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KISMET'S HOUSE RULES

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Related Links › leaf The City of Thandell leaf House Rules leaf A Sample of the Story
  leaf The Thandell Academy leaf Leadership in my Game leaf Our Game Journal
  leaf History & Lore of Thandell leaf A Cast List of NPCs leaf The Faerunian Calendar

Just about every game I've heard of has house rules (which are changes and additions to the published guidelines).  Some groups have copious additional rules, to the point that they use very few of the official materials.  Other groups try to play exactly by the books, or as close to what's written as they can get. My first campaign stayed close to the books at first but soon changed in some important ways.  It can be difficult to anticipate how a change is going to affect the whole game, so we treated all house rules as experimental, at least at first. If they worked out well during play, we kept them.

Below are some of the long-standing and major house rules we used for a number of years and across multiple campaigns.  These were all rules that my players agreed to play under and they worked for us at the time.  Some of them went through alterations or were abandoned, but we kept the basic game stable.  You are free to disagree with any or all of them, just as I am free to disagree with the house rules of others.

Experience

When 3rd edition came out, one of the biggest problems we had with it was that it allowed characters to level up far too quickly for our taste.  A character would just be learning their new abilities when they'd gain a new level's worth of powers.  It had the frenzied feel of a video game like Diablo; new powers and new loot are the driving reasons to play such games, so levels have to come quickly to keep players interested.   I wanted my game to build up at a slower pace so characters could get to really know the limits of a level before attaining a new one.  I also wanted to focus on more than the rush to get the next new power.  In order to slow things down, I implemented an experience chart based on a few of the charts from 2nd edition D&D. 

Level

Experience Required

Level

Experience Required

1

0

11

375,000

2

1,500

12

750,000

3

3,000

13

1,125,000

4

6,000

14

1,350,000

5

13,000

15

1,575,000

6

27,000

16

1,800,000

7

55,000

17

2,025,000

8

110,000

18

2,250,000

9

135,000

19

2,475,000

10

250,000

20

2,700,000

In relation to this, I also decided to award experience for things other than combat.  I grant experience for good roleplaying - staying in character, acting according to one's character, developing character, and so on.  This experience was variable depending on the session. 

I granted a fixed amount of experience for a small number of other things.  First, I gave some experience for showing up to the game, hopefully on time, because I really enjoyed being able to start with everyone present.  I knew that we're all adults with many things to do and I wanted to show my appreciation to my players.  I also gave experience to those who pitched in money for food and drink that the whole group could have during the session.  We tended to have long game sessions and people were bound to get hungry.  Some groups actually encounter resentment related to food because sometimes a group will eat one person out of house and home, other times one person gets stuck with the bill, and yet other times folks suffer through sessions hungry while others eat in front of them.  I wanted none of that; a communal meal is a time for friendship.  So I gave experience, usually a fixed amount but more for particularly extravagant means (which my players did provide).  Last but not least, I gave experience to anyone willing to keep a detailed journal (dates, events, NPCs, etc.), because it's an invaluable resource for us all and while running, I did not have time to do it myself.  For each category - showing up, food, and the journal - I gave 50 xp times their character level.

Treasure

I did not ever randomly generate treasure.  Ever.  I have been in games in which DMs rolled up ridiculous treasures and it always rubbed me the wrong way.  I wanted to make sure that the treasure made sense for the creatures involved and the quickest way to do that was to decide treasure myself, based on the creature and situation at hand.  I used the CR of the encounter as a guide so that tougher creatures would provide greater compensation.  I did not always give treasure in coin; if a creature had no reason to carry objects, then I tried to give values to tusks, eyes, pelts, and the like.

Maximum Healing

I allowed for maximum healing from all healing spells and potions - for the player characters and the NPCs. For items, the maximum healing was based on the lowest level possible to make such an item. For example, the cleric of the party at fifth level could heal 1d8+5 (or, for my purposes, 13) with a spell of cure light wounds, while a potion would only cure 1d8+1 (or, when it was used in my game, 9). This rule did not dampen combat or spoil my group in any way, because they still got their asses heartily kicked and their enemies benefited from the maximized healing, as well.

Spell DCs

      It never made sense to me that the burning hands of Elminster could have the same DC as a second level wizard's burning hands spell. Yet under the rules, spell DCs were determined by the following elements only: 10 + the appropriate modifier + spell level. That meant that the burning hands of a 20th level wizard was just as easy to resist as that of a 1st level wizard (unless they've raised their Intelligence, purchased a feat, or are using a magical item). I implemented a new formula for spell DCs in order to account for the enhanced learning that comes with advanced levels: 10 + appropriate modifier + spell level + 1/3 caster level.  This was used for all spell DCs in our game. (Although I later heard great complaints about the overpowered nature of spellcasters, we didn't get so high in level that it became a serious problem.)

Class Skills & Skill Points

It always bothered me that non-weapon proficiencies in 2nd edition D&D seemed to matter so little; you didn't get many, and they didn't come up that often.  I started gaming in Vampire: the Masquerade, in which all characters had skills that were important.  3rd edition introduced a skill system to D&D that I liked a lot more - there were plenty of skills to choose from and the game was designed for skills to be used more often.  But the new system was not perfect in my eyes.  I did not understand why the game was so very stingy with class skills; it was as though the heavy combat classes could do very little else.  I also did not understand why so few skill points were granted to most classes.  I set out to fix those problems and when the 3.5 edition came out, I went along with the combining of certain skills.  The changes below are the solidified version of my alterations to the skill system.

