Dungeon Master Assistance

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Tag Archives: House Rules

D&D 5E – Alabaster Portal Key


The Alabaster Portal Key

How do you smoothly run a weekly game if there is a lot of turnover?

What if you have dedicated players, for the most part, but every week you don’t know how many will show up? Some may have to miss a session (or two or three). New players may show up and want to join the group. Existing players may need to drop out but may want to re-join the group in a few months.

I think that the best way to handle this will be to have every session end back at the tavern, or some other busy place, or back at their home base wherever that might be.

It solves most of the problems and creates some new ones. It solves any leveling-up in the midst of play problems, all leveling up will occur between sessions. It makes it easy to accommodate missing players, their PC simply doesn’t play but can play next session. It also makes adding new players easy, their character simply joins the group for the new session.

It also creates some problems. The first is how can you do that, especially when higher level characters may be traveling far and wide? Even low-level characters that are adventuring close to home may have a problem leaving the dungeon and coming back in any reasonable time frame. It also restricts somewhat which adventures you can run. For example, any “ticking-clock” adventure where the characters must finish in a set time frame would be hard to run. Also, you couldn’t stop an adventure in the middle of an encounter, which isn’t a big problem, but it does limit you somewhat.

Here is how I propose would do this. Give the PCs a magical artifact (maybe the tavern owner gives it to them or they save a strangers life and he gives it to them). At first level, they take this with them and when they activate it, they are all returned to the tavern. When activated again, it returns them to wherever they were before.

To introduce it into an existing campaign, the PCs could find it wherever they are adventuring. When activated it sends them to the tavern. The tavern owner can be a sympathetic NPC who lets them continue to use it.

Here is an example of how this might work:

The owner of the tavern escorted us down the stairs to a large dusty basement. He then called for the crowd to gather around. He held up a large white chess piece and declared “One of you lucky people will be allowed to purchase this tonight. It is a magical key.”

“Have you ever been a long way from home and wished you had a way to return home quickly? With this magical key you can instantly return here any time you like. Just take it with you wherever you roam and when you want to return simply hold this key in your hand and say the magic words. It will open a magical doorway between wherever you are and this archway.” He pointed to an ancient arched doorway in the wall behind him. It was completely sealed by the same stone that made up the rest of the walls of this old chamber. “But wait, there’s more! If you want to go back to where you were, simply approach this archway with the key and say the magic words. It will open the doorway at the same location you left. You could take a long trip and return home to your warm bead each night. ”

At that point most of the crowd turned around and returned to the drinks, snickering and shaking their heads as they climbed back up the stairs.

To the few of us that remained, he said “You appear to be adventurers. Just consider the possibilities! Imagine you are cleaning out a dungeon. You have fought many monsters, defeated deadly traps and collected ancient treasures, but at the end of the day there are still other dungeon levels remaining to explore. With this key you could return here, sell or lock up your treasure, identify any magical items you may have found, replace any lost or broken weapons and amination, rest and heal your bodies. Then when you are ready you can return refreshed and resupplied. You could even recruit other adventurers to help if you need to and they could return with you. And if one or more of your party needs to stay behind while you return to the dungeon, the ones who return only need the key and the activation word.”

I asked, “What if we are being chased by monsters? How quickly could we open the doorways?”

“Well …” He swallowed hard and said, “You know this was never intended to be used as an escape from battle.”

“How long?”

“The magic word is really more of a ritual. It takes 10 minutes to activate the portal.”

“And what if we are being pursued? Can anyone pass through? How long does it stay open?”

”Well, yes any creature could pass through once it is open and it normally stays open for one minute. However, you can close it at any time by tapping the key on the side of the passageway.”

I thought about this for a minute and then said, “Okay, say we are in a dungeon, a patrol is approaching so we hide around a corner and use this to return here, are you saying that we could just wait here for a few minutes and, watching through the doorway, go back when the danger had passed?”

“Actually, no. I may have neglected to mention that you must wait until the next day, at least 8 hours, before you can return. Also, the two portals are filled with a mist so you won’t be able to see what is beyond.”

I asked, “So if we go from here to a dungeon we will have to wait 8 hours before we can return?”

“No, not at all. When you leave here you can stay as long as you like or you can return immediately. Or, I mean, after the 10 minute activation ritual.

