Mar 1, 2016

House Rules

Game mechanics will be a mix of AD&D 1st and 2nd edition, plus some house rules (some inspired by, but not exactly duplicating 3e and 5e). In general, first edition rules and game mechanics will be used unless otherwise noted.

For rules on death and resurrection, click here.

Characters and Races

  • All classes and races described in the first edition Player’s Handbook and Unearthed Arcana may be used
  • Racial and class limitations apply for attributes and levels, however, exceptions will be made in extraordinary circumstances
  • We will not generally be using psionics rules, however, for creatures that have psionic abilities (deities, Illythid, etc.) psionic attacks will be treated as spells, and saving throws with mental bonuses may be allowed
  • “Improved Druid” rules from Dragon Magazine will be used (Nov, 1988)
  • Two types of monk builds will be used. The Scarlet Brotherhood monks use the build from the “Scarlet Brotherhood” sourcebook. These are a subclass of cleric. Western monks, the disciples of Zuoken, use the “Improved Monk” rules from Best of Dragon Magazine Vol III. These are a subclass of thief.
  • Ability Score Rolls:
    • New characters will choose between the following methods for rolling ability scores.
      • Roll 4d6 (drop the lowest) x 8. Ability scores may be distributed as desired between the following:
        • Strength (STR)
        • Dexterity (DEX)
        • Intelligence (INT)
        • Wisdom (WIS)
        • Constitution (CON)
        • Charisma (CHA)
        • Comeliness (COM) (see Unearthed Arcana)
        • Perception (PER) (see Dragon Magazine #133, page 12)
      • The above method is best when a player wants to play a particular class and needs to ensure the they get the right abilities.
      • Roll 5d6 (drop the 2 lowest) for each ability, in order. Values may not be redistributed.
      • The above method provides for the highest overall stats, and is best used if the player is open-minded about what class they wish to play.
      • Peasant Rule: If a character is deemed "unplayable" as a PC (i.e. if there are multiple single-digit ability scores), the DM may declare that character to forever be a peasant, and allow the player to roll-up a new character.
    • Racial adjustments to attributes are made after distribution, but no other adjustments or re-distribution of ability scores are allowed
    • First level characters will start with maximum hit points, rolling for additional hit points per level thereafter.
    • When rolling hit points each level, ones may be re-rolled.
    • OPTION: Perception can be calculated as an average of Intelligence and Wisdom, instead of an ability roll on its own. If this method is used, then the player rolls 7 sets of dice for ability scores instead of 8. This must be decided before rolling.


  • All Cleric, Magic User, Druid and Illusionist spells from any and all first and second edition publications may exist in the world, at DM’s discretion, including, but not limited to:
    • Player’s Handbook
    • Unearthed Arcana
    • Greyhawk Adventures
    • Tome of Magic (except “wild” magic, because that was just stupid)
    • Dragon Magazine (issues 1 through 250)
    • Any published AD&D 1st or 2nd edition module
  • Priest and magic spheres (from 2nd edition) do not apply, however, magic users do tend to favor certain types of spells, and clerics of a given deity may be granted only specific spells (the DM will provide a spell list for each deity). In general, we will follow what is published in the first and second edition Greyhawk books for guidance.
  • Spells of 3 segments or less will be cast immediately when it is the spell caster’s turn. Spells of 4 to 9 segments will begin casting on the spells caster’s turn, and go off at the end of the round. This eliminates the ability to disrupt most lower level spells by hitting the spell caster, and speeds up game play by not having to track segments for each round (we may revise this if it proves unworkable)
  • Common spell components do not need to be kept track of so long as the mage has in his possession the means to carry them. These are most spells up through 6th level (based on description of the spell). Rare or expensive components (usually for spells 7th level and higher, depending on the description), must be tracked individually.

Learning, Studying & Writing Spells

  • Magic Users must learn a spell before being able to memorize it or write it, however;
  • Casting Read Magic before using Write will allow a magic user to copy a spell that they have not learned, with a chance of failure equal to 10% per spell level
  • A spell properly written onto a scroll or spellbook through use of the Write spell can be “burned” by reading the spell directly from the spellbook page or scroll, without the use of spell components. Doing so will consume the page or scroll in a flash of fire.
  • Spells can still be copied without use of the Write spell, if the magic user knows the spells and has either:
    • Memorized it for the day or
    • Has access to the spell from another book or scroll
  • However, spells written without using the Write spell cannot be “burned” – only memorized
  • In order to burn a spell that the magic user does not know (has not learned), a Read Magic spell must first be cast
  • When rolling to learn a new spell, if the magic user fails, he may be given another chance to learn the spell only after apprenticing with a tutor of at least 11th level for one month. Such tutoring must be very focused and consume a good portion of the magic user’s time between studies and practice (176 hrs is a good approximation)
  • Studying to memorize spells for the day requires one half turn (5 minutes) per spell to be memorized for the day (regardless of level). This applies to both magic users memorizing spells and clerics praying for spells. While druids do not need to select specific spells for the day, they do need to spend an equal amount of time preparing each day in order to cast.
  • Properly writing a spell, whether or not the write spell is used, requires one hour per spell level, for each spell to be written to a scroll or book.
  • The nature of the Write spell is that it imbues the page or scroll with the magic of the spell itself, such that it acts like a triggered spell when it goes off. As such, in addition to the special ink and paper requirements for the spell, the spell components required for the spell are also consumed by the process. This isn’t much of a problem for spells of 4th level and lower, but higher level spells require rare, expensive, and sometimes unique spell components (for example, a gem worth no less than 500,000 gp for a Wish spell), and writing the spell to a scroll does not eliminate the need for the components, they are just consumed during scroll creation rather than at casting time.
  • Clerical and druidic scrolls are still created as per the DMG – requiring a minimum of 11th level and for the spell to be prayed for and then “cast” into the scroll. Please note that not all deities grant scroll creation as an ability.

