Unified House Rules

Updated: April 2nd, 2018

In an effort to make things a bit easier to recall and quicker to play across my various D&D 5E games, after any ongoing combats, the following Unified House Rules will be in use in all D&D games:

General Rules

  • General Rules
    • Unless a description says otherwise, math/calculations that result in a fraction need to be rounded down. [Stock]
    • Temporary hit points aren’t cumulative. If you have temporary hit points and receive more of them, you don’t add them together, unless a game feature says you can. Instead, you decide which temporary hit points to keep. [Stock]
    • Combat
      • Attack rolls need to equal or exceed the AC in order to hit. Ties do not go to the defender. [Stock]
      • Flanking grants Advantage upon the target. [Stock]
      • Each time a character reaches 0 hit points it gains one level of cumulative exhaustion until it takes a long rest.
    • Potions
      • Drinking a Potion is now a bonus action.
      • Administering a Potion to a downed character is an action.
      • Drinking two potions at once is possible, but unexpected results can happen when potions are mixed.
    • Learning Languages or Tool Proficiencies
      • Normally this would take 250 days of effort, with a cost of 1GP per day (this is aside from your normal cost of living). – PHB pg 187
      • My take is that it is 120 days of effort (assuming a full day of focused work and suitable location), with a cost of 1GP per day, or half that cost if the instructor is another PC.
      • Looking to do it faster?
        • In the case of languages, if your instructor natively speaks the language and you are immersed in that culture (EG: Learning Elven from an Elf while living in an elven city, or Dwarven from a Dwarf while living in a Dwarven Fortress) without break the total number of days of effort is only 90.
        • In the case of Tool Proficiencies, if you immerse yourself in that trade (such as working in a Brewery every day for months without more than a one day break), you likewise reduce the total number of days of effort to 90.
    • Resting 
      • When you finish a long rest during which you slept in medium or heavy armour, you regain only one-quarter of your spent Hit Dice (minimum of one die). If you have any levels of exhaustion, the rest doesn’t reduce your exhaustion level.
      • Long Rests are 8 hours, Short Rests are 1 hour.
    • Skills
      • In order to assist in a Skill or Tool roll (to grant advantage), both participants need to be able to perform the skill individually (PHB – 175). Also, both participants need proficiency in the skill.
  • Spells
    • New Spells
      • Vigor (not in the Compendium)
        • 1st-level Necromancy
          • Classes: Cleric, Druid
          • Casting time: 1 action
          • Concentration: Yes
          • Range: Touch
          • Duration: Up to 1 minute
          • Target: one person
          • A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1 + your spellcasting ability modifier each round. This spell has no effect on Undead or constructs.
          • At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the Healing increases by 1 for each slot level above 1st.
    • Removed Spells
      • Revivify
  • Feats
      • Combat Reflexes
        • Your reactions are honed to quickly take advantage when your foes let their guard down. You gain the following benefits:
          • You gain an extra reaction each round. This reaction can only be used to make an opportunity attack.
          • Your opportunity attacks with weapons and any weapon attacks made with the sentinel or mage slayer feat are made at advantage.
      • Dwarven Fortitude (XGtE pg 74)
        • Prerequisite: Dwarf, Mul or Half-giant
        • You have the blood of heroes flowing through your veins. You gain the following benefits:
          • Increase your Constitution score by l, to a maximum of 20.
          • Whenever you take the Dodge action in combat, you can spend one Hit Die to heal yourself. Roll the die, add your Constitution modifier, and regain a number of hit points equal to the total (minimum of 1).
      • Dual-focused (TDCS pg 108)
        • Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell.
        • Countless hours have been spent training your mind to maintain focus on concurrent incantations, taxing as the process may be.
          • If you attempt to cast a spell that requires concentration while already concentrating on an existing spell, you can maintain concentration on both spells simultaneously. You must spend a standard action each subsequent round on maintaining this concentration or lose concentration for both spells.
          • At the end of each turn where you have two spells you are concentrating on, you must make a Constitution saving throw (DC equals 10 + the number of complete rounds you’ve been concentrating on two spells). On a failure, you lose concentration for both spells. You can drop concentration on one of your spells during your turn as a free action to avoid this saving throw.
            • Any time you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration due to taking damage, the DC equals 10 + both spells’ levels combined, or half the damage you take,  whichever number is higher. On a failure, you lose concentration on both spells.
      • Prodigy (XGtE pg 75)
        • Prerequisite: Half-elf or Human
        • You have a knack for learning new things. You gain the following benefits:
          • You gain one skill proficiency of your choice, one tool proficiency of your choice, and fluency in one language of your choice.
          • Choose one skill in which you have proficiency. You gain expertise with that skill, which means your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make with it. The skill you choose must be one that isn’t already benefiting from a feature, such as Expertise, that doubles your proficiency bonus.
      • Spelldriver (TDCS pg 109)
          • Prerequisite: Character level 8th or higher
            • Through intense focus, training, and dedication, you’ve harnessed the techniques of rapid spellcasting. You are no longer limited to only one non-cantrip spell per turn. However, should you cast two or more spells in a single turn, only one of them can be of 3rd level or higher.
      • Thrown Arms Master (TDCS pg 109)
        • You’ve honed your ability to lob weaponry into the fray, including weapons not meant for ranged combat. You gain the following benefits:
          • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
          • Simple and martial melee weapons without the thrown property can be treated as if they have the thrown property. One-handed weapons have a range of 20/60, while two-handed weapons have a range of 15/30.
          • Weapons that naturally have the thrown property increase their range by +20/+40.
          • When you miss with a thrown weapon attack using a light weapon, the weapon immediately boomerangs back into your grasp.

