Updated: July 16th 2009! We now have 53 houserules!
Added: Alternative Monster Math
I like coming up with house rules. They give me alternate ways to look at the game, and with a game like 4e there’s a lot of alternate ways to look at things. So with that said: whoooooo’s house? Wyatt’s house!
Each of these house rules is named, so you can just point back to this blog, with a list of the house rules you’re implementing in your game (by name). Also, before we start, some pages in the 4th Edition Dungeon Master Guide that are your best friends:
Page 42: Actions The Rules Don’t Cover. This page is the DM’s best friend in D&D 4e. Read it. Love it. Use it.
Page 56-57: Encounter XP. Just handy to know how much XP to give out.
Page 61: Skill Check DCs. Table for appropriate DCs per character level. Very handy for a DM to have. They have been errata’d to be lower than the table shows them. If you don’t want to look at the errata, just reduce each Easy, Moderate and Hard DC by 5 and you’ll have it about as fair. If your game is super hardcore, you can even just use the table as is.
Also remember – not all houserules work for all people either, and even a “broken” house rule can be pretty fun. Mix and match!
There are 3 categories of house rules so far, you can use a browser in-text search to find them:
•Base System Changes
•”Gritty” Or Challenging Rules
•Interesting Or Fun/Heroic/Badass Rules
Base System Changes (23)
These house rules aim to shift the balance of the basic system one way or another, or to try to equalize parts that are under-used or weak, OR to add new things that themselves try to fit within the balance of 4e.
•Adventure As A Narrative Unit: I made a post here about using adventures as a unit, like Encounters are a unit.
•Feat Redistribution: I made a post here about changing up how feats are acquired in order to please impatient people (such as myself). Which method you utilize is up to you!
•Alternate Point Distributions: All stats begin at 10 except for a single 8. Each player has 18 points to spend, on a 1 for 1 basis, among 6 stats. The maximum stat is 18. Average arrays are something like: 16/16/14/10/10/10, or 18/14/14/10/10/10, or 18/16/14/10/10/8 or even a possible 18/18/12/10/10/8. This can help non-matching race/class selections so they aren’t as far behind the matching selections in starting power compared to the monsters they will face.
You could also, for a little more power, use a pre-made “super array” like 16/16/14/12/11/8 with 3 points to spend among those stats to boost them on a 1 for 1 basis. This will make heroes much more all-around competent. I prefer this method, because I like the PCs to be tough – then I can give them tough challenges and they won’t blame their numbers if they fail.
•Alternate Monster Math: Using PC HP formulas instead of Monster HP formulas can at high levels shave 20 or 30 points off a critter (sometimes even 100 points off a Brute) without messy things like having to cut the monster in half. This can lead to faster combats without feeling like you’re doing way too much to make things easy.
•Keyword Changes: If your player wants to be a psychic, let him rip out the fire keyword from a power and replace it with the psychic keyword if he really likes that power. According to Mike Mearls, this doesn’t bugger the system much at all. However, don’t let the player hot swap the keyword whenever he wants. He picked a keyword, so he stays with it. Forever.
•Table Openness: We all like to keep information secret from our players because “their character wouldn’t know.” In 4e, however, players have to know certain things their characters might not, such as when an enemy is bloodied. Therefore, it’s not such a stretch, and it saves time, to tell the players the AC and Defenses they are rolling against, so they can tell if they succeeded and fight without undo doubts. You could set a condition, such as telling them after their first missed attacks against each defense, revealing the defense as it is targeted. Inspired by this post from James E. Raggi.
•Action Renewal: Give characters and monsters action points (even standard ones) every encounter, instead of at milestones. Solos have 3 action points, Elites 2 action points. Whenever a character or monster scores a critical hit, it gets an action point it can use before the end of its next turn. Characters lose all their action points at the end of an encounter.
•4th Edition Henchmen: Almost but not quite. This post by me talks about it a bit more and what it’s meant to be for.
•Roll Ahead: Have players roll a number of attack rolls and write them down. These attack rolls are their “hand.” Whenever they attack, they pick an attack roll out of their “hand” to use. These are all the attack rolls they are able to roll – when they run out of a hand, they have to roll a new hand, but otherwise they have to pick and use from the same pool. I usually give them 7 rolls in this way. Note that they will always use their best rolls first and worst rolls last. This is expected.
