Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My House Rules for Old School Games

"Chop When they Drop"

Fighters dedicate their entire lives to mastering their skill at arms. Because of this single-minded dedication, fighters (not including dwarves or elves) 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.

"Shields Shall Be Splintered"

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.

"Dutch Courage"

Dutch Courage: Any character may heal themselves by spending twenty minutes binding their wounds, catching their breath, and consuming a pint of wine. Doing so heals the character of 1d6 points of damage. This method of first aid may only be used once per day.

"Unconsciousness & Death"

When a character reaches zero hit points, he or she is falls unconscious. When a character's hit point score reaches a negative number equal to their level or -10 (whichever is lower), the character dies. Thus, a 1st level character dies when he or she reaches -1 hit points, a 5th level character dies at -5 hit points, and a 20th level character dies at -10 hit points despite his level.

"Order of the d30"

Once per game session, a player may choose to roll a d30 instead of any normal dice roll. This cannot be used for any purpose during character creation or for hit point rolls.


 Magic users may use the Zap spells as outline in this blog post.


  1. The shield rule is damn slick. I might steal that one.

  2. Dutch Courage, Unconsciousness and Death and Zap feel a bit like rules from D&D Fourth Edition (healing surges, unconsciousness and death and at-will powers). Was that the inspiration for these house rules, or did they just come up independently? I like your particular implementation of them for old-school games - they certainly feel more old school, but taking some of the useful elements of newer-school games.

  3. @Dungeoneering Dad - Go for it! I stole it myself from Trollsmyth.

    @onlinedm - I actually didn't come up with most of these rules, but thought they were so awesome I had to use them. They are a bit 4e new school, but the main idea is that getting to keep playing is fun!

  4. Chop till you drop is a great implementation of the "lower level attacks" rule. That goes into my house rule arsenal.

    Dutch Courage - Knights of the Dinner Table introduced a similar rule in Hackmaster. It was called "Walk Off The Damage" which I loved.

  5. been using that d30 rule, I think I borrowed that from Rients - and Ive been meaning to use that Shields one, makes a lot of sense, adds flavor. The Dutch Courage is a little strong for me at low levels, but I can see it perhaps at >3 or 4 maybe. right now, i let the 1st level cleric bind wounds for 1-2 hp per person per day (he doesn't have any spells the poor bastard). the others i dunno.. but I'm very rules conservative and not much of a tweaker. i haven't been playing for a decade or longer continuously either so i can see the attraction tweaking has for those folks.