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.

87 Responses to The Thursday Blog: House Rules Edition

  1. You posted the last page? 😯 What? Where? Did I miss something? Aaaaahhh….. *runs frantically around in a circle*

  2. unless your tired of comics why not just whip up somthing new? or maybe do one of those resets? are they called?

    • I have about 30 new projects that I can’t wait to get to. Don’t worry though, you’ll be getting regular status updates in with the blogs.

  3. Love the rules ya got there! I’d certainly use them.
    What I did was eliminate class weapon restrictions, mainly for mages, but really worked for all classes. I mean, if a wizard reeeeally wants to use a 2-handed sword (and has the strenth to lift it) and has the guts to use it- I don’t see why he shouldn’t be able to use one. Of course he can’t have a non-traditional mage weapon in hand while spellcasting, but I think that’s just common sense rather than some ill-explained metal/magic allergy reaction. Some of the most interesting mages I’ve run have used things like rapiers, arqubus (a musket), and twin falchion swords. If a thief wants to use a battle axe, I may not think it’s a smart move, but some characters pull off wierd stuff suprisingly well.
    Then I eliminated spell components. They’re just stupid. I mean, who carries around a pouch full of spiderwebs? Or amber rods? Or bat guano? Seriously.

    • I never really understood the weapons restrictions from older editions, and also sometimes ignored them. I think the thing that bothered me most was the lack of any rules for “what if”. What if a cleric has been disarmed and the only weapon at hand is a discarded long sword? What happens to the wizard if the party decides to infiltrate the enemy castle by wearing the armor of the castle guards they just took out?

      However, 3.5 an 4e actually do a better job of explaining class weapon restrictions than older editions. Simply put, your training didn’t cover the use of weapons that aren’t on your class list. In the example of a wizard, they don’t offer Advanced Melee Weapons 101 at Wizard School. 🙂 Now, in both 3.5 and 4e, you may use a weapon that you’re not trained in (in both games the term is “proficient”) but you will not be as effective with it as someone who has been formally trained (in 3.5 you take a -4 penalty to your attack roll, in 4e you do not get the benefit of the weapon’s proficiency bonus to-hit). In both editions, you can become proficient in a weapon by using a Feat choice.

      So, hooray for no more metal/magic allergy reaction.

    • I dropped spell components, too, unless it’s something really expensive (which is normally used as a permanent focus anyway). Three other GMs I know did the same.

      • I never dropped spell components so much as I just ignored them (except for the costly ones) unless it was important to the story, like if the group got captured and the enemy took away the casters’ component pouches.

        • See my comment below.
          If the group gets captured and everything taken away, the wizard is just as fucked if the enemy takes away his spellbooks. Sure, he’d still have some spells left in his head, presumably, and maybe a spellmastery feat that allows him to memo some spells without a spellbook. But making the components pouch more important that the spellbooks is just ridiculous. No other class can be similarly made helpless by losing access to a small, non-magical item. All the other characters in the group except the wizard can still at least do something to get free: the combat-oriented classes can beat someone up, the cleric can cast spells or do his turn undead dance routine, the bard can cast spells or perform (even if he has no singing perform skill and all his instruments were taken away, the bard could still go la-la-la, because except for countersong no bardic music power actually needs a roll, at least under 3E rules), the druid can change shape, the rogue can improvise a lockpick to open a cell or bluff his way out, etc.

          Unless of course the gamemaster declared that the enemy had all equipment taken away from the characters and burned, the tongues and eyes of all casters cut out, the fighter and rogue blinded and their hands cut off, the druid collared and put in a metal cage, the paladin’s horse and any familiars and animal companions killed, the paladin and non-evil cleric forced to participate in ritual cannibalism of a small child, and everyone dropped in an antimagic cell. You know.

          Only this goes massively against the spirit of a Heroic Fantasy game where the heroes are supposed to win the day, so no DM who values his players having fun would do something that extreme. Kinda like every superhero comic ever, where superheroes and supervillains never (or rarely) actually outright kill each other, just beat each other up a bit (like school gangs or sports teams) and capture them in a fiendish trap they can easily get out of, isn’t it so, Mr Bond.

          • I did like the 3.5 rules that allowed Wizards to cast without components if they took the right feats. Actually made it much more difficult to “turn off” a wizard than some martial class where you only had to remove his weapons. 4e just ignores spell components, requiring them only for rituals.

