I am currently running a house ruled Fourth Edition game. Following Zak, I have decided for ease of reference to call this internally the Nalfeshnee Hack. I started this game right when I got back into the hobby (in fact, one might say that this game was the reason I got back into the hobby, and online research for it is how I discovered the OSR). At the time I had very little conception of the differences between 4E and earlier systems; I just jumped in, becoming familiar with the system as we played. Now the game is established. We are 14 sessions in, I have 7 players (all coworkers), and we play in the company board room every Monday evening that a quorum is available. I’m going to stick with it even though in a perfect world I would probably choose something like B/X or LotFP.
How does the Nalfeshnee Hack differ from standard 4E? Here’s a quick summary:
- LotFP encumbrance rules (still easing this one in)
- B/X initiative: d6 per side
- The Big Purple D30 Rule
- Skills & languages can be selected during play
- No dragonborn (because they annoy me)
- 2E “Hovering on Death’s Door” rules
- Treasure, exploration, and monster XP
- B/X movement and time rules (for non-tactical situations)
- Firearms (identical to crossbows other than noise and form factor)
- 1 March 2012 edit: the luck throw
- 5 March 2012 edit: monster guidelines
I also have the following convenience rules because we don’t get very much time to play, and I also don’t know how these players might deal with interplayer conflict:
- The party should stay together
- No PvP
I have tended to choose the initiative system on a case by case basis. I originally tried using the official individual initiative system as specified in the 4E rulebooks, but I always end up feeling flustered in play when I use that. We’re slowly tending towards the B/X style of initiative as specified above. On the other hand, I do like the uncertainty involved in choosing an initiative system semi-arbitrarily.
I don’t think any of my players have taken advantage of the option to select skills & languages during play (this is a slight variation on the LotFP language rules). They are too accustomed to doing full “character builds” before the game starts. I will probably encourage this more directly the next time someone creates a new character.
The Fourth Edition PC death rules state that at 0 HP or fewer PCs are dying. At negative bloodied value (half of full HP), the character is dead. When in negative territory but not yet dead, a PC is unconscious and must make a “death saving throw” every turn (saves in Fourth Edition have very little relation to saving throws in previous editions; a save is a 55% success check unaffected by level, ability scores, or skills). Three “death saving throw” failures mean death, and a natural 20 on this check allows the PC to spend a healing surge and bounce back up. This system just seems clunky to me in play, and not dangerous enough. Hovering on Death’s Door (Second Edition Dungeon Master Guide page 75) has PCs unconscious at 0, dead at -10, and loosing 1 HP per round while in negative territory and not stabilized. Any cure spell restores the dying PC to consciousness at 1 HP.
If I were starting from scratch and using 4E again for some reason, I would also push for these rules:
- Chargen from Player’s Handbook only
- No use of the character builder
- No eladrin (having both elves and eladrin seems redundant)
In general, my players have been good sports regarding my experimentation and divergence from the rules as written, and for that I am thankful.
8 January 2012 edit: added image.