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v5 House Rules

Get the fifth iteration of my house rules. Give them a look, ask some questions, and lodge a complaint about which mechanic here is the most broken.

I have had some time to tinker with my previous house rules, and below I describe the changes along with the intent behind the changes.

What am I changing?

My opening sentences got tweaked a little to encourage people to ask questions and open the table discussion about how I intend to run tricks and traps. I will generally get hints and clues to bypass traps safely, mixed in with red-herrings, but I will also allow the players a snap reaction that might worsen, improve, or negate the consequences of the triggering trap. If they see singe marks on the floor and hear the clacking of stones striking in the wall, do they curl into a ball expecting fire or try to lunge out of the way expecting electricity? Here is the document if you want to copy it wholesale but tweak a few things.

Camping gets an update to use generic supplies rather than tracking food, water, and other essential separately. This also allows for an increase of cost relative to level because higher level characters need fancier candles, weapon oils, and spell components to refresh their abilities and higher hit point totals during a rest. It also makes minion upkeep easier so that their upkeep is just supplies instead of rations plus pay. The various actions in camping now help offset these costs, possibly keeping the players from expending their supplies if everything goes well. The campsite action now gives some strategic options of benefits that apply to the whole campsite. Camping is squared up with the 8 hour short rest, 24 hour long rest rule variant. The google drawing is here if you want to customize it to your own tastes.

Travel is changed to encourage planning longer routes at once, along with a change that will make navigation checks an automatic success most of the time. Stealth was reduced to picking two options of four. Landmarks can be drawn by players, improving navigation, to encourage personalizing the map. The google drawing is here for you to copy for your own use.

I removed the carousing section for being an over complicated section that I could never get to balance right with possible consequences or table enjoyment. In its place is an inspiration generating side-story system with a powerful upgrade to how inspiration can be spent. I shamelessly stole the general idea from here and by inspiration from various roleplaying podcasts

A book learning system is incorporated here so I do not have to keep finding the random sheet I had it printed on. The system allows you to read books to get answers, the more the better. It is tweaked to be quick and dirty while still meshing with D20 skill checks on the fly. My main change from the book system I got it from is that your research can be accumulated over time and you spend the rolled dice to get answers rather than get a random result from a table based on the number of books read. Also, you can always jump for a more detailed answer, but it might be wrong; anything from getting the color of the cloak wrong to flipping cause and effect.

Another rule change is that I explicitly have all magical items come identified to save my own sanity from having to try and remember what items are what that will trigger their abilities under what conditions. The occasional exception will appear as the common version and can be confirmed with a check or by use, which will automatically reveal what it is. That way I do not have to track when someone finally immerses the sodium necklace in water, I just assume that it will trigger if used without identification, and player choices declared before use can mitigate or negate the consequences just like any other trap.

My house rules continue to use a silver piece standard rather than the usual gold piece standard, with the idea that adventurers might live a risky life but the kind of wealth even low level adventurers could earn is so crazy compared to soldiers or skilled tradespeople that it makes no sense. It also allows the use of more varied coinage as loot. I did simplify the town classifications and haggling rules to have more straightforward target DC’s. I removed the crit and fumble rules for haggling, as they are now covered by the house rule for a +10/-10 on crits and fumble respectively.

In the next miscellaneous section, I lay out the rule of thumb I will use for combat, exploration, and peaceful turn lengths to set the shared expectations of how much action can be accomplished in each turn as well as to mesh with injury dice from death and dismemberment. I am taking advantage of the 8 hour short rest and 24 hour long rest as a way to pull my own DM’ing back from having to cram in an unrealistic number of encounters each day to keep up with the intended baseline of 6-8 encounters by the book. It will also allow me to comfortably use lower challenge monsters and threats of attrition that aren’t as easy in a world with 5 minute short rests and 8 hour long rests.