      • Why I dropped spell components from my D&D game:
        For four reasons:

        ( 1 ) Spell components do no longer add anything to the game in terms of atmosphere. In previous editions maybe they did… although mostly only in fantasy novels (i.e. Dragonlance), where the idea of wizards dragging around a vendor’s tray full of assorted herbs, mood crystals, dead mice, live frogs, and a library of books could be presented as somewhat mysterious. Note that in those novels, you never see a scene ruined by the wizard running out of feathers or dead spiders at a crucial moment. “Whoops, that was my last eye of newt!”

        ( 2 ) Most of those spell components are only tenuously tied to the spell and some are outright lame jokes. Moreover, despite all the attempt by DRAGON magazine to make optional rules for allowing variant components in AD&D or to introduce “power components” in d20 D&D 3E, the fact remains that many of those components would be impossible to come by in a pseudo-medieval world, or so dangerous to acquire that using those spells becomes impractical, making the wizard the only core class who cannot use his own frigging class powers if component X or creature X does not exist on the continent he lives on!
        (Note: This on top of the indignity of having to pay for and collect spells into his spellbook as if magic is a frigging collectible card game!… OK, Magic the Gathering is a… oh, you know what I mean! No other spellcasting class is not given automatic access to their own spell list! And casting spells is the only thing the wizard is good for, he sucks at everything else, in contrast to the cleric or druid. So stop telling the wizard he has great spells, theoretically, if in reality he can only use 30% of them.)
        You a desert mage? Good luck getting some snow! You an aquatic elf water mage, or a shipmage living out on the storm-tossed sea? Good luck lighting up a candle, or finding some four-leaf clover, suckers!

        I can just imagine the conversation:
        Wizard: “Hey, guys, let’s spend the next weeks hunting for those black panthers with the, you know, with the tentacles? The ones who project their image somewhere else? Forgot their name. I need a strip of their skin. I’m fresh out.”
        Fighter: “The what now? What have you been smoking?”
        Rogue: “How large a strip, specifically?”
        Wizard: “What? I don’t know! This book doesn’t say! My pouch came with some when I first bought it!”
        Rogue, “I’m just wondering, how much do you need, and can we sell the rest? What’s the average usable skin surface of these creatures, assuming it is skinned by someone with at least good proficiency in a suitable outdoor or slaughterhouse skill? Are the females and males roughly equal size? And how large is “a strip” in square inches?”
        Wizard: “Er… how in the name of the Abyss should I know? Do I look like a furrier?”
        Rogue: “You wizards are very badly organised.”
        Wizard: “Oh, and I need fresh spunk from a black dragon, too. Sorry.”
        Bard: “Now you’re just making it up.”

        ( 3 ) Handling the components during use is unrealistical. I can’t really speak for 1st Edition D&D, but transitioning from AD&D 2nd Ed to d20 D&D 3E to today’s D&D 4E, all class powers have become much flashier and faster to use, more resembling a video game. By the rules, a wizard can cast a spell in a standard action with one hand, while holding a weapon or wand in the other, or clinging to a rope ladder, and have a move left over… not to mention quickened spells that can be cast even faster. So now please explain to me how this is supposed to work realistically, within a six second combat round: The wizard fumbling in his components pouch for the needed components with his free hand, and waving the same hand around to cast the spell, while dodging attacks aimed at him, and… no. Just no. Some have tried to handwave this by saying the components just dissappear directly from the (non-magical) components pouch, but that’s just silly.

        ( 4 ) The bookkeeping involved with components. I have no interest to play “Clerks: The Accounting” and keep tabs on every piece of junk my wizard needs to carry. Not to mention while the rulebook pretends the wizard can just buy components from a shop in every mayor city, town or backwater hamlet, it never mentions any prices for the more unusual components, i.e. parts of magical creatures, stuff that you cannot just pick up by scrounging around for some grave dirt or spider web. Is there a thriving trade in cockatrice feathers? A budget-priced market for slightly foxed second hand empty spell scrolls and battered dragon scales? Or think about the combined weight of all that junk! How large is that components pouch again?

        I’ve heard people say, “Oh don’t worry about it, just have the wizard buy a components pouch at the start of the game and it’s assumed everything he needs is in there.” Yeah, right. So you basically just admitted that the components are a useless game mechanic, reduced to a cheap pouch. That still leaves me the bookkeeping of keeping track of when the pouch is empty and I need a refill. And the question, what if I run out of one components but not the others? (Like color cartridges in an ink printer.) Or the question, what if I level-up, gain new spells? Why do I need to buy a pouch at 1st level, when my components consists of some leaves and feathers and dirt? Why does a components pouch for a 15th level wizard cost the same as for a 1st level wizard, despite now technically containing outlandish stuff like slime from a babau demon or similar? WTH?

