Dr. Dave’s Fourth Edition House Rules

Revised 10-15-04

No GM is happy with a game system until he has made changes to it. Here is my take on the 4th edition rules and what they "really should have done". These are the house rules that I feel pretty clear about using when I get around to switching my group over. Hope people either find them useful or at least that they inspire some thought. I look forward to comments on how to refine them…


Attribute Costs — I prefer non-linear attribute costs, similar to those in 3rd edition. Non-linear costs encourage more balanced characters. For example, if you have enough points in skills that it becomes cheaper to raise an attribute one level, then (if you have a linear cost) it will also be advantageous to just keep putting more points into that attribute until you run out. One could simply go back to the old 3rd edition costs but I think I will have IQ and DX cost twice what they did in 3rd edition, to match 4th edition prices at lower levels.

I also prefer to charge double when a character raises attributes after character creation. I think this mimics better how some people are born with more ability. I also think it make players define their characters better when they make them up (they have to decide how dexterous, smart, etc. they are, rather than attributes just being an abstract mechanic they can raise "when they get points").

I would strongly suggest that, even if you don’t agree with the need for both non-linear costs and doubling the cost for raising attributes after creation, one should use at least one or the other rule. Otherwise, you can have situations where not only is it most economical to dump points into a stat until you run out, but it keep being economical to dump earned points into the same attribute as you play that character. So a player is pushed to just keep dumping more and more points into that stat and ends up with one huge stat and not much else…

Sub-attributes (such as fatigue perception) could be purchased as listed (the same abilities had linear costs with non-linear attributes in 3rd edition) but I would buy them as limited forms of the attributes. (For example, buying Perception is basically buying IQ with the limitation, "for perception rolls only") The % age cost would be based on the cost of the sub-attribute compared to the main attribute it is based on. For example, Perception costs 5 points/level and is based off of IQ, so buying an extra level of Perception would cost 100 x 5/20 = 25% of what another level of IQ would cost. (ie. levels of Per are levels of IQ with a —75% limitation, "for perception rolls only"). Obviously, at character creation, you buy your attributes and then you buy your sub-attributes (at least mathematically). When you buy up an attribute after character creation, the easiest way is to take cost needed to raise the attribute a level, subtract the cost of any sub-attributes that have been raised independently, and pay the difference. This is probably done most simply by the percentage costs. For example, suppose you had HT 13, but had raised your fatigue to 14. Raising fatigue is 30% the cost of HT. So you would pay 70% to buy "the rest" of the level of HT that doesn’t apply to fatigue. Your base attribute then increases by one as does any sub-attribute who’s cost was not subtracted from the cost to raise the attribute. If you are using that rule, double the final cost for raising stats after creation.

Sub Attributes

Fatigue/Hit Points — In 3rd edition, fatigue was based on ST and hit points were based on HT. The arguments for switching the two never really convinced me. It also seems more intuitive to base fatigue and hit points on the stats they affect. For example, when you loose your hit points, you make rolls against HT to stay conscious and decide if you stay alive. So in my games I have switch them back so that fatigue is based on ST and hit points are based on HT.

Extra Fatigue - I find 3 points/level too cheap. It is just too useful in powering spells. In the old days (before this advantage existed) I’ve known players who were willing to pay 10 points/level. I have been charging 5 points/level, but I think I may compromise a bit and charge 4 points/level.


Magery — I think Magery 0 is too cheap. Yes, the logic that, if each +1 is worth 10 points then the basic properties of Magery must be worth 5 points, sounds nice. The bottom line is that if I compare the advantage to the other 5 point advantages, it seems clearly more useful (from absolute direction, to a +1 to perception, to a +1 to reaction rolls). I would make Magery 0 a 10 point advantage. One can then either just charge 5 points to go up to Magery 1 (which is what I will do) and 10 points for each additional level after that, or one could (partially on the grounds that IQ is now 20 points/level so making Magery a bit more expensive would match that increase) go ahead and charge 10 points for each level of Magery after Magery 0. (The thought of making Magery a limitation on IQ "for spells only", -50% has crossed my mind also.)

Combat Reflexes — I drop the +1 bonus to defenses and reduce the cost to 5 points. The main motivation for this is simply to lower defenses a wee bit and speed up combats a bit. Also, the better defenses of a trained fighter are already covered by getting a better parry from increased skill.

Size — Currently size gives a modifier to hit with missile weapons, but not in melee. However, my experience in mock combat, and analogy with hit location penalties (which are based at least partially on size) leads me to believe that negative size modifiers should apply to melee. (Though only to a point. Eventually, being bigger doesn’t make you easier to hit. If want to hit a truck or a barn, you aren’t going to miss because the target wasn’t big enough. Exactly where this occurs depends on the situation, but it is close enough to size modifier 0 that the simple rule, size modifiers can’t result in a positive to-hit modifier, works.) Currently, decreased size is currently a 0 point feature. The premise is that the advantages and disadvantages balance out (a premise I agree with). However, if you make small creatures harder to hit in melee also, then negative modifiers should be worth something. Others have suggested 5 points/level and I don’t know of any reason to gainsay that, though it will make small creatures expensive to play. I don’t really advocate either approach. If others try this and gain experience, let me know.

Other mechanics…

Blowthrough — Blowthrough (at least as it limits damage to characters) no longer exists in 4th edition. As a GM, for high-tech games, I found that rule useful in limiting PC mortality if things didn’t go as I expected.. For such games, a GM might limit any damage a PC can receive to HP x Wound Modifier.

Wounds — 4th Edition indicates that when you come conscious, after you go unconscious from being reduced to negative hit points, you can act normally. There needs, in my opinion, to be something to represent the state between being unconscious and being able to act normally. I will reinstate the rule from 3rd Edition where characters with negative hit points can crawl to safety, call out for help, but aren’t able to act normally.

Skills and Spells…

General — Since I don’t think that you can aim a staff well, while holding it out in front of you, using a staff doesn’t extend the range of melee spells. Because it is more interesting this way, getting rid of a missile spell isn’t automatic. If you drop it, it will damage the floor (if that matters). Also, you need to roll against your skill. If you critically fail, you hit yourself. And ordinary failure means you hit the floor someplace other than you intended.

Missile spells — A mage being able to throw 9d, or more, missile spells gives me quite a bit of pause for fantasy games, where 3d is a lot of damage. While I think this is OK for high-tech games, I will cap missile spell damage at 3d damage for fantasy games.

Deflection — In a fantasy game I would get rid of this spell (which raises defenses and makes it take longer to score a hit) to speed up combat.

From 3rd Edition — House rules I plan to carry over from 3rd Edition…

- When casting spells, the fatigue cost is reduced by 1 for every 5 points you roll under your based skill level.

- Reverse Missiles does not exist.

- Missile shield gives you 1 Pd/point of energy used.

- Invisibility is replaced with a bonus to stealth.