5e Options

This page contains optional rules created by publisher other than Wizards of the Coast and is not to be considered “OFFICIAL” or “CORE” rules. The GM should examine these variant rules carefully before deciding to implement them (or not).

The source book this material is taken from is “5th Edition Options” by Total Party Kill Games and is available now in the Open Gaming Store!


Character Options

Every group seems to have their own preferred rules set for use when making characters. One of the most fun aspects of the game is character creation. You roll some dice and a spark of an idea is forged into flesh and steel. The optional rules below are designed to give your games more options for creating great characters.

Random Ability Score Generation Methods

The Grid Method (4d6-L)

Known sometimes as the “Tic Tac Toe” method, the grid method allows you to create very diverse stats, which should feel heroic, but not overly powerful. It creates stats that lend themselves to roleplaying, and are much more diverse than point buy creation.

Draw a 3×3 grid on paper and on the left hand column label the STR, DEX, and CON statistics. Then go across the top row record the INT, WIS, and CHA statistics. Then roll 4d6, dropping the lowest die to generate and record each of the scores in the squares (all nine) row by row.

Choose one rolled score in each row and column, then mark it off. You may not use any chosen roll twice, and you must choose a stat from the appropriate row or column combination.

What this brings to the table is a method that gives slightly above average stats, without being minmaxed.

You get the customization you seek as a player, but luck and priority placement of stats still plays a huge role, inherently balancing the method.

Beware though, you may end up having to take a roll that’s lower in a particular stat because of your choices earlier.

The Dice Pool Method (24d6)

Roll 24 six-sided dice and assign any number of those dice for each of the six stats you wish to generate. You must place at least three dice in each stat. You then roll all the dice, keeping the three highest die rolls for each stat.

For example, if you want a high STR score, you can put 6d6 in it if you like. Your chances of getting a high score are good, but not guaranteed. It is entirely possible that by placing a lowly 3d6 into INT (for instance) that you could still find your character with an 18 INT. You may have only gotten a 16 STR out of 6d6 and now also have an 18 INT.

What to do, what to do… This opens up great avenues for roleplaying. You don’t have to be the “dumb fighter.” You might be a cunning warrior, a multiclass fighter/wizard, or even a tactician.

Sometimes that randomness can be great are create awesome roleplaying opportunities.

Deal With The Devil Method

This dice rolling method offers some risk and reward, gambling stats with the game master. Players roll 4d6, dropping the lowest die. The GM rolls the same dice behind his screen, and the player chooses if he wants his rolled stats or to take the GM’s rolls.

Needless to say, this makes for some very exciting stat rolling, and can help those who roll poorly on their own.

Improved Point Buy

The standard point buy does not allow for stats that go beyond 15. This is because in the standard game, stats raise fairly easily and have a maximum of 20.

This may not be the case in your game. With this optional rule, you can expand your character creation to include stats up to 18, albeit at a greater cost.

In addition, there are different point pools listed to suit the various styles of game play that you may wish to use in your games. A low fantasy game should not have the same measure of ability scores as would an epic fantasy game.

Ability Score Point Cost
8 0
9 1
10 2
11 3
12 4
13 5
14 7
15 9
16 11
17 13
18 15
Campaign Type Points
Low Fantasy 24
Standard Fantasy 27
High Fantasy 30
Epic Fantasy 35

*Standard Fantasy is the default creation set for a typical game.

Alternate Ability Arrays

Differentiating between the level of fantasy in your games means that the standard array does not suit each campaign type. Some GMs may prefer to allow players to have an array of stats, or use these as an alternative for those who roll poorly or are simply unsatisfied with rolling stats in general.

Below are a number of different basic ability score arrays to suit each play style.

Low Fantasy Array

15, 14, 12, 10, 10, 8

Standard Fantasy Array

15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

High Fantasy Array

16, 14, 13, 12, 11, 8

Epic Fantasy Array

16, 15, 14, 12, 12, 8

Class Alternate Ability Score Bonuses
Barbarian +1 Str and Con
Bard +1 Cha and Int
Cleric +1 Wis and Cha
Druid +1 Wis and Con
Fighter +1 Str (or Dex) and Con
Monk +1 Str (or Dex) and Wis
Paladin +1 Str and Wis
Ranger +1 Dex and Wis
Rogue +1 Dex and Cha (or Int)
Sorcerer +1 Con and Cha
Warlock +1 Int and Cha
Wizard +1 Int and Wis
Background Alternate Ability Score Bonuses
Acolyte +1 Wis or Cha
Charlatan +1 Cha or Int
Criminal +1 Dex or Int
Entertainer +1 Int or Cha
Folk Hero +1 Wis or Cha
Guild Artisan +1 Int or Wis
Hermit +1 Con or Wis
Noble +1 Int or Cha
Outlander +1 Con or Wis
Sage +1 Int or Wis
Sailor +1 Con or Wis
Soldier +1 Str or Con
Urchin +1 Dex or Cha

With this variant, PCs generate their ability scores not simply from race, but by class and background as well.

It stands to reason that a character who has been a soldier all their life, or even the past couple years has been changed by the experience. They are stronger, leaner and more enduring. A criminal might be craftier and more lithe, having been shaped by the streets they grew up on.

Each class and background grants an alternate ability score bonus. Use these bonuses instead of the innate racial bonuses, or mix and match them. A class bonus can be substituted for a racial +2, and a background bonus can be substituted for a subrace’s +1 bonus.

Racial Maximums

While 5th Edition does not have negative adjustments on ability scores, some GMs may wish to keep halflings from having a 20 Strength score, or elves from having 20 Constitution. The following scores represent racial maximums. Where most races can have a maximum of 20 in any ability score, the races below have their own maximums in certain ability scores.

Race Maximums
Dwarf Dex 18, Cha 18
Elf Con 18
Halfling Str 18
Dragonborn Int 18
Gnome Str 18
Half-elf Con 18
Half-orc Cha 18
Tiefling Cha 18

Variant Ability Score Improvement

In order to show a greater progression, all characters gain ability score improvement of +1 to a single stat at every even level. If you are using feats, you must forgo two ability score improvements (4th and 8th, etc. to gain a feat).

Variant Sizes

In 5th edition, a character’s size has relatively little effect. To some, this is a boon, and to others it is less realistic. The following rules can be applied to give Small characters some differences from other characters.

Small Characters

  • All Small races have a maximum of 16 on initial Strength scores and a maximum of 18 after character creation.
  • Small characters gain a +1 bonus to AC.
  • Small characters have half the carrying capacity of a Medium creature.

Large Characters

By the same token, some races may allow a player to be Large sized.

  • Large characters may have a maximum Strength and Constitution score of 22.
  • Large characters gain advantage on saves against being pushed, tripped, etc. by creatures that are smaller than themselves.
  • Large creatures have double the carrying capacity of a Medium creature.


Roughly ten percent of the population are lefthanded.

Characters that are left-handed have no mechanical penalties, but in some societies, lefthanded people are frowned upon, or viewed with suspicion.

Performing complex tasks, such as fighting with a weapon or using tool with the “wrong” hand imposes disadvantage on any check involved. Ambidextrous characters do not suffer penalties for using their “wrong” hand for complex tasks.

2d6 Handedness
2 Left
3-11 Right
12 Ambidextrous

Ability Score Proficiency

Most all other dice rolls increase as a character increases in level, but ability checks have always been a weak spot in the game. Incredibly strong characters have difficulty bending bars, and intelligent characters sometimes cannot recall details of knowledge they should have committed to memory.

To combat this, you can allow classes to gain proficiency in ability checks related to their class.

These proficiency bonuses would be added only when a character makes a simple ability check, not a skill check.

Class Ability Score Proficiency
Barbarian Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom
Bard Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma
Cleric Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma
Druid Constitution, Intelligence, and Wisdom
Fighter Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution
Monk Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom
Paladin Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma
Ranger Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom
Rogue Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma
Sorcerer Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma
Warlock Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma
Wizard Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma

Granting Advantage

GMs could instead grant advantage on the above ability score rolls instead of adding your proficiency bonus. This would generate less random rolls, allowing PCs to feel more heroic when making these tests, but not guaranteeing success.

GMs might also simply offer a feat that grants them this option.

Feats At First Level

In other editions and games, feats were more plentiful, and allowed for myriad choices of character customization. In 5th Edition, feats are more powerful, encompassing broad strokes of ability, but are harder to acquire. Some GMs and players alike may wish to allow their PCs feats at first level, as they are accustomed to. However, this optional rule presents some challenges.

Allowing PCs feats at first level presents an increase in power, as feats are much stronger in 5th Edition. Normally, only human characters can gain feats at 1st level, and only through a variant rule that reduces their ability scores.

Below are some options to allow feats at 1st level for other characters:

Option 1: All characters gain a bonus feat at 1st level.

Humans still gain a bonus feat for being human (if that option is used). Note that this is a direct power increase, and you should expect your PCs to handle challenges more easily than normal.

Option 2: All characters gain a bonus feat at first level, but humans gain proficiency in three additional skills at first level instead of their human bonus feat (if you use that option).

This option keeps human PCs from being vastly more powerful, considering that they might already gain a bonus feat for being human. The three bonus skills is essentially a feat, but not one that necessarily relates to combat strength, making it more palatable.

Option 3: Any character can gain a bonus feat at first level, but at the cost of two stat points. With this option, a character must sacrifice two of their attribute point bonuses to gain the bonus feat. Characters can sacrifice their +2 bonus to a stat for their feat or a +1 and +1, as long as the total bonus sacrificed equals +2.

This option is more balanced and works in a similar way to how feat progression works in 5th edition already. Some players may not like losing their initial attribute bonuses, but many feats do provide some small measure of attribute boosts also and are often worth the sacrifice of some ability score points, as they increase with relative ease as you level or take more feats.

Character Flaws

One additional way for players to gain an additional feat is to use flaws. A flaw is a weakness of sorts that the character gains. Characters who choose a flaw should be allowed to gain a feat or increase two of their ability scores by +1 (or one by +2).

Flaws should only be chosen at first level, but some situations could arise where a flaw is granted at a later level. The GM has final say on such matters.

d% Flaw
1-3 Abrasive Personality
4-6 Absent-Minded
7-9 Aggressive
10-12 Animal Animosity
13-15 Aquaphobic
16-18 Asthmatic
19-21 Blatant
22-24 Blind
25-27 Claustrophobic
28-30 Clumsy
31-33 Craven
34-36 Deaf
37-39 Easily Distracted
40-42 Farsighted
43-45 Fear of Heights
46-48 Frail
49-51 Graceless
52-54 Hard of Hearing
55-57 Illiterate
58-60 Loathesome
61-63 Naive
64-66 Nearsighted
67-69 Not the Brightest Torch
70-72 Obese
73-75 Overly Cautious
76-79 Phobia
80-82 Poor Defense
83-85 Puny
86-88 Sickly
89-91 Uneducated
92-94 Unfocused Spellcaster
95-97 Unwise
98-100 Weakness

Abrasive Personality

You are difficult, overbearing and generally crass in social situations, causing others to dislike you.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Persuasion skill checks.


You are frequently preoccupied with random thoughts, and find it difficult to pay attention.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on Initiative and Perception skill checks.


You are hot-headed and brash, eager to rush into combat.

Effect: Opponents gain advantage on their first attack roll against you when you engage them in melee.

Animal Animosity

Animals have a tendency to dislike you.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Handle Animal skill checks. Additionally animals and beasts choose you as a target in preference of other targets (as long as doing so does not put the attackers in some obvious additional risk), and such creatures gain advantage on attack rolls made against you.


You are deathly afraid of water.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Athletics skill checks made to swim and on attack rolls, skill checks, and saving throws made when you are in water that is at least half your height.


Harsh conditions or long exertions overtire you and set you to wheezing.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on any effect that will cause you to gain exhaustion, and any effect with cloud, dust, fog, or smoke in its name. You can hold your breath for only half the normal duration.

Additionally, sleeping in light or heavier armor causes you to gain one level of exhaustion.


You are terrible at being deceptive.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Deception and Stealth checks, as you find it difficult to conceal any aspect of your activities.


You cannot see.

Effect: You permanently have the blinded condition.


You are deathly afraid of being enclosed.

Effect: If you are underground or in an enclosed area (five or less feet), you gain the frightened condition.


You have a difficult time moving over and through obstacles.

Effect: When in difficult terrain or when making a Dexterity save, if you roll a natural 1 or 2 on any d20 check you make (attack, ability or skill check), you fall prone.


You are not brave and frighten easily.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all saves against fear and are frightened for the first round of combat against any creature whose CR is equal to or higher than your character level.


You cannot hear.

Effect: You permanently have the deafened condition.

Easily Distracted

You find it difficult to pay attention.

Effect: You have disadvantage on Perception checks and extended skill checks.


You find it difficult to see things at close range.

Effect: You have difficulty making out details of close objects. You cannot read, and you have disadvantage on Perception checks and ranged attack rolls made for targets 10 feet and closer.

Fear of Heights

If you climb or become more than 15’ elevated, you become very nervous.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all attacks, skill checks and saving throws any time you are climbing, or when you are within 10 feet of a dropoff of 15 feet or more.


You have weak physical health.

Effect: You lose 1 hit point per every Hit Die you possess, starting at 1st level.


You possess no balance or agility.

Effect: Your initial Dexterity ability score is reduced by -3.

Hard of Hearing

Your hearing is greatly impaired.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all hearing-based Perception checks. The GM may decide you suffer disadvantage on other skill checks situationally.


You cannot read.

Effect: You do not begin play knowing how to read any languages. It takes you twice the time and money to ever train yourself to read any languages.


There is something about your manners or looks that people find repulsive.

Effect: Your initial Charisma ability score is reduced by -3.


You lack wisdom and experience, foolishly believing what others speak as truth.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Insight checks to see through deceptions.


You see well close-up, but have difficulty farther away.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on sight-based Perception checks and ranged attacks beyond 10 feet.

Not the Brightest Torch

You are somewhat slow and dim-witted.

Effect: Your initial Intelligence ability score is reduced by -3.


You are large, slow and heavy.

Effect: You weight +50% or more than others of your kind. Armor must be custom made for you, costing twice the normal amount listed. In addition, your movement speed is halved.

Overly Cautious

You are extremely cautious and take great care before making any action.

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on all Initiative checks.


You are terrified of a certain thing or creature type.

Effect: You gain the frightened condition whenever within 30’ of the object of your phobia.

Poor Defense

You are not good at defending yourself.

Effect: You suffer a -1 penalty to AC.


You are noticeably smaller and weaker than most of your race.

Effect: Your initial Strength ability score is reduced by -3.


You are frequently ill and get exerted easily.

Effect: Your initial Constitution ability score is reduced by -3.


You did not have the benefit of a standard education.

Effect: You are illiterate and only have proficiency in one class skill.

Unfocused Spellcaster

You are not good at spellcasting when threatened or distracted.

Prerequisite(s): Caster level 1st

Effect: You suffer disadvantage on concentration checks made to cast a spell or use a spell-like ability when casting on the defensive or when grappled.


You are imprudent and prone to making poor decisions.

Effect: Your initial Wisdom ability score is reduced by -3.


You are less resilient than you should be.

Effect: You always suffer disadvantage against one ability saving throw.

Variant Multiclassing

In 5th edition, multiclassing represents the acquisition of a new pool of talents. These talents and skills are added onto your existing skills and abilities. When you multiclass, you may begin play as a 1st level fighter, but then add one level of rogue, becoming a 2nd level character.

In earlier editions, characters were able to multiclass in a way that was different from the stacking of levels version of multiclassing we are accustomed to today.

This variant multiclassing reproduces that older version.

In this variant, characters have multiple classes, leveling each class separately. The classes do not stack in ability, rather functioning more like two separate characters.

Multiclassing Rules

Choose a maximum of three classes to multiclass. A word of warning however, multiclass characters will initially have slightly more abilities and strengths than a single class character, but they will quickly fall behind in power. This is the price of multiclassing.

You must meet the ability score prerequisites to allow for multiclassing.

Class Ability Score Minimum
Barbarian Strength 13
Bard Charisma 13
Cleric Wisdom 13
Druid Wisdom 13
Fighter Strength or Dexterity 13
Monk Dexterity and Wisdom 13
Paladin Strength and Charisma 13
Ranger Dexterity and Wisdom 13
Rogue Dexterity 13
Sorcerer Charisma 13
Warlock Charisma 13
Wizard Intelligence 13


Your experience chart depends on the number of classes you choose to multiclass. When you reach the appropriate number of XP on your multiclassing chart, you level up in each class.

As you can see, an 8th level single class character would have 34,000 XP. That same character multiclassed with two classes would be 6th/6th and if they had three classes would be 5th/5th/5th. Thanks to 5th edition’s gradual progression, each of those characters would still have a +3 proficiency bonus and be similar in power. The multiclass characters would lag behind in hit points, but have extra abilities to (hopefully) keep them out of harm’s way or recover faster.

Table: Double Class Multiclassing
Level Experience Points
1 0
2 600
3 1,800
4 5,400
5 13,000
6 28,000
7 46,000
8 68,000
9 96,000
10 128,000
11 170,000
12 200,000
13 240,000
14 280,000
15 330,000
16 390,000
17 450,000
18 530,000
19 610,000
20 710,000
Table: Triple Class Multiclassing
Level Experience Points
1 0
2 900
3 2,700
4 8,100
5 19,500
6 42,000
7 69,000
8 102,000
9 144,000
10 192,000
11 225,000
12 300,000
13 360,000
14 420,000
15 495,000
16 585,000
17 675,000
18 795,000
19 915,000
20 1,065,000

Hit Points

Multiclass characters only use one Hit Die. This Hit Die is based on an average of their class dice (rounded down). For example, a fighter/wizard would average a d10 and a d6, using a d8 as their Hit Dice. A ranger/barbarian would average a d12 and a d10, rounding down to a d10. This simplifies Hit Dice, and gives a unified Hit Die for the purposes of spending them, etc.


You only gain the starting equipment for one of your classes.

Saving Throws

Multiclass characters gain the saves of one chosen class, plus one additional save from each other class chosen.

If the saves for additional classes are the same, the character gains no additional benefit.

Level Based Bonuses

Your proficiency bonus is based on your character level, not your combined levels. A triple multiclassed character of 5th/5th/5th is a 5th level character, not a 15th.


Multiclassing has advantages and drawbacks. When you choose to multiclass, you sacrifice the full spectrum of ability of a class in order to gain a handful of abilities from other classes as well. Your lack of specialization means you have more abilities, but will never be as good as a single class character. Each multiclass only gains some of the class’s normal abilities. You do not gain all the abilities of one class as with normal multiclassing. Refer to the abilities below.

Class Proficiencies Gained
Barbarian Shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Bard Light armor, one musical instrument of your choice
Cleric Light armor, medium armor, shields
Druid Light armor, medium armor, shields (druids will not wear armor or use shields made of metal)
Fighter Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Monk Simple weapons, shortswords
Paladin Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Ranger Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, martial weapons
Rogue Light armor, thieves’ tools
Warlock Light armor, simple weapons


When creating a multiclass character, you gain a number of skills equal to the starting number of one of your classes. Each other class grants one additional skill from their skill list.

Extra Attacks

You only gain a number of extra attacks equal to those gained from the class that grants you the best number of extra attacks. They do not stack.

Unarmored Defense

If you gain Unarmored Defense from another class, you may choose one of the abilities to use. You may use either, but they do not stack.


All spellcasting abilities are tracked separately. In addition, multiclass spellcasters gain one less spell slot per level than normal. If this would reduce your number of slots to zero, you cannot cast these spells yet.

Additional Restrictions

As the GM, you may choose to impose some restrictions on the class combinations allowed.

Humans might only be able to multiclass with two classes, or perhaps they multiclass as listed in the Player’s Handbook. Elves might be restricted to fighter/wizard or fighter/wizard/rogue as per some older editions.

Multiclassing After First Level

If a character wishes to multiclass after first level, it is often better to simply use the rules presented in the Player’s Handbook.

Variant XP Progressions

Some GMs may feel that the pace of character advancement is too fast. Below we present a few different options for the various styles of play.

In Low Fantasy, characters progress much more slowly, taking twice as long to advance per level. In Standard Fantasy (or Heroic Fantasy), use the default advancement. For a faster and more epic game, use the Epic Fantasy progression chart, which levels at about 33% faster.

Table: Low Fantasy Advancement
Level Experience Points
1 0
2 600
3 1,800
4 5,400
5 13,000
6 28,000
7 46,000
8 68,000
9 96,000
10 128,000
11 170,000
12 200,000
13 240,000
14 280,000
15 330,000
16 390,000
17 450,000
18 530,000
19 610,000
20 710,000
Table: Epic Fantasy Advancement
Level Experience Points
1 0
2 200
3 600
4 1,800
5 4,300
6 9,200
7 15,400
8 22,800
9 32,000
10 42,800
11 57,000
12 67,000
13 80,000
14 94,000
15 110,000
16 130,000
17 150,000
18 177,000
19 204,000
20 237,000

Ability Score Increases By Level, Not Class

By the core rules, ability score increases are gained at nearly each increment of four levels of class progression, not necessarily at each fourth level progressed. This puts multiclass characters at somewhat of a disadvantage and isn’t as intuitive to players of previous editions. Optionally, GMs can use the following charts to award ability score increases (and feats). Notably, the fighter and rogue have different advancement, and thus gain their bonus ability score increases as listed on their class advancement chart.

Table: Level-based Ability Score Increases
Level Benefit
4th Ability Score Increase
8th Ability Score Increase
12th Ability Score Increase
16th Ability Score Increase
19th Ability Score Increase
Table: Fighter Bonus Ability Score Increases
Level Benefit
6th Bonus Ability Score Increase
14th Bonus Ability Score Increase

Rogue Bonus Ability Score Increases:

Level Benefit
10th Bonus Ability Score Increase

Character Wealth At Higher Levels

Some GMs may wish to allow characters to begin play at higher levels and have an amount of wealth based on their previous encounters. See the chart below for a more even “per level” wealth advancement.

Level Wealth Equipment Limitations
1st Starting Wealth Starting Equipment, Common Items
2nd 200 gp Common Items
3rd 300 gp Common Items
4th 400 gp Common Items
5th 500 gp Common Items
6th 550 gp Common Items
7th 700 gp Uncommon Items
8th 850 gp Uncommon Items
9th 1000 gp Uncommon Items
10th 2000 gp Uncommon Items
11th 4000 gp Uncommon Items
12th 6000 gp Uncommon Items
13th 8000 gp Uncommon Items
14th 10,000 gp Uncommon Items
15th 12,000 gp Uncommon Items
16th 15,000 gp Uncommon Items
17th 18,000 gp Rare Items
18th 21,000 gp Rare Items
19th 24,000 gp Rare Items
20th 28,000 gp Rare Items

GMs can easily adjudicate Sword and Sorcery versus Epic Fantasy as well. Assume the above chart represents Standard Fantasy. Subtract four levels from a PC’s level to determine their effective level for wealth in Sword and Sorcery or Low Fantasy and add four levels for High Fantasy.

Better Saving Throws

While some classes should certainly be better at some saves than others, some GMs may wish to show the benefit of experience in the results of saving throws. In previous editions, even your poor saves increased marginally as you progressed in levels.

