Sometimes you have an idea while you’re playing and you think: “Man, this would make a great house rule.” And then you suggest it to the table and they shoot it down as dumb or too complicated or just unnecessary. And in most cases their feedback was bang on the money. However, every once and a while an idea that’s shot down refuses to die. Even though your immediate peer group thinks it’s a bad idea you’re convinced that it has merit. It is with this in mind that I’m writing this, the first of what I hope will be a series of articles, about house rules in 4e D&D.
Let me lay down some ground rules. None of these ideas have been play-tested. These are just some random thoughts for a guy who’s been playing D&D for 20+ years. Some of my ideas may seem really out there, and that’s ok. The purpose of this series is to get other DMs and players thinking and talking about these ideas. I’m looking for brutal honesty. If you don’t think my new rules will work, let me know why. And if you think they’ll work better with a few tweaks then please share your ideas. In the end the whole point of this is to come up with new and creative ideas for making D&D more fun.
Once per gaming session each player at the table has one “Automatic Success” in the bank. At any point during the game you can choose to use your automatic success to accomplish whatever you’re attempting. You must declare your intent to use this before any dice are rolled. The result is never treated as a critical success.
Each time a PC uses his Automatic Success, the DM gets a re-roll that has to be used before the start of that players next turn.
My original thought was to give the DM an automatic success every time the PCs use one, but that could be detrimental to the party. This way the DM gets something and has a very limited time in which to use it. This will force PCs to give it some serious thought before they use this benefit.
During a skill challenge, a PC may opt to reverse a failure the party incurred earlier in the skill challenge. If successful, it will not count towards the number of overall successes required to overcome the skill challenge, but it will allow the party to get back one strike.
On your turn, you declare that your intention is to reverse a failure rather than earn a success. You then describe how you’re going to eliminate the strike. In social settings a failed Bluff or Diplomacy check may be reversed by using Intimidate on the PC who earned the failure, thereby gaining face in the eyes of the person you’re trying to impress. A failed Athletics check may be eliminated with an Endurance or Heal check made on the person who earned the failure.
Removing a failure should be reactionary and quick. Therefore, I’d deny any attempts to assist on these checks. Should there be a limit to the number of times a failure can be reversed? A difficulty 5 skill challenge would allow 5 opportunities to fix your mistakes, difficulty 4, 4 opportunities, etc.
Should a failure to reverse a failure count as another strike? Or should it be like a secondary skill check and count as neither a success nor failure?
What do you think of my first two proposals? Do these sound like house rules you might consider using in your game? We want your feedback.