Big Bear's House Rules

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These are my own house rules. These rules supercede even the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG) and Players Handbook (PH).

Not only will you find my general rules for conducting the game here, I will also post specifics wherever my methods differ from the PH or DMG.


Rule 1: It's My World

This is the fantasy world that has been established. I am the Dungeon Master in this place and time.

All further House Rules will be set by agreement with the initial group of Players. After that, it is what it is.

If need for new rules arise, I will take input from all participating Players and a rule will be based on the collected input. After that, it is what it is.

The DM will have the last word on all game action based on game rules in the core books and the House Rules.

The Dungeon Masters Guide, The Players Handbook and the Monster Manual are recognized as "Canon" and are subject to DM interpretation. Any other published books are optional and require review and approval before use.

OSRIC manuals are considered secondary Canon, always defaulting to the AD&D core books when there is a question or differing.

Rule 2: Keep It Fun

This is a game and it's meant to be fun. Fun includes laughing, silliness, seriousness, challenges, victories and defeats.

If you want to live a secret life where this is as serious as reality, this isn't the table you want to be at.

This also means do not argue in the game with the DM. Rules lawyers will not be tolerated. A respectfully asked question about effects of a rule or action results may be briefly discussed, but interpretation and application of the rules falls to the DM.

There is time before or after game-time to pursue game rules, adjudications and interpretations, never during.

Rule 3: Dice Or No Dice

I reserve the right to not live and die by the dice. Having the dice determine odds and chances are one thing, but I will use my own judgement and "on-the-spot" decisions at other times. The dice do not run my games, I do. So if you are one who cries about "fudging" or not accepting every result a dice indicates, you should know that I have no problem "fudging" if I think a better result is available. If you have an issue with that, see Rule 1.

Rule 4: More Like Guidelines

If and when a module/game that is written/published by someone else is used, it is more of a foundation and guideline rather than a strict set of rules. I will ad-lib/invent/add to/modify when-ever, how-ever and where-ever I feel it can make the game more fun/interesting/challenging.

The most important thing is the overall game. More important than any Player, PC, rule, vanity, etc...

I do not run games to play opposed to PC's. I set a stage and work to see that the game stays on course and is run as it should be. My entire objective is the game.

Rule 5: Magic Is Different Here

Magic Users

I still find Vancian magic too clumsy and, in my opinion, incompetent. However, I am still working out a system that works better for my table. I have been testing this in my game and so far, I like it and the Players seem to like it as well.

What we are doing is allowing MU's to cast any spells within their ability to cast as determined by the tables in the PH and as long as they have the spell in their spell book. Kind of like free-casting in that way.

However, their ability to cast spells cost them points from their cumulative number of spells available. For example, if an MU or cleric is 3rd level they have 2 first lvl spells and 1 second level spell available to them. In this situation, we add them all up and get 3 spell "points" available. Each spell costs as many points as what level spell it is. Thus a 2nd level spell reduces the MU's current total by and the MU is capable of casting 1 more spell that day. As the MU or cleric increases, they become much more capable.

By doing this, it seems the players have really gotten an greater appreciation of the value of magic items such as wands, rings, staves, rods, and scrolls as those items do not incur a HP loss when used.

I've also noticed that the players now also tend to put more thought into what spells they cast and when they cast them a lot more. It seems most tend to favor casting defensive and utility spells from their own strength and favor using magic items for casting offensive and some utility spells if the have them.

It's a pretty simple change that seems to make things more interesting for my players with MU's.

I have made one concession on the issue of XP and HP gained when they level up. I have a spell that can be cast by them or on their behalf by a Master who is training them to level up that allows them to auto max the HP gained at level up at a cost of a certain amount of XP. (Right now we're using 1,000 XP as the cost but no one has gotten to try it yet. We'll see how and if it needs to be adjusted when we get to that part.)

Clerics and Druids

Clerics and Druids have a list of 4 tasks that is given at the creation of each new Cleric or Druid PC. Essentially, these are the things the deity expects their devotee to do daily to stay in the deity's good graces. the DM and Player can come up with any 4 tasks they like based on the deity, the alignment of the PC and deity, etc...

What it boils down to is that as long as the PC performs the 4 tasks as expected the day before, they are in the deity's "Best" graces and their spells automatically work as expected to maximum effect.

Clerics and Druids can use atonement much as they do BtB or immediately step up to their tasks and complete them es expected to get on the deity's good graces the next day.

I find as a DM that the tasks are easy to keep up with as the Player is required to announce when they are performing each task and if they do not then the DM assumes it did not happen and make a note of it.

