About this Game >

1- Characters


    You have gone to the very edge of civilization to seek your fortune in the wilds. Few journey into the unknown and even fewer return. Those who do, tell tales of ancient ruins, fell beasts and great riches.

    Settled lands may offer protection, and a proper order of things, for those who would accept duty, labor and obedience in return. You’d rather risk death braving the harsh wilderness, ancient ruins and terrible monsters than toil for docile manual labor. You have one goal; the highest price: A life of glory and riches.

    Learn how make a heroic fighter, a cunning rogue, a wily wizard or a noble cleric, chosen for a divine cause. Then set off on fantastic journeys into the unknown!

    What is a Role-playing Game?

    A roleplaying game is a collaborative effort of imagination between a group of players and a Game Master [GM]. The GM sets the scene and you, the player, describe what you want your character to do within that scene. Anything you can plausibly imagine your character doing, they can do or at least attempt. The GM then describes back what happens.

    The rules and dice only come into play when you want to do something difficult, dangerous or contested.

    A Light and Simple Game

    This system is a simpler, easier, non-’advanced’ rendition of the 5th edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game, inspired by the 80s“Basic” and “Expert” rules of the game. That is for two reasons:

    Speed of play and to further the imagination in play.

    Rules that define in great detail how to do things tend to have the unintended consequence of dictating what you can do. Increasingly comprehensive rules seem to confine the actions of players to what the rules tell you how to do, before your own creativity asks the question “What would I like to do?”, ultimately becoming a case of “what is not overtly permitted is forbidden”. If you don’t have the ‘Use Rope’ skill, you can’t tie a knot.

    Simple rules leave things open in order to let your imagination dictate what you can do, before the rules attempt to tell you how to do it.

    Into The Unknown seeks to be light enough to give the imagination a wide berth to let you play to the scene over playing to the rules. When the rules do enter the picture, they aim to be simple and intuitive enough to get out of your way and let your imagination do the heavy lifting. When in doubt, just shout it out and roll!

    An Old School Renaissance

    The old school style of play has a different emphasis to many modern, more storyline-driven, games: It’s built around open-ended explorative ‘sandbox’ campaigns, driven by player initiative and relying on procedural play to create outcomes and content. It shifts the role of Game Master from story plot designer to arbiter and environment creator, facilitating player created stories.

    This system provides a cohesive modern rules set for the old school style of open-ended, procedural play.

    It does not seek to only be old school (the old games are there for that), but to channel the “Old School Renaissance”, and use the decades of experience from the gaming community, to refine and streamline the rules with modern mechanics in order to facilitate and support the old school spirit, and style of play.

    This system is designed to be modular, easy to run, tinker with, and adapt to your purposes. If you like parts of the game, but would rather use it for something else than old school play, nothing will break from you doing so. It is a game that wants you to make it your own. To quote Matt Finch, of Sword and Wizardry fame: Take this and imagine the hell out of it! Anders Honoré

    Quick Intro

    This system is a roleplaying game where the players control Player Characters (PCs) whilst the Game Master (GM) controls all other human-like Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and also all other Creatures.

    It is played with a set of polyhedral dice, each of which is represented by the number for the number of dice to by rolled and a ‘d’ followed by the number of sides the die has, i.e. 1d20 for one 20-sided die, 3d6 for three regular six-sided die, etc. 1d3 is rolled by halving the result of a d6. A percentile roll (a number from 01-100, more commonly noted as d%) is rolled with two d10s, and multiplying one of them by 10. 1d30 can similarly be rolled with a d10 and a d3 multiplied by 10, etc.

    All characters have six different Abilities: Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis) and Charisma (Cha).

    Ability Scores give Ability Modifiers, small bonuses from -5 to +5, that can be used to increase the chance of success on Ability Checks, used when attempting tasks or overcoming challenges. For these, you roll a d20 and attempt to roll high to meet or exceed a Difficulty Class (DC), a measure of how hard it is.

    Some are Passive Checks, scores with a fixed value instead of rolling a die. Other checks may be done as Group Checks or as a Contest against someone else.

