Common House Rules and Ways to Take Advantage of Them

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Hello, I was hoping to start a discussion on House Rules and ways to take advantage of them.

I'm currently playing in an EXTREMELY heavy house-ruled game. Here's just a few I know about (most aren't written down, so I'm just putting them up as I learn them):

1. Clerics cast all their spells spontaneously, unless they violate the ethos of the god they worship.
-OK, this doesn't even NEED optimization. Seriously. As if they weren't powerful enough already. Hasn't seen that much abuse, b/c the Cleric is played by the DM.

2. Casters may use either the vancian or spell point system in UA.
-Alrighty, so as long as you have the spell points to spend, you can metamagic the HECK out of your spells! No more worthless 12 Level 1 spells per day, now just go to town! My bud's insanity Sorcerer is casting empowered, maximized stuff, obliterating our opponents, about every other combat without anyone else even needing to do anything.

3. Criticals are different - roll a percentage on each hit, and your chance to crit is equal to the threat range of the weapon multiplied by the excess you hit by.
-OK, so this one is easy to observe, but hard to pull off. Basically, you need to make all your attacks touch attacks. Wraithstrike works, but I was using Otiax. MAN, did that get nerfed FAST (no more Power Attack on my attacks)!!!

*******
OK, well I know these aren't common, but it got me thinking about it. How about it? The community up for a discussion on this stuff?

4. Power Attack can only be applied to attacks that allow Strength to be applied.
-Stack up the precision based damage! Also, Wraithstrike gets past this restriction, by strictest RAW.
4. Power Attack can only be applied to attacks that allow Strength to be applied.
-Stack up the precision based damage!

Does this rule out Wraithstrike? I know things like Flame Blade are ruled out by that, but Wraithstrike does not say (at least in printed form i don't know if there is errata) that Strength cannot be applied.
Does this rule out Wraithstrike? I know things like Flame Blade are ruled out by that, but Wraithstrike does not say (at least in printed form i don't know if there is errata) that Strength cannot be applied.

RAW, you are correct! So, that is one way.
Well, precision based damage, or just sidestep strength entirely. Shadow Blade for dex, or Shiba Protector for Wis. (Or both if you've got the stats to support them.)
House Rules, heh...
In the last 3.0 game I played, The Other DM chose to use a critical hit table, which had effects ranging from 2x damage, to instagibs and increased intelligence (due to impromptu brain surgery).

I'm sure I don't have to spell out how to abuse that.

I did.

In my defense, he didn't give me much in the way of chances in playing my elf diplomat as more than a combat rogue. Besides, it was relatively tame - I single-wielded, even.

Oh, our current E6 group has a pretty crazy one:
- No craft feats used (per se, I'll have to ask about wands...)
- Instead by using the Craft skill, IF YOU ROLL A NATURAL 20, you can get a magic item with bonus equal to (check result-20)/3.

...So, I can have nine ranks, stat bonus and, oh, divine insight. That should get me a nice +7 bow, at least...
Ah house rules, how I love them.

I've got a good one too: My friend once DMed a 3.0 game where he had the houserule that every enchant that's worth +2 on a weapon increases it's base critical threat range by 1. I brutally abused this, and at level 10, I had a Weapon Master with a +2 Mercurial Greatsword of Flaming Burst with a crit of 12-20/x4.
House Rules are fine, and I'm a great friend of them, HOWEVER, they SHOULD all be written down and AGREED upon. I hate it when GMs suddenly pull stuff out of their butts because they think that something someone did is too strong.

I have a huge set of house rules here, but they sort of rely on not being rigorously optimised against, because when you do, it'll be pretty easy to break the game in places:
http://brilliantgameologists.com/boards/index.php?topic=809.0

These rules try to make things good without abusing every angle, though, and I support optimisation from my players.
I play in a pretty heavy house rule camapign as well, most of them are geared towards non combat since this is a heaver roleplaying campaign rather than a hack and slash one.

