Character and Rules Guidelines
(Updated January 19, 2015)
1. We will primarily play using Dungeons and Dragons, fourth edition rules. Various games may additionally utilize some material from 13th Age, which is largely compatible with fourth edition D&D.
2. In general, I will stick close to the rules as they are written. I will try, but not always succeed, to inform players of any significant changes I make to the rules. I'll be the arbiter of what counts as "significant," but I will listen to your feedback. EXCEPTIONS: Monsters may be altered significantly, and will be used without advance notice. Also, the actual names of powers, feats, classes, and so on, may be changed.
3. The rulebooks currently used [subject to updates from time to time] are listed below. Some rulebooks may not be fully used; details will vary between the different adventure settings.
- Player's Handbook
- Player's Handbook 2
- Player's Handbook 3
- Dungeon Master's Guide
- Dungeon Master's Guide 2
- Monster Manual
- Monster Manual 2
- Monster Manual 3
- Adventurer's Vault
- Adventurer's Vault 2
- Arcane Power
- Divine Power
- Martial Power
- Martial Power 2
- Primal Power
- Heroes of the Fallen Lands
- Heroes of the Feywild
- Heroes of Shadow
- Dark Sun Creature Catalog
- Eberron Campaign Guide
- Eberron Player's Guide
- The Book of Vile Darkness
- Draconomicon - Chromatic Dragons
- Draconomicon - Metallic Dragons
- Manual of the Planes
- Open Grave
- The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea
- The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos
- Dragon Magazine Annual
- 13th Age
4. I try to use WOTC's most current set of rule updates, and consider them "in-play" as soon as they are released. Specific exceptions will be noted in this thread.
5. Material outside of those rulebooks will not be accepted, except that which I determine to use, personally. In other words, don't expect me to readily agree to use any inclusions from various sites or even other official D&D material. Previously, the only inclusion I agreed to was the "Wish Upon a Star" article from Dragon Magazine #366. Now that Dragon Magazine Annual which contains that article has been added to the list of available rulebooks, there are no current exceptions in effect.
6. I may add additional rulebooks to those in use at any point during the campaign. I will make the determination as to how much, if any, player characters can benefit from new additions. I will announce when a new rulebook is added.
PLAYER CHARACTER RESOURCES
7. Players must have access to the fourth edition D&D Player's Handbook. I don't care what form this takes, but it must be the complete rules with proper page indexing.
8. Players are not required to have access to any other rulebook. [However, see Guideline 13.]
9. Players will not be penalized for demonstrating knowledge from other rulebooks, including the Dungeon Master's Guide or the Monster Manual. Player advice will be welcomed, but player knowledge will not trump my rulings.
10. Characters will be created using Method 1 or Method 2 (player's choice) from the Player's Handbook.
11. Characters will begin at the level of experience specified by the game (games on hiatus are italicized) they join. As of the most recent update:
- Aucothian Campaign - 5th level
- Dispositio Diabolum - 13th level
- Romance of a Fallen Country - 2nd level
- Istao Mission Adventures - 2nd level
12. All race, class, build, and power combinations from the included rulebooks may be employed, except where noted in the material for each specific setting.
13. A player may use any allowed race, class, build, or power combination, provided the player has access to the complete rules for them. The complete rules mean more than just the mechanical information, and include the full description of the rule in question, such as specific limitations on feats or the alignment restrictions for divine classes based on their deities. I realize there are some issues of fairness here, but my rationale is that a deva invoker should not be any more powerful than, say, an elven ranger. Therefore, players who only have access to the Player's Handbook are not at a disadvantage. If you wish more options, you must have access to the appropriate material. In essence, players must have complete access to the information of any ability they seek to incorporate into their characters. Using such online aids as D&D Insider is acceptable, but the information must be available in full, not as just a summary, and readily accessible to the player.
14. Similarly, players who wish to replace the Ritual Casting feat with Alchemy must have access to the Adventurer's Vault.
15. Players may use any of the mundane equipment presented in Adventurer's Vault without needing access to the rulebook. I will present a list of allowed and affordable equipment upon request. Mundane equipment from other sources, such as the Heroes of the Feywild book, will require access to the rules in question.