•Mike Mearls’ Misses: Mike Mearls talked about this on his twitter. Have encounter powers deal half damage on a miss. Have monster powers that do not recharge also deal half damage on a miss. I would extend the second – have monster powers that recharge on a 6 also do half damage on a miss, since they’re also basically encounter powers functionally.
•Unlimited Item Power: You can use any item’s daily power once per day but have no restrictions on your own uses, so you can have 10 different items and use all of their powers. Once an item’s daily power is used once it is spent – you can’t give it to another character for a go, for example. The consequences of this – hoarding multiples – are obvious. Mitigate them.
•Paragon Multi-Featured: You gain an At Will power from your multiclass at 11th level of Paragon Multiclassing, rather than swapping one out for it. You also gain the weapon and armor proficiencies of your multiclass if they are better than your own.
•Multiclass Freedom: You can take up to two multiclass feats. You divide your paragon multiclass chosen powers and power swap feat powers among the two classes chosen however you wish. This does not allow you to take multiple power swap feats. You do not gain multiple powers within the same level this way. As a stretch, you might allow each multiclass to have its own set of power swaps, but ONLY provided the player always have at least 1 power of each type from his or her original class.
•Discount Rituals: Once per day, if you have the Ritual Caster feature, you can cast a ritual that is not a Creation ritual without using components. Other stipulations may apply, such as doubling the casting time.
•Speedy Rituals: Once per day, if you have the Ritual Caster feature, you can cast a ritual that is not a Creation ritual in one minute (if it would normally have a higher casting time).
•Ritual Preparation: By spending twice the time to cast it, you can store the effects of an Exploration, Deception or Warding ritual. It can then be cast in 1 minute if its casting time would normally be higher. It must be cast before your next extended rest, or you lose the materials and the ritual. You can store only one ritual of each kind at a time (to a maximum of 3 rituals).
•Ritual Bookworm: Players can learn rituals for free by spending a number of hours equal to the ritual’s level studying the ritual from another ritual book. They can then add the ritual to their own books. A character with the Ritual Caster class feature takes only half this time to learn rituals in such instances.
•Target Turn: Whether it be due to bad luck or bad tactics, some encounters can end up being too long. Set a Target Turn for encounters that aren’t important to the story or that aren’t boss encounters. If the target turn is reached, whichever side has the most HP wins the encounter. A variation is that when the target turn is reached, all non-bloodied enemies become bloodied, and bloodied ones are reduced to 1/4 HP. I like the latter best.
•Ameron’s Bank Successes: This isn’t a heroic or badass rule because it has a disadvantage tied to it, but Ameron from Dungeon’s Master designed some rules for reversing fortune.
•Monster HP: There’s many suggestions on monster HP, such as thirding it and halving it. I’m not going to suggest any thing like that because it’s very simple. You probably came up with that yourself already. Instead, you could roll randomly for monster HP. More than likely, this will guarantee less HP than normal.
It’d be hard to craft a random HP table for monster because there are so many types, however, I can give one illustration of the rule – take a Level 4 Lurker with 48 HP. Under this, he’d have 3d10+Level (3d10+4) HP. Max HP would be 34. Average would be 20, and minimum 5. The goal is to reduce it’s HP – this has been accomplished. Give the same XP for it if you roll max HP. Give 2/3 total XP if you rolled more than average but less than max. Give 1/2 HP if you rolled less than the average, and minion HP if it has the minimum HP roll. This should allow for very varying combats, and all of them less grindy than usual.
For solos, you may just want to go easier and just cut the HP by 1/3 instead of rolling. Unless you really like rolling. Device your own favorite combination of dice rolls for monster HP based on their current total HP under the normal system.
•Monster Damage: This should pair up with Monster HP or it’ll produce enemies that may be far too tough to beat. Which may actually be a good change of pace in 4e. When building monsters, use damage configurations from ranges above normal. Have standard and elite monsters one configuration above the norm, and solos twoconfigurations above the norm. Abide by the normal rules of how to apply low, medium or high damage, but use higher level ranges.
•Lance Dyas Advantage: This rule changes the nature of combat advantage, posted in the comments by Lance Dyas. For those who can’t read Google Documents, here’s the rule. “Next to each of your defenses on your sheet write down a defense for when your adversary has combat advantage against you, it is calculated based on your secondary attribute in the associated defense category (If your intelligence is the higher reflex attribute then your secondary reflex defense will be based on Dexterity). For those in heavy armor the armors own AC bonus is halved (armor class from magic is unaffected by CA). This replaces the normal +2 benefit of Combat Advantage.”
