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Player's Guide to Tarrastra

In most respects, Tarrastra is a typical Dungeons & Dragons V3.5 campaign. This document will explain all the differences.

This campaign is intended to be heavy on the role-playing, and characters are expected to have a well developed background. Players will need to interact extensively with the DM during character creation in order to fit their character appropriately into the world.

Characters will start at level one in the city of Rowansmeade in the kingdom of YYY. This is a major market town and most humans, at least, will be from there, although characters are not required to be from the vicinity.

Read the following and then use the Character Creation Checklist to generate character.


Unless the player can make an extremely compelling case to the DM, no player character may start play with an evil alignment, although they certainly could have been evil in the past. And who can say what the future holds?

Ability Scores

Players generate the ability scores of their characters using a "high powered point buy" system. All ability scores start at 8. The player takes 32 points to spread out as desired among all abilities. Taking a lower score in an ability will give a few more points and taking an exceptional score in an ability is extra expensive.

Ability Score Point Costs
Ability Score Point Cost Ability Score Point Cost
3-5 113
4-4 124
5-3 135
6-2 146
7-1 158
80 1610
91 1713
102 1816


Available player character races are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, aasimar (+1), tiefling (+1), and feytouched (+1). These are described in more detail on the Races of Tarrastra page.

Some of these races are considered to be "powerful" races and have a Level Adjustment listed. These characters are still allowed as first level characters, but there are special rules to handle this:

  1. Each Level Adjusted race has a "base" set of abilities, on par in power with the "standard" races. A character of such a race starting at first level has only the "base" racial abilities and gains XP as if she had a Level Adjustment of +0.
  2. Each point of Level Adjustment adds a new level of racial powers. When the first level character earns 1,000 XP, she gains her race's first level of special abilities, her Level Adjustment becomes +1, and she remains a first level character.
  3. This process continues for subsequent points of Level Adjustment, if required: an additional 2,000 XP will allow the race's second level of special abilities to manifest and will make the Level adjustment become +2. A further 3,000 XP makes the Level Adjustment +3 and brings out the third level of racial abilities. And so on.
  4. Only after all the racial powers have manifested is the character finally able to progress in class levels.
  5. Since the benefits of racial abilities tend to eventually be overwhelmed by class abilities, this campaign allows Level Adjustment Reduction to phase out the Level Adjustment. A race with a Level Adjustment of +1 phases it out at character level 3. A race with Level Adjustment of +2 phases out the first point at character level 6 and the second point at character level 9.


Available classes for player characters to start out with are the Barbarian*, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk*, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Swashbuckler*, Wizard, as well as the Aristocrat* and Expert. Not all classes are appropriate to all races, although anything will be allowed with DM approval. Classes marked with an * all require extra consultation with the DM. These are described in more detail on the Character Classes of Tarrastra page.

The Aristocrat is as described in the Dungeon Masters's Guide and is recommended only for players who value having an impressive skill selection, decent combat abilities, and a noble heritage. A Player Character taking this class at level one gains a few extra goodies: maximum cash at level 1, a monthly stipend of 100 gp/level, useful social contacts, +2 to Knowledge (Nobility) and Knowledge (History).

The Barbarian is as described in the Player's Handbook.

The Bard is mostly described in the Player's Handbook but has a few modifications.

A Bard may swap out a spell every Bard level, starting at level 5, rather than one at Bard level 5 and then again every three Bard levels thereafter.

Additionally, to allow a Bard to know multiple forms of performance (for role-playing) without sinking too many Skill Points into unnecessary (for game mechanics) forms, a Bard gets a generic Perform skill that covers (1 + Intelligence bonus) different "mastered" performance forms. Whenever she adds a rank to this skill, the ranks of all of her chosen performance forms increase. If her Intelligence ever permanently increases, she may add a new "mastered" form to her list. A Bard is free to learn additional performance forms, but must spend Skill Points on them separately, as per the core rules.

The Cleric is as described in the Player's Handbook, but has been toned down slightly: she does not start out with Shield Proficiency or Armor Proficiency (Heavy), although she can buy those Feats normally.

The Druid is as described in the Player's Handbook.

The Expert is as described in the Dungeon Masters's Guide and is recommended only for players who value having the ultimate flexibility in skill selection and decent combat abilities.

The Fighter is as described in the Player's Handbook.

The Monk is as described in the Player's Handbook, but is not restricted from multi-classing.

The Paladin is as described in the Player's Handbook, but is not restricted from multi-classing.

The Ranger is as described in the Player's Handbook.

The Rogue is as described in the Player's Handbook.

