Getting Started – Rules and FAQs

Category:DM SaysWritten by: Thag

This campaign will be set in the Bandit Kingdom region of the World of Greyhawk. This region is currently mostly OCCUPIED by forces of Iuz the Old One and the other portions at least swear fealty to him. A few scattered areas resist the Old One but only where they can melt away when confronted. PCs will begin as citizens of an area dominated by evil overlords.
The campaign will use some non-standard options from the DMG and other sources, per below.

Character creation & advancement:

  1. PCs can be any race (except variant human) from a reputable 5th Ed source, with DM approval, potentially even a monstrous one (with attendant issues for those). Keep in mind that the more distinctive a PC is, the more easily hunted they will be. Disguise and Bluff skills may be required to maintain cover in society. Ask me how we can create the exact PC that you really want to play. Note that I’m a stickler for seeing in the dark so humans, buy a lantern to tote around.
  2. I like my old school races so the variants from Tasha’s Cauldron are not generally available. If you have something in mind that is not purely power driven I am willing to review it for use.
  3. I would like to use standard PHB point buy PC creation except use 27 points, no stat purchased over a 15, then add +2 to one stat or +1 to two stats. This will mitigate any guilty feelings I have for tough encounters ahead. WARNING: A 10 Intelligence is very handy when PCs are questioned or need to improvise on the spot.
  4. Classes: Anything from the PHB and Xanathar’s Guide are approved. If you have another class you found online or another publication I am willing to review it for use.
  5. PCs can choose any Background that is appropriate for growing up in the WW2 Occupied Yugoslavia for example. Ex. A Noble would have to have evil or collaborator parents.
  6. PCs should select a particular Greyhawk pantheon deity to follow, as there may be some in-game effect. It is fine to select “NONE”, but the choice is binding and the gods are real. Converting to a new faith will not be easy.
  7. Skills: those that assist with disguise, hiding, getting away, and making friends will be important in occupied territory (ex: Robin Hood). If your race/class/background doesn’t offer Bluff, Disguise, Persuasion, Animal Handling consult with me on trading some out if necessary.
  8. Multiclassing per PHB is approved but make sure the prerequisites are met.
  9. Hit points are by default average per the PHB after maximum for 1st level (ex. 1d8 would be 4.5 RU to 5). If any player wants to roll the die in front of me for a particular level this is also fine. No modifications or do-overs on the roll though.
  10. I will offer some access to hereditary equipment that can increase in power with the PC. If you are interested in this for your PC work with me on this.
  11. I will offer some access to “Signature Moves”. This is a special move useable in combat by spending one or more of a PC’s HD pool. Examples are: “double (crit) damage on a single hit”, making a “whirlwind attack” from 3.5 edition, etc. If you are dying to be able to drop a special signature move on opponents once in a while work with me on this.
  12. For the purpose of gaining Extra Attack, martial classes ASIDE from Fighter (barbarian, monk, paladin, ranger) with a combined 5 levels gain Extra Attack. Only Fighters can gain 3rd and 4th attacks with Extra Attack but they do get to stack on top of up to 5 levels of other martial classes. Ex: a Monk 3 / Ranger 2 / Fighter 6 would have two Extra Attacks per turn, same as a Fighter 11.
  13. Feats will be granted every 4 levels regardless of multiclassing. Bonus feats from any class happen only when that particular class would get the bonus. Ex: a PC with Wizard 2 / Fighter 6 would have a 4th level feat, an 8th level feat and a bonus feat for Fighter 6.
  14. In order to simulate the options of very high level play PCs will unlock one higher level of Features per four levels gained normally. Thus a 12th actual level PC will enjoy the Features of a 15th level PC. The bonus features apply to the class taken at 4th, 8th, 12th and 16th level.

