house rules

Above all, we must strive to co-create a great story. When in doubt, players and DMs must ask, “what can I do to make a better story?” then work backwards from there.

Try, really try, to say “Yes! And…” to any proposed reality or action. Those who don’t grok that will not enjoy this thing fully.

Really important die rolls must always be witnessed by the full attention of the DM. See new player guide for details on that.

Keep track of your XP and Plot Points on a white index card the DM gives you. The nifty thing is, you can make new characters that inherit those XP, and if you come back to an old character you have not played a while. the XP also applies! However, if any character dies, your XP get reset to the amount needed to start the level you are partway through. If you are more than halfway through the level, XP resets to a point halfway through the level.

Keep an accurate record as you use up items and give them to each other. If an item is not written on your character sheet or (if on an index card) clipped to it with a paper clip, your character does not have it. Even if it seems obvious that you have the Crystal Skull because you said you picked it up, if the words “crystal skull” did not get written onto your sheet at that moment, the crystal skull is sitting where it was when you said you picked it up, not in your possession. No exceptions, because the DM finds it funny when character leave important items behind.

Anything you say around the table the DM can take as being said out loud by your character in the same tone and volume. The way to avoid this is to hold the “L” sign up to your forehead as you say it. This is because the DM finds it funny when your characters blurt out ill-advised things just like real people do.

Every player (not character, actual RL player) can get Plot Points. Keep track of them on your current character sheet, and transfer them as you make new characters. See Plot Points for details.

More about Rolls

Please get the nod from the DM before making any die roll so we know what it’s for. If the roll is done prematurely, the DM can decide it has to be re-rolled. (This is because if you roll a 20, you might change your mind about what it was for, making it a riskier move.)

If the die’s bottom face is not 100% in contact with the surface it lands on, and this surface is somewhere on or over the plane of the table, you have to re-roll it.

Many rolls will be done by the DM instead of you, if your character would not know the degree of success or failure. If you check with the DM before rolling, it will always work out pretty well. For insight, knowledge, and perception, if the DM rolls 5 less than the DC, you may get a misperception that you think is truth.

Outside of combat, rolling a natural 20 can give you a special permanent skill advantage— ask or remind the DM when you do. Rolling a natural 1 can give you a special permanent drawback. These can be used to cancel each other out: a 1 can remove an advantage, or a 20 remove a disadvantage.


Identifying items requires experimentation or an Identify spell. This is defined as a variant in the DMG.

Mis-casting magic spells and items produces random ill effects. This is a variant in the DMG.

Note a common misperception about scrolls. See DMG p200. Most are spell scrolls and can only be cast by those with the spell on their class list. See this article for details.

Items and Economy

There are too many items for the DM to keep track of, so you are on your honor to track items faithfully. It’s really more fun that way— remember the story trumps all. Many great stories revolve around the reality that items can be lost, forgotten, broken, too heavy, and too large.

You really must strictly calculate item weight and encumbrance if your STR is under 10. You used STR as your dump stat? Fine, but you need to pay the price or consider making yourself a bit less weedy as you level up. :) Encumbrance is more loosely applied as your STR exceeds 10— the DM will ask you to check if it seems silly.

You sell common items in good condition for about 25% of their listed value in the PBH, but each place has an upper limit of how much it can possibly buy from you. You can’t buy everything in the PBH in every village or town. You can’t buy or sell magical items.

Characters can sell or trade any items to each other, and you can even have one of your characters give something to the other, but the story needs to make sense. Where and when did they meet? What is a price reasonable to both parties? If it’s a mate’s rate, why does the seller like the buyer that much? For example, if the seller respects the buyer’s intentions, will sell item for 50% of the cost they could get by selling it to an NPC (per DMG). Plot points can make things plausible that otherwise would not be.

In modern terms, a gold piece is about AUD$50. You who live in the Gold Coin strata of society are living a life very different from Level 0 denizens of your world (who usually deal in silver) and peasants and the desperate (who usually deal in copper).

Building and making

NPCs and characters (while in “NPC” mode and retcon activities) can make buildings and magic items as in RAW (DMG p128-129) but all times are 20% of the time stated. When you come to a session and retcon what your characters have been doing, keep in mind a player character during the retcon does pretty much one useful thing a day, and not anything very heroic. They act heroic only in realtime while you are sitting around the table!

If a place is maintained per DMG p127 for 72 days (that is, 1 year at the 20% markdown), then it starts making enough to maintain itself, if nothing drastic happens.

Perception and stealth

When rolling for perception, anything lower than a 10 you can report as a 10 (your passive).

Stealth is always rolled and each new creation of the hidden state causes a reroll. The DM will tend to roll stealth for you (so you don’t know how well hidden you are).

You start off combat with passive perception but as usual can take an action to search for something. When you see it, others in your party know its location but it is still unseen— so for targeted attacks, there is a 50% chance to aim for empty space, and disadvantage on the attack.

If your job during travel is keeping lookout, your passive perception is 5 more, per the rules as written, and this applies in combat as if you started off rolling a 15 on a free perception roll.


If forced movement puts you into landscape peril (like over a cliff), you get a saving throw (DC set by DM based on the strength of what is forcing you). If you save, you go prone at the edge of the peril. Following rules as written, forced movement cannot trigger effects such as “creatures entering the zone”.

Player characters always have a vague delayed telepathic sense of that the others are doing, experiencing, and even thinking, thanks to spooky convenient magic that actually has a world explanation and only coincidentally avoids dumb “your character has to act like it does not know my character did X” arguments.

Player characters, while offline, also gossip incessantly with everyone and pretty much learn everything that other player characters know. Hence this wiki. No need to pretend your character does not know something that you, the player, know from previous sessions, or the wiki, or whatever. Let’s assume that all player characters have some magic QuestBook thing where they constantly chatter away with each other. Now, what to believe and how current that rumour is, that’s the challenge…

house rules

Caves of Chaos - Getting Started MatthewFord