This new campaign of mine will be run mostly with standard 3.5 D&D, but I do have a few tweaks I'm making. I'll bold the text I sent the players, with my explanation following afterwards.
Wizards' Runestaff: Instead of spellbooks wizards utilize quarterstaves with runes cut in them, one rune per spell. They function exactly like spellbooks normally do. Any book of spells found in play will be more less like Elminster's Happy Recipe Book and more like the Necronomicon. Also: Wizards wear big pointy Gandalf hats. Believe it.
I thought staffs covered in eldritch runes fit the theme much better than musty old books. Since mechanically a wizard's staff functions exactly like a standard spellbook, there is little effect on gameplay. A runestaff can also be used to thwack people or can be enchanted with other magical properties, but I don't think there's ever been a rule against doing those things with a big book. Doug notes that one big difference is that you can really pimp over a wizard by swiping his staff and breaking it across your knee. One of the reasons I like to game with Doug is that he thinks like that.
Pantheon Clerics: Cleric's are not required to pick a patron deity, but instead serve an entire pantheon. Clerics may be of any alignment and may pick any two domains available to the pantheon. (See the Viking Cultural Sheet attached.) One domain must be from the PHB.
Everybody bitches about the fact that following one patron deity to the neglect of all others is historically inaccurate, but I went and did something about it. Does widening the domain and alignment choices make clerics even more powerful? Sure. Do I care? Not really. I'm not exactly sure why I demanded one domain be from the standard list.
Ale & Wenches Rule: At any time the DM may demand payment of 'miscellaneous expenses'. Expect to pay at least 100gp times your level when visiting Viking towns.
I'm not that concerned about draining coinage from the players. I just wanted to clearly establish the default motivation for the PCs to go on adventures.
Buying stuff: The biggest Viking settlement this side of the Atlantic only supports magic item purchases of 3,000gp or less.
In my email to the players I almost wrote "this side of Atlantis" but ultimately resisted the strong temptation to name drop when it wasn't necessary. Anyway, the point of this rule is to notify the players that most awesome magic items will have to be made or found. I am going to try superhard to include more cool, flavorful magic items in this campaign. My hope is to avoid the same boring old mix of magic items that comes from a fully functional magical economy. Andy Collins discusses the problem here.
Special campaign rule #1: Unless otherwise noted by the DM, time passes between sessions at the same rate as in the real world.
Uncle Gary actually advises this in the 1st edition DMG. The big thing we're looking for is to fully address seasonal changes in the local weather. The campaign world will loosely be divided into three regions: the Five Seas (the Great Lakes region), the North, and the South. The weather in the Five Seas region will parallel whatever is happening outside the window of my game room. Unless the PCs spend summer in the North and winter in the South, they will be expected to face the wrath of the inclement weather rules in the DMG.
Special campaign rule #2: The game ends no later than 10pm, even if that means stopping in the middle of combat.
Seriously, I am tired of running late because we tried to squeeze in one more fight. The DM and/or players will devise some narrative excuse why that last battle ended prematurely, even if we have to resort to "they got away". Not only will we all get to bed at a more reasonable hour for a campaign that meets in the middle of the work week, but I hope that this rule will shake loose a couple of spontaneously recurring villains.
Special campaign rule #3: As is usual, all 3.5 D&D books I own are legal fodder for character crunchiness.
I just don't see a point in owning all these shiny books if I'm going to not let people make use of them. My special Viking cultural rules (which will be the subject of another post) do place a few restrictions on PC construction, but I also give the players an out on that. As long as they design a true weirdo, they can play a local. Like the one friendly caveman hanging out with the pulp expedition to the lost land of the dinosaurs. Or Hawk in the second season of the Buck Rogers TV show. One player is seriously investigating this option.
Unearthed Arcana exception to special campaign rule #3: I don't like the races in this book. All class options but Gestalt are allowed. Otherwise only the following sections may see play: Spelltouched Feats, Metamagic Components, Incantations, Taint. Are the players interested in Contacts, Reputation, or Honor?
I can't let all of Unearthed Arcana into the game. What is already a nearly unmanageable mess of rules would break down completely. And we're all burnt out on managing Gestalt characters. The raw power is nice, but the number crunching is a major pain in the ass.
So far none of the players have taken up my offer to discuss using Contacts, Reputation, or Honor. That sort of stuff can be handled without a dedicated subsystem, so no big deal.