My general philosophy is to change as little of the 5e core rules as possible while creating a game that feels just a little closer to 1e.
1. DM Rulings. Because of the customizations being made and also because of the DM’s personal imperfections, there may be times when you feel the 5e rules should give a different result than an actual DM ruling. Please understand that while fairness and consistency are important, rule lawyering tends to suck the joy out of role playing in a variety of ways. If an objection arises, I will probably be unwilling to change a ruling once given in order to discourage argument. However, if you explain your point well (and it makes good sense), I may take your comments into consideration and change future rulings accordingly, often by a change to this post. If we can all live with this general rule, we’ll get along great.
2. Realism v. Entertainment. Most players seem to like the idea of realism in fantasy gaming, but of course, this is an oxymoron. Despite its superficial appeal, I have found that as to certain aspects of the game, realism = tedium. So, I have to draw a line somewhere that keeps the game fun but at the same time perpetuates the players’ suspension of disbelief. We are doing this for enjoyment after all and tracking spell components is just not my idea of a great time. On the other hand, there are moments when scarcity of provisions, darkness, air quality, body temperature and other factors can become an important and fun part of the game by adding urgency or suspense to an otherwise ordinary situation (I will try to warn you in advance to give you a fair opportunity to succeed). The game rules are an approximation of life, designed to create the illusion of realism while serving their main purpose – fun. There will be many situations where the rules don’t seem adequate or fair. In these moments, I will be making rulings in an attempt to balance realism and fun, but it will be imperfect. It always is. Bear with me. We are all responsible for the fun. We just have to trust that the game mechanics will even everything out in the end.
3. Rest, Spells and Hit Point Recovery. Recovery of hit points by expending hit dice is eliminated. For spell recovery, we will be using the standard short rest/long rest rules as in the Player’s Handbook. For hit point recovery, we will be using a modified version of the “gritty realism” rules found in the DM’s Guide at page 267. Here’s a summary:
~Eat, read, tend wounds only
~Wizard spell recovery
~No hit point recovery
~Sleep, read, standing watch for no more than 2 hours
~If interrupted by 1 hour of strenuous activity, must start over
~Regain all spells
~Regain 1 hit point per level
For any of you that might be concerned about a perceived reduction in available healing, fear not! That’s what I’m here for. Healing supplies will exist as needed to achieve the desired game balance.
4. Expendable Supplies. For things like retrieving mundane arrows, using spell components and other expendable adventuring resources, I will leave it to you to track these items on your character sheet and self-enforce any rules you think are appropriate. Exceptions include:
i. Arrow retrieval during battle is not allowed under normal circumstances;
ii. Arrow retrieval for magical or special arrows is at 50%;
iii. Spell components are only used for special or exceptional spells, usually at high levels and with ample warning to the player;
iv. Somatic and vocal spell requirements are enforced;
v. I generally assume that you have sufficient food and water unless and until you enter an area where food and water are not ordinarily available, such as a dungeon or a desolate wilderness area. I will try to warn you at that time and any omission of a warning will be strictly accidental (it’s not fun for me to have the whole party starve to death). Having said this, the game will be enhanced if you don’t rely on such warnings.
5. Science. Science as we know it today does not exist in the Unification campaign world. Yes, there is gravity, but magic does not follow known scientific principles – it is a truly mysterious, organic collection of forces that are barely understood, even by the greatest of mages. I’m not sold on the canonical concept of the “weave” that describes magic in the traditional Forgotten Realms setting (it’s too much like The Force for my liking).
Thus, for example, in the Unification campaign setting, darkness and cold can be energies in and of themselves, and are not the absence of energy as we have been taught by modern science. I am kind of hoping not to hear characters say things like “see that fire? It’s just the release of the log’s latent energy,” unless there is a good explanation in character. From a practical standpoint, you will find that using modern scientific theory to help your character in adventuring can lead to unexpected, perhaps disastrous results.
