OnlineDM’s house rules – Part 1

Every DM has some house rules that they like to use at their table, so I thought I’d share some of mine here on the blog.

If a creature is force-moved into hazardous terrain (fire, off a cliff, etc.) they get a saving throw to fall prone instead of going into the hazard. This is a standard rule. However, it’s annoying when a character has a power that force-moves the creature multiple squares, but a single saving throw negates those extra squares entirely.

  • House Rule: If a forced movement power would move a creature extra squares into hazardous terrain, the extra squares of movement can be applied as a penalty to the creature’s saving throw. Thus, if a creature is at the edge of a cliff and you push it three squares, you can push it one square (off the cliff) and give the creature a -2 penalty to the saving throw to avoid going over the edge (so it needs a 12 or better to save itself).
A related issue comes up with diseases from creatures like rats and lycanthropes. If you are hit by one of these creatures’ diseased attacks, you make a saving throw at the end of the encounter to avoid contracting the disease. It doesn’t matter how many times you were exposed to the disease; a single saving throw will save you.
  • House Rule: If a creature is exposed to a disease multiple times in an encounter, each exposure beyond the first imposes a -1 penalty to the creature’s saving throw against contracting the disease at the end of the encounter. Thus, if a creature is bitten four times by Dire Rats in a combat, the creature will make a saving throw with a -3 penalty at the end of the encounter to avoid contracting Dire Rat Filth Fever (needing a 13 or better to avoid the disease).
Lots of people have complained about action-denying conditions like Dazed, Stunned and Dominated. I have my own way of running the Dominated condition:
  • House Rule: If an effect would dominate a creature, instead that creature takes a free action to move up to its speed (provoking no opportunity attacks along the way) and then use any at-will ability of the dominator’s choice against a target of the dominator’s choice. Any attacks made in this way have a +2 bonus to hit and +5 bonus per tier to any damage (+5 at heroic tier, +10 at paragon, +15 at epic). If the dominated condition is “save ends”, then the creature still makes a saving throw at the end of its turn to end the condition. If it fails the saving throw, it takes another free action at that point to move and use an at-will ability of the dominator’s choice with the appropriate bonuses. It can still take opportunity attacks and flank and does not grant combat advantage (basically, the domination only applies while it is taking its dominated action).
I’m always looking for other suggestions for cool house rules to make the game more fun, so if you have any that you like, please share them in the comments!

11 thoughts on “OnlineDM’s house rules – Part 1

  1. A friend of mine came up with an interesting houserule along the lines of forced movement. I always thought it was kind of wonky you could slam a creature into another and the other creature just sits there like “lol nope!” and doesn’t budge, so a house rule that results in a cascading push/pull effect (if you knock a creature into another, the other creature moves along the same path of the first on subsequent squares of forced movement) is something that I think is pretty cool.

    Another one is something I came up with when trying to make Milestones more significant (so that heroes in a story-based campaign would have a mechanical incentive to keep going). Needless to say it was a pretty experimental and comprehensive overhaul, but one of the aspects that went over best would be making action points a little more versatile. Sometimes you don’t want another action, you just want a little extra oomph on your awesome action, so taking previous iteration of action points’ concept (add a d6 to any roll) seemed to be something cool you could do with action points. Another concept I came up with is spending your action point to gain an additional out-of-turn action (sort of like if you had spent the point then readied an action using it).

    Hope those give you some inspiration as requested, and I will make sure to keep the ones you posted in mind in my campaigns!

  2. While the first two are interesting, i think the Dominate house rule is way overpowered, since it has the potential to give a lot of damage in one round, and ignores the possibility of the dominated creature having/being given a saving throw other than the end of turn one.

    Much prefer the Sly Flourish version, which i have used very successfully.

    • Thanks for sharing the Sly Flourish link – cool stuff! I’m confused when you say that the dominated alternative is overpowered, though; it’s pretty much what I wrote, except that Sly Flourish doesn’t grant a +2 to the attack. As I read what Mike Shea wrote, it looks like he also has the dominated creature immediately make the attack rather than waiting until its turn. And he still has the creature provoke opportunity attacks; I don’t. I’m not saying the Sly Flourish version is bad or anything like that, but I AM saying that it’s a similar power level.