1. Cross-class skills cost only 1 point, as if everyone has the Able Learner feat.

2. Every charcter gets a bonus feat at every even level, it can only be one of the following: any armor prof, any weapon prof, skill based feats like alertness or combat casting.

3. We start with a 28 point buy, but get an ability point every even level.

4. Dodge Feat gives a straight up +1 Dodge bonus to AC.

5. We roll initiative every round.
I only have one house your and it is more of a learning curve for new players.

1) Cure/Inflict Spells have Short Range.

Hasn't broken my game yet but then again none of my players are optimizers.

Oh and due to misunderstanding of the rules at when we first started playing.

2)Once a skill is a class skill, its always a class skill regardless of what class your leveling up.(If this is how the rule works I'll be happy but it seems more and more often to pop up that it is not like that.)
2)Once a skill is a class skill, its always a class skill regardless of what class your leveling up.(If this is how the rule works I'll be happy but it seems more and more often to pop up that it is not like that.)

Well... basically, you get max ranks, but it costs the usual 2x to raise them if the class you're currently leveling doesn't have it as a class skill.

Skill points are so scarce that I'm not sure if there's actually any harm in that house rule, though
The auto-able learner rule is pretty common; I've seen that before.

No favored class is common.

Feats every other level is common too. This tends to make Fighters even worse, though, but limiting it to specific feats is OK.

I've also seen the inflict/cure has short range before. Makes inflict casters much stronger, but the curing side is purely a matter of convenience to keep characters alive.
We always play with cure being short range by accident. No one noticed it was actually touch :D

(Just to say, we do that a lot. Also not noticing when a spell is personal, so I cast Bite of the Wererat on a Shadow Blade Swordsage. Stuf died.)
here's ours:
1- skill that has been class-skill always remains as such (but still 2 SP for cross)
2- free casting for spell 2 levels below highest slot
(if you can cast 0 to 5th level spells, free casting for 0-3rd)
3- free feat every even level BUT (not combat or spellcasting focused, cannot be used as prerequisite for anything)
4- no favored class.
5- 1 flaw = 1 feat, but if you want 2 feats, you take 3 flaws (and must be roleplayed)
1. Clerics cast all their spells spontaneously, unless they violate the ethos of the god they worship.
-OK, this doesn't even NEED optimization. Seriously. As if they weren't powerful enough already. Hasn't seen that much abuse, b/c the Cleric is played by the DM.

If the DM is strict on sources (like a core only cleric list...) then this is actually reasonable for no-effective-divination campaigns. There is nothing worse than being next to useless when you should be rocking just because you guessed the wrong spells for the day

I don't worry about 2 but I like DnD's crit system, so no to 3. 4 sounds reasonable though.

Cross-class skills cost only 1 point, as if everyone has the Able Learner feat.

Close...
Once a skill is a class skill, its always a class skill regardless of what class your leveling up.

Congradulations with these two, you just removed 50% of the hassle of rolling up a new character after your current one died.

No favored class is good too.

There are a ton I use that only slightly change things (the item enchantment rules are one of the top of my head) that makes things much easier.

Also as a DM I always use an Excel sheet of player's sensing skills so I roll for them
arg did this crappy site kill my sig too?
here's ours:
1- skill that has been class-skill always remains as such (but still 2 SP for cross)

That's how it works officially, imho. Nevermind, I misread.

2- free casting for spell 2 levels below highest slot
(if you can cast 0 to 5th level spells, free casting for 0-3rd)

You mean you can use them at will? Or spontaneously if the character in question is a prepped caster?


House rules I've seen in games that I can think of:

  • Mithral weapons count one level "lighter" for the purpose of TWF penalties

  • Criticals auto-confirmed, but actual roll needed for abilities depending on it, e.g. vorpal weapon
  • Mithral weapons count one level "lighter" for the purpose of TWF penalties

  • Criticals auto-confirmed, but actual roll needed for abilities depending on it, e.g. vorpal weapon

For the mithril thing, DMG 2 introduced Feycraft weapons which do exactly that.


