House rules for D&D 5th Edition
See here for an online compendium of the 5e base rules: https://roll20.net/compendium/dnd5e/BookIndex
1. More granular Proficiency Bonus advancement with a higher top end (+8 instead of +6)
2. More gritty realism: slow the pace of healing; increase the effects of exhaustion.
3. Decouple Wisdom from Perception (so the Cleric is not always the best scout).
4. Provide a use for Charisma during battle and other emergency situations.
5. Introduce a more sophisticated weapon proficiency system.
6. Simplify combat initiative for faster combat resolution.
7. Mesh with Fall from Heaven setting.
To compensate for some reduction in character survivability, a new ‘Luck’ attribute grants 0-3 free Advantages which are recovered upon advancing to the next level (sort of like ‘Inspiration’, but attribute-based).
Proficiency bonus now starts at +1 and increases every 2nd level through 9th, after which it increases every 3rd level to a final bonus of +8 (2 higher than the base rules).
|Experience Points||Level||Proficiency Bonus|
1. Two new Abilities are added to the game:
- Perception: measures intuition, observation, acuity of senses. Wisdom now represents insight, judgement and willpower.
This attribute replaces the ‘Perception’ skill. Wisdom is no longer used to spot hidden things. All Wisdom(Perception) checks now become Perception(<relevant-skill>) checks. A new ‘Scout’ skill is applicable in cases where some concealed, tiny or distant object needs to be spotted. The DC check would be expressed as ‘Perception(Scout)’. Other skills may be applicable to a Perception check, such as Perception(Investigation).
Perception is generated like other attributes: one additional 4d6 is rolled (7 total sets), dropping the lowest die from each set. And any one of the 7 results can be assigned to Perception.
Elf(all): + 2 (wood elves no longer gain +2 wisdom)
Human, Dwarf(hill): + 1
Passive Perception is now 10 + the creature’s Perception modifier (same as wisdom modifiers). Unless a Perception ability score has been specifically assigned, a creature’s new Perception ability equals their Wisdom.
- Luck: generated individually and separately from other attributes using 3d6 only, plus any Racial Increase (see below).
This attribute grants one free ‘Advantage’ d20 per full 6 points of Luck score. Luck-based ‘Advantages’ are available for use by the player any time on any d20 roll (attack, spell, ability, saving throw, etc.). They can alternately be used to give an enemy (or even a friend or innocent bystander) a ‘disadvantage’ d20 on any roll. Luck could also be used to eliminate a disadvantage. Luck-based advantage d20 can be declared before or after a roll in the case of yourself, but only before a roll in the case of enemies or bystanders. Luck-based advantages are recovered only upon advancing to the next level (~3-5 sessions). Luck can be increased during level advancement as normal. Certain magic items might provide a temporary bonus or penalty to Luck. If crossing a new multiple of 6, a new luck-based ‘Advantage’ is gained (or lost if a decrease occurred).
Halfling, Forest Gnome: +2 (this is in addition to the regular ‘Lucky’ racial Trait for halflings)
Human, Rock Gnome: +1
Dwarves: -3 (dwarven history in Arcanearth is a series of misfortunes)
We do not use Inspiration, Feats or Multiclassing.
1. Three new skills added:
- Scout: replaces the Perception skill, which is now an ability. Used in Perception(Scout) checks to spot hidden, obscured, tiny or distant objects. Also used to avoid ambush (surprise) and track creatures. Unless a Scout skill has been specifically assigned, a creature’s Scout bonus equals their ‘Perception’ bonus, if any. Available to bard, fighter, ranger, barbarian, monk and rogue classes at 1st level.
- Climbing: used in Dexterity(Climbing) checks for all sorts of climbing tasks including walls, cliffs and mountaineering. Climbing tasks are no longer part of athletics skill. Available to bard, fighter, ranger, barbarian, monk and rogue classes at first level. Climbing proficiency bonus can be doubled using the Rogue ‘Expertise’ trait. The purpose of this skill is to further differentiate Rogues from everyone else.
