Whitehack RPG Houserules

These are the houserules I am planning on using for my next Whitehack campaign. Some are tweaks which would work for most Whitehack games, others are intended specifically to match the power level and feel of the Tribe 8 setting.

Character Generation
When rolling stats, roll 2d6+3 and assign in order. You may then choose either to swap two values or re-roll the set.

Stat bonuses for Dex, Con, Wis, Int (and Str)
12-13 +1 (+1 AV)
14-15 +2 (+1 AV, +1 Dam)
16-17 +3 (+2 AV, +1 Dam)
18-19 +4 (+2 AV, +2 Dam)

I shortened the range on the stats to bring in the occasional very high or very low stat which can make some characters poorly balanced when it comes to task checks. Increasing the bonuses to match mean that characters still have much the same combat bonuses despite the narrowed range for skill checks.


AC+2 with no armour or light armour.
AC+1 with medium or heavy.
Can be broken to negate a single hit, requires a successful saving throw.

Dex bonus for AC*
If fighting with just a light weapon (knife, short sword, unarmed), add your Dex Bonus to AC.

Weapon damage
Short Sword d6
Dagger/knife d6-1 (or d4)
Improvised d6-2 (or d3)
Unarmed d6-3 (or d2)

I like even small weapons to feel dangerous so I bumped all these small weapons back up to their usual level.

*These rules apply only to combat focused characters.

When a crit is rolled the player can choose one of the following:
– Max damage for this attack.
– Gain advantage for next roll.
– Opponent is disadvantaged for next roll.

When a successful double is rolled on a Positive double roll, choose two of the above.

When a double crit is rolled choose three.

Party Action Tests
When you need to know if any one of the party manages to achieve something:
Have just one player roll a single check using the highest stat in the party applying the most appropriate character’s Group.

When you need to know if all of the party manages to achieve something:
Have just one player roll a single check using the lowest stat in the party, again applying the most appropriate character’s Group.

The Deft

Multi-use Attunements
When a Deft gains the option of new Attunements they can instead choose to take one of their existing Attunements again. This would let them have that Attunement active twice and therefore utilise it twice in one session.

This allows the player to focus his character on the initial concept, rather than having the find new abilities (which isn’t always the most appropriate option for the character).

Deft Miracles
At levels 1, 4, 7 and 10 Deft characters can choose to take one Miracle instead of two Attunement slots. The number of active slots doesn’t change, just now they are split between Attunements and Miracles.

Be careful with this one. Clever use of miracles and attunements could make these characters very powerful. In Tribe 8 I really need everyone to have some access to miracles, this is one of the methods I will be using. This is however not appropriate for all settings.

Non-combat Deft
Deft characters who do not get the combat focused vocation bonus to attack rolls, instead their first use of attunements each session does not expend that attunement.

A pretty powerful ability, but then so is Advantage on either attack or damage rolls.

Damage & Recovery

Simple HP Recovery
Recover half of all lost HP (rounded down) with a meal and a night’s rest. If no further HP loss is received before 2nd night’s rest, full HP are restored. Wise characters restore full HP with a single night’s rest.

This worked well throughout my last campaign, it scales HP recovery to each character’s total HP without much bother, however I was never quite happy with the fact that Wise effectively recover from all damage with a bit of sleep.

Detailed Damage System

This is quite a lot more in-depth, but I wanted something more dynamic for my next campaign with a tactical, resource management side to it. It also scales with level better and allows Wise characters to receive healing without affecting their Miracle abilities.

Level 1 HPs
Deft and Fortunate level one characters have 1D+1 HP, not just 1D.

Fatigue for Miracles
Instead of losing HP to pay for Miracles, Wise characters instead gain Fatigue. If a character’s Fatigue is ever equal to or greater than their current HP, they immediately fall unconscious.
Wise now recover HP at the same rate as other characters, but they also recover the same amount of Fatigue. Magical healing can work on Wise characters under these rules, but only to recover lost HP, not to remove fatigue.

When a character takes a hit which would take them below 0HP, the player still has to pass a death saving throw (either Con or ST) but don’t reduce the character’s HPs. If the character survives the roll, they gain a wound. For each wound, characters must reduce their stats, AV, ST and AC by 1, until the wound(s) heal.

All characters have a recovery dice to roll during healing opportunities which determines how many HP they recover. The size of this dice is determined by their total HD (not their level):

HD: Recovery Dice
1: 1pt
2: d6-3
3: d6-2
4: d6-1
5-6: d6
7-8: d6+1
9-10: d6+2

Healing opportunities:
– At the end of each combat any character who received damage who is then the recipient of a successful healing test can roll a recovery dice to heal some HPs. Strong and Brave characters don’t need the healing check, they can go straight to rolling their recovery dice.
– Once per day all characters can take a rest of about one hour to recover one recovery dice worth of HP. Wise characters can also remove one recovery dice of Fatigue.
– With dinner, a meal and breakfast each character can recover one recovery dice of HP, one dice of Fatigue and have a one in six chance of healing one wound (if they have any).
– A draft of healing potion or a basic healing spell allow their recipients to recover one dice of HP and again a one in six chance of healing a wound.