Regarding the spontaneous cleric spells in this game: no, all sources, including 3rd party material, 3.0 material, dragon, etc are all allowed. And, he does use it all. Thankfully, he's been pulling back from the damage he could be doing (glory-vacuum that it could be).

My character's strong too, but nowhere near as strong as the Cleric or the Ancient Loredrake White Dragonspawn Kobold Sorcerer Incanatrix w/ Greater Rite.
On one of the table i play on Haste is pretty much totally done through house rules...

Extra melee attack on a full attack action, Cast 2 spells as a full round action, +30 feet to movement and then +1 to ac, to hit, ect...

In all truth its not horrible except for the fact that we have a spell warp sniper who has just gotten his to spells that he can ward to allow for no sr or save and that gets mean really fast.
In the game I'm running we have:

-No power attack with abilities that disallow strength to damage.

-Once it's a class skill, it's always just one skill point to buy and you can have max ranks. We just don't like fuss over skills slowing things down and it hasn't been ever close to abused.

-Extra feat for everyone at first level.

-Every kind of caster EVER has Eschew Material Components. Only things with listed gp prices matter.

-Clerics can have their Holy Symbol emblazoned on thier shield if they are going some type of sword and board.

-Out of combat healing is players choice: they can roll, or take average rounded up. (1d8 = 5) Speeds up the wand of cure light wounds action.

-Casters simply regain their spells through rest, even wizards. (Kind of like a video game) It's assumed that wizards, being book nerds, can function on a little less sleep than most other people and study while in their sleeping bags.
Yeah, I have a houserule I normally run haste on as well.

It reads exactly as written in 3.5, with one exception. It also grants a free move action.
there are two more that i have played with but don't use personally.

You can take a 5-foot step regardless of what else you have done in a round.

Haste does all its standard stuff plus allows a second standard action per round.

Also one I have been testing out

Casters can change their prepared spells per day as long as they haven't used any spells yet that day, doing so requires 2 hrs.
Some house rules I've used before:

  • Casters can regain 1 lost spell of their choice for every 15 minutes they rest. Prep casters can also spend 15 minutes of studying/praying/etc. to replace a single spell they've already prepared that day with another. A full 8 hours of rest still restores all spells.
  • Initiative is rolled with a d10. There aren't many ways to improve initiative, so players with the Improved Initiative feat, etc. have more of an advantage.
  • After the first round of combat (or second, if there is a surprise round), players may choose what order their turns are. For example, if initiative came up PC1/NPC1/PC2/PC3/NPC2/NPC3/PC4, they may choose (during the second normal round of combat) to go P4/N1/P3/P2/N2/N3/P1. This can only be done if the allies are within 60 feet of each other and have line of sight with each other.
  • Good Clerics can spontaneously cast Conjuration (Healing) spells (rather than just Cure spells), Evil Clerics can spontaneously cast Necromancy and/or Death spells. Specialized wizards can also spontaneously cast spells from their specialized school. To me this makes more sense than just saying "Clerics can spontaneously cast any spell." That destroys the Sorcerer and Favored Soul classes.
  • To help compensate for spontaneous classes (sorcerers, favored soul) their primary spellcasting ability (Wisdom for Favored Souls, Charisma for Sorcerers) is treated as being 2 points higher for the purpose of determining extra spells per day, but for no other purpose.
  • The Open Lock skill is gone. Disable Device takes care of what Open Lock did. This helps out rogues a bit by giving them more freedom in skill point distribution.
  • A lot of fighter bonus feats' prereqs are toned down a bit.
  • A few others I'm not thinking about.
One thing we do in most D&D campaigns where I play is adjust the rolled stats at character creation. Everyone likes heroic stats and since the players I DM for tend to be Heroes, I set the initial rolls to 5D6, re-roll 1s and 2s then drop the 2 lowest die.