This has really increased the roleplaying of Clerics and Druids in our game to make sure that they are earning the spells that they are given by their deity.

Holy Symbols

In my games, I rule it that each type of material used to make a holy symbol has a specific niche effect against certain monsters. Clerics are encouraged to collect the appropriate Holy Symbols made of these different materials as acceptable or mandated by their deity.

There is a +1 bonus vs the appropriate monsters in either turn effect (turn as 1 level higher) or in damage as used in physical contact (touch contact as like holy water). Does not change To Hit roll.

Holy Symbols intended to be used as a weapon such as a wooden Holy Symbol used as a stake or a Silver or Iron Holy Symbol used as a dagger, club, etc.. must be a deity approved usage and in a form to be used as such.

The +1 effect does count to be able to hit monsters to be able to be hit by magic weapons.

  1. Silver: Were-creatures, +1
  2. Iron: Demons, Devils, denizens of various death realms, +1
  3. Wood: Vampires, liches, etc..., +1

Druids do not have the ability to turn undead, etc... however, I do allow for them to purchase Mistletoe (Greater and Lesser), Holly and Oak leaves from others who have collected them. DM must determine if the items sold were collected appropriately and what the seller has available.


Rule 6: Character Creation

My games aren't easy. I don't pit myself against parties, but I don't intentionally keep them "safe" either. The game is what it is. Having said that, people don't play games like these to be a "nobody". They are here to be a hero. Someone who stands out from the pack. Someone whose talents and abilities have marked them for incredible doings.

I will not accept characters created in another DM's game unless it is a basic character with no customizations outside the Core Books.

Characters are created by rolling 4d6 and remove the lowest 1 dice. The numbers can be arranged as the player likes to accommodate a particular Class desired by the Player.

A back story must accompany all created characters. The more info you provide, the better you will be able to roleplay.

I generally only allow a Player to roleplay or have one Active Player Character in a game.

I recognize 4 types of characters:

Any character to be brought into a game as an NPC or Secondary PC will be subject to DM role playing and reaction determination. If a Henchman or an SPC does not have a backstory, I have no problem providing personality traits, etc... that will make the game more interesting. It is in the Player's best interests to create a good backstory.

In addition to the Classes described in the Core books, The Geomancer class will be allowed. The Bard class will not be allowed from the Core Books.



When being healed by a Cleric or another person, they have a base chance to automatically give maximum hit points from the spell. I've been using a 10% chance of auto max hit points restored. However, for each level of the healer, there is a 3% bonus applied to the base chance.

The way I work it is like this. Using percentile dice, the Cleric or Druid or whoever has to roll a 90 or better to get auto max HP restored per the spell. For each level of the Cleric, for example, say 1 4th level Cleric, they gain a bonus of 3%/level for a total bonus of an additional 12% applied to the base.

This means that the 4th level cleric can roll a 78 or higher to give auto max HP.

For use of a wand, staff, scroll, etc... the spell is cast as a given level spell caster and thus has the bonus applicable to that level. If the spell caster rolls less than the required number, then random rolling on the applicable die as usual is the result.

When it comes to healing by resting, I am using a percentage based on range of HP lost in the 24 hours previous as an indication of severity of the damage. For example, A fighter with say, 50 HP total loses 50% of their HP in a battle within the 24 hours before rest. That means they lost 25 HP and are at 25 HP left. Normally, using a base of 10% again or rolling a 90 or above, the fighter can auto max potential HP to be gained from rest.

However, in the situation of having lost 25 to 50 percent of their total HP, that gives them a 3% penalty for auto max healing during rest. this means that for 1-25% they lose 3% and for 25 to 50 they lost another 3% meaning we subtract a total of 6% from the original 10% base chance. That Fighter now must roll a 96 or higher to get an auto max HP restore per die Anything below a 96 means they have to roll randlomly as usual and take what they get.


Class Specific House Rules


1) Most deities have a preferred weapon. It is reasonable to assume that Clerics would be encouraged to use their deities chosen weapon. In light of this recognition, Clerics in my games are able to use any type of weapon as long as it falls within that Cleric's deity range of weapons.

2) I will use the OSRIC rules regarding Turning undead. In addition, in cases where the cleric must roll to match or beat a number in order to turn a creature, if a natural 20 is rolled, the creature will be destroyed.


Druids do not "have" to have a deity listed. They can serve Nature in general.

In Terra Ursa, Druids are ordered by race. Thus, all humans follow a path in seniority and ability up to Supreme druid of humans. There are similar groupings and Supreme Druids for Halflings, Elves,and Dwarves. Half Elves must go through the Elven druid order. Half orcs cannot be druids.