•Expertise: At 5th, 15th and 25th levels, the characters gain a stacking +1 bonus to attack rolls. Or, you could reduce all monster defenses by 2. Either way seems to accomplish much the same end-goal – to reduce whiffing. If you take issue with this rule, there are numerous other house rules right here for attack roll bonuses and reduced whiffing.
•Preparation Rituals: Every character has a reservoir of attacks – at the start of the day, they can choose some of their powers and prepare them like a Wizard would with his spellbook. You can either do it exactly like the Wizard but with minor flavor differences, or change it up, such as allowing certain classes (probably the martial ones) to prepare encounter powers, instead of dailies, and change them up every milestone. Now that’d be quite varied!
“Gritty” Or Challenging Rules (13)
These rules are meant to screw the players over and force them to succeed in an unfair environment.
•Walking Wounded: Whenever a creature is healed from 0 hit points back up to full, it takes a -1 penalty to any two of attack rolls, movement speed, skills or damage rolls, at the DM’s discretion. Dragonborn or creatures that gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls when bloodied do not take the penalty to attack rolls from this condition, but can take any other penalty from it normally. This condition does not stack and is only removed by taking an extended rest.
•Bloodied Penalty: For those of you who don’t take bloodied literally but would like it to mean something more than “I get to use certain powers now”, apply a -1 penalty to attack rolls or a -2 penalty to damage rolls for the duration of the encounter after you become bloodied. The damage roll penalty should be applied to Dragonborn and other creatures that get a +1 bonus to attack rolls when bloodied, rather than the attack roll penalty, so as to not invalidate the ability.
•Gritty Death: For each death saving throw you have failed, you lose 1/4 off your maximum hit points temporarily – you cannot be healed above this limit. (For example, if you’ve failed two DST, you can only be healed up to bloodied until you remove some of them). This can be circumvented by using Restoration rituals.
•Death Carryover: Extended rests remove one tick from your Death Saving Throws, instead of giving you back all your Death Saving Throw chances. This can be circumvented by using Restoration rituals.
•Temporary Wind: Your second wind grants temporary hit points, not actual healing.
•Reduced Surges: Halve the number of base healing surges a character gets. Round down. This rule isn’t strictly a character generation issue – Healing Surges are abstract enough, that you can just rule they have half surges in this particular day. Maybe next day their morale and inner strength will give them back all their surges, just in time to kick some ass. Maybe not.
•Surge Draining: Particularly bad skill or ability rolls will drain a surge from the character. This is a DM call at the time.
•Limited Healing: Give each character a limitation to how many healing surges they can spend between combats. They can use only one surge per encounter, and outside of encounters, healing is limited to 1 surge spent per milestone – except for consumable items and Daily and Daily Utility Powers, which can “force out” surge healing, and do not abide by these norms.
•Literally Bloodied: Here’s one for those of you who take bloodied by the meaning of the word. Whenever a creature is first bloodied, it takes Ongoing 5 damage (save ends). A heal check administered by an ally allows you to end the effect without a saving throw.
•Extended Damage: Have damage carry over to the next day (in a way). After an extended rest, characters regenerate their healing surge value in damage (instead of all of it) and recover 2 healing surges at heroic tier, 3 at paragon tier and 4 at epic tier instead of all their surges. You could have them heal more or less depending on other factors, since HP is so abstract. If they’re diseased or cursed, they might heal nothing. If they didn’t even take a scratch yesterday, they might heal everything.
•The Injury Rule: It’s made by a guy who hates house rules! This offers a grittier way of handling injury, based roughly on the disease rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
•Munchies: Characters need two meals a day to handle their strenuous adventuring. If not, they take a -1 cumulative penalty to attack rolls, saving throws and skill checks for every meal they have missed. Their current penalty is reduced by one at every extended rest, but then accumulates more the next day if they don’t eat. If a character reaches a -6 bonus, starvation sets in. At a -10 bonus, the character dies.
•Milestone Powers: Rather than recovering Daily powers through an extended rest, you recover one Daily power at each extended rest, and additional ones each milestone. You cannot recover the same power more than once a day via a milestone, but you can recover any daily power you want after an extended rest. At Epic Level, you recover 2 daily powers after an extended rest.
