Category: Homebrew & Houserules

Pendragon: Where to Begin?

When running a Pendragon game, I prefer to start the action as early as possible.  While 4th edition Pendragon assumes that campaigns will begin well into the reign of Arthur (531 AD), 5th edition starts things up during the reign of Uther (485 AD)… which I much prefer.  The Wiki excerpt below clearly illustrates some of the reasons for this preference:

Uther Pendragon (from Wikipedia):

Uther is best known from Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae (1136) where he is the youngest son of King of Britannia Constantine II. His eldest brother Constans succeeds to the throne on their father’s death, but is murdered at the instigation of his adviser Vortigern, who seizes the throne. Uther and his other brother Aurelius Ambrosius, still children, flee to Brittany. After Vortigern’s alliance with the Saxons under Hengist goes disastrously wrong, Aurelius and Uther, now adults, return. Aurelius burns Vortigern in his castle and becomes king.

With Aurelius on the throne, Uther leads his brother in arms to Ireland to help Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from there to Britain. Later, while Aurelius is ill, Uther leads his army against Vortigern’s son Paschent and his Saxon allies. On the way to the battle, he sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as presaging Aurelius’s death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle and takes the epithet “Pendragon”, and returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned by an assassin. He becomes king and orders the construction of two gold dragons, one of which he uses as his standard. He secures Britain’s frontiers and quells Saxon uprisings with the aids of his retainers, one of whom is Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. At a banquet celebrating their victories Uther becomes obsessively enamoured of Gorlois’ wife, Igerna (Igraine), and a war ensues between Uther and his vassal. Gorlois sends Igerna to the impregnable castle of Tintagel for protection while he himself is besieged by Uther in another town. Uther consults with Merlin who uses his magic to transform the king into the likeness of Gorlois and thus gain access to Igerna at Tintagel. He spends the night with her and they conceive a son, Arthur, but the next morning it is discovered that Gorlois had been killed. Uther marries Igerna and they have another child, a daughter called Anna (in later romances she is called Morgause and is usually Igerna’s daughter by her previous marriage). Morgause later marries King Lot and becomes the mother of Gawain and Mordred.

Uther later falls ill, but when the wars against the Saxons go badly he insists on leading his army himself, propped up on his horse. He defeats Hengist’s son Octa at Verulamium (St Albans), despite the Saxons calling him the “Half-Dead King.” However, the Saxons soon contrive his death by poisoning a spring he drinks from near Verulamium.[8]

Uther’s family is based on some historical figures; Constantine on the historical usurper Constantine III, a claimant to the Roman throne from 407–411, and Constans on his son. Aurelius Ambrosius is Ambrosius Aurelianus, mentioned by Gildas, though his connection to Constantine and Constans is unrecorded.

There is just so much going during this period of time.  During Uther’s reign Britain is fractured, its rulers fighting among themselves while Irish, Pictish, and Saxon raiders threaten the very survival of the Romano-Cymric people.  Chivalry, courtly romance, and tournaments with knights in shining plate armor are cast aside; replaced with xenophobia, desperate battles, internal strife, and a tone that more closely resembles the Dark Ages than the Late Middle Ages.

Whenever I’ve played or ran Pendragon, it was this time period and its trappings that most appealed to me and my players.  As such, I’ll keep 485 as the starting period when adding new cultures and religions.


Coming soon… Starting Player Cultures for Pendragon

Pendragon… updating a classic game

I’m in the process of overhauling the Pendragon RPG in the hope that I’ll, one day, run it again.

Angus McBride’s Romano-British cavalry with scouts.

As much as think 5th edition is tighter, much better organized, game than 4th edition I do miss some of the options that 4th edition Pendragon made available.  While I never used 4th edition’s magic system, as magic is something best left as a plot device, I do miss the rules that allowed characters other than vassal knights (i.e. squires, warriors, footsoldiers, sergeants, mercenary knights, knights errant, and bachelor knights) at the start of play.  4th edition also included rules for characters from multiple cultures (i.e. Cymric, Roman, Saxon, Occitanian, French, Irish, and Pict) and faiths (i.e. pagan, heathen, Christian, Jewish, and Wotanic).  In order to achieve this in 5th edition, you’d need to purchase the Book of Knights and Ladies.

