These are the house rules I’m using in my Rise of the Runelords campaign under the Pathfinder system.


We are using a modified set of classing rules:

  • Only core Pathfinder classes are available. Feats and spells from other books might be available for inclusion/research based on GM/player discussion.
  • All characters will use the multiclassing rules normally.
  • No prestige classes are available except those designed to fix a broken multiclass combo (e.g., Arcane Trickster for Caster/Rogue, Mystic Theurge for Caster/Caster, etc.). Check before character generation to make sure the prestige class you want is available.

Character Parity

  • All characters use the same Pathfinder point buy (36 point), and receive maximum hit points per level.
  • All missing players will have their characters NPCed.
  • All characters receive experience at the same rate, no matter how many games are missed.

Initiative and Combat Order

(Based on a post from Ars Ludi)

Combat order is a shared experience:

  • All enemies act on the same initiative roll (generally an average of enemy initiative scores), and can coordinate their actions if appropriate.
  • During surprise rounds and the first round of combat, PCs roll initiative normally, and act in their normal order until the enemies act in the first non-surprise round.
  • After the enemies have acted in the first round of combat, initiative becomes a tradeoff between enemies and PCs: the PCs go, and then the enemies go (and allies might go on a third tick if appropriate).
  • PCs are encouraged to coordinate their actions on their initiative mark, though this coordination may be cut short if it becomes excessively complex for what could be conveyed in a combat round.
  • Once the PCs have coordinated their actions, actions are resolved clockwise around the table unless some actions need to take place before others (e.g., “I have to move over there so the cleric can heal me.”).
  • PCs may split their move and standard actions, to perform maneuvers such as two PCs moving to flank an enemy before either takes an attack.

Aid Another for Skills

(From Trailblazer)

Each player working as a team rolls the skill check. The highest roll is the leader and each additional roll that exceeded DC 10 adds +2 to the leader’s roll.

Death and Dying

(Variant of 4th Edition)

  • When a character is dropped to 0 or negative HP, he or she is unconscious and dying. Negative HP is not tracked; all dying characters are assumed to be at 0 HP.
  • A dying character is automatically killed by a Coup de Grace, or any attack that deals more than a quarter of his or her Hit Points. Area of effect attacks automatically hit dying characters in most circumstances.
  • Unless stabilized by NPCs or enemies after the fight (or an ally during the fight), an abandoned dying character dies at the end of the encounter.
  • If able to be tended by party members, a dying character automatically stabilizes at the end of an encounter.
  • All healing restores a stabilized or dying character from 0 HP.

Combat Reactions

(From Trailblazer)

Every character gets 1 Combat Reaction plus an additional one when he or she would normally get iterative attacks (at +6, +11, and +16 BaB). Combat Reflexes adds positive Dex mod to BaB to determine when one gets new Reactions (e.g., +2 Dex gets new reactions at +4, +9, +14).

The reactions refresh at the beginning of the character’s turn, and can be used as immediate reactions when the monsters or the other PCs act. They can be used for:

  • Attack of Opportunity: Same as before, just uses up a Reaction.
  • Aid Attack: Add +2 to the melee attack of another PC against a target threatened.
  • Aid Defense: Subtract 2 from the attack of a target threatened when it makes a melee attack against another PC.
  • Dodge: When an attack is declared against you, but before the result is announced, add half your BaB to your AC for that attack.
  • Parry: When an attack is declared against you, but before the result is announced, add half your BaB plus your Shield AC as DR X/- for that attack.

Attacks of Opportunity

(From Trailblazer)

Moving around in someone’s threat range doesn’t provoke an AoO, only trying to leave it without a retreat or 5-foot step. Other actions like spellcasting or drinking a potion still provoke normally. Reach weapons still allow an AoO on moving adjacent ( as the target leaves the threatened space), but creatures with natural reach that covers all space up to the reach will not provoke AoOs from approaching the monster.

Ability Damage and Level Drain

(Previously house ruled for 3.5, replaced with Pathfinder rules)

See the Pathfinder Negative Level rules.

Turning Undead

(Previously house ruled for 3.5, replaced with Pathfinder rules)

See the Pathfinder Channel Energy rules.


(From Giant in the Playground and Trailblazer)

You can propose a trade, agreement, or conflict resolution to another creature with your words; a successful check can then persuade them that accepting it is a good idea. Either side of the deal may involve physical goods, money, services, promises, or abstract concepts like “satisfaction.” The difficulty of the Diplomacy check is based on three factors: who the target is, the relationship between the target and the character making the check, and the risk vs. reward factor of the deal proposed.

The Target: Your Diplomacy check is opposed by the highest Sense Motive or Diplomacy check of all creatures in a group you are trying to influence. All such creatures use the Aid Another rules for skill checks. (For this purpose, a number of characters is only a “group” if they are committed to all following the same course of action. Either one NPC is in charge, or they agree to act by consensus. If each member is going to make up their mind on their own, they do not get the benefit of Aid Another, and you may roll separate checks against each.)

