House rules for the Vanished Lands

Proposed D20/OGL retro-clone/rules-light Player Character options for the “Vanished Lands” fantasy campaign, late summer 2012:

  • Describe your character’s appearance, heritage, foibles, training, and motivation
  • Roll ability scores, arrange, and record bonuses ( Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game , p. 4)
  • Choose a race, and write down resulting modifiers and abilities (“BFRPG” core, p. 5; see also below)
  • Choose a class, and write down abilities (core p. 7 and below)
  • Pick backgrounds and skills (see optional rules)
  • Check derived stats, such as movement, saves, and skill adjustments (see below)
  • Purchase equipment or select bundle
  • Check Armor Class, weapons, spells
  • Go back, check homeland, carnival role, goals, name
  • Consult with party on complications, guest stars

Basic Attributes:

  • Elf: Alvari (Sylvan/Wood), Quelanthi (High/Grey), Grugach (Wild)
  • Dwarf: Dverge (Hill), Khaz (Mountain), River (Sundered)
  • Gnome: Forest (Surface), Rock (Hill), Tinker (Mad)
  • Halfling: Faldine (Tallfellow), Harfoot (Hobbit), Woldan (Warrow/Stoor)
  • Human: Hifalendorin (proto-Western European), Saganim (proto-Celtic), Shengtese (East Asian), Skaevingol (Scandinavian/Slavic), Suthern (Middle Eastern), Tsucharim (Mongol), Zarendo Islander (East African)
  • Humanoids: Catfolk, Centaur, Faun/Satyr, Wolfen, etc. (in consultation with Game Master)

Age (by maturity, max, +/- 20 yrs.; and apparent human age, if relevant):

  • Elves (45, 350)
  • Dwarves (40, 250)
  • Gnomes (50, 300)
  • Halflings (30, 120)
  • Humans (16, 80)
  • Humanoids (15, 60)

Height, weight (by racial averages, +/- 6 in., +/- 20 lbs.):

  • Elves (5 ft., 120 lbs.)
  • Dwarves (4 ft., 150 lbs.)
  • Gnomes (2 ft., 50 lbs.)
  • Halflings (3 ft., 65 lbs.)
  • Humans (5 ft. 6 in., 145 lbs.)
  • Humanoids (6 ft., 170 lbs.), Modron (3 to 6 ft., ~130 lbs.)

Alignment (with tendencies): Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, or Chaotic Neutral


  • Cleric: and Druid, Monk, Paladin
  • Fighter: and Barbarian, Cavalier, Ranger
  • Rogue: and Acrobat, Assassin, Bard
  • Wizard: and Specialist (e.g. Illusionist), Sorcerer
  • Experience Level: 1

The entire party can expect to level up every four to six sessions. P.C.s should have downtime between adventures for rest, training. Mid- to higher-level characters need to get involved with the setting, whether through guilds, strongholds, or other contacts/organizations. Don’t forget party themes!

After some discussion, we decided to stay with advancing the entire party at once. Sure, the different occupational classes hit their “sweet spots” at different points (unlike D&D4e), and I would like to reward individual contributions.

On the other hand, I don’t want to penalize Beruk or Jason too much for missing occasional sessions, and it’s easier to scale encounters and treasure for an entire party. I will think about more tailored rewards and am open to suggestions.

Abilities (roll 4d6, drop the lowest, witnessed, can rearrange; “BFRPG” order: Str, Int, Wis, Dex, Con, Cha; and racial modifiers):

  • Strength (to hit, damage for hand-to-hand, Fighter prime requisite; x10 = max. load)
  • Dexterity (bonus to ranged hit, Reflex save; prime for Thieves)
  • Constitution (bonus to Hit Dice, Fortitude save)
  • Intelligence (bonus = no. of bonus languages besides native and Hifalendorin [western Common], prime for Magic Users)
  • Wisdom (bonus to Willpower save; prime for Clerics)
  • Charisma (bonus to reaction, followers; Bard, Sorcerer prime)