“It is just that when you return here you must wait until the next day to return to the dungeon. And, even if it is the next day, you cannot return unless it has also been at least 8 hours. So you can come back here a little before midnight and return 8 hours later. If you return here after midnight, you will have to wait until after midnight the following day.”

I then asked, “What if I am in the dungeon and just need to store something we found, or retrieve something that I forgot? You say that the portal stays open for one minute. Could I open it and then quickly come here to pick up something and return? Or if someone is wounded, I could open the portal, let them run through and then close it behind them. If I understand what you have been telling me, I should be able to do that as often as I wanted to. As long as I am not on this side when I open the portal, I can open it whenever I want.”

He answered, “Yes you can do those things, however there is another restriction I forgot to mention. Each time you use the key to activate the portal, the key must pass through to the other side and remain there when the portal closes or it resets and can’t be used again for 24 hours.”

He smiled at me and said, “So, if you bring me the small sum of 5,000 gp tomorrow, this alabaster portal key will be yours and I will teach you the ritual required to activate it.”

Alabaster Portal Key

Wondrous item, artifact

This 3-inch tall alabaster statuette resembles a chess piece (a castle). Anyone who holds the key and knows the 10-minute activation ritual can activate the artifact. This person does not have to have any magical abilities. When activated, you create linked teleportation portals that remain open for the duration. Any creature or object entering either portal exits from the other portal as if the two were adjacent to each other. One portal is the one named in the activation ritual, which is a specific existing 4 foot wide by 8 foot tall stone archway which becomes filled with mist. This stone archway and the portal key are two parts of the same artifact. If you are not within 10 feet of the stone archway, the other portal is created at a location you choose within 10 feet of you and resembles a glowing arched gateway the same size as the stone archway. It is also filled with mist. If the key is activated when you are within 10 feet of the stone archway, it opens a portal in that archway and opens the remote portal at its previous location, allowing return travel to the point where that portal was last created.

The portals remain for one minute or you can close the portals early by touching the key to the side of either portal.

When within 10 feet of the stone archway, the key cannot be used to activate the portal until the day following its last use and at least 8 hours have passed. Otherwise, when not near the stone archway, the key can be used at any time.

The key must pass through the portal and be on the opposite side when the portal closes or it can’t be opened again for 24 hours.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this topic (or on this artifact).


D&D 5E – Falling Objects


Falling Objects

Just as characters take damage when they fall more than 10 feet, so to do they take damage when they are hit by falling objects. I was using these house rules for 3rd edition and they still work for 5th edition. I would typically allow a character to make a DC 15 DEX saving throw to jump out of the way and take no damage.

Objects that fall upon characters deal damage based on their weight and the distance they have fallen.

For objects weighing 200 pounds or more, the object deals 1d6 points of damage, provided it falls at least 10 feet. Distance also comes into play, adding an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10-foot increment it falls beyond the first (to a maximum of 20d6 points of damage).

Objects smaller than 200 pounds also deal damage when dropped, but they must fall farther to deal the same damage. Use this table to see how far an object of a given weight must drop to deal 1d6 points of damage.

Object Weight Falling Distance Maximum damage
200 lb. or more 10 ft. 20d6
100-199 lb. 20 ft. 10d6
50-99 lb. 30 ft. 5d6
30-49 lb. 40 ft. 4d6
10-29 lb. 50 ft. 3d6
5-9 lb. 60 ft. 2d6
1-4 lb. 70 ft. 1d6

For each additional increment an object falls, it deals an additional 1d6 points of damage up to the maximum damage. Objects weighing less than 1 pound do not deal damage to those they land upon, no matter how far they have fallen.

D&D 5E – Crossbows



The only problem with a crossbow is that it takes so long to load most people can only make one crossbow attack each round. Because Player Characters aren’t “most people” they often are able to make multiple attacks each round. When the rules were written for fifth edition they attempted to restrict the number of times a crossbow could be fired and still allow for exceptions. Doing all of this and also keeping the rules simple and short created quite a bit of confusion. In my opinion, their subsequent attempt at clarifying the rules didn’t help all that much. This post represents my thoughts on the subject and how I deal with it using a couple of house rules.