At the GM’s option, PCs can add half your proficiency modifier to non-proficient saves. Note that if you use this rule, allow it for monsters and NPCs as well.

Variant Skill Advancement

Some GMs and players will be remiss that their characters do not learn new skills as they advance in levels. You may always take the Skilled feat, but we provide some additional options here to make progression more linear.

At levels 5, 10, 15 and 20, characters automatically gain proficiency in one additional weapon, tool, language or skill. This gradual increase of skills will make characters slightly more powerful, but it also allows for a better customization and shows character growth.

Stats As Skills

With this option, at each 4th level, when a character gains their ability score improvement they may optionally choose to gain only a +1 bonus to a stat and also gain proficiency in any one weapon, skill, language or tool. They may expend both ability score improvements in this fashion if they desire.

Automatic Successes

While ‘Taking 10 and 20’ don’t really exist in the core game, 5e still has passive scores for some skills such as Perception and Investigation. It’s not that far of a stretch to create passive scores for all of your skills by simply adding 10 to your total modifiers. If the GM calls for a skill check and the DC is equal to or lower than 10 plus your skill modifier, this can be counted as an automatic success. If there is a significant danger or element of failure, then the GM may require a roll regardless.

For example, a rogue with a Stealth of +7 wants to sneak past some guards. The guards have a passive Perception of 12. The rogue has an automatic Stealth of 17. It’s reasonable to allow the rogue to sneak by without rolling. If he was to attempt to steal a key off one of the guards, then that might not be allowed, since that carries significant risk.

No Skills

While more skills might be the right option for some GMs, less or even none at all might be the answer for others. With this variant, all skills are simply ability score checks. You gain proficiency in ability score checks based on your class. If you attempt to do something, the GM decides which ability score it relates to, and if it’s one of your class abilities you gain proficiency on the roll.

Class Ability Score Proficiency
Barbarian Strength, Constitution, and Wisdom
Bard Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma
Cleric Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma
Druid Constitution, Intelligence, and Wisdom
Fighter Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution
Monk Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom
Paladin Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma
Ranger Strength, Dexterity, and Wisdom
Rogue Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma
Sorcerer Constitution, Wisdom, and Charisma
Warlock Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma
Wizard Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma

Variant Skill List

Some GMs and players may find 5e’s existing skill list too simplistic or small for their liking. The variation below allows for more depth and customization, and works well with the extra skills options. Note that some of these skills are intentionally broad and may have uses that apply with different ability scores. It is up to the GM what ability score you can use in a given situation.

Below are also optional rules for use with the skills in general and are not limited to this variant.


Athletics (Climbing Walls, Jumping, Swimming)


Acrobatics (Balancing, Contorting, Juggling, Tumbling)

Thievery (Disable Device, Escape Artist, Pick Locks, Stealth, Stealing, Tailing)


Athletics (Running)


Arcana (Aberration Lore, Construct Lore, Dragon Lore, Magical Beast Lore, Planar Lore, Spellcraft, Spellcasting, Use Magic Device)

History (Military History, Noble Lineages, Nobility Lore, Racial History)

Linguistics* (Decipher Script, Speak Language)

Science* (Alchemy, Engineering, Technology, Astronomy)


Heal* (Anatomy, First Aid, Medicine, Surgery)

Nature (Animal Lore, Dungeoneering, Fey Lore, Geography, Handle Animal, Monstrous Humanoids Lore, Plant Lore, Ride, Survival, Vermin Lore)

Perception (Find Traps, Hear Noise, Investigation, Sense Motive, Spot, Tracking)

Religion (Demon Lore, Devil Lore, Dogma, Gods, Mythic History, Portents, Spirit Lore, Undead Lore)

Society (Local Culture, City Lore, Nation Lore, Racial Lore, Profession)


Deception (Bluff, Disguise, Imitate, Feint, Forgery, Gambling, Seduction)

Diplomacy (Court Lore, Haggling, Negotiation, Politics)

Intimidation (Blackmail, Interrogation, Threatening)

Performance* (By Instrument)

*Skills marked with an asterisk suffer disadvantage when used without training.

Training Skills

The initial skills for classes can seem a little limiting at times. Your character concept might not fit so well pidgeon-holed into two skill proficiency choices and the backgrounds might not necessarily do the trick either. Your GM may choose to allow skill training, like any other proficiency.

With this variant, you can spend the 250 days and 250 (or more) gold pieces to secure training in a proficiency of your choice. You can use this to gain a weapon proficiency or skill proficiency. While some GMs may scoff at the idea of allowing characters to gain skills in this fashion, 250 days is a considerably long time in most campaigns. They may choose to add additional complexities or roleplaying to the training as well, like owing a favor the elves of the high forest for their teaching of Survival, etc.

Expertise As Advantage

As written, expertise allows a character to add his proficiency bonus twice to a skill. This generally increases your potential roll and increases your maximum skill check potential.

With this variant, expertise does not add twice your proficiency bonus to the skill check, instead it grants advantage. Granting advantage allows for a more realistic sense of skill mastery, being more reliable at a skill. Note, however, that while using this variant will increase your overall odds of success, it will reduce your maximum DC potential.

Language Limits

As a variant rule, GMs can cap the number of languages a character may speak equal to one plus their Intelligence modifier. This generally allows characters to know their initial languages and have the ability to gain a few more during gameplay, but limits them from learning ten or more languages.

This option makes languages more rare, and thus more flavorful. Players will need to make choices about which languages they learn and that may add to the roleplaying experience.

Player Concealed Checks

Some PC rolls may be better served if they are rolled by the GM, and not the PC in question. Use this option when the PC needs to make a check where the result of their check should not be readily apparent.

They might think that their action is successful, but won’t know for sure.

Use the following chart to determine the level of success the PC assumes to be true.

Degree of Success Assumed Success
Natural 20 Assured Success!
Success by +5 or more Likely
Success Unsure
Failure Unsure
Failure by -5 or more Incorrect Success
Fumble Assured Success!

When describing the results of the PC’s actions, refer to the chart above.

Assured Success! Right or wrong, the PC is 100% certain of their level of success.

Likely The PC feels relatively good about their actions and has a general feel for the outcome.

Unsure The PC isn’t sure about their results. They may have succeeded, but they may also have failed.

Incorrect Success The PC believes they have succeeded, but has failed instead.

Skills Defined

You might have noticed that skills are incredibly fast and loose in 5th edition. The intention is that the GM has a lot more room to adjudicate what is right for their game. However, some may also find this freedom a little confusing. Below we have fleshed out the skills to some additional degree and provide options for that skill’s use.


Your Dexterity (Acrobatics) check covers your attempts to stay on your feet in a tricky situation, such as when you’re trying to run across a sheet of ice, balance on a tightrope, or stay upright on a rocking ship’s deck. The GM might also call for a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to see if you can perform acrobatic stunts, including dives, rolls, somersaults, and flips.

Conditions Roll/DC Modifier
Light Obstructions (gravel, sand) DC 12
Severe Obstructions (cavern, rubble) DC 15
Slippery Disadvantage
Slope/Incline/Unsteady DC 15
Severely Unsteady (earthquake) DC 20

Diving Into Water: You can use the Acrobatics skill to safely dive into water without taking damage. You can safely dive into water from a height equal to twice your Acrobatics check. The difference in your check becomes your falling height and calculates your falling damage (if any).

Escape Bonds: Your training and flexibility in Acrobatics allows you to slip bonds and escape from grapples.

Action Acrobatics DC
Escape Rope/Binding Opposed vs. Survival
Escape Net/Entanglement DC 20
Move Through Tight Space DC 20
Escape Manacles DC 25
Escape Grapple Opposed vs. Strength

By suffering disadvantage on your Acrobatics skill check to escape bonds, you can do so without being noticed. A GM may also decide that this is a complex skill challenge.

Kip Up: You can get back to your feet by doing a flip back onto your feet. With a successful Acrobatics check (DC 20), you stand up from a prone position as a bonus action and do not spend extra movement to stand.

Maintain Balance: You can use Acrobatics to move on narrow surfaces and uneven ground without falling. A successful check allows you to move at half speed across such surfaces. If you take damage while using Acrobatics, you must immediately make another Acrobatics check at the same DC to avoid falling or being knocked prone. A balancing pole (8 sp, 10 lbs.) grants advantage on the balance check.

Table: Balance DCs to Cross Narrow Surfaces
Width Difficulty
1–3 feet wide DC 5 (Easy)
7–11 inches wide DC 10 (Moderate)
2–6 inches wide DC 15 (Hard)
Less than 2 inches wide DC 20 (Difficult)

Move through an Enemy Square: you can move through an enemy square by using Acrobatics with an opposed Acrobatics vs. Dexterity check. When moving in this way, you move at half speed. If you do not succeed in your Acrobatics check, your movement for the round ends in front of the enemy’s square and you do not pass through. Your GM may subject you to an opportunity attack instead of ending your movement.

Roll with Fall: When you deliberately fall any distance, even as a result of a missed jump, a DC 15 Acrobatics skill check allows you to ignore the first 10 feet fallen. You become prone if you take damage from a fall. At DC 25 you can ignore 20 feet of falling damage.

Animal Handling

When there is any question whether you can calm down a domesticated animal, keep a mount from getting spooked, or intuit an animal’s intentions, the GM might call for a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.

You also make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check to control your mount when you attempt a risky maneuver.

Control Mount in Battle: In place of your own movement, you can attempt to control a light horse, pony, heavy horse, or other mount not trained for combat riding while in battle with a DC 20 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. If you fail the Animal Handling check, you can do nothing else in that round. You do not need to roll for horses or ponies trained for combat.

Fast Mount or Dismount: You can attempt to mount or dismount from a mount of up to one size category larger than yourself as a bonus action by making a Dexterity (Animal Handling) skill check. If you fail the Animal Handling check, mounting or dismounting takes an action. You can’t use fast mount or dismount on a mount more than one size category larger than yourself.

Guide Mount with Knees: You can guide your mount with your knees so you can use both hands in combat. Make a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check at the start of your turn. If you fail, you can use only one hand this round because you need to use the other to control your mount. This does not take an action.

Mounted Leap: You can get your mount to leap obstacles as part of its movement with a DC 15 Widsom (Animal Handling) skill check. If the Animal Handling check to make the leap succeeds, make a jump check using your mount’s Athletics skill or your Animal Handling, whichever is lower, to see how far the creature can jump. If you fail your Animal Handling check, you fall off the mount when it leaps and take the appropriate falling damage (at least 1d6 points). This usage does not take an action but is part of the mount’s movement.

Placate Beast: If you have a tasty morsel or other treat, you can silence an angry beast or convince it to leave you alone. You can attempt to influence a beast’s mood by giving the creature a day’s worth of edible food appropriate to its diet and making an DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. If the check succeeds, the beast ignores you to devour the food. If you exceed the DC by 10, the target will regard you as friendly the next time it encounters you. Failure results in you provoking an opportunity attack from the creature and you cannot try again against the same target for 24 hours. This skill works only against creatures of the beast creature types.

Spur Mount: You can spur your mount to greater speed as a bonus action with a DC 15 Wisdom (Animal Handling) skill check. A successful Animal Handling check increases the mount’s speed by 10 feet for 1 round but deals 1d3 points of damage to the creature. You can use this ability every round, but the mount becomes fatigued after a number of rounds equal to its Constitution score. This ability cannot be used on a fatigued mount.

Stay Mounted: You can react instantly to try to avoid falling when your mount rears or bolts unexpectedly or when you take damage with a DC 10 Dexterity (Animal Handling) skill check. This usage does not take an action.

Study Beast: Animals rely on relatively simple tactics and maneuvers in combat, allowing you to get a handle on their plans with a close study of their actions and bearing. You may make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check against an animal as an action. The DC of this check equals the creature’s passive Deception (10 + Deception bonus). If the check succeeds, you know one of the creature’s abilities or gain either a +1 bonus on attacks or Armor Class against the creature as you learn to anticipate its actions in combat. If you fail, you cannot try again against the same creature type for 24 hours.

Use Mount as Cover: You can react instantly to drop down and hang alongside your mount, using it as cover with a DC 15 Dexterity (Animal Handling) skill check. You can’t attack or cast spells while using your mount as cover. If you fail your Animal Handling check, you don’t get the cover benefit. Using this option is a reaction, but recovering from this position is a bonus action (no check required).

Teach an Animal a Trick: You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Animal Handling check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

The following tricks can be taught to animals by training the animal for a week and making a successful Handle Animal skill check against the listed DC.

Aid (DC 15): The animal can use the Help action to aid a specific ally in combat. You may point to a particular creature that you wish the animal to aid, and it will comply if able. The animals aid grants advantage on the roll if applicable.

Attack (DC 15): The animal attacks apparent enemies. You may point to a particular creature that you wish the animal to attack, and it will comply if able. Normally, an animal will attack only humanoids, giants, or other animals. Teaching an animal to attack all creatures (including such unnatural creatures as undead and aberrations) counts as two tricks.

Bombard (DC 25): A flying animal can deliver projectiles on command, attempting to drop a specified item that it can carry (often alchemist’s fire or some other incendiary) on a designated point or opponent. The animal cannot throw the object, and must be able to fly directly over the target.

Break Out (DC 20): On command, the animal attempts to break or gnaw through any bars or bindings restricting itself, its handler, or a person indicated by the handler. If not effective on its own, this trick can grant the target character advantage on skill or ability checks to escape bonds. The animal can also take certain basic actions like lifting a latch or bringing its master an unattended key. Weight and Strength restrictions still apply, and pickpocketing a key or picking any sort of lock is still far beyond the animal’s ability.

Bury (DC 15): An animal with this trick can be instructed to bury an object in its possession. The animal normally seeks a secluded place to bury its object. An animal with both bury and fetch can be instructed to fetch an item it has buried.

Come (DC 15): The animal comes to you, even if it normally would not do so.

Defend (DC 20): The animal defends you (or is ready to defend you if no threat is present), even without any command being given. Alternatively, you can command the animal to defend a specific other character. When defending you, it can cause one attack per round against an adjacent creature that attacks you to be made with disadvantage.

Deliver (DC 15): The animal takes an object (one you or an ally gives it, or that it recovers with the fetch trick) to a place or person you indicate. If you indicate a place, the animal drops the item and returns to you. If you indicate a person, the animal stays adjacent to the person until the item is taken.

Detect (DC 25): The animal is trained to seek out the smells of explosives and poisons, unusual noises or echoes, air currents, and other common elements signifying potential dangers or secret passages. When commanded, the animal uses its Perception skill to try to pinpoint the source of anything that strikes it as unusual about a room or location and goes on point. Note that because the animal is not intelligent, any number of strange mechanisms, doors, scents, or unfamiliar objects may catch the animal’s attention.

Down (DC 15): The animal breaks off from combat or otherwise backs down. An animal that doesn’t know this trick continues to fight until it must flee (due to injury, a fear effect, or the like) or its opponent is defeated.

Entertain (DC 25): The animal can dance, sing, or perform some other impressive and enjoyable trick to entertain those around it. At the command of its owner, the animal can make a Charisma (Performance) check to show off its talent. Willing onlookers or those who fail an opposed Insight check suffer disadvantage on Perception checks to notice anything but the animal entertaining them. Tricksters and con artists often teach their animals to perform this trick while they pickpocket viewers or sneak about unnoticed.

Exclusive (DC 20): The animal takes directions only from the handler who taught it this trick. If an animal has both the exclusive and serve tricks, it takes directions only from the handler that taught it the exclusive trick and those creatures indicated by the trainer’s serve command. An animal with the exclusive trick does not take trick commands from others even if it is friendly or helpful toward them (such as through the result of an animal friendship spell), though this does not prevent it from being controlled by other enchantment spells (such as dominate animal), and the animal still otherwise acts as a friendly or helpful creature when applicable.

Fetch (DC 15): The animal goes and gets something. If you do not point out a specific item, the animal fetches some random object.

Flank (DC 20): You can instruct an animal to attack a foe you point to and always attempt to be adjacent to (and threatening) that foe. If you or an ally is also threatening the foe, the animal attempts to flank the foe, if possible. It always takes opportunity attacks when possible. The animal must know the attack trick before it can learn this trick.

Flee (DC 20): The animal attempts to run away or hide as best it can, returning only when its handler commands it to do so. Until such a command is received, the animal does its best to track its handler and any creatures with him or her, remaining hidden but within range of its sight or hearing. This trick is particularly useful for thieves and adventurers in that it allows the animal to evade capture, then return later to help free its friends.

Get Help (DC 20): With this trick, a trainer can designate a number of creatures up to the animal’s Intelligence score as “help.” When the command is given, the animal attempts to find one of those people and bring her back to the handler, even if that means journeying a long distance to the last place it encountered the target creature.

Guard (DC 20): The animal stays in place and prevents others from approaching. It makes threatening noise when it detects the approach of others it is not familiar with.

Heel (DC 15): The animal follows you closely, even to places where it normally wouldn’t go.

Hunt (DC 20): This trick allows an animal to use its natural stalking or foraging instincts to find food and return it to the animal’s handler. An animal with this trick may attempt Wisdom (Survival) checks to provide food for others or lead them to water and shelter. An animal with this trick may use the Help action to assist Survival checks made by its handler for these purposes.

Perform (DC 15): The animal performs a variety of simple tricks, such as sitting up, rolling over, roaring or barking, and so on.

Maneuver (DC 20): The animal is trained to use a specific combat maneuver on command. An animal must know the attack trick before it can be taught the maneuver trick, and it only performs maneuvers against targets it would normally attack. This trick can be taught to an animal multiple times. Each time it is taught, the animal can be commanded to use a different combat maneuver.

Menace (DC 20): A menacing animal attempts to keep a creature you indicate from moving. It does its best to intimidate the target, but only attacks if the target attempts to move from its present location or take any significant action (particularly a hostile-seeming one). As soon as the target stops moving, the animal ceases attacking, but continues to menace.

Seek (DC 15): The animal moves into an area and looks around for anything that is obviously alive or animate.

Serve (DC 15): An animal with this trick willingly takes orders from a creature you designate. If the creature you tell the animal to serve knows what tricks the animal has, it can instruct the animal to perform these tricks using your Animal Handling bonus on the check instead of its own. The animal treats the designated ally as friendly. An animal can unlearn this trick with 1 week of training. This trick can be taught to an animal multiple times. Each time it is taught, the animal can serve an additional creature you designate.

Sneak (DC 15): The animal can be ordered to make Stealth checks in order to stay hidden and to continue using Stealth even when circumstances or its natural instincts would normally cause it to abandon secrecy.

Stay (DC 15): The animal stays in place, waiting for you to return. It does not challenge other creatures that come by, though it still defends itself if it needs to.

Track (DC 20): The animal tracks the scent presented to it. (This requires the animal to have the scent ability)

Throw Rider (DC 15): The animal can attempt to fling a creature riding it to the ground. Treat this as a trip combat maneuver that applies to all creatures riding the animal, and that does not provoke opportunity attacks. An animal that knows the throw rider and exclusive tricks can be instructed to attempt to automatically throw anyone other than its trainer who attempts to ride it.

Watch (DC 15): The animal can be commanded to keep watch over a particular area, such as a campsite, and raise an alarm if it notices any sizable or dangerous creature entering the area.

Work (DC 15): The animal pulls or pushes a medium or heavy load. You can attempt to push an animal to perform a trick that it does not know, but the skill attempt is made with disadvantage. The GM may not allow the roll at all if the attempt is too unrealistic.


Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes.

Identify a Spell or Spell Effect: You can identify a spell effect that is in a fixed location with an Intelligence (Arcana) check of DC 15 + spell level. If you are not proficient with the Arcana skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use. If you are proficient with the Arcana skill and see the components used, you gain advantage on this skill use.

You can identify a magic item with an Intelligence (Arcana) check depending on the rarity of the item. If you are not proficient with Arcana, you suffer disadvantage on this skill use.

Rarity Arcana DC
Common DC 5
Uncommon DC 10
Rare DC 15
Very Rare DC 20
Legendary DC 25

On a failed roll, the character must wait at least 24 hours before attempting a new Arcana check to identify the item.

Identify Magical Materials: You can identify materials manufactured by magic with an Intelligence (Arcana) check of DC 15 + spell level. If you are not proficient with the Arcana skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use.

Planar Lore: You can recall general lore about the planes of existence with an Intelligence (Arcana) check DC 15. If you are not proficient with the Arcana skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use.

Identify Supernatural Creature: You can identify aberrations, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, monstrosities, oozes and undead with a DC of 15 + their challenge rating. If you are not proficient with the Arcana skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that creature. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Analyze Magic Trap: After you (or an ally within 30 feet) discover a magic trap using the Perception skill or by other means, you can attempt to determine the exact nature of the trap using detect magic and the Arcana skill. The DC of this check equals 20 + the trap’s challenge rating. If you succeed, you know what spell the trap triggers. If the trap triggers more than one spell, check separately for each one. This knowledge grants you no advantage for disarming the trap, but it does tell you what to expect should the trap go off. If you are not proficient with the Arcana skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use.

Determine Spellcaster Power: Observing an opponent cast a spell or use a spell-like ability in action, you can, as a reaction, with a successful Arcana check, identify the opponent’s caster level and the highest spell level they can cast with a DC 20 skill check. If the spellcaster uses a feat or special class ability, that too can be identified with a successful Arcana check DC 20.


Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping, or swimming. Examples include the following activities:

Jumping: You can use the Athletics skill to make jumps. You can make a long jump with a number of feet equal to your skill check. You can make a high jump equal to your skill check result divided by four.

Creatures with greater than 30’ movement gain advantage on any running jump check.

Pole Use: If you use a pole as part of an Athletics jump check you gain advantage on the check (but must drop the pole).

Faster Base Movement: Creatures with a base land speed above 30 feet have advantage on Acrobatics checks. Creatures with a base land speed below 30 feet suffer disadvantage on Acrobatics checks made to jump. No jump can allow you to exceed your maximum movement for the round.

Climbing: With a successful Athletics check, you can advance up, down, or across a slope, wall, or other steep incline (or even across a ceiling, provided it has handholds) at half your normal speed. A slope is considered to be any incline at an angle measuring less than 60 degrees; a wall is any incline at an angle measuring 60 degrees or more. A climb check that fails 5 or less means that you make no progress, and one that fails by more than 5 means that you fall from whatever height you have already attained. The DC of the check depends on the conditions of the climb.

Compare the task with those on the following table to determine an appropriate DC.

You need both hands free to climb, but you may cling to a wall with one hand while you cast a spell or take some other action that requires only one hand. While climbing, you can’t move to avoid a blow, so opponents have advantage on their attacks against you. You also do not gain the benefits of a shield while climbing. Anytime you take damage while climbing, make an Athletics check against the DC of the slope or wall. Failure means you fall from your current height and sustain the appropriate falling damage.

If you can brace yourself against another wall or surface, you gain advantage on the check. If any of the surfaces are slippery (from rain, greased, etc.) the checks are made with disadvantage. You can also climb at full speed by making the Athletics check with disadvantage. The use of pitons (or a climber’s kit) grants advantage.

Climb DC Example
5 (Easy) Climb a knotted rope
10 (Moderate) Very rough wall or ship’s rigging
15 (Hard) Rough natural wall or tree
20 (Difficult) Typical dungeon wall
25 (Very Difficult) Typical building, natural wall
30 (Impossible) Ceiling, smooth wall

Catch Yourself When Falling: It’s incredibly difficult to catch yourself while falling. Make an Athletics check with a DC equal to the climb DC at disadvantage to do so.