Racial bonuses (revised):

  • Dwarf: +2 Con, -1 Cha
  • Elf: +2 Dex, -1 Con (Half-Elf: -1 Str, +1 Dex)
  • Gnome: -2 Str, +2 Dex, +1 Cha
  • Halfling: -1 Str, +2 Dex
  • Human: +2 to any one stat at creation
  • Humanoid: +2 / -2 (Gnoll: +2 Str and Con, -2 Int and Cha; Modron: +1 Con and +1 Int, and -1 Dex or -1 Wis)

Adjustments — as follows (Score, Penalty/Bonus):

  • 3: -3
  • 4-5: -2
  • 6-8: -1
  • 9-12: 0
  • 13-15: +1
  • 16-17: +2
  • 18: +3

Derived statistics:

  • Languages known: Hifalendorin (western human common), native:
  • Movement (“BFRPG” core, p. 38):
  • Carrying capacity (light, heavy; p. 36):

Armor Class (“BFRPG,” p. 10):

  • None: 11 (Monks, but they get Lvl. bonus)
  • Padded: 12 (max for arcane spellcasters)
  • Leather or hide: 13 (max for Thieves)
  • Studded leather or ring mail: 14
  • Chain or banded: 15 (-1 on all endurance-related saves on up)
  • Scale or splint: 16 (-1 on all Dex checks and Reflex saves)
  • Plate-mail: 17 (-2 on all Dex checks and Reflex saves)
  • Full plate: 18 (rare; -3 on all Dex checks and Reflex saves)
  • Shield: +1
  • Shield, large: +2 (but -2 on all Dex checks and Reflex saves)

Base Attack Bonus: See “BFRPG” core rules, p. 47

  • Melee (Str):
  • Missiles (Dex):

Combat: Roll high on 1d20 to hit vs. ascending Armor Class, modified by Str, Dex, and level (different from many retro-clones). Damage is based on weapon modified by Str. P.C.s unconscious at 0 Hit Points, dead at negative Con. Healing is at 1 HP + Con bonus per day, plus divine or arcane aid.

Hit Points (and current, other effects): Start with maximum for class

  • Wounds (death at -Con):

Saving Throws: Modified by abilities and experience level. Classes grant bonuses for relevant checks.

  • Reflex (Dex):
  • Fortitude (Con):
  • Will (Wis):

Lvl., Bonus A, Bonus B

  • 1-2 — 2 - 0
  • 3-4 — 1 - +1
  • 5-6 — 0 — +2
  • 7-9 — +1 — +3
  • 10-11 — +2 — +4
  • 12-13 — +3 — +5
  • 14-15 — +4 — +6
  • 16-17 — +5 — +7
  • 18-19 — +6 — +8
  • 20+ — +7 — +9
  • Cleric: Reflex A, Fort A, Will B
  • Fighter: Reflex A, Fort B, Will A
  • Magic User: Reflex A, Fort A, Will B
  • Thief: Reflex B, Fort A, Will A

I’ve used different critical hit/fumble systems over the years, and we can again if people are interested. Here’s one proposed set:

Critical hits: On a natural 20 on a D20, double the damage. If it’s a natural 20 on a called shot and the damage is sufficient, it could result in a sundering, disarming, or slaying.