General crossbow description: A crossbow has a wooden stock generally made from yew, ash, hazel or elm and coated with glue or varnish. The ‘bow’ is made of wood, iron or steel. The bow has a span of two to three feet. The crossbow string is made from hemp. The string has been soaked in glue as some protection against moisture. The string is pulled back by using a lever or winding a crank on a ratchet.  This “cocking” of the crossbow is what gives a crossbow the “loading” property. The crossbow bolt is laid in a groove on the top of the stock and the trigger pulled. There are two or three notches to rest the thumb which can then be lined up with the bolt forming the crossbow sight. You add your dexterity bonus to crossbow damage to represent increased precision. A crossbow can be carried already loaded with a bolt.

Using a crossbow as an improvised weapon: If you have a crossbow in your hand and you are out of ammunition or it isn’t loaded (refer to loading below) you can still use your Attack action to try to hit somebody with it. As an improvised weapon it deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage. You don’t get your proficiency bonus on the attack but you can add your Strength bonus to both the attack and damage rolls. You could even throw it at them (range 20/60). That also deals 1d4 bludgeoning damage but rather than STR, you use your DEX bonus on attack and damage.

There are three types of crossbows listed in the Player’s Handbook. Here are my expanded descriptions.

heavy-crossbowHeavy Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by winding a crank on a ratchet. Because it is a heavy weapon, small size creatures have a disadvantage when attacking with it. This crossbow is not inexpensive (50 gp) but it does the most damage (1d10) and has the longest range (100/400). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon. Although it weighs 18 pounds most characters should be able to carry it with just one hand.


light-crossbowLight Crossbow [Simple Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a hinged lever which pulls the string into place. Despite its name, this weapon does not have the “light” property. It is the least expensive crossbow (25 gp) and does good damage (1d8) at a reasonable range (80/320). It requires two hands to load or to attack with this weapon, but it only weighs 5 pounds and can be carried in just one hand.


hand-crossbowHand Crossbow [Martial Ranged Weapon]: The string is pulled back by using a lever.  It is the only crossbow with the “light” property. It can’t be used for two-hand fighting because that requires a light melee weapon and this is not a melee weapon, it is a ranged weapon.  The “light” property might come into play with other abilities or DM rulings. For instance, a tight passage where non-light weapons have a disadvantage.  This is the most expensive crossbow (75 gp) and does the least amount of damage (1d6). It also has the shortest range (30/120). As its name implies, it only weighs 3 pounds and can easily be held in one hand. You can shoot a hand crossbow with one hand but it requires two hands to load it. You can shoot a hand crossbow in each hand (if you are allowed more than one attack on your turn), but only if they are both loaded at the start of your turn.


Most of the confusion with crossbows comes from the wording of the Loading property and the  Crossbow Expert feat.

Loading. (PHB p. 147)
Because of the time required to load this weapon, you can fire only one piece of ammunition from it when you use an action, bonus action, or reaction to fire it, regardless of the number of attacks you can normally make.
Crossbow Expert  (PHB p.165)
Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:

• You ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient.

• Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls.

• When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use a bonus action to attack with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding.

I suggest replacing both of these with the house rules listed below.

Loading. (This replaces the loading property in the PHB) You cannot attack with a crossbow unless it has been loaded. The act of loading a crossbow consists of pulling the string back and securing it, drawing the crossbow bolt, and placing it into the slot on the weapon. The act of loading a crossbow requires the use of both hands. You can load a crossbow once per Attack action regardless of the number of attacks you are allowed to make in that action. Any round in which you do not make an attack, you can use an Attack action, or your free “interact with one object” activity to load a crossbow.

Crossbow Expert (replaces the Crossbow Expert feat in the PHB)

Thanks to extensive practice with the crossbow, you gain the following benefits:

  • You gain proficiency with all crossbows.
  • When you use the Attack action, every attack you make with a crossbow can include loading as part of the attack.
  • Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn’t impose disadvantage on any attack rolls.
  • When you use the Attack action and attack with a one-handed weapon, you can use your bonus action to take one shot with a loaded hand crossbow you are holding in the other hand.

So, here are some examples of how the above house rules affect the game:

1) You can’t load any crossbow, even a hand crossbow, with a shield, hand crossbow, or any other weapon in your other hand.

2) You can use your “interact with one object” option to load (but not fire) a crossbow once a round provided you use both hands. But, you can’t do this and also load a crossbow as part of an Attack action that round.

3) You cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or a Reaction.

4) You cannot attack with a crossbow as a Bonus action or as a Reaction unless it is loaded.

5) If you are holding a loaded crossbow you can attack with it in any situation that permits you to attack, be that an Attack action, Bonus action, or a Reaction.

