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  • Writer's pictureJoe Thelawyer

My Updated AD&D 2e Houserules!

Updated: May 1, 2023

Second Edition Campaign House Rules v. 3.26.23

(As any of you who have played with me before know, this is a work in progress, so expect changes and additions as the campaign goes on…I doubt there will be that many though.)


Set in the Forgotten Realms, but barely. The past campaign has changed it. Throw out all you know about the Realms. Don’t assume anything.

This is a well-developed setting, but I changed the shit out of it when I began the last campaign. Then over next 4.5 years I broke what was left. As such, setting and campaign always trump game rules. There may be stuff in the game’s rule book that doesn’t exist or is heavily modified because of the setting and campaign. Just because the game allows for it, doesn’t necessarily mean it exists. I’ll let you know ahead of time where this is the case whenever I can. Many of the houserules may seem arbitrary and against the official rules for no good reason, but the reasons for the change all go back to the setting, how the world works, and what happened in the past.

For example, the gods never ever take an active role in this world. They don’t interfere directly. The only thing they do is grant spells and powers in exchange for the energy they get when priests get them more worshippers, who in turn give the gods energy through worship and reverence. Therefore, spells like Augury do not work here. The gods simply do not give a shit about you personally. It’s simply a transaction based on energies. Of course, this isn’t known by the PC’s or the people in the world. People pray and give thanks to the gods. And if they find a gold piece on the ground when they’re broke and hungry, it’s obviously the gods intervening directly, right?


I envision this being a regional campaign, rather than a massive world spanning one like I'm just wrapping up. You'll be based here and adventure here for most of the low to mid-level game. At higher levels (I wanna play till like 20th level, if possible, which may take about 872 years or so in our time) you'll definitely be interacting with the world at large and going out into it to make shit happen. That being said, it’s a large sandbox to play in.

Also, this doesn't mean you won’t be able to go to Waterdeep or whatever. I expect that at some point you'll be there or in some other bigger cities to sell or buy the type of stuff that you can only sell or buy in the big city. You can make your character from anywhere you want, but it would probably be helpful for immersion if they are from this region. Gives them a reason to be here and give a shit about the place, and to come back again and keep trying to make a difference. This won't be a murder hobo type game. Also, to make them be from somewhere not in this region would entail you knowing a lot about the region you're from. I've broken or changed the Realms so much that you may be making that decision based on false assumptions about what that region is actually like in this campaign.

Books Used

2e PHB Revised. That’s it. However, I’m using a couple things from Players Option: Spells and Magic. You’re still limited to only the spells in the PHB (though I may add some in from other books here and there). However, for Mages I’m using the changes on page 14 regarding the School of Universal Magic and made some changes to Druid spell spheres. I’ve detailed that in the Magic section later in this document.


Parnast: Small town, population 400, or 800+ if you include the forty or so outlying farms scattered within a couple miles of the town. There’s a few newer ones further down in the valley. It’s the main trading town of the region. Used to be the first major stop of the Zehntarim when their traders came off the Black Road. Since Zhentil Keep was conquered by a devil army, there is no more trade across the Black Road. The old buildings used as warehouses and administrative buildings have since mostly been torn down and their materials used for the residents of the town and the outlying farms. The town is happier with the Zhents gone. (The Zhentarim now operate mainly out of Waterdeep, and remain a trading and mercenary company. Think a combination of Halliburton and Blackwater.

Strakholme: About 400 Hill Dwarves of the Strakholme Clan live here. They mine silver and grow grain to make their excellent ale. They recently started raising a small herd of sheep and goats.

Glindelstuden: Several families of Rock Gnomes numbering about 350 total live here. They mine gems and make fine silver jewelry, making use of the silver the Strakholme dwarves mine. They also have several salt mines. They catch and salt fish from the lake nearby, which they sell, along with salt and their crafted items, in Parnast.

Thendle: A small settlement of approximately 300-400 Stout and Hairfooot Halflings. They have good relations with the Tallfellow Halflings of the Cloudburrows, as well as with the Wood Elves of the Forgotten Forest

Cloudburrows: About 175 Tallfellow Halflings raise ponies on this high-altitude grass-covered hilly plain. They trade these sturdy ponies with other short folk of the area and defend their ponies from the orcs and goblins of the Graypeak Mountains.

Flenden: A small group of High Elves live here. There were hundreds more, but most left to join the new elven kingdom in the High Forest. Approximately 175 remain. They live near the northern bank of Sunset Lake.