6. Social Equality or Inequality. I would characterize myself as a lawful good, socially liberal person. I reject typical expressions of racism, sexism, ageism and bias with regard to gender identification. However, non-player characters in fantasy worlds do not always agree with me. And, to keep things colorful and interesting, I must be free to create and use NPCs that have differing values from mine, yours, or your character’s. As a result, you must understand that if your character should run into ideology that you find personally objectionable during the game, it is not my voice you are hearing, but that of the NPC.
7. Sexuality. Some players are not comfortable with roleplaying sexual situations. And, many of those who are OK with it get bored or annoyed with it easily. Please understand that sexual role playing or repeated sexual references are not a part of this campaign. If you wish to role play a romance, that is fine in limited circumstances (let me know), but it will be treated very lightly.
8. Interpersonal Conflict. We are all adults so there shouldn’t be any problems. But, conflicts do come up in games like this every so often. My objective is to run a campaign that would be rated “PG” by the Motion Picture Association for possible language and guaranteed violence. If at any time you are feeling uncomfortable about anything that is being said by a fellow player or, God forbid, me, please let me know immediately so the problem can be addressed.
Sadly, it is not always possible to have a group where everyone is the best of friends. You are obviously free to like or dislike anyone in our campaign group as you see fit. However, your devoted DM is a sensitive person. Therefore, if you absolutely must hash out negative feelings, you will have to do so outside the game. This means keeping the game sessions (including whispers – I see those!) and posts clean of personal attacks and grievances. Posts that violate this rule (as determined in the sole discretion of your humble DM) will be deleted.
I am running this campaign strictly for fun and it takes a substantial portion of my free time (which I value highly). I reserve the right to ban players at any time if it seems appropriate to protect the spirit of the campaign and the enjoyment of those who are playing by the rules.
And, please remember that this is not a court of law. I don’t really care who’s right or wrong, what we did last time, what is fair, who started it, who did it more or worse, or who might deserve some kind of punishment or what that punishment should be. I don’t want to engage in discussions of “good role playing” or “alignment.” I will simply do what seems right at the time.
Offenses that would likely give rise to banning include the following:
a. Inattentive or disruptive gameplay;
b. Offensive, insulting or aggressive language directed at me or another player in Teamspeak, EW posts, private messages, in-game voice, typed communications or by any other means;
c. In-game harassment under the guise of PC conflict;
d. Repeated unwanted or harassing messages on media outside the gaming context;
e. Anything else that bugs me that day.
Banning will be determined in the sole discretion of the DM and shall not be subject to discussion by any players. If you find that you have broken a rule as set forth above (or even if you don’t consider your actions as having been a violation) banning could be without notice or explanation and attempts to contact me afterwards to discuss will go unanswered. It is appropriate to assume that you will not get an opportunity to explain “iffy” behavior. Yes, it’s draconian and horrible. But, it is the only way to handle banning that’s remotely tolerable for yours truly.
Now, if you are banned, you might feel tempted to be mad at me. Don’t. This is an extreme consequence that will be directly tied to your behavior. Continued participation in this game constitutes your agreement to these terms. You are here because I like what I know of you and your role playing style/skills. If you are banned, it is not because I wanted you to go. Thus, I do not want to see angry posts on a FG forum if you’re banned. Simply put, don’t push the envelope unless you are ready to leave the campaign. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
9. Role Play. Every player seems to have a different comfort level and ability when it comes to role playing. I myself find it much more difficult to role play as a PC than as a DM. I have no idea why. At any rate, an optimum level of role play in Unification would include the following:
a. Speaking on behalf of your character only from your character’s vantage point as to all game conversations not related to rule mechanics or humor. In other words, please try to avoid metagaming. By this, I do not mean to say that you can’t use a third party role play style. For example, I don’t expect that you change your voice to sound more like an elf paladin, but you can if you think it would be fun. Just be comfortable and have a good time with it, that’s the main thing.
b. Speaking for your character’s words and actions only as your character would, given his or her age, gender, race, class, personal history and experiences (however, you need not role play a stereotype – individualized or unusual characters are valued).
c. Feeling free to play a character of a different gender than you. Although it may sound like an uncomfortable experience at first, it can actually be really fun and much more rewarding than you might imagine;
d. No one expects you to role play in certain way. Just have fun with it. That’s all anyone is asking.