Actions in combat, variant rules

  1. We will use a variant of the optional Flanking rules from the DMG p. 251. If you have a visible ally threatening an opponent on the opposite side, you both attack with +2 bonus. This also applies to opponents who manage to Flank a PC.
  2. We will use the optional Tumbling rules from the DMG, p. 272 If you win an opposed Acrobatics check with an opponent, you can move through his space.
  3. I approve the use of the Delay action in initiative order. I prefer random initiative each round if playing online.
  4. We will use a version of Hero Points from the DMG but will call them “Determination”. A PC gets four of these per level. They allow you to roll a d6 and add it to the result of a d20 roll before you know the outcome. If a 6 is rolled an additional d6 is added (can explode in this fashion for multiple d6s). Alternatively, these can be used as Hit Die for healing or to fuel a Signature Move (per above). Advanced opponents may also have a small pool of Determination. An in-character story of how the Determination is being used is desired.
  5. We will use Inspiration per the PHB and DMG. Each PC will often gain an Inspiration at the conclusion of a montage event and occasionally another during the session for excellent roleplay, a dramatic result, or a side-splitting joke. A PC can retain only three Inspirations, so use is encouraged, along with an in-character statement of why he/she is inspired.
  6. We will use Healing Surges from DMG, p. 266 to relieve pressure on any healers in the party. As an action a PC can declare a Healing Surge, then expend one or more Hit Die to immediately perform first aid on himself. This ability recharges on a short rest.
  7. We will reduce the “get back up” efficiency for PCs and opponents taking massive damage down to 0 hp then popping back up when cured for one or more HP. Out of combat healing works totally normally. If in a combat and reduced to 0 HP and then healed back to positive, the PC is slightly disoriented for the rest of the combat. He/she will attack at Disadvantage if attacking (melee, ranged, spell), or will need to pass a Concentration check = DC10 + Spell Level at Disadvantage to cast a spell (never both). The attempted spell is not lost on failure. PC snaps out of it at the end of the combat encounter and is back to normal. Note: A Heal spell or any other spell healing 70+ HP at one time fully restores a PC, even in combat.
  8. We will use an option that when a Cure Wounds or similar spell is cast it heals per the hit die of the recipient. For example, a Cure Wounds 1st level cast on a barbarian would heal 1d12 but if cast on a sorcerer would heal 1d6. Since melee fighters usually take more damage, I think this will benefit the party overall.
  9. Opponents will usually use average damage on successful attacks but I will often roll dice vs critically wounded PCs to vary the results. PCs can use average damage or roll dice but they have to use the same method all session.