Forgotten Forest: Inhabited for ages by an unknown number of Wood Elves, when Evereska Fell they took in their Gray Elf cousins as refugees. They sometimes trade furs and other products of the forest, as well as arrows and more rarely high-quality compound hunting bows, in Parnast.

Grethalia: These Gray Elves dwell in a small town of Grethalia, named after the queen who led them here. They came here after the fall of Netheril approximately 3300 years ago. The Mythal protecting their city was destroyed when Netheril fell 4000 years ago, due to the magical catastrophe that caused the fall. Over the next 700 years the city was attacked multiple times. Eventually it fell and they fled to the Forgotten Forest. They are haughty and arrogant, like most Gray Elves, and bitter and resentful because they want their city back. They do not like humans, blaming them for the destruction.

Weathercote Forest: Contains an unknown number of Wild Elves. The easiest way to get yourself killed is to enter the Weathercoat Forest.

Dakor Stratum: City of the Mountain Dwarves. No one know their number, but many estimate there to be more than 700. They mine Iron, and forge that into fine weapons and armor which they sell at times in Parnast. They are very insular, but grudgingly consider themselves part of this region. Out of necessity they trade with others and therefore must be more sociable than they would naturally prefer to be.

Sunset Lake: Crystal clear water and great fishing.

Graypeak Mountains: Orcs, Goblins.

High Moor: Trolls

Rextag: Hobgoblin small city (pop. Approx. 4000?)

Serpent Hills: Snake Men (Yuan-ti). They use a strange form of mental magic. Also, Grimlocks are known to periodically raid the surface from their city under the Serpent Hills.

Najara: Former empire of Snake Men (Yuan-ti) many many many millennia ago. Ss’thar’tiss’ssum was their capital city.

Marsh of Chelimber: Kobolds, Bullywugs and Lizardmen

Lonely Moor: Gnolls and Bugbears

Anauroch: Human tribes inhabit this land that is part desert and part steppe, that sometimes raid into civilized lands on their fierce ponies

Evereska: Recently a city of humans which was built on the ruins of the ancient elven city of the same name (now THAT pissed the Grey Elves of Forgotten Forest off to no end), it was recently sacked by the dragon armies. Because it was too far out to control, they razed it after taking everything of worth, and enslaved its population. They even raided long lost elven ruins deep that the humans weren’t even aware of. Its population, if any, is currently unknown.

Fallen Lands: Swampy marshy lands. It was once the outermost region of Netheril. Pretty desolate, though there are rumors that Netherese ruins lie within in.

Character Generation and General Stuff

Movement and Encumbrance:

Basic encumbrance per page 102 and Table 47 on pg. 103 of the PHB to determine what the weight that moves you into different encumbrance categories based on your strength. Keep track of the weight of stuff you’re carrying and any effects on movement speed. You do need to keep track of rations, arrows, and special stuff like magic arrows, bullets, shells, vials of holy water, acid, oil, etc.

Wagon moves 20 miles a day. Walk 24 unencumbered. Riding Horse 48

A melee round is 10 seconds. A turn is 10 minutes. You can move full movement in a melee round, or if you attack you can move half your movement in that melee round.

Character background/backstory can’t be anything that makes other characters do something, like save your lost sister, and can’t something that gives you a grand destiny of any sort.

For first level no max hp. Roll twice and keep the better. Minimum = 5 hp, unless MU in which case the minimum is 2. All other levels it’s a straight roll, no help. No rerolling on bad hp rolls. Then add your Con bonus.

No ability score requirements for race and class, but you still get XP awards for high ability scores, per the class descriptions.

Alignment doesn’t really matter that much, as long as you play your characters consistently, and if there is an inconsistency, have a good reason for the variation. Evil characters are not allowed. In some cases, your class requires a certain alignment, however.

No dual classing. Only demi-humans can multiclass.

Both Weapon and Non-weapon proficiencies are in use, as well as the rules for related weapon bonuses.

Note that any class can now learn how to use a light crossbow by burning a proficiency slot.

Knowing a language is governed by non-weapon proficiencies and intelligence modifier. You must expend a slot to know a written language, even common. Most people can’t read.

Read the rules about illusions starting on page 108, as it imposes some duties on the players.

There are no magic stores or magical academies. Advertising that you have a magic item for sale, or that you have one in general, is asking to be killed for it.

Infravision is heat vision. Can’t read by it. Light blows it. Blinds you for a minute.

You can only heal while sleeping in the wilderness/dungeon/underdark/etc. if you have a bedroll. Rangers and Druids are exempt from this.

Bedrolls are free and weigh a pound.

Camp mess kits cost 1 gp and weigh half a pound.

