Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Thursday Blog: House Rules Edition

Brief aside: I just finished up and posted the last page of Heroes of Lesser Earth! You still have a while left, (and no, I’m not going to tell you how long) so no need to panic, and I will be with you in the comments until the end. Well, probably longer than that since I’ll likely keep blogging and posting vids on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Now on with the show!

There are purists out there who do not approve of house rules. For them the game is like a stock car race, if everyone starts with and uses the same rules, then winning or losing is strictly a matter of intelligence and skill. Different house rules for different campaigns can be confusing as well, especially if you’re in more than one game at a time. After all, they aren’t in the book, and you can’t just look them up.

For me though, house rules provide extra character to a campaign, making the game seem familiar and homey. In general, I feel like all house rules should exist only to make the game easier and more enjoyable for the players, either rubbing off the sharp edge of some game rule that doesn’t make sense, or allowing them to do something they really want to that simply isn’t covered.

I thought it might be fun to share my house rules with you, and you guys can show us some of your favorites in the comments below.

  1. Bingo: This was not my first rule, but it has proved the most popular. With Bingo, you may spend an action point (as normal, you still may only spend one action point per combat) to max out a single die roll. You call Bingo before you drop the die, not after. A Bingo to hit roll is an auto-hit… but not a critical, and a Bingo damage roll applied to a critical does not max out your extra dice provided by a magic weapon. It does max out sneak/quarry/curse or other extra dice. A Bingo skill/knowledge check provides the maximum result regardless of the final number.
  2. Startling Attack: This rarely (although not never) gets used, though I thought it would be a favorite. Basically Startling Attack is the “if it looks really cool, it’s a better move” rule. The idea is to push the characters into using their imaginations to do things specifically not covered in the rules, and giving them a bonus for doing so. Examples would be swinging from a chandelier to get into a flanking position, throwing your sword through the villain’s shirt and pinning him to the wall, yanking rugs, lightning bolting the ceiling to bring the roof down on the dragon, any new and clever use of an ability that makes (cinematic) sense but isn’t on the card. Gaining combat advantage is a normal bonus, but these could be anything as well. An AC bonus for an ally, skill bonuses, cutting off enemies, creating difficult terrain, dazing, stunning, or immobilizing enemies, whatever. Startling Attack creates a place to go for clever players to think outside the box. (This rule can be particularly devastating when correctly combined with Bingo.)
  3. Cover Ally: Instead of attacking an adjacent enemy, you may instead use a standard action to prevent him from making opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn. You must have a melee weapon in hand, and the target must be no larger than one size category larger than you. (My players have never used this rule, although I think it’s probably my fault for not having explained the benefits well enough. Or maybe not having used it against them enough.)
  4. Death Rules: These are really a minor tweak, but in my opinion they do give the game a more “action movie” feel. When you fall below 0 hit points and your total hit points in negative, you are semi-conscious. You may speak, but can take no other action. (Speaking includes giving orders to pets or summoned creatures.) The first Death Save you fail results in you losing consciousness. Fail three in a row, and you die. Make three in a row, and you may spend a healing surge (as if you had rolled a 20) and rejoin the combat.