16. All players should make use of the special Character Background rules from the Player's Handbook 2. A summary of those rules is given in post #3, below. Please remember that you are not limited to the list of backgrounds presented in any rulebook, so you should never choose a background just for the "allowed" skills.
17. Characters may be Good, Lawful Good, or Unaligned. Evil and Chaotic Evil characters will not be allowed. My interpretation of alignments is thus: alignments represent a contract between the player and the Dungeon Master concerning how the character in question will be run.
- At a minimum, Lawful Good characters actively support the benevolent and just aspects of society and civilization, and work to the benefit of populations of sentient beings who are legitimate members of those societies and civilizations.
- At a minimum, Good characters work to the benefit of populations of sentient beings who do not espouse repugnant values or engage in harmful behaviors. They are nominal members of societies and civilizations, provided such entities are not oppressive or malevolent.
- Most unaligned characters are nominal members of societies and civilizations, provided such entities are not oppressive or malevolent. At a minimum, they will not willingly work to the detriment of populations of sentient beings who do not espouse repugnant values or engage in harmful behaviors.
- Alignments follow a principle I call "one act of evil." That is to say, good actions and evil actions are not weighted equally; one evil action can be enough to overwhelm all good actions up to that point, depending on the nature of the act. A simple example follows: a healer who has tirelessly and heroically saved countless lives poisons one patient because that patient expressed an interest in a fruit the healer finds revolting. Regardless of considerations of the healer's sanity, that one act is sufficient to label the healer as chaotic evil: evil, for harming an undeserving person, and chaotic for having a motivation that defies the rational norms of society.
- Lesser evil acts do not necessarily result in an immediate change of alignment, but it remains the case that evil acts are considered to have a much greater impact than any store of good acts.
- Evil characters are not irredeemable, but they must consciously reject the reasoning that led them to evil in the first place before any subsequent actions can be considered to have an effect on their alignment.
- The in-game consequences of an alignment shift may vary, but the issue is one between myself and the player and may be resolved in the context of player participation. If the alignment shift was caused by understandable, and on some level, sympathetic, in-game circumstances, that is nowhere near the same as one which comes about by a breach of trust in terms of how I expect PCs to conduct themselves.
- These guidelines are not intended to be laws that are picked over word-for-word. Where possible, common sense must prevail in their execution and interpretation.
18. Deities in The Unquiet Lands are as listed in the Player's Handbook. Non-divine characters do not need a patron deity, but may choose one (or more) anyway. Divine characters must have a patron deity who is Good, Lawful Good, or Unaligned, and whose alignment is compatible with the character's according to the rules for that character's class. The specifics of religion will vary depending on the game. There may be in-game repercussions to certain selections, and these will be discussed in their appropriate threads, such as the Deities and the Empire thread for the Aucothian Campaign.
19. Equipment may be purchased according to the normal rules, but coinage and currency will also be discussed in different threads depending on the game, such as the Adventurers and the Empire thread for the Aucothian Campaign.
20. Be as creative or as straightforward as you wish in developing your character's background. Imagination may be rewarded. Doing it "by the book" will not be punished. However, be prepared to come to a consensus with me concerning how your character fits into this world. There are certain constraints that must be observed, and I will try to list the major ones below. However, I will make a sincere effort to accommodate your desires. If, in the end, we cannot agree and you go elsewhere, it will be my loss.
21. Your character must be able to functionally work with the other characters, just as you must be able to cooperate with the other players. Please keep that in mind as you develop your character's background.
22. Your character is a hero, or is about to become one. This is not a story about the cook, the woodcarver, and the diplomat, unless they are also the rogue, the shaman, and the warlord. In particular, when the party is beset by zombies on the shores of the Haunted Lake, for instance, you need to be able to hold your own.
23. As your character makes his or her way in each setting, they must be able to function in a variety of environments, just as an adventurer needs to be able to deal with a variety of dungeons. A character who cannot show their face in a city, or one who must automatically commit an execution-worthy offense in a magnate's hall, may not be usable from the start. Even a tribesman from the remotest mountain village should be assumed to have enough common sense and have heard enough vague stories about the world at large to keep their head out of the hangman's noose during the course of a dinner with the local aristocrat, if the player allows it to be the case.