The initiative change, two-weapon errata, and willingness to re-skin are stolen from here and are intended to bring a bit more variety and viable builds. Maximum fall damage is increased because I looked up how far you actually have to fall to reach terminal velocity (it is much farther than 60 ft.)  as well as crunched the numbers to see how easily survivable 20d6 actually was for even mid-level players.

I got tired of having to ad-hoc come up with what happens on each critical and fumble, so I switched combat attack or save 1’s and 20’s to use the gambit system, gave skill or save 1’s and 20’s -10 and +10, and left myself room for thematic changes to results for exceedingly poor or excellent results.

Minions and hirelings hardly get used, so I trimmed up the sections. Minions are like living equipment that provide small bonuses but they can be killed or removed from combat by a foe instead of dealing damage to you. Hirelings have their own turns and stats but will take a percentage of loot and experience. I removed the previous system of morale for hirelings or minions but created a general one for groups of enemies that do not use the death and dismemberment rules. Enemy groups gain morale dice as they lose fight strength or the players scare them, and if they get a high enough result, will retreat from the fight.

Gambits are still around for players to attempt combat feats without losing action economy or damage output. This time, I have given a solid list of example gambits. These gambits are also used when picking penalties for an opponent who fails a gambit or a disconfirmed fumble. Confirmed critical hits get a free gambit.

To go with the gambit system and death and dismemberment system, I cobbled a quick system of damage tiers that I will use for injured body parts, damaged items, exotic curses, and acquired madnesses. They apply increasingly painful penalties to rolls made using that thing or rolls made when going against the preferred action of the curse or madness.

Death and Dismemberment changed quite a bit from the last iteration. There are no more automatic dice gains when taking damage, instead, the overkill damage beyond 0 is added to a roll of your injury dice to get an injury. The injury table has been increased to 50 items, with death starting at 41. The injuries on the table now utilize the standardized damage tier system for the body parts injured and give out more dice than before. All three flavors of injury dice remain -Pain, Bleed, and Trauma- however, they can be willingly gained to reduce the damage from one source by 5 each, even after seeing how the existing injury dice are rolled for a new injury. The scaling costs of  injury dice mean that players will want to strategically spread their dice among the three and only take them to avoid injuries they are unwilling to stomach. Injuries and Injury dice cost healing to remove, whether from expending hit dice, magical healing, or other means. Injuries move back down the tiers making it easy to patch up the worst of the damage and get back in the fight even before a leg or torso wound is perfectly healed. Lastly, nonlethal damage is changed to -in my opinion- make elegant use of this system for knocking enemies unconscious with moderate certainty of when they’ll wake.

Note that the math on this means that players would be at risk of death starting at 7 injury dice and commonly risking death at around 12 injury dice, notwithstanding damage received. I figure with 5-15 damage attacks on average, players will be able to be hit once and land between 1-5 dice. A second hit would move them to roughly 3-11 dice, then a third hit would have a moderate risk of death with 6-20 dice, and a fourth would risk a high chance of death. This system will keep them from sitting on the sidelines of a fight, unconscious, give them a slightly higher survivability (normally a hit would be an automatic death save failure of three), and give some longer term damage to fight through as a trade-off. See the google spreadsheet if you want to copy one to modify for yourself.

The languages system has had the number of languages increase slightly while removing those that I erroneously thought were D&D languages. The four elemental languages are now with their appropriate relations while more outsider languages have been added. Humans and half-humans also get an ethnic language per one of the continent (being the only race spread out enough with short enough generations to diverge from their common tongue) as well as fluency in the common tongue. I added a circumstance modifier to communication skill checks when using a related language to a fluent one. I also updated how I will represent the difficulty of translation in game to a limited number of sentences per conversational “side” per scene. This should make it easier compared to trying to come up with the 3 or 10 words that get translated. Gibberish was added to the inarticulate category because it will be fun to use and still try for the inflection and emotion of the foreign language speaker. As with previous campaigns, I expect languages to come up rarely unless my players start traveling further distances or to non-human cities. Here is my languages graphic in google drawings if you want to copy and change it for your custom languages.

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