Catch a Falling Character While Climbing: If someone climbing above you or adjacent to you falls, you can attempt to catch the falling character if he or she is within your reach. Doing so requires a successful Athletics check DC 20 (possibly more or less by circumstance). If successful, you must immediately attempt a climb check equal to the climb DC. Success indicates that you catch the falling character, but his total weight, including equipment, cannot exceed your heavy load limit or you also fall.

Expeditious Climb: In return for suffering disadvantage on your Athletics check to climb, you can move with such speed and vigor that you do not lose your Dexterity bonus to AC while climbing and climb at your full movement speed.

Slow Descent: It is possible to slow your descent if you fall. You might attempt to grab ahold of rocks, branches or vines when falling. If you make a DC 15 Athletics check, you are able to reduce your effective falling height by 10’. At DC 25 you can reduce your falling height by 20’.

Swim: Make a Strength (Athletics) check once per round while you are in the water. Success means you may swim at up to half your base speed as your movement. If you fail by 4 or less, you make no progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you go underwater.

If you are underwater, either because you failed an Athletics check or because you are swimming underwater intentionally, you must hold your breath.

You can hold your breath for a number of rounds equal to twice your Constitution score, but only if you do nothing other than movement or free interactions.

If you take an Attack action or other strenuous action, the remainder of the duration for which you can hold your breath is reduced by 1 round. (Effectively, a character in combat can hold his breath only half as long as normal.) After that period of time, you must make a DC 10 Constitution save every round to continue holding your breath. Each round, the DC for that save increases by 1. If you fail the Constitution save, you begin to drown. The DC for the swim check depends on the water, as given on the table below.

Water Conditions Swim DC
Calm water 10
Rough water 15
Stormy water 20

Each hour that you swim, you must make a DC 20 Constitution save or gain a level of exhaustion.

Swimming in Armor

If you attempt to swim while wearing armor, you suffer disadvantage on your Strength (Athletics) check if your armor provides a penalty to Stealth checks.

Additionally, if a creature with a swim speed wears heavier armors, its swim speed is halved.

Drowning Rules

Any character can hold her breath for a number of rounds equal to twice their Constitution score. If a character takes any strenuous actions (such as an Attack or Dash action), the remaining duration that the character can hold her breath is reduced by 1 round. After this period of time, the character must make a DC 10 Constitution save every round in order to continue holding her breath. Each round, the DC increases by 1.

If the character finally fails their Constitution check, they begin to drown. In the first round, they become incapacitated and their hit points are reduced to 0.

When characters are drowning, they make death saves as normal, with the exception that three successes do not cause them to regain consciousness. Drowning characters die when they accumulate three failed death saves regardless of successes.

Unconscious characters must begin making Constitution saves immediately upon being submerged (or upon becoming unconscious if the character was conscious when submerged). Once they fail one of these checks, they immediately drop to 0 hit points and begin making death saves.

It is possible to drown in substances other than water, such as sand, quicksand, fine dust, and silos full of grain.

Swing on Vines: The deep forests and jungles of the world are choked with hanging vines and flexible branches. Some characters can use these objects as impromptu ropes and swing lines, giving them the ability to move with incredible speed, far removed from the dangers of the forest floor.

In order to use Athletics in this manner, there must be sufficient flexible branches and vines for you to grasp and they must be long enough to allow you to swing between trees. For this reason, this skill use can only be used in forest, jungle, and some swamp terrain (specifically, swampy forests). The DC of moving along using this skill use is a base of 20. Failure by 4 or less means you do not move but can try again (having missed your next hand hold); failure by 5 or more results in you falling (and possibly taking falling damage).


Your Charisma (Deception) check determines whether you can convincingly hide the truth, either verbally or through your actions. This deception can encompass everything from misleading others through ambiguity to telling outright lies. Typical situations include trying to fast-talk a guard, con a merchant, earn money through gambling, pass yourself off in a disguise, dull someone’s suspicions with false assurances, or maintain a straight face while telling a blatant lie.

If an opponent wants to believe you, is drunk or otherwise impaired, or you have convincing proof of your deception, then you have advantage on the roll.

If your deception is highly unlikely or the target mistrusts you, then you have disadvantage on the roll.

Blend In: You can move into a large crowd of people and slightly change your appearance to resemble those around you. This allows you to make a Deception check by creating a quick disguise. You may also use this Deception check as a Stealth check to “hide in plain sight.” However, you may only use Deception in this manner if there is a group of people nearby into which you can escape. For example, you could blend into a small group of beggars by grabbing a nearby filthy, soiled cloak, draping it over your shoulders, and sitting down amongst them. Obviously, this skill does not prevent anyone who witnessed your attempt from pointing you out to any pursuers or enemies.

Convey Secret Message: You can use Deception to pass hidden messages to another character without others understanding your true meaning. The DC of this check is 15 for simple messages and 20 for complex messages. If you are successful, the target automatically understands you, assuming you are speaking in a language that it understands. If your check fails by 5 or more, the message is misinterpreted. Other creatures that hear the message can decipher the message by succeeding at an opposed Insight check against your Deception result.

Deceive or Lie: If you use Deception to fool someone, with a successful check you convince your opponent that what you are saying is true. Deception checks are modified depending upon the believability of the lie. The following modifiers are applied to the roll of the creature attempting to tell the lie. Note that some lies are so improbable that it is impossible to convince anyone that they are true, though the opponent might believe that you think you are telling the truth (subject to GM discretion).

Conditions DC Modifier
The target wants to believe you Advantage
Lie is believable
Lie is unlikely Disadvantage
Target is drunk or impaired Advantage
You possess physical “proof” Advantage

Disguise: Your Deception check result determines how good the disguise is, and it is opposed by others’ Perception or Insight check results. If you don’t draw any attention to yourself, others do not get to make Perception or Insight checks. If you come to the attention of people who are suspicious (such as a guard who is watching commoners walking through a city gate), use the character’s passive perception as your DC.

You get only one disguise attempt per use of the skill, even if several people are making Perception checks against it.

The effectiveness of your disguise depends in part on how much you’re attempting to change your appearance.

Situation Disguise Modifier
Disguised as different gender Disadvantage
Disguised as different race Disadvantage
Disguised as different age category Disadvantage
Disguised as different size category Disadvantage

If you are impersonating a particular individual, those who know what that person looks like gain advantage on their Perception checks. Furthermore, they are automatically considered to be suspicious of you, so opposed checks are always called for.

Disguise a Weapon: You can hide a weapon on your person, often in plain sight by making it appear as some ornament or other harmless keepsake. When you strike with it, you may surprise your enemy and gain advantage on your attack. When you do so, make an Intelligence (Deception) check opposed by your foe’s passive or active Perception check. If your check succeeds, your opponent is considered surprised in regards to your next attack. Anyone who searches you must make a Perception check opposed by your Deception check to find the weapon. They gain no special bonus on this check— unlike with weapons hidden using the Sleight of Hand skill because you have physically modified the weapon in order to disguise it.

Fast-Talk: With meaningless fast-talk and quickthinking you can sometimes converse your way out of a problem you talked yourself into. The use of fasttalk happens after you have just failed a Persuasion or Deception check. If you have failed that check by 5 or more, you would normally have disadvantage on future attempts. However, with a successful fast-talk attempt, you are able to recover from your failure and regain the target’s (relative) trust. If, after your failed Persuasion check, you also fail on your fast-talk use of Deception, and you fail by 5 or more, you also deeply insult your target. If it was an attempt to influence a given creature’s attitude, you make the character’s attitude worsen by yet another step (so, two steps total since you failed by 5 or more on the initial Persuasion check), and if it was a request, you cannot make any other requests of the target for 24 hours. Once you attempt this skill use (successfully or not), you cannot use it against the same target again for 24 hours.

Feign Death: You can use a reaction to make a Charisma (Deception) check the next time you take damage. Make the Deception check with a DC equal to any observer’s passive Perception check. As a rule of thumb, only opponents directly engaged against you should gain an active check, unless you are actively being observed by a group. You fall prone and drop any items you hold during the attempt. You are prone, but are not considered helpless, as you can try to defend yourself against a coup de grace or similar attack at the last moment. If you attack an opponent who thinks you are dead, you gain advantage on your first attack against that opponent. Once your action ends, your foes know that you are alive.

Feign Weakness: You attempt to convince your target you are weaker than you actually are through your actions and posture. If your opponent has seen you take an offensive action, you suffer disadvantage on this roll. If you are one size smaller than your target and have taken no offensive actions against it, you gain advantage on this skill use.

Feint in Combat: See the combat section for more on this use.

Impressive Distraction: With a successful Intelligence (Deception) check, you create a large obvious distraction that draws everyone’s attention for 1 round. The DC of this check is equal to your opponent’s passive Insight score. Allies are able to use the Stealth skill or to flee until they are out of sight during this time. There may be opponents who were aware of you or your allies before you make this attempt, if any of your allies attempt to attack those opponents during this round, that attempt negates the beneficial effect of this skill use.

Obfuscate Spellcasting: When casting a spell, you can attempt to hide its verbal, somatic or material components and thus make it harder for others to recognize that you are casting a spell. Make a Dexterity (Deception) check opposed by any observing creature’s Perception check (spellcasters gain advantage on their Perception check). Each observer who fails to beat your Deception check fails to determine that you are casting a spell. If creatures can see the spell’s effect project outward from you, they know you cast a spell. You must perform this Deception check at the time you cast the spell.

Seduction: Some enjoy sensual pleasures for the acts in and of themselves, while some use them as a means to a greater end. You can use the Deception skill to seduce others. You suffer disadvantage when attempting to seduce a creature that is not attracted to your race, culture, gender, or proclivities (such as a faithful spouse, one who only likes blonde-haired women, or someone who has taken a vow of celibacy). Before you can get to the point where a sated partner can be used for gather information, or if you are just seeking sensual pleasures, you must first get through the target’s defenses and lure him or her into your bed. You must succeed at a Deception check with a DC equal to their Wisdom score (or opposed by Insight). This skill use requires an evening of socializing and usually somewhere private to retire to. If you successfully seduce a target, further attempts to seduce that person into your bed gain advantage. If you fail the check, however, you are rebuffed and may not make another seduction attempt against the same target for at least 1 week (otherwise checks are made with disadvantage). After you have successfully seduced a target you may make one Deception check, instead of Investigation to gather information or Persuasion to suggest the target do something. Your seduced target makes regular reports to you, in attempts to keep your favor, about any specific topic you designate. You may have more than one active seduced partner that provides these benefits equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum 1).

Spread Rumors: Rather than seek out information, you can spread rumors of your own invention across town. Make a Deception check to create false rumors. For 1d3 weeks after this check, anyone looking for information regarding the topic of your rumor might uncover your falsehoods in place of useful information. If Investigation checks made by others are less than your Deception check, they uncover your rumor instead of the information they want. If they exceed your check by 5 or more they recognize your rumors as false.

Suggestion: You can use Deception and Persuasion together to make a request of a creature, without it even realizing you have made the request. You can gradually coax a target into thinking a suggestion is entirely its own idea, making the creature more likely to act on the idea than if you had suggested it outright. You discuss topics subtly relevant to the request, asking leading questions and narrowing the scope of the conversation so that the target eventually decides to take a specific action you have led it to. You first attempt a Deception check to convince the target that your request was actually its idea. This is always treated as far-fetched circumstances, resulting in disadvantage on the check. If successful, you then attempt a Persuasion check to make the request of the creature, treating its attitude toward you as indifferent for this single request (regardless of its actual attitude).


Your Intelligence (History) check measures your ability to recall lore about historical events, legendary people, ancient kingdoms, past disputes, recent wars, and lost civilizations.

Determine Age of Construction: With a DC 10 Intelligence (History) check, you can identify and determine the age of ruins or structures. If the structures are more than 500 years old, the DC increases to 15. If they are more than 1000 years old, the DC increases to 20. If you are not proficient in the History skill, this attempt is made with disadvantage.

Identify Humanoid Creatures: You can identify humanoid creatures with a DC of 10 + their challenge rating. If you are not proficient with the History skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that creature. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Know Historical Facts: You can delve into general historical knowledge with a DC 10 Intelligence (History) check. Lesser-known facts are a DC 15 and relatively rare facts DC 20. Obscure or “lost” information may impose disadvantage on this check.

Local Knowledge: You know the local laws, customs, nobility and, popular locations with a DC 10 Intelligence (History) check. With a DC 15 you can pick up local rumors or other less well known information. A DC 20 check is needed for more obscure information.

Appraise Art Object: A successful DC 10 Intelligence (History) check will allow you to identify the value of an art object. If you fail the check by more than 5, you widely exaggerate or misidentify the value of the item.


Your Wisdom (Insight) check decides whether you can determine the true intentions of a creature, such as when searching out a lie or predicting someone’s next move. Doing so involves gleaning clues from body language, speech habits, and changes in mannerisms.

Comprehend Language: When trying to communicate with someone with whom you do not share a common language, you can watch his body language, listen for changes in his tone of voice, and use other subtle clues to determine the gist of what he is trying to say. A successful Intelligence (Insight) check allows you to pick up the basics of a conversation carried on in a foreign language. You must be able to see and hear the creature you wish to use this skill on.

The level of comprehension is determined by the result of the skill check:

Table: Comprehend Language
DC Level of Comprehension
15 You can sense the general emotional tone of the creature. Example: This goblin is nervous about something.
20 You have a general sense of what the creature is talking about. Example: This goblin is nervous about the well water.
25 You pick up half the specific details about what a creature wants. Example: This goblin thinks the well water is poisoned.
30 You fully comprehend what a creature is trying to communicate. Example: This goblin is trying to tell us that the orcs poisoned the well.

The GM may feel free to rule that some cultures, languages, etc., are so alien that they impose disadvantage on the skill check.

Discern Secret Message: You may use Insight skill to detect that a hidden message is being transmitted via the Deception skill. In this case, your Insight check is opposed by the Deception check of the character transmitting the message. If you succeed by 4 or less, you know that something hidden is being communicated, but you can’t learn anything specific about its content. If you beat the DC by 5 or more, you intercept and understand the message. If you fail by 4 or less, you don’t detect any hidden communication. If you fail by 5 or more, you might infer false information. You suffer disadvantage on this skill check if you do not have all of the pieces of information related to the secret message (words, pages, codes, etc.).

Hunch: This use of the skill involves making a gut assessment of the social situation with a DC 20 Wisdom (Insight) skill check. You can get the feeling from another’s behavior that something is wrong, such as when you’re talking to an impostor. Alternatively, you can get the feeling that someone is trustworthy.

Read Target: You can sometimes read an opponent’s body language and eyes to determine the nature of their next action. As an action, you can attempt an Insight check opposed by your opponent’s Deception check to read your foe’s intentions. If your check succeeds, you learn what your foe plans to do on her next action. You learn only general information, such as whether your foe intends to cast a spell, use a ranged attack against a specific target, or flee. You do not learn exactly which spell she plans to use, but you do know their target. You may then take your action as normal. Note that the result of your action, and others’ actions, could cause the target to change her mind. You only learn what she is planning to do at the moment you act.

You may also use this skill in combat to attempt to determine your foe’s next attack. By knowing where the attack is coming from, you can gain a measure of defense against it. You may make a Perception check as a reaction when your foe attacks or takes a harmful action. This is an opposed roll against the foe’s attack roll. If you are successful, you gain a +1 bonus to your AC against that attack.

You can also use an Insight check to read a target’s profession. You can examine the subtle physical and social traits exhibited by someone to determine their trade and relative level of skill. After studying someone for three rounds, you may make an Insight check at DC 20 to search for subtle clues, such as calluses on a person’s hand, his peculiar stance that indicates he studied at a fencing school, or the faint traces of spell components staining his fingers. If your check succeeds, you determine what classes someone has levels in and what professions or crafts he practices. If you attempt to use this skill against a disguised person, your Insight check made at disadvantage, as you might falsely predict their disguised attempt. On a successful check, you notice that your subject seeks to conceal his true identity otherwise you get the information the disguised person wishes to provide. If you exceed the check by 10 or more you make an educated guess at the total character level (but not racial Hit Dice).

Sense Enchantment: You can tell that someone’s behavior is being influenced by an enchantment effect even if that person isn’t aware of it. The usual DC is 25.


When you attempt to influence someone through overt threats, hostile actions, and physical violence, the GM might ask you to make a Charisma (Intimidation) check. Examples include trying to pry information out of a prisoner, convincing street thugs to back down from a confrontation, or using the edge of a broken bottle to convince a sneering vizier to reconsider a decision.

Awe: You can use a Strength or Dexterity, etc., (Intimidation) check to show off your skill at arms, magic or any other pursuit that might impress an onlooker. You make an Intimidate as a bonus action while performing another action in an awe-inspiring manner. The DC of this check is equal to the target’s Wisdom score. If your check succeeds, you gain advantage on all Charisma skills against that target for 1 round. For each additional five points over the target’s Wisdom score you achieve, you extend the duration of advantage on Charisma skill checks by one additional round. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Deadly Boast: As you hew through your enemies, you use threats, taunts, and a bloody display of your martial prowess to strike terror into your remaining opponents. If you kill an opponent outright by dropping her from positive hit points to death (negative hit points equal to their Constitution score), you may make an Intimidate check against another foe within 30’ as a bonus action.

The slain foe must have been able to fight when you cut her down. A paralyzed or otherwise helpless opponent does not qualify for this use of the Intimidate skill. The DC of this check is equal to the second foe’s Wisdom score. If your check succeeds, the foe gains the frightened condition for one round. For each additional five points over the target’s Wisdom score you achieve, they are frightened for one additional round. This is a mind-affecting effect.

Threaten/Intimidate: You make a threat of a physical (Strength) or more subtle nature (Charisma) against a target. As an action, make an Intimidate skill check against a target within 30’. The DC of this check is equal to the second foe’s Wisdom score. If your check succeeds, the foe gains the frightened condition for one round. For each additional five points over the target’s Wisdom score you achieve, they are frightened for one additional round. This is a mindaffecting effect.

You can also use this skill to lean on a target and force them to to act friendly towards you for 1d6x10 minutes. On a successful check, the target will possibly give you information you desire, take actions that do not endanger it, or offer other limited assistance. All of these actions are at the GM’s discretion and after the Intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may likely report you to local authorities.

You gain advantage on threatening targets if you are one or more sizes larger, and suffer disadvantage if you are one or more sizes smaller.

Torture: Torture is a finely honed skill in some creatures’ repertoires, whether used to elicit information or simply for pleasure. However, torture is an unreliable means of gaining accurate information:

The victim will say anything to end the pain or frustrate his captors. You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act helpfully toward you or speak truthfully with a successful check. The target makes an opposed Constitution or Wisdom save (target’s choice) to resist. The NPC then provides Information based on your success or failure. A failure by 5 or more results in the target providing false information. You can make this check only once per day against a particular target, and its effects last until the next day.

You cannot take 20 on this check. Creatures immune to critical hits, pain, or fear effects cannot be intimidated in this way.


When you look around for clues and make deductions based on those clues, you make an Intelligence (Investigation) check. You might deduce the location of a hidden object, discern from the appearance of a wound what kind of weapon dealt it, or determine the weakest point in a tunnel that could cause it to collapse. Poring through ancient scrolls in search of a hidden fragment of knowledge might also call for an Intelligence (Investigation) check.

Appraise Item: You can use the Investigation skill to appraise the value of most items. A DC 10 appraise check determines the value of a common item. A DC 15 determines the value of uncommon items. If you succeed by 5 or more, you also determine if the item has magic properties, although this success does not grant knowledge of the magic item’s abilities. If you fail the check by less than 5, you determine the price of that item to within 20% of its actual value. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the price is wildly inaccurate, subject to GM discretion. Particularly rare or exotic items might increase the DC of this check by 5 or more.

You can also use this check to determine the most valuable item visible in a treasure hoard or on a person. The DC of this check is generally 20 but can increase to as high as 30 for a particularly large hoard.

You can also use this check to determine the rough value of an entire hoard with a DC 20 check.

Detect Forgery: You can use the Investigation skill to detect if a crafted good is real or a forgery. This generally requires time to examine the object in close proximity and an Intelligence (Investigation) check equal to or greater than the DC achieved when crafting the forgery.

Determine a Magic Item’s Properties: You can use Investigation to determine a magic item’s properties in lieu of the Arcana skill. When you do so, you suffer disadvantage on the check.

Gather Information: You can use Intelligence (Investigation) to gather information about a specific topic or individual. To do this, you must spend at least 1d4 hours canvassing people at local taverns, markets, and gathering places. The DC of this check depends on the obscurity of the information sought, but for most commonly known facts or rumors it is 10. For obscure or secret knowledge, the DC might increase to 20 or higher. The GM might rule that some topics are simply unknown to common folk.

While seeking out news and information, you can choose to keep a low profile. You focus on overhearing conversations, drawing inferences from peoples’ behavior, and spying on others. You suffer disadvantage on your attempts, but you avoid leaving any clues about the information you seek. If you fail your Persuasion check by 5 or more, you are automatically noticed as someone seeking information about the subject.

Assess Damage: You can look over an item as an action and accurately measure how much damage the object has taken and how much more punishment it can take. With a successful check (the DC is equal to the object’s AC), the GM tells you the object’s hardness, how many hit points of damage it has taken, and how many more it can withstand before being ruined. This skill does not work on constructs or undead.


A Wisdom (Medicine) check lets you try to stabilize a dying companion or diagnose an illness.

Autopsy: By combining medical knowledge with alchemical techniques, it is possible to gain a significant amount of information from a corpse without the use of magic. The Medicine skill forms the basis of forensic pathology, and allows you to test the characteristics of blood and is required for certain advanced actions.

The table below indicates the type of information that can be gained with a Medicine check (the check is made in secret by the GM, see retry), along with the DC of the check.

Nature of Information DC
Cause of Death 10
Examine Injury 10
Presence of Foreign Substances 15
Nature of Foreign Substances 25
Time of Death 20

Performing an autopsy requires approximately three hours. At the end of this time, you can make two checks (typically cause of death and examining the injury that caused death). Each additional check takes an additional thirty minutes to perform.

Cause of Death can be useful when you want to know if the crushing damage came after the victim was poisoned. This only provides general information: “She died as a result of decapitation” or “She appears to have died of natural causes.” To obtain more specific details, you must make an additional check to examine the injury or determine the nature of foreign substances.

Examine Injury allows you to obtain information about a specific wound. If you make the check, you determine the basic cause of the injury (a narrow blade, a small blunt object, teeth). If your check beats the DC by 5 or more, you gain specific details about the weapon that caused the injury (a double-edged dagger with a six-inch blade). If your check beats the DC by 10 or more, you gain information about the manner in which the wound was inflicted (the attacker was left-handed, about six feet tall, and probably grabbed her from behind).

Presence of Foreign Substances reveals whether the victim had drugs, poison, or high levels of alcohol in his system when he died. As with a cause of death check, this information is not specific; it simply determines that something unnatural was present at the time of death.

Nature of Foreign Substances allows you to determine the specific nature of any substance you have identified. You must discover the presence of foreign substances before you can attempt to determine their nature.

