View Full Version : Help with a houserule?

2007-11-28, 06:50 AM
Hey all.

I'm about to start DMing a campaign this week. It's a heavily homebrewed setup. There's this whole thing about dreams and magic and all that fantasy jazz.

While asleep (only in IC terms, hopefully), the players can go romp around dreamscapes and slay dragons and do other heroic activities.

While awake, the players are supposed to be occupied by unraveling this convoluted mysterious conspiracy plot I cooked up; and occasionally run away screaming from the BBEG who's, at least in the 'real' world, capable of eating them alive.

A big theme in the game is that it's a stupid idea to try and fight the bad guys face to face so you'd be better off by going Freddy Krueger and killing them in their dreams.

I don't want to just make everyone else more powerful than the PCs, but I need to get the message across that combat in the 'real world' is risky business.

What I came up with was a variant on massive damage that makes fights in the regular universe short, high stakes, and extremely one sided in favor of the person who strikes first. It applies to everyone, so it's not like the baddies are getting godhax, but (or at least I'm hoping) the players aren't going to want to gamble with their lives unnecessarily. The rule doesn't apply to the dreamworld, so the plan is, it makes fighting while awake even more unappealing since you can have the same fight in an environment where you stand a much better chance of walking away from a fight that didn't go your way.

Anyways I've read a couple threads about how poorly implemented house rules can scare off players, so I figured I would ask for a little proofreading before I show this to the group.

Thoughts on this?

"Massive Damage" is really a misnomer in this case; it's a relative term for the amount of abuse the human body can take at once before becoming overwhelmed. . Massive damage can actually be a very small injury if you're severely injured or simply physically unfit.

Massive damage checks are triggered whenever you lose more than a third of your *CURRENT* HP at once. It's the sudden shock that does you in, not the actual wound. If a character has 15 HP and gets hit for more than 5 damage from one action, the player (or DM if it's an NPC) must make a massive damage check.

A character who succeeds the check can continue to fight as normal. A character who fails the massive damage check goes into shock from the stress of the wound. That character immediately falls to -1 HP and is unconscious.

Massive damage checks work as follows:

d20+Fortitude Save vs. DC. DC= 5+the attacking weapon or spell's d type

A shortsword deals 1d6 damage, so an MD check caused by a shortsword would would have a DC of 11.

A revolver deals 2d4 damage, so an MD check caused by a revolver would would have a DC of 13.

A reversed Lesser Word of Nurturing deals 2d6 damage, so an MD check caused by a LWoN would have a DC of 17.

Critical hits do not effect the outcome of a MD check.

If Power Attack is used to cause massive damage, its bonus can be added to the DC of the massive damage check. The bonus from Power Attack cannot exceed your character's strength bonus.

If Sneak Attack or Skirmish is used to cause massive damage, the player can add the bonus (the result of the dice rolled) to the massive damage check DC.

If a Swashbuckler's Insightful Strike ability is used to trigger the massive damage check, the check's DC is increased by the Swashbuckler's intelligence bonus x 2

A magic user wanting to increase the MD DC of his/her attacks is advised to look into the Empower line of metamagic feats.

The feat "Toughness" now also gives a +3 to saves against MD, in addition to its regular bonuses. Like before, you can take Toughness multiple time and its effects will stack.

Killing people is inherently lethal, yo. For better or for worse, if you're fighting while awake, expect combatants to start dropping like flies after the first couple rounds of combat. This is also the reason why most of the fighting, by both the good guys and the bad guys, is being done by proxy in dreamworlds: It's simply a safer way to harass and harm your enemies.


2007-11-28, 07:02 AM
Good/bad I think, I like the way you've made toughness better in regard to your house rule. It's a tad confusing at first glance, but easies up after focusing more. The power attack not exceeding strength...not sure if I like that bit, but, what I'd do would be to put the rule to the players, ask them what they think, explain that it works both ways, etc. Say that you're in favour of it, but it's down to the players to decide. Prefurably tell them a few days before the game, and, even better, write it out for them. Before the game starts, ask them what they thought of it, and if it's fine with them for implemting it.

2007-11-28, 07:20 AM
Well my train of thought was that the power attackers would probably have a greatsword or similar powerful twohander, which gives a +12 to the DC just by being a big weapon. It was to prevent barbarians and what-not from going nuts and hitting people with 30DC save-or-lose damage checks.

But under further consideration yeah, the str cap doesn't scale well--and save-or-lose was the whole point of the house rule.

2007-11-28, 08:27 AM
I'm not sure on how well the mechanical aspect of the rule will work out, but I absolutely love the underlying concept of your campaign.