- Leadership: provides a Leadership proficiency bonus to team initiative. Also used in Charisma(Leadership) checks to coordinate actions of teams that would otherwise have to roll initiative separately due to being separated on the battlefield by distance, an obstacle, etc. The DC is generally related to how far the parties are separated (ie, how far does the heroic leader’s voice carry across a canyon, through a door, etc). The purpose of this skill is to reward high Charisma and provide a game mechanic to enhance role playing of leaders. Available to bard, fighter, barbarian, paladin, ranger and cleric classes at first level.
Leadership is primarily used during times of battle or other peril to influence friendly, neutral or enemy NPCs. By contrast, Persuasion, Intimidation and most other Charisma-related skills are applicable during conditions of relative calm. Leadership will be especially important during large-scale battles where PCs might be leading hundreds or thousands of troops.
Some other examples of using the Leadership skill:
- Bolster the flagging moral of allies or henchmen who are fleeing or about to flee from battle, or otherwise out of control. DC depends on the loyalty and morale state of the NPCs but generally ranges from 10-30. DC is +1 per full 60’ distance from the NPCs.
- Try to get friendly (DC5), neutral (DC10) or questionable (DC15) NPC allies and troops to follow your orders on the field of battle. DC is +1 per full 60’ distance from the NPCs. Orders might be contested by other leaders issuing different or contradictory orders at the same time. The highest successful Charisma(Leadership) roll wins in the event of a contest. Winning ties result in the friendly or neutral troops doing nothing except defending in place (rattled troops might have to make a moral check as well…).
- Taunt enemies that can see or hear you ("Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”): contest vs. highest enemy Charisma(Leadership) or Wisdom (NPC choice). This check has disadvantage if you don’t speak the same language or the taunted or they can’t both see and hear you. Success of this action results in initiative penalty on the next round equal to the taunter’s leadership proficiency modifier.
2. Existing Skills
- Medic: now referred to as ‘Healer’. Medic sounds too modern…
Survival is replaced by the following two specialized skills: Wilderness Survival and Streetwise. Use of these skills is most often associated with the new Perception ability.
- Wilderness Survival: used in wilderness environments (on the surface or underground). Also applies to improved outdoor areas such as farmland, quarries, camps, plantations, roads, etc. Available to bard, cleric, druid, fighter, ranger and barbarian classes at first level.
- Streetwise: used in urban environments (avoiding hazards, finding lodging, food, hirelings, services or needed items, etc). Also applicable to settlements, enclaves, towns or fortresses, villages or castles, and hamlets or forts. Finding a specific food, service, location, hireling or item is DC5/DC10/DC15/DC20/DC25 respectively. DC increases depending on rarity. Obtaining a steel weapon or armor for sale in an iron-poor region might be DC+5. Finding a lesser consumable magic item for sale, such as a potion or minor scroll, will be at least DC+10…more powerful or permanent magic will be at least 5 or +10). Finding the services of a sage with specific knowledge: +10. Locating the temple of an unpopular, unknown or forbidden religion: +15 or +20. Available to bard, cleric, fighter, rogue, wizard, sorcerer and warlock classes at first level.
1. Water consumption is half that listed in the DMG (1/2 gallon per day for small and medium sized). Amount discovered by Foraging remains the same (1d6 pounds food and 1d6 gallons water per success).
2. Foraging, avoiding natural hazards and not getting lost use Perception(Survival) in most cases. Those who are actively foraging are not eligible to employ their Scout skill at the start of unanticipated encounters.
3. Tracking now uses Perception(Scout). As such, a Ranger’s most important abilities become Perception and Strength (Wisdom is still useful for ranger spells). The most important skills for the typical Ranger are Scout and Wilderness Survival.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency
1. No change: Light Armor, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, Shields
2. Existing weapon proficiencies are replaced with the following groups:
- Bludgeons, one-handed (axes, maces, hammers, staves, battleaxe wielded with one hand, etc)
- Bludgeons, two-handed (greataxe, maul, battleaxe wielded with two hands, etc)
- Blades, one-handed (includes knives, daggers, and ‘versatile’ blades wielded with one hand)
- Blades, two-handed (includes ‘versatile’ blades wielded with two hands)
- Pole-arms (spear, trident, halberd, glaive, lance, pike, etc)
- Arbalester (jncludes light and heavy crossbows, but not hand crossbows)
- Throwing (daggers, knives, darts, hand axes, javelin, etc. Can throw any melee weapon in a pinch: 3’ range per 2 points of Strength ability, disadvantage if ‘heavy’)
- Mounted Combat
- Unarmed Combat (Grappling and Unarmed Strikes: PCs are no longer automatically ‘proficient’ with unarmed strikes. No Athletics/Acrobatics proficiency is possible when grappling without Unarmed Combat proficiency. All monks that want to use their open-hand fighting should take Unarmed Combat.)