6) If you are allowed to use your Attack action to make two attacks, you can fire a crossbow that is already loaded and then load and fire it one more time in that action. You can only load it once per Attack action.

7) If you have two Attack actions, you can load and fire a crossbow once each action. In addition, you can fire it once at the beginning of your first Attack action if it is already loaded.

8) If you have the Crossbow Expert feat, you can load and fire a crossbow once for every attack you are allowed in an Attack action, but you cannot load a crossbow as part of a Bonus action or as part of a Reaction.

D&D 5E – Variant


Simplified – fast and fun D&D

Rich Jones has created a variant to the D&D rules. Check it out HERE.

According to Rich “I have made a short, concise guide for playing a fast-and-fun-optimized variant of DnD that I have been playing with my friends, and … I use your pre-made character sheets as the recommended way to get started.”

I am glad that he found my stuff useful. Everyone should check it out and tell me what you think.

D&D 5E – Tracking Time in a Dungeon



I almost didn’t post this for fear of it being misused. Please don’t simply look up the parties travel pace below, determine what was found, mark off the time and move on. This is a role playing game after all. The following is intended as an aid in Dungeon Mastering a game, not as a substitute for it.

Time in a dungeon is measured in minutes – switching to 6 second rounds when there is an encounter.

The following is my interpretation of the official rules and a few of my house rules mixed in, presented here as advice to Dungeon Masters. Where I refer to “you”, I mean the DM. This is specifically for a dungeon crawls, but most of it applies to all similar situations. This is intended as a guide for tracking time passage in a dungeon and also for a guide in deciding when to use a character’s passive perception score or to roll a perception check.

The Dungeon Master describes what the PCs can see, hear, etc. Most of the time you can expect that the PCs are being observant so if they could notice something, they will notice it. So don’t wait for a player to say his character is examining the floor, or looking for footprints to tell them that there’s an obvious set of footprints on the floor in front of him. Players can ask questions or tell you what their PCs are going to do (or attempt to do). Players should never have to refer to skill names to do this. You decide if they need to roll an ability or skill check and which one. To keep the game moving at a reasonable pace, I recommend that you keep the die rolling to a minimum. If a player’s character would most likely notice something or recognize something or understand something based on his abilities and background, no roll is required. Just tell him.

The DM will roll all of the PCs search checks in secret and tell the players what, if anything, their characters found. That way, if they don’t find anything, they won’t know if there wasn’t anything there or if there was something and they didn’t find it. Another advantage of rolling behind your DM screen is that you can ignore the roll when necessary.  If you want them to find something (or not find it), ignore the roll and tell them what they found (or that they didn’t find anything).

Ask them for their marching order, but don’t ask if they are moving at a “fast pace”, “normal pace” or “slow pace”. That makes it sound too much like a computer game. Instead, simply ask them what they are doing. Use their answer to determine their pace and use that to help you determine how long it will take and what they do or do not notice.

In addition to the fast pace, normal pace and slow pace listed in the Player’s Handbook, I have added a “very fast” pace and an  ”extremely slow” pace.


1)         Moving at a very fast pace they automatically fail all perception checks. If they say “We are getting out of here as fast as we can” they are obviously not going to take the time to check for traps or secret doors so they are moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute).

2)         Moving at a fast pace uses their passive perception scores with a -5 penalty. If they say “We are going to move through here as quickly as we can and still be on the lookout for traps”, you can say to yourself that that sounds like a fast pace (400 feet per minute).

3)         Moving at a normal pace uses their passive perception scores. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast or cautiously they are moving through corridors, assume that they are moving at this pace. If they say “We are going to be watching for hidden monsters and checking for traps and secret doors as we proceed cautiously down the corridor”, you know that, even though this sounds like it might be a slow pace it is actually the normal way adventurers would explore a dungeon so it is a normal pace (300 feet per minute).

4)         Moving at a slow pace they can be stealthy or search for things. If they don’t give you any indication of how fast they are searching a room, assume that they are moving at this pace. They make a Dexterity (Stealth) check if they are hiding or being stealthy. Make a Wisdom (Perception) check for them if they are searching for secret doors or traps. If not actively searching, they use their passive perception scores. If they say “We are trying not to be noticed as we proceed cautiously down the corridor” they are being stealthy and can only move at a slow pace (200 feet per minute).