Dark Sun Specific 

  • Dark Sun Specific 
    • Characters begin at 2nd level with Maximum Hit Dice.
    • A character can’t spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short or long rest until someone expends one use of a healer’s kit to bandage and treat the character’s wounds.
    • Character Trees
      • Each player builds a Character Tree composed of three characters.
        • Every time the active character goes up a level of experience, the player may also advance one of his inactive characters one level. The inactive character chosen must be of a lower level than the active character. Adjust the experience point total on that inactive characters sheet to the minimum number for the new level attained.
        • Replacement characters must be a different class and race than the lost character. They also start one level below the lowest level character that you have, at the time of the character death, but never weaker than 3rd level. Replacement characters do not roll for hit points, they receive maximum hit dice.
        • Items and equipment cannot be freely traded between characters in your tree, nor does a replacement character ‘inherit’ a dead character’s gear.

The Lost Marches Specific 

The Emerald Jungles Specific 

5e Sages

In prior editions of D&D, visiting a Sage for information was an economical way to attain answers that the party needed. The other main option was to build a character who was focused on studying a given field and forfeiting their utility as an adventurer. Since that was a shitty choice, the local Sage usually saw a lot of the PCs.

5E has done a lot to empower the characters without sacrificing their ability to actually be adventurers! None the less, I’ve found a need to reintroduce the Sage as an NPC role.

Much of this is a direct translation into D&D 5E from the AD&D 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide (1989). I’ve left the math a little complex, as these are not numbers that the PCs will be calculating or needing to worry about. This is purely a look behind the DM screen.

  • Question is:
    • General …..0 (0)
    • Specific ….. -2 (-2)
    • Exacting …..-2 and Requires a Library (-4)
  • Library is:
    • The Capital Library  …..Advantage (N/A)
    • Complete …..0 (0)
    • Partial …..Disadvantage (-2)
    • Non-existent …..-2 and Disadvantage (-4)
  • Rushed reduces the research time by one level  …..-4
  • Research Times
    • General …..1d6 hours
    • Specific  …..1d6 days
    • Exacting …..3d10 days
  • Cost (vary but as a guideline)
    • General ….10GP an hour
    • Specific …..100GP a day
    • Exacting …..250GP a day


Game Calendar – The Lost Marches

For more details on the calendar used in The Lost Marches, you can check it out here: https://worldofdarkness.ca/?p=1037#The_Calendar_of_Insulia