Interesting Or Fun/Heroic/Badass Rules (16)
The opposite of gritty rules, these rules are freebies for the players. They’re my preferred sorts of rules, because they come with no strings attached and inherently “unbalance” the game in cool and interesting ways. If you use lots of these, give players even more monsters to kill or of higher than normal levels. They’ll be ready for it.
•Character Welfare: Usually the problem character with a “bad” race/class combination is a +1 bonus to attack rolls from not getting that +2 to an attack stat. So give characters with a “bad” race/class combination a +1 bonus to attack rolls. Simple.
•Aiming Action: Melee guys have a “charging” rule where they get a +1 bonus to attack rolls AND free movement rolled into a standard action. For ranged characters, (including spell slingers), I devised the “aim” action. You can use your move action to gain a +1 bonus to your next ranged attack.
•Stunt Roll: Based on “stunting” rules, where the player describes a kickass maneuver in order to get a freebie bonus. Have the player roll a check of the relevant ability score to their attack. If they beat the easy DC for improvisations of their level, they get a +1 bonus to attack rolls. If they beat the Hard DC, they get a +2. This also helps attach something more firm to stunting rules than “good description” which can be terribly subjective, especially within an overdramatic group.
•Swordgleam Aid Another: Proposed by Swordgleam of “Chaotic Shiny” in the comments, if a player rolls over a 20 to aid another, or beats the Hard DC, they give a +4 bonus to the skill instead of +2.
•Bob Shifting: Created by Bob in the comments. Creatures can take a minor action to shift 1 square. This is in addition to their move action to shift 1 square. Kobolds/Goblins can just shift as free actions once per turn, if a player of those races complains.
•Plot Coupon: Every time a player spends two rounds in a row attempting to attack but without scoring any successful attacks, give them a guaranteed, free non-critical success on the first attack roll they do for the next At-Will or Encounter power they try to use, without needing to roll. It helps somewhat to keep encounters from going to the drain just on bad luck alone.
•The “Propagandroid” Rule: A paraphrase from a post in The Gamer Dome. All attacks are non-critical successes until the target reaches a certain critical threshold of hit points. I find that the best threshold is bloodied for mooks and 3/4 hit points (bloodied + surge value) for bosses. This allows a few free hits on bosses and a lot of free hits on enemiess. Minions exempt.
•Morale Boosts: Each Milestone, the players get a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls with At-Will and Encounter Powers during the rest of their encounters that day. These add up. So after 4 encounters, they have a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls with At-Will and Encounter Powers. Put a cap on how high these bonuses can go, that is suitable for your game. However, have these bonuses disappear if the PCs are defeated or forced to run from or to avoid an encounter. Good for heroic games.
•Progressive Forms: To reward players for risks and offer bonuses, if they attacked with an At-Will power last turn, whether they missed or hit, they get a +1 bonus to their attack roll for attacking with an Encounter power on their next turn (but not with an At Will or Daily). Furthermore, if they attacked with two At-Will powers in a row for the last two turns, on the third turn, they get a +1 bonus to attacking with a Daily power (but not an Encounter or At Will power); OR a +2 bonus to attacking with an Encounter power (but not a Daily or At Will power).
•Inertia Bonus: If a player misses with a Daily Power, he or she gets a +1 bonus to attack rolls until the end of his or her next turn.
•Damage Defaulting: Once per encounter, if a player rolls unsatisfactory damage with an encounter or daily power, he or she can default to the average damage that attack would have dealt, instead (round down).
•Damage Averaging: All attacks deal the average damage – but once per encounter per tier, the character can choose instead to roll for his damage. Damage bonuses work as normal – they are a base stacked upon the average of die rolls.
•Damage Averaging Addendum: Minions deal the minimum damage they possibly can (as normal). Standards and Elites have average damage across the board. But Solos have maximum damage for their recharge powers, average for everything else. Now that dragon is really god damn scary.
•Damage Averaging Milestone Power Combination Addendum: If you combine this with milestone powers, you can make dailies deal maximum damage. Now dailies are really god damn scary – but they don’t refresh as often, so it’s okay.
•Extra Winds: You can take Second Winds twice per encounter, three times at paragon, four at epic. Use for a party where nobody wants to be a Cleric or Warlord.
And that’s it for now.