5)         Moving at an extremely slowly pace they will automatically find anything that can be found. If they say “We know there must be a secret door in this corridor, so we are going to search until we find it”,  you know that they are going to keep looking until they find it if they can, so they are traveling at a extremely slow pace (30 feet per minute).

The times listed below are the suggested minimum times required. Additional time may be required depending on circumstances and PC actions. Anything found (secret doors, traps, treasures, and especially monsters) will add to the listed times below as they take the time to deal with what they have found.

    • If they find a secret door they may then attempt to find a means to open it.
      • I might have the searcher make an Intelligence (Investigation) check and subtract the results form 20 minutes for low long it takes. I will never let them find a secret door and never find out how to open it!
    • If they find a trap they may then attempt to disarm or avoid it.
      • It takes 5 minutes to disarm traps or pick a lock if proficient with thieves tools; 10 minutes otherwise. This assumes fairly straightforward mechanisms, not complex puzzles
    • If they find a treasure they may then check it for traps.

I typically check for wandering monsters every 10 minutes (dungeon time).



Traversing corridors, stairs, and other passageways:

  • When moving at a very fast pace (600 feet per minute), all attempts to notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps will fail. This speed is equivalent to the Dash action.
  • When moving at a fast pace (400 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
  • When moving at a normal pace (300 feet per minute), passive Wisdom (Perception) scores will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps.
  • When moving at a slow pace (200 feet per minute), the characters can attempt to hide or be stealthy. If hiding, Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching. Moving at this pace they can actively search for hidden doors or traps. Roll a Wisdom (Perception) check for the searchers and let them know if they found anything in this 200 foot length of corridor. Let the single roll be for detecting hidden doors and/or traps regardless of what they say they are searching for. Note that if they say they are being stealthy, but don’t express an interest in watching out for traps or finding secret doors, only roll Dexterity (Stealth) checks and use passive Wisdom (Perception) scores. Conversely, if they say that they are looking for traps, or secret doors but don’t seem interested in being stealthy, roll Wisdom (Perception) checks only.
  • If the party intends to take as much time as required to thoroughly search a section of corridor, the party will be moving at an extremely slowly pace (30 feet per minute). This represents that the character is being extremely cautious and diligent in his searching. At this pace that character will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps that can be found by that character. [The DMG says “In some cases, a character is free to [retry a failed ability check]; the only real cost is the time it takes[…] To speed things up, assume that a character spending ten times the normal amount of time needed to complete a task automatically succeeds at that task.” This is the 5e equivalent to the 3.5e “Taking 20” rule.]
    • One character can search the walls, floor and ceiling of a 5 foot wide passage, or one side of a wider passage out to 5 feet from the wall.
    • 2 characters can cover a 10 foot wide passage.
    • Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
    • Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. For large parties they may need one lookout near the front and another one in the rear. If a monster approaches the group from a direction that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.

Searching a Room:

If the party opens a door but doesn’t enter a room and only observes it from the doorway it doesn’t take any additional time to be able to map its location and general notes about it, but not its exact size or anything about the room that cannot be quickly seen. A detailed description will require that the party enters the room.

After they enter the room, describe what they see and ask what each character is doing.  Describe the results of their activities. If they say “I am searching the room”. Don’t ask “What are you searching for?” rather say something like “What does searching the room look like? Describe exactly what your character is doing.” If they say “I am looking for secret doors.” Don’t ask which 5 foot section of wall he is searching, rather assume he will search all of the walls and use the travel paces descried below to determine his success or failure. If it makes a difference, or if you simply want him to think it might, you could ask where he is starting his search and which direction he will be searching from there. A room can be memorable and fun if you can get them to describe how they are interacting with the objects in the room.

The party may have a different travel pace for rooms than it does for corridors. Their pace may change in a room if they discover something interesting (or dangerous) but I wouldn’t normally mark off more than 10 minutes per room unless they slow to an extremely slow pace. Your players should be able to search as much as they want. Just warn them of the consequences (time passing, wandering monsters, etc.) ahead of time.