Critical fumbles: On a natural 1 on a 1d20 attack roll. To confirm, use one of the following two methods:

  • Simple result: As with the [D&D3.x] multiplier for critical hits, roll a second 1d20 after rolling a natural 1. If another natural 1 is rolled, roll 1d20 for the result on the table below.
  • Additional roll: Roll again against the opponent’s Armor Class, including all normal attack bonuses. If the attack misses again, see the table below for the result, where the difference between the second attack roll and the defender’s Armor Class is the number of the result.
  1. Swing and a miss: Simple miss, no penalties.
  2. Butterfingers: Drop random item from possessions.
  3. Flat-footed for one round (no Dex bonus to AC).
  4. Barf: Sickened (hit in the ’nads), -2 attacks, damage, and saves for one round. (Fortitude save, Difficulty Class 15 to negate).
  5. Here, use mine: Opponent can try to disarm.
  6. Slam dancing: Bump into friend, make Balance check DC 12 or both lose next attacks.
  7. Get out of my way: Spoil closest ally’s next attack (Reflex save to avoid).
  8. With friends like these… Distract nearest friendly spellcaster (concentration check to negate).
  9. Ouch: Pull a muscle, -2 to attacks until treated.
  10. What monsters? I don’t see any monsters! Armor/gear slips, -2 to attacks and Armor Class until straightened out (Move action).
  11. Capes, foiled again! Entangled: Need to spend a standard action to get out.
  12. Wide open: Opponents get an Attack of Opportunity.
  13. Slip slidin’ away: Off-balance, miss next-round action (Reflex save to negate).
  14. Oof: Knocked back one hex (five feet, provoke AO).
  15. Disarmed: Drop weapon; will need to spend an action (and possibly provoke an AO) to retrieve.
  16. On your ass: Prone; you can spend an action next round getting up (provoke an A) at +4 when doing so).
  17. Shattered: Weapon saves to avoid breaking (magical bonuses apply; see rules for Sunder and Breakage)
  18. Boot to the head: Hit self (Fortitude save or be stunned for one round).
  19. Friendly fire: Hit friend (save to negate damage).
  20. You’re your own worst enemy: Hit self (save for half damage).

Possible spell fumble table [originally proposed by Atilla C./“Duartbell”]

  • Spell fizzles (slot lost for the day).
  • Spell takes effect but at half potency (damage, range, area effected, duration).
  • Spell has unexpected effect (see “Dungeon Crawl Classics”).
  • Spell confuses the character, he keeps thinking, “What the hell I was gonna say?” lose one round.
  • Exaggerates gestures to the level he loses balance (Dex/Reflex).
  • Spell causes tremor in the area.
  • Spell hits caster or friend.
  • Spell takes effect a diffrerent spot than intended, you roll randomly and see how far it falls. — etc.

For noncombat situations, critical hits and fumbles should be opportunities for player control of the narrative. Here’s some old-school art for inspiration.

Racial abilities: Such as dark vision, extra movement, etc.

Class abilities: New and optional, by class (all others are ability checks)


  • Comprehend languages or magic: +1 to one per level
  • Sing to cast as a Mage/Sorcerer or Cleric/Druid of -1 Level (get cantrips/orisons; must pick arcane or divine focus at creation)
  • Use Thief skills at -1 Lvl.


  • Gets orisons/0-level spells
  • Turning (p. : Do we want to include a positive energy burst? It would be something like 1d6 x Lvl. to heal foes or harm Undead within 30 ft., with a save.


  • Favored foe or terrain: Pick +1 to Hit or +1 Survival every even level
  • Tracking at +1 per odd level
  • Stealth: See Thief

Thief: +1 to all at Lvl. 1, +1 to any two skills each level

  • Acrobatics (Dex; climb, tumble)
  • Disable devices (Int; locks/traps)
  • Search (Wis; perception, listen/spot)
  • Sleight of hand (Dex; pick pockets)
  • Stealth (Dex; hide/move silently, sneak attack for +4 to hit, x2 damage)

Magic User: Gets cantrips/0-level spells

  • Mage-Warlock: As per pact-based spellcasters from Dungeon Crawl Classics

Monk/Battledancer/Capoeirista: Josh, we’ll have to work this out. Let me know if you want to swap out abilities from the “Great Way Adept.”

Paladin: Casts and turns as a Cleric -1 level.

