Almaric's Tale - House Rules

This is the most current version of the house rules that I use for the group and one-on-one games I run using ACKS.

They are a mixture - some are of my own invention, others are shamelessly stolen from from people way more talented and creative than me, all are OPTIONAL. Some are designed purely to aid in one-on-one games, others to take the sting out of acclimatising the 3.x+ D&D softies to life (and death) in a real game!

They are presented here for your amusement and delight. Feel free to use/abuse/ignore them as you will…

Almaric’s Tale - House Rules

Stats: 4d6 for each stat drop the lowest roll. You can trade stat points on a 2 for 1 basis. You may arrange stats in any order.

Hit Points: All characters that have the Adventuring proficiency get maximum hit points for the Hit Die they receive at 1st level (1d4=4, 1d6=6, 1d8=8). Note that 0th level is not 1st level. All Hit Die are re-rolled each level, but you can never have less HP than you did previously.

Encumbrance: Add your STR bonus to your 40’, 30’, & 20’ encumbrance limits.

Missile Attacks: Your DEX modifier applies to damage rolls with missile and thrown weapons (no, not holy water, naptha, or similar “weapons”).

Critical Hits: If your attack throw is a natural 20, it is automatically a hit. If it would have been a hit even without the “natural 20’s always hit” rule, then it is a critical hit that inflicts maximum damage. Only the weapon’s (or spell’s, if the spell requires an attack throw) normal damage die is maximized, not damage dice from backstabs, the ambush or weapon focus proficiencies, magic items, etc.

A combatant may move at any time during their own initiative phase - either before or after they have attacked (melee or missile) or cast a spell - however, the defensive movement rules for ‘engaged’ combatants still apply.

A combatant may split their movement allowance during a round so long as their initial ‘move’ was at least 10’.

Defensive Fighting: All characters (using a medium or large melee weapon) can fight defensively, gaining +2 bonus to AC but -4 to attack rolls. The intention to do so must be stated prior to start of the round. Those fighting defensively automatically lose initiative.

‘Shields shall be splintered’: Any time a PC is about to take damage and has a shield equipped, he may choose to sacrifice the shield in order to avoid incurring the wound. The shield is sundered by the blow and destroyed, but the PC takes no damage. In the case of spells that allow a saving throw for half damage, this rule may be invoked if the save against the spell is failed. Doing so successfully reduces the damage by half. If the saving throw is successful, the shield can be sacrificed to avoid taking the half-damage. In the case of magical shields, invoking this rule means that the PC takes no damage from the blow but the shield loses one “plus” from its enchantment.

Two-Handed Weapons: To offset the popularity of the ‘Shields shall be splintered’ rule and give folks a reason to not equip a shield - all wielders of two-handed (melee) weapons roll their damage twice and take the highest result.

Helmets: Helmets are opt-in rather than opt-out. Adjusted armour costs and AC below:
Leather Armour: 10gp, AC 1
Ring Mail or Scale Armour: 20gp, AC 2
Chain Mail: 30gp, AC 3
Banded Plate or Lamellar Armour: 40gp, AC 4
Plate Armour: 50gp, AC 5
Shield: 10gp, +1 AC
Light Helmet: 10gp, +1 AC
Heavy Helmet: 30gp, +1 AC, +2 on d20 roll on Mortal Wounds table, -1 surprise, -4 hear noise

Hammer: 1d6 single handed weapon, can be thrown.
Warhammer: 1d8 two handed weapon, cannot be thrown.

Poison: Standard “save or die” poison, such as poisoned potions or the bite or sting of a venomous monster, function as follows: If you fail your CON save, you are incapacitated (unable to communicate or take any actions) for 1d6 turns, after which you die. Poisoned weapons, poisoned needles hidden in locks, and similar mechanical devices do not deliver a sufficient dose to be reliably fatal like that, and have lesser effects as described in the poison section of the ACKS rulebook (pg 249).

Oil: For clarity, oil (common) will be referred to as “lamp oil” and oil (military) will be referred to as “naptha”.

Death: Characters do not die at 0 hit points,they become unconscious (and subject to the ‘Mortal Wounds’ rules in ACKS). They die at negative Con.

First Aid: After a combat, any PC with the Healing proficiency may spend one turn administering “first aid” to themselves or an injured ally, healing 1d4hp of damage sustained (regardless of his ranks in Healing). This requires 1 bandage per use and can only heal wounds suffered in that combat, not any previous ones - e.g. the PC starts combat on 10 out of 12 hp, takes 3 damage in the combat but rolls a ‘4’ for his first aid - he only gets 3 back, not 4 since this would count as healing his earlier wound. Bandages cost 1sp each and 20 weigh 1/6 stone.