The first part of overhauling the most current incarnation of the rules (Pendragon 5.1) will be porting those cultures back into the game.  I’ll leave that for another post…

Please feel free to comment on what your experiences with the game and on any ideas you have to improve upon it (even if you love it as is and think I shouldn’t muck about with it).  😉

Coming soon… Pendragon:  Where to Begin?

Tinkering with RPG Systems

I’ve been playing RPGs for the past 34 years or so and, in that time have played a ton of different games.  At the same time, I’ve only really ever played games that have lasted for more than 6 months at a stretch, in a handful of systems: D&D (every edition that’s been out since 1981, except for 4th edition), Deadlands, DC Heroes, Star Wars (the d6 version), and Pendragon… which is pitiful considering how long I’ve been playing!

Of those games, I’ve only run D&D (in all of its incarnations) and Pendragon with any regularity.  As an inveterate rules tinkerer I couldn’t resist messing with those systems, in an attempt to mold them to my needs and preferences, with mixed results:

  1. AD&D 2nd edition, for example, saw me adding both Perception and Endurance as derived statistics, as well as my adding Wound States and a few character classes:  The Scout, The Hedge Wizard, and The Adept (something of a cross between a monk and a psionicist).  The Skills and Powers book helped me develop needed classes and, overall, I felt that my additions improved the game without making it needlessly complicated.  Then again, the plethora of subsystems for skills, ability checks, listening checks, and class abilities meant that any new rules were being tacked onto an already complex game.  With the release of 3rd edition and its unified resolution system I ditch the cobbled together mess that was AD&D in a heartbeat.
  2. D&D 3.X saw me adding campaign specific prestige classes but leaving the solid core of the game alone.  Once 3.5 hit was released, I ignored its terrible weapon-size rules and continued to use 3.0’s cover and concealment rules.  Nothing too drastic.  In fact, my alterations of 3.X were pretty tame.  Eventually 3.X became a chore to play and prohibitively complex to DM, especially once player characters advanced beyond 7th level.
  3. Castles & Crusades, a retroclone that stripped down 3.X, added some new elements, and borrowed its some flavor from AD&D, allowed for a faster-paced and more flexible D&D-variant.  As soon as I tried the system I realized that I vastly preferred it to the ponderous rules of 3.X.  At the same time, the tinkerer in me felt that the game lacked many options (spells, class abilities, and a simple skill resolution system) that would allow it to easily be used with classic TSR adventures and campaign settings.  So began a 6 year overhaul project that resulted in my creation of AD&D3 Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide.  By the time I was started working on a Monstrous Manual, D&D Next playtests had begun and I realized that WotC was working on a game that would meet my gaming needs.  As such, I shelved the project (UPDATE:  I’ve since updated and completed the AD&D3 rules, including the Monstrous Manual).
  4. D&D 5th edition, so far, has inspired me to work on Greyhawk and update my homebrew campaign world to 5th edition.  Eventually I’d love to work on adding backgrounds, class archetypes, and clerical domains to the game.  For now, I’ve been content to add some houserules, like a spell-less ranger and the half-ogre as an added player race.  I’ll soon be adding more houserules to this blog, including slightly tweaked rules for lighting conditions, an alternate system for tracking wound levels, and new feats.
  5. Finally there’s Pendragon.  Of all of the RPGs that I messed with, I think I’ve had the least luck with Pendragon.  For those who haven’t played it, Pendragon is the RPG of Arthurian Britain.  In it you play British knights fighting against the tide of Saxon, Pictish, and Irish invaders that threaten to wash over the island as its various petty kings fight for supremacy.  Because all players are playing knights, the focus of the game becomes “what kind of knight are you.”  To drive that point home, Pendragon has an inspired system for personality traits and passions that allows them to guide or, sometimes, dictate player’s actions.  Another strength of the game is its focus on legacy-building.  Pendragon is lethal and it is inevitable that player knights will die in combat or due to the ravages of old age (yes, there is a system for dealing with yearly stat loss after you reach age 35).  As such, it is imperative that your character works towards the goal of marrying and begetting an heir (and a male heir at that).  My issues with the game have, largely, arisen out of players learning how to “game the system” and exploit it at the expense of telling a great story.  Certain skills, for example, clearly trump other skills (even though I tried to incorporate all skills into the game), as did certain cultural groups (you don’t EVER want to be a Pict because you are severely gimped at during character creation).  Also, the system’s use of reflexive modifiers (a mounted knight gains a +5 bonus vs a footsoldier who, in turn, would receive a-5 penalty) makes for easily unbalanced combats.  Admittedly, this has a lot to do with my GMing BUT I honestly think that the game needs to be dragged out of the 1980s.  As such, I’ll be posting some ideas on this blog over the coming months.   I hope to get some feedback on these ideas… even if it’s fans crying “heresy!”.

