamp weren't torches but Will 'O Wisps. Whatever the case, avoidance requires skill or just blind luck, and perhaps the expendature of resources. Any gain is hard won, and likely not worth it in the long term. Not all monsters have useful treasure, and not all magical artefacts can be salvaged.
6 Fortunate Interaction Sometimes you meet a friendly face on the road. Sometimes people are quick to share a story, offer trade, solace, warnings of dangers ahead, information and rumours, or just a good joke. Any net gains made with friendly people might incur cost, but a warm smile on an otherwise harsh road makes for a good enough reason for a discount. Alternatively, if the people encountered are hostile, then the characters are in a fortunate position, maybe its someone they can blackmail, or they simply have the perfect ambush spot. Perhaps even better yet - the characters have an obvious, guilt-free justification to attack. Any gains against hostile people are easy won, as the character begin with the upper hand.
7 Unfortunate Interaction Not all hostility is necessarily straight to the violence. Sometimes it's about the intimidation, the extortion, or perhaps a slightly more forgivable paranoid streak. Regardless of the form it takes, the interaction is made in bad faith. Even if not an ambush or a trap, the interaction is still permeated with a threat of some kind. Avoidance is difficult, as people can be cunning and dress their ill intent with a silver tongue, but a good Rogue should know their own. Gains are unlikely, as anyone willing to risk their life to destroy another's is likely to do more damage than the characters can recuperate in the aftermath, but a party who can spot the threat before it manifests can potentially turn it around.
8 Fortunate Find The party finds something! Maybe the druid spotted a message written by one of their peers, maybe they happen upon a fresh shipwreck whose treasures are on the shoreline, maybe they just find a dropped bag of coins on the ground. Either way, the characters find some kind of object or objects ripe for the taking. Keeping it however, might be a different matter - maybe that shipwreck wasn't looted for a good reason... or maybe it's going to be, the party just got there before the people seeking to claim those treasures have arrived.
9 Unfortunate Find Sometimes, you find something you just wished you had not. The best case scenario is that it's merely unnerving, an abandoned inn full of old blood, but not a body in sight, and whatever caused the scene has long since moved on - a burnt out village with the only remnant of the people a half buried child's toy trodden into the dirt. Worst case scenario however is that the find is actively dangerous. Traps set in ages past that were never sprung, a gate that's permanently barred in a region filled with monstrous creatures. Dismantling obstacles may be worth gold, but if there's other threats looming, it might not be worth the risk.
10 Critical Fortune A sigh of relief. Two competing factors of the world have conspired to create happenstance for the party. Maybe the once dangerous swamp has been burnt to a harmless cinder in the aftermath of a dragon fight - where neither party can be seen. Maybe wild animals ate a group of would-be highwaymen, leaving behind the gold. Maybe the old ruin has been cleansed by a powerful cleric, looking to turn it into a temple once more, eager to put it on the map again. Regardless of the outcome, the characters only stand to gain from this encounter.

A convention from the original game maintained here: Odd Numbers = bad for the players, Even Numbers = good for the players. Mentions of Resources can apply just as much to spell slots as to concrete items.



Interludes serve multiple roles under this system and the success of this system is contingent on the players making the most of it.

  • Interludes are synonymous to short rests. By taking an interlude, the characters gain the benefits of a short rest.
  • Only one Interlude may be taken per Job.
  • Under this system rests cannot be interrupted. If the players opt for an interlude the DM cannot prevent them unless they have already taken an interlude for this Job.
  • Taking an interlude skips a leg. If a Job is 4 Legs away, it should be expected that the players only have 3 Legs worth of encounters.
  • Interludes have zero opportunity for net gains, as they represent a stretch of the journey where nothing happens. However, Interludes are also completely risk-free and restore much needed features.
  • If you're using Camp Actions rules (i.e. like the Darkest Dungeon camping actions), they are used here as part of the interlude system, even if that system is normally done as part of a long rest (as long rests under this system do not occur in a time or a place where they would be useful).
  • Interludes are technically a seperate Leg. Features that refresh on initiative (and thus, under this ruleset, refresh on entrance to a leg) give their benefits on an interlude before the short rest begins.


The DM follows these points under this system.

  • Jobsites are a climax after the Legs serve as buildup. Whatever lies here should be harsher than the legs before it. Unlike Legs, there is little/no room for net gain here - players have a task at hand and succeeding at that task is of paramount importance.
  • Jobs should serve as a series of complications, twists, turns and failed plans. The players should be tested, and if they're short on resources, all the better.
  • Once on the Jobsite, the players should be hitting the ground running. Even in circumstances that are quiet (such as a stealthy approach) where the players have time on their side, there should be a consistent pressure for vigilance on the party - maybe there's guards who will spot the careless. It's past time to take a rest, and any efforts to scavenge for resources should come at some risk.
  • Jobs are by nature not random encounters, however an element of randomness can be added to them. The players should have an idea of what they're walking into, but never the whole picture. Successes should be appended with a 'but', and failures should be emphasised with an 'and'. They should not come as a surprise to the players, but rather a dreaded expectation.
  • In writing Jobs, they're little different to conventional campaign writeups, just broken up into episodic chunks. If you're running an overarching story in this system, consider these the 'plot episodes' and the Legs 'filler'.