Time of Death reveals when the victim was killed. This is an imprecise science at best. If the user does not possess proficiency in Arcana, time of death can only be determined to within 4d6 hours. With access to Arcana, the time can be pinpointed to within 1d6 hours. You cannot try again after a failed roll. If you miss the check by 10 or more points you may come to a false conclusion, otherwise you will just be unable to obtain any useful information.

Special: Time is the enemy of the pathologist. Every twelve hours that passes from the point of death adds 2 to the DC of any autopsy check. In a swampy or tropical environment, this penalty is doubled; in an especially dry environment it is halved. The spell gentle repose will preserve a body in its current condition for the duration of the spell.

Certain poisons and drugs may be harder to detect than others. The GM should consider the poisons that exist within the game world; those that are difficult to trace could increase the DC of checks made to determine cause of death, presence of foreign substances, and nature of foreign substances by up to 5 points.

During the course of an autopsy, you may also make a Perception check to notice any unusual details about the corpse. There may not be any; but perhaps you will notice a few threads of cloth caught under the victim’s fingernails, or a small tattoo that will prove to be relevant later. It is up to the GM to determine whether there are any facts to be discovered, and if so, what the DC of the check should be.

Diagnose: When preparing to treat someone, you can examine their wounds or condition and determine several facts about the poison, disease, or condition affecting her and a rough estimate of their hit points (25% crippled, 50% injured, 75% battered, or mostly unharmed). You cannot use this skill to know the hit point totals of creatures, merely there relative health in relation to those hit points.

If a detrimental condition or effect had a saving throw you may attempt to diagnose it. At the start of your next turn the GM makes a secret Medicine check for you with a DC equal to or exceeding the DC of the spell or effect that caused the detrimental condition.

On a successful check, you determine the nature of the problem, the future effects, the amount of potential harm or hindrance it will cause (for example how much damage it will do), and its potential duration.

Note that rare or exotic conditions or effects may have a higher DC, at the GM’s discretion.

If your skill check is 10 or higher than the DC, the GM will suggest a potential cure for the condition. If your skill check is 10 or lower than the DC, you misdiagnose the patient’s problems. The GM provides you with incorrect information regarding the nature of the problem, the amount of potential harm/hindrance caused by the effect, and its potential duration. A successful diagnosis grants you advantage on subsequent attempts to aid the victim. A misdiagnosis causes disadvantage to such skill checks.

First Aid: You usually use first aid to save a dying character. A character receiving first aid may use either their death save check or the practitioner’s Medicine check as his death save result.

Identify Drugs/Pharmaceuticals: The Medicine skill can be used to identify and understand pharmaceuticals. The DC varies by rarity.

Malpractice: You must also be proficient in Deception to use Medicine in this fashion. Rather than making a Medicine check to perform first aid or some other form of treatment on a helpless or willing creature you intentionally bungle the job in order to ensure that the creature perishes or is severely injured.

You make the check as an action and deal hit point damage to the creature at the beginning of your next turn equal to your Medicine skill check. If the creature is helpless this is considered a coup-de-grace attack. If under the watchful eye of others (including your patient), your Medicine check is opposed by another’s Insight or Medicine, a failure on your part results in them detecting your malpractice and they may attempt to intervene. If someone successfully performs a first aid check before the beginning of your next turn, the damage is negated.

Provide Long-Term Care: Providing long-term care means treating a wounded person for a day or more. If your Medicine check is successful, the patient may expend Hit Dice and automatically gain the maximum result.

You can tend as many as six patients at a time. You need a few items and supplies (bandages, salves, and so on) that are easy to come by in settled lands. Giving long-term care counts as light activity for the healer.

You cannot give long-term care to yourself.

Treat Deadly Wounds: You must expend a use from a healer’s kit to perform this task. You suffer disadvantage on your check if you lack a healer’s kit.

When treating deadly wounds, you can restore hit points to a damaged creature. Treating deadly wounds forces a character to expend a use of their daily Hit Dice. These Hit Dice are rolled as normal.

Treat Disease: To treat a disease means to tend to a single diseased character. Every time the diseased character makes a saving throw against disease effects, you make a Medicine check. The target may use your Medicine check or their own save roll as their saving throw against the effect.

Treat Poison: To treat poison means to tend to a single character who has been poisoned and who is going to take more damage from the poison (or suffer some other effect). Every time the poisoned character makes a saving throw against the poison, you make a Medicine check. The target may use your Medicine check or their own save roll as their saving throw against the effect.


Your Intelligence (Nature) check measures your ability to recall lore about terrain, plants and animals, the weather, and natural cycles.

Dungeoneering: A Wisdom (Dungeoneering) check will allow you to identify underground hazards with a DC of 10 plus the hazard’s CR (or listed Perception DC). In addition, you can determine slope (DC 10) and depth underground (DC 15) using this skill.

Identify Natural Creature: You can identify beasts, giants, and, plants with a DC of 10 + their challenge rating. If you are not proficient with the Nature skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that creature. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Identify Value of Gems and Precious Metals: A successful DC 10 Intelligence (Nature) check will allow you to identify the value of a gem or precious metal. If you fail the check by more than 5, you widely exaggerate or misidentify the item. If you are not proficient in Nature, you suffer disadvantage on this skill use.

Know Geography: A DC 10 Wisdom (Nature) check will allow you to know your relative location geographically or on a map. You can find other locations with a DC 10 check if they are well-known.

Less known locations are a DC 15 and relatively unknown locations are a DC 20. Secret locations impose disadvantage on this check.


Your Wisdom (Perception) check lets you spot, hear, or otherwise detect the presence of something. It measures your general awareness of your surroundings and the keenness of your senses. For example, you might try to hear a conversation through a closed door, eavesdrop under an open window, or hear monsters moving stealthily in the forest. Or you might try to spot things that are obscured or easy to miss, whether they are orcs lying in ambush on a road, thugs hiding in the shadows of an alley, or candlelight under a closed secret door.

Notice Someone/Something: Perception has a number of uses, the most common of which is an opposed check versus an opponent’s Stealth check to notice the opponent and avoid being surprised. If you are successful, you notice the opponent and can react accordingly. If you fail, your opponent can take a variety of actions, including sneaking past you and attacking you.

Perception is also used to notice fine details in the environment. The DC to notice such details varies depending upon distance, the environment, and how noticeable the detail is. The following table gives a number of guidelines.

Detail Perception DC
Hear the sound of battle 5
Notice the stench of rotting garbage 5
Detect the smell of smoke 5
Hear the details of a conversation 5
Notice a visible creature 5
Determine if food is spoiled 5
Hear the sound of a creature walking 10
Hear the details of a whispered conversation 15
Find the average concealed door 15
Hear the sound of a key being turned in a lock 20
Find the average secret door 20
Hear a bow being drawn 25
Sense a burrowing creature underneath you 25
Notice a pickpocket Opposed
Notice a creature using Stealth Opposed
Find a hidden trap Varies
Perception Modifiers DC Modifier
Distance to the source, object, or creature +1/10 feet
Through a closed door +5
Through a wall Disadvantage
Favorable conditions Advantage
Unfavorable conditions Disadvantage
Distracted/Asleep Disadvantage

Identify Weak Spot: As an action, make a DC 25 Intelligence (Perception) check to pinpoint a weak spot in an object or weapon. This object must be in your threatened area in order for you to examine an object closely enough. If you succeed, you gain advantage on sunder attempts against that weapon or a +2 bonus to damage against an object. If you can examine the object in your close proximity for at least one round, you gain advantage on this check.

You can also use this skill against armor. As an action, make a DC 25 Intelligence (Perception) check against a foe who stands in your threatened area. If you succeed, you gain a +1 bonus on attack rolls against this foe for the rest of the encounter. For this check to be effective, your target must have an armor or natural armor bonus to Armor Class from some type of observable physical armor. Your GM may judge that certain protective measures, such as bracers of armor, provide an armor bonus but are not subject to this use of Perception. As a rule of thumb, this Perception check works only against suits of armor and natural armor, not magic devices that offer similar protection in a different form.

Read Lips: To understand what someone is saying by reading lips, you must be within 30 feet of the speaker, be able to see him speak, and understand the speaker’s language. (This use of the skill is language-dependent.)

When you make the attempt, the GM makes the roll in secret (DC 25, but it increases for complex speech or an inarticulate speaker). You must maintain a line of sight to the lips being read. If your Perception check succeeds, you can understand the general content of a minute’s worth of speech, but you usually still miss certain details. If the check fails by 5 points or more, you draw some incorrect conclusion about the speech.


Your Charisma (Performance) check determines how well you can delight an audience with music, dance, acting, storytelling, or some other form of entertainment.

Each of the nine categories of the Perform skill includes a variety of methods, instruments, or techniques, a small sample of which is provided for each category below. Choose one category of perform that you are proficient in when you choose proficiency in the Perform skill. Other proficiencies may be added through training. Other performances may be available at the GM’s permission.

Category Example
Act Comedy, drama, pantomime
Comedy Buffoonery, limericks, joke-telling
Dance Ballet, waltz, jig
Keyboard Instruments harpsichord, piano, pipe organ
Oratory Epic, ode, storytelling
Percussion Instruments bells, chimes, drums, gong
String Instruments fiddle, harp, lute, mandolin
Wind Instruments flute, pan pipes, recorder, trumpet
Sing Ballad, chant, melody
Table: Perform Skill DCs
DC Performance Quality
10 Routine performance. Trying to earn money by playing in public is akin to begging. You can earn 1d10 cp/day.
15 Enjoyable performance. In a prosperous city, you can earn 1d10 sp/day.
20 Great performance. In a prosperous city, you can earn 3d10 sp/day. In time, you may be invited to join a professional troupe and may develop a regional reputation.
25 Memorable performance. In a prosperous city, you can earn 1d6 gp/day. In time, you may come to the attention of noble patrons and develop a national reputation.
30+ Extraordinary performance. In a prosperous city, you can earn 3d6 gp/day. In time, you may draw attention from distant patrons, or even from extraplanar beings.

Influence Crowd: Some performers are able to use their skills to not only earn money and impress an audience, but also to influence that audience’s attitudes (in a similar manner to using the Persuasion skill to change NPC attitudes). This use of the Perform skill can only influence NPCs whose attitude toward you is indifferent or friendly, and any attempts to influence hostile or unfriendly NPCs in this manner automatically fail. To influence the attitudes of a crowd, make a normal Performance check and treat the result exactly as you would the result of a Persuasion check to influence the attitudes of indifferent or friendly NPCs in the audience.


When you attempt to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature, the GM might ask you to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check. Typically, you use persuasion when acting in good faith, to foster friendships, make cordial requests, or exhibit proper etiquette. Examples of persuading others include convincing a chamberlain to let your party see the king, negotiating peace between warring tribes, or inspiring a crowd of townsfolk.

Bargaining and Negotiating: An item is worth only what someone will pay for it. To an art collector, a canvas covered in daubs of random paint may be a masterpiece; a priestess might believe a weathered jawbone is a holy relic of a saint. Bargaining is a complex skill check. The DC of the skill check is equal to the target’s Wisdom score.

Generally when reselling an item, the starting value a PC can get for it is 50%. By bargaining and haggling, additional results are possible.

Successes & Item Value

Three Successes Before Two Failures: 55%

Five Successes Before Three Failures: 60%

Seven Successes Before Four Failures: 65%

Ten Successes Before Five Failures: 75%

If a character fails one of the extended checks, they simply use the previous bargain value for their item.

Generally there are only a few buyers for each type of good in a typical community. PCs should not be able to try again with dozens of other vendors until they succeed at higher results. If they do, there should be consequences such as time and possibly offending the local merchants and becoming banned from doing any business in that community.

When negotiating, a character may attempt to gain a better deal or value for a contract or service. They make a complex skill check similarly to bargaining, but against a DC equal to the NPC’s Charisma or Wisdom score (whichever is higher).

Negotiation Successes Increase
Three Successes Before Two Failures +5%
Five Successes Before Three Failures +10%
Seven Successes Before Four Failures +15%
Ten Successes Before Five Failures +20%

Bribery: A character can attempt to bribe an NPC for a much better Persuasion result. The formula to bribe a target is their challenge rating2 (squared)x10 gp.

A bribe of this value or greater grants advantage on a Persuasion check or allows for a reroll on a failed attempt. Some NPCs might be greatly offended by attempted bribes and this could cause disadvantage however.

Calm Emotions: You can use Persuasion to diplomatically talk your way out of a potential fight.

When dealing with an NPC who is ready to make an attack, make a Charisma (Persuasion) check with a DC 25, to bring him to his senses. If you succeed, your opponent stops to consider your words, though he remains hostile. Your GM has the final say in determining if your Persuasion skill has any use in a situation—as a rule of thumb, this skill works in any situation that arises in a neutral or safe setting with a hostile NPC who otherwise has no particular reason to seek your death. You cannot use Persuasion against creatures that do not share a language with you or have a specific reason to attack (you attacking them or trespassing). If your opponent has not been given a good reason not to fight, you suffer disadvantage on this skill use.

Complicate: Sometimes you find it to your advantage to delay the resolution of a specific discussion for a while (or even indefinitely). Every time you attempt to complicate a situation in order to delay resolution you make a single Charisma (Persuasion) check. The other participants in the discussion make opposed Insight checks; if you succeed, then you can prevent any of the discussion’s participants from coming to agreement for a single day, without seeming to be interfering. Each participant that beats your Persuasion check realizes what you are doing.

The danger associated with this activity is directly related to the importance of the situation.

Complicating the negotiations between two countries on the brink of war exposes you to a high degree of risk. Similar actions taken to delay the discussions of a sea captain and a merchant so that your party can get onto a ship carry a fairly low degree of danger.

Influence Attitude: You can change the initial attitudes of nonplayer characters with a successful Persuasion check. The DC of this check depends on the creature’s starting attitude toward you.

Success – If you succeed, the character’s attitude toward you is improved by one step. For every 5 by which your check result exceeds the DC, the character’s attitude toward you increases by one additional step. A creature’s attitude cannot be shifted more than two steps up in this way, although the GM can override this rule in some situations.

Failure – If you fail the check by 5 or less, the character’s attitude toward you is unchanged. If you fail by more than 5, the character’s attitude toward you is decreased by one step.

You cannot use Persuasion against a creature that does not understand you or has an Intelligence of 3 or less.

Persuasion is generally ineffective in combat and against creatures that intend to harm you or your allies in the immediate future. Any attitude shift caused through Persuasion generally lasts for 1d4 hours but can last much longer or shorter depending upon the situation (GM discretion).

Starting Attitude Diplomacy DC
Hostile DC 25
Unfriendly DC 20
Indifferent DC 15
Friendly DC 10
Helpful DC 5

Make a Request: If a creature’s attitude toward you is at least indifferent, you can attempt to make requests of the creature. This is an additional Persuasion check, using the creature’s current attitude to determine the base DC, with one of the following modifiers. Once a creature’s attitude has shifted to helpful, the creature gives in to most requests without a check, unless the request is against its nature or puts it in serious peril. Some requests automatically fail if the request goes against the creature’s values or its nature, subject to GM discretion.

Request DC or Modifier
Give simple advice or directions Advantage
Reveal an unimportant secret +5
Give lengthy or complicated aid +10
Give dangerous aid +10
Reveal secret knowledge +10 or more
Aid that could result in punishment +15 or more
Additional requests +5 per request

Parley: Using your skills of persuasion, you call for a temporary halt to fighting. Your enemies may halt to listen, but they remain alert and ready for a trick. As an action, you call for an end to the fighting and make a Charisma (Persuasion) check with a DC 20. If you succeed, your opponents ready actions to attack when you or your allies attack or take a threatening action.

You may then parlay as normal with your foes. Your GM may consider your foes to remain active on their initiative counts.

If your foes appear to have the upper hand in combat, you suffer disadvantage on this check. If your opponents appear to be losing, you gain advantage on this check.

Your GM may rule that certain foes are immune to this skill use, such as fanatics who are inspired by religious or political fervor, raging barbarians, and other hateful enemies. In addition, you must share a language with your opponents or otherwise have some means of communicating with them or you suffer disadvantage on this check.

Gather Information: As per the Investigation skill, but you can use Charisma (Persuasion) instead. Using the skill in this manner uses your charm or social standing to coerce individuals to come forth with information. Bribing the common folk or plying them with free drinks might grant advantage on the check.


Your Intelligence (Religion) check measures your ability to recall lore about deities, rites and prayers, religious hierarchies, holy symbols, and the practices of secret cults.

Identify Supernatural Creature: You can identify aberrations, celestials, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, fiends, monstrosities, oozes, and undead with a DC of 15 + their challenge rating. If you are not proficient with the Religion skill, you have disadvantage on checks for this skill use. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that creature. For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

Recognize Holy Symbol: You are familiar with many of the gods and their symbols. You can make a Wisdom (Religion) check to recognize them.

Mythology: You know a wide amount of information about the gods and their various mythologies. You can make a Wisdom (Religion) check to recall facts.

Sleight Of Hand

Whenever you attempt an act of legerdemain or manual trickery, such as planting something on someone else or concealing an object on your person, make a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check. The GM might also call for a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to determine whether you can lift a coin purse off another person or slip something out of another person’s pocket.

Draw Hidden Weapon: You can draw a hidden weapon as a free interaction as part of your movement with a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check.

This skill use is opposed by the Perception skill of those observing.

Entertain: You can also use Sleight of Hand to entertain an audience as though you were using the Performance skill. In such a case, your “act” encompasses elements of legerdemain, juggling, and the like.

Hide Object: A DC 10 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check lets you palm a coin-sized, unattended object.

Performing a minor feat of legerdemain, such as making a coin disappear, also has a DC of 10 unless an observer is determined to note where the item went.

When you use this skill under close observation, your skill check is opposed by the observer’s Perception check. The observer’s success doesn’t prevent you from performing the action, just from doing it unnoticed.

You can hide a small object (including a light weapon or an easily concealed ranged weapon, such as a dart, sling, or hand crossbow) on your body. Your Sleight of Hand check is opposed by the Perception check of anyone observing you or of anyone frisking you. In the latter case, the searcher gains advantage on the Perception check, since it’s generally easier to find such an object than to hide it. A dagger (or other smaller weapon) is easier to hide than most light weapons, and grants you advantage on your Sleight of Hand check to conceal it. Heavy or baggy clothing (such as a cloak) grants you advantage on the check as well.

Disguise Weapon: You hide a weapon on your person, or make it appear as some ornament or other harmless keepsake. When you strike with it, you may surprise your enemy and leave her vulnerable to your attack. You may only hide a light or one-handed weapon on your body. Hiding weapons larger than this suffer disadvantage on your Sleight of Hand check.

Each weapon you hide in this manner gains a separate skill check.

Later, when you make an attack with the hidden weapon, if it was not detected you gain advantage on your first attack. Anyone who searches you must make a Perception check opposed by your Sleight of Hand check to find the weapon.

Plant Item: If you try to place an object on a creature (such as a pin on his clothes or something in his pocket), you must make a Sleight of Hand check.

The opponent makes a Perception check to detect the attempt, opposed by the Sleight of Hand check result you achieved when you tried to deposit the item. An opponent who succeeds on this check notices the attempt, regardless of whether you planted the item.

Palm Item: If you try to take something from a creature, you must make a DC 20 Sleight of Hand check. The opponent makes a Perception check to detect the attempt, opposed by the Sleight of Hand check result you achieved when you tried to grab the item. An opponent who succeeds on this check notices the attempt, regardless of whether you got the item.

You cannot use this skill to take an object from another creature during combat if the creature is aware of your presence.


Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard.

Tail: You discreetly follow another person, using the city crowds, jungle foliage, or other cover to conceal your presence. You keep your quarry in sight, carefully monitoring him while remaining far enough in the background to evade his sight. Every ten minutes of your pursuit, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check opposed by your target’s Wisdom (Perception) check.

Note that if you follow several people traveling as a group, every person you pursue makes a Wisdom (Perception) check. Victims consciously looking for someone tailing them gain advantage on their check.

If you exceed the first check by 10 or more you do not need to make an additional check for that person for 1 hour.


The GM might ask you to make a Wisdom (Survival) check to follow tracks, hunt wild game, guide your group through frozen wastelands, identify signs that owlbears live nearby, predict the weather, or avoid quicksand and other natural hazards.

Avoid Getting Lost/Avoid Natural Hazards: You can use the Survival skill to avoid getting lost or avoid natural hazards and you make a Wisdom (Survival) check whenever the situation calls for one.

Cover Tracks: You know not only how to find signs that mark the passage of men and animals but also how to make your own tracks more difficult to follow. If you move at three-quarters your normal movement rate, you can make a Survival check with a -5 penalty to destroy signs of your passage (you may take 10 on this). Anyone attempting to track you must not only beat the DC of the environmental conditions, but their own check must equal or beat yours. If they fail to do this, they cannot track you.

Determine Distance: By concentrating for 1 minute, and making a Wisdom (Survival) DC 15 check you can determine the distance between two points within your line of sight. If the check fails, you cannot determine the distance. If you succeed, the GM tells you the distance in a reasonable unit of measure. If you fail the check by 5 or more, the GM adds or subtracts (at his option) 1d20 of the same units to or from your measurement. You cannot determine the distance between two towns down to the nearest foot, but you can judge how many miles separate them. You may also use this skill to determine the size and dimensions of a subterranean chamber that you cannot fully see, using echoes, and telltale rock formations (DC 20).

Find Path: One excellent use of the Survival skill is to allow quick movement through wilderness terrain.

Whenever you are moving in trackless terrain, you may, as an action, attempt a DC 20 Survival check to locate a path through the terrain as though it were a road or trail for the purpose of determining your overland speed. This benefit also extends to your allies or traveling companions.

Intuit Depth: By concentrating for five minutes, you can gauge your current depth beneath the earth’s surface. The GM makes this check in secret. If the check is successful (DC 20), you correctly deduce your depth. If you fail the check by 5 or more the GM adds or subtracts (at his option) d% feet to or from the current depth.

Know Direction: You can determine true north in relation to yourself with a DC 10 Wisdom (Survival) check.

Track: To find tracks or to follow them for 1 mile requires a successful Wisdom (Survival) check. You must make another Survival check every time the tracks become difficult to follow. If you are not trained in this skill, you can make untrained checks to find tracks, but you suffer disadvantage.

You move at half your normal speed while following tracks (or at your normal speed by suffering disadvantage). The DC depends on the surface and the prevailing conditions, as given on table.

Table: Base Survival DC’s to Track by Ground Condition
Surface Condition Survival DC
Very soft ground 5
Soft ground 10
Firm ground 15
Hard ground 20
Table: Modifiers to Survival Checks when Tracking
Condition Survival DC Modifier
Every three creatures in the group being tracked –1
Size of creature or creatures being tracked:1
Tiny or Smaller Disadvantage
Small +1
Medium +0
Large –1
Huge or Larger Advantage
Every 24 hours since the trail was made +1
Table: Modifiers to Survival Checks when Tracking
Condition Survival DC Modifier
Every three creatures in the group being tracked –1
Rain since the trail was made Disadvantage
Fresh snow since the trail was made Disadvantage
Poor visibility:2
Overcast or moonless night Disadvantage
Moonlight +3
Fog or precipitation +3
Tracked party hides trail (and moves at half speed) Disadvantage

1 For a group of mixed sizes, apply only the modifier for the largest size category.

2 Apply only the largest modifier from this category.

Survive in the Wilderness: You can keep yourself and others safe and fed in the wild. See Table: Survival DCs by Task for DCs for various tasks that require Survival checks.

