12 April 2023

The Hedge Knight: Dunk and Egg coming to HBO


The first four seasons of The Game of Thrones HBO series are among the best ever produced for television. (The later seasons were weaker, especially the last two, although I didn’t loathe the final season.)

The recent House of the Dragon series was fine. But it lacked any especially sympathetic or engaging characters in the mould of Arya, Tyrion, of even Jon Snow. 

Fortunately, some stories written by G.R.R. Martin in the world of Westeros that do include a couple of sympathetic and charming characters — “Dunk” (Ser Duncan the Tall) and “Egg” (Aegon V Targaryen) — will be made into a series: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight

I’m cautiously looking forward to this. 

08 April 2023

Into the Unknown – The Akratic House Rules

As promised, here are my house rules for the Into the Unknown role-playing game

My overall aim with these house rules is to help ItU resemble more closely first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, especially as realized within the World of Greyhawk setting. But since the campaign started out using the standard 5e D&D rules, I kept a few additional things from 5e for the sake of continuity (things that I probably would not bother with if I were starting a new campaign).



General Notes:


·       Races and classes are distinguished from each other (in contrast to the core ItU rules).

·       Only humans, half-elves, and half-orcs select backgrounds (e.g., academic, acolyte, etc.).

o       Other races receive background benefits as part of their race (along with special traits).

·       The special “race classes” in Into the Unknown (ItU) are available, but only to members of the relevant races (see below for more information).

·       Only humans receive the ability score increases due to their classes (e.g., +1 dexterity and +1 to any other ability score for rogues).

o       These class bonuses are in addition to the ability score bonuses all humans receive (see below).  




·       The base “Dwarf” class (from ItU) is renamed Dwarven Defender.

·       At level 1, dwarves (any class) may choose to increase their Wisdom by 1 instead of their Strength. (All dwarves gain +2 to their Constitution at level 1.)

·       There is no mechanical difference between “Hill” and “Mountain” dwarves.

·       In addition to the Dwarven Defender, dwarves may belong to any of the core classes: fighter, rogue, magic-user (wizard), priest. 

o       However, they may not be druids and dwarven magic-users are extremely rare. 

·       All dwarves receive the dwarf background and traits listed below.


Dwarf Background and Traits:


o       Ability Modifiers: +2 to Constitution and +1 to Strength or Wisdom.

o       Claim to Hospitality (from other dwarves).

o       Proficiency Area: Dwarves are learned in the lore of the underworld, its creatures, stonework, mining, basic engineering, precious metals, and stones of all sorts.

o       Languages: Common, Dwarven, and one humanoid language (e.g., Goblin or Orcish). 

o       Weapon Proficiencies: battleaxe, handaxe, light hammer, warhammer. 

o       Tool Proficiencies: proficiency with one of:

§  Smith’s tools 

§  Brewer’s supplies

§  Mason’s tools.

o       Speed: 25 feet.

o       Special Abilities: Darkvision, Dwarven Resilience, Stonecutting.




·       The base “Elf” class (from ItU) is renamed Elven Mystic.

·       At level 1, elves may choose to be High Elves and increase their Intelligence by 1 (instead of their Charisma), or they may choose to be Wood Elves and increase their Wisdom by 1 (instead of their Charisma).

o       Elves who opt to stick with the Charisma increase may be either High or Wood Elves (or of mixed heritage).

·       In addition to the Elven Mystic, elves may belong to any of the core classes: fighter, rogue, magic-user (wizard only), priest. 

o       However, high elf priests must be clerics whereas wood elf priests must be druids. 

·       All elves receive the elf background and traits listed below.


Elf Background and Traits:


o       Ability Modifiers: +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Intelligence (High Elves only) or +1 to Wisdom (Wood Elves only) or +1 to Charisma (all Elves).

o       Claim to Hospitality (from other elves).

o       Proficiency Area: Elves are skilled in poetry, guile and wit, faerie lore, and woodland lore. They have knowledge both arcane and druidic. 

o       Languages: Common and Elvish.

o       Weapon Proficiencies: longsword, shortsword, longbow, shortbow.

o       Speed: 30 feet.

o       Special Abilities: Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Trance.

§  High Elf Abilities: Bonus Magic-User Cantrip; Extra Language (standard or exotic).

§  Wood Elf Abilities: Fleet of foot (speed 35 feet); Mask of the Wild (hiding is possible even when the elf is only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena).