- Exotic:by individual weapon type (whip, hand crossbow, net, bolo, petard, arquebus, siege engines, etc)
Applicable proficiencies can be situation-dependent. A character might be proficient with a hand axe, but unless they have ‘Thrown’ proficiency, they will not receive their level Proficiency Bonus when throwing it. To use a weapon effectively (ie, gain the proficiency bonus) while mounted requires both the related weapon proficiency and ‘Mounted Combat’. Three proficiencies might even be required in extreme situations. Examples: throwing a spear from horseback (Pole-arms + Throwing + Mounted Combat); throwing a dagger while wielding two weapons (Blades, one-handed + Dual-wielding + Throwing).
- ‘Elf Weapon Training’ trait provides free proficiency in ‘Blades, one-handed’ and ‘Archery’.
- ‘Dwarf Combat Training’ trait provides free proficiency in ‘Bludgeons, one-handed’ and ‘Shields’.
3. Classes do not receive preordained weapon proficiencies, but select 1 or more at 1st level, based on class:
- Cleric, Druid, Bard: 3 at start and 1 additional every 4 levels (Druids can wear only non-metallic armor).
- Monk: 4 at start and 1 additional every 4 levels (wearing armor or using non-Monk weapons prevents use of many class features)
- Fighter, Barbarian, Paladin, Ranger: 6 at start and 1 additional every 3 levels.
- Rogue: 2 at start and 1 additional every 4 levels.
- Wizard, Sorcerer: 1 at start and 1 additional every 6 levels
- Warlock: 2 at start and 1 additional every 5 levels.
Any character class can wear any armor and use any weapon, but per the standard 5e rules, wearing armor without proficiency results in disadvantage on all ability checks, saving throws and attack rolls that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can’t cast spells. Some classes and class features prevent use of certain armors or weapons (Monk, Druid, etc). Also take note of the more stringent house rules for Encumbrance, below.
Carrying weight over 3x your Strength halves speed (encumbered). Carrying weight over 6x Strength and up to 12x Strength (heavily encumbered) halves speed again (1/4 of original, round down). So a human’s walking speed drops from 30 feet to 15 feet to 7 feet per round (6 seconds). A dwarf’s speed drops from 25 feet to 12 feet to 6 feet. ‘Dash’ action is not possible when heavily encumbered. Per standard 5e rules, while heavily encumbered you have disadvantage on ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution.
- Carrying weight over 12x Strength is possible only for short distances and with a DC:20 Strength check. Some Traits or magic may help.
- Ignore the Strength column value of Heavy Armors.
- Dwarf ‘Speed’ Trait “Your speed is not reduced by wearing Heavy Armor” translates to a -20lb reduction in effective (not actual) heavy armor weight when worn by a dwarf.
1. Weapons and Armor: metallic weapons and armor are constructed of primitive materials, bronze, iron(steel), mithril-alloyed steel or adamantium. Iron is rare, especially in quantities large enough to equip field armies. Mithril-alloyed steel is very rare. Adamantium is the rarest of metals. In regions without substantial iron deposits, most weapons will be bronze. Only the most remote human or humanoid savages use primitive weapons.
- All melee and thrown weapons have one of the following material properties:
- Primitive (Stone, Wood, Glass or Bone): 1/4 listed price; +50% weight. Weapons do -1 damage vs. bronze, -2 vs. iron, -3 vs. mithril and -4 vs. adamantium armors. The following weapons cannot be constructed of primitive materials: greatsword, longsword, rapier, scimitar, halberd, lance, pike, sickle.
- Bronze: half listed price; +50% weight. Weapons do -1 damage vs. iron, -2 vs. mithril and -3 vs adamantium armors. The following weapons cannot be constructed of bronze: greatsword, longsword, rapier, scimitar.