Our current game has begun in the month of the High Water (first month of Summer)

In game dates for the Sunday, The Lost Marches game:

  • 21 Day of High Water, Waxing Crescent Moon
    • Player Characters arrive in The Lost Marches and journey to Limen
  • 22 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • The PCs head out toward the Gnollwode, Adroil falls ill, the other three continue on but discover a ruined village.
  • 23 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • 3 PCs return to Limen after fighting Gnolls and Goblins.
  • 24 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • Training day 1 of 5 for Aria, Joxer and Varlock
  • 25 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • Training day 2 of 5 for Aria, Joxer and Varlock
  • 26 Day of High Water, Waxing Gibbous Moon
    • Training day 3 of 5 for Aria, Joxer and Varlock
  • 27 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • Training day 4 of 5 for Aria, Joxer and Varlock
  • 28 Day of High Water, First Quarter Moon
    • Training day 5 of 5 for Aria, Joxer and Varlock
  • 29 Day of High Water, Full Moon
    • Level 2 training completed for Aria, Joxer and Varlock

Factions and Orders in The Lost Marches

To Be Added to The Lost Marches Primer….


The Lost Marches lie on the bleeding edge of the wilderness. The countless Guilds, Noble Families, Merchant Alliances, and intrigues of the Civilized Lands have not yet fully spread to the Barony Limen. Those that have can be broken down into Orders and Factions.

The Orders

What has made its way there, are the various Orders that guide young Campaigners. These Orders take a multitude of forms, and all have their roots in the Civilized Lands, but each seeks to train and recognize its members.

As a Campaigner advances in skill, the Orders recognize this with certain titles and training. While titles hold less value in The Lost Marches, they are still respected and all would be advised to heed the word of a Radiant Servant of Pelor, least they need his healing might later.

Numbers in parenthesis indicate a level or level range. 

Druidic Circles

  • Aspirant (1-2)
  • Druid (3-8)
  • Archdruid (9+)
  • Hierophant (Wisest of the Druids)

Brotherhood of Warriors

Fighters and Rangers

  • Novice (1-2)
  • Sergeant (3-4)
  • Captain (5-6)
  • Marshall (7-8)
  • Warlord (9+)
  • Grand Marshall (Determined in Trial by Combat)

College of the Open Hand

Monks of the Way of the Open Hand

  • Initiate (1-2)
  • Brother/Sister (3-4)
  • Disciple (5-6)
  • Enlightened (7-8)
  • Master (9+)
  • Grand Master (Determined in a Contest of Wills)

The Academy of High Magic

Wizards of all three Orders

  • Apprentice (1-2)
  • Wizard (3-4)
  • Spellweaver (5-6)
  • Archwizard (7-8)
  • Magelord (9+)
  • Magus (Most senior Wizard of the Order)

Church of Pelor

All Clerics and Paladins of Pelor

  • Order of the Radiant Sun – Paladins of Pelor
    • Squire (1-2)
    • Sir (3-4)
    • Commander (5-6)
    • Holy Knight (7-8)
    • Knight Commander (9+)
    • Grand Knight of the Sun (Determined in a Trial by Combat)
  • The Grand Temple of Pelor – Clerical Worshipers of Pelor
    • Acolyte (1-2)
    • Priest of Pelor (3-4)
    • Adept of the Light (5-6)
    • Radiant Servant (7-8)
    • High Priest of Pelor (9+)
    • Patriarch of Light (Most senior servant of Pelor)


While a Campaigner is accepted by an Order for who they are, Factions are groups that work toward specific purposes. They are composed of members of nearly any of the Orders, and work toward goals of their own choosing.

The Shield of the Realm

The Shield is a solid traditionalist group. They wish to bring the First Valley, Second Valley, and Limen under the Fedual oversight of the Kingdom of Insulia. All expansion is done in the effort to gain political power and advantage for the Nobility of Insulia.

Symbol: A cloak clasp in the shape of the Royal Arms of Insulia. The clasp will cast Gentle Repose upon the body of the owner if they die.

