Thursday, December 23, 2010

House Rules for B/X and Weird Fantasy Roleplaying

Here is a list of House Rules we're using in Gothic Greyhawk, and would likely port to the Black City Campaign when I get there.

Note - we started with Moldvay B/X as the rules, and ported to LOTFP WFRP shortly after it came out - from a certain perspective, LOTFP is also just a bunch of house rules for B/X.

First Aid
First aid can heal 0-3 (d4-1) hit points after a fight, can only heal damage incurred in that fight, can only roll once. (Anyone can attempt first aid on another character).

Rationale: keeps adventurers in the dungeon longer by allowing some recovery in-between fights, allows some non-clerical healing, reinforces that hit points are not the same as physical injury. Just because we call it 'bind wounds', the healing between fights could consist of taking a drink of water, getting your wind back, letting the fog clear after your bell was rung, etc, in addition to bandaging actual injuries.

Critical Hits
Monsters and PC's deal double damage on a 20.

Rationale: Players love crits? I've offered to shelve this one, but players love it - which is odd, since it heavily favors the DM and most PC deaths in my game are due to monster-crits.  Another option is to have crit = max damage instead of double; this would save a lot of low-level PC's and reduce fatalities.  Oh well - the game is (partly) a democracy.

Death and Unconscious
Death at -10 hp. When a PC is negative, they are unconscious and continue to lose 1hp per turn until reaching -10 and death.

Rationale: This makes 0 or negative hit points a little survivable (if the PC is at -2 or higher, some quick First Aid might even restore consciousness or stabilize them. Once a character gets below -3, only quick application of magical healing can save them.

(A popular option here is to have 0 = 0 unconscious, -1 is death, but the death threshold increases for each level (so a level 5 guy dies at -5). This was Gygax's own house rule for classic D&D but seems a bit fiddly.)

Healing Per Night
Bump the per-night healing by 1 hp per HD per night.

Rationale: Healing doesn't scale with level - a level 1 guy can bed rest to health in a few days, a high level guy would take weeks or months to rest thei way to full! This helps bed rest to restore a proportionally similar amount as characters level up.  Yes - if taken to it's logical conclusions, then CLW and healing potions should scale as well... not interested in going there since there are in-game options already (like cure serious wounds or potions of extra-healing).

Clerical Quick Casting
Clerics can spontaneously change any spell to cure light wounds in a pinch.

Rationale: Low level clerics *only* take cure light wounds because everyone else expects them to be the medic; this opens up a little more flexibility for the cleric PC by letting them take a variety of spells, but expend the divine energy for simple healing in a pinch. I'm not a big fan of this one (the player's petitioned for the rule, it's a 3.xism) and I am *always* considering retracting it. Resource management choices in classic D&D should be tough.  What do you think?  Please add a comment.

XP for Adding to Spellbooks
Wizards get extra XP adding spells to their spellbook (see G3, Glantri).

Rationale: I always love the extra XP magic users and elves get for increasing their spellbooks as presented in G3 Principalities of Glantri. It tends to have a noticeable effect at low levels and tapers off very quickly (since the rewards are flat, not exponential) but it also makes the wizardly characters focus on spell acquisition.  They get less XP for monsters and gold.

The following two I saw on Amityville Mike's blog sometime back - Archive of the Rotted Moon - I find these are useful. I'm all about simple rules that enhance fighters in classic D&D:

"Chop when they drop"
Fighters dedicate their entire lives to mastering their skill at arms. Because of this single-minded dedication, fighters are able to dispatch multiple foes at a rate that astonishes other classes. Anytime a fighter kills an opponent, he immediately gains a free attack on any other enemy within reach. Should he slay the opponent as well, he gains another free attack on a nearby enemy. This series of events continues until the fighter either misses, fails to kill and opponent, or runs out of enemies within the reach of his weapon.

Rationale:  This restores a little bit of the "attack 1HD monsters at 1 attack per level" rule of AD&D, but is less broken and more versatile.  Anyone who has played 3.x or higher knows "cleave".

Shields Shall Be Splintered
Anytime you are about to take damage and have a shield equipped, you may choose to attempt to sacrifice the shield in order to avoid incurring the wound. Make a saving throw vs. death and, if the save is successful, the shield is sundered by the blow and destroyed, but you take no damage. In the case of spells that allow a saving throw for half damage, you may invoke this rule if you fail your save against the spell. Doing so successfully reduces the damage by half. In the case of magical shields, invoking this rule successfully means that you take no damage from blows (or half from spells) but the shield loses one "plus" from its enchantment. Thus, a +1 shield would become a normal shield, a +2 shield becomes a +1 shield, etc.

Rationale:  Shields may be playable in basic D&D, but they're certainly not fun.  This puts in an element of fun and makes the shield a potential life-saver; my players are always trying to sacrifice their shields to save their skins, and it's usually an exciting moment!


  1. Keep the clerical quick casting for cure light wounds, makes the cleric more than just an EMT.

  2. People don't want to be clerics - especially using the LOTFP rules set where Turn Undead is a spell instead of an every round ability. Quick casting for CLW is one of those things concessions to keep 'the medic' engaged.

  3. I really like the house rules you've come up with. I dig the "Chop when they drop." Very nice!

  4. WOW! those are almost exactly the house rules that I came up with for my moldvay/basic game! Most excellent. For a few other ideas, I have mine posted over at dragonsfoot. Let me know if you like them.

  5. Do you allow the "chop when they drop" rule for demihumans? I did in a recent campaign, but I'm not sure its a good idea. Maybe for dwarves who don't have a lot of "cool" special abilities, but halflings and elves already have other nifty abilities like hiding or spell use.

  6. Mike - I agree with you. Halflings 'own' the scout space, Elves have their magic, but Dwarves and Fighters are the front line tough guys.

    More often than not though, it hasn't come up - either mooks get Slept, or the the players forget.

    The players love the 'ablative shield' rule.