- Iron: price and weight as listed. Weapons do -1 damage vs. mithril and -2 vs. adamantium armors.
- Mithril: price 10x, -50% weight.
- Adamantium: ???
2. Healer’s Kit
- Each 3kg kit provides 10 uses
- Required to regain hit points during a short rest (see Resting and Healing below): 1 use per individual healed
- Required to avoid disadvantage when healing individual wounds (see Critical Hits below): 1 use per wound healed
- Gives advantage when attempting to stabilize a creature reduced to zero hit points (see Death Saving Throw below): 1 use per creature stabilized
- Second Wind: you can regain only up to a maximum of half your current lost hit points, rounded down.
- Ki points can be regained after a long rest or any single short rest per day (not every short rest).
Sorcerous Origins: Draconic Bloodline is replaced with three new sorcerous bloodlines.
- Blood of Kylorin: At 1st, 6th, 14th and 18th levels, gain superior control of one mana type of their choice. Spells using this mana are at +50% for all effects such as range, area, duration, number of targets affected, damage, etc. (round down, so 9d6 becomes 13d6, 3 targets become 4, etc). DM determines which mana goes with which spell as needed.
- Fiendish Bloodline: tbd, probably some fiendish powers or resistances at 1/6/14/18th level, comparable to Draconic Bloodline.
- Divine Bloodline: tbd, probably some angelic/celestial powers or resistances at 1/6/14/18th level, comparable to Draconic Bloodline.
- Spell Slot Recovery: All spell slots are all recovered after 1 long rest or 1 short rest per day (rather than any/all short rests per day). So a Warlock is still unique among spell-casters in being able to recover all spell slots up to twice per day.
5. Spell Casting (all Classes)
- Cantrips Known: these are now treated as ‘0 level’ spell slots, except for cantrips granted to 1) monsters and certain NPCs or by 2) racial Traits or Class/Archetype features. Your number of 0-level ‘spell slots’ are equal to the number of cantrips you know. One 0-level spell slot must be expended to cast a known cantrip. All 0-level cantrip slots are recovered after a long rest or any short rest (all classes).
The most common magical items after potions, scrolls, weapons and armor are those with a cantrip-level power (‘Wondrous Items’, wands, rings, etc).
Also see Appendix I, “Notes on Magic” at end of this document.
Encounters & Combat
Who Sees Who First: Perception(Scout) checks may be used to determine who detects who first (this is especially useful for random encounters). DC is based on terrain modified by conditions (weather, light, vision type, movement speed). A designated ‘scout’ makes the check for each group (or whoever happens to be on guard duty, if stationary). If only one group succeeds, they gain the option to act immediately with surprise, hide and ambush or observe, avoid contact, or reveal themselves (see Surprise below for resolving ambush attempts). If both groups succeed, they spot each other at roughly the same time. If both groups fail, they blunder closer before automatically spotting one another (reduce encounter distance by 50%).
Surprise: checks to avoid ambush/surprise compare Dexterity(Stealth) to Perception(Scout). The highest score wins the contest. PCs and important NPCs check individually, but related groups of NPC creatures are checked only once using their highest ability(skill) in the group (for speed and simplicity).
Initiative: check at the start of each new round, rather than only once at start of combat. A designated individual in each group of combatants makes a Dexterity(Leadership) check (d20 + DX bonus + any leadership skill proficiency bonus). The highest score wins. In most cases, there are only two groups: the PCs and their foes. The ‘Leadership’ skill proficiency bonus does not have to come from the PC making the Dexterity roll, it could come from another individual with the highest Leadership in the group (who is nearby and not silenced, immobile, stunned, prone or otherwise disabled).
The winning side acts first, in any order they like. The losing side acts second, in any order they like. If there are more than two groups in a side, they act in the order of Dex check score, highest to lowest.
If multiple groups of PCs, their allies, or foes become separated on the field of battle by distance or on opposites sides of a barrier such as a closed door, each group checks initiative separately as above. The new ‘Leadership’ skill can be used during combat to coordinate the initiative of multiple allied groups into a single initiative roll. Use Charisma(Leadership) with DC dependent on how far the parties are separated, ambient noise and other distractions, intervening obstacles or darkness, etc. Using Leadership in this way counts as an ‘action’.
