Why SRD Only?
A lot of players and DMs would love the idea of players having more mechanical freedom when creating their characters. Why not just allow some extra source books?
The SRD Only rule was chosen primarily so that anyone can play, even if they don't have any books.
There is also the problem that even with the simplest model we can possibly make, the house rules and procedures are already sizable. Adding more rules will only make the game less approachable to new players and DMs. We have opted to make a system that offers minimal changes in rules to allow that it's easier to join up and play.
One of the guiding principles of this project from its inception is that in order for everyone to work together towards a common end, we all need to compromise on various levels. No DM here was able to get exactly what they wanted, but joined the project because they really loved the ideas and possibilities presented by what this project could offer to their online gaming hobby and what it might mean to MW as a whole.
Oddly enough, the only thing all founders unanimously agreed upon, (after weighing all of the options) was the use of SRD only material. Every DM wanted to include other material, but no two wanted the same additional material, and not everyone had all the same books. The only possible compromise that seemed feasible was to restrict to the SRD.
In an effort to offer a sort of compensation, you are invited - and even encouraged - to refluff anything and everything. That is, so long as the mechanics remain SRD only, the appearance can be anything you want.
The Crossroads Inn and Paradoxes
Did you ever wonder where the bathroom is? Or why the characters never talk in the hallways together? Or why some people age and others don't? Why your teeth haven't rotted even though you never brush them? What about why characters are instantly restored after a trip the arena? What are the deep philosophical conundrums that underlie the cosmic framework of a place of correspondence of time and place? What are the implications of that framework on existence as a whole?
The short answer is...
The bathroom is located wherever it needs to be. The minutia of daily life should only be included when it enhances what's going on, and never when it doesn't.
The exact reasons of who, what, when, where and why of the CRI are a mystery by design. Although you can ponder the answers, and even have fun creating neat ideas that may even shape the Inn over time, you will never get a precise, thorough, authoritative answer, ever.
Remember, when asking directions, the Arena (and everything else) is located "that way".
Why do you allow traits but not flaws?
Traits are inherently balanced as a game mechanic, you give up one thing to gain another that is roughly equivalent.
Flaws do not follow this logic and depend entirely upon DM oversight.
As that you can expect to have a new DM for every adventure, DM oversight is not something that can be properly accounted for. Further, due to inconsistency of DMs with use of flaws, you may play one game where your flaw never comes up and another where it's brought up in game every two paces. This can lead to overuse of the flaw, making the flaw not worth the extra feat, or underuse of the flaw making it virtually free.
To keep everything as simple and fair as possible, flaws are not allowed.
How did the CRI come about?
The Crossroads Inn started out as an idea from Voxanadu in a thread on the GM Workshop board. It garnered a lot of support and player interest just in the early conception phase, before we even knew what system we were going to use.
A team of dedicated DMs took up the mantle of discussing how this might actually happen. After literally months of planning, vague ideas started to solidify and take shape. Not long after, the first beta testers (group A and B) were privately invited. Shortly thereafter, open recruiting began for Groups C-E to create the first wave of CRI players.
Since then, many options and features have been added and many rules revisited for better clarification. We've made changes large and small, and expect that trend to continue as we find all the kinks and iron them out. Any time a change is made, we work to make sure it's introduced as fairly as possible for all existing players, so no one feels regret for having joined early.
How are rules/features made/altered at the CRI?
The CRI is run by a democratic council of founders and senior DMs. The Head GM generally "guides" policy, but rules themselves are very tender and delicate subjects. Generally, a new rule or feature is a response to the suggestion box or a bit of DM inspiration, sometimes a little of both.
Each feature, rule, expansion or otherwise game altering substance is weighed against (among others) the following metrics:
Is it simple? (will it create more paperwork? do we have the resources?) Is it fun? Is it necessary? Does it promote a better gaming atmosphere? Will it unbalance the game or its goals?
These basic notions are then discussed ad infinitum until a general conversation loop pattern is formed that weighs the pros against the cons against each other. Sometimes, this is brought to player discussion at the CRI or even MW discussion boards for additional input.
Once a general trend of conversation surfaces that seems to encapsulate different sides of the arguments, both for and against the idea, it then goes to vote. While all DMs are invited and encouraged to participate in discussion, only senior and council member DMs are given votes, as they understand the project rules and premise best and will be most inclined to make the wisest decision based on what is good for the game. Each vote, including the Head GM, counts as one vote, however, the Head GM vote is considered a tie-breaker should a tie arise.
Voting members have made a habit of voting maturely and responsibly, and even to go against their own personal wishes (at times) to concede a vote that they feel is best for the game.
Once a new idea is voted in, it is inserted into the wiki and announced by the Head GM. In most cases a two week grace period or more is offered before the new rule is implemented fully.
If, as a player, you feel you would like a greater voice in the democratic process at the CRI, you are welcome to undergo the entrance process to DMing at the CRI when you meet the minimum requirements. That will allow you to not only offer your input to steer discussions, but also to one day become a senior DM to earn voting privileges.
How does Improved Familiar work here?
When you take Improved Familiar, it allows you to upgrade the mechanics of your familiar without having to dismiss or kill the one you already have. If you're in an adventure when you do this, post in your private character thread that you're taking Improved Familiar and indicate what you'd like the new mechanics to be. The new mechanics are subject to DM approval, and work with the DM to decide whether there's some sort of ceremony, ritual, bright flash of light, or whatever when the change takes place.
If you're making this change while your character is at the Inn, still post your request in your private thread, and it must still be approved by a DM, but you have the freedom to portray the change however you wish. Being as simple as going to your room and coming back out with a new familiar is fine, as is being as cinematic as partaking in a complex ritual with blood you saved from your last adventure in the Pub where your familiar turns inside out and has the new version burst out of its belly like an alien.
For the new mechanics, you may use any creature you wish, so long as it conforms to these requirements:
3rd level - You may choose anything on the Summon Monster 1 creature list, or any celestial or fiendish version of an animal already on the familiar list.
5th level - Any creature with both a CR and hit dice no greater than 2 can be used. It may not have any spell-like abilities, and any offensive abilities it has must be limited to damage, non-lethal damage, and/or temporary ability damage.
7th level - All creatures with a CR and hit dice of 3 or less are acceptable, with no further restrictions, except that the Lantern Archon is not allowed.