Spells (“BFRPG” core, p. 16; by level, provide page citations):

  • Level 0 (cantrips/orisons):
  • Level 1:

Backgrounds/skills (nonadventuring trade or nonweapon proficiencies):
In general, I’ve shifted a bit from oD&D’s idiosyncratic subsystems such as initiative (now 1d20 plus Dex mod) or Thief abilities in the direction of more typical D20 rolls plus modifiers for abilities, race, class, and level.

However, I’ve also tried to stay away from the granularity of D&D3.x and later editions. We shouldn’t have to wrangle points for dozens of skills, feats, and powers.

Most skill checks — like staying in the saddle while a horse is fording a river, trying to identify a particular creature, or swinging on a rope while in combat — should be straight 1d20 rolls, modified by ability adjustments. I’ve also considered updating Turning/Healing, but since we don’t have a straight Cleric, it’s not urgent.

If something falls within your Player Character’s area of expertise — such as a Thief searching an area, a Bard trying to fast-talk someone, or a Mage identifying a scroll — you should apply the relevant class bonuses or just remind me.

By the same token, if you’re a bowyer/fletcher, it’s safe to assume that you can create and salvage arrows during downtime, or if you’re a cook/brewer, you can prepare decent meals for the party. Of course, P.C.s will need the proper equipment to do so.

For now, each P.C. starts with one background profession and one circus role. I’ll probably grant more nonweapon proficiencies every four levels, based on your characters’ developing interests. It’s better to be creative and describe what you’re trying to do rather than spend a lot of time looking for rules justifications.

  • Foibles:
  • Circus roles:

Equipment (by location, weight): Starting packages by class; silver/gold standard.

  • Clothing:
  • Class tools:
  • Other gear:
  • Rations:
  • On steed: none yet
  • Magic items: Relatively rare, compared with later D&D editions.
  • Armor (see also AC):
  • Melee weapons (see BAB, above):
  • Ranged weapons (and ammunition, ranges):


  • Copper pieces:
  • Silver pieces:
  • Electrum pieces:
  • Gold pieces:
  • Platinum pieces: 0
  • Gems (number, g.p. value): 0

Steed: none yet
Followers, strongholds: none yet


  • Nationality / homeland /home town
  • Family/mentors:
  • Description (mannerisms, image links, etc.):
  • Motivations:
  • Hobbies:

Here’s a belated table of contents to each binder I’m giving out in preparation for my “Vanished Lands” heroic fantasy campaign:
Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game rules

  • Core rules (2nd Ed., Release 75, 2008-2011) — ability scores, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, human, Cleric, Fighter, Magic User (Wizard), Thief (Rogue), gear, spell lists, adventuring, the encounter (combat), basic index
  • Spell descriptions
  • Charts and tables
  • Optional rules: Alignment (which we’ll be using)
  • New races (see Canein and Gnoll for Sara’s Ranger, Half-Elf for Bruce’s Bard)
  • Quasi-Classes (including the following below)
    • Ranger, also under “Fighter subclasses” and “Rangers and Paladins,” for Sara’s Gnoll
    • Bard for Bruce’s Half-Elf
    • Druid for Rich’s Dwarf
    • Great Way Adept for Josh’s Monk (to be modified)
    • Illusionist and Sorcerer, for alternate Mages for Beruk and Jason
  • Background skills, backgrounds, and specialties (which we’ll also use)
    • Secondary skills (probably too granular/D20)
  • Equipment packs, Equipment Emporium (includes Equipment Packs 2; note that I have a few more class and gear options in “Sword & Board”)
  • 0-Level Spells (cantrips/orisons, which spellcasters can use), additional spells, Magic User options
  • Combat options, quick character generation

“Vanished Lands” setting tab

  • Maps of the subcontinent and regions
  • More handouts to come next week.


  • blank Player Character record sheets

Sessions (updates to come, plus your own notes)
Notes (could include conversions from other fantasy RPGs)

House rules for the Vanished Lands

Vanished Lands GeneD5