10. Awarding XP. Experience points will be awarded between each gaming session unless there is a particular reason this would be inappropriate (such as we ended the last session during combat). We will spend the first portion of each session (or sooner if we are able) leveling any characters that have reached their next level goal. Since you will be able to see your xp progression over time by referencing your character sheet in game, please be prepared to level your character at the appropriate time by already having made all appropriate choices, investigation and dice rolls. I will try to send you a PM on EpicWords if I know you’ve leveled, before the next game session to help remind you. Also, it may be possible for me to export an xml file to you if you’d like to level your character yourself before the next session. I do not want to wait until you have had a “safe rest,” as some other DMs seem to like to do, because I feel that growth from experience is a fluid process. However, stopping the game every time a character hits their next level goal is disruptive to game immersion. This approach is intended to be a compromise. Experience points may be given in equal or unequal amounts, depending on your performance during that XP calculation period. Thus, it is quite possible that one character will level sooner than another. Having said that, the variations between character XP awards will be minimal – I just want to be able to reward a particularly good effort. And, I expect that overall XP awards will even out in the long run. I will be calculating experience points based on the following:
a. Successful combat;
b. Good role playing;
c. Good problem solving;
d. Treasure acquired; and
e. Story posting (described below).
NOTE: To promote solid role playing, in most cases, no xp will be awarded for actions taken in contradiction to a PC’s alignment.
11. Magic Level and Magical Items. The Unification campaign setting might be described as having a low to moderate magic level. For example, most NPCs in this setting are aware of the concept of magic, though not everyone believes it actually exists. Also, there is a great deal of superstition surrounding the idea of magic. Magic is not practiced openly and those who claim to possess its secrets are generally mistrusted or feared. Magical items do exist, but are rare and usually unrecognized. Do not expect to run down to a local magic shop and pick up a fireball scroll.
When seeking to identify the magical properties of an item, the best way to do so is with an “identify” spell. In some cases, spending a short or a long rest examining and testing an item will reveal some or all of its magical properties. The DM may or may not ask the player for an Arcana check – depending on the relative power and complexity of the magic item. Some magical items will not reveal their nature under normal circumstances at all.
12. Encumbrance. Adventurers usually need more than they can comfortably carry in order to get through a major excursion. Thus, it is tempting not to enforce encumbrance rules thoroughly. I will generally allow characters to carry 15 lbs. more than their regular encumbrance rating on the assumption that they are using a shoulder pack that can be dropped during combat or at other critical moments. Remember, there are limits, so please don’t be surprised if I say “um, you can’t carry all that.”
13. Between-Session Gaming. Using this website allows for message-style conversations and file transfers between gaming sessions. There may be times when characters have questions or wish to take solo actions like performing research or shopping, etc. Depending on my availability (and yours) this is something that can sometimes be handled between game sessions as a means of enhancing your experience and streamlining group time.
14. Secrets. FGII and related software allow characters and their players to speak confidentially with the DM and vice versa. Therefore, we will likely be passing secrets to one another from time to time. It will be up to you to determine if you wish to share these with the other players.
15. Reading/Writing. You can assume that about half of all adults can read and write, including your character unless there is a specific reason why that is not possible (low intelligence, personal history, language barrier, etc.).
16. Training/Spell Study/Skill Advancement. I do not require training or study for skill or magical advancement. Experience by doing (just plain old adventuring) is sufficient. This means that your character can level during a prolonged adventure without having to stop to train or seek the advice of a sage, etc.
17. Story Posting. I will be awarding modest XP to characters who post on this site, particularly for providing an in-character running narrative of the campaign in the Journal section – as creating a historical log for the campaign will be beneficial to all concerned (and fun).
18. Alignment. Alignment can be a really fun feature of the game but for whatever reason, some people take it way too seriously and tend to ruin the fun for themselves or others. Do not be one of these people.
