House rules

The plan is to use AD&D 3.5, but there are a couple of major differences.

Alignment

There are no alignments. Just like real life, really. Indeed, worshippers of the gods of disease or death will frequently be able to make strong cases that their causes are just and holy (that suffering from plague, for instance, is a necessary part of existence). Some gods/religions are more or less beneficient than others toward humans (or elves, or dwarves), but that doesn’t necessarily make their followers the same.

However, there are some things which are undisputably bad, abominations that have no place in the world and which no sane person would think ought to exist. Followers of gods who might be considered “evil” will take great pains to separate themselves from these horrors and may indeed try to destroy them. It’s okay to use the words “good” and “evil” (indeed, people do), but characters shouldn’t necessarily take them at face value, and differentiate between the different evils that do exist.

Priests and the undead

The lack of formal alignments has some effects on turning undead. Some gods grant the power to turn, and others to control, just like in regular D&D. Priests of some gods will be able to take a feat enabling them to choose which they would like to do. However, when faced with something so horrible that even the most “evil” of gods would not wish its existence, a priest must attempt to turn it rather than assert control. Failure to recognize the nature of such a creature and attempting to bring it under a god’s protection will incur the wrath of that god.

High technology

Some kingdoms contain relatively modern technology, including steam engines, firearms, and similar things. Think early Western civilization in the early 1800s (but not everything from there). While some of these things could conceivably be taken from d20 Modern, it’s probably better that I have custom rules for these to ensure game balance.

Sanity

This campaign is intended to be in part a horror setting. The wild magics of the Savagelands play havoc with the psyches of the mortals who live near. The sanity rules are from the Unearthed Arcana set, similar to those in Call of Cthulhu.

Essentially, when your character sees something too horrible to contemplate, he makes a sanity check. Depending upon the result of this check, he may lose some or no sanity points, suffer a temporary nervous breakdown, or go completely insane. You will not know when this happens! You will know your overall sanity points, and have a general idea of your character’s mental health, but I’m going to keep your exact stat a secret. When your character loses it, I’ll tell you and let you play things out… for the most part.

Different races will have more or less resistance to mental breakdowns. There will also be feats to allow you to better resist the horrors you may encounter, and the Healing skill will enable you to repair some of the damage done. Clerics will get bonuses depending upon their patron gods, and wizards and sorcerors will be more resilient against certain arcane terrors. HOWEVER. When someone more resistant to a thing actually is affected by it, he will experience a much greater shock than a regular character. I’ll post the exact rules as I come up with them.

There also won’t be sanity costs for most spells.

Rolling a character

You have 30 points with which to create your character. You can trade 5 of these for an extra feat, or you can trade 4 for a feat and a phobia. You can also trade 4 points for a GM-selected feat (no guarantee you will like it, but it won’t be something completely useless).

Ability score Character point cost Ability score Character point cost
8 0 7 -1
9 1 6 -2
10 2 5 -3
11 3 4 -4
12 4 3 -5
13 5
14 6
15 8
16 10
17 13
18 16

Additional feats

There are some special feats unique to this campaign. They are given here.

Strong-minded

The character is resistant to the fears induced by strange happenings. +1 to sanity checks.

Steady nerves

Requires the Strong-minded feat. The character is especially resilient to shocks and stresses. -1 sanity point loss when sanity is lost (minimum 1 point).

Dual turning

Must have 5 total levels toward turning undead (so 3/2 cleric/druid, or 4/3 paladin/cleric, for instance). This feat allows the character to either turn or control undead. Note that some deities may regard this as an affront to their philosophy: worshippers of these deities should not take this feat! At the start of each day, the character must choose how many turnings to devote to each of turning and controlling.

Combat

I have no idea if the way I run combat is the way it’s done in the rules proper. We’ll do a session and come up with something mutually agreeable. I don’t like to worry too much about positions/tabletop gaming play, but if the players want to treat it like that, then we can do it that way, too.

There is, however, a sage piece of advice: “guns kill investigators.” That comes from the Call of Cthulhu book, but it’s applicable to D&D, I think, and the games I like to run especially. This is not a hack and slash campaign! While there will be bloody battles which rely on your combat strength and dice rolling skills, there will be others which require creativity, others which require you to have done some research, still others which require you to have planned a good strategy, and still others in which your only choice is to run away.

Spell research

I’m not sure how this works in 3.5, but I hated the AD&D 2e rules on this. Wizards of any level should be able to engage in spell research. It just makes sense to me. (Of course, they still need a lab, which may be expensive….) However, a wizard may only research spells which are lower level than the highest spell you can cast. That is, if your character can cast 7th level arcane spells, then he may only research spells 6th level and below.

The same holds for clerics. Most clerics in an organized order will wish to (or be required to) give knowledge of their spells to the order. Order-specific spells are closely guarded secrets. To ensure that they do not fall into the hands of competing religions, many clerics are only given knowledge of these once they have completed an act of high devotion.

Sorcerers, druids, and other sort-of-casters can engage in spell research, but generally will have to accompany their researches with a significant quest or sacrifice. The reason is explained by the rules on How Magic Works. Wizards are exempt because they manipulate magic directly, while clerics are direct conduits to specific gods who already have these powers and may wish to confer them upon their followers. (That said, if a god doesn’t want its followers to have those powers, then the cleric’s research will ultimately fail.)

XP bonuses

In addition to the usual roleplaying bonuses, I like to give XP for other things

Abnormal methods of doing stuff – So there’s no reason why a scroll needs to really be on a scroll. Maybe your wizard uses inscribed bits of stone instead. Awesome! They’re functionally the same as a scroll, but kind of unique. Or maybe your thief doesn’t draw his dagger from a sheath on his belt, but instead from one strapped to his wrist.

Stuff like this doesn’t affect gameplay, but it’s still cool and adds to the game.

Game-changing creations – I love new spells, and normally give generous xp rewards for players who research interesting ones. Similarly, fighters get good rewards for awesome battle plans or clever weapons (glass daggers are my favourite), clerics for new divine spells or clever healing methods, and thieves for neat contraptions. Bards can write songs or poems about the adventures, then tell them to the townspeople at the next place (likely to earn you some cash, too, and maybe an invitation to the local lord’s manor). D&D 3.0 has item creation feats, too. Of course, it costs XP to make magic items… so basically I’ll remove that penalty if your thing is something new and exciting.

Help with building the world – Come up with a good NPC, or design part of a city, or something like that. Obviously stuff that can fit into the story somewhere down the line is better. I think I’ll set down a rule like “creating stuff will earn you up to 5% of the needed XP for your next level, at most once per week.”

House rules

The Haunting of Sulpich Wood snarkophilus