Naturally this leads to several more 18s then usual and occasionally I see some gods of multiclassing through this since my players can be a lot more versatile.

oh and...
[*]Initiative is rolled with a d10. There aren't many ways to improve initiative, so players with the Improved Initiative feat, etc. have more of an advantage.

Mind if I swipe this? It'll make combat that much more tense I think.
Some house rules I've used before:

  • Good Clerics can spontaneously cast Conjuration (Healing) spells (rather than just Cure spells), Evil Clerics can spontaneously cast Necromancy and/or Death spells. Specialized wizards can also spontaneously cast spells from their specialized school. To me this makes more sense than just saying "Clerics can spontaneously cast any spell." That destroys the Sorcerer and Favored Soul classes.
  • To help compensate for spontaneous classes (sorcerers, favored soul) their primary spellcasting ability (Wisdom for Favored Souls, Charisma for Sorcerers) is treated as being 2 points higher for the purpose of determining extra spells per day, but for no other purpose.

Man that only worsens the gap between prep and spontaneous casters. Harsh dude, harsh. But it's your game, your call. Reminded me to post the houserule I use though.

Sorcerer Bloodlines: Each sorcerer chooses one specific type of Magical Creature of some sort (angel for outsider, Beholder for aberration, Vampire intelligent undead, Nymph for fey, etc etc) and gain a list of 1 free spell known per spell level (1-9) that ties to said bloodline. Furthermore, they gain these as spells known one level before they begin gaining standard spells known, and are given an additional spell slot at that level. Bloodline spells have +2 DC.

Furthermore, the sorcerer gains free eschew materials at level 1, and 3 bonus feats that fit with their bloodline theme at wizard matching levels. Also, Diplomacy, use magic device, and one Skill appropriate to their bloodline is added to their list of sorcerer class skills. Sorcerers get 4+int skills per level, and d6 hp.

Additionally creatures of the same type as their bloodline automatically begin treating them as friendly unless they have very specific reason otherwise. (prior information, etc)

It doesn't exactly bring sorcerers even with wizards, but an extra spell known per level and an extra spell slot per level does help keep them from being terribly overshadowed by specialists.
My full list of 3.5 Houserules can be found here:

http://ttpworld.wetpaint.com/page/3.5+Houserules

A lot of it is clarification or just character-creation guidelines, but I like a few of my tweaks:

- For every rank in a Craft() or Profession() skill, new characters start with 10gp*level*level more starting funds. For example, a 5th-level character would normally start with 9000 gold. If they had 8 ranks (the max) in a Craft or Profession Skill, they would start with 8 * 5 * 5 * 10 = 2000 gp extra gold.

- Fighters get a bonus feat each level instead of every other level. (No one plays a straight fighter anymore. Why would you? Even after implementing this rule last year, we still haven't had anyone make a Fighter.)

- PCs selling items normally receive 50% of the base cost of item. However, by taking a full day to make an Appraise check, players can add 1% per point of the result check. Any number or value of items can be sold from the result of a single Appraise check. Players can take a 10 on this check, or even a 20 -- though this requires twenty days to find the right buyer(s).

- Zero'th level spells (a.k.a. Cantrips) are not expended when cast. In other words, memorized cantrips can be cast as often as you like.
- Due to the above change, Cure Minor Wounds and Repair Minor Damage are banned. There is now a new spell named Stabilize, which simply stabilizes someone at negative HPs and stops them from bleeding to death. It is otherwise identical to, and replaces, Cure Minor Wounds.
(The cantrip change was inspired by something I saw on these forums a year ago.)

- Grappling has been eliminated and has been replaced by a clone of the 4th edition Grab rules.
oh and...

Mind if I swipe this? It'll make combat that much more tense I think.

Lol, sure. It's worked out well enough for me. Our party's rogue has 20 DEX and Improved Initiative... I can't remember a time when he HASN'T rolled highest initiative. With a d20 it's quite possible for the rogue to go LAST sometimes, despite his agility. Doesn't seem right.