They are trained by higher level Druids until they reach first level status then are free to roam the earth on their own but must return to their order at least once a year or at any time they seek to gain a level. When they "train" to gain a level, they are taught all the spells available to them for that level.

As Druids ascend level groups, they are identified by a corresponding color:

level 1-2; Green. Thus Frederick the first level druid is known to other druids as "Frederick the Green"

level 3-5; Orange

level 6-8; Red

level 9-10; Black

level 11; Blue

level 12; Brown

level 13; Grey

level 14; White




Assassins may be aligned as Thieves as they can be Neutral or even Neutral Good in that there are some types who see their actions as ultimately being for the "greater good" or essentially, some people just need to be killed for the world to work rightly". Those types would most generally be associated with some religion or deity that sees such actions as a "necessary evil" and by taking on this role is ultimately doing a good for the world in general. Convoluted thinking for sure, yet it happens.


All three of the Fighter classes are allowed weapon specializations.



Magic Users



Monster Specific House Rules

Energy Drainers

Undead creatures like Vampires, Wights, Wraith's etc.. that drain energy from PC's with a touch drain 2 points of Constitution instead of levels. If they drain Constitution points to below 3 during fight, PC is dead and becomes low strength new wraith under command of wraith that killed them.

PC's not drained of all Constitution points during fight will gain back lost Constitution points at the rate of 1 per 100 points of healing. (Hit points restored by rest, spells, potions, etc... are cumulative, players need to keep track of all restored/healed HP over the course of time to see when they gain back CON points.) This can restore all but the one CON point. After all the healing has taken place, a PC can have a "Remove Curse" spell, then a "Restoration Spell", done which will return them to their original CON point level.

Ride The Railroad

"Railroading" has become such a whining point for some people that I decided to address the issue here.

I let the Players decide where to play in the Sandbox before the gameplay starts. There are certain sections of said Sandbox however, that are set aside for specific campaigns that have specifics and boundaries "containing" the PC's involved..

If Players don't want to be held in those areas, then don't agree to play in one of those campaigns. I am fine with putting together games that are "open" and undirected, so to speak. However, once the game has started, PC's are "All In' for the duration. keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times. Once that particular adventure is completed/over, the Players can decide to go wherever they want to go.


Doing Damage

  1. On a roll of a natural 20, damage is doubled. Maybe check the permanent damage table in Random Tables page.
  2. On a "To Hit" roll of 1, somehow the PC screwed up and managed to hurt themself.

Gaining XP

Most ways of gaining XP are by accumulation of treasure and by killing/defeating monsters.

I do give XP for treasure/GP I also give XP for successfully engaging with monsters and defeating or killing them.

I also give XP for encounters that does not require a fight to the death. In many cases in my games, there will be monsters which vastly outpower the PC's in which the DM does not really expect them to fight the monster in question but to negotiate with it in some way to an agreeable resolution.

No XP are awarded for avoidance.

Ability Checks

An ability check is determining how successful a PC will be at a given task attempted by rolling dice vs their related ability score. For example, walking along a ledge/rope/wall, etc.. The more difficult the task is, the greater the penalty. For example, if the char is a 14 and it is an "easy" task, a bonus of +1 applies and the new score to match is 15. if it is "Very Challenging" a penalty of -2 applies and that 14 char is now only 12 and so on.

A sturdy wide ledge is "Easy". (Check vs DEX) Bonus +1

A single added complexity like narrow path is "Average", no bonus or penalty

Two complexities like narrow and slippery or high and poor condition, etc path is "Hard". Penalty -1

A combination of three complexities is "Very Challenging". Penalty -2

A task combining all worst case possibilities would be "Only a Prayer". Penalty -3

All checks are done by rolling 1d20 comparing to the relevant Characteristics table. A roll of a natural 1 is an automatic failure and a roll of a natural 20 is automatic success and making it look easy. Anything over their Characteristic # is a failure, anything from 2 to matching that # is successful.


lifting or carrying something check vs STR Doing something requiring agility, carefulness, an easy or light touch check VS DEX Following specific instructions, solving puzzles, using reasoning skills would check vs INT Doing something gross, disgusting, scary, anything that requires a "gut check" would check vs CON

The areas used most frequently are STR, INT and DEX. Much fun can be had checking vs other areas less common. For example, a Player wants his PC to find the courage to walk up to the dragon and ask it a question since it hasn't obliterated them at first sight. Does the PC have the intestinal fortitude to walk up to a dragon? Check vs CON and find out.




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