Archive for 'House Rules'

Strength checks? We don’t need no stinkin’ strength checks!

house-rules-lNote:  Holes in this idea have been found.  Read the next post for more.

So, we’ve been playing 4e regularly since September 2008, and like most groups have found some things that work for us, and others that don’t.

In 4e, however, there are a lot fewer things that we don’t use as written thus far.  Up until now, I’ve only found need to house rule three things.

  1. Daily Magic Item Uses – As suggested by Wyatt:

    Unlimited Item Power:  You can use any item’s daily power once per day but have no restrictions on your own uses, so you can have 10 different items and use all of their powers. Once an item’s daily power is used once it is spent – you can’t give it to another character for a go, for example.

    And if anyone decides to abuse the system by hoarding multiple cheap items, you smack them with the rulebook and take the privilege away.  They don’t get nice things.

  2. Skill Challenges – I haven’t quite figured out what to do with these, but had my first really good one at the MM2 Game Day.  They are not run by the book, however, and are affected by #3.
  3. Skill Check DCs – The errata’d DCs are too low, and make Skill Challenges a cakewalk.  The original ones (with the +5 for being skill checks) were too high, and made Skill Challenges too hard.  I use the new Skill Challenge system (X/3), as the old one didn’t scale properly, and the original DCs (sans the +5 for being skill checks).  It seems to give the difficulty I want.

And of course the minor per-character house rules, such as reflavouring powers or making a Wizard into a Druid.

But recently, I’ve been thinking over another house rule, which I want to present to you here (and to the players on Sunday).

Let me start with a question.

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Awesoming up players and house rules in the CAB game and in the future

SnakesAh, the Rule of Cool.

It’s been written about a number of times in the world of DMing blogs, and is one of my principles as a DM. It guides my play style, and (as you will see below) it guides my house rules.

The guidelines behind perpetrating this rule, however, are not laid out above, though people come out with new ways to do so every day.

Rather, the method for creating an atmosphere of cool was defined years ago, completely outside of the gaming arena. Three simple rules were laid out by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker magazine. Since then, they have been applied heavily in the marketing world, to explain why products succeed and fail. But they are useful in gaming as well.

The three rules are as follows, and are effective guidelines to use while attempting to “awesome up” your games.

  • 1) The act of discovering cool causes cool to move on.

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Redefining Alignment

Asymmetrical symbol of Chaos“Do you think you know what the word Chaotic means?


Are you sure?

Care to place a wager…”

Andy Collins, RPG System Design & Development Manager, Wizards of the Coast R&D

A while back, I got into a discussion over on Andy Collins’ message boards regarding alignment. It was called Redefining Lawfulness, and was created because the Law/Chaos axis of the D&D alignment system is not nearly as well-defined as the Good/Evil side.

Despite the focus on Law/Chaos, I felt the Good/Evil definitions were also very vague, and far too wordy. So pretty early on in the discussion, I proposed a new set of simple, yet complete, definitions for all four axes. I’ll be using these as my own guidelines when alignment questions come up in my new game that’s starting soon, and I’m going to share them with you now.

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Throwing/Returning – a Variant

Thunderthrower PrCImage Credit: Green Ronin’s Hammer and Helm.

One of the more fun and flavourful enchantments for a weapon in D&D is the ability to take a normal weapon and make it a throwing weapon. Battleaxes, Longswords, hell even Greatswords. There is little scarier than a huge piece of metal flying at you.

But while it’s fun, it’s ultimately not that useful, and doesn’t increase the effectiveness of a weapon by a whole lot. It doesn’t alleviate the need for a bow, as the range on Throwing weapons sucks. Usually, it just means you don’t need to reach for a dagger to hit a flying enemy.

Add to that the fact that the Throwing property is almost never used on its own, and we have ourselves a small set of rules that need a rewrite.

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Critical Hits – a Variant

Treant - http://www.wizards.comSo Phil, the ChattyDM, chronicles a battle over at his site wherein he forgot about a plant creature’s critical hit immunity, and let it slide as a “nice DM” bonus.

Dave: the Game commented on it

See??? Even DMs who know the rules forwards and backwards forget this rule. Cast thee out, I say! Critical Hits for all!

and I began a mini-rant, which I shall continue here.

The way I figure it, plants, oozes and constructs are a minority of what we fight in D&D. The only crit-immunes that are very common are undead.

But most undead, IMHO, should be crittable anyways. Has nobody seen the lucky headshot in a zombie movie? Or the stake to the heart in a Buffy episode? With the possible exception of skeletons and incorporeal undead, most undead are shown as having more damaging areas.

So why not allow crits for everything?

And don’t say to balance rogues. A rogue’s job is to get in, strike quick, and do good damage. Crit-immunes don’t balance rogues, they nerf rogues for that encounter. Same as a golem’s magic immunity does to casters.

Now, being useless for an encounter is no fun.

Similarly, scoring a natural 20 (ankle bite or not), and not being able to use it, is also no fun.

Yet for some reason, some people don’t want to throw out crit-immune creatures altogether. So it seems a house-rule compromise is necessary.

Well the compromise between crit-immune and nothing is crit-resistant. But we have no mechanic for crit resistance, so that’s what we’re going to need to devise.

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