Lol plus you're right, most of the time initiative rolls are close calls with d10's, setting the tempo from the very start.
Accidental post.
Man that only worsens the gap between prep and spontaneous casters. Harsh dude, harsh. But it's your game, your call. Reminded me to post the houserule I use though.

It doesn't really make spontaneous casters more powerful than preppers, or vice-versa. It does mainain differenciation though, however. Preppers still need to prep, and spon-ers still have the power of versatility. It just helps preppers out a bit - no more prepping Revifify, prepping the majority of your spells to meet your specialization, and so forth. Preppers still need to decide on buffs, control, damage, etc - they just don't need to prep their 'specialty' spells anymore. To me, that just makes sense. A good cleric should be able to spontaneously cast Heal, An evil cleric should be able to spontaneously cast Harm, and an Evoker should be able to spontaneously cast a Fireball. Sorcerers and Favored Souls still maintain the power that they can cast whatever the heck they want whenver they want.
What you missed is how badly the Sorcerer and Favored Soul get smashed by their delayed spell access and limited spells known. Hence the Sorcerer fix I posted. It's less of an issue for Favored Soul, though I might recommend giving them Auto-Knowing of their dieties domain spells (or just 2 of their diety's domains, same as clerics get the ability to prep from 2 domains AND domain powers, which FS wouldn't get with this house rule.)

Sorcs and Favored Soul's can't cast whatever the heck they want whenever they want because they only know a limited number of spells at a given time.

Anyways, I do have one more house rule to throw up, and this one I think is actually common, unlike my last.

Heighten Spell does not exist. A spell cast in a higher level slot on it's own (not adjusted by metamagic) is that spell level, no questions asked. This affects DC's, the ability to penetrate globes of Invulnerability etc.
Some of the house rules I've seen/played with:

No XP penalties for multiclassing - self explanatory

If you role a nat 20, roll to confirm if that next roll is a nat 20 the critical multiplier goes up by one, roll again if nat 20 increase multiplier again and keep rolling until you stop rolling nat 20s. So lets say you had a rapier. Normally on a roll of nat 20 with a nat 20 to confirm you would only do X2 damage as usual. With this house rule you get a nat 20 and roll to confirm. If the confirming roll is a nat 20 your multiplier is now X3 and you roll again. If the next roll is a nat 20 then your multiplier is now X4 and your roll again...repeat as necessary.

Every character gets a bonus regional or racial feat at first level that they qualify for

One my DM at college liked: All classes that cast spells have Spellcraft as a class skill based off of the casting stat of the class (ie. clerics would add their wisdom modifier to spellcraft checks instead of int). No spells per day instead in order to cast a spell you roll a Spellcraft check DC = 10 + level of spell being cast + number of successfully cast spells that day. Spells known per level remained the same. I'm not fully remembering on he handled cantrips, though I think after level 10 he may have made those at will for full casters.

To make some monsters more playable as characters my DM at college also had it so that you can play something like say a centaur you do not take the racial hitdice. So basically a centaur would just have it's level adjustment but no abilities gained through racial hitdice such as BAB, HP, feats and skill points.
To make some monsters more playable as characters my DM at college also had it so that you can play something like say a centaur you do not take the racial hitdice. So basically a centaur would just have it's level adjustment but no abilities gained through racial hitdice such as BAB, HP, feats and skill points.

OMG Ethergaunt.
If you role a nat 20, roll to confirm if that next roll is a nat 20 the critical multiplier goes up by one, roll again if nat 20 increase multiplier again and keep rolling until you stop rolling nat 20s. So lets say you had a rapier. Normally on a roll of nat 20 with a nat 20 to confirm you would only do X2 damage as usual. With this house rule you get a nat 20 and roll to confirm. If the confirming roll is a nat 20 your multiplier is now X3 and you roll again. If the next roll is a nat 20 then your multiplier is now X4 and your roll again...repeat as necessary.

actually making the rule worse then?