        Not to mention it makes the wizard the ONLY CLASS IN THE GAME that can be completely barred from using his PRIMARY CLASS POWER simply by a goblin cutpurse stealing his pouch! Or running out of “components”. A fighter whose sword rusted away can pick up an opponent’s sword. A cleric who lost his holy symbol can carve a new one out of wood or even soap. Sheesh. Losing your spellbooks should be a disaster (again, no other class is similarly hobbled, an individual character may lose a magic item, but as classes go their class powers are not tied to specific, hard to replace objects), but losing your pouch full of junk?

        Conlusion: No, the whole mechanic is flawed and only serves as an excuse to force a wizard character to waste a metamagical feat (Eschew Components, not even a core feat) on eliminating the need for something that never plays a narrative role in the game anyway.

        • The components exist mostly for flavor, and that’s how I used them. I don’t think I ever used the old trope of taking the casters’ components pouches, it was just an example of one of the few instances where it might have mattered had I ever decided to address the issue.

          As for keeping the pouch full, even the 3.5 rulebook itself suggested that players and DM need not keep track of components without a GP cost. It’s usually assumed that the character would restock while in town, for example.

          Really, not a big issue. And no, please don’t bring up arguments of “realism” in a game like D&D. Seriously, the fact that your wizard can alter the very laws of physics is ok, but you can’t hand-wave how his components get from the pouch to his hand?

          • “Really, not a big issue. And no, please don’t bring up arguments of “realism” in a game like D&D. Seriously, the fact that your wizard can alter the very laws of physics is ok, but you can’t hand-wave how his components get from the pouch to his hand?”

            You have a point here, but to me, the existance of magic within the D&D setting is part of the laws of nature of that setting, whereas the rules governing what actions and how many a character can take in a given round, how far he can move, and how many things he can do simultaneously are very strict and run over many pages. Yes, to me, a wizard throwing a fireball is “realistic”, but if a player tells me “During my combat round, I’ll hold on to the ladder while drawing my sword, beating at the giant bat with the flaming torch I pull from my backpack and light, and, oh yeah, I throw a tanglefoot bag at the bat before I climb after the others.” my reply would be “Right. And what do you do with your fifth hand?”

            (No really, I have witnessed similar scenes. Maybe not quite as extreme as my example. But I’ve seen enough characters sprouting fictional third arms or “teleporting” from one fight to another simultaneous fight across town.) 😉

            • Taking too many actions during a round is one thing, but being able to assume the wizard can retrieve a pinch of bat guano from a component pouch and cast as part of the same standard action is nowhere near game-breaking.

              In the end, it still ends up the same. In your version and in my version, the wizard still ends up casting a spell as a standard action and uses 0 gp worth of material components. It’s just flavor in the end.

        • My experience goes back to the “Original” D&D and the fantasy supplement to the Chainmail war-gaming rules. Spell components served to prevent (for game balance) unlimited use of spells by casters (including clerics). Of course, the restriction on the number of spells that could be memorized coupled with the loss of said spell from memory when cast serves the same purpose, but Gygax’s Vancian system evolved in the transition from Chainmail to AD&D. Components were retained, in part, since the search for rare materials could serve as the goal, or a secondary goal in a campaign.

          • I always thought of components more along the lines of the stage magician who sets up his tricks. During study each night, he prepares his spell mixing the components into a “spell hand grenade”. The wizards were really just advanced scientists types who knew how to make gunpowder, for example. So, if they wanted to cast fireball, they’d have to mix their components the night before and they could only cast as many as they had prepared.

            6 seconds to cast the spell is how long it would take to get the preparation out of the pouch and chunk it. The vocal components of a spell were just like a stage magician doing misdirection.

            But, other than the hand-waving of “you buy spell components” every once in a while, I didn’t bother keeping track of them.

        • “Clerks: The Accounting”

          *plays incompetent new boss and triggers victory condition “the inmates are running the asylum” to win the round*

    • In Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay there are spell components for wizards, but while mages are powerful, they are not quite as powerful as a DnD mage, and their power curve is more level. Even so, for a high fanstasy adventure I don’t use spell components because of all the reasons listed above.

      Sometimes I want to limit the power of mages to do a low fantasy adventure, if this is the case, I will use spell components to make it more difficult for blaster casters. I might give them an item which allows them to cast a couple of spells with no components eg healing spells.

