Home Sweet Home ….. Rules

Hello again dear readers,

Every game I have ever played in has used house rules of some kind. Some have had a lot of rules and some not so much but invariably every GM has some tweaks. I know some people dislike the idea of adjusting the written rules, but I personally feel it is an intrinsic part of the game. Gary Gygax said in the Dungeon Masters Guide introduction

The game is the thing, and certain rules can be distorted or disregarded altogether in favor of play.”

I am going to include here some of my own house rules. Some of these I believe are fairly common among DM’s, some I have picked up from campaigns where I was a player, and some were just of my own device.

Initiative – We were using 1d10 for initative before 2e came out. It just always made sense to us that if a round consists of 10 segments that 1d10 is the perfect initiative die.

I see many people using this now, and it was taken as the standard initiative in 2e. However I also see people adding weapon speed and casting time to the initiative rolls. I never understood this since it would create the possibility that the roll could then exceed the number of segments in a round. This would indicate to me that the individual’s action should not take place until the following round. Instead we keep the same rule as 1e where you only bring speed factor into play on a tie.

Note: In my latest PbP I have reverted back to the standard 1d6 initiative of 1e.

Healing and Negative Hit Points – In an attempt to keep the game moving I have always been generous on the subject of healing negative hit points. The one week of rest every time someone goes negative could cause an adventure to take a seriously undo amount of time, in particular if they are in a setting that leads to little of no contact with civilization such as the underdark.

If someone falls below 0 hit points but above -10 (-1 thru -9) any kind of magical healing automatically brings the character back to at least 1 H.P. So if someone is at -6 and a cleric casts cure light wounds and only rolls a 4 then the character is still restored to 1 H.P. Furthermore I do not enforce the 1-6 turns of coma or one week bed rest. Instead I have the character immediately gain consciousness and require 8 hours of rest. Falling below -6 H.P. leaves some kind of maiming.

Maiming Table

Dice (d100) Result penalty
1-10% Loss of hearing in one ear (1-3 right, 4-6 left) -1 on surprise roles, -2 to listen at doors
11-25% Loss of eye (1-3 right, 4-6 left) -1 to hit with missile weapons
26-40% Loss of 1-2 fingers (1-5 offhand, 6 primary hand) -1 to hit when using a weapon in that hand.
41-59% Loss of 1-3 toes (1-3 right foot, 4-6 left foot) Slight limp, -1 to movement rate
60-73% Nerve damage to leg (1-3 right leg, 4-6 left leg) Limp, -2 to movement rate
74-89% Major facial scaring -3% to reaction adjustment
90-100% Nerve damage to arm (1-4 offhand, 5-6 Primary) -2 to hit when using a weapon with that arm.


Crossbows – There are some things in the btb rules that just never felt right to me. One of those things was the absolute dominance of a regular bow over a crossbow. The regular short bow has twice the rate of fire and has higher top end damage than a light crossbow. It even has higher top end damage than a heavy crossbow against man sized creatures, while having 4 times the rate of fire.

In order to try and rectify this I adjust the damage done by crossbows in my campaign. Light crossbows do 2-7/2-7 and heavy crossbows do 2-9/2-9 and both keep their standard rate of fire. There have been times where I have also reduced the rate of fire of the short and long bow to 1/1, but I have only done that a couple of times.

Pole Arms – I always felt pole arms also got the shaft. It is unlikely that any PC outside of perhaps a monk would choose a pole arm for use with its high speed factor, required two hand use, and damage that rarely equates to that of a long sword. I wanted the pole arm to be a more attractive and effective weapon for men at arms (and monster use) without having to up the damage, so I gave them some special features.

If a pole arm is 3 or more feet longer than the weapon wielded by the opponent, and the opponent is of the same general size or smaller than the pole arm wielder, then the pole arm wielder automatically wins initiative on round one. In addition, if the pole arm is a primarily thrusting weapon (pike, ranseur, spetum, partisan, military fork, lucern hammer, 7′ + spears), then if the initial attack by the pole arm wielder is successful, the opponent loses their attack in the first round. This represents the thrusting weapon keeping the enemy at bay on first contact.

Multi-Class Human– I prefer players to choose humans as they are the far and away dominant race in my campaigns. I have done various things over the years to make humans a more attractive choice including enforcing racial adjustments so that demi humans end up having to pay more for services, are not trusted by average NPC’s, even preventing the party from being helped or getting useful information from NPC’s in town if seen with demi humans. The biggest game mechanic I have used however is allowing humans to add a +1 to a stat of their choice and -1 from any other stat sans charisma, and as detailed in my More Human than Human article allowing them to multi-class. The versatility of multi-classing is a great appeal to many players.

There you have it. Some of my basic house rules I have used numerous times in many campaigns. There are others I have tried and discarded over the years, but these seem to be my go to rule adjustments.

What are some of the favorites you use?

The Looking Glass

Sword of Discontent        XP Value: 900          GP Value: 3,500
This sword is Chaotic Neutral in alignment. In the hands of any non-chaotic wielder it will function as a normal sword. If the wielder is Chaotic Good or Chaotic Evil however, then the sword’s enchantment will produce a minor ability or bane. Each day at day break role 1d6 to determine the swords ability for that day.

  1. +1 to hit/damage
  2. +2 to hit/damage
  3. +2 defender
  4. -1 cursed
  5. -2 cursed

If the wielder is Chaotic Neutral then the swords enchantment can produce a major ability or bane. Each day at day break role 1d8 to determine the swords ability for that day.

  1. +2 to hit/damage
  2. +2 dragon slayer (determine type at random)
  3. of Wounding
  4. +3 frost brand
  5. of life stealing
  6. -2 cursed
  7. Cursed Beserking
  8. Cursed Backbiter

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