A variant rule not quite a house rule but the actual rules state that if you roll a nat 20 and then confirm with a nat 20 = instant death
actually making the rule worse then?

A variant rule not quite a house rule but the actual rules state that if you roll a nat 20 and then confirm with a nat 20 = instant death

Our table does that slightly differently, on a nat 20 its a crit, a second 20 confirms, and a third 20 is instant death... The main reason for the third roll was me killing the big evil end fight boss of one of our longer campaigns on the first attack :P :D
Our table does that slightly differently, on a nat 20 its a crit, a second 20 confirms, and a third 20 is instant death... The main reason for the third roll was me killing the big evil end fight boss of one of our longer campaigns on the first attack :P :D

well the way we deal with it is you cant kill anything with over 150 hp with a double nat 20 roll....if its life were to drop below 150 thats a different story.
But what if the PC's are dishing out way over 150 hp per turn Flawless? Even in unoptimized campaigns that can easily start happening by level 14 or so. 150 hp really isn't anything special, especially when you consider the HP dragons and such are sporting.
as a general rule anything that can take 150 hp worth of damage in a turn will either be dead on its next turn or is nowhere near dead...

so its just a general rule stating that if something has over 150 hp its hearty enough to not be killed automatically by double nat 20's
Fair enough Flawless, your call. I wouldn't want to incorporate an instant kill ability that would be restricted by such a low remaining HP total. I couldn't do that to my players. "YEAH! I GOT DOUBLE NATURAL 20'S!!!" "Um.. sorry Kevin, it's still got 600 hp left." "oh... "
Fair enough Flawless, your call. I wouldn't want to incorporate an instant kill ability that would be restricted by such a low remaining HP total. I couldn't do that to my players. "YEAH! I GOT DOUBLE NATURAL 20'S!!!" "Um.. sorry Kevin, it's still got 600 hp left." "oh... "

They could would still do double critical damage...which could easily kill the person anyway,

I just don't like the of the freshly raged full health Barbarian charging my group with his 300+ hp and being decapitated horribly, due to sheer dumb luck.
They could would still do double critical damage...which could easily kill the person anyway,

I just don't like the of the freshly raged full health Barbarian charging my group with his 300+ hp and being decapitated horribly, due to sheer dumb luck.

I would find that awesome, especially considering my group plays with 3 nat20s = dead. It's, what, 1:8000 odds it'll happen, and when it does, your players will all go OMG!
One of my favorite house rules, and one that's always in effect when I DM: 20's aren't automatic successes, 1's aren't automatic failures. I just think it's ridiculous that there should be a 5 % chance for something to happen that should otherwise be impossible.

Oh and about the current topic: No double 20 variant rule either. A double 20 on an attack is just a regular confirmed crit.
You mean you can use them at will? Or spontaneously if the character in question is a prepped caster?

spontaneous if prepped caster (which leads more or less to no sorcerers played)

and I forgot:
- unless very unusual circumstances, eschew material for everyone.
(which means if you're kidnapped and naked, then you have to take material component into account)
- 20's are not automatic success, but you can roll a 2nd D20 and add result
-1's are not automatic failure, but you have to roll a D20 and substract that amount to your (attack/ST/...)

in this way you could hit unprobable target on 20, and still succeed on 1

BTW: I'll go for the D10 init as well
Among my table rules:

Familiars, Psicrystals and pseudo-feats: Familiars/Psicrystals grant their owners the feat that their bonuses emulate for all purposes, from PrC qualification to feat eligibility. A Weasel Familiar grants the Lightning Reflexes feat, for instance.

And....

Combat rounds do not have a static Initiative order. Each round after the first, roll 1d12. On a 1-6, your Initiative goes down by 1 to 6 places; a roll of 7-12 moves your Initiative up by 1-6 (7 equals +1 to Initiative, 8 = +2, etc.).
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