    Ability Modifiers also modify Saving Throws (also called saves), also a d20 rolled against a DC, to avert harmful fates such as poisoning or being petrified.

    Two ability modifiers, Str and Dex, can also modify Attack Rolls where you roll a d20 to try and meet (or exceed) your opponent’s Armor Class (AC), a measure of protection, from physical attack, in order to land a hit. A roll of 20 always hits and is called a Critical Hit.

    If you have proficiency with a task (for ability checks), a save or weapon, you can also add your Proficiency Bonus to these rolls besides your Ability Modifier.

    In favorable conditions, you may gain Advantage on your roll (roll twice, take highest). If unfavorable, you may get Disadvantage (roll twice, take lowest).

    Besides Abilities, a character has a Class, such as Fighter or Magic-User, which defines most of its capabilities, such as Hit Dice, special class abilities like spellcasting and Proficiency Areas, areas which you are especially skilled in and add your proficiency bonus to.

    You also have a Background, such as Outdoorsman or Highborn, that rounds out your character and adds a Proficiency Area besides what your class provides.

    If your character can cast spells, he does so by expending Spells Slots, of which he has a limited amount, of a given Spell Level, which range in power from 1st to 9th level. Some spells require Concentration. Only one concentration spell can be maintained at a time and may end early if the caster takes damage.

    Finally, all characters choose an Alignment, such as Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic, to show who they side with and their approach to adventuring life and the world.

    During adventures, PCs accumulate Experience Points (XP). Once enough XP has been accumulated, a character gains a level (which go up to 20), improving its abilities and acquiring new ones.

    Combat is divided into a Round of six seconds, during which each combatant can take a Turn where they can Move (typically 30 feet) in addition to taking an Action such as attack or casting a spell and possibly even a Bonus Action, a special extra action sometimes provided by a class ability or particular circumstance.

    Depending on what others do, they might also take a Reaction on someone else’s turn. You decide the order of turns in a round, Initiative, by rolling high on 1d20.

    When hit in combat, damage is taken off your Hit Points (hp). You have a number of Hit Dice (HD), which determine your maximum number of hp and also how many hp you recover when taking a Rest. At 0 hp, you must make Death Saving Throws to see if you die.

    Not all encounters lead to a fight. Reaction rolls help determine if a creature or Npc is hostile, neutral or friendly towards you at first glance.

    Not all fights are to the death. Creatures and NPCs, including henchmen, have a Morale score, determining how likely they are to stop fighting when it goes poorly.

    Outside of combat, you act in Exploration Segments of ca. 10 minutes (or: one significant action) in the dungeon, and Watches of 4 hours each on journeys.

    A Short Rest takes a segment and aids basic recovery of hp and some class abilities. A Long Rest is 2 watches and restores both health and abilities more thoroughly.

    If you carry more than 1/3 of your Str score in stone (15 lb), you are Encumbered. If you carry over 2/3, you are Heavily Encumbered. Each reduces your speed.

    Gold pieces (gp) are the basic unit of currency for which goods are traded. One gold piece is worth 10 silver pieces (sp) or 100 copper pieces (cp).

    Getting Started

    Creating a character has six simple steps that, once you are familiar with each step, should not take more than 20 minutes to complete:

    • Discover or choose your character

    A: Discover your Character

    • Generate Abilities
    • Choose your Class
    • Choose Class Feature (humans only)
    • Choose Background

    B: Choose your Character

    • Choose your Class
    • Choose Class Feature (humans only)
    • Choose Background
    • Generate Abilities
    • Alignment, Languages and Finishing Touch
    • (Optionally) buy equipment.

    Here’s a brief summary to get started:

    Decide first whether you want to Discover what character to play (roll for abilities) or Choose one (use a Standard Array). This affects the order of the next steps.

    A character starts with one Class, of which there are four core ones to choose from: Fighter, Rogue, Magic-User and Cleric – With your GM’s permission there are also three racial classes: Dwarf, Halfling and Elf.

    Class is probably the most significant choice for character creation. It defines your role and grants you special class abilities, such as spellcasting or special combat moves.

