House Rules

I thought I would spend a moment explaining about the house rules we use in our campaigns. As I have stated elsewhere, 4th Edition is a pretty damn solid game, and although some of the crazy versatility of earlier editions (actually, I'm mostly glaring at 3.0 / 3.5) has been toned down, it's a dream to write adventures for and to play.

Having said that, a few things felt “off” to me and my players from day one, and so, in the very best traditions of D&D, we house ruled. Over the last three and a bit years, most of the house rules have remained. A few new ones have been thrown in, and what follows is a list of the main ones. Give 'em a go if you like, or let me know if you have made any rules that enhanced that game for you.

Magic Item Daily Powers – Can be used without needing to move through milestones. Yes, I know this means that characters can go nova on the final boss, but in my games, most fights are so deadly that few choose to hold off, and when they meet the BBEG, they need to go nova to even scratch the bugger! To date, this has caused exactly zero problems, and has allowed players to feel that their items are worth having.

Characters can spend multiple Action Points in an encounter – If a character has been restrained enough to accrue multiple action points, then I am happy with them unleashing them in the same battle. Again, this may be a bi-product of my campaigns innate lethality, but this has just not been an issue. My players still only burn action points when they are either in deep, deep doo-doo, or when they want to make sure a foe is down. Zero problems encountered up to time of writing with this house rule.

Critical Fumbles – I actually heard the groan then. Yes, we use critical fumbles, and everyone loves them (or loves to hate them). A natural “1” is not only a miss, it's a fumble. The only modifier to this is if you are using an attack that targets multiple foes, and the natural “1” is not rolled on the first attack. In that circumstance, it's not a fumble, you just auto miss that target.

A fumble has several immediate effects; the players turn ends immediately and they grant combat advantage until the start of their next turn. Harsh, but better than the old “you cut your own face off” type tables we got in AD&D....including my own fledgling campaigns (*cough*Gorthang's leg*cough*).

My players and I actually really like using this rule as it adds a level of unpredictability to combats that gives them an additional spice. Many times a fumble has altered the course of a battle – for good or ill – and they remain a moment of exquisite joy / agony for all concerned.

F*ck the DMG's D.C.'s – This is actually just a GM tip from me. Unless you want every skill check to be passed without the merest chance of failure, calculate your own D.C's .

The way I do it is simple.

BASE D.C. = Roll Needed + ½ groups level (+5 if it is for a trained individuals attention). Modify by +0 to +whatever based on how tough you want it, and on average ability modifiers.

This works! My skill checks are appropriate, and are never auto fails or auto successes.

And I think that's it. Not bad for a three year old system. I am sure I will remember some more as soon as I post this, but these are the biggies.