Medical Kits: Cost 30 gp. This is required to use the Healing Proficiency and vice-versa.

Uses: 3, then its contents must be replaced. Weighs 5 lbs.

Fighter Battle Healing Kits cost 15 gp and weigh 3 pounds.

No need to calculate the weight of a regular outfit of clothes in encumbrance. Its free. So is the cost.

Iron rations weigh a half a pound per day, regular rations are one pound per day.

Keep in mind that Greek Fire is different than lamp oil. Greek fire is the napalm-like stuff you throw at bad guys for damage. It costs a lot more. You can’t throw lamp oil for damage.

Full plate, brigandine, banded mail, bronze plate, and field plate armor do not exist.


No level limits for demi humans, but they get an xp penalty per level as detailed below. Racial restrictions as to race and multiclass combos are followed. If they multiclass they get an additional xp penalty of 5% per level per every additional class beyond the first.

Halflings and Gnomes can’t use human sized two-handed weapons. Halflings and gnomes who use human sized weapons like longswords and battle axes must wield them two-handed, thus forgoing a shield. Most demihumans use a buckler in this case in order to get a shield bonus against one enemy.

Elves and Dwarves: 20%

Halflings and Gnomes: 15%

Half Elves: 10%

Subraces: The subraces of the various playable races are entirely cultural. No mechanical differences except as noted below.

Elves: See the Elf Handout for some more abilities they have. They can also cast spells in armor.

High elf: Standard.

Gray elf: More intellectual, haughty, and arrogant. Swap out the Dex bonus for Int bonus. Not a playable race

Wood elf: More nature oriented. Hippies mixed with Native American Indian culture.

Wild elf: Not a playable race. Hostile and xenophobic towards all others, except wood elves who they still don’t trust entirely. Beefier than most elves. Basically, barbarian elves.

Dark elf: Not a playable race. Standard, but Lloth is not really worshipped anymore due to stuff in the prior campaign.

Aquatic: Only in the oceans, rare.


Dwarven base movement is 9, not 6.

Mountain dwarf: Masters of mining and smithing, they live in a settlement inside a mountain, next to their mines and mushroom farms, which they use for food and for brewing ales and beer.

Hill dwarf: Masters of stonework and brewing, most live in settlements comprised of stone houses on paved streets surrounded by stout stone walls which also protect the entrance to the big mine the clans of the settlement work. Most every dwarven made stone structure in the world was made by Hill Dwarves. Some live in the hill or mountain being mined, but most are outside. Some even herd, and many grow crops for both food and for brewing beer and ale.

Gray dwarves: Not a playable race. Basic evil, underdark-dwelling race you’re familiar with. Large machines are their specialty. Steam powered mostly.


Hill gnomes: Best gem miners, gadget makers.

Forest gnomes: Friends to forest creatures and fae. They don’t usually tinker, but love to carve intricate wooden pieces. Fair gem miners. They also fancy themselves to be the best illusionists. Not a playable race.

Deep gnomes: Not a playable race. Generally neutral or good, have a connection to earth elementals.

Halflings: They love to write…stories, letters, memoirs, anything. They all start proficient in writing for free, but just the common tongue though.

Stout: Tend to like adventurers

Hairfoot: Best farmers. Mostly homebodies.

Tallfellow: Herders, and they also sometimes raise small pony sized horses for smaller folk.


For all classes, when you hit high levels, your followers are gained from roleplaying. They don’t just appear.

A Note on Paladins, Priests, Druids and Rangers

While I don’t care about specific alignment in general, for Pallys and Priests it’s a different story.

Paladins are LG in the classic sense. They aren’t stupid and don’t have to blindly charge in when it means instant death and do dumb shit all the time, but they won’t be able to operate in the moral grey zone either. They won’t have a personal story arc where they must reconcile their moral code and strict religious beliefs with reality of living in the morally decadent world and make compromises. No, they are paragons of all things considered to be knightly virtues. This may make it difficult, but not impossible for a good role player, to play one with the group and the campaign I have planned. They are also devoted to their God and focus on their god’s ethos. They can only be followers of three different gods, as you’ll see below. If they stray from knightly acts and do not act as their god’s sword and shield in the world, they lose all pally abilities. Yes, there are what some consider to be “anti-paladins.” But they aren’t a playable class.

Priests are also devoted to their god’s ethos and beliefs, but while paladins try to get converts by virtue of example, priests do it by recruitment. They serve local communities, and as they get higher in level, they may get a bigger church in a bigger community.