Scavenging (Optional)

The Scavenging component is appropriate for settings that emphasise desperation or survivalism. Parties that shine in hostile environments, or can make the most out of Improvised tools flourish with this rule.

  • Resources found should be appropriate to the Jobsite. If the party just killed a Lich in his lair, spellbooks and magical artefacts are an appropriate reward. If the party just put down a wraith in a burnt out village however, the scavenging options are going to be whatever can be found in a conventional homestead.
  • Athletics, Acrobatics, Sleight of Hand and Stealth should only come up if a particular item or resource is difficult to get to and requires physical ability to get to. If used, they should be rare and appropriately rewarded by the DM.
  • Charisma based skills should only come into play if non-party NPCs are in the area, and even then sparingly.
  • Scavenging components are peaceful. Any and all risks incurred by the players are entirely self-inflicted.
  • Each character gets a number of scavenging actions equal to the number of legs taken (including the Jobsite and Interlude) plus their proficiency modifier. Each action is consumed to make a skill check.
  • If there are no resources for a specific skill check, then the player simply isn't permitted to make the roll (and thus, no scavenging actions are spent looking).
  • A scavenging action can be spent on spells/rituals that are appropriate for the environment where the materials for such are difficult to acquire otherwise. Taking the opportunity to use animate dead in the aftermath of a bloody battlefield being an example.

Scavenging as a skill check?

  • Generic Checks:
  • Survival: 'Scavenging for anything useful' roll. Use this if looking for food. Survival checks should tend toward resources or materials the party can find immediately useful, but are of little value elsewise.
  • Investigation: 'Search for things likely to be hidden' roll. Use this if looking for items that are likely to be kept in a safe. Investigation results should tend towards items that might not be immediately useful (or even useful at all), but still valuable under the right circumstances.
  • Perception: 'See whatever's lying around' roll. Perception is effectively a lucky dip - it should not tend toward any particular kind of item or resource.
  • Specific Checks:
  • Medicine: Medical supplies and materials. May be used to autopsy the dead (or scavenge cadavers themselves).
  • Arcana: Magic and magical items.
  • History: Historic, cultural or just monetarily valuable items (i.e. things that can be sold/traded for a reward/favour).
  • Nature: Useful herbs, plant/animal byproducts, etc.
  • Religion: Religious artefacts (including magical ones).
  • Animal Handling: Living animals.
  • Insight: Diaries, journals and other personal items that give insights into individual people.
  • Tool Proficiencies: Materials, information or resources relevent to the tool in question. Should provide more value than the skill checks, but serves as the narrowest possible focus of the options available.


Job Complications
d10 Result Subject
1 Detour/Weather Maybe the connecting cave system was destroyed in a landslide, or maybe there's no longer passage thanks to inland flooding. Whatever the case, the party is forced to take a detour or to wait out the weather - whatever the case may be - consuming rations and time as they have to find a way around or hunker down, or consuming valuable spell slots as the players are forced to go through it.
2 Deception/Misdirection The party is mislead. Maybe the person who sent them on the task omitted some details to save their own reputation, maybe the opposition at the Jobsite is one step ahead of the party, maybe a rival has subtly interfered. Whatever the case may be, even if it wasn't presented to the party out of malice, some of what the party believes they know about the coming events is a lie. The 'abandoned battlefield' has some resident Redcaps, the 'lifeless caves' are home to various oozes. It's all the party's problem now.
3 Outright Manipulation The party are being played as fools and puppets. Best case scenario, it's an overt betrayal leading the party into an ambush. At worst, it's a subtle set of machinations that implicate the party in some nefarious plot, perhaps even as the scapegoats for an atrocity. The party can be forgiven for making the Job in question very personal once the betrayal is unearthed.
4 Besieged The Jobsite is a cacophony of violence. The quiet farming community the party is meant to deliver supplies to is now the scene of a foreign invasion, or the nobles they were meant to meet with are running for their lives from a vampire in their own manor, or perhaps the site was overrun with undead and the soldiers clearing it out are hostile to everything here who isn't part of their battalion - which includes the party. Even if the players have the option of resolving the situation without violence, they really should prepare for violence.
5 Vendetta Similar to Besieged, but the party is the target. Someone, perhaps an old rival, perhaps the servant of a greater evil they've been fighting against, has very good reason to want to pursue the party specifically. Regardless of the reason, they believe their cause is at minimum worth spilling blood for, and certainly more than worth interfering with the party's goals directly.
6 Bystanders Sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Destroying the dam to keep tensions down between a druid clade and the local fiefdom might sound completely straightforward, until its revealed doing so will kill thousands of a third party culture uninvolved with the tensions. Whatever form this scenario takes, simply doing the task as presented has the clearly foreseeable result of negatively impacting a neutral third party.
7 Cross-Purpose Similar to bystanders, but somewhat more personal - as the 'bystanders' in question are directly involved with the task at hand. Maybe the relic the players are looking for is the centrepiece of a religious altar, and the Kobolds who worship at it aren't going to part with it easily. Whatever the case may be, the third party, while being neutral towards you, have a vested interest in opposing the party's efforts should they become aware of the party's intentions.
8 Calamity Similar to Detour/Weather but of a supernatural nature. A sliver of an outer plane has manifested and warped the terrain, the forest dips into the feywild rendering navigation efforts nigh impossible, the cave slips into the upper ends of the Underdark. Whether unnatural weather or landmarks warped by magic, the party now must find a way around, or through, the obstacles.
9 Outbreak Whether plague, hex, curse, disease or other such misfortune, it's contagious. Whether natural or supernatural in origin, the people at the location are suffering and it's interfering with the party's ability to progress. Maybe it's a spiritual illness passed on by ghost possessions, maybe an angry hag is taking her revenge upon the children. Whatever the cause, the party might succumb if they are not careful.
10 Cataclysm Whatever happened here is bad, and worse yet it's something the players can neither prepare for or directly accomodate into their plans and may even render the job impossible to accomplish properly. Maybe the old keep wasn't a wyvern nest after all, but a beholder's lair. Maybe the Jobsite is a blasted hellscape with a permanent, yawning portal to the abyss at the centre. Whatever it is, it's probably above the party's pay grade, and even if it's not, it's the kind of event that the party would struggle with even if permitted preparation time. Calling off the task and leaving is not cowardice. Alerting others to the danger is a favour owed in return. Completing the task and dealing with the catastrophe however is the kind of glory legends are sculpted from.

