Ryan's Houserules

D & D mod : used in several campaigns with several player groups with great success.

What is the main difference between this and 4th edition D & D? Well, this system is very easy to understand without a lot of reading. Its also much more flexible when it comes to player choices of skills and actions. However, this system relies more on the imagination and creativity of the players than 4th edition; new powers and skills are not from a chart, but from what their characters had been doing (or aspiring to do) while they were out earning those experience points. Magic Items are another area that differs greatly: everyone can turn normal items into supernatural items through creative in game use and good dice rolls.

Bottom line: Just read through a few pages, and you will have mastered the entire ruleset! No more bothersome page flipping during play to figure out rule 23b. And combat? Its fast and furious, with simple yet satisfying mechanics. There is also a simple yet fun way to resolve blocks, dodges, and “power moves”.

Basic Ruleset: D20 system: Character Creation you roll 4d6 (take 3) for each stat. You are free to switch the stats around to your liking. The one exception is LUCK- that is 3d6 /no switching.
stat bonuses are as follows:

Ability Score Modifiers

3-5 6-7 8-9 10-12 13-15 16-17 18-19
-3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3

Often, if a skill does not apply then a player will be asked (or can volunteer) to make a stat check in order to facilitate a specific action that they would like their character to attempt.

STR: Melee combat bonus, grappling, feats of strength, breaking physical bonds/holds
INT: Arcane magic potential, logic, engineering, science, breaking mental bonds/ holds
WIS: Divine magic potential, memory, resistance to illusions and deception
CON: Endurance, ability to absorb damage and alcohol/poisons, resistance to catastrophic falls/
explosions/ disintegration, healing rate and recovery from exertion
DEX: Quickness, running ability, reaction time, dodge/block bonus
CHA: Presence, charm, wit, public speaking, haggling, ability to inspire others and leadership
MS: (mental strength): Toughness, resilience, will to survive, ability to resist extreme duress,
shock or torture without damage to Sanity (see SAN below).
LUCK: Who was it that got hit by the falling boulder? Which person did the uber dragon decide to
breath on? Whoops— did that alarm I accidentally triggered wake up the whole neighborhood or
just the nearest guards? All good examples of when a player might be asked to make a LUCK roll-
a special d20. The idea is to roll BELOW your luck score with a d20.

Hit Points: roll 1d10 per level. CON bonus applies, as do any skills if applicable.

Magic Points: roll 1d4 per level, once used a magic point is lost permanently. Magic points can be used to affect any magic/spell/ effect at any time. Examples include, but are not limited too: attempting to deflect an enemy fireball, trying to boost the range/power/ of one of your own spells or magic items, trying to alter a magical affect or zone in a specific way, trying to combine multiple spells into one, or adding to the power of a magic ritual.

Karma Points: 1 per level. Karma points can be used to force a reroll of any die roll, at any time. This can be a player roll, a DM roll, or a party members roll. The person spending the Karma point gets to physically make the reroll; the results of which are final (no choosing which to keep)

A few Derived Stats, that you don’t roll— they are calculated based on your stats above.

Sanity: MS * 5 = your characters starting Sanity score. Sanity comes into play when certain traumatic events occur. Being in the presence of an otherworldly being or dark ritual, having a character die and be resurrected, witnessing (or being the target) of certain horrible and or frightening acts, etc— are all examples of things that might require a player to roll a sanity check.

How does this work?

Lets say Capn Diefast has mental str of 17. That would make his Sanity = 85 to start. Somewhere along the way, Capn Diefast accidentally stumbles across a dark and horrible ritual going on, complete with extra dimensional entity. Such a horrible sight makes him shudder in revulsion so he rolls a d20 to make his saving throw— his high MS gives him a +3. The DM decided its a relatively low risk— all he needs to roll is a 7. He rolls a 2 ( _plus_ 3 for his MS bonus) = 5. He is rendered temporarily insane and runs shrieking from the area in terror. He failed his sanity check by 2, so his Sanity score is reduced 2 to 83. Sanity lower than 50 generally means a character is at risk of developing certain character traits. In general, the lower the sanity score, the easier it is to trigger the need for a sanity check (this simulates mental deterioration over time quite well). SAN below 10 means the character is barely holding their shit together. At 0, the character is retired to the sanitorium (or becomes an NPC) because they are no longer able to comprehend reality.