Some few priests go out and become adventures. They love the excitement and aren’t really suited to be a priest in a small town and live a boring life. They also do it to put a public face on their church and to get their church money via tithing. Mainly though, the goal is to carry out their god’s will in the world. While pally’s are considered the sword arm of their gods, priests are the eyes, ears, mouth, will and wisdom of their god made manifest.

This is important, because to be a priest in this campaign, you can’t be just a “heal bot.” You’re there to make your god’s will manifest in the world, just as a paladin does. But your acts in an adventuring group aren’t just to loot a tomb and get rich and level up. You don’t join a group for that purpose. You’d be joining a group that has goals that don’t go against the ethos of your god, and you hope to use the group to better serve your god and help make his will manifest in the world. You’re also always considering your place in the pecking order of the church. There’s always church politics.

Druids and Rangers are a special case. A few months ago, the gods of many faiths cut off their followers from access to their spells. No one knows why, but it seemed to affect mostly the gods of nature related things. Some former followers of these faiths recently began preaching a new faith and seemed to be converts to that faith. They have been granted spells and magical abilities by this new goddess. If you’re playing a druid or ranger, we will have to talk before the game so I can give you some background info.


Bards don’t exist as a class. Because they’re stupid, that’s why. You may see minstrels or entertainers or whatever in places, and they may call themselves bards, but they aren’t bards as in a class, nor do they have any special abilities other than their entertainment abilities.


All paladins follow either Torm, Lathander, or Tyr. They all get smite, which allows them to add their level to their damage bonus after they score a hit, once per day. At 5th level they can do it twice a day, 10th =3, 15th =4, and 20th =5. This only works against evil beings.

Get a +5 bonus on all saves v. Fear spells or effects.

Press: +2 hit, -4 AC

Defensive fighting: +2 AC -4 hit

Charge: full movement must be taken, x2 dmg, -3 to AC for that round.


Mages get one weapon proficiency slot at first level, as stated in the PHB, but they also begin at first level with a free proficiency in the staff. Also, in addition to the weapons listed in the PHB, mages can choose to learn how to use a light crossbow or a club.

No upper limit on the number of spells you can learn. Also, ignore the Spell Level cap imposed based on intelligence.

If you fail your check to learn a spell, you can try again either when you level, or when you find a different source for the spell, like a different spellbook or scroll.

Bonus spells for Mages same as clerics but for their Intelligence score.

Mages get 6 first levels spells to start, players choice, but one must be read magic.

Specialists get the same number, but 4 must be in their specialty, as well as one being read magic.

Mages get one spell of their choice for free when they level. Specialists get one as well, but it must be in their specialty. There is no scribing cost or time for this spell. It is assumed they were working on it in their down time.

Mages can detect if something within 50 feet is magical and determine if it is arcane or divine, at will, at 9th level with no spell casting required. At 12th level they can detect the school of magic, and at 15th they can detect its power level/spell level.

See Magic section for spell changes. As you get the ability to cast spells of a new level, I’ll review them to make sure they fit the setting stuff.

Long Life: after they hit 10th level, each year of life ages a Mage 6 months.

Magic Resistance: Mages get a +1 to all saves v. magic of any type.

Mages can cast 4 cantrips per day. They do not have to be memorized and are chosen from the list below:


Inscribes a personal rune (visible or invisible). All mages recognize this as the magical inscription of mage’s personal rune. No mage can ever duplicate another mage’s personal rune with this spell.


Same as the first level spell.


Illusionary sounds up to 50 feet away. Must be something you’ve heard before.


Five-pound telekinesis, ten-foot range, line of sight.


Same as the first level spell.


Opens or closes small or light things.


Performs minor tricks or tasks. Ask the DM in advance if it’s something you can do.


There is no base cleric class. All clerics are specialty priests as per the FR Adventures hardcover book. For demi-humans let me know. All the following applies to all Priests except for Druids.

If you’re a priest of a demigod you can only cast up to 5th level spells. If a lesser god you can only cast up to 6th level spells.

Priests can convert on the fly any spell they have memorized into a healing spell of the same level without having to memorize that spell, like cure light wounds, neutralize poison, cure blindness, etc. Sometimes a Priest gains insight into the higher mysteries of his faith and learns a new spell. Thereafter he can use that spell, but not teach it to others.

Coincidentally, this often coincides with the DM finding a new cool spell he wants to introduce into his game. Go figure.

See Magic section below for spell changes. As you get the ability to cast spells of a new level, I’ll review them to make sure they fit the setting stuff.

Priests can cast 4 cantrips a day. They don’t have to be memorized and are chosen from the list below:


Detects poison in one creature or small object within 5 feet. Can’t tell type like the first level spell.


