BX House Rules

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’ll be a player (for the first time in a decade!) in a B/X campaign starting in a week or two. Although I (really, really) look forward to being on the other side of the screen– as well as playing and edition that I love– I just can’t help myself…

I must tinker.

So, I suggested incorporating a couple rules. They’re posted below. Let me know what you think!




PROBLEM: The “Advantage Mechanic” of 5th Edition is totally and completely fucking awesome, but isn’t in B/X, even though it totally could be.

PROPOSAL: The DM periodically gives advantage and disadvantage to individual rolls based on role-playing and game circumstances. It can apply to any type of roll in any manner the DM sees fit. It is solely at the DMs discretion, and there is no mechanic for PCs to “force” advantage or disadvantage.



PROBLEM: Compared to the other classes, Fighters are woefully underpowered. Why ever play a fighter, unless your scores are too low for anything else? A high enough Strength can qualify you as a Halfling or an Elf, giving you racial abilities. A high enough Wisdom can make you a cleric—a fighter who can buff and heal beginning at 2nd level.

PROPOSAL: Give the fighter class some extra Combat and/or Exploration abilities. Here are a couple ideas…

1. A permanent +1 bonus to hit and +1 to damage with all melee OR ranged weapons OR one particular weapon.

2. One additional attack per five levels. (Level-5 Fighter gets two attacks per round.)

3. A +1 bonus to all attempts to force open or break down doors.

4. Can Explore for eleven turns before needing one turn of rest. (Normally a 5:1 ratio.) This would allow the fighter to search, guard, whatever while the rest of the group has to catch their breath.

5. Can “Forced March” two days in a row before needing one day of rest. (Normally a 1:1 ratio.) If you march fast for one day and then rest for one day, you pretty much break even. There’s no point. But military conditioning, etc, allows the fighter to hump a pack for twice as long as a normal character. With this rule, an army (or band of fighters) executing a forced march gets to the battlefield early, but is fatigued unless it gets to rest


3. D6 Thief Skills

PROBLEM: Percentage-based Thief and Halfling skills are stupid. It’s a tacked-on mechanic that overlaps with (but is resolved differently than) other movement and exploration mechanics. This is best illustrated by the Halfling ability to Hide in Brush (10%) or hide in normal light underground (1-2 on 1d6!!), with the mechanic to do the same thing changing based on location!

And the thief skill set overall is woefully underpowered. Every thief in the game is amazing at climbing and shit at everything else. Why does a professional thief fail 85% of the time at doing his basic job duties? Also, there’s no player choice: every skill advances at the same rate. And why the hell do you need two skills (Hide in Shadows, Move Silently) to do roughly the same thing?

PROPOSAL: Rewrite the Thief skill mechanic to align it with all of the other exploration actions. Allow for some measure of choice in their development. Keep progression slow and difficult, because the thief advances in level very fast with no limits, but give them the opportunity to specialize in one or two skills at the cost of others.

  • Replace the existing skill list with the following six skills:
    Climb (as normal)
    Filch (pick pockets, sleight of hand, etc.)
    Find (secret doors, traps, hidden treasure, etc.)
    Listen (as normal)
    Sneak (as hide in shadows + move silently, sets up backstab)
    Unlock/Disarm (open locks + find/remove traps)
  • Instead of a percentage, each skill is recorded as a “roll range” for a 1d6 roll. This corresponds to the way to the rules already adjudicate exploring!
  • All PCs can “listen at a door”, succeeding on a roll of 1, or 1-2 if a demihuman. Why roll percentage for the thief and 1d6 for the elf when they listen at the same door? Why not just roll 2d6 to see if either of them hears something?
  • All PCs can “find secret doors or traps” on a roll of 1, with elves and dwarves finding their respective affinities on a roll of 1-2. Again, why is everyone but the thief rolling d6s? And why does the Thief only have a 10% chance to find a trap? THAT’s WORSE THAN 1-in-6!!
  • Set the starting scores for Thieves as comparable to a normal person. I recommend the following: Climb 1-2, Filch 1, Find 1, Listen 1, Sneak 1, and Unlock/Disarm 0.
  • Starting characters get one “point” to add to the range of any skill; e.g. Sneak goes from 1 on a 1d6 to 1-2 on a 1d6.
  • The “max roll range” for our Thieves can either be 1-5 or 1-6. Since (I assume) the DM will apply situational modifiers to more difficult locks or more slippery walls or whatever, you might not even need a maximum, even with the 1d6 cap.
  • With a max of 5 and the starting base scores (+1 for first level), a thief will have to advance 23 levels to “max out” all of his skills. Slow enough progression for you, sir?
  • Starting thieves with the Dexterity prime requisite of 13-15 gain +1 skill point at first level. Those with Dexterity of 16+ gain +2 skill points. Therefore, a level-1 thief with Dex 17 starts by assigning +3 total points (1 for first level, 2 for prime requisite).
  • Advantage (or Disadvantage) lets the player roll MULTIPLE D6s FOR THE SKILL CHECK!! Imagine the hijinks!
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