      Most of my house rules revolve around character creation, levelling up, and filling holes in the rules, rather than adding new elements.

  4. After playing under these house rules for the last couple years, here is my feedback on the use (or lack thereof) of the house rules. Just in case you were wondering. This is my personal take on it, and I do not speak for the rest of the group.

    Bingo: Personally, I don’t use this rule when I play your game because I prefer the challenge of overcoming the obstacles known as “my dice.” Using the Bingo rule kinda feels like cheating to me, and I don’t find the auto-success as satisfying as when I actually roll a success. I’ve observed that the girls are the ones who seem most fond of the Bingo rule.

    Startling Attack: This one, I don’t think it gets used a whole lot because we’re already spending most of our processing power figuring out how all the different conditions that are already on our power cards can be applied to the particular combat we’re in – collectively, we already have a dozen ways to create difficult terrain, stun and daze opponents, get combat advantage on a whim, teleport or shift into a flank, etc. I think if we were playing 3.5 this rule would come into play much more often.

    Cover Ally: Situations where I think we would need this just don’t come up all that often, for much the same reasons as our non-use of the Startling Attack rule. Most of the party has some means of disengaging from an adjacent enemy at a critical moment if we need it. This option also requires coordination between players, and really, who are we kidding here? 😉

    Death Rules: I don’t think anyone in the group has ever been below zero hit points long enough for this rule to come into play, but I do like the rule.

    • “I’ve observed that the girls are the ones who seem most fond of the Bingo rule.”
      Because old ladies like playing bingo. 😈

      • “Because old ladies like playing bingo.”

        No, because “statistics” is a stupid challenge. When I roll a single die, the chances of rolling any number are EQUAL, and in case of a d20, the chance for a “1” or “20” are both 5%. What happens is someone who by random chance rolls well is rewarded and someone who by random chance rolls badly is punished. Wow, watch me be excited…. *snore*

        Seriously, I never get the “hardcore gamer” (as they like to think of themselves) people who crow about how they need “real challenges” and whine how “the game won’t be fun or challenging” (for them anyway) when your character can’t die a stupid, narratively unsatisfying death in the middle of the story from some unimportant event simply because you rolled a “1”. That’s what action points (luck points, hero points, destiny points, whatever different games that incorporate them call them) are for.

        These people tend to prefer tactical combat games like D&D (and often, tactical combat is ALL that goes on in their games, loosely strung together by a flimsy plot, similar to p*rn movies where the “plot” is used as justification to get from one sex scene to the next) or Werewolf: The Apocalypse (a power game if I ever played one) over things like i.e. Call of Cthulhu or Princes of Amber or Toon, and they’re almost always obsessed with “build optimization” for their character. Because for them “fun” is about “winning”, and winning becomes just a matter of piling on big enough numbers. Thus they also avoid Horror games like the plague, because real Horror (as oppposed to cheap gore) needs the element of helplessness in the face of the unknown.

        When I hear someone whining about how removing the chance for a random stupid death by die roll would remove the suspense for him, I always feel tempted to ask him, “So I guess, you don’t like action movies either, then? Because when you watch Die Hard or pulp action like Indiana Jones, do you really believe for one second that the protagonist will bite the dust? Shot 30 minutes into the movie by a random mook? Really?”, followed by, “If a monster comes after your character in game to devour him, or he is stuck inside a car under water, are you seriously unable to visualise the scene from your character’s point of view? Imagine his fear even if you know that your character will survive the scene?”

        I have the suspicion it’s because these players are not truly playing as the character, they’re merely gaming, that is playing a game of controlling their player avatar and maneuvering it around while calculating to-hit odds. Like a computer game. Sure, fine. It’s your way of fun, I can’t force you to have fun my way. So stop forcing ME to have fun your way!

        Lesson: Incompatible play styles, be they different players or gamemaster vs players, should not play in the same group. It’s frustrating for all involved.

        • Wow, that was a rant! Although you have all good points there. Anyway, it’s actually possible to mix both “styles”. Sure works for me, I – although a narrative roleplayer – can perfectly well enjoy staked bonuses. What I dispise though, is when you cannot get a situation (game scene) or character concept simulated by the system (/point an accusing finger at D&D). So horray for your house rules Kevin 😀 I like every single one of them.
          On a side note, it’s a dream to have only people of compatible game styles gathered around one table, isn’t it?

          • “On a side note, it’s a dream to have only people of compatible game styles gathered around one table, isn’t it?”