Barbarian ‘Feral Instinct’ (7th level trait): check initiative separately from the rest of group (using 2d20, taking best result). The barbarian using Feral Instinct to get advantage on initiative does not benefit from leadership skill (theirs or anyone else’s) and uses their own dexterity modifier. This means a barbarian could take their turn before other friendly and enemy groups on any given round. Use this scheme to handle advantage or disadvantage to initiative given to specific individuals by magic: the enhanced individual forms a new ‘group’ and rolls initiative separately.
Attacking Spell-casters: the ‘Ready’ action can be used to watch for enemies attempting to cast spells later in the round (or in the next round, depending on which side wins initiative). When the trigger event occurs, the Ready character can use their reaction to attack the spell caster. The caster must make a standard Constitution / concentration save for each time they are hit. The DC equals 10 or the damage taken, whichever number is higher. If failed, the spell has no effect, the spell slot is lost, and the caster’s action is used as well.
Interacting with Objects Around You: use common sense here. No one can get a potion or anything else out of a backpack while attacking, spellcasting or dashing. Doing so would count as your action.
- Changing from one weapon to another counts as your action, but initially drawing weapons (or a 2nd weapon if dual-wielding) can be done along with the Attack action. For example, there is no way someone with a shield and sword in hand can switch to a longbow and fire an arrow in the same action.
- To hand something to another character, drink a potion or manipulate any other object, you must have a hand free (can’t be casting a somatic spell, or wielding two weapons, a weapon 2-handed, or a shield+weapon). Any time you try and do something like this AND use your action to attack or cast a spell, you must make a DC:10 Dexterity(Acrobatics) check or fail (50/50 chance of dropping the item / fumbling the weapon or spell). Trying to catch an item tossed to you by a comrade during combat requires a DC:10 Dexterity(Acrobatics) check.
- If you are not armed and are picking up a dropped weapon while dodging or otherwise engaged in melee, you can’t also attack with that weapon (you might attack with a weapon you already have wielded in another hand). If you are being meleed (not missiles or spells), a DC:10 Dexterity(Acrobatics) check is needed to successfully retrieved the dropped weapon or object.
Optional/experimental: this is a simplified version of the system we used in GW2754. We’ll try it out.
- In addition to the extra die of damage upon scoring a critical hit (20 on d20 for most classes), body parts may be injured leading to varying degrees of incapacity.
|d10||Location||Result||Effects Until Healed|
|1||Head||Wisdom check or stunned until end of next turn|
|2-5||Body||Constitution check or prone|
|6-7||Arms||Dexterity check or drop held item or weapon||Disadvantage on arm-based attacks and Dex checks/saves based on manual dexterity, no shield use, no somatic spell-casting|
|8-10||Legs||Strength check or prone||Dash and Dodge actions unavailable, disadvantage on mobility-based Dex checks/saves|
Adapt as needed for creatures with different physiology. Arms become wings, tentacles, additional legs, etc. A purple worm, for example, has only head and body locations. Creatures without heads may still have equivalent sensory apparatus and brains (or not). Hit locations and related effects are meaningless for incorporeal or amorphous creatures like ghosts, elementals, puddings, slimes, etc.
All Ability checks are DC10+ any ability bonus. No skill proficiency bonuses are used for these checks.
One wound is healed per long rest and a successful Wisdom(Healer) DC:10 check (disadvantage without a healer’s kit) or per 10 points of magical healing. All wounds are healed upon reaching full hit points.
Resting and Healing
A ‘Short Rest’ allows recovery of 1 hit point per level plus constitution bonus, once per day. So a 3rd level fighter with 18 constitution could regain 3+4 or 7 hit point in this way. Only 1 Short Rest per day can restore hit points. One use of a healer’s kit is required per individual healed. Additional short rests are possible during the day, but these will not restore hit points.
A ‘Long Rest’ allows recovery of 1 hit point per level plus constitution bonus at the end of the Long Rest. A healer’s kit is not required.
So in a given 24 hour period of adventuring, you could regain up to 2 hit points per level plus 2x constitution bonus by taking both a short rest and a long rest. For example, a 10th level fighter with 18 constitution can regain 28hp per day in this way.
