SOW House Rules

Character Generation

Generating Ability Scores:

We will be using the standard 22 point buy option. With a 22-point buy, five stats start at 10, while the sixth starts at 8. You have 22 points to spend improving ability scores. The cost of improving an ability score varies based on how high the score is; it costs one point for each increase from 9 to 13, two points for each increase from 14 to 16, three more points to increase to a 17, and four more points for an 18.

We will also be using the following additions:

Background: Background bonuses will be available whenever qualified submissions are completed but this isn’t an assignment and there is no deadline. Your character can gain a bonus of 2 point to spend on any attribute(s) (not to exceed 20 point in any attribute). The point of the background is to help you create a fully developed character rather than just some statistics on a piece of paper and your background can also provide adventuring hooks for future play.

If the PC has an extensive background that includes numerous hooks for roleplay and plot hooks they can get a stat bonus. This would include contacts that the character has as well as relations. It would also include background material that can be used to flesh out the world (all we really know so far is the basic point of light premise of the campaign and that you are starting in some islands). The background can include goals that motivate your character.

The more you give me to play around with, even tiny details that don’t seem to have any bearing on anything, the easier it becomes for me to work them into the story and create a plot. The best kinds of backgrounds are the ones that are detailed, yet vague (if that makes any sense at all). They’re the ones that give you a good sense of the character, yet leave enough wiggle room the GM can fill in any gaps that might present themselves.

Don’t write a background that’s airtight, so everything in your character’s life has some sort of concrete explanation. Instead, leave some things open for the GM to fill in. If mysterious men in dark robes destroyed your character’s village, it’s okay and even good to say you don’t know who those people were – the GM can think about it and tell you that later on when he presents you with a plot hook based on the unresolved experience. (Alternatively, if you have some ideas, you might “break Rule Zero” and inform the GM of those ideas.)

It’s important to give the GM (and yourself) an internally consistent worldview and a sense of the character’s personality through what you write. There are a number of ways to do this, but the easiest one is to try writing your backgrounds in first person as opposed to third person (“I was born in the north” rather than “Torsh the orc was born in the north”). Include peculiar word choices and metaphors, speech patterns, and anything else that makes your character distinct. When you force yourself to write in a character’s voice, the same way you would try to roleplay in that voice during a session, it can unlock all sorts of secrets about that character you didn’t even know where there.

What I want are the key points, the motivators, the conflicts, the interesting people your character knows, the things that will kickstart your character into the action. Who does your character love, who does he hate? What unresolved conflicts are there in his past? These could be anything, from the enmity of the Dark Lord™, to an unresolved disagreement with the character’s brother. These conflicts are the things that can be woven together to make an interesting story, and one in which your character is an integral part. If I can quickly create a conflict based on what you tell me, you’ve got adventure waiting to happen.


The character can gain a bonus of 2 point to spend on any attribute(s) (not to exceed 20 point in any attribute). This bonus can be combined with either of the previous alternate optional bonuses (Archetype and Strength through Infirmity).

If you want help with the locale I am happy to provide assistance. My request is that we assume the characters are at least acquainted with each other and friendly enough to meet occasionally for games of chance, drink and fellowship at one of the many friendly establishments within Brindol. It is assumed that all of your characters are special people, those that want to be well known and well liked are. You are assumed to be leaders in your appropriate fields of interest with special talents recognized based on the strength of your background to support such talents.

Archetypes: Each PC can define an archetype, with an archetype related to each of the attribute scores. The attribute must be the highest that a character has before adding the archetype bonus. A character who expresses an archetype should role play their supremacy in the relevant attribute; thus the character with a Strength Archetype should be the strong man of the group and be the one who boasts of their strength and offers to do the strength related tasks and so on (not to say that others can’t help in strength related tasks just the the archetype character is the “superior” attribute). This doesn’t need to be done in every instance, just as a general character trait that is obvious to the onlooker or someone that interacts with you for a while.

There can be only one. That means that for each archetype there only one character who epitomizes it. The PCs can start as automatically epitomizing one, though they must each have a different archetype. An archetype can be stolen from someone if you are within 2 points of their value in the related attribute and you defeat them in an extended challenge related to the attribute.

The bonus is two. You get a +2 on the attribute that relates to your Archetype. You also get to roll twice on any attribute and skill checks for that attribute and take the better roll. This only applies to actual attribute checks and skill check rolls (not other rolls that might be influenced by the score). Thus if you have the Strenth Archetype you can reroll Strength checks and Athletics checks.

Archetypes cannot be rewarded until after all the characters are created and I may opt to wait until after the 1st gaming session to assign Archetype bonuses.

Strength through Infirmity (i.e. The Abysmal rule): Optionally during character creation, players can gain a bonus to one ability
and a penalty to another by creating defining personality or
physical descriptions for the character that explain the modifiers.
These descriptions must be obvious enough that players
can portray them during the course of the game.