Advantages: In exchange for your dedication, The Shield protects their own. If your body is returned to The Shield’s headquarters in Limen, they will raise you from the dead.

Disadvantages: You must tithe 20% of all new wealth to the Crown of Insulia.

The League of Cartographers

Dungeoneers, Tomb Raiders, Relic thieves, and Mystics make up The League. Set upon plundering The Lost Marches for the riches of the Great Compact, The League will frequently aid one another.

Symbol: A pin in the shape of a Feather/Quill worn on the lapel or chest. This pin is well known, merchants will charge you 10% less for all of your purchases and pay you 10% more for goods they buy from you.

Advantages: You have the option to purchase items that were nearly unknown (or frowned upon) in The Civilized Lands. You may purchase Potions of Healing, Greater Healing, and Poisons at the League’s Hall.

Disadvantages: Each lunar cycle, you spend at least one-day copying notes and/or carrying messages/packages for The League.

Yeoman to the Baroness

Yeoman serve Baroness Limen, the founder of Limen and the woman accredited with taming The First Valley. Yeoman act as a force of Order and Law in the name of the Baroness.

Symbol: A heavy silver chair worn about the neck. This chain grants you advantage on Charisma saves and checks within Limen or the First Valley.

Advantages: As a Yeoman, you answer only to the Baroness and her Constable. While in Limen, you are provided with accommodation befitting your rank in the Castle at no cost. Further, you will be granted land and assistance should you wish to settle/fortify The Lost Marches.

Disadvantages: You are in Fedual service to the Baroness, and as your Liege, she may call upon you at any time for any service.


Caveat: I’m posting this as a first draft, without any real editing due to time constraints. Though I will make time for adding images that my friends email to me!

Last night we had a number of friends over, naturally they were all RPG table top players.

At one point, all but one of us wound up talking animatedly about the power of names in RPGs. In short, as a DM, the name that you give an NPC can help paint an image of who that NPC is for the players.  Stop and think, what does a man named Chang look like? Changes are, you assumed he was Asian, right? Where a harsh sounding Germanic name might convey an image of a strongly built blonde haired man. So anyone who is reading this is clear;  the idea isn’t mine. I first read of the power of names and etymology in general, in 1991 (in the appendix of Tolkien’s ‘Return of the King’).

As I mentioned, the conversation was fairly animated and involved nearly everyone. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was one of the deeper conversations we’ve had as a group in some time. Following along required a certain commitment, or effort to participate in the conversation. Sadly, it came to a grinding halt around 9:20, preempting a followup conversation on the next RPG that we could likely come together to play (a topic that everyone wanted to discuss, especially the player who decided that it was time to go). A certain level of black humor suggests that this whole situation was nearly a parable for why there is no follow up game currently.

Aside from venting, why do I bring this up? I’ll get to that shortly.

I have a lot of friends who I like to game with (most of my current social circles outside of work) are composed of people who play in RPGs that I run or  who play alongside of in RPGs. I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to friends/players who would like to game with me or in a game that I run. There are a multitude of reasons as to why there are so many, but I like to think that the largest factor is due to the fact that nearly everyone in my games knows each other (so it’s a social get-together of friends).

I’ve touched on this before, and I’ve brought it up on conversation in the past, but as of December 2016, I could count 15 players who were seriously interested in joining games that I run, and another 10 who had expressed some level of interest in the prior 6 months. That realization was a humbling, as I had 25 potential players.

Now you may be asking yourself, why is he bragging about this and what does this have to do with the title of ‘Effort’ or the earlier rant?

With so many friends (because they are friends first, and players second) to “choose” from, it’s actually challenging to put together a gaming group. My friends have varied RPG interests (some like dark and serious gaming, others prefer to kick in the door), some have preferred gaming systems (not everyone likes the World of Darkness) varied schedules, and some -NEED- to feel like they ‘Won’ when they play. On top of that, I have my own interests, and I tend toward enjoying darker themed games myself.