      • Because you are giving it 2 move actions and 2 standard actions per round, against 1 action from normal dominate and one move action and one standard action (both limited) from the Sly Flourish; its true that it has a saving throw, but cannot take advantage of party cooperation, which can give it a better chance, through aditional saves between those two attacks.

        With that you give a larger range of effect than even the original version.

        Another point is that yours does not solve one of the main problems with dominate, as explained in the Sly Flourish article, which is player round denial (actually, you don’t say if that effect is limited to a single round; if not,the problems compound); the Sly Flourish version resolves the effect after the successful dominate attack exactly to avoid this.

        Regarding the issue of OA abuse over the dominated victim, the Sly Flourish avoids it by limiting the conditions on which it can happen (by making the nearest allies the only valid targets, which limits the distance it can move through, and thus the possible number of OAs).

      • After re-reading the post, I realize the effect only lasts for a round, but its still one round where the player cannot do anything other than play for the other team.

      • There’s some confusion here. Note that the beginning of my house rule says: “If an effect would dominate a creature, instead that creature takes a free action to move up to its speed (provoking no opportunity attacks along the way) and then use any at-will ability of the dominator’s choice against a target of the dominator’s choice.”

        This extra attack is INSTEAD of the normal dominate effect. When the dominated creature’s normal turn comes up in the initiative order, it does whatever it wants to do – it’s effectively not dominated. This is very similar to the Sly Flourish article.

        If it’s dominated for a turn, then the creature takes the dominated free action with the attack bonus immediately upon being hit with the dominate effect, after which there’s no more dominate effect. If it’s dominated “save ends” then the creature takes the dominated free action with the attack bonus immediately, then gets its normal turn, then makes a saving throw at the end of its turn. If it fails that saving throw, it gets another dominated free action with attack bonus.

        If an ally grants the creature a saving throw before its turn comes up and the creature saves, then the effect is over. If the creature fails the bonus save, nothing happens. It’s only a failure at the normal end of turn saving throw that triggers the next dominated attack.

        Sorry if I was unclear in my post; is there a better way I could word this to make it clearer?

      • Ha, ok, I misunderstood, now its clear, and also an interesting approach.

        In that context, I think that removing the ability to OA (and possibly grant CA) wouldnt be too much and really helps to pass the idea of a conflict of minds going on and the consequent strain to the PC.

  3. I try to give my players a little more heroic edge, to show that they can do stuff beyond the pale. To that end, I give them Karma points; 1 point for every critical scored in combat, 2 points for every ‘1’ rolled (combat or skils), and +1-4 points for good roleplaying, innovative ideas, etc.

    They can cash in 4 Karma points for A) a re-roll on any roll they just rolled, B) +2 to a roll they just rolled, C) avoid a failed death save roll.

    We also modified the Battle Standard of Healing into a ‘healing surge battery’. The current mechanic was just too distracting, especially for just 1hp. Instead, as a group, we decided that, during a short or extended rest, the PCs in the party could ‘store’ healing surges in the standard, to a maximum of the number PCs in the party. During an encounter, any PC within 5 squares of the standard could ‘withdraw’ a healing surge (at whatever their healing surge value was) as a standard action. At the end of an extended rest, any unused healing surges in the standard were lost.

    • Interesting. I have a somewhat similar mechanic to your Karma Points with my bonus points; I wouldn’t want to have to track whether a PC has saved up four or not, but I get the idea. I’m also not a fan of rewarding a PC for rolling a critical hit; the crit is its own reward. The consolation prize of some karma points for rolling a 1 is amusing, but probably not something I’d implement in my own games. Rewarding players for role-playing and creativity, though, is something I’m very much a fan of.

      I haven’t had the Battle Standard of Healing in my game so I can’t say whether it worked or not originally, but it sounds like you came up with a fun alternative for your table. Good for you!

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