I FOR ONE DO NOT WANT TO ENGAGE IN DISCUSSIONS OR ARGUMENTS OVER WHETHER A PARTICULAR ACT WAS GOOD OR EVIL. NOR DO I EVER WANT TO HEAR CRITICISMS OF OTHER PLAYERS’ RP STYLE WITH RELATION TO ALIGNMENT. SIMPLY PUT, I DO NOT CARE IF YOU PLAY YOUR CHARACTER CONTRARY TO YOUR STATED ALIGNMENT. That’s your business and no one else’s. Just know that there may be consequences for doing so.
Penalties include but are not limited to being docked experience, an unexpected change to your stated alignment or both. The point of playing this game together is to have fun, not to engage in silly arguments for existential self-gratification. Since I hate sanctimonious discussions of good or evil I may just ban players for being obnoxious. (Does that sound harsh and unreasonable enough?) Instead, I would recommend considering the following.
The Unification campaign will sometimes pit the forces of good against the forces of evil. Playing an evil character in circumstances like these can be interesting, but I warn you. If you choose to play an evil character in this particular campaign, you may lose the ability to partake in all that the adventure has to offer. I would highly recommend good-aligned characters, but if you just can’t do it, try to do no worse than neutral. Remember, good does not have to be boring, particularly if you pair it with a chaotic alignment. There will be plenty of bad guys to smite and plot against.
Here are some guidelines to assist you in playing out your character’s alignment in this campaign:
a. The various cultures in the Unification campaign setting do not necessarily adhere to common, modern-day western values. As such, neither the occurrence of death nor the causing of death is categorically viewed as “bad.” The idea that killing in and of itself is an act of evil has not entered the collective belief system. Unification involves a world where there is palpable “good” and “evil,” and people have to take daily precautions against being attacked, eaten or otherwise succumbing to inexplicable or supernatural death. Here, it would be laughable to consider it “evil” to kill another creature in order to survive or to reduce the ranks of aggressors.
I will presume to say that we can all agree that racism among humanity is abhorrent. Fortunately, in D&D, humans are all one race which removes much of this element of human crappiness. Should humans and the various demihumans be politically correct with one another? Is it just as abhorrent to judge a dwarf by his beard or his ale? I hope you are like me and just don’t give a crap.
However, one thing I do know is that there seem to be a lot of role players out there who want to analogize humanoid monsters (orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc.) to modern day minority races. This is not appropriate and defeats a valuable element of the game.
In the Unification campaign, monsters are not analogous to minority races. They are monsters. It is perfectly reasonable to judge an orc for being an orc. Their very purpose in the life is subjugate and destroy. Are there exceptions? Yes, of course there always are (Dinsdale, for example.) But there is no need or sense in treating monsters in a politically correct manner. They will not be politically correct in judging you.
b. Death is much more common in the Old Empires than in our lives today. Its causes are often unknown, unpredictable and frightening. As a result, death is considered a part of everyday life and the average person is somewhat resigned to the fact that it might occur at any time without warning or explanation.
c. Sacrificing animals or even people to one’s God does not, in and of itself, mean or even imply that the God is evil. In the Old Empires, sacrifice of life is a practice of bringing one closer to his or her Higher Power that is accepted by many cultures. When the act of killing has some respected purpose, it is not viewed as evil. Instead, it may be an honor to give one’s life for the greater good. Sacrificed animals may be revered. There is room for good-aligned characters to agree with sacrifice to gods and for other good-aligned characters to disagree. (Judaism and thus Christianity and Islam all share a history of animal sacrifice. While one might make a case that some individuals purporting to advance these religions were “evil,” certainly not all of them were!)
d. Killing for enjoyment or to advance objectives or powers designed for selfish or improper ends is, of course, unacceptable to good-aligned cultures. Prevention of this practice may itself be justification for the extermination of the perpetrators.
e. Engaging in theoretical discussions about the fine lines and nuances of ethical behavior is a luxury that the people of the old Empires simply do not have. There, to die in battle is honorable – even if the battle is unsupported by justifications ordinarily deemed sufficient by modern day principles.
f. Remember that all people are fallible, frail beings. Even those who believe they have strict codes of ethics or principles invariably have “blind spots,” make mistakes or in other ways deviate from their ethos when faced with real world problems. Deviations from a character’s alignment on certain issues or at certain times is not only allowed, but expected.