    It also dictates the Hit Die you use and how many Hit Points you have (these state how durable you are when taking damage), grants two ability score increases, gives you most of your starting equipment, tells you what armor and weapons you can use and defines one of your Proficiency Areas, the tasks and activities you are proficient in.

    You then choose a Class Feature to set your character apart from others with that class (racial classes do not have class features).

    Fighters choose a Fighting Style, such as Mighty Deeds or Deadeye. Rogues choose a Rogue Scheme they excel at above others.

    Priests choose a Divine Order such as being a Cleric of Law or nature-oriented Druid, while Magic-Users choose an Arcane Origin, such as Wizard, Sorcerer or Warlock, that defines how they obtain their magic.

    After that, if you chose one of the four core human classes, you choose a Background which, alongside your choice of class, rounds out your proficiency areas and helps define what kind of adventurer your character is (racial classes instead define personality traits as a proficiency area). Make it your own with a one or two Narrative words.

    Finally, choose which languages your character can speak, decide on an alignment to indicate your characters allegiances and add finishing touches such as name, appearance and personality traits.

    Optionally, if you aren’t using the equipment suggested for your class/background, you buy this at the end.

    Choosing a Class

    Once you have rolled your attributes, you may wonder which class goes well with them. As a quick rule of thumb, Fighters benefit most from high Str or Dex and Rogues from high Dex. Priests benefit from high Wis and magic-users from high Int or Cha (depending on Arcane Origin). Dwarves benefit most from high Str, elves from high Dex and Cha, whilst Halflings enjoy high Dex.

    These are just guidelines. Above all, choose a class you want to play.

    Ability Generation

    All characters have six Abilities: Strength (Str), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), Intelligence (Int), Wisdom (Wis) and Charisma (Cha). Alongside choice of class, your abilities are the most defining mechanical trait of your character. There are two methods for generating abilities: Discover your character or choose it.

    Discover Your Character

    If you decided to discover your character, you roll dice for abilities. This can yield unpredictable characters that you would never have come up with yourself.

    Remember each class gives two +1 bonuses and racial classes give a +2 and a +1 bonus!

    Make sure the GM and one other player are witness your rolls. Roll 4d6 and discard the lowest die. Record this and repeat six times, assigning them in order to each ability.

    After choosing class, you may once exchange scores between any two abilities if you like.

    Variant: The two standard methods are balanced against each other and can be used by different players in the same party.

    If everyone rolls to discover their character it may be more fun to do it the old school way: 3d6 in order. No backsies.

    Choose Your Character

    Standard Arrays (Quick Pick: B)

    If you decided to choose your character, pick one of the standard arrays from the Standard Arrays table and assign each value to your six abilities as you like.

    Remember each class gives two +1 bonuses and racial classes give a +2 and a +1 bonus!

    A will give you a well-rounded character with one very high primary stat, a high secondary stat, broad capability and no real weaknesses.

    Each successive array towards E is gradually slanted towards more extremes – More high or very high abilities, but less broad capability and more weak abilities. The same is true for the demi-human arrays, with F the most well rounded and I the most extreme.

    A: 15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 10

    B: 15, 14, 13, 10, 10, 10

    C: 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8

    D: 15, 15, 12, 11, 10, 8

    E: 15, 15, 14, 10, 8, 8

    Arrays suited for Demi-humans (Quick Pick: F)

    F: 14, 14, 13, 12, 10, 10

    G: 14, 14, 13, 12, 12, 8

    H: 15, 14, 14, 10, 10, 8

    I: 15, 14, 14, 12, 8, 8

    Character Advancement

    Your character is awarded Experience Points (XP) for adventuring activities, such as exploration, overcoming foes, and by spending gold found on adventures (see “Downtime”). Once you reach a certain XP total you gain a level.

    When your character gains a level, his or her class grants additional features. In addition, all characters’ proficiency bonus increases at certain levels.

    When you gain a level, you gain 1 extra Hit Die. Roll that Hit Die, add your Con modifier and add the total to your hit point maximum. Alternatively, use the fixed value shown in your class entry, which is the average result of the die roll (rounded up). When your Con modifier increases by 1, your hit point maximum also increases by 1 for each level you have attained.

