House Rules

House Rules

As with everybody else, I house rule the hell out of my campaigns. Some changes are for the sake of simplicity, others for playability, and some to bring the rules closer to reality. Whatever the case, here’s how my rules are different from the base 3.5 ruleset.

Fudge Points

This is the biggest house rule I run, and I certainly think the most fun. Fudge points are essentially a way to break the rules, within the rules, to make for a better story. DMs already have this ability when running games (to break the rules for the sake of better story-telling), I’m just putting some of that in the players’ hands.

Every player character starts play with 5 fudge points, and is awarded five points at every new character level. I also will occasionally award fudge points at the end of a session along with ad hoc XP. The basic use of a fudge point is simple – it allows you to re-roll a d20 roll if you don’t like what you first rolled. This second roll is then made with a +10 bonus.

Obviously, there are some caveats. First, you may only use one fudge point in a given circumstance – no chaining multiple points if you don’t like the second roll. Also, you must decide to use a fudge point before the results of your roll are revealed.

In addition to the basic use of fudge points, they have several secondary uses. These uses are:

  • Saving a spell slot: By spending 2 fudge points when casting a spell, you may avoid spending that spell slot. If it was a prepared spell, you are treated as still having it memorized. If it was a spontaneous casting, you essentially cast the spell for free. Note that you must spend the points as you declare that you are casting the spell, before any results or checks (including Concentration checks) are rolled.
  • Using a feat you don’t have: By spending 2 fudge points, you may gain for one round the benefits of a feat that you don’t actually posses. You must still meet all of the prerequisites for the feat, any prerequisite that you do not meet costs 1 additional fudge point to meet. The benefits of the feat end at the beginning of your next turn.
  • Additional daily uses: Any ability, item, etc. that has a number of uses expressed in X/day format can be activated through fudge points without spending a daily use. The cost depends on how many times in a day it can normally be activated. If 1/day, it costs 5 fudge points, 2/day is 4 points, 3/day is 3 points, anything more frequent is 2 points.

Crafting Points

I hate spending exp to create magic items. It seems extremely counter-productive, as you spend all this time adventuring to get experience and gold, to spend both just to make a few wands, scrolls, etc? There’s a reason most PCs rarely spend time crafting items. To combat this, I give my players a reserve of crafting points which can be spent 1:1 for XP when crafting magic items. This is also important to note regarding my other house rule about cooperative item crafting, below.

At every level, you gain a number of crafting points equal to your level times 40. In other words, 40 at 1st level, 80 at 2nd, etc. Crafting points are given retroactively to new characters, such that if you had a new character starting at 7th level, they would begin play with 1,120 crafting points.

Cooperative Item Crafting

Some magic items need insanely specialized prerequisites to create. What are the chances that a caster with the Craft Arms and Armor feat is also going to have the Power Attack and Improved Sunder feats? Those are the three feat prerequisites for the Shatterspike though (one of the magic weapons in the SRD). These sorts of contradictory prerequisites are never properly accounted for in the item’s price. Instead, I figure that you can simply have multiple people involved in the crafting, from start to finish, making it a collaborative effort.

When multiple people are involved in the item crafting, every individual must be present for all of the time involved in the creation. Typically this is 1 day for every 1,000gp (or fraction thereof) in the base price, 8 hours per day. Unlike the official rules for collaborative creation, not every individual must supply all of the prerequisites. Feats, spells, etc. can be accounted for as long as at least one person involved meets that prerequisite. The XP cost is split equally among all participants, with any remainder going to the person(s) with the relevant item creation feat. Note, however, that crafting points may be spent to cover the XP cost before or after it is spread to all participants (or both before and after).


I’ve made some changes to the way certain skills work, sometimes adding new functions and other times removing the skill entirely. Here’s the changes.

Disable Device / Open Lock

Open Lock is gone, rolled into the functionality of Disable Device. There is no reason to have two skills that do the exact same thing, but one of them is only useful on locks whereas the other can be used on all sorts of mechanical devices. The checks and DCs remain the same, just that only one skill has to be leveled. Any class that had either skill as a class skill now has Disable Device as a class skill.

Martial Lore

From the Tome of Battle, this was essentially the Spellcraft of that system. It’s practically useless if you’re not facing another character from that source though, so I expanded its functionality some. Now, with a successful Martial Lore check, you can gain insight into someone’s defenses by watching how they respond to an attack. Whenever a target in clear sight is attacked with a normal physical attack or by a martial maneuver, you may make a Martial Lore check as a free action. The DC of this check is 10 + target’s CR. If successful, you learn the target’s AC against that attack. If you beat the DC by 5 or more, you also learn of any special defenses (damage reduction, energy resistance, etc.) that applied to that attack. If you beat the DC by 10 or more, you gain full knowledge of the creature’s defensive capabilities against physical attack (all its AC values, any DR it has and what bypasses it, etc). A lot can be learned of an opponent by studying the way he guards against attacks. Note that Martial Lore still does not provide any special insight into a creature’s attack capabilities, just its defenses.

Passive Listen / Spot Checks

Borrowing from 4th edition’s idea of passive checks, I’ve figured out the math to assign every character passive Listen and Spot checks. This lets me know what a character would see or hear when they’re not actively paying attention, so that I don’t have to constantly call for checks or be rolling lots of dice myself. Without going into the math involved a character’s passive Listen or Spot check is 5 + skill modifier (i.e. if you have a +7 to Spot, your passive Spot is 12).

Use Magic Device / Use Psionic Device

I don’t have full transparency in the 12 Worlds between magic and psionics, but neither are they completely separate. Instead, if using UMD for a psionic item (or UPD for a magic item), the DC is increased by 10 to represent the challenge of using an unfamiliar item. The skills in all other ways function normally.

Cohort Experience

Because my party does have someone with the Leadership feat, we’ve had to explore how experience for cohorts works. Here I’ve borrowed from Pathfinder as I like their system. Simply stated, a cohort gains experience based on the main PC’s experience, at a proportional rate. For example, if the PC were level 10 and the cohort level 6, the cohort gains 6/10 (60%) of the experience awarded to the PC. The PC’s experience is totaled first, in case that becomes an issue with maximum cohort level.


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House Rules

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