The Relationship: The DC modifier depends not only on the personal relationship between you and the target (if any), but also on the magnitude of their feelings for you.

Relationship Example DC
Intimate A faithful lover or spouse. -10
Friend A long-time friend or family member -7
Ally A member of the same army, team, or church. (Helpful) -5
Acquaintance (positive) A business associate with whom you do regular (satisfactory) business. (Friendly) -2
Just met A town guard (Indifferent) +0
Acquaintance (negative) Someone you have met regularly with negative consequences. (Unfriendly) +2
Enemy A member of an opposing army, team, or church; a bandit. (Hostile) +5
Personal Foe An antagonist who knows and opposes you personally +7
Nemesis Someone who has sworn to you, personally, harm +10

Risk/Reward Analysis: The amount of personal benefit must always be weighed against the potential risks for any deal proposed. It is important to remember to consider this adjustment from the point of view of the NPC; what is highly valuable to one may not be equally valued by another. When dealing with multiple people at once, always consider the benefits to the person who is in clear command, if any hierarchy exists within the group.

Risk/Reward Example DC
Fantastic Great reward, negligible risk; a best case scenario. -10
Favorable Deal favors the target. The reward is good and the risk is tolerable. -5
Even No reward, no risk; or an even swap. +0
Unfavorable Deal does not favor the target. Either the reward is not great enough or the risk is intolerable. +5
Horrible There is no way the deal can favor the target; a worst-case scenario. +10

Success or Failure of Diplomacy: If the Persuasion check beats the DC, the subject accepts the proposal, with no changes or with only minor (mostly idiosyncratic) changes. If the deal favored the target, his attitude improves by one category.

If the check fails, the subject does not accept the deal but may, at the DM’s option, present a counter-offer that would push the deal up on the risk-vs.-reward list. For example, a counter-offer might make an Even deal Favorable for the subject. The character who initiated the Diplomacy check can then simply accept the counter-offer, if they choose; no further check will be required.

If the check fails by more than 10, his attitude worsens by one category.

Complex negotiations may involve multiple checks, especially when determining the details of a treaty for example.

Identifying an Item

(Previously house ruled for 3.5, replaced with Pathfinder rules)

See the Pathfinder Spellcraft description.

Hoyle’s D20

This system is used to replace all d20 rolls in the game.

Each player starts with an individual deck of playing cards with the face cards removed. It has four sets of Ace-10 and two Jokers, for a total of 42 cards. At the beginning of each session, the players shuffle their decks and set aside 5 cards without looking at them. This is the “bank” and the size can be adjusted based on how much leeway you want the players to have to undo bad rolls.

Whenever a D20 roll is called for during the game, the player turns over the top card on the deck and uses it as the result. Ace counts as one and all other cards count their full value. Black cards represent 11-20 (i.e., add 10 to the face value of black cards). Jokers have a special rule noted below.

If the player fails a roll, he or she may flip over the top card of the bank and use that card instead. The player may choose to continue flipping cards from the bank until getting a successful result or running out of bank cards.

If a Joker is drawn, the player immediately sets it face up to the side, moves the top card of the deck onto the top of the bank without looking at it, and then flips the next card. Saved Jokers can be used to add +2 to any other roll (even damage rolls) after rolling, and are discarded once played for this effect.

Once the player plays the last card in the deck, all cards in the discard pile are reshuffled. The bank retains its size, and does not get any new cards added to it after the shuffle: after play begins, only flipping a Joker adds cards to the bank.

Action Points

(From Trailblazer)

Banked cards are treaded as Action Points. In addition to flipping over another card when you fail a roll, you could burn an AP card to:

  • Improve any d20 roll (attack roll, skill check, saving throw, caster level check, etc.). Roll an action die (typically, exploding d6) and add the result to your d20 check. You may only use an action point to improve the result of a roll before the DM informs you of the outcome of the roll. You may only use one AP per roll to improve any given d20 check.
  • Negate a critical threat scored on you by an opponent.
  • Confirm a critical threat without having to re-roll your attack.
  • Use a limited resource ability (“per day”) an additional time (even if you have exhausted your normal supply).
  • Take an additional attack or move action on your turn. An extra attack is at the same bonus or penalty as your other attacks that round. (Once per turn only.)
  • Make a “second chance” saving throw or SR check on a subsequent round. This use is only permitted if the target failed his first saving throw/ SR check and is subject to an ongoing (not instantaneous) effect.
  • Heal half your maximum HP after a 10 minute rest.

You can go into AP “debt” (getting less than 5 cards at the start of the session) if:

  • You invest an AP in a magic item to have it level with you (automatically increasing its enhancement bonus at 6th, 9th, 11th, and 15th levels).
  • You are raised from the dead (debt lasts until leveling up).

Elite/Boss monsters can use their APs for all of these benefits, plus taking an extra action during your initiative order (but not to interrupt your turns). These monsters can also spend extra APs if the party is awarded a bonus AP. Elite monsters typically get 1 AP to start, and Boss monsters get 1 per PC.