Speed: DEX * 5 = number of meters you can run in 10 seconds (one full melee round). What this means is that an Olympic Champion sprinter would have a DEX of 20 or so (world record 100 meter sprint is 9.58 seconds)

Mana: Used for casting spells. For arcane, Mana = INT * Level. For divine, Mana = WIS * Level. Casting a spell costs mana = (level of spell)^2. So, a 1st level spell costs 1 mana; 2nd level spell costs 4 mana; 3rd level spell is 9 mana, etc. In practice this means low level spells are easy to cast almost at will. It also provides a mechanism for energy to be taken/ imparted from one PC/ NPC to another through magic, actions, rituals, sacrifices, etc. A person’s mana doubles at the moment of death in this system (not that it does them any good, but that fact is the foundation to a lot of ritual magic). Sleep replenishes mana to full.

Saving throws: MAGIC, DEATH, POISON. 2 of those will be 14, one will be 7; players choice.

OK — SO FAR SO GOOD! You have rolled up your stats, and made a couple of quick calculations and you now know how fast you can run, how much mana you have for spells and how likely your character is to freak out when faced with trauma. Now its time to come up with your character concept, maybe a race and a name (if you dont already have those in mind by now). Feel free to draw inspiration from any gaming system, any movie or book you liked, or something else entirely. Dimensional portals do exist so unique and bizarre creatures or travelers are not unheard of. Players in various campaigns have run extremely entertaining characters based on such things as: Genetic experiment human/silverback Gorilla hybrid run amok, an alien Snakeman Monk, and a professional Beggar. Sci fi characters can be fun but challenging in a low tech high magic area, but make good scroungers or tinkerers. (NOTE: If you do go with a sci fi character, dont expect to see much high technology unless and until you make it to epic levels, aside from that which you might be able to create yourself with your parties help).

Choose 4 skills— 2 major skills, and 2 minor skills: Say you want to play a warrior type of character. A good major skill might be Weapon Specialization or Dodge, really any skill or FEAT that you might want for your character. Feel free to come up with something unique. Good examples of minor skills include- knowing a language, juggling, navigation, brewmastery, etc— really totally up to your imagination as well, but feel free to pull from a D&D rulebook. At each level after 1st, the PC gains 1 major and 1 minor skill (whenever possible these new skills should be based on the activities, failures or aspirations voiced by the character or party while that level was being earned).

How do skills work?

In general, a player is able to gain up to 5 levels of mastery in any given skill. Having one rank in a skill means you are learning it, and have a good grasp of the concepts involved. Having 5 ranks in a major skill means you are the master of that skill, no one is better at it than you. Game mechanics wise, every rank gives you a +1 to your roll, to a maximum of +5 at 5 ranks. Discuss with your DM and fellow players if you are unsure whether a specific skill idea would be closer to a major or minor skill.

OK, I have my stats, my skills, my hit points, and so on. Whats next?

Figure out how many actions you have. In general, its one action per level. You max out at ten actions, to fit into a ten second combat round. So a newbie might get in one good attack every ten seconds, while a seasoned warrior might be able to get in one attack (or block) per second. Certain skills, character classes, spells or situations might affect the total number of actions (haste being one example).

DICE ROLLING/ RESULTS OF PLAYER ACTIONS: the way to resolve what happens is very simple. Anything someone might want to do is considered an action. Movement, attacking, casting, talking, etc. Players each have so many actions to expend per round. If an action a player wants to attempt is deemed easy, then a 7 is needed on a d20. If the task is deemed difficult, it is considered a ‘called shot’ and a 14 is needed on a d20. The maximum bonus is +5 TOTAL (from stats, skill ranking, situational etc) and the maximum penalty is -5. Of course simple things like taking a bite from an apple, walking ten paces, etc require no roll and only take up time while in game.