Table: Survival DCs by Task
Survival DC Example
10 Get along in the wild. Move up to half your overland speed while hunting and foraging (no food or water supplies needed). You can provide food and water for one other person for every 2 points by which your check result exceeds 10.
15 Gain a +2 bonus on all Constitution saves against severe weather while moving up to half your overland speed, or gain advantage if you remain stationary. You may grant the same bonus to one other character for every 1 point by which your Survival check result exceeds 15.
15 Keep from getting lost or avoid natural hazards, such as quicksand.
15 Predict the weather up to 24 hours in advance. For every 5 points by which your Survival check result exceeds 15, you can predict the weather for one additional day in advance.

Complex Skill Checks

With most skill checks, a single die roll immediately determines whether or not a character succeeds. If a character wants to jump across a chasm or recall a specific piece of information, his success or failure is apparent after a single check.

For complicated and time-consuming tasks (such as disabling a very complex trap or researching an obscure bit of knowledge), or at times when the GM wants to build tension and suspense, the complex skill check variant described here might be called for. In such a case, a specific number of successful skill checks must be achieved to complete the task. The complexity of the task is reflected in both the DC of the required check, the number of successful rolls required to complete the task, and the maximum number of failed rolls that can occur before the attempt fails.

In most cases, one or two failed rolls does not mean that a complex skill check has failed, but if three failed rolls occur before the character makes the required number of successful rolls, the attempt fails. Although three failures is a common baseline, GMs are encouraged to change the number if the situation warrants it.

The GM can also apply a penalty to future rolls in the complex check if the character rolls one or more failures. For instance, an intricate trade negotiation requiring a complex Diplomacy check might assess the character a -1 or -2 penalty on her checks for each failed check made as part of the complex check (representing the tide of the negotiation turning against her).

Each die roll is one portion of a complex skill check, and each die roll in the attempt represents at least 1 round of effort (it might represent more time, depending on the skill or task in question).

Like skill checks, ability checks can also be complex.

Complex skill checks are rarely used in situations that call for opposed checks.

Successes Required Complexity Example
2 or 3 Easy (DC 5) Training an animal
4 or 5 Medium (DC 10) Tracking a humanoid
6 or 7 Hard (DC 15) Bypassing a timed trap
8 or 9 Very Hard (DC 20) Picking an amazing lock
10 Nearly Impossible (DC 25) Persuading the King to grant you a land and title

Successes Needed

During play, the GM will encounter additional situations in which complex skill checks may be appropriate. Two questions then arise: How high should the DC be, and how many successes should the task require? The answers to both of those questions depend on how great a chance of success the GM wants the players to have.

Although making these determinations might seem daunting, the system for complex skill checks actually provides the GM a great deal of flexibility. Under the standard rules, GMs have only one tool to represent increasingly difficult tasks: increasing the DC. With complex checks, the GM can also use the number of successful attempts required to achieve overall success to control a skill check’s difficulty.

Trying Again

Complex skill checks can usually be retried, however this depends on the consequences and if the GM allows it. However, like normal skill checks, some complex skill checks have consequences, and those consequences must be taken into account (for example, a trap that requires a complex tool skill check to disarm is triggered if the attempt fails).

Some skills are virtually useless for a particular task once an attempt to accomplish that task has failed, and this includes complex checks as well as regular skill checks. The Complex Skill Use section, below, describes which skills can be used in complex skill checks and which allow retries after failed attempts.

Interrupting a Complex Skill Check

Most complex skill checks can be interrupted without adversely affecting the result of the check. However, the GM is free to rule that interrupting a specific check affects the result, especially if there is a time limitation.

At the GM’s discretion, an interruption can count as one failed roll in the check’s progression or can mean that the complex check fails.

The Help Action

You can use the Help action normally with complex skill checks. Characters helping another character must take their Help action prior to the other PCs roll, and must be able to help in some meaningful way. The GM has the final say on whether or not a character can assist with the Help action.

Group Checks

Sometimes the entire group is performing an action at once. In these scenarios, consider using less skill checks, but make them group checks (the majority of the group must succeed in order to gain a success).

Why Complex Checks?

Complex skill checks allow the GM to build suspense in critical situations, add tension to multiple-round tasks during combat, enhance special adventurespecific tasks, and resolve complex activities more quickly.

To build suspense with complex skill checks, the GM can simply substitute a complex skill check for a normal skill check during a critical task. In most such situations, using a complex check lessens the likelihood that one failed roll will cause the party a significant setback.

Complex skill checks provide a more balanced way of creating combat-affecting situations that depend on skill checks. For example, a complex Investigation check made to find the weak spot in a narrow stone bridge might allow the characters to collapse the bridge more easily and elude a group of powerful pursuers.

Complex skill checks can also enhance adventurespecific or location-specific tasks such as disabling a particularly complex trap, appraising an extremely rare work of art, and so on.

Complex skill checks let players resolve complicated situations with fewer die rolls. This is especially true of complex social interactions requiring multiple Bluff, Intimidate, or Persuasion checks.

In most situations when the GM feels a complex skill check is warranted, it’s appropriate for the DC of a complex skill check to match the DC of a simple check involving the same activity. This decreases the character’s chance of achieving overall success, but because complex skill checks are used to best effect in tense situations and climactic encounters, increasing the difficulty adds spice to the scenario.

Increasing the number of successes required always increases the difficulty of the task, but the degree of increase depends greatly on how likely the character attempting the check is to get a success each time he rolls the die.

Complex Skill Use

The following section provides general guidelines for using the complex skill check variant with each skill in 5th edition.


A complex Arcana check could represent extended research for spells or magic item formulas. To attempt a complex Arcana check, a character must have access to a library that the game master decides is sufficient for the task. The game master is also free to rule that several successful rolls in a complex Arcana check exhaust a particular library or tome’s resources and lead the character to another work or library. In this way, a complex check can become an adventure in itself as the character searches out rare or lost volumes of information.

Acrobatics and Athletics

Acrobatics and Athletics are generally a poor choice for extended checks since these skill checks are designed for short movement and a single skill check.

A few specific environmental situations might call for a complex Acrobatics check. The most obvious of these and by far the most common is a long, extremely narrow passage that is only wide enough to let a character wiggle through. In this case, each successful roll made in the complex check represents navigating a portion of the passage, and a failed complex check means the character is stuck somewhere within the passage.

Extended checks could be used for extreme feats of coordination or endurance, like Olympic gymnastics or long-distance running or physical games and competitive matches.

Animal Handling

Complex skill checks work well with the extended training times that some uses of the Animal Handling skill requires. When an animal is trained for a general purpose such as combat riding or hunting, it requires several weeks of work and one simple Animal Handling check under the normal rules. With the complex skill checks variant, this use of the skill always involves a complex skill check, with each die roll representing one week of training time. Rolling three failed results during the complex check means that the entire attempt fails and that training must begin again.

Table: Complex Animal Handling Checks
General Purpose Time DC Successes
Combat riding 6 weeks 20 6
Fighting 3 weeks 20 3
Guarding 4 weeks 20 4
Heavy labor 2 weeks 15 2
Hunting 6 weeks 20 6
Performance 4 weeks 15 4
Riding 3 weeks 15 3

A character performing a lengthy demonstration of difficult or trick riding, or competing in a race, might have to make a complex Animal Handling check to pull off the entire show or finish the race; one roll per round is probably appropriate.


Almost all uses of the Deception skill require only a single roll to indicate whether or not you successfully fool an individual or a small group. However, in certain complicated social situations, a GM might want to speed the game along by requiring one complex Deception check rather than many simple checks.

For example, one of the characters wants to spend several days in a noble’s court trying to convince the people there that he and his adventuring companions are more capable than they really are. Rather than roleplay the many individual interactions, the GM decides to simulate this activity with a complex Deception check. Because the nobles have heard little of the group’s exploits, the GM sets the DC at 25 and requires that the player achieve five successful rolls before rolling three failures. Although this is a good simulation of the character interacting with a series of minor NPCs over several days, the GM still decides that interactions with a few individuals (the duke, his chancellor, and one renowned knight in the duke’s service) are too important to incorporate into the complex check, and decides that the player should roleplay short encounters with each of the three and make separate, simple Deception checks for each of them.


An extended History check should be treated like an extended Arcana check when researching long lost information, or putting together clues.


Although typical use of the Insight skill does not allow retries or lend itself to complex skill checks, a game master might choose to simulate an unusually complicated series of social encounters in a deceitfilled environment with a complex skill check like those described under the Deception and Persuasion descriptions.


Although typical use of the intimidate skill does not allow retries or lend itself to complex skill checks, a game master might choose to simulate an unusually complicated series of social encounters with one complex skill check in the same way that Deception and Persuasion can be used in such situations.


The Investigation skill seldom lends itself to complex skill checks. In rare cases, the game master might rule that a relic from a lost civilization or an extremely powerful magic item might require a complex skill check to appraise properly. In these cases, the DC and number of successes required should be determined by the game master specifically for the item in question.

At the game master’s discretion, certain very wellhidden items might require a complex Investigation check to find. Usually this activity represents several individual Investigation attempts made in sequence and is typically better handled by treating each separate attempt as a normal Search check.

Alternatively, if an item has a common value that is accepted in most of the campaign world but a drastically different value in one small portion of the setting, it might require one simple check to appraise the item’s common value and a second, complex check (usually at a higher DC) to assess the item’s worth in the specific area.

When using Investigation to gather information, the skill allows characters to get a general impression of major news items in a city or to find the answer to a specific question or information about a specific rumor. As long as the character has only a few questions or rumors to follow up on, a simple skill check should be used. In situations where the characters have half a dozen or more leads and questions to follow, the game master might want to use one complex skill check to resolve the informationgathering attempts. In this case, the number of successes required equals the number of questions or leads pursued, and the game master determines the number of failures that ruin the complex check.

In a complex Gather information check, each die roll represents 2 hours spent pursuing each individual question or lead.

Complicated books, convoluted essays, or coded documents might require a complex Investigation check. When a character attempts to decipher an extremely long document, the GM can require one complex skill check rather than a simple skill check for each page. The DCs for complex checks follow the same guidelines that normal Investigation checks follow (DC 20 for simple messages, DC 25 for standard texts, and DC 30 or higher for intricate, exotic, or very old writing). Succeeding on the complex check requires that the character achieve one successful attempt for every ten pages of the manuscript before failing the check three times.


While most uses of the Medicine skill are defined as simple checks, game masters are free to require complex skill checks to treat particularly virulent strains of a disease or especially effective mixes of certain poisons. Research or especially complex medical procedures could easily be extended skill checks.


Generally, Nature checks are single use skill checks, however, there are some great complex skill check uses as well. When using Nature to navigate the wilderness to a desired location or even to follow tracks across a desert, for instance.


Since one Perception check represents one attempt to notice something, using the skill does not usually lend itself to complex skill checks. A GM could request an extended Perception check for guard duty to stay aware.


At the game master’s discretion, a few rare and powerful magic instruments might require a complex Perform check to activate. Writing exceptional music, speeches or other artistic measures might also require extended skill checks.


Although typical use of the Persuasion skill does not allow retries or lend itself to complex skill checks, a GM might choose to simulate an unusually long diplomatic session or interactions with multiple small groups for an extended period of time with one complex Persuasion check.

For example, a character wants to convince a large and fractious group of merchants to suspend travel through a dangerous area for a short amount of time so that he and his companions can adventure in the area and confront the monsters there without exposing innocent travelers to danger. Instead of rolling thirty or more Persuasion checks and roleplaying the reaction of each merchant in the group, the GM uses one complex skill check with a DC of 25 (representing the extreme difficulty of getting all the quarrelsome merchants to agree) that requires five successes before rolling three failures. The GM also might rule that because the tide of opinion can turn against the character very quickly in this case, each failed roil applies a cumulative 2 penalty to further rolls in the complex skill check.


Religion is generally a single skill use skill. Religious research, a spirit quest or a philosophical debate could all be uses for a complex skill check.

Sleight of Hand

Normal use of the Sleight of Hand skill does not lend itself to complex skill checks. A character performing a lengthy demonstration of legerdemain (such as a magic show relying on Sleight of Hand) might have to make a complex Sleight of Hand check to pull off the entire show, one roll per 15 minutes is probably appropriate.


The game master might rule that a complex Survival check allows long-term survival in one type of climate or terrain, raising the required number of successes for extreme environments such as arctic regions or deserts.


Normal use of the Stealth skill does not lend itself to complex skill checks. In certain unusual situations, a game master might use a complex skill check to simulate navigating an intricate environment such as an urban area while remaining unnoticed (this might mean blending in rather than remaining entirely out of sight in particularly crowded areas). For example, if a character wants to move from one place to another within a large city without being seen by members of the city watch, the game master might use a complex skill check to simulate the character’s progress without having to determine the location of every guard or roleplaying each encounter.

Tool-Related Complex Skill Checks

Disabling a Trap

Nearly any trap can be made to require a complex Sleight of Hand check rather than a simple one. If the trap requires a large number of successes (six or more) or if the attempt is ruined by less than three failures, adjust the challenge rating of the trap up by 1 or 2 to reflect the greater difficulty of disarming the trap.

A trap that requires a complex skill check may have a higher cost and challenge rating than a trap of the same sort that only requires a simple check; see Table: Complex Disable Device Checks. See the standard rules for trap costs.

Feature Cost Modifier CR Modifier
3 or more successes +250 gp per additional success +1 (CR 7 or more)
3 failures +0 gp
2 failures +500 gp +1
1 failure +1,500 gp +1

Opening a Lock

Although normal locks require only one Dexterity check, the game master is free to include locks or a series of locks that requires a complex check to open. (He can also rule that each casting of a knock spell counts as six successes toward opening a complex lock.) Particulars for complex locks are given in Table: Complex Opening Locks Checks.

Table: Complex Opening Locks Checks
Lock Quality DC Successes Price
Very simple 20 2 25 gp
Very simple 20 3 30 gp
Average 25 4 50 gp
Average 25 5 60 gp
Average 25 6 70 gp
Good 30 7 100 gp
Good 30 8 120 gp
Good 30 9 140 gp
Amazing 35 10 200 gp

Mixing Complex Skill Checks

GMs may design complex skill checks that require more than one type of skill or can be achieved by use of more than one skill, even with different DCs.

Example: Researching location of an Artifact

The thirteen scrolls of Inu-Herit are rumored to contain the largest collection of necromancy rituals known to man, and the reader will gain the knowledge of immortality (or lichdom!).

Requirement: 10 successes before 5 failures. At least 2 successes must be achieved in Arcana, History and Investigation each.

Arcana: DC 25, to hunt down rumors of the scrolls and their powers.

History: DC 25, to research the ancient Khemetian culture and history, including the secretive cult of Inu- Herit.

Investigation: DC 20, to piece together all the clues unearthed from all the investigation work.


Better Training

You may train a new skill proficiency, tool proficiency or weapon proficiency or language during downtime.

This requires the expenditure of 250 gp, and requires a number of 8 hour days training equal to 250 divided by your Intelligence modifier.


Having a mentor to teach you also aids the progress.

Add the mentor’s Intelligence modifier to yours to determine your effective Intelligence modifier. Of course, the GM is certainly able to charge more than 250 gold for the privilege of learning from exceptional tutors.

Simpler Mundane Crafting

As an option, your GM may permit you to craft simpler mundane items at a speed of 5xyour proficiency bonus in gold piece equivalent per day.

You may not craft an item if you are not proficient in the tool or tools required to create it. The cost of the materials remains the same (half the total cost).

Crafting Level Limits

This option changes the item crafting rules, changing the rules on what level items characters can craft, and how long such crafting takes. The time needed to craft an item is then also based on the creator’s level. This is an elegant solution for item creation, which removes the math from gameplay. In cases where rarity and cost conflict, use the items cost as a baseline (such as a suit of plate armor).

Table: Variant Costs and Level Requirements
Item Rarity Cost Required Level
Common 50 gp 1
Uncommon 500 gp 5
Rare 5,000 gp 11
Very Rare 50,000 gp 17
Legendary 500,000 gp *GM Permission Only
Table: Variant Crafting Time
Item Rarity Crafting Duration
Common One week. For level 5+ characters, they take one day to create.
Uncommon One month. For level 11+ characters, they take one week to create.
Rare One year. For level 17+ characters, they take a season (3 months) to create – or less, at the GM’s discretion.
Very Rare One year.
Legendary Entirely up to the GM; but it should take at least a year.

Multiple Craftsmen

When multiple qualified item crafters aid each other, at the GM’s discretion, you may divide the required time by the number of workers, rounding down. For instance, if a circle of eight wizards word together to craft a Very Rare item, the GM could rule it will take six weeks to craft.

More Hindering Armor

Armor that grants disadvantage on Stealth skill checks also grants disadvantage on Athletics and Acrobatics skill checks. Creatures who sleep in these armors also gain a level of exhaustion after sleeping for a long rest.

GMs could instead rule that these armors do not allow for proper rest. You can perform a short rest, but do not gain the benefits of a long rest while wearing these armors.

Simpler Ammunition

Tracking ammo is realistic, but not necessarily fun. For missile weapons, it can be safe to assume that during the course of a typical adventure, a PC will fire off around two stacks of (20) piece ammunition. At the end of each level, charge the PC a number of units of ammunition equal to 40 units of ammo. Alternatively, at the end of an adventure, the PC can be charged an amount of ammunition fees equal to 40xthe number of levels they increased. You can also charge a fee of 20 units of ammo for any adventure concluded where the PCs do not level.

A really simple way of making ammunition easier is simply to not track it. Simply ignore the need to buy ammunition for ammunition that costs less than 1 gp per stack.

Specialty ammunition such as a unique magical arrow or poisoned arrows should be tracked however.

Stronger Crossbows and Firearms

Historically, crossbows and firearms are more dangerous when fired at close range, even capable of piercing through plate armor. With this variant, crossbows and firearms can be more dangerous.

When firing crossbows or firearms at targets within half of its first range increment, you reduce the benefits of a target’s armor by -2 points.

Even Stronger Missile Weapons

If the GM and players would like to make missile weapons even more dangerous, they can allow (fired) ranged weapons to increase their damage die by one size increment when striking targets within half of their first range increment.

Masterwork Equipment

There are mundane items that are mass produced for mere function, and then there are items that craftsmen labor over for weeks or months. Such items are often named and given to the finest warriors and heroes of the realm.

Below we treat masterwork items as magic items with regards to cost and rarity. Such items do not count as magical, nor do they count against your magical item limits. You do not need to attune masterwork mundane gear. These items are simply better than standard.

Masterwork Tools

Item, common

While wielding a masterwork tool that you are proficient with, you gain a +2 bonus to any ability score or skill check you perform with it. In addition, you craft at a rate of +20% gold value when using this tool.

Masterwork Weapons

Weapon, uncommon

Masterwork weapons have either a +1 bonus to attack rolls or to damage (chosen during item creation) and the item has maximum hit points for an object of its size (usually 18 hp). Elves favor faster and more precise weapons for instance, while dwarves prefer a hammer that leaves no orc standing. Such a weapon is not magical, and if it is enchanted, its masterwork bonus does not stack with its magical bonuses to hit and damage.

Masterwork Armor

Armor, uncommon

Masterwork armor is usually custom-fit and more flexible than typical off the shelf wares. Such armor allows the wearer to increase the maximum Dexterity modifier of their armor by +1 and you only suffer a – 2 penalty on physical skills (i.e., Stealth) instead of disadvantage. Masterwork armor can usually be refitted to a new wearer by spending 10% of the item’s cost in crafting.

New Equipment Options

Double: This enhancement may only be added to one-handed, non-heavy weapons. Weapon gains the two-handed property, and loses the versatile property if it had it before. The weapon gains a second end that functions as another weapon, usually the same. The wielder may treat both weapons as if they had the light property for the purposes of two-weapon fighting. [+100% cost]

Folded: Weapon gains resistance to B/S/P damage from weapons that are not magical or adamantine. Certain oriental blades are folded hundreds of times to withstand the shattering blows of an attacker’s blades. [+100 gp]

Gigantic: This weapon is designed to be larger than normal, doubling the damage dice. By default, a character is not proficient with a massive version of a weapon and must train in its use. A half-ogre might forge a gigantic claymore. [+100% cost]

Guard: A properly designed guard is not only beautiful, but functional as well. The guard serves as a small shield for its wielder, protecting them from harm and being disarmed. You gain a +1 bonus to AC and your opponent’s suffer disadvantage when attempting to disarm you. [+50 gp]

Light: May only be placed on a weapon that does not have the heavy property. Weapon gains the finesse property. The elves make longswords that can be wielded with great flourish. [+15 gp]

Weighted: Weapon gains the heavy property, loses the finesse or light property if it had it before, and increases the damage dice by one size. The dwarves are known for the deadliness of their weighted hammers. [+50 gp]

Exotic Equipment

An exotic weapon or suit of armor can still be used by characters, but they do not gain a proficiency bonus with it. You must forfeit a skill (or tool) proficiency to begin play proficient, or spend the 250 days of training to become proficient. A GM may allow certain races, classes, etc. proficiency with exotic weapons if applicable (elven, oriental, etc.).

Poison Handling

Given their deadly natures, poisons are illegal in most societies but are favored among assassins, drow, and other evil societies.

Applying Poison

A single dose of poison on a weapon or some other object only affects a single target. A poisoned weapon or object retains its poison until the weapon scores a hit or the object is touched (unless the poison is wiped off before a target comes in contact with it). Once applied, the poison retains potency for one minute before drying.

Purchasing Poison

In most societies, laws prohibit the possession and use of poison, but a shady black-market dealer or unlawful apothecary might have a stash and be willing to sell some poisons because of the sheer temptation of their value in gold. Those characters with illicit contacts might be able to find poison relatively easily. Other characters might have to make extensive inquiries and pay bribes before they track down the poisons that they seek.

Use the poison’s cost to determine its effective rarity (similarly to a magic item). Then use the same approach as listed for finding magic items for sale.

Crafting Poison

During downtime between adventures, a character can craft poisons if the character has proficiency with a poisoner’s kit. Not all poison ingredients are available for purchase, and tracking down certain ingredients might form the basis of an entire adventure. This may require the use of Nature checks to find the appropriate herbs in the wild if not able to find the ingredients in the PCs location.

To create a poison, you use a poisoner’s kit and craft as normal until you reach the value of the poison desired.

Distilling Poison

More heinous poison can also be crafted if one has the skill. By doubling the effective cost of poison during crafting, the Constitution save DC is increased by +1.

This process distills the poison, greatly increasing its potency. A poison can only be distilled up to twice, resulting in a 300% increase in its base price and a +2 bonus to its save DC.

Harvesting Poison

A character can attempt to harvest poison from a poisonous creature, such as a snake, spider or other poisonous animal. The creature must be incapacitated or dead and the harvesting requires 1d6 minutes and a DC 20 Intelligence (Survival) or Poisoner’s Kit tool proficiency check. On a successful check, the character harvests enough poison for a single dose. On a failed check, the character is unable to extract any poison. If the character fails the check by 5 or more, the character is subjected to the creature’s poison.