Resting for a full day (at least 20 hours not doing anything strenuous) allows recovery of 3 hit points per level plus 3x constitution bonus. Example: a 5th level fighter with 16 constitution can regain 15+9 or 24 hit points per day of full rest.
See here for a related discussion of 5e resting and healing: http://spectrumclassics.com/2015/02/10/rest-and-recovery-in-5e/
Death Saving Throw
Only ONE death saving throw is allowed, on your next turn after you were brought to 0 hit points. A Luck-based ‘advantage’ can be used on the roll. Failure indicates death. Success means you become stable (see 5e stabilization rules). A Healer’s Kit gives advantage when attempting to stabilize someone with zero hit points (DC10:Wisdom(Healer)).
Damage at 0 Hit Points: If wounded again after you are at 0 hit points and prior to the end of the next round, you suffer -4 on the death save (for both dice, if using advantage).
Characters recovering from zero hit points are invalids requiring 2 weeks rest (@20 hours/day), minus their constitution bonus in days. This is true even if magical healing is applied (certain powerful spells such as ‘heal’ may get around this). If forced to fight, move or perform other work during this period, the invalid has disadvantage on everything and moves at half rate.
Exhaustion reduces all ability scores by 1 down to a minimum of 1, with related debilitating effects (you lose your bonuses, then get penalties). When Constitution reaches 1, you become an invalid (death follows a number of days later equal to your constitution).
Exhaustion reduces abilities at the end of a day when any of the following are true:
- day without sleep: 1 point
- day without water: 1 point
- day without food: .5 point
- day forced march (travel more than 12 hours): 1 point
- day exposure to extreme temperatures, rain or snow without adequate gear: 1 point
- Extreme weather events such as blizzards, storms, gales, volcanic eruption, tsunami, earthquake, etc.: 1-3 points
So someone with 10 Constitution can continue for 4 days without sleep, food and water, 6 days without food and water, 9 days without water (but eats food containing water), 18 days without food, etc.
Exhaustion is recovered at the rate of 6 points for each day when all requirements are met (food, water and sleep) and no forced-march occurs.
Appendix I – Notes on Magic
Wizards regain ALL spells slots after a long rest (this is true of all spell-casters). Wizards ALSO can regain a few spell slots once per day after finishing a short rest (1 hour): The Spell Slots can have a combined level that is equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up), and none of the slots can be 6th level or higher. For example, if you’re a 4th-level wizard, you can recover up to two levels worth of Spell Slots. You can recover either a 2nd-level spell slot or two 1st-level Spell Slots. See pages 114-115 of guide.
Sorcerers also regain ALL spell slots after a long rest. Unlike Wizards, Sorcerers can’t recover any spell slots after a short rest, BUT they get ‘Sorcery Points’ that can be exchanged for various effects such as regaining a spell slot on the fly (Sorcery Points are recovered after a long rest). See page 101 of guide.
Warlocks have many fewer spell slots than Wizards or Sorcerers, BUT they are the only class that can regain all their slots after one short rest. In Arcanearth house rules, I reduced this to a single short rest per day (cantrips can be recovered after ANY short rest). So the Warlock can regain all their 1+ level spell slots up to twice per day, and all cantrip slots multiple times per day. Warlock’s depend on their weapons, armor, Pact Boons and Eldritch Invocations.
Ritual Casting doesn’t expend the spell slot, but it takes +10 minutes casting time so you usually can’t do it in combat, and it only is available for certain spells.
Cantrips: In Arcanearth house rules, the only at-will cantrips are those you get from race or some archetype features. All the cantrips a sorcerer/wizard/warlock knows are fixed in their mind and always prepared, but require at least a short rest to recover all expended ‘0-level’ slots (your 0-level slots are always equal to the number of cantrips you know). Basically, you can recover all your cantrip slots if you have at least 1 hour to rest between each fight or other encounter.
Schools of Magic: A wizard’s ‘school of magic’ doesn’t prevent you from learning spells in other schools, it just reduces cost and time by half to transcribe the spells of your school into your spell-book. Your school of magic is always beneficial, it never penalizes you with regard to spells not in your school.