Mar 18, 2012

My Houserules

It's been a while since my last post so I decided to take some time out of a busy weekend to write about my house rules, most of which have come from fellow bloggers whose sites may be found over on that side bar over there. They're pretty awesome people, check 'em out.

Rules I Got From Other Cool Blogger Dudes Or Otherwise Not From My Own Head
The Splintering Shield Rule, by Trollsmyth, which I found in Telecanter's handy dandy house rules pdf.
- The splintering shield rule simply states that a combatant may choose to sacrifice a wooden shield in a hasty block to avoid taking damage. The shield then splinters and is useless.
-My Changes: I have extended this rule to all shields, since a metal shield could also be dented or warped beyond utility, and because if not, my players would simply carry only wooden shields and I don't think it makes sense for weaker shield to be more useful. I also demand that my players declare that they will take this action before I tell them how much damage is dealt, which adds a certain element of a gamble to the move. Since this is a new rule to my game, I think I may also never tell them how much damage was actually dealt, just to make them question the worth of this action.

Zac S's Called Shot Mechanic, the basic gist of which is that a player can decide the likelihood of success on his own called shot, but must accept the same chance as failure. A player can say he wants to chop the head off an ogre on a natural 11-20 (max chance), but he then has to accept that on a 1-10 he will behead his adjacent buddy, or something less gruesome if you are a kinder DM.
I must admit I only saw this mechanic today and will be testing it soon, but have yet to actually see it in action.

The mana system (for which I found numbers in the Castles and Crusades DMG [yeah, I know they don't call it that, but that's what it is]). At this point I know I'll have some people angry that I claim to run a sort of old school game with this system, but I will say in response that at some point you have to make concessions to the players. I have no problem with the Vancian system of magic, but if you have a set of players who, no matter how good or otherwise old-school, despise Vancian magic, its okay to make a minor change, it doesn't make you a pushover DM to allow the players to have something their way in the interest of fun. In any game with house rules you are changing the game (hopefully) in the interest of making it more fun. So where as in this case balance holds up, I accept the mana rule and carry on, everyone seems to like it and it is a little faster than checking your slots for each fight, which works since I like to keep battle frantic.

My Own Rules
Most of these have to do with the nature of magic, since in my game magic is a very rare and mysterious thing, and its nature is unknown to most.

Sacrifice Rule (Part from that same DMG, changed a bit on my own) : a player may sacrifice one point from health and each attribute in exchange for a single point of mana. The player may do this until losing consciousness from loss of health or until an attribute is reduced to 1 point. One point is recovered to health and each attribute per day until all are recovered. No magical means can otherwise recover points sacrificed until all are regained.

Magical Items in my game have a mysterious nature to them: I will not tell players the powers of a magic item, and they often have many if used in different ways. The players must discover these powers and when they have learned them all the magic item will tell them its name (not literally as in speaking, but they will come to know its name, as a suggestion of a thought).

Examine Magic Item is, to help the process of identifying an item, an ability granted to wizards and illusionists to spend 24 continuous hours examining a magic item to glean some hint of its powers. This hint can be in the form of images seen like a vision or of a word that suggest the effect.

Critical Fail is by no means my own rule, but I can not trace it to any one specific source. Anyone who has played dnd probably knows this, but I have heard of people not using it. A natural 1 on a d20, just as a 20 is a total success, indicates catastrophic failure, usually hitting an adjacent ally with your failed sword swing or dropping a weapon, but really only limited to the DM's cruelty and imagination.

Hit Chart. I have a hit chart that I use when I feel like it or when combat gets dull or when the players ask about it. As opposed to standard hitting and dealing damage it can spice things up, but I don't obsess over using it constantly. My hit location chart has no specific effects for hitting certain areas of the body, so it becomes a creative exercise to think of interesting effects based on the situation. Again, I'm not strict about this rule, it is really just to excite players when simple damage seems to leave some of them disinterested.

I plan soon on unveiling to my players a new property of magic that has been long in the making. I am very excited for this rule and will doubtless have a post devoted to it later, but I cannot reveal it here because of my players who may be reading this post. Those players who know me well would do well to be very afraid. Those who know me better can picture the sinister smile on my face as I just think about it.


  1. I get uncomfortable talking about rules like these because I really prefer simplicity. I like being able to say, here's a few simple rules, the DM will handle the rest to make the logic of the world make sense. When you have too many rules, you spend too much time thinking about them. The idea of being able to sacrifice your shield to block a blow breaks immersion for me. It's a cheesy, unnecessary addition that is just kind of a mechanic that should be left on the cutting room floor. The grognards leading the charge in the OSR are really good at generating a lot of ideas that are kind of neat, but not so good at trimming the fat.
    As for the vancian magic system, I could go either way. I like mana system because it gives low-level wizards a little more utility (and leveling takes so long), but the description of the reasoning behind the vancian system (that wizards are able to mold their brains into like 'spell-cages') is probably the coolest explanation of how magic works. Part of the problem is that I never took the time to figure out how the Vancian system works exactly.

  2. Zavi,

    I've nominated you for a 'Versatile Blogger Award' - you can get the details from my site :)