How pace of travel effects checking out rooms:

  • Very fast pace (600 feet per minute – measured from entrance to exit by the shortest path). Treat these rooms like corridors. They are almost running through the rooms and won’t notice anything much more than their size and location. They automatically fail all perception checks. They will be surprised by any monsters waiting for them. They may surprise monsters that aren’t expecting them.
  • Fast pace (1 minute per room). They are mostly just passing through. They can note what is in the room, its size, number and location of its exits. The Passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers, with a -5 penalty, will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. They are moving through the room too fast to search for any hidden treasure but will notice things that are in plain sight.
  • Normal pace (5 minutes per room). Use this pace if they want to search the room but want to be quick about it. The passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of the searchers will be used to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters or traps. At this pace they can make a quick search for hidden treasure at a disadvantage using their Wisdom (Perception) scores.
  • Slow pace (10 minutes per room). Use this pace if they don’t give you any other indication of how fast they are searching a room. Use this pace if they want to loot the room, or if they want to be stealthy. Roll the Wisdom (Perception) checks of the searchers to see if they notice any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps. If they are being stealthy, their Dexterity (Stealth) checks will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are in the room or that enter the room and that are watching for them, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t.
  • Extremely slowly pace (1 hour per room). At this pace they can carefully examine every inch of the room. At this pace they will automatically succeed at finding any secret doors, hidden monsters, hidden treasure or traps that can be found by their characters. If there is something in the room that they wouldn’t be able to find even if they rolled a 20 on an ability check and added all of their bonuses, it is beyond their ability to find so it will remain hidden.
    • The times above represent at least 2 characters searching.
    • Two characters can search the walls, floor and ceiling and everything inside of a room up to 30’ x 30’. Larger rooms, or rooms with a large amount of “stuff” may take longer. Rooms smaller than 30’ x 30’ still take the indicated time to search.
    • A single character searching the same room will take twice as long.
    • More than two characters searching the room do not reduce the time any further unless it is a very large room.
    • Characters that are searching can perform no other activities.
    • Characters that are not searching can be on the lookout for monsters. One character can watch only one entrance without penalty. If a monster approaches the group through an entrance that is being watched, the Dexterity (Stealth) check of that character will be used against the Wisdom (Perception) checks of any monsters that are actively searching for you, and against the passive Wisdom (Perception) scores of any monsters that aren’t searching.

D&D 5e – House Rules for Creating a Ghost


Ghost Template

You can add this “Ghost” template to any aberration, animal, dragon, giant, humanoid, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, or plant. When a creature becomes a ghost he becomes semitransparent and can use an action to move back and forth between the material plane and the ethereal plane but he remains visible to creatures in both planes.

Physical Description

Ghosts are flickering remnants of their past lives, appearing as they did before death, however, they are semi-transparent and have a blue tinge to them that drowns out all color of their body.

If the ghost is still coming to terms with its death, its appearance may reflect how it died. For example, a ghost that had drowned in a previous life may be dripping with glowing water droplets that disappear as soon as they hit the ground. A ghost that died in battle, may still have the wounds it sustained open and flowing with silver blood.

Similarly, if the ghost instead is more transfixed by guilt or regret at its previous life it is instead wrapped in ethereal chains.

This is because the image of a ghost is controlled by its own mental state and the way it is transfixed by death or regret will manifest in the image it takes.

It is possible for ghosts to be completely free of regret or transfixed by its death, but it would mean that the only thing tying it to the material plane is the ghost’s own willpower, which makes the its bond to the material plane weaker than the other two types of ghosts.

A ghost uses all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

Size and Type

The creature’s type changes to undead. He does not require air, food, drink or sleep. Size is unchanged.

Hit Points and Hit Dice

The creatures hit points and Hit Die remain unchanged


Ghosts have a walking speed of 0 and a fly speed of 40 feet

Armor Class

The creature’s armor class doesn’t change but it applies only to ethereal encounters. When the ghost enters the material plane its armor class becomes 10 + its Dexterity modifier + any magical protections.

Ability Scores

These remain the same as the creature had in life.

The ghost gains the following special traits:

Damage Resistances acid, fire, lightning, thunder; bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing from non magical weapons [Note that a ghost on the ethereal plane cannot be hit by physical weapons if the attacker is on the material plane. If the ghost is also on the material plane it can be hit only by magical weapons.]

Damage Immunities: cold, necrotic, poison

Condition Immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, grappled, paralyzed, petrified, poisoned, prone, restrained

Senses: darkvision 60ft., his passive Perception remains as it had in life

Languages any languages it knew in life

Ethereal Sight. The ghost can see 60 feet into the Ethereal Plane when it is on the Material Plane, and vice versa.