What does this mean while I am playing? Any Character or NPC with 5 ranks in a skill attempting a simple task will succeed on anything but a 1 (2 + 5 ranks =7). A tough task, even for someone with 5 ranks, would still require a roll of 9 or higher on d20 (9 + 5 ranks =14). The trick to all this is that with the right plan, a second or third party member can apply their bonus to a specific die roll, which encourages party planning and teamwork to resolve combats quickly. This sounds hard but is actually easy:

Example of Bonuses in Combat: Mid Level Fighter Frank is skilled in dodging, blocking, and lots of combat styles. His comrades, Berta the Bard and Leah the Leprechaun dont do so well in the thick of melee. The problem is, they are trapped at the exit— a magic mouth refuses to let them pass until they tell it the password. Meanwhile, the goblin horde they ditched earlier has found their trail and is rounding the corner screaming for blood! The party heard them coming so they were prepared and automatically win the initiative. Berta and Leah decide to reserve half of their actions for dodging while they work on breaking the spell on the magic door. They dont have skills in dodging, but are skilled in various magics. The leprechaun uses one action to shrink down to fairy size, giving her a plus 5 to dodge and a minus 5 to attacks. The bard starts playing a distortion song on her lute, which gives a plus 3 to dodge in a 20 foot radius for friendlies. Frank declares he is using all of his actions to block the incoming attackers from hurting his comrades, while they try to figure out how to open the door and escape (frank is maxed out at plus 5 block and dodge) . The DM declares that half the goblins are hurling javelins, the other half charging into melee. DM rolls a fistful of d20s, one for each attacking javelin. Berta will dodge any attacks directed at her at plus 8 (plus 3 for her song and plus 5 from Frank’s blocking) while Leah will dodge any attacks at plus 10 (plus 5 for her shrinking spell and plus 5 from Frank’s blocks). A dodge or block is a direct counter roll, on a d20 rolled by the party affected. So, bottom line— be prepared to roll d20s 2 or 3 at a time. All the attacks are resolved first, and then Leah and Berta get to use their reserved actions to try and open that door!

2nd Example, Melee Charge: Instead of defending the party, Frank decides to attack the goblin horde rounding the corner! He gets some help from Leah, who casts giant growth on Frank and gives him an additional +3 to attack. The bard jumps in, singing a battle song for an additional +3 to attack. Now when Frank rolls his d20s for attacks, he is at +11! That means he can attempt to make called shots and make them on a 3 or higher! Frank decides to make a called shot as his first attack, and declares he wants to slam his now giant sized body sideways into the goblin front row, hoping for a bowling pin effect, followed by general melee attacks to any survivors. This is not a defined combat move, its just something that the player wants to try— and fits under the called shot category of actions. Frank rolls a d20… and depending on the roll his plan works or doesnt to various degrees. A natural 20 usually means the player gets to define the result of the action/ describe what happened (within reason and with DM veto power of course). Lets say Frank rolled a natural 20 for his charge… and so he announces to the party that the lead goblins are crushed under his giant limbs, and the other goblins are so demoralized that they need to make a morale check. The DM ponders a moment, then makes the morale check for the other horde members. He announces, “Failing the roll, the horde flees in terror— at least for 1d6 minutes! Frank, please roll a d6… while your fighter wipes the goblin goo from his beard”. This is what gives the party of heroes their advantage over their enemies, the ability to stack bonuses when roleplayed properly. And arch villains also use this ability, which sets them apart from run of the mill encounters or foes— they actually utilize their minions effectively.

Experience Points, Levels, etc:
It never made sense to me for XP to scale with level; each level is 1000 experience points regardless of character class. You earn XP based on the completion of tasks, good roleplaying, and appropriate use of skills. In general, something easy might earn 20 xp while something major could earn up to 1000 or more XP. I will usually give party exp at the end of a session, but players are allowed to give themselves ‘checks’ for successful skill checks if they are clever, roleplaying appropriate and advance the party’s objectives. Ten ‘checks’ equals one minor skill point, or 20 checks equals one major skill point. If the party has success, they will generally earn a level with one session. If the party makes a lot of mistakes or doesnt advance, they might not get any experience at all. Thats pretty much it in a nutshell.

Ryan's Houserules

On the Eyes of Midnight igornappovich