Skill Points Per Level

3 + Intelligence mod
Barbarian
Fighter
Paladin
Sorcerer
 

4 + Intelligence mod
Cleric
Druid
Monk
Ranger
Wizard

6 + Intelligence mod
Bard

8 + Intelligence mod
Rogue

Alterations

I gave all of the PC classes the skills of Spot and Listen, since I feel they would all be taught such things, if for different reasons. I also added and subtracted the following class skills:
Barbarian: +Balance
Bard: +Intimidate, +Use Rope, -Swim
Cleric: +Knowledge (all)
Paladin: +Intimidate
Sorcerer: +Bluff, +Diplomacy, -Knowledge (all), +Knowledge (arcana)

I decided to play a bit with the domains, since most of them do not have skill-related bonuses (and, frankly, some of them have blah domain abilities). I went through the domains in the PHB and Forgotten Realms main book; have a look at the chart below to see those domains I enhanced.

Domain

Additional Class Skills

Additional Benefits

Air

Balance, Jump

+2 on Knowledge checks regarding air (including flight and storms)

Animal

Ride, Handle Animal, Survival


Charm

Bluff


Drow

Bluff, Intimidate, Move Silently

+2 on Knowledge checks regarding drow, and Sense Motive checks made against drow

Dwarf

Appraise

+2 on Knowledge checks regarding dwarves, and Diplomacy checks when dealing with dwarves

Earth


+2 on Appraise, Craft, and Knowledge checks dealing with stone and metal

Elf

Perform

+2 on Knowledge checks regarding elves, and Diplomacy checks when dealing with elves (excluding drow)

Fire


+2 on Craft checks when fire is used in the method of production, +2 on all Knowledge checks regarding fire, +2 on Perform checks when using fire.

Gnome

Appraise

+2 on Knowledge checks regarding gnomes, and Diplomacy checks when dealing with gnomes and dwarves

Good, Evil, Chaos, Law


+2 Diplomacy with Outsiders that are the same alignment as your domain

Halfling


+2 on Knowledge checks regarding halflings, and Diplomacy checks when dealing with halflings

Knowledge

Decipher Script, Gather Information, Sense Motive, Speak Language


Nobility


+2 on Diplomacy checks made when dealing with nobles, +2 to Intimidate checks, and +2 on Knowledge checks involving the nobility

Orc


+2 on Knowledge checks regarding orcs, and Intimidate checks made against orcs

Plant

Survival

+2 on Knowledge (nature), Survival, Search checks involving plants

Protection


+2 on skill checks made to protect someone else

Rune

Decipher Script

+2 on Knowledge checks involving runes

Scalykind


+2 to Handle Animal checks with snakes, +2 Diplomacy to scaly creatures

Strength

Intimidate

+2 on skill checks for feats of strength

Suffering


+2 on Bluff and Intimidate checks that aim to cause pain

Trade

Appraise

+2 on Bluff and Diplomacy checks made when engaging in trade

Travel

Balance, Climb, Jump, Ride, Swim


Trickery

Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Hide, Sleight of Hand


Tyranny

Bluff, Intimidate


Undeath


+2 on Knowledge checks regarding the undead

War

Intimidate

+2 on Knowledge checks relating to war

Water

Swim

+2 to Balance checks involving water, +2 Survival checks while at sea

The Paladin Class

I had two paladin player characters in my game and both players expressed dissatisfaction with the particulars of the paladin class.  There was very little for them to look forward to as their characters progressed and they didn't get much to begin with.  One of my players expressed interest in a nonstandard mount so I allowed him to call a hippogriff without the need for a feat.  But rather than simply handing out freebies on the fly, I decided to redo the paladin class to my satisfaction.  I made most of my changes before 3.5 edition was released but my group has expressed more approval for my paladin than the others they've seen.  My version can be found here.

Age Categories

I had issues with the published age categories right out the gate, mostly because I envisioned things differently.  I ran my game off the chart below pretty much from the beginning.  In a nutshell, dwarves reached new categories later, as did gnomes, and elves were much longer lived.  Half-elves and halflings were only slightly longer lived and half-orcs remained the same. 

Race

Adult

Middle-Aged

Old

Venerable

Maximum Age

Human

15

40

60

70

100

Dwarf

60

200

275

340

400

Elf

200

600

800

900

1,000

Gnome

40

140

220

270

350

Half-Elf

20

70

110

130

200

Half-Orc

10

30

45

60

75

Halfling

20

70

85

100

150

Favored Class / Experience Penalties

I never used the favored class feature of 3X edition D&D.  I saw the favored class mechanic as a form of racial stereotyping and its enforcement in the rules is something I found unnecessary.  If I wanted to associate a class with a race, I did so without limiting player characters even further than they already were.  In relation to this, I also did not dock experience from multiclassed characters with uneven levels.  My players didn't tend to multiclass their characters very often in any case and I saw no reason to cheat them out of their hard-earned experience for expressing interest in a different class. 

Leadership

I always had my own take on the Leadership feat and my players enjoyed my elaborations.  Three of them took the feat for their characters, and although it made extra work for me, I enjoyed tinkering with Leadership very much.  With that in mind, you can peruse my feelings about Leadership here.  You can examine how I modified and implemented Leadership here.

 
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