Drugs work: Alchemy shops in the Known Lands carry many things that have magic-like effects. Here are a few items that might prove useful:
Healing salve: Heals 1d2hp per application, may only be applied once per day. A small pot of two applications costs 20gp.
Second chance: This nasty tasting elixir, once ingested, will restore a fallen character to 1hp as long as they have not hit the -CON death mark yet. The side effect of this concoction is STR, CON and DEX are halved for 2 days after ingestion. If an additional dose of the elixir is consumed during the side effect period the character will reduce to -2hp immediately. The side effect can be negated with cure poison. The cost is 75gp for a single dose.

Poultice of Healing: (50gp) This is a creamy, salve-like poultice that is applied directly to a wound. It heals 3-6(1d4+2) points of damage and prevents scarring. Such a poultice is only effective on an individual once every 24 hours. A second application is only half as effective (round fractions down), and further applications have no effect whatsoever, until 24 hours has passed.

Anti-Venom, Weak: (25gp) Imbibing this fluid within one round of poisoning allows the poisoned victim an immediate second saving throw against that poison.

Anti-Venom, Strong: (200gp) Imbibing this fluid within one round allows the victim an immediate saving throw at +4.

Purging Remedy: (100gp) Imbibing this foul herbal concoction within 24 hours of contraction of a disease thoroughly and noisily flushes out the victim’s system (which may be inconvenient in certain circumstances), giving them an immediate saving throw against the disease with a +2 bonus.

Veritus Charm: (500gp) This holy charm, if worn openly around the neck, allows the target of level and ability draining attacks (that wouldn’t normally allow a save) a saving throw at -2 against the effect.

Saving Throws: We are using the following ability-score-based saving throws. Your ability modifier for that ability score applies to each save, and you gain a +1 bonus to save against effects generated by magical wands, staffs, or rods.

CON save resists poison, disease, necromantic effects, instant death effects, and anything else that targets your health directly (this throw’s value is as per the ACKS Poison & Death save for the class).
STR save resists wrestling, webs, nets, and anything that attempts to physically bind, restrain, or otherwise, immobilize you, and which is not something that would be resisted by a CON save (as ACKS Petrification & Paralysis save).
DEX save resists area effect attacks and similar hazards that you can dodge out of the way of, but which don’t have to make attack throws to hit you and which aren’t effects that would otherwise be resisted with a CON or STR save (as ACKS Blast & Breath save).
WIS saves resist mind-affecting effects, transformations such as polymorph and petrification effects, and any other magical effect that isn’t covered by one of the other saves (as ACKS Spells save).

Hold Person: When a spellcaster gains Hold Person or a similar spell, he must declare whether it is a physical effect (STR save) or mental effect (WIS save). Once chosen, this cannot be changed except by re-learning the spell.

Arcane Lore: All characters who cast arcane spells start with Detect Magic and Read Magic in their repertoire. These spells are free and do not take up repertoire slots, however, they still take a 1st level slot to cast.

Bonus Spells: Caster characters gain a bonus spell per day for a high attribute modifier. If they have a +1, they can cast one additional first level spell a day. If they have a +2, they can also cast an additional second level spell per day (once they can cast second level spells). If they have a +3, they can also cast an additional third level spell per day once they have access to third level spells.

Identifying Magic Items: You can identify items roughly with Loremastery or Magical Engineering.

To identify the plus of weapons, armour, or protective gear, you will learn it if used in combat and the modifier makes a difference (I.e. you roll one less than you’d normally need to hit but are using a +1 sword, you will know it’s at least +1). Outside of the dungeon, a week of sparring and practice using the item will eventually reveal it’s modifier.

To identify a command word, any character capable of casting Detect Magic can perform a two week ritual that will reveal MOST command words and charges remaining. This ritual costs 500 gp and requires the character throw 11+ on a d20, adding their caster level (if not performed by a PC, you must also pay for the caster’s time). If they fail, they can spend an additional week and 250gp more to continue, gaining a +1 to their next roll. Prospective buyers of charged items will ALWAYS require this service performed by a caster of their choosing, at the seller’s cost, before buying the item.

Casters performing the research are paid 1/4th the Henchmen price per week of research, and no refunds are offered if the ritual fails. In other words, it pays to find a higher level caster to perform the ritual and just eat the higher cost.

Specific Spells:
Haste: Does not age target a year, but leaves them at a -2 to hit, saves, and AC for 3 Turns after use.
Resist Cold/Fire: With these spells you take ½ damage when you take damage from the element, or ¼ if you make a save.

Spells Lost in Combat: If a character is hit before they cast their spell, they can roll 1d6+their level. If it is higher than the damage they suffered, they can continue casting.