24. Do not lift an existing character wholesale. Even if drow were allowed in the campaign, a drow ranger named Drizzt would not be. I don't mind characters that are homages to existing characters, but woe betide the player who sneaks an exact replica past me, if I come to find out about it later.
24. I will gladly accommodate unbalanced parties. If everyone chooses to play a half-orc warden, so be it. In one of the better campaigns I played in, the party consisted entirely of human fighters, through no reason other than coincidence. No matter what else may happen, that will at least give us something to talk about.
25. However, I have no objection if players wish to make their characters with an eye to characters already developed. To that end, players may freely look up the race and class, but not the alignment, of any already-made character.
CHARACTERS WHO HAVE LOST THEIR PLAYERS
26. If you leave the game, I will retain the use of any characters you have submitted to me. While the character is of course yours, their existence in the game world is mine. At my discretion, I may give them to other players to run, use them as NPCs, or dispose of them. As a matter of general courtesy and simple maturity, I will never use a player's character to somehow "get back at" a player who is no longer in my game.
27. I will be tracking changes for my own records, but players are responsible for keeping track of changes to their characters. This is particularly true for treasure obtained, but also applies to expended items, physical load, and level advancement.
28. Players are responsible for supplying me with reasonably up-to-date copies of their character sheets. At a minimum, a new and complete character sheet should be presented every time a character gains a level of experience. Simply noting the differential changes to a character's abilities is insufficient.
29. While players may store character records for their own use through any means they wish, character sheets should be supplied to me in a form that can be stored without requiring Internet usage. In other words, they should be provided in a text or pdf format.
30. Character sheets should be complete, containing information such as languages spoken and physical load carried.
31. A reference should be provided, noting, at a minimum, the rulebook where each of the character's powers, feats, magic items, features, and other specifics comes from. Rulebook and page number would be preferred. It should be expected that there will be occasions when the original player is not available to play the character, so in addition to helping me, this information and that in point 30 above should be provided with an eye to making it easy for another player to run the character when needed.
The Player Character Background Option
As promised under Guideline 16 for characters, I am posting a summary of the Character Background rules as presented in the Player's Handbook 2, pages 178-183.
When you decide on your character's background, consider any worthwhile aspects of your character's birth, homeland, social class, childhood, occupation, or heritage. You may go as in-depth as you want.
Regardless of how complex your character's background is, the character will gain exactly one benefit. The benefit must be tied to an aspect of the character's background, but it need not be tied to the most prominent one.
In terms of game rules, the benefit will take one of three forms:
A) A +2 bonus to checks associated with a particular skill.
B) One additional skill added to the list of skills a character can potentially be trained in. (However, the character may still only gain training in the same number of skills as determined by race, class, and feats.)
C) The ability to fluently speak, read, and write one additional language.
Here are some simple examples:
1. You come from the northern tundra, where life is a constant struggle against the elements. Gain +2 to Endurance checks.
2. You are the dispossessed firstborn of one of the great Aucothian magnates. Your adolescence was fraught with intrigues between you, your siblings, and sycophants to the family. Add Insight to your list of trainable skills.
3. An orphan of another race abandoned at birth, you were raised in a dragonborn sept village. Gain fluency in Draconic.
4. As a tiefling, you traveled from the distant Realm of Erathis to try to earn your place among the Bone Lancers. You failed, but learned to play on people's assumptions that you are part of the Aucothian elite. Add Bluff to your list of trainable skills.
5. You served in a mixed-race mercenary company before setting out as an adventurer. You are no stranger to working side-by-side with bugbears, dwarves, orcs, and stranger beings. Gain fluency in Giant.
6. During your childhood, you liked nothing better than to listen to the tales spun by the wandering storytellers of the heroes who made Aucothia great. Gain +2 to History checks.
Lethal and non-lethal damage
I am announcing a modification to the Knocking Creatures Unconscious rule from page 295 of the Player's Handbook.