    The Character Advancement table shows the XP needed to advance from level 1 to 20. Consult class descriptions to see what else you gain at each level.

    Tiers of Play

    The Character Advancement table shows the three tiers of play, giving an idea of the scope at each level of play.

    The Basic tier (Levels 1-4), tend to be local in scope and generally focuses on dungeon delving expeditions.

    The Expert tier (level 5-10) expands focus to wilderness exploration and the wider world. Adventures are often regional in scope, sometimes affecting entire kingdoms.

    Character at the Companion tier (level 11-20) are mythic heroes whose actions shake kingdoms, even the world. This will be covered in the Companion volume, expanding the rules for high level play.

    Character Advancement
    Level XP Proficiency Bonus Tier of Play
    1 0 +2 Basic
    2 1,250 +2 Basic
    3 2,500 +2 Basic
    4 5,000 +2 Basic
    5 10,000 +3 Expert
    6 20,000 +3 Expert
    7 40,000 +3 Expert
    8 70,000 +3 Expert
    9 100,000 +4 Expert
    10 130,000 +4 Expert
    11 170,000 +4 Companion
    12 210,000 +4 Companion
    13 250,000 +5 Companion
    14 300,000 +5 Companion
    15 350,000 +5 Companion
    16 450,000 +5 Companion
    17 500,000 +Q6 Companion
    18 550,000 +6 Companion
    19 600,000 +6 Companion
    20 700,000 +6 Companion

    Customizing Classes

    Altering your class can be done, with the GM’s approval, by trading away one of your class’ ability score increases in exchange for a minor benefit such as:

    Proficiency with light armor; proficiency with 4 weapons; Cast a 1st level spell/long rest; learn a cantrip; double proficiency bonus for toolkit, etc. Alternatively, all Class Feature Focuses (and the magic-user’s Esoteric Training) are balanced against each other.

    Example: Player A wants to have a more martial rogue. He trades one ability score increase for proficiency with medium armor and calls Sneak Attack Blademaster Strike.

    Optional: Race-as-Class

    [The elves] magicked up some of their food and drink …and hunted some among the weird beasts which prowled their domain. All of them seemed to be warriors and sorcerers”

    Three Hearts and Three Lions?

    If your GM allows it, you may even play non-human characters in Into the Unknown. A few fantasy races, are considered sufficiently allied with humanity for them to feasibly join a human adventuring band:

    Dwarves, elves and halflings, the rules for which are given in the following pages. Each race is considered its own class, like the four core ‘human’ classes.

    Demi-humans largely follow the same rules as the core classes, with these exceptions:

    No Class Feature and No Background Races are already their own archetypes!

    As such, if you play a racial class, you don’t select a class feature nor a background.

    For a discussion on why race-as-class is more uniform than human classes, see the side-bar “Humans in rubber masks?”

    Since races have no background, they gain the following racial feature instead:

    Racial Feature: Claim to Hospitality As demi-human races are more harmonious with each other than humans, a demi-human can always expect a friendly welcome and hospitality in any community of their own race.

    Special Proficiency Areas Demi-humans are different and approach life differently to humans. This is shown in their proficiency areas which is defined by class (as normal) and by choosing a Personality Trait as an area of proficiency instead of a background.

    See the section on Personality Traits for more on how to define personality traits.

    Humans in rubber masks?

    Demi-humans are not merely different cultures wearing rubber masks with pointy ears. They are different species, in-human. The way they perceive and think about life, the world and morality are not just different from human thinking, but in a way alien to them in origin, nature and outlook.

    Elves are not just long-lived forest humans who like arts, archery and magic. They are creatures of Faerie, embodied nature spirits to whom magic is as natural as dancing and who frequently fail to grasp the many implications of time passing. They have a morality more aesthetic than ethical.

    Nor are dwarves just short dour miners with a Scottish accent. They are of stone, their affinity with it is familial and their character is molded as firmly from it as stone.