As the person who is tasked with putting the group together, I’m the one who carry’s the lions share of ensuring that the players in the group are compatible in their play style and expectations. When they have an alternative, most good GM’s will not force casual Beer and Pretzel players upon ‘would be’ Shakespearean grade role-players who are expecting a very serious game. While a level of diversity of good, such a group is unlikely to generate the type of gaming that would leave everyone happy.

With time to run two games of 3-4 hours each a week, I can reasonably accommodate up to twelve players before the quality of the games suffers drastically. So that is 12 players that I can accommodate if there is no overlap between the games. As I always offer my wife a right of first refusal in my games, we’re down to 10 slots as she’s taken a spot in both games.

From that point on, I need to balance the issues that I’ve mentioned above, along with some others factors. Most notably, the level of Effort that I think that a given player will put into a game.

Where I to run a humorous one shot game, featuring lots of jokes and puns, and vaguely based on a certain War across the Stars, I wouldn’t be looking for too much from the players. Mainly a commitment of “have an idea of a character, and show up on time!” It’s not much to ask, and everyone is clear that I’m not expecting a lot, nor am I intending on putting in a Herculean level of effort into the story.

This is different when I have a tale/game that I feel that must be told.

If I have a burning desire to retell Hamlet, or a classic adventure that I will slavishly work upon, I’ll save that for players that enjoy such a tale, and that have expressed levels of effort that would do such a story justice. Of course there are always compromises. As mentioned before, there is a need to diversify a little, so that more players get a chance to play, and so that they get to play different forms of content.

That being said, I’m less likely to select the player that can’t show up on time with their character sheet, or that constantly forgets what is going on and yet refuses to take notes when I’m putting in 5-10 hours of preparation in a week. I’ll include that lower effort player in a game that allows them to walk in, play and then leave happy.

Now if you are wondering how does one make a shift from a casual or lower effort player to a higher effort one, I suggest to you are the only one who can answer that. It is your own actions that clearly state where you are on that divide. If you don’t have the time to discuss a new game, then you likely don’t have a level of effort needed to play in it. The proof is in the pudding as they say.

Now, if you are wondering why I shoved meme’s in here, it’s because the players that should be reading this the most are the ones who balk at two pages of text without images, as “Too much to read”. Though at least one of my friends has emailed me images to add to this! :D

Fun Fact on the subject of names: Bag End, the home of Bilbo Baggins was located at the end of his street (Bagshot row), and is in fact a pun on the French Cul-de-Sac (literally the “bottom of the bag”, or Bag’s End).

Simplified Fate Accelerated – Character Creation

This is a simplified version of Character Creation in Fate Accelerated, mainly written in plain English:

  • Write down two concepts for your character, one should be an overall concept and another should be a troublesome concept. We’ll use Branson as an example.
    • EG: Branson’s high concept is “Proper English Butler”, and his trouble is “Disdain for Blue collar workers”
  • Pick two other characters who your character knows, and work out a quick shared story with them.
    • EG: Branson has served as the Waldorf family butter for over 10 years. This means that he has history with Janice, heiress to the Waldorf fortune, and James, the Waldorf’s personal mechanic. 
  • Write down another feature of your character that is distinctive or important.
    • EG: Branson comes from a long line of Army Officers. 
  • Choose how your character best deals with/approaches problems using these methods (list them from the best to the least skilled): Careful, Clever, Flashy, Forceful, Quick, Sneaky
    • EG: Branson shows the most skill (to the least) with Careful, Clever, Quick, Flashy, Sneaky, Forceful problem solving. 
  • Write down two more features of your character that are somewhat distinctive or important.
    • EG: Branson is a “Total Neat Freak”, who secretly “Reads the latest celebrity gossip magazines.” 
  • Pick two signature moves that gives your character a notable advantage when they can use it.
    • EG: Branson is so Prim and Proper that he gets a bonus when he Carefully plans any High Society social situation
    • EG: Branson is  always prepared, once per game session Branson can declare that he had brought a piece of equipment with him in preparation of just such a circumstance! 

That’s it in a nutshell (and without the Jargon)!

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