Buying Magic Potions & Scrolls: Magic potions cost 100GP x level up to 5th level. Scrolls cost 150GP x level up to 5th level. The chance of buying a particular potion or scroll at 1st level is 95%. It goes down 20% for each level after that (95-75-55-35-15%). These must be rolled at the beginning of the session in the company of the GM or by the GM if playing by EMail.

Making Potions: Spellcasters may craft any spell that they know into its equivalent potion for 50GP x level up to 5th level, assuming they are in a town or city that can provide the ingredients (villages are too small). They may craft 1 potion for the number of spells that they know each day, with the same % chance of the supplies being available as above (i.e. 95-75-55-35-15). This means that on downtime between adventures they may make supplies. These supplies must be rolled at the beginning of the next session in the company of the GM or by the GM if playing by EMail.

Making Mage scrolls: Mages can scribe scrolls from the spells they have in their spellbook (or other access to). The cost is the paper (a single sheet), the ink and time (reflected in the chart below):
Lvl----ink cost----time

Making Cleric scrolls: Clerics can scribe scrolls from their daily endowment of spells, this does remove the spell from that daily endowment. The cost is the paper (a single sheet), the ink and time (reflected in the chart below):
Lvl----ink cost----time
3-----300gp/per–1 and 1/2days

Sizing-up Opponents: Any character with the Adventuring proficiency can usually ‘guesstimate’ how tough any creature or person he encounters is. Roll under the average of INT/WIS on d20, to learn its HD or level to within +/-1.

Hirelings and Henchmen: Hirelings only need to be paid for the delves they accompany you on per daily basis. If you want, you may have dedicated henchmen who will always accompany you. This requires that you pay their upkeep every day, whether you are delving or not. The same costs apply for both as the daily rate.

Languages: Your character speaks the common language of his continent, plus a number of additional languages equal to his INT bonus. Unless his class grants arcane or divine spells, or he has Arcane Dabbling or a similar proficiency that indicates familiarity with magic, then the character must learn all human languages before he can start learning other mortal languages, and must learn all mortal languages before he can start learning the languages of the spirits.

Other Mortal Languages:
Draconic: The language of dragons.
Giantish: The language of giants.

Spirit Languages: Note that it is unknown what language the Celestial spirits speak, since everyone who hears them speak, hears them speaking in his own native language.
Sidhelin: The language of the seelie faeries.
Goblysh: The language of the unseelie faeries.
Infernal: The language of Chthonic spirits.
Janni: The language of the genies.

Dialects: Isolated populations, such as tribes of beastmen living in the wilderness, often speak strange dialects of one of the root languages listed above. When you first encounter an unusual dialect of a language you know, roll d6 and add your INT modifier. On a result of 5+ you can understand and communicate with speakers of that dialect. Otherwise, you cannot. However, after each week spent among those who speak the dialect, you may roll d6 plus your INT modifier again. You gain a +1 bonus to this check if you someone else who can understand both your dialect and the foreign dialect teaching you. If the result is 5+, you have learned to understand and communicate with speakers of that dialect.

Notes on Alignment:
Lawful - Team civilization. Honour your word, defend the frontier and kill bad-guys.
Neutral - Team me & mine. Get the money and protect your crew or kin. Everyone else, watch out.
Chaotic - Team anarchy. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

Law vs. Chaos really isn’t about good and evil. Lawful characters are more likely to do “good” things, and Chaotic ones are very likely to do evil, but these aren’t exclusive. It’s about believing in something bigger than yourself (or not) and giving yourself to that higher cause (or not). Lawful character will defend the Church and their way of life (Knights Templar) but may also get carried away (Inquisition).

Bonus Cards:
We will be playing using ‘OSR Bonus Cards: Fantasy Deck #1, from Small Niche Games, see ( for details.

GM Note:
Only Vampires and Liches drain levels, all other traditional ‘level-draining’ undead only drain STR.

Again, these rules are House Rules and subject to change, even during play.

On Encumbrance. What I’ve found to be much less distorting is to make the bonus equal to the lower of STR or CON bonus. In other words just having a high STR isn’t enough, you need a reasonable CON as well. Since both power and endurance matter for carrying stuff for long periods of time.

It’s nice to see so many of my house rules making it into someone else’s game!

As an aside I have since discarded the caster roll to keep casting after taking damage. We found the only thing sparring a party from fireballs was getting that hit in. Otherwise high level casters kill parties dead.

Good idea!

I had originally thought about just using CON but then opted for STR. The happy medium of lowest between the two seems like a decent compromise.

Thanks for the feedback.

Never a one to turn down pure gold!


