Monday, May 3, 2010

House Rule Additions & Modifications

I’ve been using Trollsmyth’s “Shields Shall Be Splintered” house rule since the start of the Watchfires & Thrones campaign with great success. Seeing as how Ian from Swashbuckler’s Hideout took the time to present his own take on the “using a shield to save your bacon” rule, I thought I’d chime in briefly with my own modified version of Trollsmyth’s house rule.

In my game, in order to use a shield to absorb the damage intended for your character, you need to make a successful save vs. death. I realize that this gives the clerics and the dwarf a slightly higher probability of success than the fighters, but I wanted something that was easy to remember and, since the shield splinter rule is most often used to avoid dying, this seemed like the best category. If push comes to shove and an explanation is required, I’ll just say that the gods look out for their own and, with the short stature and inhuman fighting techniques, dwarves are plain harder to hit sometimes.

I introduced the need for a saving throw because in Trollsmyth’s original version (whether it may have changed since inception, I do not know), using a shield to save your hide was a matter of simply saying so and I wanted there to be an element of chance involved in order to keep the players on their toes. That’s merely my own bias. So far we haven’t had to use the rule to avoid spell-inflicted damage. I’m curious to see how I’ll end up using this rule once that occurs.

I did have to make an on-the-fly ruling regarding this permutation during the third game session, one which so far seems to work fine. When one of the PCs was attacked by killer frogs and reduced to his last hit point, he attempted to block one of the frog’s two successful attacks. He rolled a natural 20 on his saving throw vs. death, which I ruled meant that the shield was able to take the blow and remained intact. Then, unbelievably, he invoked this rule to attempt to block the second attack and rolled another natural 20! I again ruled that the shield survived the attack and he remained unscathed by the blow. I could have stated that the shield, already weakened by the first strike, broke regardless of the 20, but I’d rather reward everyone with a really cool game memory, which is exactly what has seemed to occur. Conversely, in our most recent session, another character attempted to block a blow with his shield and rolled a 1. I took this to mean that the attack was so powerful that it not only splintered his shield but carried past to damage him despite his efforts to turn the blow.


Ragnorakk said...

Are 20's and 1's used as critical/fumbles on to hit rolls in your game also? I do like the idea of including the save vs death saving roll for the shield rule. I might be tempted to let fighter add their level to the roll too...

Michael Curtis said...

I'm actually not a huge fan of natural 20s and 1s having an effect on combat, preferring to leave them to special magical items like swords of sharpness, etc. But, since my opinion is just one out of eight at the table, I put it to a vote during our second session when the first natural 20 was rolled. The options presented were:

A) Nothing special occurs on a "20"
B) Maximum damage is done.
C) x2 damge is inflicted.
D) "Instant Death" rule from EotPT: Double damage plus opponent is slain if a 19 or 20 is rolled on a second d20.

The players decided to go with option C) -- with the caveat that the monsters get this bonus to. Since then, at least one PC in recent memory has died by natural 20. Perhaps a revote is in the near future?

As for fumbles, I hate, hate, hate them for several reasons, but, since they've become such a staple to D&D campaigns over the years, I feel I'm obligated to include them. However, I mitigate the chances of them occuring by using the inverse of the Instant Death rule above: On a roll of a 1, a second d20 is rolled. If that comes up a 1 or 2, something bad MAY occur. I then usually have the PC roll a save vs. wands (which stands in for a luck roll), and if they fail that, I decree what has happened based on the situation. I don't have a fumble chart.

trollsmyth said...

I pretty much still play it as it appears on my blog. I've codified that "sacrificing" a magical shield eats the magical bonuses before shattering and that repairing them requires epic quest-like things.

I've also added the rowen shields that can be used to block a single spell of almost any sort before shattering. (More details can be read in the 2nd issue of Fight On! /blatant plug ;) )

Part of the point of these for me was to reduce dice-rolling. Generally, the shield is sacrificed before the damage roll or before saving throws associated with a successful attack (giant spider venom and the like). This is important to me because I mostly play in text chat and everything takes longer in text chat. YMMV, and the rule is simple enough that it can be woven into pretty much any house-ruled combat system. I consider this one of its strengths. I have, for instance, heard of someone requiring a successful attack roll vs. an AC equal to the attackers level or HD to use the shield. (Obviously, they're using ascending AC, but it wouldn't be that hard to adjust for descending.) This means fighters and the like get the biggest benefit from them.