For example, a player might take a penalty to Strength
because her arcanist is sickly and weak. During the game, she
might complain (in character) about various ailments, gripe
about swimming through cold water to sneak into the baron’s
keep, and so on. In contrast, she gains a bonus to Intelligence
because of her many years of study as a sage. When she talks
over the plans for infiltrating the castle, she mentions historical
events, obscure myths and legends, and other trivia that
reflects her knowledge.

The ratio of bonus to penalty is 2, thus for each 1 point you increase one attribute you decrease another by 2 points. The maximum bonus is 4 points and the bonus cannot cause you to exceed 20 points in an attribute nor can the penalty reduce you to less than a 6. The bonus must go to a single ability score and similarly the penalty must go to a single ability score.

This option cannot be used by a character who has taken the Archetype option.

Additional Rule Modifications

New Feats

Feyspeak (Heroic feat)

Prerequisite: Cha 13
Benefit: You are able to speak and understand the speech of fey creatures. Additionally by concentrating for a few minutes you can detect the direction and relative (on scale of 1 [very close] to 5 [very very far away]) distance of the nearest crossover point to the feywilde.
Special: Creatures with the fey origin automatically are considered to have this feat. Additionally they can choose to have others understand them if they wish (even if the other creature does not have this feat).

HOUSE RULES (4/26/12)


  1. Last game we tested a new house rule ‘Shadow Characters’. It worked very well providing for faster, balanced game play that kept players effective and in the fight longer. It is both very simple and a time saver. Here it is:
    1) Shadow characters take the place of missing players. When you can’t be a the game character may be activated as a shadow characters.
    2) While shadow characters are active the DM subtracts attacks randomly based on the number of active shadow characters. For example if we have a party of 6 and there are two shadow characters, a roll of a 1 or 2 on a six-sided die indicates any monster won’t attack that round (solo monsters roll for each attack separately). These attacks are invisioned to be being used against the active shadow characters.
    3) For the real players that are present these shadow characters represent potential ‘extra lives’ if their character suffers any form of crippling attack such as, but not limited to falling to zero hit points, being stunned, having no surges left … etc, as determined by the player their character is returned to full health and the shadow character falls in the real character’s place. (We consider the real character to have been rescued by the active shadow character, the shadow character is then inactive going forward and it no longer subtracts from monster attacks).
    4) When a shadow character is used as an extra life it is considered to be helpless, unconscious and inactive. The shadow character are not ‘dead’ unless there is a TPK (total party kill).  The shadow characters are recovers after a short rest.
    My goal was to make the game more fun for the real players. And to eliminate any delays due to players that are not present while maintaining the balance between the monsters and players. The system worked very well, speeding up game play and keeping real players in the game.   
  2. Halved Hit Points/Max Damage (Monsters only)- We will now be  halving hit points for only for the monsters, the point being to add to the speed and flow of the game. And to add excitement and a greater sense of risk, monsters will be doing maximum damage when they successfully hit.
    • Included with this adjustment, no single attack can cause more than damage than the bloodied value of the target unless the attacker has combat advantage. This is applicable to attacks only, not damage caused by other dangers or traps etc.
  3. Skill Challenges – will now promote role-playing as much as roll-playing … this is accomplished by allowing you to adjust the difficult of roll within a skill check by your role playing. Skill checks are already structured for EASY, MODERATE, and HARD checks; now the difficulty of the checks will be determined by role-playing. The idea of it is simple … on page 80 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 there is a corrected table which provides ‘SKILL CHECK DIFFICULTY BY LEVEL’ … as the level of the challenges increase so do the DCs of the checks but in all cases there is an EASY, MODERATE, and HARD DC … All we are doing is instead of arbitrarily assigning a DC to a specific skill check within a challenge, you, ‘the players’, will determine your DC by role-playing.
    • If you opt to simply it will be a HARD DC; many times this is all that is necessary, especially if you have a big bonuses on the roll.
    • If you make suggestions appropriate to the occasion explaining how you will use your skills, showing some imagination you will earn a MODERATE DC.
    • And finally if you work your role playing magic … not only making suggestions but putting some character into your check, being creative, you will earn an EASY DC on your check. At times this might be a token response to other characters, a word of encouragement or just you telling other character to shut-up so you can concentrate while you are picking a lock. It doesn’t have to pretty or perfect … just a little effort and more personality than just rolling dice.
    • To handle published skill challenges (our system works great for impromtu skill challenges) the system is modified as follows: 1) if you just roll then the DC is 5 harder than listed; 2) if you provide minimal suggestion for using skill then as listed DC; or 3) if you work role playing magic then the DC is 5 lower than listed.
    • Player Narrative: unless it conflicts with the plot, the players are able to invoke Player Narrative wherein they can add to a scene or conversation or history by stating something (no finding workng LAW rockets in the dungeon though, Rob). This works in a Skill Challenge in that a player can use Role Playing Magic when making a history check for example by stating something about how some historical event relates to the current challenge. The published adventures often have a brief description of why a history check (for example) might influence a person. This rule just lets the players make stuff up to get the better skill roll.
      • Note that the use of “secondary” skills often lets one do things other than simple success on a skill check. Other things you can suggest that your skill check do (which may alter the difficulty of the check) include:
        • provide a +2 bonus to another person’s primary skill check roll
        • cancel a failure of some other roll (particularly cancelling a failure from someone during a group check)
        • allow a character to reroll a skill check
        • allow another skill to be used as a primary skill (for at least one success)
        • increase the number of successes that a particular skill is limited to
    • Possible rule: Unless the module states otherwise players participate in a skill challenge in initiative order. During their turn a player can either make a skill check or they can aid another. If they don’t do either then they rack up a failure during their turn towards the skill challenge.
  4. Limited assists on skill challenges/Aid Another
    • In addition to any limits on the number of character that are able to assist that may come up due to circumstances, the following limits are in place on assisting on skill challenges. When using Aid Another we will be using graduated failure and success
      • Failure: if you choose to try to Aid Another and fail the check you provide instead a -1 penalty to the roll that you were trying to assist.
      • Graduated Assistance: When you choose to Aid Another the base DC is based off of a Moderate challenge for the characters’ level. Thus instead of the DC being 10, for a 7th level party to Aid Another the DC would be 14. However, if you succeed on an Easy DC, then you still provide a +1 bonus to the Aid Another roll; similarly if you succeed on a Hard DC, then you provide a +3 bonus to the Aid Another roll.
      • Moderate DC by Level: At levels 1-3 a moderate DC is 10. Every three levels that increases by 2 point (thus at levels 4-6, DC is 12; at levels 7-9, DC is 14). Easy DC is 5 less and Hard DC is 5 more.
  5. Predetermination – Players need to determine your actions before your turn, failing predetermination we will use a timer in place to allow you to formulate or change plans. If you aren’t ready – You will drop one place on the initiative chart and we will recycle this rule until everyone finishes their turn or the turn rolls into the next round.
    • – Interruption exception: interruptions being a part of life we don’t want your characters to be ignored while you are preoccupied. If you are missing during your action, any other player will move your character and take a ‘Basic Melee Attack’ using your lowest scoring roll but we are no longer going to try figure out exactly what your character would do in an ‘ideal’ move or opt to use any of your encounter or daily powers for you unless you made a prearrangement advising someone to take this action for your character.