In the narrative, it can be awkward to decide after reducing an opponent to zero hit points whether that was a killing blow or a knockout. Therefore, I am enacting the following:
1. Unless otherwise specified, a character is assumed to do lethal damage.
2. A player may contact me at any time and notify me that their character only knocks opponents out. Thereafter, I will assume that to be the default action of the character.
3. A player may similarly contact me at any time during combat, to announce that their next attack, or their subsequent attacks, will be different from their usual attacks. For example, letting me know that they will be doing lethal damage when they normally only knock enemies unconscious.
4. An enemy reduced to zero hit points will be either dying or knocked unconscious depending upon what sort of damage the last character who hit them was doing at the time.
5. In no way does this change what happens when someone loses hit points. An enemy is bloodied at half hit points regardless of whether the damage is to kill or to knock out, for example.
6. Players should not contact me in advance with lists of conditions as to when they attack to kill and when they don't. I won't be paying attention to such lists, and will expect the player to explicitly inform me if their actions deviate from my assumptions.
I would also like to add a note about dying enemies.
Once an enemy is in the state of "dying," I will no longer keep track of their status unless the party is fighting against opponents who are actively tending to their allies. If the party holds the field, I will assume all dying enemies actually die. If the party abandons the field, it may please me to save a dying foe, once in a while.
I will make an exception if it should happen that the party is interested in the well-being of an opponent who is dying. In such a case, I will keep track of their dying state as though they were a player character...as long as someone lets me know to do so.
Easy Encounters and Milestones
Occasionally, I will expose the party to encounters that are relatively easy. This is more likely early on, as I gauge the party's capabilities. Some easy encounters will not count towards achieving a "milestone," and other easy encounters may only count fractionally towards that goal.
In such a case, I will announce, at the successful conclusion of an encounter, that the encounter is not being counted, or only being counted fractionally, towards the next milestone.
All "easy" encounters were decided by me in advance. I will not penalize the party for "easily winning" an encounter, if I had not previously classified it as easy.
Additions to lethal and non-lethal damage determination
Concerning damage that is lethal or non-lethal:
- For any power that consists of multiple attacks (such as powers with primary attacks and secondary attacks), the player may specify which attacks are lethal and which are not.
- For any attack that has multiple targets within an area of effect, the attack is either lethal for all targets or non-lethal for all targets.
- Certain powers target additional enemies after an initial hit or miss. Those will be decided on a case-by-case basis, with preference for selective damage usually going towards weapon-based attacks. For example, a fighter may choose to switch damage types for the second target of a successful Cleave attack, but a wizard may not switch damage types for the secondary targets of an Acid Arrow spell.
This is in addition to, not replacing, the previous notes about lethal and non-lethal damage. As mentioned previously, it is the player's responsibility to adjust their damage type before I describe the results of an attack.
Arcane Power added to list of employed rulebooks
I purchased Arcane Power this afternoon. I will treat it as Martial Power and make its feats and options available to those players who have access to it. Of course, I will begin using it for myself, too.
Originally Posted by Umiushi
Lethal and non-lethal damage, part 3
The rules regarding a character who lost their hit points from non-lethal damage, but is suffering from ongoing regular damage are scanty, vague, and unsatisfying. Therefore, this is what we'll do:
- Characters who suffer lethal damage equal to their Bloodied Value, after they've been knocked unconscious from non-lethal damage, will die.
- This lethal damage will start accumulating from zero once a character is unconscious, and is independent of any amount of damage, lethal or non-lethal, the character suffered before losing consciousness.
- Characters who lose all their hit points from non-lethal damage do not enter a Dying state from subsequent lethal damage, and do not make Death Saves.
- Player Characters in this situation may make a special Recovery Saving Throw beginning on the first round they take lethal damage, and then on each subsequent round until the end of the encounter. A result of 20+ is treated as the corresponding result of a Death Saving Throw. Any other result produces no effect.
Monster Manual 2 added to list of employed rulebooks
Some of the monsters may be better fits than what I was originally planning, so don't be surprised if they show up relatively soon. As always for non-core rulebooks, whether or not you choose to obtain this is up to you.
