Planes of Power
Interpretations & House Rules
Over the past decade of GMing, I have learned that a D&D campaign is a cooperative effort both on the part of all the players as well as the DM. Because of this, I like to share, as early as possible, information about how I run a game so that players can be aware of my thought process ahead of time.
When DMing, I try to be reasonable while following the RAW (with the exceptions below). I do this as I feel predictability & constancy with the rules is a benefit to players as they know what to expect which lets them plan ahead. So, please feel free to ask for clarifications sooner rather than later. I am happy to answer questions as I want the game to be as successful as you do.
1) Electronics at the table: Please avoid excessive smart phone & tablet use during the game. Playing other games and engaging in other conversations is rude to the rest of the table. It also wastes time as the group will have to stop what they are doing to explain to you what you missed. (This is true even when your PC is ‘absent’ as the group loses the option to say, “we tell him what we learned.”) Using a device or computer for books, character sheet, dice, or anything related to the game is perfectly acceptable.
2) Weight & Encumbrance: Players are expected to track the weight they carry. We will use the optional Encumbrance rules on PHB page 176.
3) Critical success & failure: Regarding skills, a 1 can succeed and a 20 can fail. Additionally, there is no extra penalty or reward for these rolls (apart from mockery or high-fives.) Regarding saves, a 1 always fails and a 20 always succeeds.
4) Skill Rolls: When it is time to roll a skill, I will ask you to make the roll. Until the roll is requested, your PC should assume that he/she is doing just fine. After all, who really knows that they just botched a Stealth roll? Similarly, for Investigating and Perceiving things… if you are not using your passive, I will usually make the roll in secret for you. After all, how do you know whether you did a good job searching?
5) Assumptions are not my fault: If your PC makes an action based on an assumption, that’s too bad. Years ago, I stopped listening to, “But if I knew…” and the many variations of that statement. If you are not sure, ask a question. If you honestly feel that I made the mistake, make a note of it, and bring it up after the session. We’ll figure something out then. Otherwise, we will continue with play with the action having occurred. Additionally, once I ask for a save or say you’ve got an AOO coming your way, no backsies.
6) Meta-gaming: During combat, lets see if we can keep this to a minimum. It’s hard, I know, but it may give the game sessions a bit more verisimilitude. If you are at 0 HP, you don’t need to announce death saves and fails. After all, how would your friends know? Additionally, I’d like us to try to avoid chatter in combat, i.e. “if you do this, I can do that and it’ll work this way” or “these things are such and suches… they have magic resistance, and…” etc. If your PC knows something, shout it out on your turn and in character.
7) Note passing: I’d like to keep this to a minimum. I would ask all of you to trust each other not to use OOC knowledge in character. This would include things like stealing from each other or the party. I do not object to it, per se, but I think it should be done in front of all players so that one player does not have an advantage over another.
8) Monsters & Knowledge Checks: 5e doesn’t have specific rules for monster knowledge. However, if I think your PC would know what a particular creature is, I will tell you.
9) Even Shares: I believe in PCs earning equal shares of loot. I have found that it is much easier for people to get along if things are done this way. However, I will defer to the wishes of the group if there is a unanimous decision to negate this rule.
10) Lifestyle Costs: Please keep track of your spending, including food, lodging, fees, fines, bribes, etc. Also, for any spell with a costly material component, the GM will assume you have the component on your person. When you cast the spell, deduct the gold from your total (if the item is consumed). Additionally, between adventures, you are free to use downtime activities to earn a living. We can work out the details at the end of each adventure.
11) PvP: I have never been a fan of PvP fighting as it can kill a campaign. However, recognizing that we may possibly be mature players, I am willing to entertain some degree of it, if all parties are agreed. A few stipulations to consider: work out the fight without dice. You heard me. Role-playing a fight is fine; roll-playing a fight is not. When role played (feel free to refer to Amber DRPG) this way, it can be interesting. If players cannot agree on how this works out and want someone to adjudicate the story (still without dice), I can do that. Additionally, odds are that your PCs are friends, or if not that, at least comrades in arms. When soldiers fight, the fight usually clears the air between them. They can have a healthy, if grudging, respect for each other. They generally do not set out to murder each other. So, no killing. I would suggest that spells and weapons would probably not belong in a barroom brawl between friends or “frenemies”, but if the story sounds good, then it is fine.
12) Rules Disputes: These are certain to occur at some point. They are unavoidable. Please keep your argument brief. There is plenty of time away from the table to hash these things out. Also, you should know that I am MUCH MORE open to your argument when it does not happen in media res. If the rule is a life-or-death situation, I will be a little more lenient. And after all is said and done, if I am wrong and you are right, we will find a way to make it up to you. Finally, you may wish to be aware of arguments which I will summarily dismiss: “The rules don’t say I can’t…”, “I know X says this, but Y implies that…”, “Can you please show me that?” (The GM is assumed to be right until proven wrong.)
13) NPCs & Creatures: I have saved the biggest rule change for last. When creating NPCs & creatures, I have two “rules sets” to use. The first is using the 5e rules. The second is creating in a similar vein to 4E. While I know it sounds odd to hear that, I have found that one can simplify the NPC creation process by using this similar process. When I use this process, I am willing to use powers & abilities that PCs do not have access to. I do this for 2 reasons: first, it creates an interesting & unpredictable encounter. Second, used appropriately, it creates challenges at an appropriate CR. (After years of DMing, I do not believe that an NPCs level is a sufficient or accurate measure of its CR. Before the advent of 4E, I used equipment to make up this gap, which created a spiral of PCs having a disproportionate amount of wealth per level, requiring tougher encounters, etc.)
14) Advancement:. I prefer to use XP instead of milestones. I should point out that XP is given for overcoming challenges. Sometimes, this means combat, but sometimes not. In fact, I typically place a premium on XP earned through cleverness and/or diplomacy. So, while killing every enemy will earn you XP, negotiating or outsmarting enemies will earn more as it has a small premium added to it. (Similarly, killing your 100th orc earns you less than killing your first orc as repetitive tasks teach us less.)