Spellbooks and Scrolls

  • Traveling Spellbook is the same as the Standard spellbook on Page 79 UA
  • On a page of vellum, the number of spells that can be written is 6 of levels 1-3, or 4 of levels 4-6, or 2 of levels 7-9. 

Wands and Wand-like Devices

Experience has revealed that most wands are really overpowered. Allowing a spellcaster to just keep throwing fireballs round after round without stopping isn't good for anyone, so the following restrictions will apply (for the purpose of these rules, "wand" means any wand-like device that uses charges to cast spells):
  • All wands have a chance of breaking when used. The base chance for this is 5% (a roll of 5% or less on percentile dice), though some wands of poor quality may have a higher chance
  • Each time a wand is used, its chance of breaking increases by 5%
  • For each hour that a wand is not used, its chance of breaking decreases by 5%, down to its base chance
  • Some wands can be recharged as per Unearthed Arcana rules. Recharging a wand has a 25% chance of breaking it (01-25% on percentile) and 25% chance of making it weaker (26-50% on percentile). Making a wand weaker increases its base chance of breaking by 5%.
  • These rules do not apply to artifacts or, at the DM's discretion, to high-powered (named) items


  • We will be using the simplified second edition ThAC0 system (ThAC0 stands for “To Hit AC 0”)
  • A roll of a natural 20 always hits, no matter what (even in cases where a creature requires a magic weapon to hit, as a natural 20 represents a super-heroic move)
  • A roll of natural 20 is considered a “critical” and damage, after all bonuses are applied, is doubled
  • A roll of natural 18 or 19 are considered “near critical” and receive an extra 1d4 damage
  • A roll of a natural 1 is a fumble, and always misses, regardless of circumstance (other than missing, there are no penalties for a fumble)
  • We will not use AC adjustments for weapons
  • “Point Blank” adjustments (Unearthed Arcana, page 18) apply for anyone with the appropriate ranged weapon proficiency. Specialization is not needed, and no class restrictions apply.
  • Shooting into melee is allowed, however, the target will be considered to have cover depending on the angle of the shot, size and numbers of creatures engaged in the melee (DM’s discretion)
    • 90% cover = -10 AC
    • 75% cover = -7 AC
    • 50% cover = -4 AC
    • 25% cover = -2 AC


Perception rolls will be used to determine the chance of finding hidden or concealed items during searches. Each character has a Perception attribute and success of finding something is indicated by rolling equal to or below the perception value on a d20, after applying modifiers. Unlike passive perception, in which the DM will ask a player to roll a perception to see if the character notices something of potential interest, a search must be declared by the player and takes a set amount of time, determined by the DM based on what is being search.

Searching for secret & concealed doors

One turn must be spent for each 40 linear feet of wall to be searched. Additional people searching can increase the chances of finding something, but does not reduce the time. Each character may attempt only one roll (to thus prevent a player from re-rolling until they succeed). A player may declare ahead of time that they wish to spend more time searching for secret doors. Each additional turn increases the effective perception by 2, up to a maximum of 20.
Example: Jack declares he wishes to search for secret doors along a 40 ft. stretch of hallway. He has a perception of 12. Jack is certain there is a secret door somewhere nearby and is intent on finding it, therefore he states he wishes to spend 3 turns, raising his effective perception to 18. The DM has determined that the secret door is especially difficult to locate, and has placed a +4 modifier on the die (Jack does not know this). Jack then rolls a d20 and gets 15, which is 3 below his perception. Jack informs the DM that he beat his effective perception by 3. Normally, this would indicate success, but with the +4 modifier, it fails. The DM informs Jack that he does not find any secret doors.

Other searches

A player who wishes to perform any other kind of search, such as sifting through a pile of trash, or looking through a library, or searching for hidden compartments in a desk, etc. must declare what he is searching for and how. For example, a generic search can be “I wish to sort through the pile of rubble to see if there is any valuable treasure among the junk” or a specific search can be “I want to search through the wizard’s room, tearing apart the bed and other furniture, until I find where he has hidden the amulet that he stole from the guild.” In either case, the DM will declare how long such a search will take if the character performs the actions specified.
Some searches can take less time with more people. For example, if a character wishes to search for a needle in a haystack, which would take 36 hours, the haystack can be divided 6 ways, so 6 people each search for 6 hours. In this case, the DM would roll a d6 to determine which stack the needle is in, and then apply that perception rolled by the player searching that stack to determine success.
Whenever specific items are being looked for, the more the player beats the required perception roll by, the sooner the item (or items) are found. However, if the items being looked for are non-specific (such as “treasure” or “hidden doors”) then the full amount of time is spent during the search and the DM will inform the player of the number and nature of the items found during that time.