The Sorcerer is as described in the Player's Handbook, but has been improved in several ways. As the Charismatic master of Intuitive magic, not only are Diplomacy, Intimidate, and Use Magic Device class skills, but the Sorcerer has a special knack with Metamagic, and gains 12 Sorcerer Feat Points at Sorcerer Levels 1 and 2 every Sorcerer level thereafter. These can be used to buy Metamagic Feats. When a Sorcerer modifies a spell with metamagic, it does not lengthen its casting time to be a full round. Additionally, just as with the Bard, a Sorcerer may swap out a spell every Sorcerer level, starting at Sorcerer level 4, rather than one at Sorcerer level 4 and then again every two Sorcerer levels thereafter,

The Swashbuckler is as described in the Complete Warrior.

Wizards are mostly as described in the Player's Handbook, with some modifications. A Wizard does not gain Scribe Scroll for free at Wizard Level 1, but instead gains 12 Wizard Feat Points at that level and 2 every Wizard level thereafter. These can be used to purchase Item Creation and Wizard feats, reflecting the role of the Wizard as Item Creator extraordinaire.

Additionally, Wizards come in three styles:

  1. Generalist wizards are equally adept in all schools of magic.
  2. Specialist wizards select a single school of magic to focus on. In exchange for extra facility with all spells from that school, they permanently give up all access to two other schools of magic.
  3. Domain wizards are a sort of "semi-specialist". By purchasing the Domain Wizard Feat, they gain extra facility with a specific list of spells, one per spell level.

Any character can multi-class in the Paragon class appropriate to their race without diluting their focus (i.e., without incurring a penalty for having "unbalanced" classes).

Some prestige classes are available for characters to consider later in their careers. Currently known classes include the Arcane Archer, Archmage, Hierophant, and Shadow Dancer. The Archmage has been modified to agree with the original conception of the class, which is very much like the Arcane equivalent of the Hierophant.


All standard Skills from the Player's Handbook are available to any character. Some additional skills or sub-skills are also available:

Craft (Composition) - You have skill in creating musical works.


In Tarrastra, to reflect the fact that not all Feats are created equal, we use a "smoothed" variation of Sean K. Reynold's "Feat Point" system.

Characters gain Feat Points every level:

  • 13 1/3 (+10, if Human) General Feat Points at Character Level 1. 3 1/3 at Character Levels 2 through 18. 6 2/3 each Character Level thereafter
  • 10 Fighter Feat Points at Fighter Levels 1 and 2. 5 every subsequent Fighter Level
  • 12 Sorcerer Feat Points at Sorcerer Level 1. 2 every subsequent Sorcerer Level
  • 12 Wizard Feat Points at Wizard Level 1. 2 every subsequent Wizard level.

General Feat Points can be used to buy any desired Feat for which the character has the prerequisites.

Fighter Feat Points can be used to buy Fighter Feats.

Sorcerer Feat Points can be used to buy Metamagic Feats.

Wizard Feat Points can be used to buy Item Creation or Wizard Feats.

Feat Points need not be spent at the time they are earned: if you want a more expensive feat or do not qualify for a feat, you can save them up to use any time later.

All standard Feats from the Player's Handbook are available to any character, with the exception that in Tarrastra, Weapon Groups are used in place of Simple, Martial and Exotic weapon proficiencies. Martial classes trained in different regions will have specific Weapon Groups they will be expected to know. For example, Fighters trained in the town guard of XXX will know Light Blades and Pole Arms. Barbarians of the horse nomads of the plains of ZZZ will know Bows and Spears & Lances.

Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization apply to an entire Weapon Group. Greater Weapon Focus, Greater Weapon Specialization, and Improved Critical, however, still apply to a single weapon.

There are also many additional Feats available.

The complete list of available Feats, along with Feat Type and Feat Point Cost is given here.

Learning Skills and Feats

Any character in D&D can learn any Skill and any Feat. Each Character Level, more Skill points are available, and every three levels, a new Feat is available. Between character levels, nothing happens to advance the character: no matter how much time passes between adventures or what the character is doing during that time, she learns nothing.

So, "by the book": if a character spends three levels marching on foot through caverns, can she acquire ranks of the Ride skill? If another character spends those same three levels riding a camel through a desert, may he advance in the Swim skill? Does a rogue who never picks locks become better at Open Locks? Can one learn a new language without lessons, or at least spending a lot of time interacting with native speakers, trying to use the language? By the book, yes to all of the above.

In Tarrastra, it's all about role-playing. Whenever a character advances a character level, Skill Points are available to spend - on skills for which it makes role-playing sense. If a character is learning a new skill or language, she must get at least some training in it. This training can be from another character with the skill or language or from some other suitable trainer. For a character to advance in a skill she already knows, she must have had the opportunity to actively practice the skill during her last character level.