The input and interaction from the ACKS community was one of the main factors in my going with the system rather than any of the other OSR-type games out there.

So far the caster concentration thing has been handy but I can see a point coming where I will need to keep some of them from trying to parry with their chin. Sometimes they forget that although they are heroes, they are also very squishy. Luckily, so far we’ve not had a situation where it has raised its head but I can see it may need to be revisited/redressed in the future.

Again, thanks for the comments, they’re much appreciated.

Allowing a roll to continue casting was one of a handful of changes that created “balance” issues with casters in 3.x…

Indeed it was and to mixed effect depending on how you wanted things to pan out. Having to declare actions ahead of time and being locked into a course of action (in my opinion) tends to slow the pace and flow of the game and I prefer my games to play out in a more ‘story-esque’ kind of way.

That said, like all gaming rules (house or otherwise) if they don’t work for you change them or ignore, whatever it takes to keep the game fun. If it’s not fun, then I had better damned well be getting paid for it! :wink:

I’m sure I don’t have them all, but a quick dozen things that expanded spellcaster capability/made non-casters less viable:

  1. Bonus spells per day for Intelligence
  2. The removal of Maximum Spells Known
  3. The removal of % Chance to Know Spell
  4. The massive expansion of the spell list
  5. Tied in to #1, automatic stat growth by leveling
  6. Concentration allowing casting after being hit
  7. The reduction of penalties for high-level spells (i.e. Haste no longer using up a year of life, Wish going from 5 years to 5k xp)
  8. Reduction of memorization times from 15 minutes per spell level to 1 hour for all spells of all levels
  9. Reduction of casting times for a lot of spells
  10. Rationalization of XP tables greatly accelerating the growth rate of high-level wizards compared to other classes
  11. Weakening attacks of opportunity from “fighter gets full round of attacks against anyone disengaging” to “fighter gets one whack at one target disengaging.”
  12. HP inflation making weapon damage a lower percentage chance to kill, while SOD/SOS spells remained mostly viable

The spell list wasn’t expanded in any significant fashion; the 2E Wizard’s Spell Compendium had far more spells than 3E did for a long time. It wasn’t until the end of the edition that 3.5 caught up (which makes sense, given that the 2E Wizard’s Spell Compendium was published at the end of the edition).

I add, however, that Concentration allowing casting after being hit was largely irrelevant. The most important change was Concentration allowing casting without being hit at all (Defensively Casting was a pathetically low DC check, which meant that any wizard worth the name did not provoke opportunity attacks for casting.)

The change also made, that you need to take damage on your initiative count to even have a chance of losing the spell, was the other most important power increase. Because of the mechanics of Ready, it was impossible for a fighter to make his full round of attacks on a mage unless he wanted to give up any chance at disrupting the mage’s spell; if he wanted to disrupt the spell, he could make only a single attack, and that was when the ability to make a Concentration check to retain the spell came in.

In summary, overall, I agree with the idea that adding a check to retain a spell is not going to break wizards all on its own.

True, I was thinking initial core to initial core, and forgot how many spells the 2e PHB had. 1e has 194 spells for magic-users in the PHB. 2e has 312. 3.5 has 371 (I don’t have a 3.0 PHB).

(And yes, I just counted the spells on each book’s list)

The changes to the save structure helped casters at mid-to-high levels too, while weakening them at low levels. Since spell save DCs grow at 1/2 level + high stat and bad base save bonuses grew at 1/3 level + probably-bad stat, a well-chosen spell is more likely to provoke a failed save at high levels in 3.x than in ACKS. Ex: 14th-level ACKS fighter has save vs blast of 7+ (plus 0 on average for mediocre Wisdom), giving a 70% chance of half damage from, say, Chain Lightning. A 14th-level 3.x fighter averages a +1 Dex modifier if ability scores were rolled on 4d6 drop 1 and has a base Reflex save of +4. A 14th-level Wizard in 3.x is liable to have a Intelligence of at least 18 for a +4 modifier to save DCs, and since Chain Lightning is 6th level the save DC is 20. In the absence of magic items, our 3.x fighter thus saves on 15+, and so has a 30% chance of making the save (though he also has ~33 more HP on average from higher HD, max HP at 1st level, and higher average Con - Chain Lightning was chosen for simplicity across versions. The same sort of thing applies to Mass Suggestion or most any other high-level Save-or-Suck spell targeting a weak save).

Adding magic items sort of helps - giving a Cloak of Resistance +4 to the fighter and a Headband of Intellect +4 to the wizard (as I would expect to see on both characters at that level given typical free reign in Ye Olde Magic Item Shop) brings the fighter’s odds up to 40%. Still not great.