    Dwarves are not known for changing their minds often. They chip stubbornly at all aspects of life until it slowly reveals its intended shape, one grain at a time.

    To demi-humans, the defining racial trait of humans is diversity, which, in their eyes, make humans a rather confused species. That humans could want and do such myriad and vastly different things to each other is to demi-humans a cause of human inequality, and hostility. A weakening of their strength and purpose as a species. Mankind, unsurprisingly, beg to differ.

    Not to say all elves are just the same. But, unlike humans, they have more shared traits in common and tend to get along better with each other than humans do. These traits are not just in their character. They are in their nature.


    Law and Chaos are cosmic forces engaged in an ageless, struggle of civilization (Law) against the powers of blood-drenched anarchy and dissolution (Chaos). This is the ultimate battleground of demons and angels, unspeakable horrors and distant divinities.

    This opposition extends into every corner of the universe; great and horrible demon-princes forge subtle plans to destroy all things, while the hosts of Law marshal their allies against new and ancient foes alike.

    All Characters are aligned with Law, Chaos, or Neutrality. Alignment is less a conviction and more choosing a side between factions. Two lawful people may have deadly quarrel, yet if they meet Chaotic foes, they will set it aside to join against their common foe.

    A Lawful person follows, or pays lip service to, the conventions of society. He stands for the cooperation, and civility that lifted mankind out of savagery. A Cleric is the archetype of the champion of Law.

    A Chaotic person has abandoned such things as conventional morality in favor of pure self-driven individuality. Often (though not necessarily) malignant, he is inherently untrustworthy to lawful people. He has no codex or convention except his own desires and accepts no allegiance or bond to anyone but himself. Virtually all monsters are by nature servants of Chaos.

    A Neutral is not wholly aligned with either side, maybe having sympathies with both, yet not quite belonging to either. They may be seen with distrust by both sides.

    Druids, who sanctify nature and its holy places, are a good example of Neutrality as they acknowledge the convents of Man, yet mingle with the chaos of nature.


    You speak the common tongue and what languages your class and background may provide. Choose these from the Standard Languages table or one common in your campaign setting and note them on your character sheet. You may only choose from the Exotic Languages table with your GM’s permission.

    Standard Languages
    Language Typical Speakers Script
    Common Humans Common
    Dwarvish Dwarves Dwarvish
    Elvish Elves Elvish
    Giant Ogres, giants Dwarvish
    Goblin Goblinoids Dwarvish
    Orc Orcs Dwarvish

    Some of these are actually families of languages with many dialects. For example, Primordial includes Auran, Aquan, Ignan and Terran of the four elemental planes. Creatures speaking different dialects of the same language can communicate with each other.

    Exotic Languages
    Language Typical Speakers Script
    Abyssal Demons Infernal
    Celestial Celestials Celestial
    Draconic Dragons Draconic
    Deep Speech Aboleths, cloakers
    Infernal Devils Infernal
    Primordial Elementals Dwarvish
    Sylvan Fey creatures Elvish

    Wrapping Up

    Choose a fitting Name, perhaps a sobriquet (“Ignar the Insatiable”) and come up with a quick description (“tall, bulky, broad mouth and full beard”).

    Choose or roll 2-3 times on the Personality Traits table (or make up your own) to crystallize the kind of character you will play (Greedy, Brave and Loyal) and you are good to go Further details, such as backstory, secrets, motivations and so forth, can easily be developed during play.

    Personality Traits
    d30 Personality Trait
    1 Indifferent
    2 Assertive
    3 Arrogant
    4 Greedy
    5 Curious
    6 Eccentric
    7 Sophisticated
    8 Voracious
    9 Impulsive
    10 Brave
    11 Trusting
    12 Shameless
    13 Proud
    14 Chummy
    15 Selfish
    16 Loyal
    17 Altruistic
    18 Inquisitive
    19 Meddlesome
    20 Tempestuous
    21 Mischievous
    22 Vulgar
    23 Honorable
    24 Furtive
    25 Kind
    26 Fickle
    27 Cynical
    28 Graceful
    29 Careful
    30 Stoic