            QFT!!

            I have had similar experiences as Christina and they always make me look around hoping to spot something i can use to accidentally brain the idiot.

            • I find for the most part, different play styles can work in the same group. But every once in a while you manage to find that one guy (or, you find out you are that one guy) that just doesn’t mesh with the rest of the group.

          • I don’t think I would like a table full of players who play the same, though I have found that lots of different styles are “compatible”.

        • Seriously, I never get the “hardcore gamer” (as they like to think of themselves) people who crow about how they need “real challenges” and whine how “the game won’t be fun or challenging” (for them anyway) when your character can’t die a stupid, narratively unsatisfying death in the middle of the story from some unimportant event simply because you rolled a “1″.

          When I hear someone whining about how removing the chance for a random stupid death by die roll would remove the suspense for him …

          I have the suspicion it’s because these players are not truly playing as the character, they’re merely gaming, that is playing a game of controlling their player avatar and maneuvering it around while calculating to-hit odds.

          I can’t force you to have fun my way. So stop forcing ME to have fun your way!

          Pot, meet kettle.

          No one here has stated that their way of playing is the only true way to play and that everyone else is doing it wrong.

          Saying that the enjoyment that others find in the game is “stupid” or that they’re really only just playing a numbers game just because it doesn’t meet your stringent roleplay standards and then finishing your tirade by saying “Stop forcing me to have fun your way!” is a bit hypocritical.

          • I’ve met too many “hardcore gamers” in tabletop or computer games who pissed me off by implying that I want the “game to hold my hand” and similar phrases.

          • Because I know and game with him… Ron is absolutely one of the most polite gamers I have ever met. Many of the things he is saying here I am hearing for the first time, because he simply does not feel the need to bring it up at the table and rain on anyone else’s parade. I imagine that this is for him a much more neutral setting where he can say the things he thinks about at the table, and find other, challenging viewpoints.

            Now I have met plenty of people who do qualify for your above rant, Christina, but just in case you thought Ron was one of them, (and I am not saying that you do) I can personally assure you that he is not.

            • While I’m not a fully committed power-gamer, I do like the building and planning process of a character, almost as much as playing it. I also love the building and infrastructure laying periods of certain RTS video games as much as the battles themselves. So it’s about creating something, but also about efficiency and perfection. I want it to be what I consider “good enough”. I want to make the best of it.
              Still, like I said, I lack the conviction and zeal to take it to a level where it’s all about the numbers, and being somewhat obsessed about the logic involved I would never make one of those half X/half Y/half Z characters that exploits every loophole available.
              I would, though, search a bit for different combinations of feats or look up efficient builds and tips. Last time I played I looked through build tips on the WoTC forums, sometimes changing a bit here and there.
              TBH I created a lot more characters than I was ever going to play, even with our shifting group composition and changing campaigns, some of which were of a type I wouldn’t have “connected” to anyway(I can’t bring myself to play a druid, ranger or the other “nature” themed classes since I can’t understand their mindset all that much).
              I’m in no way a rules-lawyer, and twisting rules to suit myself against the spirit of the game isn’t very appealing to me. That’s cheating, and I for one don’t derive much fun from cheating.

              So taking pride in your creation and wanting to shape what you consider a good build out of it isn’t necessarily all about number crunching and an urge to win at all costs.

        • That said, I still use dice, especially when playing or mastering D&D. Simply because I do not trust a game entirely to “gamemaster narration” which often is another word for arbitrariness. Not to mention if I’m the DM and a character really bites the dust, it was the die’s fault, not mine. I secretly fudge enough rolls for the NPCs already.

          Except for that one time when the group was attacked by a pack of barghests and the PCs fired arrows with drow sleep poison at the monsters. I knew the FORT save was ridiculously low, but I thought hey I should at least be fair and roll for the barghests…. and I rolled THREE natural “1”s in a row! Which means three barghests fell over and were quickly coup-de-graced. 😯 😆 The players knew what stinking luck they had, but their characters had no experience with drow poison or barghests and they played it so that the characters are still to this day convinced that this drow drug is the BEST THING EVAR! :mrgreen:

        • I was a fan of Marvel Superheros because it was percentage based with a somewhat normal bell curve applied. There are small percentage chances of getting low or high and then larger percentage chances of getting middle scores. With 100 points to map and only about 6 major results (with minor variations a second roll), you could easily make it work. That’s why I never understood why d20 became the standard instead of percentage based. d100 would also fit well with everyone’s natural understanding.