  1. Feats are approved, including those from XGtE and Tasha’s:
    • The portion of the Sharpshooter feat with “-5 to hit and +10 damage” is not approved. The rest is valid if desired.
    • Pole Arm Master bonus attack is + Strength modifier only.
    • (Proposed Feat) Veteran Battle Caster (must be level 8+) PC can use ONE of two effects in a day, decided at dawn.
      • One selected spell of 3rd level or less that requires Concentration does not require Concentration for this day.
      • OR When the caster has an ongoing spell that requires Concentration, he can cast a second spell that requires Concentration and maintain them both. The first spell becomes -2 to saves to maintain Concentration and the second spell is -5 to saves to maintain Concentration. If the caster attempts a third Concentration spell the first spell is lost and the minuses slide to the 2nd and 3rd castings.
  2. The Great Weapon Fighting style is modified to simply give +2 damage on a hit to eliminate re-roll delays.
  3. Spells: The druid spell Healing Spirit is per errata. The Healing Word spell is range “Touch”. Leomund’s Tiny Hut is changed to just keep out “weather”. If we play to high level the spells Clone and Simulacrum will be nerfed. Otherwise anything from the PHB or Xanathar’s Guide is fine. Anything outside those sources I need to review and approve.
  4. Short Rests: These can be shorter than an hour if only healing is done. One minute per hit die used is the duration, but this will not allow recovery of abilities, attuning to an item, etc. unless the full hour is used.
  5. Long Rests 1: These will reset abilities as usual and will reset ALL healing dice but won’t heal any hit points. If a PC takes a long rest and does not immediately spend dice to have 100% of hit points, then he/she does not recover any exhaustion levels.
  6. Long Rests 2: For cross country/wilderness travel, long rests will usually only be available when the party is secure, usually when there is all-around shelter and a fire available. Security will be rare in the wild.
  7. To determine what magic items are PCs must use Identify or use the item to learn powers, as opposed to just fondling the item through a Short Rest. The component for Identify is any stone of 25 gp or more value. Potions just need a taste to identify.
  8. All magic items except consumables will be Attunement items. A PC can attune to as many items as their Proficiency bonus.
  9. Minions: Any player that is running more than one creature on their turn is charged with running them quickly with average damage, etc. on their initiative, while respecting the intelligence rating of the minion.
  10. Familiars that blend in and don’t fight will generally be ignored. Those that are distinctive or participate in combat will be targeted as appropriate.
  11. PCs will occasionally ‘unlock’ access to various magic items in the course of play, so gold acquired will come in handy. For example, the party fights a dragon and gains access to dragon-scale armor. Most items will be one-of-kind so don’t count on everyone in the party having a Lantern of Revealing.
  12. PCs that are incapacitated will be targeted by some opponents. As the mafia says, “nothing personal, just business”. Any opponent Flanked by PC’s will ignore an unconscious PC and if a live PC stands atop an unconscious PC they again will not be targeted by opponents.
  13. PCs that die or take a massive damage hit to below 0 hit points may be scarred, lose limbs, sight, hearing, etc. in consequence. Prosthetic limbs and eyes are in XGtE and other sources to continue adventuring with.
  14. Player Knowledge: PCs are adults in a fantasy environment. Anything the player can recall out of his brain regarding monsters is fine to roleplay out. All spellcasters are familiar with all spells as that is their trade. PCs and monsters can make knowledge checks for things they don’t know. Players checking the MM during an encounter is not cool.
  15. There will be some “not in the book” issues in the campaign like magic items that are tarnished or cursed, some reputation issues, etc. They will contribute to the setting and will have to be dealt with within the setting.
  16. Actions will have consequences. For example: a looted orc tribe might have dwarf beards as treasure. The PCs can cash in the dwarf beards to buy items. The day an NPC dwarf learns this has been done they will not be happy with the PCs.
  17. I believe in game world “verisimilitude” which means that I will make it as realistic as possible for a fantasy setting. It will not be tailored to PC abilities in all respects. If 2nd level PCs decide to attack an orc army, a sleeping ancient dragon or a regional strongman attended by his bodyguards, it will go badly. Pick your battles wisely and research opposition when you can. Don’t balk at running away when overmatched. Captors are cruel in the Bandit Kingdoms.

There will be a lot of overland travel so mounts and Animal Handling (ride) skill may be handy as will be a PC good at tracking, covering tracks and finding shelter. Especially at lower levels in this campaign the display of Good holy symbols, display of super nice weapons or armor or the flashing of gems, coins or similar items can have grave repercussions as some will want to steal them, or question you, or turn you in for reward money. The common folk of the BK are chaotic neutral and quite provincial, looking out mainly for their own welfare.
Each player/PC will get special attention getting set up with backstory and some motivations. It will be good to have an appropriate local backstory and it will make sense to have some reason to be staying in this blighted area (family, friends, kids, land, revenge, debts, blackmail, etc.) or naturally your PC would just leave and be done with it. I will help provide separate missions and motivations for each PC to keep some subplots going. This will NEVER include attacking a party member, letting them be killed, robbing their items, etc. If you disagree with a subplot suggestion then we will make a new path, no worries, it is all done in fun.
I often ‘play’ a semi-regular NPC in the game. He is 100% on your side, no setups. He will always delay until another PC acts, so he is a “joiner” and not an “instigator”.
We will use standard size minis for PCs. I will use generic “bad guys” for the most part. We will use a mix of drawn features on a mat and some of Mike’s fabulous terrain.
It will be helpful if someone takes some high-level notes to post on a web page for important persons.
It will often be helpful if someone makes a very rudimentary map just to prevent going in circles.
If any description, action or dialogue in the game is causing player distress please immediately tell me and I’ll adjust the atmosphere.

Important Note: For all the home brew rules above, if we are playing a couple sessions and one or more are not working out as hoped, we will amend them. I am trying to create a certain flavor but if the group finds it unfun we will use the re-funnerizor as needed.

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