A Spell-less Ranger for 5th Edition – Updated on 9/13/16


Class Options

The PHB presents 12 classes (barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard), each with several archetypes that allow for greater diversity within those classes.  On top of this, character backgrounds grant additional proficiencies, boons, and roleplaying considerations that further distinguish one character from the next.

So why mess with the ranger?

With all of the options presented, a player can easily create countless characters without feeling like their characters are cookie cutter duplicates of one another… even if they create multiple characters with the same class.

The options presented in The Player’s Handbook could easily allow a player to run a spell-less ranger by making a fighter, rogue, or barbarian with the outlander background.  WotC has even provided a spell-less ranger variant for those who feel the need for one  (I guess I’m not the only person who didn’t dig the ranger as presented in the PHB).

Still, as a finicky nerd, I felt the need to come up with my own variant.  To download a PDF copy of this class, click HERE.


Level Proficiency Bonus Features 
1st +2 Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer
2nd +2 Fighting Style, Natural Lore
3rd +2 Hunter’s Instinct, Ranger Archetype
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement
5th +3 Extra Attack
6th +3 Land’s Stride
7th +3 Ranger Archetype feature
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement
9th +4 Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer improvements
10th +4 Hide in Plain Sight
11th +4 Ranger Archetype feature, Extra Attack (2)
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement
13th +5 Call Natural Allies
14th +5 Ability Score Improvement, Vanish
15th +5 Ranger Archetype feature
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement
17th +6 Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer improvements
18th +6 Feral Senses
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement
20th +6 Foe Slayer


As a ranger, you gain the following class features:


Hit Dice: 1d10 per ranger level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 10 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d10 (or 6) + your Constitution modifier per ranger level after 1st


Armor: All armor, shields

Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons

Tools: Herbalism kit

Saving Throws: Strength, Dexterity

Skills: Choose three from Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival


You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) chain mail or (b) leather armor
  • (a) two shortswords or (b) two simple melee weapons
  • (a) a dungeoneer’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • A longbow and a quiver of 20 arrows


Beginning at 1st level, you have significant experience studying, tracking, hunting, and even talking to a certain type of enemy.

Choose a type of favored enemy: aberrations, beasts, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, giants, monstrosities, oozes, plants, or undead. Alternatively, you can select two races of humanoid (such as gnolls and orcs) as favored enemies.

You have advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track your favored enemies, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

When you gain this feature, you also learn one language of your choice that is spoken by your favored enemies, if they speak one at all.

You choose one additional favored enemy, as well as an associated language, at 9th and 17th level. As you gain levels, your choices should reflect the types of monsters you have encountered on your adventures.


You are particularly familiar with one type of natural environment and are adept at traveling and surviving in such regions. Choose one type of favored terrain: arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, or the Underdark. When you make an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to your favored terrain, your proficiency bonus is doubled if you are using a skill that you’re proficient in.

While traveling for an hour or more in your favored terrain, you gain the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
  • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when you are engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), you remain alert to danger.
  • If you are traveling alone, you can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • When you forage, you find twice as much food as you normally would.
  • While tracking other creatures, you also learn their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

You choose additional favored terrain types at 6th and 10th level.