          You have a 30% chance of success means you have to roll 70 or better (or 71, depending on whether 00 is 0 or 100). It also gives you the ability to fudge the dice when you roll 2 d10s by always taking the higher number as the first digit…..but that’s just a house rule we used for our no-kill games.

  5. We don’t do 4e, we play 3.5/pathfinder. The usual house rules are:
    1. When the player rolls a 1 on an attack, he’s flat-footed for a round as he juggles his weapon. This is a change from a past rule that had the player roll a reflex save vs. falling on his ass.
    2. Spell components are taken for granted unless it’s particularly expensive or exclusive, then we just note the cost rather than role-play the trip to the olde wizard reagent store.
    3. Lots of tweaks and level adjustments to spells, particularly divinations.
    4. Very powerful and/or heavily enchanted items require a roll+pertinent stat+character level to control, or the item takes over and the DM drives the character for a while.

    • I’m not terribly fond of “fumble rules” in D&D but your current rule is certainly a lot less harsh than your previous one. Unless the party is fighting a bunch of rogues.

      • Agreed. While I don’t use any fumble rules, that one doesn’t seem particularly onerous. The magic item one could be fun though…

    • “Very powerful and/or heavily enchanted items require a roll+pertinent stat+character level to control, or the item takes over and the DM drives the character for a while.”

      That sounds like a very mean spirited rule, unless the item was specifically presented as sentient and/or cursed and the player knew the risk. If the Gamemaster thinks an item is too powerful, why the hell did he incorporate it into the game in the first place??

      • There’s the whole “risk” aspect of using a potentially very powerful item that can also fail spectacularly. But, you know, it must be only those crazed power-gamers who like to actually roll the dice. 🙄

        • No, no, no, if there’s a chance my character will go insane in a spectacular and amusing way, I’m all for it! Pass me the dice!

          • Hm. I think the idea of giving the player an amusing psychosis to play with, associated with a particular magic item could be a LOT of fun.

            • Back in really ancient days when I ran D&D 2nd ed I once gave a player plate armour of cowardice… that was hilarious. Seriously, character compulsions work better when it’s intrinsic to the character instead of the item.

            • So…Is Zobbie gonna start acting like a perv from now on? That’s assuming her being mostly naked all the time isn’t a sign of it.

          • It’s not only going insane and such. As I understand(never having played it myself), Warhammer 40K has lots of rules about various weapons, especially the more powerful and experimental ones, going “boom” in your face.
            I believe a common example is the Imperium’s plasma-based tech, like plasma rifles.
            Of course there’s the whole psyker getting possessed thing, so even using the “wizard’s” natural powers is a risk.

            It reminds me of Irregular Comic‘s Kyros and his “mana channeling” which has inherent risks of backfiring(literally).

            Although I think you need to keep this to a bare minimum or else it gets in the way of playing and having fun, so only when strictly necessary.

            • Once someone was running a campaign with a bunch of not-so-amazing gamers and he called in a favour to have me pinch-hit with his player party. He’d given the other players too much freedom with their character creation and they apparently didn’t even try to make an effective player party between them: They were all a bunch of totally antisocial freaks with the whole stupid, “Last of their breed, scorned and outcast hero with no friends/allies” thing.
              So I inverted that: I created a ranking member of the local despot’s guard who was always shaking down people for cash, mostly psychopathic and not too many steps away from insanely violent. Everybody else was some kind of magic though so I had to invert that too: He had a crazy, eerie set of glass beads with the dying breaths of people (their souls?) trapped inside them, which he could use to curse and destroy.
              The really cool thing is that if someone were to break some of the beads the trapped spirits inside would burst out in an awesome display of destruction and ruination that kills everyone and everything in a nice and large area.

      • “That sounds like a very mean spirited rule, unless the item was specifically presented as sentient and/or cursed and the player knew the risk. If the Gamemaster thinks an item is too powerful, why the hell did he incorporate it into the game in the first place??”

        Most sentients items in our games don’t make themselves known as such until they are touched (although a few have been known to speak up if a PC just approaches it with a “Hey there! Can you talk?” We all know that if a ‘detect magic’ spell makes us bleed from the eyes, we might very well have something we can’t quite handle. And yes, the GM delights in throwing things at us that are beyond our pay grade.