After combat: Recover HP with healing or if Strong/Brave.
Daily rest (1 hour): Recover HP and Fatigue.
Meals and sleep (8 hours total): Recover HP, Fatigue and 1/6 one wound.
Magic: Recover HP and 1/6 one wound.


16 thoughts on “Whitehack RPG Houserules

  1. One or two things:
    – To match the stat bonuses, are there any stat penalties?
    – Average stat is now 10, not 10.5, which will make people a wee bit less competent on average.
    – Also, if people tend to prefer using stats they’re good at, they’re going to be less effective on average. This can be balanced by encouraging players to also roll on bad stats.
    – Why are shields less effective when you’re wearing armour?
    – Group tests: have you seen the variant where instead of all players rolling and the scrawny mage out strengths the barbarian, the GM rolls a difficulty and anyone with a high enough stat passes?
    – Fatigue for casters: good idea, and shouldn’t be much more book keeping. Maybe give it a magicky sounding name though, like “accumulating mana burn” (or something), to stop players feeling like they can’t get over fatigue with a rest (or maybe they can!)
    – Multi-use attunements. Pro: handy for those of us who don’t have a good idea for where the character should be going. Con: this does sacrifice character flexibility, since a character wakes up having one fewer way to approach a situation.

    1. Whitehack doesn’t use stat penalties, I’m ok with that.

      I am also ok with characters being slightly less competent at the start. It means players have to plan more and work with their strengths and their Groups.

      Armour is going to be hard to come by so i wanted to boost shields a little too give you a chance, but i didn’t want to over power heavy armour+shields. I justify it as using a shield well requires mobility.

      Remember that miracles in Whitehack can be anything so there are dozens of different ways that they can wear down a character. Mana burn, blood letting, exhaustion, disconnection, grief… I thought Fatigue worked best as a generic term.

  2. Hey Brian, sorry to leave a comment so late, but re: Armor, waysoftheearth over on the Delving Deeper forums is using this houserule (to prioritize shields a bit). You may be interested:

    Padded, mail, and plate armour are AC 7, 6 and 5, respectively.
    Helmet improves AC by 1 but halves listening chances.
    Shields improve AC by 2 but only from the front (negated when struck from behind).

    Converted to Whitehack, that might be:

    Leather, mail, plate are AC 2, 3, 4 respectively.
    Helmet gives +1 AC but gives disadvantage on task rolls to perceive.
    Shields give +2 AC but only from front.

    Link: http://forum.immersiveink.com/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=585

  3. Hey Brian, sorry for a very late comment. I’m planning to run Deep Carbon Observatory using Whitehack and your houserules. I wonder when you add stat bonuses for Dex, Con, Wis, Int (and Str). You’ve written bonus to AV and dmg in your houserules but I can’t find if a similar bonus is added in RAW, exept for Strong characters. Could you please comment on this?

    Futher, I wonder if you have any advice regarding preparation and running DCO with Whitehack. I’ve read the summaries of your game on google+, but as far as I can recall you said that you would post some advice for running this adventure later. Thx.

    1. Yes, I am referring to the bonuses received by the Strong class there. Basically, I’m giving out all the same bonuses, they just trigger a bit sooner.

      As I remember it, the advice I was going to give was (spoilers)
      – The NPC with the telescope in Carrowmere is looking at some smoke in the distance. I thought that was the family near the dam burning stuff to stay alive but I realised later that it should probably be the reflectors boiling away the water over the pit. This is much cooler but it’s a big enough effect that is probably the first thing your pcs will see.

      – Use the Crows carefully, they are awesome and dangerous but you don’t want your players to kill them too soon. Handily they are thinking the same thing so they should always have an escape plan ready.

      – Notice that all the rooms in the DCO are only 10′ wide, it helps understand the structure. Some of the maps floating around didn’t pick up on that and I don’t think they work because of it. There was a good map recently, I’ll try to find it.

      – My players started at level 3, that was a bit low I think, despite the fact that I was pretty generous with XP. Level 5 should still be a challenge.

      – I used random encounters (1/6 for each stint of travel or treat somewhere non-safe) and Basic 2d6 reaction rolls for anything which didn’t already have an obvious encounter or reaction. It worked really well, really made the place feel alive and dangerous.

      – Put some thought into how you want to use the witch, she’s amazing.

      – Don’t hold back, is the players responsibility to keep their pcs alive, not yours. 🙂

      1. I liked being low level, it made things seem like a credible threat (and we still made it, so a more tactically aware group might even find it easy). As I’m also planning to run DCO / WH this autumn, I’m probably going to start players off at level 3 too. Not sure if I’m going to track XP, or just level them up at certain points (e.g. the witch, entering the Observatory).