At 6th level and beyond you may render your tracks and those of your allies untraceable while traveling at a normal pace in one of your favored terrains.  Under such conditions you and a number of allies equal to your proficiency bonus + Wisdom modifier cannot be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail.


At 2nd level, you adopt a particular style of fighting as your specialty. Choose one of the following options. You can’t take a Fighting Style option more than once, even if you later get to choose again.

  • Archery: You gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls you make with ranged weapons.
  • Defense: While you are wearing armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.
  • Dueling: When you are wielding a melee weapon in one hand and no other weapons, you gain a +2 bonus to damage rolls with that weapon.
  • Two-Weapon Fighting: When you engage in two-weapon fighting, you can add your ability modifier to the damage of the second attack.


At 2nd level your knowledge of herbalism allows you to gather medicinal herbs when foraging (PHB 183).  During a short rest you can create a number of non-magical herbal salves equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum 1).  These salves must be applied within 24 hours of their creation or they lose their potency.  Application of herbal salves takes 1 minute.  This ability may only be used once per long rest.

At 2nd level your herbal salves can be used to replicate the effects of a Cure Wounds spell when applied to a creature.

At 9th level your salves can be used to replicate the effects of a Lesser Restoration spell when applied to a creature.


At 3rd level, your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make with any two of the following skills:  Animal Handling, Athletics, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, Perception, Stealth, and Survival.

At 10th level you can choose another two skill proficiencies to gain this benefit.


At 3rd level, you choose an archetype that you strive to emulate: Hunter or Beast Master, both detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 7th, 11th, and 15th level.


When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 14th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.


Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.  Starting at 11th level, you can attack three times, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.


Starting at 6th level, moving through nonmagical difficult terrain costs you no extra movement. You can also pass through nonmagical plants without being slowed by them and without taking damage from them if they have thorns, spines, or a similar hazard.  In addition, you have advantage on saving throws against plants that are magically created or manipulated to impede movement, such those created by the Entangle spell.


Starting at 10th level, you can spend 1 minute creating camouflage for yourself. You must have access to fresh mud, dirt, plants, soot, and other naturally occurring materials with which to create your camouflage.

Once you are camouflaged in this way, you can try to hide by pressing yourself up against a solid surface, such as a tree or wall, that is at least as tall and wide as you are. You gain a +10 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks as long as you remain there without moving or taking actions. Once you move or take an action or a reaction, you must camouflage yourself again to gain this benefit.


Starting at 13th level, when you are in an area of your favored terrain, you can call natural creatures from that terrain to fight on your behalf, using your attunement to the natural world to convince them to aid you. The DM chooses beasts appropriate to the terrain to come to your aid from among those that could hear you and that are within 1 mile of you, in one of the following groups:

  • One beast of challenge rating 3 or lower
  • Three beasts of challenge rating 1 or lower
  • Six beasts of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
  • Twelve beasts of challenge rating 1/4 or lower

These beasts approach you from their current location, and will fight alongside you, attacking any creatures that are hostile to you. They are friendly to you and your comrades, and you roll initiative for the called creatures as a group, which takes its own turns. The DM has the creatures’ statistics.

After 1 hour, these beasts return to their previous location. Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again in the same general area for 24 hours, since the same animals will not repeatedly heed your call.


Starting at 14th level, you can use the Hide action as a bonus action on your turn.   Also, you can’t be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail, regardless of terrain or travel pace.


At 18th level, you gain preternatural senses that help you fight creatures you can’t see. When you attack a creature you can’t see, your inability to see it doesn’t impose disadvantage on your attack rolls against it.

You are also aware of the location of any invisible creature within 30 feet of you, provided that the creature isn’t hidden from you and you aren’t blinded or deafened.


At 20th level, you become an unparalleled hunter of your enemies. Once on each of your turns, you can add your Wisdom modifier to the attack roll or the damage roll of an attack you make against one of your favored enemies.  You can choose to use this feature before or after the roll, but before any effects of the roll are applied.


The ideal of the ranger has two classic expressions: the Hunter and the Beast Master.