Unlike Legs, there's no good/bad rolls. They're all bad, all the time, and the players just have to deal with it as it comes. Not every job requires a complication in the above list, so long as there's something appropriate to 'test' the players.


Here's some related systems to consider:

Quest Givers

Maybe you want to include some negotiation rules for various clients if you're running the party as a mercenary band, or maybe you want to include some kind of divine presence for 'chosen one' characters who have an angel riding shotgun in their psyche.

Either way, a means of concreting the NPCs driving the 'Quest Chains' the party is undertaking might be worth consideration.

Home (Hamlet or Bonfire)

Whether your game is more Darkest Dungeon or Dark Souls, 'Home' as a concept is assumed by this system. Even if this system simply ends with 'home could just be wherever you set up a Leomund's tiny hut' (as home only matters here for the purposes of when long rests occur), it's still something the players will be made aware of by the very nature of its operation.

Small Business

Sometimes the players are just restocking the item shop and are dungeon crawling to do it. This system was originally designed in its parent game for this kind of play in mind.

More detailed (or just better to bookkeep), cost/currency rules are recommended alongside these rules.


This system serves two main purposes. The obvious one is random encounter generation. The less obvious one is player resource attrition. The more toward survivalism you want the game, the more intuitive your resource tracking system should be.

Using more detailed Adventuring Gear rules is also recommended alongside any resource rules, especially if it accounts for things such as rations.

Wounds and Injuries

This is more for if the DM really wants to hammer home the attrition side of this system and suitable if the tone is 'be smarter, stop taking stupid risks and get the job done'.

In other words, if you're playing in something like Mordheim.

Sanity and Trauma

Similar to the rationale above, especially if you want to really hammer home 'adventuring is not good for your mental wellbeing'.

Multiple Characters

The only way the characters are going to get a longer set of downtime under this system than a Long Rest is if they simply don't tag along for a job. Due to the nature of attrition built into it, and the ease of which lethality can be ramped up, it's not unreasonable to allow players to have more than one character (even if they're only allowed to bring one character per job).

This is more important a consideration if you plan to make adjustments to the value of Rests and/or use a Short, Long & Extended Rest paradigm.

Expanded Downtime Rules

Long Rests aren't the only thing your characters will do while 'Home'. Consider fleshing out that 'Home' into something that the characters look forward to coming back to - 'hey I just got all this cool stuff, maybe I can make an interesting weapon out of this?'

Camping Actions

To make the rest garnered from an Interlude more compelling in a concrete, mechanical way.

Experience Systems

Experience is up to the DM ultimately, but here's a couple of considerations.

  • Experience points can leave the game feeling somewhat grind-y, as players will actively throw themselves into jobs that require more legs in the hopes of pinging a level up before the Jobsite. This isn't always a bad thing however, as this system is meant for the DM to have an easier time managing game pace. Its just as much bookkeeping work as the DM is willing to put themselves through.
  • Milestone levels on the other hand can make the game feel even more rigidly structured, however its also extremely easy under this system, as the DM can simply elect a level up at the end of any job. If you'd rather something structured, there's a couple options below.
Linear Milestones

1 Job = 1 Level up.

Progressive Milestones
Level Range Rate
1-4 1 Job/Level
5-8 2 Jobs/Level
9-12 3 Jobs/Level
13-16 4 Jobs/Level
17-20 5 Jobs/Level

(If it's easier to remember: Proficiency Modifier minus 1)