Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arandish Campaign House Rules 2011

I wholeheartedly agree with James Maliszewski's reflection that despite what we DM's may invent or tinker around with in our own time, House Rules are really best developed in the course of game play.  Since the last revision of the Arandish Campaign House Rules in November 2010, I have looked back over those rules to weed out the ones we have literally never used at the table, and to generally bring those rules closer into line with what we've been doing in the actual game.  I already posted about the simplification of our alignment system; what follows is an overhaul / revision of the entire list of Arandish Campaign House Rules.  (Note: Newest and most dramatic changes: "Generating Attributes" and "Initiative.")

Arandish Campaign House Rules 2011

Generating Attributes
Attribute scores are generated by rolling 4d6, discarding the lowest die roll, and assigning the result to each attribute in order:  STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, and CHA.  [Note: The prior system, wherein the player orders the rolls in any way s/he chooses, is now reserved for first-time players only, i.e., players entering the campaign with their very first character.  All subsequent characters after the first will be rolled up using the new 4d6 in order rule.] 

As I have recently discussed, the Arandish Campaign actually uses the three-point Labyrinth Lord default alignment system (see LL p.14), consisting of Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic.

Chaotic: Inimical to civilization and social organization. Incapable of following orders and unlikely to put the needs of others (especially groups / nations) ahead of their own. Chaotic is the alignment of demons, Faerie, many mages, and all serial killers.

Lawful: The philosophical stance that civilization, regardless of how it is organized, is preferable to other alternatives. Will always privilege group processes and consensual decision making over rogue action. Lawful is the alignment of unicorns, devils, army personnel, most clerics, and all social workers.

Neutral: Neither fully committed to Law nor to Chaos; pragmatic. Many inflections are possible here: the Neutral character may be apathetic, invested in balance, leaning toward lawfulness, leaning toward chaos, or none of the above.

Neutral characters with lawful tendencies work well in groups, and will typically follow the orders of Lawful characters or characters whose ideas seem reasonably certain to benefit the group. Neutral characters who prefer Chaos have very little discipline, and only trust their own authority. They can work cooperatively but often undermine outside authority and resist falling in line with group decisions too easily.

Neutral is the alignment of the vast majority of dungeon delvers and adventurers.

Critical Hits and Fumbles
Any time a player rolls a natural ‘20’ on a to hit roll, it is a critical hit. Damage is doubled.
Likewise, if a player rolls a natural ‘1’ on a to hit roll, it is considered a critical failure or fumble. Typically, this means the combatant hurts himself, drops his weapon, breaks his weapon, or just plain falls down – Labyrinth Lord's discretion.

The optional encumbrance system in the Labyrinth Lord rulebook (p. 44) will be ignored; if how much a character is carrying becomes an issue, it will be dealt with intuitively.

Except in special circumstances, NO individual initiative is rolled (see LL p. 52), just initiative for each group, 1d6 rolled once per round as per LL p. 50.  [Changed at outset of Session 29, 2/21/11.] 

Item Saving Throws
YES, see LL p. 55.  [Note: we haven't used these yet.]

Ability Checks
YES, see LL p. 55.  [Note: we have, for the most part, been using simple d6 checks instead of d20 Ability checks thus far.]

YES, see LL p. 56. 

Multiple Chances to Detect Secret Doors
As James Raggi IV has written:

Apparently the Moldvay Basic and Labyrinth Lord state that a character gets only one try to find a secret door, and if that fails, pffft, tough shit! I have never played like that, and as I said was never aware that such a rule existed.

Doublechecking yesterday morning to make sure I haven't been playing wrong for a quarter of a century, I did confirm that OD&D, Holmes Basic, Mentzer Basic, AD&D, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry do not have this "one try only" language in the rules for secret doors.

I'm truly flabbergasted that a game that so features exploration as a primary activity would have such a limitation. To me, secret doors are time sinks, and if a party wants to take the time to make an extra check (or five) at the cost of a turn each, running down their light sources and risking wandering monsters, that's great!

I agree with Mr. Raggi and hereby waive the "one try only" rule as printed in LL.

Shields Shall Be Splintered! 
This brilliant set of concepts originates with Trollsmyth, but I like this nice encapsulation by David Larkins at The RPG Corner, from whom I horked many of my own best house rules.  Here's the rule:

Shields provide the usual +1 bonus to AC. However, they may also be used to "soak" damage from a single attack, thereby reducing damage to zero. Soaking damage destroys the shield.

Shields may also be used against any attack that allows a save for half damage, such as a fireball or dragon's breath. In that case, the shield is destroyed, as above, and the save is considered automatically successful, thereby guaranteeing half damage.

For magical shields, each +1 enchantment bonus gives a 10% chance of surviving a damage soak.

The D30 Rule
Once per session each player may opt to roll the referee’s d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the d30 must be made before any actual rolling has occurred. The d30 cannot be rolled for generating character statistics or hit points. [Thanks to Jeff Rients.]

Awarding Experience Points
Experience points are gained from two sources, treasure and monsters. Characters only gain XP from treasure of a non-magical nature, at a rate of 1 XP per 1 gp value of the item.  As James Raggi has discussed, this only counts treasure/money gained during adventuring, NOT from opening a profitable inn or becoming a ruler and taxing one's subjects. All defeated monsters (either outsmarted or killed), grant XP based on how powerful they are (see LL p. 49).

House Rules available as pdf here.

See also this post about the Arandish Entourage Approach to Retainers.


  1. Critical hits: Do you multiply the normal die roll x2 or do you mean that the number of damage dice rolled is doubled?

  2. Multiply normal damage die roll x2. I have toyed with other options, such as critical hit = max damage, but the players generally want to keep the old stsndby: double the rolled damage.

  3. I use 4d6 in order and I feel it works very, very well. You get enough decent scores to keep the player whining down, while making them stretch and go for class or character options they might not otherwise take.

    Plus CHA finally gets some love.