Hit Points

Hit points are one of the most house-ruled mechanics in any game. Every GM has their own style of play and need for various hit point mechanics.

Rolling Two Dice for HP

Many players love to roll dice for their hit points, but become incensed when rolling 1s. This option uses two smaller dice for hit points for each class, guaranteeing that PCs will gain at least two hit points per level of advancement.

In this variant, characters roll two dice for hit points at each level. This method grants a more average roll, ensuring that PCs never gain a 1 on hit point rolls each level.

Hit Die HP Roll
d6 2d3
d8 2d4
d10 d6+d4
d12 2d6

More Starting Hit Points

With this variant, PCs start at first level with hit points equal to their CON score, with no CON bonus.

Thereafter, they only gain the average hit points. This variant gives players a little more survivability at first level.


Not all styles of play are the same, thus, having more options for healing can help you find the right style of recovery for hit points and wounds for your table.

Slower Healing

In this grittier option, spending Hit Dice for healing is much more difficult. A short rest recovers hit points as usual (a roll of a number of Hit Dice spent plus CON bonus for each die), however you are limited by your level in Hit Dice per day and do not automatically regain all of your hit points upon taking a long rest.

During a long rest, the remaining Hit Dice are used up as if rolled, but calculated at maximum value. After taking a successful long rest, all Hit Dice are then refreshed. This makes healing more realistic and encourages players to save some Hit Dice to use overnight. If they do not have any Hit Dice left for a long rest, they do not regain any additional hit points, but otherwise gain the benefits of a long rest.

Limited Recovery per Hour

With this optional rule, characters may only expend one Hit Die per hour of rest (short rest). For example, if an adventuring group needs to spend 3 Hit Dice each before regaining their full hit points, it would take a minimum of three hours of rest. Note that this variant leaves PCs much more vulnerable to interruptions during rest…

Fatiguing Injuries

With this variant, characters that become incapacitated also gain one level of exhaustion. This is considerably more realistic and gritty, causing serious injury to have side-effects and setbacks requiring rest. Characters will not be able to recover to 1 hp and rush onward.

Lingering Injuries

With this variant, failed death saves represent serious wounds and injury. When a character fails a death save, it accumulates until they take a long rest, which removes one failed save. Characters with one or two failed death saves may need to rest and recuperate for several days to mend their wounds before they feel adventurous again.

Medicine Checks

A character can make Medicine checks to allow characters to expend Hit Dice. These Hit Dice must be rolled, and the target of the healing chooses whether or not they want to expend a Hit Die. This variant is great when time is of the issue, and the group can’t simply wait around to perform a short rest. With a quick stitch or two, the PCs are back in action. The GM may require a Medicine skill check to accompany this, and it should be especially difficult if attempted in combat.

Healer’s Kits

Beyond stabilizing a character, a GM may allow PCs to expend a use of a healer’s kit to gain a maximum amount on their Hit Dice roll. A GM may require a Medicine skill check to accompany this.

Average Hit Dice Rolls

Some GMs and players may find that the spent Hit Die rolls are too random. Rolling a 1 on your Hit Die can be a real bummer. As an option, use the values below for your recovery.


Hit Die Recovery Value
d6 4 + Con Bonus
d8 5 + Con Bonus
d10 6 + Con Bonus
d12 7 + Con Bonus

Vitality and Wounds

The vitality and wound points system was originally developed as a more cinematic method of handling damage than the traditional hit point system. The system allows for characters to improve the amount of punishment they can withstand as they go up in level, while still allowing for a single lucky or skilled attack to take down a character.

Characters using this system should be more wary in combat, which can turn deadly in the space of a few lucky rolls. But they can also bounce back from a fight relatively quickly. For that reason, this variant is an ideal system for low-magic campaigns or games where healing is otherwise rare.

Vitality Points

Vitality points are a measure of a character’s ability to turn a direct hit into a graze or a glancing blow with no serious consequences. Like hit points in the standard d20 rules, vitality points go up with level, giving high-level characters more ability to shrug off attacks. Most types of damage reduce vitality points.

Characters gain vitality points as they gain levels. Just as with hit points in the standard d20 rules, at each level a character rolls their Hit Die and adds their Constitution modifier, adding the total to his vitality point total (and, just as with hit points, a character always gains at least 1 vitality point per level, regardless of his roll or Constitution modifier.) A 1stlevel character gets the maximum vitality die result rather than rolling.

A character’s hit points are then broken up into two pools. Their wound points are equal to their number of current hit points or their Constitution score, whichever is less. This means that a starting fighter has 10 wound points, plus his Constitution modifier.

These would all be wound points if his total hit points is equal to or less than his Constitution score.

When you level, additional hit points are added to your wound points first, until you reach your Constitution score. Any additional points beyond your Constitution score then are added to your vitality points.

Low level characters almost always have all of their hit points as wound points. A single stab wound to them is a significant injury.

Critical Hits

A critical hit deals the same amount of damage as normal but the distribution of damage points is different. The base damage die and normal modifier is subtracted from vitality. The bonus dice of damage are subtracted directly from wounds.

For example, a longsword thrust strikes with a natural 20. It would deal 1d8 points of damage (plus modifiers) to vitality and 1d8 points (the bonus dice) to wounds.

Injury and Death

Vitality and wound points together measure how hard a character is to hurt and kill. The damage from each successful attack and each fight accumulates, dropping a character’s vitality point or wound point totals until he runs out of points.

Zero Vitality Points

At 0 vitality points, a character is not unconscious, but can no longer avoid taking real physical damage. Any additional damage he receives reduces his wound points directly.

Exhaustion and Wound Damage

As an option, the first time a character takes wound damage—even a single point—he gains one level of exhaustion, causing disadvantage on skill and ability checks (but not attack rolls or saves).

A wounded character must then take a rest to remove wound damage and the exhaustion. A GM may choose to make the exhaustion only removable by a long rest (as per the core rules), this is more realistic, but may slow down the game, especially at lower levels.

Zero Wound Points

At 0 wound points, the character is unconscious and dying. They must begin making death saves as normal.

Special Damage Situations

The vitality point system changes the way some special damage effects work.

Coup de Grace

If this variant rule is used (see the combat section), a coup de grace functions normally in that it automatically hits and scores a critical hit (and thus the damage dealt is applied to the target’s wound points).

If the defender survives the damage, he must make a Constitution save (DC 10 + the amount of damage dealt) or die.

Massive Damage

The massive damage optional rule should not be used under this system.


After taking damage, a character can recover vitality and wound points through natural healing (through short or long rests), or by magic. In any case, a character can’t regain vitality points or wound points above his full normal totals.

Natural Healing

Characters recover vitality points by expending Hit Dice during rests. Wound points may only be healed after vitality points are refilled. Points healed after vitality points are filled are then used towards wound points.

Optionally, with a long rest, a character recovers all wound points. Any significant interruption during the rest period prevents the character from healing that night.

As an option, a GM may require players to spend Hit Dice after the completion of a long rest to heal.

Temporary Hit Points

When a creature would normally gain temporary hit points, it gains temporary vigor points instead. When that creature takes damage, it loses these temporary vigor points first. If an attack deals damage to wound points only, these temporary vigor points are not lost.

Special Healing Abilities

Some classes have special abilities that allow them to fight on, like the fighter’s Second Wind ability. These hit points are immediately added to the character’s vitality points.

Magical Healing

Spells that heal hit point damage work somewhat differently in this system. Any spells that heal an amount of hit point damage (such as cure wounds), apply the results as restored wound points first.

This option makes it so that magic is indeed magical, and can mend wounds with ease. A GM may choose to allow players to remove their exhaustion level from being wounded immediately upon receiving enough magical healing to restore all of their wound points.

Harder Magical Healing

Optionally, receiving magical healing, even from a potion heals vitality points first and does not heal wounds until all vitality has been recovered. However, receiving magical healing allows a character to expend a Hit Die in addition to the normal effects of the healing spell or item as a reaction. This Hit Die may be added directly to wound points, and any additional hit points healed are then applied to vitality.

This option makes magic valuable, but does not wave away grievous wounds with ease. Also, the stronger the character (i.e., higher the Hit Dice), the better they can recover from wounds.


When a feat grants additional hit points, these bonus hit points are vitality points.

NPCs and Monsters

NPCs without heroic class levels should treat all hit points as wound points, up to their Constitution score.

Anything beyond that are considered vitality points.

Most monsters, on the other hand, have both wound points and vitality points. For Small, Medium. and Large creatures, a monster’s wound point total is equal to its hit points, up to its Constitution score. Creatures smaller or larger than that have their wound point pool multiplied by a factor based on their size, as indicated on the table. Note that this does not increase their total number of hit points, it just distributes their hit points differently than other creatures. For example, a pixie succumbs to wounds much easier than a great sand worm.

Size Wound Point Multiplier
Fine x1/8
Diminutive x1/4
Tiny x1/2
Small x1
Medium x1
Large x1
Huge x2
Gargantuan x4
Colossal x8

Damage Resistances

Damage resistance functions normally, reducing damage dealt by attacks. A critical hit still deals damage to both vitality and wounds, but both amounts would be reduced accordingly.


All damage dealt to creatures with regeneration is vitality point damage, even in the case of critical hits.

The creature automatically heals vitality point damage at a fixed rate per round, as given in the entry (for example, a troll has regeneration 10). A regenerating creature that runs out of vitality points becomes fatigued just as if it had taken wound point damage.

Excess damage, however, does not reduce its wound points. Certain attack forms, typically fire and acid, automatically deal wound damage to a regenerating creature, though it may attempt a Constitution save (DC 10 + damage dealt) to convert this to vitality damage, which it can regenerate normally. Otherwise, regeneration functions as described in the standard rules and in individual monster descriptions.

Dropping To ‘0’ Hit Points

Exhausting Wounds

If a character is dropped to 0 hit points, they gain one level of exhaustion. If you recover and are dropped to zero again, you gain another level of exhaustion. If you roll a 1 on your death saves, you gain another level of exhaustion.

No Instant Death

With this variant, characters never perish if the remaining damage from an attack that drops their hit point totals to 0 is equal to their Constitution score.

Characters that reach 0 hit points make death saves as normal, but they do not suffer instant deaths, regardless of the amount of damage they suffer.

Variant Death Saves

In this variant, your physical health plays a larger role.

The DC for death saves is changed to DC 11, but characters may add their Constitution modifier to the save.

Variant ‘Death’s Door’

Characters are knocked unconscious when they go to 0 hp or below. Characters die when their hit point totals reach a negative amount greater than their CON score.

A character reduced to zero or below is knocked unconscious (and gains a wound if the wounds optional rules are in use). Characters between 0 and – 5 HP are unconscious but stable, and those at -6 or worse are dying.

On an unconscious character’s turn, they make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw. If they achieve a DC 15 on the save, they regain 1 hit point on their turn. For each additional +5 DC they achieve on their save (i.e., DC 20, DC 25, etc.), they regain an additional hit point. This repeats until the character is in positive hit points and conscious. Failure only results in the character being unconscious longer.

On a dying character’s turn, they too must make a Constitution save. However, if they do not achieve a 15 on the test, they suffer 1d4 points of direct HP damage (armor and DR do not apply to this damage).

If they do achieve a 15 on the test, they regain 1 hit point. Dying characters may regain more than one hit point as explained above. This repeats until they are either dead or simply unconscious.

A character is immediately slain if their hit points reach a negative amount equal to their Constitution score.

Note that if you are using wounds, wound penalties apply towards all death and dying tests.


In general, fantasy games have worked because damage and defenses were merely abstractions. A valiant knight could be knocked from over 100 hit points down to less than 5 and still manage to slay the dragon and rescue the princess, showing only a few scratches for his efforts.

Wounds are for GMs and players who want a little more realism in their games. With this variant, getting damaged can have significant consequences and multiple wounds could mean your demise.

If a character ever suffers more damage than their Constitution score, they suffer a wound. A wound should be noted with a red counter or chip. Wounds have a cumulative effect of -1 to all rolls (including death saves).

Wounds can be removed with a Medicine DC 15 skill check and expending one use of a healer’s kit. A wound can also be removed with rest and the expenditure of a Hit Die. This die does not grant hit points, it only removes the wound. Wounds can also be removed with curative magic. Magic can cure both hit point damage and remove one wound per die of healing. Magic items such as potions that heal 2d4+2 points of damage then also cure two wounds.

Really Gritty Wounds

If a GM wishes for an especially gritty game, they can rule that if a character has more wounds than their level plus their Constitution modifier, they are immediately knocked unconscious. They keep the same number of hit points, but are unconscious and do not regain consciousness until they remove the appropriate number of wounds.

Characters may regain consciousness in 2d4 hours and automatically remove one wound point without expending a Hit Die. Generally this allows players to return to their adventures, albeit a bit shaken up and battered.

Critical Wounds

Another option for wounds is to only grant wounds when characters suffer critical hits and possibly even sneak attacks. This makes critical hits and sneak attacks more deadly and cinematic.


The list of conditions in the 5e game is purposely simplistic. There’s only a handful of conditions that serve as a catch-all for what ails you. The following list is intended to broaden that list, allowing GMs to be more selective in handing out conditions for effect.


A creature that is taking bleed damage takes the listed amount of damage (usually 1 or a die amount) at the beginning of its turn. Bleeding can be stopped by a DC 15 Medicine check or through the application of any spell that cures hit point damage.

GMs may choose to have bleed damage stack with itself or not, depending on the type of campaign they wish to play.


A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage. Creatures that are not used to being blind must make a DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) skill check to move faster than half of their base speed. Creatures that fail this check fall prone.


Items that have taken damage in excess of half their total hit points gain the broken condition, meaning they are less effective at their designated task. The broken condition has the following effects, depending upon the item.

If the item is a weapon, any attacks made with the item suffer disadvantage on attacks.

If the item is a suit of armor or a shield, the bonus it grants to AC is halved, rounding down. Broken armor always inflicts disadvantage on skills, regardless of armor type.

If the item is a tool needed for a skill, any skill check made with the item suffers disadvantage.

If the item is a wand or staff, it uses up twice as many charges when used.

If the item does not fit into any of these categories, the broken condition has no effect on its use. Items with the broken condition, regardless of type, are worth 50% of their normal resale value. Items lose the broken condition if a spell restores the object to half its original hit points or higher. Non-magical items can be repaired in a similar fashion, or through crafting.


A charmed creature can’t attack the charmer or target the charmer with harmful abilities or magical effects.

The charmer has advantage on any ability check to interact socially with the creature.


A confused creature is mentally befuddled and cannot act normally. A confused creature cannot tell the difference between ally and foe, treating all creatures as enemies. Allies wishing to cast a beneficial spell that requires a touch on a confused creature must succeed on an attack roll. If a confused creature is attacked, it attacks the creature that last attacked it until that creature is dead or out of sight.

Roll on the following table at the beginning of each confused subject’s turn each round to see what the subject does in that round.

d% Behavior
01–25 Act normally.
26–50 Do nothing but babble incoherently.
51–75 Deal 1d8 points of damage + Str modifier to self with item in hand.
76–100 Attack nearest creature (for this purpose, a familiar counts as part of the subject’s self)

A confused creature who can’t carry out the indicated action does nothing but babble incoherently. Attackers are not at any special advantage when attacking a confused creature. Any confused creature who is attacked automatically attacks its attackers on its next turn, as long as it is still confused when its turn comes.

Note that a confused creature will not make opportunity attacks against anything that it is not already devoted to attacking (either because of its most recent action or because it has just been attacked).


A deafened creature can’t hear and automatically fails any ability check that requires hearing.


The character is ensnared. Being entangled impedes movement, but does not entirely prevent it unless the bonds are anchored to an immobile object or tethered by an opposing force. An entangled creature moves at half speed and cannot take the Dash action. You also suffer disadvantage on any attack rolls attempted. An entangled character who attempts to cast a spell must make a concentration check (DC 15 + spell level) or lose the spell. Entangled characters generally need to achieve a DC 15 Strength or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to free themselves.


Fatigue is similar to exhaustion, but a lesser form.

Fatigue levels function exactly as exhaustion levels, but it recovers at a rate of one level per hour of rest (short rest). Fatigue levels (and their penalties) stack with exhaustion.


A character who has not yet acted during a combat is flat-footed, unable to react normally to the situation.

A flat-footed character suffers advantage on all attacks made against them and cannot make opportunity attacks.


A frightened creature has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight. The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.


A grappled creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed. The condition ends if the grappler is incapacitated (see the condition). The condition also ends if an effect removes the grappled creature from the reach of the grappler or grappling effect, such as when a creature is hurled away by the thunderwave spell.


An incapacitated creature can’t take actions or reactions.


Intimidated is a lesser version of the Frightened condition. An intimidated character suffers disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls made against creatures that intimidate you.


An invisible creature is impossible to see without the aid of magic or a special sense. For the purpose of hiding, the creature is heavily obscured. The creature’s location can be detected by any noise it makes or any tracks it leaves. Attack rolls against the creature have disadvantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have advantage.


Creatures with the nauseated condition experience stomach distress. Nauseated creatures are unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells, or do anything else requiring attention. The only action such a character can take is a single movement per turn.


A paralyzed creature is incapacitated (see the condition) and can’t move or speak. The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage. Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.


A petrified creature is transformed, along with any nonmagical object it is wearing or carrying, into a solid inanimate substance (usually stone). Its weight increases by a factor of ten, and it ceases aging. The creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings.

Attack rolls against the creature have advantage. The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws. The creature has resistance to all damage. The creature is immune to poison and disease, although a poison or disease already in its system is suspended, not neutralized.


A poisoned creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.


A prone creature’s only movement option is to crawl, unless it stands up and thereby ends the condition.

The creature has disadvantage on attack rolls. An attack roll against the creature has advantage if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature. Otherwise, the attack roll has disadvantage.


A restrained creature’s speed becomes 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage. The creature has disadvantage on Dexterity saving throws.


A sickened creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks.


A stunned creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move, and can speak only falteringly. The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage.


A surprised creature cannot take reactions, attacks against it have advantage and it has disadvantage on saves and ability checks. Surprised creatures go last in the first round of initiative.

The benefits of using surprise in this fashion is that a creature is never stuck in a pattern of abuse for two full rounds (surprised, then going last). This continues to create balance in an encounter, yet rewards characters surprising their foes. A surprised character may act in the first round, but is largely ineffective.

Surprised creatures have the “surprised” condition:


An unconscious creature is incapacitated (see the condition), can’t move or speak, and is unaware of its surroundings The creature drops whatever it is holding and falls prone. The creature automatically fails Strength and Dexterity saving throws. Attack rolls against the creature have advantage. Any attack that hits the creature is a critical hit if the attacker is within 5 feet of the creature.


When a character falls below ten percent of its hit point total, it is considered wounded. While wounded, a creature has disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks and saving throws.

Note: It is best not to mix the wounded condition with the Wounds optional rule. The two are separate mechanics that are designed to signify the same effect. Stacking them can be unbalancing.

Variant Initiative

Some groups prefer simpler initiative systems while others want ultra-realism. Below are a few new options to explore.

Roll Each Round

In order to create more dynamic and variable combats GMs could allow that initiative be rolled each round.

This makes the game less uniform, but it also shows the randomness and circumstance of combat.

One way to speed up this sort of initiative could be to simply draw beads or cards with numbers on them to represent each player and forget about the actual initiative number. It’s less realistic, but mixes up initiative and is very easy to track.

Round Table Initiative

With this variant, the GM and players all roll initiative as normal, but the highest roller begins play and then all turns happen clockwise around the player group at the table.

When it gets to the GM’s turn, all of the monsters act, in whatever order the GM thinks is most appropriate in the situation (e.g. the fastest monster, the highest level monster, or the monster in front might be first).

The beauty of this system is the speed of initiative tracking. It’s easy to tell whose turn it is and who is up next. The only flaw is if there are players who try to stack the table, by putting the fastest players to the GM’s left, attempting to keep the GM going last. If this scenario occurs, it is handled simply by making initiative start with the fastest player, but always go in the direction of the GM.

Alternate Initiative Rolls

In this variant, initiative is determined to be from a few factors. It is a measure of both luck and circumstance, but also your quickness and wits, plus combat experience. This system is more realistic, but also less random.

Initiative = 1d10 + DEX + WIS + Proficiency Bonus

Alternately, the GM can use any dice they deem adequate to the roll. Consider using a d12 or 2d10 even.

The Quick and The Dead

In this option, the PCs choose whether or not they want to go before the GM, or want to go after.

If the PCs Choose Before: Players take one action (movement, attack, etc.), but may not take bonus actions. This allows the players the versatility of making that well-timed arrow shot against the evil wizard, or to rush in to draw the minions away from the softer party members. However, this timeliness comes at a cost of some of their actions. Players determine among themselves who goes in what order.

If the PCs Choose After: Players are allowed their full actions (attack and movement, etc.), and may take bonus actions. This allows players their full action, but at the cost of going slower and giving the GM’s characters a chance to go first.

Cinematic Combat ‘Hits’

In this variant, health is extrapolated into a number of ‘hits,’ rather than purely hit points. A GM might use this to make minor creatures such as kobolds or goblins one-hit wonders, in service of a greater creature as their minions.

By the same token, using damage as hits allows for a more cinematic resolution for major challenges and encounters. If you have a PC that deals a large amount of damage, this somewhat mutes their abilities from the GM’s perspective, and ensures that your encounter isn’t defeated without significantly more effort. Also, it allows characters that deal less damage to feel just as important, granting them more opportunities to deal the killing blow.

A creature has a number of ‘hits’ equal to their Hit Dice. Creatures with d10 Hit Dice gain one additional hit, while creatures with d12 Hit Dice have two additional hits. Creatures with the Tough feat gain two additional hits.

When dealing damage, each die of damage is considered a ‘hit.’ Weapons that deal two dice, deal two hits. Spells doing multiple dice of damage deal multiple hits.

Healing ‘hits’ is accomplished by using magic or spending Hit Dice. A spent Hit Die (or Second Wind) heals one ‘hit.’ Curative magic heals one hit per die of the spell. Potions of cure wounds heal two dice.

This variant is best used for the GM’s purposes only.

It is only intended as a way to simplify combat and to differentiate between major and minor NPCs.

Firing Into Melee

Yes, you can hit your friends and unintended targets.

When firing into melee, cover bonus is added to the normal fumble threat range of 1. If you roll within that range, you reroll against a random target granting cover.

Example: An ally is attacking a goblin and both are engaged in melee. You fire a ranged attack at the goblin. You must add the soft cover bonus of +2 to your normal fumble range of 1. This becomes a fumble chance of 1-3. If you roll a fumble, you would strike your ally instead of the goblin. However, if there were multiple allies or goblins surrounding a target, this could have different results, such as striking a different goblin or ally.

Rising From Prone

As any combat enthusiast knows, rising from a throw or fall is a difficult thing in the heat of battle. It takes training and skill to do so very quickly and even more so when faced with an aggressive adversary. The following variant rules can be used to make your combats slightly more realistic.

You must spend half your movement to stand from prone. However, when threatened, you must also make a successful Acrobatics or Athletics DC 15 to attempt to stand. You have Disadvantage on the roll when threatened by more than one enemy. A character may choose to use the Disengage action or suffer an opportunity attack from threatening opponents to get up from prone without making any skill check.