  6. i had some players try to argue the weapon restrictions with me one night and they used the statement that “if a wizard is out of spells why cant he pick up a longsword and use it?” i said he could but he wouldnt get any xp because he was acting out of character.so they tried the argument that an elf is auto-proficient with a longsword and i said yes he is but an elven wizard still wont get xp because while he can use it his class prevents it. the xp system in first edition was designed to reflect how well your character preformed as his or her class on a point system. a wizard that casted spells and used a staff and magic items was rated a 1. a wizard that that acted out of class was given a higher rating up to 4.when you had enough xp to level (it wasnt auto-levelling) the base of how much it cost and how many weeks of training per level was multiplied by that rating.so that same wizard going to level 2 at a rating of 1 would cost 3k gold and 2 weeks of training. a rating of 4 would cost the wizard 12k gold and 8 weeks of training. this was done to prevent chars from acting out of class.only non-humans could multi-class while humans could dual-class.
    oh and btw critical hits were a house rule until later editions there are no crits or fumbles in first edition.

    and on another note : im sorry to see the ending coming i hope that a new project will come soon.

    • ““if a wizard is out of spells why cant he pick up a longsword and use it?” i said he could but he wouldnt get any xp because he was acting out of character. (…) this was done to prevent chars from acting out of class.”

      😕

      *facepalm*

      You are still stuck in the 1980s mindset. Wow.
      I’m sorry, but… no, really… who came up with this braindead idiocy?
      I remember the bad old days when alignment was used a straightjacket to turn characters into robots (actually I remember AD&D 2nd ed, but I’ve heard stories reaching back…), but this is the dumbest thing from D&D I’ve heard.

      “His class prevents it” What, does his “class” turn up with a two-by-four and beat him over the head? Does the wizard guild drag him into an alley and give him a wedgie because he dared pick up the fallen warrior’s sword? Everyone knows you get fighter cooties from that! Those barbarians never bathe! Stop playing with the kids on the wrong side of the tracks, where everything smells of weapon oil and gym socks!

      Really, WHO FRELLING CARES?!

      “only non-humans could multi-class while humans could dual-class.”

      Yes, and like race/level restrictions, that was the most illogical and artificial thing ever, and rightly removed from the game.

    • Sooo… without insulting anyone… why does it matter to you if a player acts “out of his class”? Does it damage your game? Does it prevent anyone from having fun? Before you say no to a player, (or establish onerous in-game penalties such as no xp) ask yourself if it’s going to break your game for the wizard to pick up a longsword and start ineffectually whacking away on the bad guys. If the answer is no, (and it probably is) then let him do it. If you are telling your players no reflexively, or just because the rules say so when those rules stand in conflict with the “reality” of the situation, then you are probably only preventing someone else’s fun, and that is seriously not why they are playing.

  7. I’m sorry, but… no, really… who came up with this braindead idiocy

    gary gygax and dave arneson.

    • I’m actually willing to forgive those two their braindead idiocy because it ended up mainlining a lot of other and (IMHO) better gaming systems than D&D.
      I still had a lot of fun being both a gamer and a GM with D&D going back to the first edition, but i played it with a bunch of people wanting to have fun and not rulelawyers or minimaxers. It helped a lot. :mrgreen:

      • For a long time, D&D was the best known fantasy roleplaying game on the market (or the only RPG, period) and a lot of older games copied rules and concepts from D&D, both the good and the silly concepts. The problem is that while D&D moved on and changed, and other game designers realized, “Hey, you can do things differently!”, some RPGs, i.e. the German Midgard RPG, still seem to be stuck in these concepts… like straightjacketing classes into certain skills. Or look at Earthdawn 1st edition, where no class except one (orc tribal warrior specialized on riding horses across the great steppes) was allowed to learn a simply riding skill! Huh? How does such a blunder happen?

    • I know, I know. It was a rhetorical question.

      Please do not take it as a rant aimed at YOU, Clavdivs. I’m merely wondering why you find it so important to stick to those, um, outdated rules.

      • because to me all the changes that they made to the game were all useless bullshit.to me they basically made it become just like a fantasy movie. instead of the fighter just saying “i want to attack (simple)” they made it become “i want to jump into the air spin 4 times and come down on the dragons neck with cleave, power attack,and slicing blow thusly removing the dragons head in one shot (complicated).” the original game was hard because it wasnt player friendly and now it has gone munchkin(of course this is only my opinion). i have no need to learn the new rules for the new editions because i wont be playing those new editions. ive spent enough money on my first set of books (my MM and PH are first printings which ive owned since 1978 my original DMG and D&D were lost )i have since reaquired the whole set .i have been in way too many games where the players dont understand their own mortality.in my game death awaits around every corner,however that doesnt mean that my games are overly hard but remember adventuring is dangerous. you never know with random encounters.my players have been playing at my current table for about 7-8 years now and only the “meta-gamers” that i know have ever complained about not being invulnerable.they usually die first by their own designs.

        im not bashing anyones game in any way shape or form but please dont bash mine.because we all have differing styles of play

        • It sounded to me like your players weren’t satisfied with your decision, and were questioning it to the best of their ability.