Same as the first level spell.


Stops a person below 0 HP from losing more HP’s. Requires a touch.

Thieves distribute points as they level per the PHB, but they have 45 points to distribute per level, not 30. They also get a onetime bonus of 75 points to distribute however they want at first level. No more than 20 can be put into any one skill. This represents a specialized focus.

In addition to what they may get above, Gnomes get 2% increases in hear noise, open locks and find/remove traps per level starting at 1st.

In addition to what they may get above, Halflings get 2% increases in move silently and hide in shadows per level starting at 1st.

Note that Move Silently and Hide in Shadows are two different things. You can’t do both at the same time, since hiding in shadows requires you to be still.

However, you can do them both at the same time starting at 5th level, but you move at a quarter of your normal rate. At 10th level you can do both at half your movement rate and can move silently only at full movement rate.

The DM rolls for Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, Detect Noise, and Find Traps. The player rolls for Remove Traps, Climb Walls, Read Languages, and Open Locks.

Thieves get bonuses to surprise checks. If they are in an urban setting—village, town, city, etc.. The bonus is +1, and they get an additional +1 at both 7th and 14th levels.

Thieves normally can only do a sneak attack with a melee weapon. However, at 5th level, they may do so with a missile or thrown weapon. The same circumstances apply to be able to do it as for melee weapons.

Note that Climb Walls doesn’t let you climb around like a spider. You can’t crawl across ceilings, or fight while you’re climbing a wall. Also you may be penalized if you’re carrying a lot of weight and/or bulky stuff.

Skills can go higher than 95%, but 96-00 is always a failure. Scores higher than 95 are helpful in case the DM gives you as penalty to your check based on difficulty. 140% -25% penalty is still 95% chance of success.

Rangers get to distribute 20 percentage points per level, no more than 10% can go to any one score. They also get a onetime bonus of 25 points to distribute however they want at first level. No more than 10 can go into any one skill. This represents a specialized focus.

*Rangers get move silently and hide in shadows, but all rolls are 1/3 less if not outside in a wilderness or natural type of area. If they are in an area with lots of natural cover, they may get a bonus if they have time to set up a place to hide in.

**Rangers can only climb walls if it something natural like a cavern wall or cliff face or tree. Otherwise their rolls are 1/3 less for the types of walls thieves normally climb, like man-made building walls. Note that Climb Walls doesn’t let you climb around like a spider. You can’t fight while you’re climbing a wall, and may be penalized if you’re carrying a lot of weight.

Unlike Thieves, Rangers are not penalized in the above skills for wearing leather, studded leather, or padded armor. However, they also do not get any bonuses for wearing no armor.

At first level Rangers get one extra hp to start with, even if they already have max hp. This is a one-time thing. Rangers also get +1 to hit and damage with the longbow.

Note that Move Silently and Hide in Shadows are two different things. You can’t do both at the same time, since hiding in shadows requires you to be still.

However, you can do them both at the same time starting at 5th level, but you move at a quarter of your normal rate. At 10th level you can do both at half your movement rate and can move silently only at full movement rate.

The DM rolls for Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, and Hear Noise. The player rolls for Climb Walls.

Skills can go higher than 95%, but 96-00 is always a failure. Scores higher than 95 are helpful in case the DM gives you as penalty to your check based on difficulty. 140% -25% penalty is still 95% chance of success.

Rangers get Tracking for free as per the PHB, but I’m also giving you a bonus of one to the proficiency as if you put another one of your proficiencies into it.

Rangers get bonuses to surprise checks if in the wilderness. The bonus is +1, and they get an additional +1 at both 7th and 14th levels.

Rangers have a chance to delay or neutralize poison if it is naturally occurring like from a normal animal bite or naturally occurring plant. Roll a d20 and apply your Wisdom modifier and you will roll against a table the DM has depending on each type of creature. Most often this must be done the round after the person was poisoned.


If a fighter has 18 Strength to start, he gets to roll percentage with advantage.

Fighters get a plus 2 to all saves versus Fear spells or effects

Shield An Ally: If your ally is next to you, then you can use your shield to cover them. You both move at half speed, and you lose your shield protection for yourself.

Chuck and Attack: On the first round of combat, if you win initiative, and you have a spear, throwing axe, throwing club, dagger, javelin, or some other medium or small sized throwing weapon in hand, you can throw that weapon and still get an attack on your normal turn in combat. However, your movement during that combat round is cut in half.

Set Spear: Does double damage on a hit to an enemy who charges you. Can be declared after you see them start to charge.