Feats are things that develop on their own over the course of adventures, but here too, some role-playing common sense is appropriate. If a character has not shot her bow in the last three levels, she should not learn an archery-related Feat.

Uptime and Downtime

What happens when a character spends an extended period of time not adventuring? The books do not address this. One interpretation is that the character gains nothing: no skills, no money, no social contacts. She is idle, "on the shelf."

But, in Tarrastra, again, it's all about role-playing. If a character spends an extended period of downtime actively working on an endeavor, he can earn Skill Points in appropriate skills, or possibly even gain a Feat - especially if actual training is involved. If he is practicing a Craft or a Profession, or using a Knowledge skill as a sage would, he should be able to earn some money at it, as well.

So, a drow that spends ten years living on the surface, cultivating her herb garden out in the sun for several hours a day, might very well acquire the Daylight Adaptation feat, and some number of ranks of Profession (Herbalist), as well.

To reflect this, the rule in this campaign is as follows: for each full year of downtime in which a character is not out adventuring and earning XP, she gains either one Skill Point or one Feat Point, at the player's option.

Magic Spells

All magic spells from the Player's Handbook are available to spellcasters in Tarrastra, although some have been modified. Additionally, there are a number of additional spells which are "standard". Read all about this here.

Magic Items

All the potions, scrolls, wands, and (non-specific) magical arms and armors listed in the Dungeon Master's Guide will be easily available to characters to purchase (given a vendor). Characters are free to either make more exotic items or commission a suitable spellcaster to make the item for them (given suitable negotiation).

The Dungeon Master's Guide lists a "Caster Level" for each item. This is not a prerequisite for making the item; it is merely the "usual" Caster Level at which the necessary spells have been cast into the item. The creator of the item must merely have the appropriate feat (which requires a particular Caster Level to learn); the necessary spells can be placed into the item at any desired level and can even be cast by some other caster (or via a scroll or other magic item). (This is actually not a house rule: its an erratum from 3.0 which failed to get corrected in 3.5)

Here are the rules in this campaign for "cooperative" magic item creations:

The following are necessary to create a magic item:

  1. A spellcaster with the necessary Item Creation Feat
  2. A source of spells: a spellcaster or item. Some items (of Protection, for example) require spells of a specific Caster Level. The source must be of at least that Caster Level.
  3. A source of XP.
  4. A source of gold.

These can all be the same person or can be multiple people.

The gold and XP must be provided when the item is started. A character who is providing XP must also be present during the entire period of crafting; you may be able to negotiate a lower price for a commissioned item by providing the XP yourself, but will also have to be present each day while it is being constructed.

The spellcaster with the Item Creation feat works on it throughout the creation of the item. The necessary spells must be cast once each during each of those days.

The Caster Level of the final item is set by the source of spells.

Monte Cook wrote an article in the DMs ONLY column on his web site in which he observed that the standard NPC wealth table in the Dungeon Master's Guide prohibited him from placing "really cool" magic items with his monsters: a 15th level mage couldn't afford a staff of power, and the characters end up with a pile of boring +1 swords from all the 6th level fighters they defeat. The solution that he has adopted in his own campaign is simple: the Dungeon Master's Guide lists a "book price" for each item. He halves that price. This not only makes a potion of cure light wounds cost only 25 gp, but now a 6th level fighter could have a +1 flaming longsword, rather than the boring +1 sword. I'm considering adopting this, since kewl magic items are, by definition, more fun than boring magic items.

Of course, with this approach, if the monsters are all better equipped, they'll be tougher challenges than their CR would indicate. But once the PCs defeat them, they will be tougher themselves. And that would mean that if I ever chose to use a published adventure of some sort, the monsters wouldn't be well enough equipped, given the power level of the campaign.

I'm still pondering this. Stay tuned.

Death, Level Loss, and Level Draining

In Tarrastra, there's a softer penalty for dying than that specified in the PHB: coming back from the dead gives you a negative level, which will go away on its own when you next advance a level. Read all about it in my Character Death and Energy Drain article.


In recognition that Tarrastra will have mature players, a variety of Sexual Skills, Feats, and Spells are available for player characters to use, if they wish.

If you're trying to mini-max the most powerful Combat Monster you can make, these will be of little interest. Or, if your character has no interest in sex - or you are not interested in thinking about or acknowledging your character's interest in the subject - then you'll also not find these of much use.

But if sex is a motivator for your character, these Skills, Feats, and Skills will add some role-playing spice - and if your character learns them, he or she will have a chance to use them.

Copyright © 2005 by Brianna Sollandry <brianna at hambo dot com> Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu
R'lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn.
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