          To me personally, the fun comes from defeating the monsters and outwitting the villains. I do not care for games that make me play against the rules as well. However, I hardly speak for all. If your players are happy, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing.

  8. Personnaly I play mostly my own designed systems (so in one way they are ALL house rule 😉 ) and am all for making rules fun and easy to remember.

    However, in appearance I try to be a strict GM because I experienced, as player, that without real threat from “The System”, players will start to metagame every fights, knowing full well they will go through it alive as long as they don’t do any thing unbelievably suicidal… that attitude kills tension, atmosphere and the fun of fights.

    Hence I try my best to look like a monstruously impartial GM who will grind to bits the characters in harm’s way. In reality I always plan for a possible defeat and find a way for them to escape, get captured, lose something valuable, etc in case things go south. This way they don’t think I am on their side or making sure their favourite character survive and stay on their toes while I am making sure they are still having a little thrill of uncertainty whenever combat begins !

  9. I dunno, depending on the game house rules may be a way to deal with things but in general I’d say that the most important part of being a good GM is to match the rules used to the story, setting and players. This tells me to use something other than silly level-grinding mechanics except in very specific circumstances.

  10. My DM in Alaska split movement into segements. You would move your figure each segement a number of feet up to it’s full round movement (This allowed you to maneuver into position, without essentially “teleporting” across the map) and you could attack on any segment After or Equal to your rolled initiative (So if the fighter isn’t close enough to swing his sword, he can attack once he gets in swing range) and spells caused the caster to stop moving for a number of segments equal to the spell’s casting time, and any enemy in meele range could attack in each segement as if it were a full meele round (due to the “helpless targets” rule – if you’re concentrating on spellcasting, you’re not trying to stop from getting smacked)

  11. Sigh… all the best comics come to an end. Except maybe Sluggy Freelance. I once had the rest of the party vote in a house rule just to nerf my character. A pixie with two crossbows in Hackmaster, designed to deliver critical hits instead of damage (critical tables in that game not damage multipliers). I implored them that the critical descriptions made the game fun and no one else was getting any, but to no avail. Here’s a great comic that has ended to help u understand why comics must end:
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=612

    Anyways great comic Kevin it will go down as one of the best! Thanks for all the free entertainment:)

    • BTW for anyone who cares, the house rule was to no longer apply a person’s to-hit bonus to their roll on the crit table…. it was a 1-30 table on which u rolled a d20 and I had a +10 bonus or something. They voted it after only one session with my new character, and he didn’t even get a crit.

  12. I once tried something different as a DM. I operated without knowing any of the hitpoints of the PCs, just as they didn’t know any of the hitpoints of the NPCs. That didn’t work out quite as I had planned it…And I advise DMs to at least have a round-about number to the PCs’ hitpoints, even if it’s just asking the group as a whole how they stand. I prefer getting them down to single digits and then letting another PC draw the monster’s attention away, giving the illusion that they narrowly escaped death. Without knowing how they stood, I accidentally ended up killing off a PC completely, and they were off in the middle of frozen nowhere. And it was a player new to the game and her first character. Not how I planned it…

    On the other hand, if a PC gets below -10 hitpoints, I make it a rule that they don’t die until their turn rolls around. That means that the group has up to ONE turn to heal the PC and stablize him/her. It works, since theoretically all the turns happen during the same six seconds. “Your friend just got stabbed through the heart and is bleeding bad enough to be dead-dead in six seconds. You can either a) attack the guy who stabbed your friend, or b) heal your friend somehow and stop the bleeding. What do you do?”

    • “…..if a PC gets below -10 hitpoints, I make it a rule that they don’t die until their turn rolls around.That means that the group has up to ONE turn to heal the PC and stablize him/her. It works, since theoretically all the turns happen during the same six seconds.”

      This makes lovely sense. I think I’ll bring it up next session, although I don’t think it would apply to disintegrate or some other insta-kill death effect thing.

      And that reminds me of another house rule: when a PC goes below 0 hitpoints, they can go to -(Con) rather than -10. Sometimes a few more rounds makes all the difference.