Incorporeal Movement. The ghost can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object. [Note that the ghost uses this movement when on the Material Plane. When on the Ethereal Plane he is visible but utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane, and solid objects on the Material Plane don’t hamper the movement of the ghost in the Ethereal. ]


A ghost retains all the attacks of the base creature, although those relying on physical contact do not effect creatures that are not ethereal except as described below.

The ghost gains the following actions:

Withering Touch, Etherealness, Horrifying Visage and Possession (Recharge 6) as described in the ghost listing in the 5E Monster Manual. [Note that a ghost must use the etherealness action to move from the Material Plane to the Ethereal Plane, or from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane. ]


When a spellcasting ghost is on the Ethereal Plane, its spells cannot affect targets on the Material Plane, but they work normally against ethereal targets. When a spellcasting ghost is on the material plan, its spells can affect ethereal targets and can also affect targets on the material plane normally unless the spells rely on touch. A ghost’s touch spells don’t work on nonethereal targets.

Ghostly Equipment

When a ghost forms, all its equipment and carried items usually become ethereal along with it. The equipment works normally on the Ethereal Plane but passes harmlessly through material objects or creatures. A magical weapon however can harm material creatures when the ghost is on the material plane.

The original material items remain behind, just as the ghost’s physical remains do. If another creature seizes the original, the ghostly copy fades away. This loss invariably angers the ghost, who stops at nothing to return the item to its original resting place.

D&D 5E – House Rule – Pop-up Archer

Pop-up Dwarf

Pop-up Archer

As a DM, have you ever ran into this situation? I had a player that wanted to stay down below a low wall during combat and just stand up and fire his arrow on his turn and then duck back down. His reasoning went like this; He starts the round with total cover so he can’t be targeted. On his turn he uses some of his movement to stand up. At that time he would have half cover (he might argue that he had 3/4 cover) and with half cover he got +2 to his armor class and dexterity saving throws. However that would only come into play if an opponent had readied an action to fire at him if he stood up. Otherwise he fires his weapon and then uses the rest of his move to duck back down, perhaps even moving to another location along the wall first. Then he would have total cover again until his turn on the next round when he would repeat the same tactic. This would also work behind rocks or trees or barrels. If there was nothing to provide cover, he could simply lie down. If prone, missile attacks against him (if the attacker is more than 5 feet away) are made with disadvantage. Then on his turn, he uses half his move to get up from prone (if he remained prone his attacks would be made with disadvantage), fires his arrow and then falls back down prone until his turn on the next round.

This tactic appears to be allowed with the rules as written. But I don’t like it. It doesn’t make for cinematic, or heroic combat. At its extreme, it is just plain silly. Can you imagine everybody doing this on both sides? When combat starts everybody lays down. On their turn they pop-up, fire and fall back down. But, in extreme circumstances, this may be the only reasonable tactic. Think of a cowboy on the prairie surrounded by Indians. He has no cover except for sage brush. He must do what he can to keep from being killed. And bad guys hiding behind a low wall should get some benefit from staying down except to fire.

Here is my thinking on this dilemma.

1) Even though each character takes his action during his turn which is based on his position in the initiative order. The entire round only represents 6 seconds of game time. Everyone is acting at the same time and breaking it up into individual turns is a concession we make in order to make it a playable game. So even if you start and end your turn totally concealed, when you pop-up to fire you are visible to your opponents.

2) If you start your turn behind cover (or prone) you can’t easily see your target. So when you pop-up to fire you must first site your target before aiming and firing. You have a better chance of hitting it if you have the target in your sights at the start of your turn.

My house rules:

Total Cover

If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make by moving out from behind that cover will be made with disadvantage.

If you have total cover (other than from darkness or invisibility) at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn. These attacks will be made with disadvantage.

With these rules in place, you can still use the pop-up archer tactic, but you have disadvantage on your to-hit rolls and your opponents have a chance to shoot you, but they also have disadvantage.


If you are prone at the beginning of your turn, any attacks you make after standing will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.

If you are prone at the end of your turn, any attacks against you will be made based on the most vulnerable position you occupied during your turn and will be made with a -2 penalty on the attack roll.

So you can stand up from prone, fire and then drop to prone on your turn, but you have a penalty on your attack rolls and you are more likely to be hit than if you had remained prone.