Please consider these points if faced with a situation you feel might require your character to leave the party or to start a conflict with another character. I do not run D&D games for the purpose of teaching modern day lessons. KILL THE BAD GUYS. Remember, we are here to have fun, not solve the world’s societal ills!
19. Selecting a Party Leader and the Pace of Play. To me, D&D is like baseball. If the pitcher is slow, the game can languish. I will do my very best to pitch the ball quickly and accurately. However, to a large extent, I will be placing the characters’ destiny in your hands. I have been involved in games where the pace of play is very slow because nobody is comfortable with continually suggesting the next course of action for fear of being “bossy” – even when the decisions to be made are fairly inconsequential and it is pretty obvious to everyone what needs to happen next. One easy way to solve this problem and to keep the game moving is to appoint a party leader who will push the party through those easy tasks, leaving some of the bigger decisions to the group as a whole. Please consider this.
20. Absences. Hey, everyone’s busy, I totally get it. But, the show must go on! If you know that you won’t be able to make a session, please make sure you change your RSVP in the calendar section of this website so that we’ll know. Most likely, I’ll assign your character to another party member who can play your character for you during that session. If you have a preference as to who should play your character, please let that person know. I can’t promise that your character will be played by that person, nor can I promise that your character will survive, but we will do our best, I’m sure.
21. Challenge Rating. As many of you already know, the 5e rules system includes a concept known as the challenge rating, or “CR.” The idea is to allow a DM to pick the party’s enemies with some advance indication of whether the strength of the adversaries is commensurate with that of the party. As a consequence, it is tempting for the DM to rely exclusively on the CR and find a bunch of creatures with an appropriate CR and plop them into encounter areas for the gamers to fight.
I will not be relying solely on CRs, for two main reasons.
A. Adventuring should include creative problem solving. One of the problems that adventurers might encounter is dealing with creatures that are way beyond their ability to defeat in open combat. One solution is to run. Another might be to create a diversion. Who knows what might be appropriate under your circumstances.
B. Also, I am drawing creatures, spells, magical items and concepts from all five of the D&D editions and creating some of my own, many of which are not officially adapted to the 5e rule set. As a consequence, I will often have no CRs on which to rely.
What this means for you: Do not assume that just because I have placed a creature in your path that the party can or should fight it. Regardless of what level your character is at, questions that should be on your mind are
“What is this creature?”
“Can we kill it?”
“How do we kill it?”
“Should we even try?”
Also – and this is something I, myself, am particularly bad at as a player – try not to allow your player knowledge of creatures to interfere with what your characters would know in this particular adventure. If you have doubt as to what your character would know, ask to roll a nature check or a wisdom check, or something. Be creative!
This also means that you may encounter creatures that have low CRs and are thus ones that you can kill quite easily. Maybe you don’t even need to kill them. What would your character do?
Differing creature strengths adds to the intrigue and realism of the game and a greater variety of problems and solutions.
22. Perception, Insight and Investigation Checks. Trust can be an issue when meeting new people, especially when on the road. I will allow new perception, insight or investigation checks in certain cases each 24-hour period to try to detect lies or ulterior motives.
23. Creatures and Metagaming. I find it very difficult to avoid metagaming when operating a player character, particularly when it comes to fighting creatures about which I have OOC knowledge. I know that you would never intentionally allow such knowledge to give you an advantage as a player. Regardless, I think there are many cases when a PC encounters a creature type for the first time and the player is forced to ask, “hey, my character grew up in this world. Surely he would have heard at least something of dragons!” Yes, I cannot argue. So, I will be incorporating one of my favorite concepts in 3.5E – The creature lore check! Yes, this simple tool will answer that question with a simple d20 roll and may be used every time your PC encounters a new creature type.
24. Severed Body Parts. If the parts are saved and a heal spell is administered within 24 hours, severed body parts may be reattached with a heal spell provided the PC is living. If the PC is dead, no amount of magical healing will re-attach body parts unless and until the PC is resurrected or raised.