Emulating the Hunter archetype means accepting your place as a bulwark between civilization and the terrors of the wilderness. As you walk the Hunter’s path, you learn specialized techniques for fighting the threats you face, from rampaging ogres and hordes of orcs to towering giants and terrifying dragons.

Hunter’s Prey

At 3rd level, you gain one of the following features of your choice:

  • Giant Killer: When a Large or larger creature within 5 feet of you hits or misses you with an attack, you can use your reaction to attack that creature immediately after its attack, provided that you can see the creature.  In addition, when fighting Large or larger creatures you may Dodge as a bonus action.
  • Horde Breaker: Once on each of your turns when you make a weapon attack, you can make another attack with the same weapon against a different creature that is within 5 feet of the original target and within range of your weapon.  In addition, when within 5 feet of two or more foes, you may Help an ally as a bonus action.
  • Relentless Harrier: Your tenacity can wear down the most potent foes. When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, the creature takes an extra 2d4 damage if it’s below its hit point maximum.  You can deal this extra damage only once per turn.  At 7th, 11th, and 15th levels, you gain an additional d4 of damage, to a maximum of 5d4 at levels 15 and higher.

Defensive Tactics

At 7th level, you gain one of the following features of your choice:

  • Escape the Horde: Opportunity attacks against you are made with disadvantage.
  • Multiattack Defense: When a creature hits you with an attack, you gain a +4 bonus to AC against all subsequent attacks made by that creature for the rest of the turn.
  • Steel Will: You have advantage on saving throws against being frightened.


At 11th level, you gain one of the following features of your choice:

  • Volley: You can use your action to make a ranged attack against any number of creatures within 10 feet of a point you can see within your weapon’s range. You must have ammunition for each target, as normal, and you make a separate attack roll for each target.
  • Whirlwind Attack: You can use your action to make a melee attack against any number of creatures within 5 feet of you, with a separate attack roll for each target.

Superior Hunter’s Defense

At 15th level, you gain one of the following features of your choice:

  • Evasion: You can nimbly dodge out of the way of certain area effects, such as a red dragon’s fiery breath or a lightning bolt spell. When you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you instead take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, and only half damage if you fail.
  • Stand Against the Tide: When a hostile creature misses you with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to force that creature to repeat the same attack against another creature (other than itself) of your choice.
  • Uncanny Dodge: When an attacker that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to halve the attack’s damage against you.

Beast Master

The Beast Master archetype embodies a friendship between the civilized races and the beasts of the world. United in focus, beast and ranger work as one to fight the monstrous foes that threaten civilization and the wilderness alike. Emulating the Beast Master archetype means committing yourself to this ideal, working in partnership with an animal as its companion and friend.

Ranger’s Companion

At 3rd level, you gain a beast companion that accompanies you on your adventures and is trained to fight alongside you. Choose a beast that is no larger than Medium and that has a challenge rating of ¼ or lower (appendix D presents statistics for the hawk, mastiff, and panther as examples). Add your proficiency bonus to the beast’s AC, attack rolls, and damage rolls, as well as to any saving throws and skills it is proficient in. Its hit point maximum equals its normal maximum or four times your ranger level, whichever is higher.

The beast obeys your commands as best as it can. It takes its turn on your initiative, though it doesn’t take an action unless you command it to. On your turn, you can verbally command the beast where to move (no action required by you). You can use your bonus action to verbally  command it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action.

While traveling through your favored terrain with only the beast, you can move stealthily at a normal pace. If the beast dies, you can obtain another one by spending 8 hours magically bonding with another beast that isn’t hostile to you, either the same type of beast as before or a different one.

Exceptional Training

Beginning at 7th level, on any of your turns when your beast companion doesn’t attack, you can command the beast to take the Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action on its turn with no action required by you.

Bestial Fury

Starting at 11th level, your beast companion can make two attacks when you command it to use the Attack action.


Beginning at 15th level, your beast companion shares the Hunter’s Instinct and Land Stride abilities with you, so long as you are within 1 mile of it.

The Half-Ogre for 5th Edition D&D

The Half-Ogre

When an ogre mates with a human, hobgoblin, bugbear, or orc, the result is always a half-ogre. (Ogres don’t mate with dwarves, halflings, or elves. They eat them.)