Slaughtering Time: When fighting monsters of less than weak-ass monsters (ask dm) you double your attacks per round.

Battlefield Healing: After each battle, you’re able to use a combination of bandaging and battlefield first aid techniques to heal you and your companions. A PC can only benefit from one dose of Battlefield Healing per battle. Multiple fighters cannot do it to one person for stacking purposes. You can heal one PC or yourself for 1 hp of damage. This healing takes one minute and must be started within 15 seconds of the fight being over. That person cannot be doing anything else while you are doing this. Note that this can be used to stabilize a person who is at or below 0 hp, but that person does not gain any hp back from the Battlefield Healing. He is just stabilized. You need to have a Battlefield Healing Kit to do this, and it weighs 3 pounds. The kit must be replenished at cost between adventures.

Press: +2 hit, -4 AC

Defensive fighting: +2 AC -4 hit

Charge: full movement must be taken, x2 dmg, -3 to AC for that round.


Poison Resistance: +1 to all saving throws versus natural poisons.

Natural Resistances: You are resistant to extremes of weather. You’re generally cooler in hot weather than others, and warmer in cool weather. You’ll still sweat and get frostbite, but after the others in the group do. Additionally, any damage you take from cold, fire/heat, or electricity is reduced by 1 per die, to a minimum of 1 per die.

Fae Resistance: You have +2 to all saves versus Fae magics and enchantments.

Nature Healing: You have a supply of herbs, ointments, poultices, teas, etc. which you can use to increase the party’s heading overnight by 1-3 hp each. Roll a separate d3 for each person. At 5th level this goes up to 2-6 hp, and 10th it goes up to 3-9 hp. You need to have an herbal kit to do this, and it weighs 3 pounds. Every Mystic starts with one. Replenishing it is at no cost, you pick up the stuff as you go in nature. The kit must be replenished between adventures. This doesn’t stack if you have multiple people in the group applying it. This will not work if a PC is at negative HP, only if they are at zero or better.

Long Life: after they hit 10th level, each year of life ages the druid 6 months.

Druids can cast 4 cantrips a day. They do not have to be memorized, and are chosen from the list below:


Same as first level spell


The caster discerns north.


A minor form of the Goodberry spell. One berry, if picked by the druid himself within the past 24 hours, can be enchanted to heal one point of damage if eaten. A person cannot benefit by eating more than one berry in a 24-hour period. Also, it must be eaten by a person. It doesn’t work if shoved into an unconscious person’s mouth. If the PC wishes, he can assume that unless a Druid is in an area somewhat barren of berries, it is assumed that the Druid always has one berry on him at all times. He is also down one cantrip slot at all times though.


Surprise: on a 1-3 on a d10, and it’s rolled for the group, but individual modifiers apply.

Initiative: Each PC rolls a d10 and deducts their Dexterity Reaction modifier from it. Lowest roll goes first. It is modified by Table 55, on page 124 of the PHB, Standard Modifiers to Initiative. I’m not using weapon speeds, nor table 56, Optional Modifiers to Initiative. You do not need to declare your actions before rolling initiative. If you get multiple attacks in one round, they both happen on your turn.

Hold Action: must declare a specific thing, and it happens simultaneously in the round with the action you are holding for. If the thing doesn’t happen in that round of combat, you lose the ability to act in that round. If you get multiple attacks in one round, you can’t choose to hold one and make one. They are either both held or both used.

Attacks of Opportunity: They are a thing. If you or an enemy move into or out of your range during melee, whoever is near it gets a free shot at it.

Disengage: You can use your entire round of combat movement to move up to half your move and disengage from combat without triggering attacks of opportunity.

A melee round is 10 seconds. A turn is 10 minutes. You can move full movement in a melee round, or if you attack you can move half your movement in that melee round.

Changing Weapons in the same round: Must drop weapon, can’t stow it away, and you are -2 to hit in that round.

Fist-fighting: There is a base damage done for a punch by a creature, depending on its size. This is in addition to any strength modifiers. A tiny creature does zero damage as a base. Small=1, medium=1-2, large=3, huge=4, gargantuan=5, etc. It’s non-lethal damage, and 75% of it is healed overnight.

Grapple/Wrestle/Overbear/Shove: all determined by opposed strength checks. You can only grapple one target at a time, and to attempt it, or to hold someone in a grapple, takes up all that person’s attacks and movement for that round.

A Blinded creature can’t hit a damn thing. They lose their Dex bonus to AC.

Expanding fireballs and ricocheting LB’s are a thing.

Compound bows give a strength bonus to damage, but only up to an 18 strength. You don’t get it for exceptional strength scores. They are specially made for each strength score. The higher the score the rarer they are. They are 5-10 times the cost of a normal bow.