        1. I was giving you guys 50XP multiplied by the average level of the party (and then divided amongst the PCs) for each location you dealt with, it worked out as a lot, and then I still gave you 10k each (enough for everyone to go up one level) at the dam because I wanted you to be a bit tougher. Even with all that you came very close to a TPK at least once.

  4. Thanks for all the advice (and the great map)! It looks like my players also will start at third level – they always get it to easy 😉

    – Why don’t deft characters get a bonus from Dex as the other base clases do? Wise gets extra spells from Wis, and strong gets bonus from Str. Could the dex bonus to initative be added for deft characters only?

    – Some of my players are very crtic to simiplistic systems such as Whitehack. Do you have andy advice on how to get these players interestet in the game? They prefer more complicated systems like Pathfinder.

    – When rolling 2d6+3 for stats for all of the six stats. What about rolling two other dices at the end, and add one to the same stat number as the first dice and one to the stat number as the second dice. E.g. you roll 1 and 3 and add 1 bonus Str and one to Con. This would increase the mean value of all the stats to approx. the same as 3d6. Ah yes. It might be too complicated…

  5. I don’t think giving Deft characters a Dex bonus to initiative will cause any harm. It will help them get their tricky stuff done before people start dying. Sounds good to me.

    Sell Whitehack as a game where the players are more free to do what they want. They will be interpreting their abilities on the fly and that versatility is powerful. Also, you should be able to get more done in a session than you are used to with a more intricate system like Pathfinder.

    One of the reasons I want to switch to 2d6+3 is to bring down the maximum starting start to 15, this then gives room for the raises without players having pretty much guaranteed successes. Also remember that starting at level 3 your players will already have a raise to spend.

  6. What is your definition focused characters. Can all bases classes get the new combat rules that you are suggesting?

    And what is a basic 2d6 reaction roll? I’m sorry but I can’t find out how you are handling these reaction rolls. I’ve re-read the rules in Whitehack and looked into the description of the random encounters in DCO.

    1. Apologies, this post was a little sketchy. I had a lot of rules to get through and I could have spent a little more time, or words, explaining them.

      By “combat focused” characters I am referring to all Strong characters and Deft characters with a combat vocation. So a Deft Assassin or a Deft Swordsman would get the bonuses but a Deft Acrobat or a Deft Beekeeper wouldn’t. I guess there might be characters in other classes who might qualify, a fortunate Knight or a Wise Swordmage maybe. Basically, it’s anyone who has actually had training in melee.

      The Basic 2d6 Reaction Roll is from Basic D&D. Essentially when your PCs meet someone or a monster or an animal you roll 2d6 and consult this table to see how the potential opponent reacts.
      2 Attacks
      3-5 Hostile
      6-8 Uncertain
      9-11 Friendly
      12 Helpful

      This keeps things unpredictable and I think gives the impression of the world being more alive without much overhead for the GM. Also, since most encounters won’t actually become fights you can put in a lot more without worrying about killing everyone.

      I mix it up a bit but shuffling the results up or down one level for good roleplaying or if the PCs are clearly up to something. If the encountered creature is chaotic I might roll a d12 instead of 2d6, if lawful I might roll 2d8.

      I hope that helps, if you Google “D&D Reaction Roll” you’ll find all sorts of discussion and see lots of variants.

  7. I used your rules in yesterday’s game and it worked really well😉 The only change a added is that I ruled that Strong characters had to pas a successful Con roll before they roll one recovery die after combat.

    The player who played a Wise character thought that the Fatigue accumulated from miracles recovered a bit slow, at least compared to Strong characters who received a recovery die after combat every combat. And by comparing your house rules on recovery with RAW, all characters recover less on lower levels, which seems to have an effect on how often Wise characters are able to cast Miracles. I am currently not sure how to solve this, but maybe a Wise character should be able to use a recovery die after casting spells to restore Fatigue? Or maybe Wise characters also should restore Fatigue immediately after combat in the same way as Strong characters do? What’s your thoughts on this?

    1. Using my house rules all characters should recover all their HP given two days, which matches up with RAW Whitehack.

      I was never too happy with the RAW healing rules though, as Wise characters would barely recover on day one and then everyone would be fully recovered on day two. It just seemed artificial to me and it didn’t help Wise characters use their Miracles much.

      I figured that the intent with ‘Wise heal twice as much’ was that they were recovering both from injuries and from expending their energies powering Miracles, so I tried to stick with that intent by letting them perform a fatigue recovery and a healing recovery when others only get a healing recovery. This also let me allow magical healing for Wide characters without the risk of magical healing powering more magic.

      If you want magic to be a big part of combat you could perhaps give them a fatigue recovery at the end of combat but be careful that you don’t make the actual combat characters feel redundant.

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