The Half-Ogre

Monstrous Heritage
Human mothers rarely survive the birth of a half-ogre offspring. The half-ogre offspring of an ogre and an orc is also called an ogrillon. An adult half-ogre or ogrillon stands 8 feet tall and weighs 450 pounds on average.
Skin color and hair color is variable but tends to be brown, grayish, black, dull yellow (skin only) or one of the above with a slight grey-green hue. Overall, half-ogres have swarthy, dull complexions with dark, lank hair. Most half-ogres have human-like eyes, though about 20% have the white pupils common to ogrekind.

Tenacious Outcasts
Half-ogres, though generally outcasts among humans and feared for their ugliness and size, can find some acceptance among ogres. Half-ogres in an ogre band need to prove themselves constantly to their larger kin, however. For this reason, half-ogres found among an ogre band are cruel, violent, and strong; weaker half-ogres usually wind up in the stew pot.
Most half-ogres found among full-blooded ogres are leaders of the ogre band or are at least well on their way to becoming leaders. Long years suffering the harsh treatment of their kin help half-ogres develop a sense of cunning and a strong will to survive. Therefore, ogres under the leadership of a half-ogre fight more effectively, even engaging in planned ambushes and complicated tactics that are beyond most ogres.

Mixed Blessings
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to being a half-ogre. On the positive side, their Large size allows half-ogres to use heavy or versatile weapons one-handed without penalty. Luckily, protective rings, bracers, and amulets may be used by the race, despite their size.

On the negative side, half-ogres are cursed with evil dispositions, prone to sullenness and bouts of rage.  Even when this is not the case half-ogre characters are viewed with fear and suspicion by most civilized folk they come upon. Furthermore, the cost of specially sized armor and clothing required by half-ogres is high, four times the norm for Medium-sized creature, and weight is twice normal. They are also too big to ride anything but a huge horse or an elephant, neither of which is readily available or of low cost.

When struck by any weapon designed to slay humans or giants, half-ogres are considered to be of either race.  Rangers attacking ogres gain the benefits of the favored enemy class ability if they have chosen either humans or giants as favored enemies. The giant killer ability also includes half-ogres as viable targets.

Half-Ogre Names
Half-ogres usually have names appropriate to the culture in which they were raised. Half-ogres raised among ogres typically adopt ogrish or giant names.
Male Names: Durnar, Freki, Gniall, Gragmr, Holg, Magri, Surdrim, Thrum, Urg, Wuld
Female Names: Alda, Denir, Eldra, Helgi, Murren, Ogra, Riasa, Sagrid, Ulle

Half-Ogre Traits
As a half-ogre, you have the following racial traits.
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Age. Half-ogres have lifespans a little shorter than humans. They generally reach maturity at 15 years of age, and live for about 70 years on the average.
Alignment. Half-ogres inherit a tendency toward chaos from their ogre parents, but, like their human parents, they favor neither good nor evil. Half-ogres raised among ogres and willing to live out their lives with them, however, are usually evil.
Menacing. You gain proficiency in the Intimidation skill.
Size. Half-ogres are taller than humans or half-orcs, but not as tall as pure-blood ogres. Half-ogres stand almost eight feet tall and weigh around 450 pounds, making you a Large creature.  You can use wield oversized weapons that deal double the normal dice of  damage on a hit, but cost four times the normal price. Armor must also be made especially for half-ogres, at a cost of four times the normal price.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision. Adapted to nocturnal pursuits, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Languages. You can speak Common and Giant; while the ability to read and write is relatively common among  adventurers raised in civilized lands, half-ogres who grow up among their ogre kin are rarely literate.

To download a PDF versions of this, click HERE.

Human & Demihuman Options for a 5th Edition Greyhawk Game

Now that I’m running a 5th edition classic Greyhawk campaign I’m trying to stir some AD&D flavor into 5th edition… without unbalancing or over-complicating things.  Between the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Elemental Evil Player’s Companion  there are a total of  12 official races and 11 subraces to choose from :  aarakocra, aasimar, dragonborn, dwarves (hill and mountain), elves (dark, eladrin, high, and wood), genasi, gnomes (deep, forest and rock), goliaths, halflings (lightfoot and stout), half-elves, half-orcs, humans, and tieflings.