Light Crossbows reduce a target’s AC due to hard armor or a monster’s shell or carapace by 1, and heavy crossbows reduce it by 2.

Firing missile weapons into melee is dangerous for your allies engaged in melee. Roll to-hit at -3. If you roll a 1, 2, or 3 you hit one of your allies engaged in melee.

Arrow/Bolt recovery: 2/6 chance it broke.

If you use a weapon improperly, like a slashing weapon as a blunt weapon, or a piercing weapon as a slashing weapon for example, and you roll a natural 1, the weapon breaks.

Combat Moves For All Classes:

Prepared First Strike: Only in the first round of combat---Combatants who have missile weapons prepared go first. The side that won initiative goes, then the other side goes. In other words, you must have told the DM that you have an arrow cocked in your bow or loaded in your crossbow, and ready to go. No movement is allowed until after the shot is taken. (Note: this is only for missile weapons. But fighters have a special ability like this described under their class description in these houserules).

Aim: The player takes one full melee round to aim his missile weapon and gets +7 to the attack roll. It is usable with a missile weapon only, not thrown. You cannot move or attack that round, you get no dex or shield bonus to AC, and that round enemies get an additional +2 to hit you. You only get one shot, even though you may have more than one attack per round.

Attack from Behind: An enemy who is unaware of you gets no dex or shield mods. Includes missile weapons.

Set Arrows: Place arrows in the ground before you to add one more arrow attack

per round. You cannot move during the rounds you’re getting the bonus attacks.

Invisible Enemies: An Invisible creature cannot be seen by mundane normal non-magical means, or hit, unless it is moving and heard. If they are moving, you attack them at -6 to hit, their attacks on you are as if from behind, and invisible enemies cannot be hit w/ missile weapons in any case, only melee.

Shields Shall Break: You can declare that instead of taking damage from any melee or

missile attack, your shield took the all the damage. You have to decide if you want to do this prior to the damage being rolled. Note: this is not possible to do if the attacker rolled a critical against you.

The Obi-Wan Rule: If you are attacking from higher ground you are +1 to hit the enemy, and they are -1 to hit you.

Prone: If someone is on their ass you are +4 to attack them with a melee and they are -4 to attack you with all weapons.


A Critical hit is when you roll a natural 20 on a d20 to hit in combat. A critical miss, or fumble as it is also known, is when you roll a natural 1 on a d20 to hit in combat.

Natural 20 = Max damage on any die rolls +1. All bonuses are added after that.

Natural 1 = Lose your next attack.

For crit fails or successes from magical attacks, the DM gets creative. 😊

Death, Dying, and Healing

If brought to 0 hp, then you are stable and unconscious. Not bleeding out. At -1 you start to bleed out at the rate of 1 HP per round. However! On the round that you enter negative HP, you get to roll a system shock roll. If you succeed, then you no longer bleed out. You are stable at whatever negative HP you were at. Death at -3 plus level, down to a max of -10 plus your Con modifier, if any. If the mod is a negative, then the max is reduced.

If you get to below -3 HP, you will have a battle scar that cannot be healed away. The scar will be appropriate for the type of blow/wound/damage that brought you down.

You can only heal while sleeping in the wilderness/dungeon/underdark/etc. if you have a bedroll. Rangers and Druids are exempt from this.

Heal at 1 hp day of rest. Full rest in bed for 24 hours is 3 a day.


As detailed in the Tome of Magic on page 14, the Mage’s school of divination has been replaced by the school of Universal Magic, which contains spells available to all schools of magic.

Those spells are: Comprehend Languages/Confuse Languages (1st), Detect Magic (1st), Hold Portal (1st), Identify (1st), Read Magic (1st), Wizard Mark (1st), Knock/Lock (2nd), Protection from Cantrips (2nd), Wizard Lock (2nd), Dispel Magic (3rd), Remove Curse/Bestow Curse (4th), Enchant an Item (6th), Permanency (8th) (I deleted a couple because I will add in my own versions of those spells to better fit the campaign).

Also, as per the same book, previously, Druids had major access to all, animal, elemental, healing, plant, weather, and minor access to divination. However, now they gain major access to the sphere of sun.

Level dependent caps on spells no longer exist. For example: If a spell description states that a spell does damage ox XdX per level, and caps at X level, like fireball or lightning bolt, that spell no longer has a cap. Likewise, in the case of spells like magic missile where the number of missiles you can shoot are capped by level, that cap no longer exists. However, if a spell states a fixed damage like blade barrier, or any other fixed number, then that remains unchanged. This applies to damage, range, duration, and area of effect. Note that this does not apply to healing or harming spells.

