Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Call for House Rules

I am in the process of compiling a document of what I think are elegant, and excellent house rules. Basically, the best I've encountered in about the last year. I wanted to give you all an opportunity to nominate rules to be included.

While I think a house rule gazette, or even better yet, a wiki of all possible house rules would be cool, right now my interests are much more specific.

The rules I want:
  1. Can be explained to a new player in one sentence. (Two at most.)
  2. Are simple to keep track of and implement.
  3. Add verisimilitude, possibilities, or interesting choices for players in a way that far out weigh the cost of implementing.
Let me give you an example that is probably the most well known:

Shields Shall Be Splintered

"Any time you take damage you can opt to sacrifice your shield to avoid it."

I'll be as bold as to say that simple sentence made shields real for the first time in D&D. Oh, they were always there, the way helmets and gauntlets are there, assumed in the abstraction. But now players can feel the heft of it on their arm, or they'll want to as they enter battle. They'll remember to buy shields and their shield will be on their mind each round they fight, each time they get hit.

I want more rules like that. I currently have 5, but one of those was hidden away on the Swords & Wizardry forums and one on Knights & Knaves Alehouse. I figure there must be other elegant rules lurking on forums I don't frequent. Feel free to nominate your own rules. Thanks.


  1. You have to include the Choose-Your-Own Rogue rules. It's the best treatment of Thieves I've ever seen.

  2. The "Dutch Courage" and "Chop when they Drop" rules -- I don't know the origins but they are linked under house rules at Watchfires & Thrones ( I really like my Death Dismemberment and Dangerous Damage table ( -- its derivative of several "sudden death" tables especially over at Trollsmyth ( Great project! Thanks in advance!

  3. This is a great idea.

    Here's two I use:

    The d30 Rule
    Once per session each player may use a d30 in place of any single die (not counting chargen or rolling hitpoints).

    You Always Get A Save
    If you are about to die and have not failed a saving throw, you get a save versus death.

  4. If we're talking OD&D here, you may want to add the "+1 damage for two handed weapons" and "+1 to hit when wielding two weapons."

    Firing into Melee: On an even roll, the attack is directed at the intended target. On an odd roll, a random target is diced for.

    Spending Gold for Experience: 1 XP is awarded for each gold piece spent rather than each gold piece recovered.

    Elven Touch: Elves are immune to the touch of ghouls. Likewise, the touch of an elf can cure others from such paralysis.

    A Hero's Death: Player characters are unconscious art 0 hit points. slain upon reaching -1 hit point per level. Thus a 1st level PC is slain at -1 hit-points. A 2nd level PC is slain at -2 hit-points and so on.

    Protect Your Head: Wearing only helmet provides AC 8. A shield and helmet is AC 7. When wearing leather, chain or plate and not wearing a helmet, a character's AC is one more than it would otherwise be.

    Weapon Distinctions: Spears and pole arms strike first in the first round of melee combat and can can use from the second rank of combat. Swords add +1 to hit. Axes add +1 to damage. When attacking unnoticed in melee, daggers can be used to backstab for +1d6 damage, but strike last in the first round of melee combat. Maces, hammers, and flails ignore ever 3rd point of AC. Staves grant a -1 bonus to AC.

    Reload Time: Light crossbows provide a +1 to hit, but can only be fired once every two rounds. Heavy crossbows deal +2 damage, but can only be fired one every 3 rounds.

  5. Two of my favorite house rules from old-school type blogs:

    -Tales of the Rambling Bumbler's Super Simple Combat Maneuvers
    -Robertson Games'
    Aiming and Evasion rules.

  6. Well, not really elegant or excellent, but it *is* two sentences: "You can play a halfling, sure. In this world, however, halfling flesh is considered a delicacy."

  7. (Assuming initative by side rather than combatant)
    On tied initiative rolls, the players win if the tied number is even, the monsters win if odd.

    You get one word to describe your background, plus one extra word if you are a rogue (thief), plus one extra word if you have exceptional INT or WIS and are not a spellcaster.

    (Note: I thoroughly approve of this compilation and wonder if it will eventually encompass more than two sentence rules: tables and the like.)

  8. Here's one for ability checks. Ability checks are made when the player is actively trying to do something risky. To succeed, you need to roll 6+ on 3, 2 or 1d6 corresponding to easy, normal or difficult actions. Ability modifiers apply. For situations where multiple abilities are being tested, make each ability check separately.

  9. Here's a one sentence anti-munchkin rule. "Factual history and science have little bearing in role playing games, so don't mention them when attempting metagame litigation."

  10. Thanks for all the suggestions folks!

    @scottsz: thanks very much. I was hesitant to include anything of my own but that class might actually fit all my criteria.

    @Jamie: Bumbler's combat maneuvers is actually one on my very short list.

    @Ian: the "xp for gold spent" I actually use, that goes all the way back to Arneson, right?

    Keep 'em coming, I'm reading all these closely-- while I enjoy this delectably hobbit fillet ;)

  11. Yes, it was. Arneson's rule was a little more complicated how, requiring different classes of characters to spend money in different ways to earn experience. Magic-users, for instance, has to use gold on preparing magic spell and conducting magical research.

  12. Might I suggest two variations on spells allowed:


    When a cleric has received access to a new level of spells, he may review this list and replace any one cleric spell with any one chosen magic user spell of equal or lesser level. This is a permanent change and represents teachings and prohibitions specific to his religious order.

    Magic User:

    A magic user may research (research only) a spell from the list of clerical spells as he would normally research a spell from his own list. This spell must always be considered as one level higher than otherwise listed.

  13. For years we've used a variation on Jeff's D30 rule:

    Do something cool and the DM will hand you the D30. You may roll this once in place of a D20.

    Never though to expand it to ANY die roll short of hit points and chargen, though...