Divine Power added to list of employed rulebooks
I got my hands on this one today, so it may be used for this game and for Romance of a Fallen Country. However, please note that much of the information given about the history of the gods in the sidebars is considered apocryphal in both Aucothia and Istoa.
Many of the fallen gods listed do not exist or had different histories. The historical relationship between the primal spirits and the gods is described in the Cosmogony section of the Deities and the Empire thread, and is not what is related in Divine Power or the Player's Handbook 2. The ordering of the seasons and the division between day and night are not the result of any "great compromises" between factions of gods. Finally, the Raven Queen is not a new god. She is one of the original gods, and did not come into her power by overthrowing any chthonian deity such as Nerull.
Adventurer's Vault 2 and Dragon Magazine article added to rules
Neither of these pieces will be of much use to the players for now, save as reference, I expect. The article in question is "Wish Upon a Star" from issue number 366 of Dragon Magazine. As a rule, I will not be using magazine articles or other supplements, but this one struck me as particularly appropriate for the setting when it was brought to my attention, and has been reprinted in a recent rulebook.
Serious and Mortal Injuries
These rules apply to the following games:
- The Unquiet Lands PBP
- Dispositio Diabolum
- Romance of a Fallen Country
They do not apply to the Istao Mission Adventures or the Order of the Green Lion game.
A character who, according to the standard rules, is dead, may instead survive but be seriously injured.
The player in question must be interested in keeping their present character. If so, then the following rules take effect:
1. The character loses as many healing surges as needed to cancel out all negative hit points. This will not bring the character's total above zero. If the character does not have enough healing surges, the character loses any remaining healing surges and the nature of the injury will be more serious.
2. The character is now treated as unconscious until healed, as though the attack was non-lethal.
3. The character will suffer an injury based on the nature of the attack that defeated them. According to the circumstances, the injury will include one or more of the following: a penalty that lasts until the character takes a short rest (encounter penalty), a penalty that lasts until the character takes an extended rest (daily penalty), a penalty that lasts until the character completes one or more milestones, and/or a permanent penalty. All penalties will be cumulative, as applicable.
4. Penalties may be canceled by various means. An encounter penalty may be canceled through the successful use of a Healing Check or power. A daily penalty may be canceled through an appropriate Daily healing power, or a successful skill challenge. Such a skill challenge will not result in an experience point reward. A milestone penalty or a permanent penalty can be negated using an 8th level healing ritual which must be located during the campaign. Other means, such as quests and magical items, may become available to negate these penalties.
5. Characters who survive in this manner are considered "defeated" by the combat they participated in for the purpose of receiving experience points or reaching milestones.
6. Characters who willingly place themselves in lethal situations such as leaping into pits of lava or being shot through the heart with an arrow will probably be ruled as having committed suicide, after taking the context and discernible intent into account.
Players who wish to introduce a new character into the game upon the demise of their current character may choose to have their character mortally wounded.
1. A player may choose to have their character mortally wounded whenever their hit points drop to zero or fewer, regardless of whether they are considered dead, or not.
2. A mortally wounded character may remain conscious, but makes a special saving throw each round. If a mortally wounded character fails a number of these saving throws equal to three plus the number of death saving throws they had remaining (if any), they lose consciousness.
3. On any round where a conscious mortally wounded character takes further damage, the number of failed saving throws allowed to them is reduced by one.
4. Mortally wounded characters follow the same rules as seriously wounded characters in regards to the accumulation of penalties and how they are treated once unconscious.
5. All mortally wounded characters will die, but they may last long enough to see the introduction of their player's replacement character.
6. If a procedure that would reasonably save a mortally wounded character is employed, they will survive, but as an NPC.
Dungeon Master's Guide 2 added to rulebooks and Rules Errata update
The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 continues to discuss the implementation of the game, but its main focus is on the Paragon Tier, so the effects of this addition will be subtle, if they are felt at all. This is not something that I would expect to come up at this stage, but since it is a popular location, I will state preemptively that the City of Sigil does not exist in The Unquiet Lands campaign setting, nor do the ideas associated with it, such as the Lady of Pain or Gate Towns.
Also, the official rules errata was amended at the end of July and we will be using that in the game, going forward.