All Mages, Druids and Clerics have signature spells. They each choose one spell per spell level as their signature spell of that level. They can choose that spell at any time in their lives, but once they do its chosen forever. This is a permanent choice. They are always assumed to have this spell memorized. If they have a different spell of the same level memorized, they can swap it out and use their signature spell in its place. This does not increase the number of spells they can cast per day. This allows them to have a utility spell memorized, and still be able to cast their go-to spell when needed.

Cantrips for Mages, Clerics and Druids: These classes can cast 4 cantrips a day. They know all the cantrips on the class list provided to them. There is no need to memorize any of them. See each class description.

Magic items are rare in this setting, there are no magic stores.

Material spell component rules are in use. Must have them to cast the spell. Keep track of them, and buy them when needed.

Fast travel restrictions in place. No spells that allow for it exist.

No resurrection or reincarnation type stuff.

My magic item creation rules from the 5e game are in effect. Ask me when you get high enough level.

No spells or abilities that detect alignment or lies. Detect evil will detect evil things like demons or undead, or magic items or stuff like that. Nothing for lies though.

Illusions are better, in that they are harder to disbelieve, if the illusionist has actually seen the thing they are making an illusion of. That’s why so many illusionists are adventurers…they want to see the world in order to make their illusions better. Illusionists can always tell if an illusion a caster is showing is based on something real or not. Mages also can, but to a lesser extent. It gives them bragging rights within their small community. See the rules on pages 108-111 and on 169 of the PHB regarding illusions.

Spell Special Effects—Stolen from Philotomy!

Mages enjoy the capability to produce minor magical effects related to the spells they have currently memorized. For example, a Mage who has fireball memorized might be able to light his pipe with a small flame from his thumb, or make smoke come from his ears when annoyed, or if they have gust of wind memorized she might have her hair constantly blowing in an otherwise non-existent breeze.

Using a special effect does not cast or use up the spell it is related to; they're not so much "spells" as they are tangible evidence that the Mage has a spell memorized. I do not codify these effects, but rather rely on the players to suggest or request an effect, which I then approve or deny. While I do not have a hard-and-fast rule against special effects that have a mechanical game effect, special effects are always minor, cantrip-like effects.

I like this house-rule for several reasons. First, it adds to the weird otherworldliness of magic users, and I love weird and fantastic elements in my D&D game. Second, it gives low-level magic users something arcane and archetype-supporting to do without using up their memorized spells or abandoning the concept of Vancian magic. Third, it's just cool to play a Mage that can make his eyes glow, or make his smoke rings come out different colors, or whatever. I know that players enjoy the special effects, and also enjoy trying to figure out what spells an NPC caster has based upon what his special effects reveal. The only real danger is allowing effects which are too potent, which could erode the feel of the Vancian magic system. It's up to the referee to make that call on a case-by-case basis.


You get xp for:

Killing stuff, per the monster’s XP.

The GP value of non-magical items brought back to a safe location like a town, as opposed to a camp near the dungeon.

Periodic mission completion or milestone type awards.

You need 2 + d3 days in town to level. No trainer needed. Just rest, practice, and reflection.

Bonus!! Try to stay in character as much as you can during the game. Everything you say. Whoever stays in character the most and roleplays the best gets an XP bonus at the end of each session.

MORE Bonus!!! At 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels you roll a d6, in order, for each of your ability scores. If you roll a 6, that ability score goes up by 1.

EVEN MORE FUCKING BONUS!!!! At 10th level EITHER one ability score OF YOUR CHOICE goes up by one point, OR two ability scores each go up by one point, randomly. Note that this means one ability score can go up by two. 😊

Weird Shit I Never Knew That I Learned When Re-Reading the 2e Books Again:

Casting cure light wounds or any other healing spell that requires touch requires that the subject be still and waiting for it. He can’t be engaged in combat. If he is you must make a touch attack on him, with his dex mods affecting it since he is moving.

Flaming oil requires two steps to use. One to splash the vial on a target, the other to throw a torch or something on fire onto it. It often requires two attack rolls to do it.

Death by massive damage: take 50 or more in one attack (as opposed to multiple attacks adding to 50 in one round) and you must save or die.

Magic armor might give a saving throw bonus in some situations

Encumbrance affects attack rolls.

Knowing a language is just spoken, not written unless you learn it.

Plus 1,2,3,4,5 etc. weapons are only to attack, not damage. Note that I’m ignoring this rule.

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