Other Game Mechanics

  • Normal arrows do not need to be tracked, unless otherwise noted by the DM
  • In general, food, water and basic survival gear will not be kept track of so long as the party are near civilized areas. 
  • When the party is exposed to a remote or exotic location for an extended period of time where food, water and other necessities are hard to come by, the Wilderness Survival Guide or Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide rules will kick in, as appropriate.
  • Timing: During combat, a “round” is 6 seconds. Outside of combat, a “round” is 1 minute and a “turn” is 10 minutes. This does mean that some spells will burn out faster in combat than they will out of combat
  • Initiative: Initiative will be rolled on a d12, adjusted by any "reaction adjustment" or other initiative bonuses. The initiative does not determined when in a round a character gets to take an action - all actions are considered to be happening at the same time. Rather, it is used to determine in which order combat results are resolved. The DM will adjudicate any ties in iniative, usually based on who has the higher dexterity, but considering other factors such as combat advantages, etc.
  • Movement during combat: A character may move as far in one round as he can move in 6 seconds, considering race (size), class and encumbrance. A character with initiative may move up to half the distance below and still perform a melee attack, however, they may not attack until the next initiative number after their opponent whose space they have moved into (this rule does not apply if the character is acting on a surprise round). 

Walk (unencumbered)
Small (halfling, dwarf, gnome)
20 ft.
40 ft.
Medium (Human, elf, half-elf)
30 ft.
60 ft.
Large (large humanoids)
40 ft.
80 ft.

  • Note: The "medium" table above is used on place of the standard movement rate of 15" If a movement rate of more than 15" is listed somewhere, we will apply the relative difference to the table above


  1. I'm a junkie for even the driest of actual play-reports ... I just love 'em ... so if you ever become inclined to share the scoop on some of your ToEE sessions, however cursory or half-remembered, I'd enjoy the vicarious thrill.

    1. The intent is to use this blog as a journal to document each session. I have already been doing that offline, and just need to convert the offline journal into something that makes more sense for everyone else reading it online. Removing some stuff, embellishing some other stuff.

      This party (like many, I supposed) has done absolutely everything wrong, and it has really taxed my DM brain to keep up and adjust everything in the module to the craziness they are doing. Its been a year and half in real-life, and they are still at this thing. I've thrown the party so many bones, just because I want to see them finish this, but as we progress, I become less and less forgiving. I am not a fan of the random death that Gary Gygax likes to seed his dungeons with. I believe PCs should always have a chance to be smart and do things right, and live. I think that's something I appreciated about your DMing. I always came up with some pretty crazy ideas, and most of the time, you'd let me do it, thus avoiding the random "save or die" scenarios. But I do have a bunch of players that love to charge ahead without thinking, and I am much less forthcoming with warnings than I used to be. As such, we have finally had our first PC written-off (turned to stone and assumed he can't or won't be brought back), and a new character has been rolled-up.

    2. Sounds good--can't wait to see what antics they've gotten up to.

  2. Speaking solely as Athanathios, apprentice to Alyndra of Celene, and one of the most intelligent grey elves to have ever walked Oereth, said party has done absolutely nothing wrong. Everything we have accomplished (Ahem, or not accomplished) has gone precisely according to our carefully laid plans. We have been highly circumspect about every turn, every segment of activity. Sure, Hommlet was burned to the ground by an unspeakably evil god, but there was no evidence of complete genocide, and let us not forget; Said God was not released by us, and how many party members over the decades of play can attest to our accomplishments. Please allow me to sum up, or summarize, if you will: (1) freeing Prince Thrommel of Furyondy, (2) forcing, and I mean against his will, Iuz to dance a Jig while we giggle and run for our very lives, (3) we have also managed to transform an otherwise useless barbarian into a valuable statue, a picturesque example of the great barbarian king of the Cold Crow. We have actually done him a favor by immortalizing him. He was just a fragile human you know. I'm sure he would thank us if he could. I'm sure of it. (4) and on a more personal matter, coercing... or mayhap barely surviving, but in any event living through direct control by the despicable Zuggtmoy, another divine being of alleged great power, and using her efforts against her.

    Now, I am sure none of these things are what our DM has expected, but I assure you, nothing is a bad as it seems. Keep in mind, these are historical, world impacting times we are playing through, and we would like to leave our mark upon this world. Trust me, I'm an elf. I know what I'm talking about. (wink, wink)

    1. It will take me a while to get all of the session synopses uploaded here, so in the meantime, I'd say that's a pretty good summary. Thanks for posting.

  3. Of course, that is Athan's point of view. I felt he deserved some final words.