One easy way to run a 5th edition game that feels a bit more like old-school AD&D is to limit the racial choices permitted at my table while adding new subraces and a new race (the half-ogre) to the mix.

Races that don’t make the cut:   Aarakocra, aasimar, deep gnomes, dragonborn, drow, eladrin, tieflings, genasi, and goliaths.  While I have a soft-spot for planar races (aasimar, eladrin, tieflings, and genasi), I’d save them for Planescape.  Drow do exist in Greyhawk but are reclusive, villainous schemers that are seldom seen above ground.  They are best reserved for NPC foes for the PCs.



Humans must be from one of the classic Greyhawk cultural groups: Baklunish, Flannae, Oeridian, Suloise. I’d probably allow Rhennee characters as well since I may integrate Ravenloft into my campaign.

Baklunish, Flan, Oeridian, Olman, Rhenee, and Suliose humans



Dwarven characters have no new options in Greyhawk; they must be either hill or mountain dwarves. While duergar do exist, they are a malevolent and largely unknown subrace in Pre-Wars Greyhawk.



As noted above, elven players characters may not choose to be drow but have three new subraces to choose from:  Grey elves (faeries), Valley elves, and Wild elves (grugach).  Both Valley and Wild elves would be exceedingly rare as player characters due to their outlook towards other races:

Grey Elves: These elves are the most noble of elves, and the most aloof. They are of higher intellectual capabilities than other elves, and tend to be taller than high elves. They live in isolated mountain strongholds, and rarely allow access to outsiders. They have silver hair and amber eyes, or gold hair and violet eyes, and wear clothes of white, silver, yellow and gold, and usually wear regally colored cloaks. Those with gold hair are generally called faeries. They worship the standard elven pantheon and are played as high elves, except that they may replace the standard elven ability score increase to Dexterity with a +1 increase and increase their Intelligence score by 2.

Valley Elves: Valley elves are thought to be an offshoot of the gray elves and have all of the powers and abilities of that subrace, but speak the gnomish language as a  starting language.  Valley elves are unusually tall, some of them growing to the height of humans, with hair color of silver or gold and eyes of amber and violet. They are shunned by other elven sub-races, who do not consider them “true elves” but are greeted with goodwill by gnomes.  The name of valley elves is derived from the Valley of the Mage, where the sub-race is headquartered in the WORLD OF GREYHAWK™ Fantasy Game Setting. They are played as high elves, except that their extra language must be Gnomish.  Valley elves are distrustful of outsiders, to the point of xenophobia. Valley elves are despised by all other elven subraces, including the drow.  The reason for such antipathy is uncertain, but some have speculated that it was because they sold their loyalty to a powerful master in exchange for extraplanar knowledge. Despite their xenophobia, valley elves work closely with the gnomes and humans of the Vale of the Mage to be in defense of their mutual home. Most needs of the valley elves are provided by the Mage of the Valley. Foraging makes up for the rest.

Wild Elves: Wild elves, or grugach, are the most reclusive of all the elves; xenophobic towards all other races including other elves. The wild elves, who are found in the depths of the Phostwood, pride themselves on their isolation and skill at keeping hidden. Their skin tends to be brown and they have similar colored hair which lightens with age. They are played as wood elves but gain proficiency with spears in place of longsword proficiency.