·       Half-Elves are of mixed elvish and human ancestry. They enjoy life spans more than twice that of humans but nonetheless are short-lived in comparison to elves. Most half-elves feel more comfortable in human societies where they can blend in more easily than they can within elvish settlements.

·       Half-elves may be fighters, rogues, magic-users (wizards only), or priests.

·       Half-elves may select any Background (like humans). 


Half-Elf Traits:


o       At first level a half-elf adds 1 to any two ability scores (but they do not receive the class-based ability score increases that humans do). 

o       Darkvision (as Elves).

o       Fey Ancestry (as Elves).

o       Languages: Common and Elvish.




·       All surface gnomes are forest gnomes, including those who dwell in hilly areas and tunnels. They are simply called ‘gnomes’. (‘Deep gnomes’ [‘Svirfneblin’] dwell deep beneath the earth and are not available as player characters. Rock ‘tinker’ gnomes do not exist.)

·       At level 1, gnomes gain +1 Dexterity and +2 Intelligence. 

·       Gnomes may be fighters, rogues, magic-users (wizards), priests. 

·       All gnomes receive the gnome background and traits listed below. 


Gnome Background Traits:


o       Ability Modifiers: +2 to Intelligence and +1 to Dexterity.

o       Claim to Hospitality (from other gnomes).

o       Proficiency Area: All gnomes possess knowledge of the natural world (forests, hills, and tunnels) and basic (‘exoteric’) arcane lore.     

o       Languages: Common and Gnomish.

o       Speed: 25 feet.

o       Special Abilities: Darkvision, Gnome Cunning (advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws versus magic), Natural Illusionist (knowledge of the minor illusion cantrip [uses Intelligence for spellcasting]), Speak with Small Beasts (through sounds and gestures, can communicate simple ideas with small or smaller beasts, e.g., squirrels, badgers, rabbits, moles, woodpeckers, robins, crows, etc.).




·       Half-Orcs are of mixed orcish and human ancestry. They have life spans even briefer than humans, rarely living beyond 75 years. Most half-orc characters are from human societies and try their best to blend in.  Half-orcs often can pass themselves off as humans.

·       Half-orcs may be fighters, rogues, or priests (clerics only).

·       Half-orcs may select a Background (like humans). 


Half-Orc Traits:


o       Ability modifiers: +2 to Strength and +1 to Constitution; -1 to Charisma. (Half-orcs do not receive the class-based ability score increases that humans do.) 

o       Darkvision (from their orcish heritage).

o       Orcish Endurance: When reduced to 0 hit points but not killed outright, the half-orc can drop to 1 hit point instead. This feature can only be used once per long rest.

o       Languages: Common and Orcish.



·       The base “Halfling” class (from ItU) is renamed Halfling Wanderer.

·       At level 1, halflings may choose to be of Hairfoot heritage (and gain +1 Charisma) or of Stout heritage (and gain +1 Constitution) or of Tallfellow heritage (+1 Wisdom). (All halflings gain +2 Dexterity.) 

·       In addition to the Halfling Wanderer, halflings may be fighters, rogues, or priests. 

o       Halflings may not be magic-users.

·       All halflings receive the halfling background and traits listed below. 


Halfling Background Traits:


o       Ability Modifiers: +2 to Dexterity and +1 to Charisma (Hairfoot) or Constitution (Stout) or Wisdom (Tallfellow).

o       Claim to Hospitality (from other halflings).

o       Proficiency Area: You are skilled in farming, leisure, cooking, herbalism and knowledgeable in cartography, the lore of the land in woodlands, hill country, plains and farmland. You excel at hiding and not bringing attention on yourself and naturally make an amiable yet unassuming impression on others. 

o       Languages: Common and Halfling.  

o       Speed: 25 feet.

o       Special Abilities: Lucky, Brave, Nimble. 

§  Hairfoot Ability: Stealthy.

§  Stout Ability: Resilience.

§  Tallfellow Ability: Stealthy.



·       Humans may be fighters, rogues, magic-users (wizards only), or priests.

·       Humans, and only humans, receive the ability score bonuses for whichever class they choose. 

·       In addition to selecting a Background, humans receive the following traits:


Human Traits:


o       At first level a human character receives +1 to two separate ability scores (player’s choice; these bonuses must be applied to different ability scores) in addition to that character’s class-based bonuses (these bonuses may overlap with the selected ones).

§  No single ability score can be improved by more than +2 at first level (+1 from the human trait and +1 from the character’s class).

o       Languages: Common and a standard language of the player’s choice.