This represents a characters skill at rolling with a fall and their ability to keep attackers at bay while they stand.

Coup de Grace

As an action, you can use a melee weapon to deliver a coup de grace to a helpless (incapacitated, paralyzed, restrained, stunned or unconscious) opponent. You can also use a bow or crossbow, provided you are within 30’ of a helpless target.

You automatically hit and score a critical hit. If the defender survives the damage, he must make a Constitution save (DC 10 + damage dealt) or become dying with 0 hit points. A rogue also gets her extra sneak attack damage against a helpless opponent when delivering a coup de grace.

You can’t deliver a coup de grace against a creature that is immune to critical hits.

Variant Combat Actions

During combat, you can attempt to perform a number of special combat actions that can hinder or even cripple your foe.

Bull Rush

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them. The target of your shove must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you. For every 5 points you beat the target’s roll, you may shove them an additional 5 feet.


As a Dash action, you can choose to charge a target and make a single attack as a bonus action during your Dash (This can be an attack with a weapon or a shove attempt, but nothing else). The charge must be in a straight line and you must at least move 10 feet. You cannot charge through any obstacle (person, objects, even friendlies) or through hindering or difficult terrain.

The attack at the end of the charge has advantage.

However, until your next turn, anyone attacking you has advantage to their attacks against you.

If you have the Charging Expertise feat, you no longer grant attackers advantage against you at the end of the charge.


Rather than using the Cleave feat (Fifth Edition Feats), you can use cleave as a combat maneuver available for any character. If your attack roll using a non-light weapon drops a foe to 0 hit points, you may make another attack as a bonus action against an adjacent target. This attack is made with disadvantage.


A creature can use an attack to attempt to strike a weapon or other such item from a target’s grip. The attacker makes an attack roll (Strength check or Dexterity if a finesse weapon) and adds any attack modifiers with the weapon and proficiency bonus.

This check is contested by the target’s Strength or Dexterity saving throw (target’s choice). If the attacker wins the disarm attempt, the attack causes no other effect or damage beyond the defender dropping the item. The attacker has disadvantage on its attack roll if the target is holding the item with two or more hands.

The target has advantage on its saving throw or skill check if it is larger than the attacking creature, or disadvantage if it is smaller than its target.


As your action, you may attempt a Strength check DC 10 to drag a creature of your size. The DC increases by 5 for creatures one size category larger and decreases by 5 for creatures one size category smaller. While dragging a creature, your movement is halved. If two or more creatures attempt to perform a Drag action, they gain advantage and only one needs to succeed.

You cannot drag a creature more than two sizes larger than your own.


As a bonus action, you attempt to fake out your opponent. You make an Intelligence (Deception) skill check opposed by your target’s Wisdom (Insight) check. You gain advantage on your next attack against that opponent this round.

Fighting Dirty

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to fight dirty against a creature, hindering it in melee combat. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the attack action, this attack replaces one of them. You make an attack roll and the target makes an opposed Intelligence or Wisdom save (target’s choice). If successful, you may either gain advantage on your next attack against the target, cause the target to suffer disadvantage on their next attack or cause them to suffer the blinded condition until their next turn.

Giving Ground

When attacked, a character may spend a reaction to move 5 feet after suffering an attack. The character must have at least 5 feet of movement left from their previous turn.

In reality, melee combat rarely involves two opponents standing in front of one another taking turns swinging swords at each others’ faces.

Opponents dodge and weave, moving deftly across their field of combat attempting to avoid their opponent’s blows while striking their own.

This optional rule may require some measure of counters for movement. A d12 works great, with each point representing five feet of movement.

Leap onto a Larger Creature

After getting into position near the larger creature, the smaller creature uses its action to make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by the target’s Dexterity (Acrobatics) check.

If the climber wins the contest, the smaller creature successfully moves into the target creature’s space and clings to its body. While in the target’s space, the smaller creature moves with the target and has advantage on attack rolls against it.

The smaller creature can move around within the larger creature’s space, treating the space as difficult terrain. The larger creature’s ability to attack the smaller creature depends on the smaller creature’s location, and is left to your discretion. The larger creature can dislodge the smaller creature as an action, knocking it off, scraping it against a wall, or grabbing and throwing it by making a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the smaller creature’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check. The smaller creature chooses which ability to use.


When a creature attempts to pass through a nonfriendly creature’s space, the overbearing character can attempt to push its way through the space by overbearing the hostile creature. When moving, the mover makes a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the hostile creature’s Strength (Athletics) check. The creature attempting the overbear has advantage on this check if it is larger than the hostile creature, or disadvantage if it is smaller. If the overbearing character wins the contest, it can move through the hostile creature’s space once this turn. If you fail an overbear attempt, your movement ends and you provoke an opportunity attack from the defending creature.

Powerful Attack

When using the Attack action, an attacker may make a powerful attack. The attacker chooses a penalty between -1 and -5 on their attack roll. If the attack is successful, you add twice that amount as bonus damage.


Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to trip a creature, knocking it prone. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them. The target of your trip must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, the target is knocked prone.


A creature can try to tumble through a hostile creature’s space, ducking and weaving past the opponent. As part of a movement, the tumbler makes a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by the hostile creature’s Strength (Athletics) check. If the tumbler wins the contest, it can move through the hostile creature’s space once this turn and does not provoke opportunity attacks. If the tumbler fails, their movement ends.

Multiple Advantages AND Disadvantages

There are times where a character might have multiple instances of advantage or disadvantage. If the GM wishes, he can allow the extra d20 rolls in order to show the likelihood of success or failure.

Allowing advantage to stack means you are much more likely to succeed, but also to critically succeed.

The same is conversely true for disadvantage.

For example, a rogue is stealthily moving into position to stab a foe engaged in melee with his fighter ally.

Because he is hidden, he has advantage on his attack, as well as now flanking his opponent. Our rogue could then roll 3d20 for his attack, very likely hitting, and having three chances to roll a 20 for a critical hit.

GMs could alternately award or penalize characters with increased threat or fumble ranges for each additional factor of advantage or disadvantage.

Better Critical Hits

With this variant, critical hits are more lethal. Instead of simply dealing double the dice of damage, critical hits deal maximum damage plus the attack’s dice of damage. For example, a longsword attack that deals 1d8+5 damage would deal 1d8+13 on a critical hit.

The benefit to this variant is that critical hits become much more effective and faster during gameplay. This is nice because as written there are times when a critical hit could equate to simply one more point of damage, which is neither impressive, fun nor cinematic. This does make combat a little more lethal though and especially at low level. If you want a more gritty or epic game, consider this variant.

Critical Damage to Equipment

PCs may choose to reduce a critical hit to a normal hit, but at the cost of reducing either their armor or shield bonus by 1 point. If a shield loses all of its bonus, it is destroyed. If a suit of armor is reduced to an AC of 10, it is destroyed.

Harsher Critical Hits

Alternately, players don’t choose to have armor and shields damaged, this is simply how critical hits work.

All critical hits reduce the value of armor or shields.

Shields are damaged first, and then armor. Creatures with natural armor suffer the same consequences as real armor, but regain one point of armor per day.

Their armor is never destroyed.


With this variant rule, a character that rolls a natural 1 on an attack roll suffers disadvantage on their next attack roll.

More Opportunity Attacks

Some groups may desire more opportunity attacks than those presented in the player’s handbook. The rules below grant additional occasions for opportunity attacks.

Taking an opportunity attack is a reaction, and a character that exhausts his reaction may not take another opportunity attack in that round, regardless of his number of opportunities.

Moving Out of a Threatened Square

Instead of suffering an opportunity attack when leaving an opponent’s reach, you suffer an opportunity attack any time a foe exits any of your threatened squares.

Ranged Attacks

With this option, ranged attacks still suffer disadvantage when made while threatened, but also cause opportunity attacks.

Unarmed Attacks

Characters that are not trained to fight unarmed (like monks or monsters) suffer opportunity attacks when making attacks against other armed creatures.

Casting a Spell

The act of casting a spell generally leaves a character’s defenses down during the incantations.

Casting a spell while threatened causes an opportunity attack.

Undefended Actions

Certain actions such as drinking a potion, applying an oil, lighting a torch, reading a scroll and using the Medicine skill in combat cause a character to suffer an opportunity attack from any threatening foes.

The character performing these actions is spending their focus on the other action and not defending themselves properly.

Standing up from Prone

Characters failing to make their successful skill checks to rise from prone (see above) suffer opportunity attacks as they rise.

Simplified Speed Factor

Some groups love the “realism” of speed factor, but the optional rules presented in the GM’s Guidebook are somewhat cumbersome additional math that does not add value to the game. To combat this, we have the Simplified Speed Factor rules below.

Some quick actions grant advantage on initiative and other slower actions cause disadvantage. It’s very simple and adds the extra realism some groups seek with initiative. If the action is not listed below, it has no modifier.

Table: Speed Factor Initiative Modifiers
Factor Modifier
Spellcasting: Cantrip Advantage
Spellcasting: 1st-3rd level
Spellcasting: 4th or greater Disadvantage
Melee, Heavy Weapon Disadvantage
Melee, Light or Finesse Weapon Advantage
Melee, Two-handed Weapon
Ranged, Loading Weapon Disadvantage

When you change your action (cast a different spell, attack with a different weapon, etc.), you use a modified initiative for the next round based on that action. Refer to the chart below.

Table: Speed Factor Initiative Modifier Changes
Factor Modifier
Gain Advantage +5
Lose Advantage -5
No Change

For example: A character attacks on round 1 with a cantrip to gain advantage on his initiative roll. He rolls a 12 and a 16 (modified by +2 for his Dexterity of 14).

On round 1, the character would go on an 18, zapping out his well-practiced cantrip with lightning speed.

However, he finds that his cantrip was less than effective so he draws his longsword in round 2. His initiative changes from having advantage to no modifier and so because he lost advantage, his new initiative score is reduced by -5 to 13.

Armor AS Damage Reduction

Some groups enjoy a little more realism when it comes to armor and taking hits. With this system, armor provides the ability to deflect attacks and a measure of damage reduction against successful strikes.

Each category of armor provides a listed amount of damage reduction. While you are wearing armor, bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage that you take from non-magical weapons is reduced by the listed amount.

Armor Type Damage Reduction
Light DR 1
Medium DR 2
Heavy DR 3

If you use this option, we suggest changing the Heavy Armor Master feat to increase the amount of damage reduction granted by heavy armor by +2.

Class Defense Bonus

In the standard rules, a character’s skill at attacking gets better as he goes up in level—but not so his skill at avoiding attacks. Characters rely on armor and magic items to protect them in combat. With the Class Defense Bonus system, characters have an innate defense (AC), and armor provides a means to keep from being damaged.

This variant system is particularly appropriate for swashbuckling or stealth-based campaigns, for settings in which firearms are common, for seafaring campaigns (in which the characters would rather not wear armor for fear of drowning), or any other setting in which armor is not worn on a day-to-day basis— even by adventurers.

Using the defense bonus variant in your game means that sometimes, at least, characters won’t want to wear armor—their defense bonus provides them with free protection that’s just as good as armor.

The Class Defense Bonus

In this variant, every character has a defense bonus based on his character level. The defense bonus applies to Armor Class. However, it does not stack with the character’s armor bonus. A character wearing armor gains damage reduction (including any enhancement to that bonus) instead of an additional bonus to AC.

The defense bonus stacks with all other bonuses to AC, including the character’s shield bonus, natural armor bonus, and other special abilities (such as the barbarian or monk’s class abilities).

Level Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard Bard, Cleric, Rogue Barbarian, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger
1st 10 10 12
2nd 10 10 12
3rd 10 11 13
4th 10 11 13
5th 11 11 13
6th 11 12 14
7th 11 12 14
8th 11 12 14
9th 12 13 15
10th 12 13 15
11th 12 13 15
12th 12 14 16
13th 13 14 16
14th 13 14 16
15th 13 15 17
16th 13 15 17
17th 14 15 17
18th 14 16 18
19th 14 16 18
20th 14 16 18

Multiclass Characters

Multiclass characters may either add all of their levels together and apply it to their weakest class defense or take the highest defense listed for each class (whichever is greater). For instance, a fighter 4/rogue 4 has eight levels, and applies them to the rogue column, earning a defense of 12. As a 4th level fighter however, his defense is a 13, so his base defense is a 13. A barbarian 4/ranger 4 would have a 14 when combined or 13 individually, so his defense is a 14.


Generally, it is not worth recalculating monster’s defense and AC. Simply use a monster’s listed AC as their defense, and grant them damage reduction based on the type of armor they wield or the strength of their natural armor in comparison to existing armor.

Class Defense and Armor as DR

When using the Class Defense option, the Armor as Damage Reduction rules need to change. Damage reduction becomes vastly more important as PCs (and monsters) will be getting hit much more often. Armor with this system is designed for protection, not necessarily to keep you from being hit.

Armor provides a die for damage reduction, and this die is rolled and the amount subtracted from all physical damage taken. GMs are free to rule that some damage, like falling, is not affected or even to allow it to reduce magical damage as well, such as a fireball’s effects against a knight in full plate.

Armor Type Damage Reduction
Light DR 1d4 (or 2)
Medium DR 1d8 (or 4)
Heavy DR 1d12 (or 6)

Locating Magic Items

There is a much greater scarcity of magic in 5th edition compared to previous editions. This generally means that magic items are not sold in shops, but rather people need to be “in the know” to find them or be connected to someone that has what you are looking for. Even a person selling relatively mundane items such as potions of healing would be forced to hide their stores for the great risk of theft and worse, being inundated with beleaguered individuals needing the healing but who could not afford the 50 gp (more than most peasants make in a year). Most people might never see a real magic item in their lives, and stories would be told (and greatly exaggerated) of those that did see one. Consequently, an adventuring party isn’t likely to be able to waltz down Main Street looking for magic items.

Because of their rarity you must first locate a magic item before you can even attempt to buy one. A character must dedicate a full eight hour day to locating a magic item. This may entail research or following up on rumors and leads as to whom might possess the item you are looking for. Each day of investigation allows for one roll.

Item Rarity Investigation DC Required
Common DC 15
Uncommon DC 20
Rare DC 25
Very Rare DC 30
Legendary N/A
Conditional Modifiers Modifier
Familiarity with locale +2
Very familiar with locale +5
Spending less than 8 hours Investigating Disadvantage
Spending 100 gp +1
Spending 500 gp +2
Spending 1000 gp +3
Spending 5000 gp +5

After locating an item, you must still negotiate with its owner and persuade them to part with it. This might mean trading magic items, parting with vast sums of gold or other illicit methods.

It should be noted that this is an excellent opportunity to use complex skill checks with the Investigation, Persuasion and History skills. Ultimately the difficulty needed to find an item is up to the GM.

Magic Item Identification

Some GMs may want slightly harder magic item identification, and especially those in a low-magic setting. The following rules require more difficulty based on the magic levels in your setting.

High Fantasy

As per the GM’s Guidebook, the identification of magic items requires only a short rest of reflection and attunement with the item. At the end of this period of time, the items special abilities are uncovered.

Standard Fantasy

With standard fantasy, magic items are slightly more rare and harder to uncover their abilities. Identifying a magic item requires an Arcana check depending on the rarity of the item. If you are not proficient in the Arcana skill, you suffer disadvantage on this skill check.

Rarity Arcana DC
Common DC 5
Uncommon DC 10
Rare DC 15
Very Rare DC 20
Legendary DC 25

On a failed roll, the character must wait at least 24 hours before attempting a new Arcana check to identify the item.

The identify spell is also an option, as per the PHB. It may also simply grant advantage on the Arcana roll, rather than automatically providing the results.

Low Fantasy

In low fantasy settings, magic items are considerably rarer to come by, and knowledge of such items exists only in rumors and fables. Increase the effective category of all items by one (i.e., increase the DC by +5) when making Arcana checks and all such Arcana checks are made with disadvantage unless the research is being performed at an adequate place of lore. Such research often comes at a cost as well. Research of magic lore is an excellent choice for a complex skill check.

Identify might also no longer be an option for players, instead requiring painstaking research or have a much greater cost.

Magical Crafting Limitations

The Craft Magic Items feat below can also be used to limit the creation of magic items. This feat is essentially a feat tax that allows players to have access to the creation of magic items in their games. This feat serves as a barrier of entry, making magic items more rare in your campaign. This is an excellent option for low magic games.

Magical Formulae

The GM may also decide that certain cities or locations may have knowledge of some formulae (item recipes) you can learn. Additionally, some formulae may be found on scrolls or texts that you come across during your adventures.

Alternately, such things might be very rare and your GM may require great amounts of research or questing to gain the formulae needed to craft a magic item.

Magic Item Attunement

Harder Attunement

In a low-magic setting, magic and magic items should be very rare, and magic items weigh upon a character’s soul and psyche. A character can attune to a number of magic items equal to half of their proficiency modifier. If they attune to another item above their limit, they gain a level of exhaustion as the magic fatigues and drains them.

Easier Attunement

With this variant, magic and magic items are more common. Characters can attune to a number of magic items equal to their proficiency bonus.

Variant Magical Healing

Your curative spells always heal their average die roll (rounded up). For example, a 1st level cure wounds spell heals 5 hit points per die. No one likes getting 1s on the cure critical wounds when the chips are down.

Variant Counterspelling

Counterspell as written is a spell. Many GMs may find that distasteful and would prefer it as more of a magical wrestling match between two eldritch forces.

In that case, use the rules presented here.

To attempt to counterspell a spell, you must be capable of casting spells and not be incapacitated.

When another spellcaster begins casting a spell, you can attempt a counterspell as a reaction. You must expend a spell slot and then make an ability check using your spellcasting ability score + proficiency bonus and a bonus of 1 point per level of the spell slot expended against a DC that equals 8 + the spell’s level + the caster’s proficiency bonus. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect. The GM may rule that you have disadavantage on this roll if you do are not the same tradition of spellcaster (arcane vs. divine, etc.).

Magical Foci

Foci (+1, +2 OR, +3)

Item (any), uncommon (+1), rare (+2), or very rare (+3)

Foci are magical aids that channel a spellcaster’s power. They often come in the form of holy symbols or staves. Spellcasters use these foci as magical conduits to achieve greater results with their magic.

Wielding a foci adds its bonus to concentration checks and spell DCs.

Variant Concentration

One problem that spellcaster players suffer with this the hard limit of spells that can be in play, thanks to the concentration rules. Some GMs (especially in high magic games) may wish to allow more options for concentration. In this variant, spellcasters can concentrate on an amount of spells equal to half their proficiency bonus (rounded down).

Optionally, this can also be treated as a feat.

Bonus Spellcasting Slots

Some players feel they should be rewarded better for higher spellcasting attributes by gaining additional spell slots as per previous editions. We present this option below, but with the caveat that this will definitely increase the power of your spellcasters. If you are in a high magic game, this will add to the theme and flavor, but in other more low-magic games it could have the opposite effect.

Bonus spells slots are only added when a spellcaster gains the ability to cast spells of that level.

Table: Bonus Spell Slots
Primary Casting Stat
Bonus Spell Slots
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th
9 Can’t cast spells tied to this ability
12-13 1
14-15 1 1
16-17 1 1 1
18-19 2 1 1 1
20-21 2 1 1 1 1
22-23 2 2 1 1 1 1
24-25 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
26-27 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
28-29 3 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1
30+ 3 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1

Simpler Spell Recovery

Some groups may wish for an easier time recovering their spells in between fights. With the Simpler Spell Recovery rule, spellcasters of all types can spend a minimum of one hour resting (doing nothing but meditating, praying, studying, etc.) and may regain a spell slot with a level equal to the hours spent recovering. For example, a wizard might choose to study his spellbook for two hours while a party rests.

He could then recover two first level spells or a single second level spell.

At the GM’s option, spellcasters cannot regain more spell slot levels per day than their primary spellcasting ability score modifier. Example: A cleric with an 18 Wisdom could only recover four first level spells or two second level spells, etc.

Note that the wizard (and to some extent the warlock) already has this option as one of his class features, and allowing other classes to perform this ability may enhance your game, but may leave the wizard feeling less unique.

To combat this, the GM could require the other classes a special condition to go along with this option to fuel their spell recharging.

Bard: The bard must spend his time singing and performing for his companions. A successful DC 15 Performance check is needed during each hour of rest.

Cleric: Must pray to his deity, requiring his holy symbol, an area of quiet contemplation and possibly an idol or shrine.

Druid: May only recover spell slots while resting in a natural setting.

Sorcerer: Must spend a Hit Die for each spell slot he recovers and does not gain the benefit of expended Hit Dice for healing when used in this manner.

Spell Recharging

In this variant, spellcasters don’t have a hard limit on spells per day. Instead, it takes time to gather the magical energies required to cast a spell of a particular level, so characters must wait a number of rounds, minutes, or hours before casting such a spell again.

Spells with an instantaneous duration or a duration measured in rounds can be cast dozens of times per day. Longer-duration spells cast outside of combat have recharge times measured in minutes or hours.

Spell Level Recharge Time
9th Level 24 hours
8th Level 12 hours
7th Level 8 hours
6th Level 6 hours
5th Level 4 hours
4th Level 2 hours
3rd Level 1 hour
2nd Level 30 minutes
1st Level 1 minute

At its heart, the recharge magic variant is simple: A well-rested spellcaster can cast any spell he knows or has prepared, but then must wait an amount of time before spell slots of that level become available again (if it’s a general recharge spell) or loses access to that spell for a specified time (if it’s a specific recharge spell). Spell slots are never completely expended; they just become temporarily unavailable.

Recharging doesn’t require any actions; as long as a spellcaster is alive, he naturally recharges his energy.

All spellcasters must maintain a list of prepared spells equal to their caster level + primary casting stat modifier. They may choose to cast any spell on their list of prepared spells as long as they have an available spell slot.

GMs are free to modify the recharge rates further.

Some settings where magic is rarer may have much slower recharge rates, where 9th level spells might only recharge after a week or a month!

Harder Resurrection

Many GMs feel that resurrection should carry a greater weight. In addition to the listed penalties of the resurrection spell, you can add one of the following options. If a character’s Con ever reaches 0, they die and cannot be resurrected. If the character’s Charisma ever reaches 0, they fall permanently catatonic and die within 24 hours and can never be resurrected again.

Option One: Lose 1 point of Con and Cha.

Option Two: Lose 1d4 points of Con and Cha.

Fear Checks

Adventurers are a tough, hardy lot. However, depending on the theme of the game you are running, they might not be… yet.

You can use fear checks for monsters that are beyond the normal ken, or those of supernatural horror like dragons, demons and aberrations.

Characters should make a Wisdom save against the fear rating of a creature or situation. The DC of the fear rating is equal to 8 plus the CR of the creature (rounded down). Characters that fail the fear DC gain the frightened condition for one minute or while within 60 feet of the creature (whichever is greater).

Some creatures are truly terrifying and should true horrors to behold.

GMs are free to determine which creatures could cause fear. In a real horror setting, even goblins might have fear ratings. In such cases, the GM can grant advantage on the saves to individuals that have successfully faced such creatures before (or if your level is equal to or greater than the creature’s CR).

Below are some examples.