Surface and deep gnomes use the Gnome Traits presented in The Player’s Handbook on pages 36-7. Use the subraces below for Greyhawk gnomes:

Surface Gnomes: Surface gnomes, also called rock gnomes, normally dwell in shallow cave complexes close to the surface. Gnome villages can be hard to find, as they blend with nature and even artificial structures are often constructed to resemble trees, rocks, or hills. Though naturally a hill-dwelling folk, orcish and goblinoid threats have driven many gnomes into the plains of human-dominated lands where they seek help to reestablish their old heartlands. Many, too, co-exist with elves in the woodlands; where the elves are active in working with human interests, so are the gnomes. Surface gnomes often share living space with dwarves, and are a brave, tough folk who are loyal to their neighbors and fight side by side with them. While they are not particularly fond of water, surface gnomes are more willing than dwarves are to live in such areas, and gnomes have even been reported dwelling in bubbles of air in undersea caverns. Gnomes have also been reported in the arctic and in places with mild volcanic activity. The traits and abilities for surface gnomes are:

  • Ability Score Increase: Your Constitution score increases by 1.
  • Gnomish Combat Training: You have proficiency with the warpick and warhammer.
  • Speak with Small Beasts: Through sounds and gestures, you can communicate simple ideas with Small or smaller beasts. Surface gnomes love animals and often keep squirrels, badgers, rabbits, moles, woodpeckers, and other creatures as beloved pets.
  • Stonecunning: Whenever you make an Intelligence (History) check related to the origin of stonework, you are considered proficient in the History skill and add double your proficiency bonus to the check, instead of your normal proficiency bonus.

Deep Gnomes: In the dark below earth, svirfneblin protect their enclaves, keeping their small communities safe from the terrors of the lightless depths. Serious creatures, these gnomes vary greatly from their surface cousins by choosing to live in the shadowy depths and protect the world above from the foul creatures sharing their chambers, vaults, and tunnels. Svirfneblin closely resemble their rock gnome cousins; they are slightly thinner than rock gnomes, though just as strong. Male svirfneblin have little or no hair, while females have thin, stringy hair typically worn no longer than shoulder length. Their skin is the color of rock, typically gray or brown. Their eyes are always some shade of gray. They are stunted and gnarled creatures averaging three to three-and-a-half feet in height. They gain the typical Gnome Traits, though they make speak Undercommon in place of Common and tend towards neutral alignment.  Use the Elemental Evil Players Companion rules for deep gnome player characters.


Both lightfoot and stout halflings are played as described in The Player’s Handbook. Tallfellow halflings may also be played in the Greyhawk setting.

Tallfellows: Taller, thinner, and fairer than their halfling cousins, it is rumored that elven blood runs in the veins of tallfellows. Tallfellow halflings are on good terms with elvenkind and often build their communities within woodland havens. They are played as lightfoot halflings but replace the Naturally Stealthy ability of lightfoots with the Mask of the Wild ability of wood elves.


Half-elves are played as described in The Player’s Handbook.


Half-orcs are played as described in The Player’s Handbook, except that some (10% chance) pass for humans.

Coming soon:  The Half-ogre

AD&D 3rd Edition

On the advice of my fellow geek, Steve, I’ve decided to start up my blog once more… and use it to discuss the design and development of my pet project:

AD&D 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook
AD&D 3rd Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide
AD&D 3rd Edition Monstrous Manual

For those unfamiliar with my labor of love, here’s a quick explanation. AD&D 3 is my attempt to mesh the best elements of AD&D, Castles & Crusades and 5th edition D&D into a cohesive, relatively rules-lite package.

Within the pages of AD&D 3rd Edition you’ll find the 7 player character races (humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and half-orcs) common to AD&D, Castles & Crusades and D&D 3.X, as well as 11 character classes taken from AD&D and Castles & Crusades. The 4 core classes are the cleric, fighter, magic-user and thief. The cleric has 2 subclasses; the bard and the druid. Fighters have 3 subclasses; the barbarian, paladin, and ranger (I eliminated the cavalier due to its overlap with the fighter class). The magic-user has no subclasses, but I’ve included rules for specialist wizards such as illusionists and evokers.  The assassin is a subclass of thief. Monks serve as an optional, 5th, core class.

Mechanically AD&D3 is a d20 lite game, drawing its inspiration from the SRD, 5th edition, and Troll Lord Games’ excellent Castles & Crusades.

I’ll use this blog as a design journal; where I’ll go into further detail about AD&D3… describing my design choices and the reasoning behind those choices, providing rule updates as I tweak the rule pdfs, and wondering aloud as to what rules I’ll muck with next.