Rather than using a variant of the death by massive damage rule to accomplish hyper-lethal combat, I'd actually recommend an across the board reduction in HP. I'd say... everyone gets their Con bonus + their character level for HP. That way, early on in the campaign, one hit is going to mean defeat, but at higher level they might survive two or three hits max. This would also have the advantage of not requiring people to roll saves all the time.

2007-11-28, 08:40 AM
Oh, I adore your campaign idea. Very interesting, indeed.

For the rules itself..
You may wish to better lay out and define what the "types" are for the DCs. Knowing those would be easier for critique.
You may wish to better define the "goes to -1 and unconscious." given that I don't think shock puts you into dying state immediately. So "goes to -1 and is unconscious but stable." might be better.

Also, creating a quick table for when players don't want to do math can be very handy. Trust me, there will always be players who don't want to do math.
{table=head]HP Before Damaged|Damage Taken

2007-11-28, 10:30 AM
Cool idea.

There are a ton of systems/houserules already written out for more realistic deadly combat, where whoever gets the first good shot in is probably the winner. You might try searching the boards, especially homebrew.

Your system seems extremely clunky and convoluted. Way too many things to keep track of for something that is supposed to make combat simpler and more deadly.

Azerian Kelimon
2007-11-28, 10:33 AM
Hmm...how would Improved toughess work with this MD system? Giving you a +1 to the MD save per HD?

2007-11-28, 11:06 AM
I don't think the biggest problem will be with the houserule itself, but in the communication of the "real world" dangers to the players. You don't want them having to reroll a character in the first session. I would suggest giving them some examples through roleplay. Give them an Obi-Wan at the beginning - maybe several. This person or persons are obviously much more powerful than the players, but get killed unceremoniously when they lose initiative to something that's obviously not quite as powerful as they are. This will (hopefully) instill a certain amount of fear and respect: they've been warned.

2007-11-28, 12:06 PM
Just a thought, but why don't you just remove magical healing in the real world? That would make combat more deadly.

2007-11-28, 12:23 PM
Across the board reduction of HP while awake would seem easiest..
Say all characters HP are halved while awake.

you could also try the route of having two seperate stats for each plane of existance.

Awake:each stat roll is best 6 rolls out of eight X 2D6
Dreamscape is normal stat rolls

this would drive home that it is in the dreamworld where they are the heros

2007-11-28, 12:41 PM
Personally, I like the remove/reduce magical healing idea more. At the least you could change magical healing to something impractical in the middle of a battle, say increasing the casting times of all healing spells, or requiring the recipient to rest for a few minutes to receive full effect.

The massive damage mod seems like an ok idea. I think it would make combat extremely lethal as written. One thing is you might have the threshold modified by con, as in d20 modern, I always liked that.

2007-11-28, 01:13 PM
I think just a flat DC for save against Massive damage, while simple, would work just as well. The other factors take care of how much damage is done, and will simply result in min/maxing. A straight, DC20 means they will usually pass, but if they roll that die too many times, they are bound to fail eventually.

As to lowered HP, I have used this system, and it worked pretty well. Base HP = Con. Each level, characters add maximum HP for class/10. So, a wizard gets .4 HP per level (and, since decimal values aren't relevant, won't get a full HP until level 3). This does mean that people start putting really good scores into Con where they might have used it as a dump stat, but relatively little cheese.

Ah, and Toughness now adds 1 HP each time you take it.

Just some thoughts.

2007-11-29, 02:27 AM
Thanks for the responses, everyone. The Obi-Wan idea was especially cool. I have a mook that has to die to advance the plot anyways, and I was wondering what I was going to with him.

Ultimately I don't think applying a flat reduction to HP or healing would really mesh well with the campaign. It's meant to be an emphasis on the offensive rather than just making defense weaker.

Here's my revised description. I think it's easier to read. I figure I'll use this to introduce the players to the concept and then explain the mechanics while playing:

If you hit a target for more than a third of its current HP, the target must make a fortitude save to see if it can continue fighting after being dealt such a grievous wound.

The DC is determined by the weapon or spell used: An attack with a great axe will result in a higher DC than an attack with a dagger; casting a fireball will result in a higher DC than casting magic missile. Any ability that adds bonus damage to an attack, such as Sneak Attack for example, can also give its bonus to the DC of the fortitude save.

A creature that fails its save against massive damage immediately falls unconscious and its HP drops to -1.

The Toughness feat, in addition to its normal effect, now also gives a bonus to saves against massive damage.