Creature Fear Rating
Zombie DC 8
Animated Armor DC 9
Doppleganger DC 11
Banshee DC 12
Vrock Demon DC 14
Tyrannosaurus DC 16
Bone Devil DC 17
Vampire DC 21
Eye-Thing of Doom DC 21
Dracolich DC 25
Lich DC 29
Ancient Red Dragon DC 32
Example Situations Fear Rating
Find a mangled animal carcass DC 8
Surprised to find human corpse DC 10
Find a stream flowing with blood DC 12
Witness a friend’s violent death DC 14
Undergo severe torture DC 15
Witness a haunted site DC 16
See the dead rise DC 18
See evil deity DC 30


Doom is the opposite of inspiration. Doom represents when fear, terror or other forces are so overwhelming that they cause player characters to doubt themselves or be paralyzed with fear. When faced with something terrifying (an unholy demon, a terrifying monstrosity or even the grisly scene of sacrifice) a GM might inflict doom points upon the players.

The GM can hand out doom points in an amount of (usually) one point per player. These doom points cause disadvantage on rolls. The PC must use the doom point up on their first roll made in a given scene. Alternatively, the GM can be the one who decides when the doom affects a character, and how.

XP Tokens

With the XP Tokens variant, experience is greatly simplified, making the GM’s job much easier.

Encounters and roleplaying scenarios generate roughly 1 to 3 XP tokens each, and once a character accumulates 20 tokens, they gain a level. The challenge of the encounters increase, but the amount of XP tokens needed to level do not, making this system a very simple addition to most games.

First, as the GM, decide what sort of setting you are playing in. This will give you the amount of XP tokens needed to level. In swords and sorcery style (low fantasy) games, the number of XP tokens needed is more than in those of high fantasy (epic) games.

Setting XP Tokens Needed per Level
Low Fantasy 25
Standard Fantasy 20
High Fantasy 15

To award XP tokens, the GM need only look at the rating of any given encounter or ad hoc a rough guess of the worth of any scenario. Trivial and easy scenarios do not generate XP tokens, as they do little to improve a character’s skill. However, even meaningful roleplaying in a social encounter could grant XP tokens. The GM always has the final decision as to what generates XP tokens.

Challenge XP Tokens Awarded
Trivial 0 tokens
Easy 0 tokens
Medium 1 token
Hard 2 tokens
Overwhelming 3 tokens
Social Encounter 1 tokens

Some GMs may also want to allow XP tokens for the completion of milestones. With this option, simply decide if the milestone is of lesser or greater value to the overall story and award accordingly. When the adventure or story arc is concluded, you can also award a great reward.

Milestone XP Tokens Awarded
Lesser 1 token
Greater 2 tokens
Adventure Completion 3 tokens

Inspiration for XP Tokens

Another great option is to allow players to use their XP tokens to buy inspiration points. Perhaps they need inspiration to heroically succeed on a dramatic roll. This option would allow them to buy inspiration when needed, but at the cost of reducing their level advancement. A character with 0 XP tokens (i.e., just leveled) could not buy inspiration in this manner.

Optionally, the GM could allow PCs to accrue negative XP tokens, requiring them to be paid back before advancement continued. Either way, the effect is the same.

Better Inspiration

Inspiration can be granted to do more than just grant advantage. It can be used in many different ways if the GM allows it. Inspiration might also have the following benefits:

Heroic Inspiration

You gain a bonus die to the inspired roll based on your proficiency bonus: +2 (d4), +3 (d6), +4 (d8), +5 (d10), +6 (d12). You must choose to add this bonus before rolling for effect.

Swift Inspiration

You gain an extra action.

Recovering Inspiration

You may regain a single use ability that normally can only be used after a short rest.

Rejuvenating Inspiration

You may spend a Hit Die as a bonus action. You must have a Hit Die available to use this ability, and it counts against your normal number of uses.

Smiting Inspiration

You automatically critically hit with your next attack that hits.

Expeditious Inspiration

You can take your action now, changing your place in the initiative order and acting simultaneously (or interrupting if the GM allows) as those taking their turns.

Accurate Inspiration

You may reroll any roll (including those with advantage/disadvantage) and choose which result you wish to use.

Invigorating Inspiration

As an action you may gain a number of temporary hit points equal to your level.

Stalwart Inspiration

You can use your inspiration to automatically gain three successes on Death Saves when unconscious. You treat those three saves as though you rolled natural 20s, also gaining 3 hit points.

Conviction Alignments

In reality, alignments are frequently shades of grey; rarely do they exist as absolutes. Morality is also relative to the individual’s beliefs. Having a conviction to one’s beliefs, however, grants resolute strength.

Alignments are generally mutable. A good man can still do evil deeds if pressed hard enough, and even the most chaotic of despots produce some order in their regime. This makes the standard alignment difficult to truly track. The conviction system addresses these misconceptions in standard “Black & White” alignments in fantasy games. Now, you can choose to be much more morally grey, but those that choose a conviction will be rewarded for their beliefs.

Alignment in Fiction

Unlike in many fantasy games, fictional characters are much more dynamic, with shades of alignments.

Rarely do they ever fall within a simple, rigid absolute alignment. Darth Vader was an overlord of evil in Star Wars, yet despite his villainy, he opposed the Emperor in his final hour, helping Luke. In Game of Thrones, many characters show their spectrum of alignment and even villains show their moral ambiguity.


Everyone chooses an alignment as per the standard rules. This alignment is not static however, and can change based on the actions of the individual, even on a daily basis. These basic alignments are recorded as normal (Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Neutral, etc.). Characters of this type are treated as non-aligned for all purposes however. They have intentions, but they have no conviction.

Characters can choose to have conviction in an alignment however. This means that they choose one or more axis of their alignments (Law/Chaos, Good/Evil) and choose a conviction. This means they devote themselves to this alignment and its beliefs. As a character with conviction, their alignments now look like this ([Lawful] Good, Neutral [Good] or [Chaotic] [Neutral], etc. The alignment descriptor with brackets shows conviction. This portion of your alignment is now treated as an absolute. You have conviction and will never budge from your beliefs. Because of your devotion to your ideals, your convictions grant you some benefits. A religious warrior fighting for god and crown might be Lawful Good, but a Paladin who has sworn an oath might be [Lawful][Good]. A common solider might be [Lawful] Neutral. A druid might be [Neutral] Good.

Choose up to three ideals within an alignment. You must uphold these ideals, and gain the conviction bonuses to go along with them. Should you fail to do so, you lose your conviction with that ideal. If you lose all of your ideals, you lose conviction with that alignment type. Characters with no conviction become characters with a generic alignment.

Spells, magic items and anything that requires a specific alignment only function on those who have conviction. For example, a holy avenger may only be wielded by those who are [Lawful] [Good]. Detect alignment spells barely register those without conviction, unless they have immediate intent. A rogue intending to mug and steal your valuables in a dark alley might normally be Neutral Evil, but in this situation his actions cause his alignment to detect as Evil.

Intent is when a person with a generic alignment intends to do something in the immediate future. A boring sod with a Neutral alignment might drink too much and suddenly want to fight everyone in the bar.

His alignment suddenly shows his Chaotic intent.

Here are some examples:

A brutal dictator deposes the former aristocracy with ruthless efficiency and supplants his regime in power.

He controls the military, his own royal guard and a spy network. He has conviction to Law and Evil. His alignment is [Lawful] [Evil].

A soldier serves in the army of the dictator. He is not evil, but follows orders. He has a conviction for Law.

His alignment is [Lawful] Neutral. Sometimes he is forced to do evil deeds to the enemies of the dictator.

At that moment, his alignment temporarily shifts to [Lawful] Evil due to his intent. Sometimes he is protecting his homeland and the innocent within his native villages. At that moment, his alignment shifts to [Lawful] Good because his intent at that moment is to protect his people, possibly sacrificing himself to do so. When he no longer has any intent, his alignment simply shows as [Lawful] Neutral.

A villager has lost his leatherworking shop in the war.

He can no longer provide for his family. His alignment was Neutral Good. He hoarded his food and wealth, unable to share with other unfortunates because he wanted to keep his family fed. His alignment shifts to Neutral. As things become more and more grim, he turns to banditry and theft, where he learns new skills and his alignment becomes Neutral Evil. Later, he is discovered by the dictator and given a chance to become an assassin. He now has wealth and a prized role. He gains conviction in the tyranny and relishes in his ability to kill. His alignment now becomes [Lawful] [Evil].

Acting at an alignment is not sufficient to achieve a conviction bonus, you must have true conviction in that alignment.

Alignment Convictions

Choose a single conviction that sums up the core of your beliefs from each axis in your alignment. True neutral characters may choose two convictions from the neutral category.

  • Law: You rigidly oppose a lack of direction, and seek order for others. You are organized and follow rules to the degree, expecting others to do the same.
  • Order/Organization: You gain advantage on all Intelligence or Wisdom saves requiring you to do something contrary to your convictions.
  • Duty/Loyalty: You gain advantage on all Strength or Constitution saves requiring you to persevere (forced march, cold, etc.) while in service of another.
  • Honor: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Insight and Persuasion checks.
  • Tradition: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Arcana, History or Religion checks (choose two).
  • Creation: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to skill checks using tools that you are proficient with.
  • Power/Control: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Intimidate and Persuasion skill checks.
  • Fate: Once per long rest you may reroll a single die roll, adding a bonus equal to your proficiency bonus to the roll. You must take the new result.
  • Justice/Judgment/Truth: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Perception and Insight checks.
  • Chaos: You are wild and unpredictable, unrestrained and fickle. You refuse to be tamed or follow the laws of others.
  • Uncontrollable: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to any saving throw that keeps you from being influenced mentally.
  • Revolution/Conflict: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to all opportunity attacks.
  • Compulsive: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to all initiative checks.
  • Destruction/Violence: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to damage on all critical hits.
  • Deception: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to all Bluff checks.
  • Insanity: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to all Wisdom saves against mind-affecting effects.
  • Spontaneity: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to attack rolls in the first round of combat.
  • Neutrality: You find your way in the balance. Some perceive you as selfish, but you simply look out for your own interests.
  • Balance: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to damage on critical hits dealt to either [Good] or [Evil] targets.
  • Harmony: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Intelligence or Wisdom saves to resist mind-affecting effects.
  • Nature: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Nature skill checks.
  • Preservation: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Survival checks.
  • Pleasure: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to all Constitution saves made against non-magical poisons and alcohol.
  • Renewal: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Medicine checks.
  • Good: You believe in the sanctity of life, and protect the innocent and the weak.
  • Freedom: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to any saving throw or skill check that keeps you from being held, bound or restrained.
  • Mercy: When casting curative magic, you add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to the total hit points healed.
  • Righteousness/Honor: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to saves against evil or necromantic spells and effects.
  • Security: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to AC when defending an innocent.
  • Sacrifice/Martyrdom: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to death saves.
  • Peace: You may not take the life of another sentient being. You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Medicine and Persuasion checks.
  • Community: When fighting in the defense of your community, you gain a +1 bonus to your AC.
  • Heroism: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to saves against fear.
  • Purity: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Constitution saves against poison and disease.
  • Love/Compassion: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Medicine skill checks.
  • Evil: You are devoid of compassion, a being devoted to darkness and the depravity of pure evil.
  • Slavery/Oppression: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to checks made to bind or grapple opponents.
  • Greed: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Deception and Persuasion checks made to haggle on prices and Investigation checks made to identify items.
  • Misery/Cruelty: When you hit a foe you are flanking, you deal a number of additional points of damage equal to half your proficiency bonus.
  • Murder/Death: When reducing a foe to 0 or less hit points, you deal an additional amount of damage equal to half your proficiency bonus.
  • Fear: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Intimidate checks.
  • Vileness/Impurity: You add a bonus equal to half your proficiency bonus to Constitution saves against disease and non-magical poisons.

Breaking Your Vows

What happens when you break the vows that you have held your conviction in? Immediately you are treated as though you no longer have conviction and not only do you lose the benefits of the conviction, but you suffer disadvantage on all attack rolls, skill checks and saving throws for 48 hours or until you atone for your misdeeds.

After losing one’s conviction, it becomes necessary to reflect and atone for your deeds. This is left in the hands of the player and GM to determine. The tasks required to atone should not be easy by any means.

Only then can the conviction be regained. If you do not atone, you do not regain conviction in your alignment or its benefits.

NPC Classes

NPC classes are non-heroic classes designed to help easily flesh out common characters. These are nonheroic characters, and as such they do not gain archetypes or other heroic character benefits (without the GMs discretion).


Class Features

As an expert, you have the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per expert level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per expert level after 1st


Armor: None

Weapons: Simple weapons

Tools: Two tools of choice

Saving Throws: Two of choice

Skills: Any five of choice

Level Proficiency
1 +2 Expertise
2 +2
3 +2
4 +2 Ability Score Improvement
5 +3
6 +3 Expertise
7 +3
8 +3 Ability Score Improvement
9 +4
10 +4
11 +4
12 +4 Expertise, Ability Score Improvement
13 +5
14 +5
15 +5
16 +5 Ability Score Improvement
17 +6
18 +6 Expertise
19 +6
20 +6 Ability Score Improvement


At 1st level, choose two of your skill or tool proficiencies. Your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make that uses either of those chosen proficiencies.

At 6th level, and every six additional levels, you can choose two more of your proficiencies to gain this benefit.


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

  • (a) Leather armor and shortsword or (b) dagger and studded leather.
  • Two tools you are proficient with.


Class Features

As a spellcaster, you have the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d6 per spellcaster level

Hit Points at 1st Level: 6 + your Constitution modifier

Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d6 (or 4) + your Constitution modifier per spellcaster level after 1st


Armor: None

Weapons: Simple weapons

Tools: None

Saving Throws: Choose two from Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma

Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Insight, Investigation, Medicine and Religion

Level Proficiency
1 +2 Spellcasting
2 +2
3 +2
4 +2 Ability Score Improvement
5 +3
6 +3
7 +3
8 +3 Ability Score Improvement
9 +4
10 +4
11 +4
12 +4 Ability Score Improvement
13 +5
14 +5
15 +5
16 +5 Ability Score Improvement
17 +6
18 +6
19 +6
20 +6 Ability Score Improvement


At 1st level, the spellcaster chooses Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma as their primary casting statistic.

Once chosen, this is the ability score that determines all spellcasting abilities.

The spellcaster gains spell advancement and slots as per the bard class and you may choose one spellcasting class to draw spells from based on your choice of spellcasting stat:

Intelligence: Wizard

Wisdom: Cleric, Druid

Charisma: Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock


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

  • Chainmail and two martial weapons.
  • (a) Longbow or (b) light crossbow and ammunition.


Class Features

As a warrior, you have the following class features.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d10 per expert level

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

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


Armor: All armor shields

Weapons: Simple weapons, martial weapons

Tools: None

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution

Skills: Choose two from Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception and Survival


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

  • Chainmail and two martial weapons.
  • (a) Longbow or (b) light crossbow and ammunition.
Level Proficiency
1 +2
2 +2
3 +2
4 +2 Ability Score Improvement
5 +3 Extra Attack
6 +3
7 +3
8 +3 Ability Score Improvement
9 +4
10 +4
11 +4 Extra Attack (2)
12 +4 Ability Score Improvement
13 +5
14 +5
15 +5
16 +5 Ability Score Improvement
17 +6
18 +6
19 +6
20 +6 Extra Attack (3), Ability Score Improvement

Calculating Powerful PCs

So you want to try out a number of the new options in this book, great! However, without careful examination, combining some of these abilities could lead to more powerful PCs than you anticipated. There are some things you can do as a GM to accommodate this new play style.

Try to gauge how much more powerful your players are than a typical character. If it is slightly more powerful, you can add a quarter level or half a level to their levels when calculating challenges.

For example, if a group of four 5th level PCs are slightly more powerful, add 1 level (1/4×4) to your calculations. This would be treated as three 5th level PCs and one 6th level to determine the party’s actual strength.

Then, when you are making your encounters, budget for the effective experience level of the group instead of their actual levels. However, remember that against single foes, the PCs could be more or less powerful than you think. The best way to adjust encounters is to add more lower level adversaries to an existing encounter until you know their true power level.

Campaign Templates

Below are a number of templates for campaigns that can allow GMs to create a certain style of gameplay based on a theme. The variant rules sets listed allow the GM to enhance the flavor of the game.

High Fantasy

  • Dice Pool (24d6), High or Epic Fantasy Array or Improved Point Buy stat generation
  • No spell components tracked that cost less than 10gp
  • Feats at First Level
  • Epic Fantasy Advancement
  • Ability Score Increases by Level, Not Class
  • Better Saving Throws
  • Variant Skill Advancement
  • Simpler Mundane Crafting
  • Simpler Ammunition
  • More Starting Hit Points
  • No Instant Death
  • Variant Death Saves
  • Variant Combat Actions
  • Multiple Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Better Critical Hits
  • Easier Magic Item Attunement
  • Variant Magical Healing
  • Magical Foci
  • Variant Concentration
  • Bonus Spellcasting Slots or Simpler Spell Recovery
  • Better Inspiration
  • Conviction Alignments

Low Fantasy

  • Low Fantasy Array or Grid Method stat generation
  • Racial Maximums
  • No identify spell. Magic items have to be figured out the hard way, through trial and error, or quest for lore
  • Silver pieces are the standard coin. All gold piece values are instead converted to silver pieces
  • No resurrection, unless you are willing to pay a price…
  • Magic item rarities increased by one category
  • Track spell components
  • Low Fantasy Advancement
  • Masterwork Equipment
  • Exotic Equipment
  • Round Table Initiative
  • Simplified Speed Factor
  • Locating Magic Items
  • Harder Magic Item Identification
  • Magical Crafting Limitations
  • Conviction Alignments
  • NPC Classes


  • Standard Fantasy Array or Grid Method Stat Generation
  • Racial Maximums
  • Character Flaws
  • Variant Multiclassing
  • Low Fantasy Advancement
  • Language Limits
  • Player Concealed Checks
  • Complex Skill Checks
  • Training
  • More Hindering Armor
  • Stronger Crossbows and Firearms
  • Slower Healing
  • Limited Recovery Per Hour
  • Fatiguing Injuries
  • Vitality and Wounds or Wound Tokens
  • Variant Death Saves
  • Firing Into Melee
  • Fumbles
  • Armor as Damage Reduction
  • More Opportunity Attacks
  • Class Defense Bonus
  • Locating Magic Items
  • Conviction Alignments


  • Low Fantasy Array or Deal with the Devil Stat Generation
  • Character Flaws
  • Low Fantasy Advancement
  • Player Concealed Checks
  • Poison Handling
  • Slower Healing
  • Lingering Injuries
  • Wound Tokens
  • Harder Resurrection
  • Fear Checks
  • Doom
  • Conviction Alignments


Left-Handed Duelist

You have learned to duel left-handed, putting those you face at odds with your “backwards” style.

Prerequisite(s): Left-handed, Dex 13+

  • During the first round of combat with a humanoid foe that is not left-handed, you gain advantage on all attacks and those foes suffer disadvantage on their attacks against you.
  • After the first round of engaging with those foes, you instead gain a +1 bonus to attacks against foes that are not left-handed.

Exceptional Ability

You are well-practiced in the use of one of your ability scores. Choose one of your ability scores.

Prerequisite(s): Ability Score 13+

  • You gain a +1 bonus to your chosen ability score, to a maximum of 20.
  • You have advantage when making ability score checks with your chosen ability.

Master Artisan

Through training and dedication, you have mastered the use of a type of artisan’s tools.

Prerequisite(s): Int 13, Tool proficiency.

  • Choose one set of artisan’s tools that you have proficiency. When using that set of tools to craft an item, you may double the amount of progress you make each day, after all other modifiers.

Special: You may purchase this feat multiple times, each purchase applies to a different set of artisan tools.

Shake it Off

You can recover quickly from critical hits.

Prerequisite(s): Tough

  • After being dealt a critical hit, you may expend a Hit Die as a reaction after you are dealt the damage. If you are unconscious, you may not use this ability. This counts against your total number of Hit Dice you may use per day.


You always seem to recover from any punishment given.

Prerequisite(s): Durable

  • Your Constitution increases by +1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Your total number of Hit Dice that you have available to spend to recover points increases by +2.


You are able to withstand a huge amount of punishment that would cripple lesser men.

Prerequisite(s): Tough.

  • You increase your Constitution score by +1, to a maximum of 20.
  • You add all bonus hit points from the Tough feat to your wounds hit point pool instead of Vitality.


You are accustomed to being blind and have learned to use your other senses to replace your missing sight.

Prerequisite(s): Wis 13, proficiency in Insight and Perception.

  • Your Dexterity score increases by +1, to a maximum of 20.
  • Attackers do not have advantage against you when you are blind, nor do you suffer disadvantage on your own attacks within 30 feet.


You revel in the defeat of weakened foes.

Prerequisite(s): Non-good alignment.

  • You deal +2 damage to targets that have the wounded condition or two or more wounds.

Two-Weapon Rend

You revel in the defeat of weakened foes.

Prerequisite(s): Dex 17, Two-Weapon Fighting.

  • When you use Two-Weapon Fighting and hit with both weapons, you add an amount of bonus damage equal to 1d6 + your proficiency bonus.

Craft Magic Items

You know the secrets of magic item creation.

Prerequisite(s): Arcana proficiency, Int 13.

  • You can craft permanent magic items if you are proficient with at least one type of tools necessary for their manufacture.
  • The time to craft consumable magic items is reduced as if they were one degree of rarity more common. For example, crafting a Rare potion would take as much time as an Uncommon enduring item.

Normal: You cannot craft permanent magic items, and reduced crafting times for consumable magic items.

Greater Concentration

You are able to attune with magic items more easily.

Prerequisite(s): Cha 15

  • You can tell if an item is magical by touching it.
  • You do not gain knowledge of any properties, merely whether or not an item is magical.
  • You may attune with a number of magic items, equal to three or your proficiency bonus, whichever is greater.
  • You can attune to magic items after a period of only 10 minutes.

Greater Concentration

You are skilled at maintaining spells and are able to concentrate on more than one at a time.

Prerequisite(s): Primary spellcasting attribute 13+, ability to cast spells.

  • You may concentrate on an additional number of spells per round equal to half your proficiency bonus.

Cooperative Concentration, Greater

You know how to draw on the mental focus of other, lesser spellcasters to maintain more spells than normal.

Prerequisite(s): Cooperative Concentration, Lesser

  • When you spend an action to cast a spell, you may rely on the magical focus of another willing spellcaster. As long as you keep that spellcaster in sight and within range (60 feet), you can cast a second spell that requires concentration, using their concentration in place of your own. Any spell you cast must be one they could normally be able to cast, at a level they could normally cast. If they lose concentration at any point, you lose the spell they were concentrating on.

Cooperative Concentration, Lesser

You have practiced techniques that allow you to magically bond with another spellcaster, allowing you to focus your concentration on them instead of yourself.

Prerequisite(s): Primary Casting Attribute 15+, ability to cast spells.

  • You may spend an action to focus your concentration on another willing spellcaster. As long as you keep that spellcaster in sight and within range (60 feet), they can cast a second spell that requires concentration, using your concentration in place of their own. Any spell they cast must be one you could normally be able to cast, at a level you could normally cast. If you lose concentration at any point, they lose the spell you are concentrating on.
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Fifth Edition Options. Copyright, 2016 Total Party Kill Games. Author(s): Brian Berg

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