TO BE CONSIDERED FURTHER (not currently active rules):

  • Defenders can opt to use a healing surge before entering combat when they roll initiative, this add temporary hit points for the upcoming battle and it is considered a ‘free’ action. Additionally they can still use a second-wind during combat; we will call this a ‘Battle Surge”.
    •  (Andy and I believe this is a good idea but possibly not a necessary adjustment, but easy to add later if we decide to. Mike thought it might be unbalancing. We won’t do it yet).
  • Leaders can take advantage of the same rule but they can only use a ‘Battle Surge’ or a ‘Second-wind’ not both.
    • (Again, we believe this is a good idea, it we opt to use the ‘Battle Surge’ rule).


Halved Hit Points – We will now be  halving hit points for all characters and monsters, the point being to add to the speed and flow of the game and to add excitement and a greater sense of risk.

  • Included with this adjustment, no single attack can cause more than damage than the bloodied value of the target unless the attacker has combat advantage. This is applicable to attacks only, not damage caused by other dangers or traps etc.


Tried and Probably not to be used again:

  • Roll Five – Players can roll 5 d20s at the start of combat, we have special clear boxes for this. These five roll are your combat rolls for the next five rounds, or until they are used up, in the case of multiple attack rolls within a single round. You may use your rolls in any order, for any attack. This greatly speeds up combat and encourages tactical play at the same time. Let’s say you roll a 20, 17, 10, 6 and 2. You could use the 20 for a Daily or Encounter Power. Save that for when it matters the most, burning the low rolls on at-wills and doing what they can to turn them into hits. It will allow you to manipulate combat modifiers when you have a low roll to work with giving you something to do while you are waiting for your next turn. Not rolling the attack dice round-by-round means more time to emphasize role-playing and tactical play. When you use your five rolls, the DM calls for another five rolls, and you keep on playing.
    • Optionally, you can spend an Action Point to re-roll your 5 dice attack roll if you don’t like how your dice fell.
    • Using a 20 roll is not an automatic critical hit,  you still have to roll a to hit when you use it and if that attack roll still hits then it remains a critical hit otherwise is just a normal hit.
    • Optionally, the DM may activate a Roll Five option on an individual ‘Boss’ monster, in an encounter.