Variant Rules


This section contains rules that are 'written in pencil and not in ink' that can be used to enhance gameplay. These are by no means fast and hard rules that need be incorporated at every table. Variant rules are simply meant to build on existing rules, or replace certain existing rules. Additional rules should not be considered to be built on top of variant rules, but they should stand alone. For instance, new rules will not be designed specifically to be applied during brief rests, like how class features revolve around taking short or long rests.

See the 5e Core Rules for more information on official material regarding variant/optional rules and the Unearthed Arcana: Variant Rules for playtest material for variant rules.

Brief Rest

A brief rest is a period of downtime, at least 5 minutes long, during which a character does nothing more strenuous than eating, drinking, reading, and tending to minor wounds in order to quickly catch their breath.

A character can spend one Hit Die at the end of a brief rest. For the Hit Die spent in this way, the player rolls the die and adds the character’s Endurance modifier to it. The character regains Hit Points equal to the total. A character regains some spent Hit Dice upon finishing a long rest.

In addition, a single feature that is regained during a Short Rest can also be partially regained during a brief rest. For example, a warrior regains a single use of their action surge or regains one expended use of a combat die. A monk regains one spent stamina point, as well as a nightblade regains one expended magicka point, or a character regains a single limited use from a racial trait or a feat. A character never regains more than one use of any feature or ability that they regain during a short rest, they can never regain a feature or ability regained from a long rest, and they can never regain multiple features or abilities during this rest.

A character can’t benefit from more than one brief rest in between rolling initiative.


If you carry weight in excess of 5 times your Strength score, you are encumbered, which means your speed drops by 10 feet.

If you carry weight in excess of 10 times your Strength score, up to your maximum carrying capacity, you are instead heavily encumbered, which means your speed drops by 20 feet and you have disadvantage on attribute checks, attack rolls, and saving throws that use Strength, Agility, or Endurance.

Learning Spells

Instead of learning spells as you level, you can make the world more immersive by requiring to learn spells through study and focus. This creates a lot of downtime activities, which can slow down play, as learning new spells is time consuming. It also makes character's who rely on spells feel weaker early on, as collecting an arsenal of spells will take considerable time.

Magic is learned and mastered through studying and practice. For some races, like the Altmer, magicka flows through their bloodlines and live in a culture that embraces the study of magic. Others, like the Nords, are typically cautious to magic's destructive side. Regardless, they all have magicka within, even if they choose not to learn how to use it.

Classes that use magic, and some races, begin with a set number of known spells. Each time a character reaches a new level in spellcasting, they learn an additional spell, as noted in their class description. Any additional spells must be studied from trainers, usually found colleges and guild halls, or by studying spell books.

Spells can be learned much faster from spell trainers than from studying spell books, but trainers can be costly. A spell learned from a trainer requires 4 hours of study and 50 Septims per spell level, beginning with cantrips. For example, a 1st level spell, requires 8 hours and 100 Septims, and a 7th-level spell requires 32 hours of training and 400 Septims.

You can study from a trainer up to 8 hours a day. To determine how much knowledge has been retained, roll a die equal to the hours studied (1d8) and add the character's Intelligence modifier. Studying from a book requires twice as much time, but spell books can be found while adventuring, but they can sometimes be purchased from guild halls for half the cost of training.

No Starting Equipment

In the spirit of Elder Scrolls, it is typical that classes may not start with any equipment, Septims, or any other physical items. Often, the characters in an adventure that fits the Elder Scrolls tradition start off as a prisoner, an average wanderer, or a ship wrecked traveler.

Reducing Spellcrafting Time

Once each day, when a spellcaster spends time researching a spell they are crafting, they are required to make a Spellcrafting Check. This check is treated as though you are casting a spell with your spell attack modifier. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the level of the spell being created.

On a successful check, the crafter can roll an additional die, equal to the time spent researching, to reduce the total remaining time. No time is reduced on an unsuccessful check, however, a critical failure and a critical success both reduce the time by twice the normal amount. We often learn more from our mistakes than from minor successes, and this is reflected in spell creation.

Regaining Magicka During Short Rests

If you enjoy games that are fast paced and combat heavy, the characters can regain magicka during short rests, allowing them to cast more spells each day.

You regain magicka limited to your spellcasting modifier while resting. The amount of magicka you regenerate during a short rest is equal to twice your spellcasting modifier. Sorcerer's, due their stunted magicka feature, are unable to regain magicka during a short rest.

Skills With Different Attributes

Normally, your proficiency in a skill applies only to a specific kind of attribute check. Proficiency in Athletics, for example, usually applies to Strength checks. In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. In such cases, the GM might ask for a check using an unusual combination of attribute and skill, or you might ask your GM if you can apply a proficiency to a different check. For example, if you have to swim from an offshore island to the mainland, your GM might call for a Endurance check to see if you have the stamina to make it that far. In this case, your GM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Athletics and ask for a Endurance (Athletics) check. So if you're proficient in Athletics, you apply your proficiency bonus to the Endurance check just as you would normally do for a Strength (Athletics) check. Similarly, when your Orc barbarian uses a display of raw strength to intimidate an enemy, your GM might ask for a Strength (Intimidation) check, even though Intimidation is normally associated with Personality.