For the sake of continuity, I am allowing the “battle master” subclass for fighters, the “arcane trickster” subclass for rogues, the “abjurer” specialization for wizards, and the “war” domain for clerics in my current Greyhawk campaign. (If I were to start a new Into the Unknown campaign, I probably would allow only the “war” domain cleric.)




Battle Master (variant Fighter)


Battle Masters forego the following fighter class (ItU version) features:


·       Improved Critical (3rd level)

·       Remarkable Athlete (7th level)

·       Additional Fighting Style (10th level)


Battle Master do not select a fighting style like regular fighters but instead gain the following ability at 1st level:


·       Defence: when wearing armour, the battle master gains +1 to AC.


Other abilities as per the standard 5e version of the battle master subclass.



Arcane Trickster (alternative Rogue’s Scheme).


Arcane Tricksters forgo the following rogue class (ItU version) features:


·       Fast Hands (3rd level)

·       Second-Story Work (3rd level)

·       Supreme Sneak (9th level)


Additional special abilities are as per the standard 5e version of the arcane trickster subclass.

Priest – Cleric


War Cleric (alternative Divine Order).


·       War clerics are proficient with heavy armour and all martial weapons.

·       War clerics have the ‘martial caster’ ability (like other clerics).


War clerics forego the following cleric class (standard ItU version) features:


·       Disciple of Life (1st level)

·       Preserve Life (2nd level)

·       Blessed Healer (6th level)


The War Domain spells (5e version) replace those listed as always prepared for the cleric (see ItU, p. 14).


War clerics gain the standard 5e abilities for the “war” domain. 


§  The only Arcane Origin available is Wizard.


Magic-user – Alternative Wizard 

Abjurer (variant Wizard) [Restricted to humans, high elves, and half-elves.]


Abjurers forego the following class features (ItU version of wizard):


·       Loremaster (2nd level)

·       Signature Focus (6th level)

·       Spellcraft (10th level)


Abjurers gain the standard (5e version) abilities for this wizard subclass.  



The standard nine alignments will be used (e.g., Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil, etc.).



The “milestone” system for advancing levels will be used (i.e., not the “gold = experience” system).



Initiative = 10 + Dexterity modifier + Proficiency bonus (if applicable).

Travel Pace and Perception (clarifications from the ItU rules): 


Scouting pace: The ‘scout’ PC makes a Perception roll (WIS + proficiency if applicable) during each travel phase (watch or day). (Helping is possible – if so, the scout PC rolls with advantage.)


Exploration pace (in adventure areas): Slow (1200 ft/segment) – includes scouting and skulking.

-        Scouting: One PC rolls perception per segment (WIS + proficiency if applicable). (Helping is possible – if so, the scout PC rolls with advantage.)

-        Skulking: If there is an encounter the party makes a group stealth roll to determine if they surprise the other group (the scouting roll determines if the party is surprised). Parties using light normally cannot surprise other groups (unless the area already is lit up, e.g., with wall torches). (Note that it is possible for both groups to be surprised.)

Proficiencies (clarifications):


All characters have two ability scores with respect to which they apply their proficiency bonus. 

The proficiencies are determined by the characters’ classes.

Proficiencies by class:


-       Fighter: strength and either dexterity or constitution.

-       Rogue: dexterity and either intelligence or charisma.

o       Note: rogues get an additional ability score proficiency at level one (“Mastery” class feature). This may be any ability score. 

-       Magic-user: intelligence and either wisdom or dexterity.

-       Priest: wisdom and charisma.

-       Dwarven Defender: constitution and either strength or wisdom.

-       Elven Mystic: charisma and either intelligence or wisdom.

-       Halfling Wanderer: dexterity and either constitution or charisma.


Characters add their proficiency bonus to all saving rolls.


The proficiency bonus also applies to the following rolls involving the ability scores in question:


-       Ability checks (if the character’s class, race, or background indicate the relevant training or knowledge).

-       Attack rolls (if the character is proficient in the weapon being used).

-       Spell attack rolls.

-       Spell difficulty DC (for the saving throws of the spells’ targets).


The proficiency bonus does not apply to:


-       Hit point rolls.

-       Damage rolls.

Credits: The pictures of the sage (top), elf, human fighter, and wizard are by Erol Otus. The pictures of the dwarves and troll (bottom) are by David Trampier. The picture of the halflings and human is by Jeff Dee.

Some small parts of the text above may have been copied from the 5e SRD and the ItU rules.

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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).