D&D 5E – House Rules – Underwater -Depth and Temperature


Into the Depths

Underwater – Depth and Temperature

The water’s depth and temperature will determine a character’s survivability when they are under the water.


Depth CON Save Points of Damage
0-200 ft  none  none
201-250 ft  DC 10  1d6/minute
251-300 ft  DC 15  2d6/minute
301-400 ft  DC 20  3d6/minute
401-500 ft  DC 25  4d6/minute
501-1000 ft DC 30 5d6/minute
1001 ft or deeper DC 35  6d6/minute

The deeper a character ventures down into the water, the greater the water pressure. Freedom of movement and water breathing will not protect characters from either the crushing effects of deep water or the effects of cold. The indicated Constitution saves must be made one round after being at a certain depth. If the save is failed, then the damage is taken and another save must be made each minute until the character makes a Constitution save, after which further saves are not necessary. The character is then considered acclimated to that depth. Descending to a deeper depth range as indicated on the table, however, requires another saving throw be made.


Temperature  Degree F  CON Save  Points of Cold Damage
Tropical  >86  none  none
Warm  65-85  none  none
Cold  55-64  DC 10  1d6/minute
Frigid  45-54  DC 15  2d6/minute
Icy  32-44  DC 20  4d6/minute

Water conducts heat much more efficiently than air; therefore cold water causes much greater loss of body temperature than does cold air. It is also important for DMs to note that water becomes heavier as it cools until it reaches a temperature of about 37 degrees Fahrenheit (just above freezing). Below 37 degrees, as water crystallizes into ice, it becomes lighter so that ice will float on the surface of the water. Therefore, the bottom of any large body of water will tend to remain at 37 degrees F most of the year. The above table outlines the necessary saves and resultant cold damage from being in water at various temperatures. Unlike pressure, Constitution saves against cold damage from water must be made each minute, even after a successful save. The table assumes that the creature is not wearing anything that will provide meaningful insulation while in water. Normal clothing or armor is of no benefit. A creature wearing a watertight outfit that captures a layer of water next to the skin (like a wet suit) has advantage on Constitution checks against the cold damage. Smearing the skin with grease or fat, which repels water, will provide a +5 bonus to the necessary Constitution saves. Of course, magical forms of protection from cold also apply.

D&D 5E – House Rules – Falling



One of the great things about the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons is that it is vert light on rules. One problem with adding more rules is that if we add too many we run the risk of this edition devolving back into  3rd edition. However that will not stop me from suggesting potential house rules. Think of these as possible ways to address common issues that may arise during play.

Falling Damage: The basic rule is simple: 1d6 points of damage per 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6.

Jumping to avoid damage: If a character deliberately jumps instead of merely slipping or falling, the character receives no damage for the first 10 feet and on a DC 15 DEX (Acrobatics) check he receives no damage for the first 20 feet and lands on his feet. Thus, a character who slips from a ledge 30 feet up takes 3d6 points of damage. If the same character deliberately jumped, he takes 2d6 points of damage. And if the character leaps down with a successful Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, he takes only 1d6 points of damage from the plunge.

Falling onto Soft Surface: Falls onto yielding surfaces (soft ground, mud) also ignores the first 1d6 points of damage. This reduction is cumulative with reduced damage due to deliberate jumps and the Athletics skill check.

Falling into Water: Falls into water are handled somewhat differently. If the water is at least 10 feet deep, you must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check to enter the water without damage. Otherwise you receive 1d6 points of damage from any fall up to 20 feet of falling. Regardless of the save, you receive an additional 1d6 of damage for every 10 feet fall beyond 20 feet.

Diving into Water: Characters who deliberately dive into water take no damage on a successful DC 15 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check, so long as the water is at least 10 feet deep for every 30 feet fallen. However, the DC of the check increases by 5 for every 50 feet of the dive.

Landing on Your Feet: The official rule is that you land prone unless you receive no damage from the fall. I have no problem with this. However, I don’t think it would break anything if you allow the character to land on his feet if he makes his Athletics check.

5E – Skyships


D&D Skyships

Download your free copy here.

This is a complete re-write of the rules I posted in 2012 for version 3.5 (here). In keeping with the feel of 5E, these rules focus on the PCs.

D&D Skyships is a supplement to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons set in a universe of ships that fly between the worlds and of battles in the air and in space. This is a basic set of rules compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5E that provide a foundation for taking your D&D adventures into space.