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BECMI / RC House Rules

by Craig Antoun

Spellcasters I use a fair number of house rules for my Classic D&D campaign. Many come from Mr. Reaper's Rules Cyclopedia Errata and Companion Document (a thing of beauty, I tell ya!), and some I've made up myself or appropriated from information sources around the Internet.

I don't think I could list all my house rules, as it would take a while, but here are some of the major ones.

Ability Score Adjustments & Spellcasters

Spellcasters with high or low Prime Requisites ability scores are able to cast slightly stronger, or in some cases weaker, spells. For each PR ability score bonus or penalty, the saving throw (if any) of the target of the spell is modified.

For example, a magic-user with an Intelligence score of 16 has a +2 ability bonus. All targets of her spells that grant a saving throw must be made at a -2 penalty. Likewise, if the same magic-user’s Intelligence was lowered to 8 (a -1 ability penalty) due to a curse, poison, or the like, then the targets of her spells that grant saving throws would be made at a +1 bonus.

These bonuses/penalties only apply to spells that allow a saving throw, and can only grant a maximum penalty of -3 or maximum bonus of +3 based on the appropriate PR ability score. Monster spellcasters are also subject to these modifiers. Spells cast from scrolls are not affected by this rule.

This rule allows for variations in spellcasters so that they are not all alike. Thus, the spells of an 18 Wisdom cleric will be slightly more powerful than those of a cleric with 14 Wisdom.

Thief Class

Ability Bonus or Penalty Adjustments to Thief Abilities
Each Thief ability is governed by an Ability Score (as listed below). Add or subtract to each Thief ability the relevant ability score modifier multiplied by five (i.e. +1 gives +5%, +2 gives +10%, and so on). Remember, low ability scores will adversely affect Thief abilities as well.

Thief Abilities Ability Score
Open Locks INT
Find Traps INT
Remove Traps INT
Climb Walls DEX
Move Silently DEX
Hide In Shadows DEX
Pick Pockets DEX
Hear Noise WIS

At 10th level thieves normally gain the special ability to cast magic-user spells from scrolls. Thieves may now choose between gaining the ability to read magic-user scrolls or sniping. Sniping is a ranged attack at a surprised target within 30 feet (yards outdoors) that gains the backstab to hit and double damage. As with backstab, the thief must remain unseen before delivering the attack to gain the benefit.

*This excellent house rule borrowed from ken-do-nim.

Thieves are normally restricted to using one-handed melee weapons. However, staves, although two-handed, are allowable.


Strength and Encumbrance
A character’s Strength score can affect how much encumbrance they can carry. See the table below.

STR Carrying Capacity
3 -300 cn
4-5 -200 cn
6-8 -100 cn
9-12 No adjustment
13-15 +100 cn
16-17 +200 cn
18 +300 cn

Just add the bonus or penalty to the Encumbrance level for each movement category found on the Character Movement Rates and Encumbrance Table on page 88 of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. For example, a character with 16 STR can carry 200 cn more for each Encumbrance level, so he can carry up to 600 cn and still move 120’ per Turn as opposed to a maximum of 400 cn for a character with a STR of 9 to 12.

Weapon Mastery

To deflect an attack that has struck, the target must make an opposing attack roll. If he hits the same or better armor class than the attacker did, he has successfully deflected the attack. If the opposing attack roll fails to hit the same or better armor class that the attacker rolled, then the deflect fails and the attacker may roll damage. Deflect may be used against hand-to-hand and thrown missile attacks.


Combat Round*
I. During the Statement of Intent phase of combat, players may declare their characters’ action and target (if any). At this stage they do not know the enemies’ actions.
II. The DM declares enemy actions.
III. Players who have not yet declared an action must now declare. They take a -1 initiative penalty, but can react to enemy actions, which they have waited to see.

*Borrowed in part from Blacky Blackball's Dark Dungeons.

Shooting or Throwing into a Melee
If a character shoots or throws a ranged weapon at a target engaged in melee with a friendly character, the attacking character takes a penalty based on how obscured the target is by other combatants: -2 for 25% cover, -3 for 50% cover, and -4 for 75% cover. If the hit roll misses by an amount equal to the cover modifier or less, than the cover (i.e. the “covering” combatant) was hit. If the hit roll was high enough to strike the covering combatant’s armor class (not counting Dexterity or shield bonuses), then that character takes damage.

If the attacker’s target (or part of the target the attacker is aiming at, if it’s a big target) is at least 10 feet away from the nearest friendly character, the attacker can avoid any penalties, even if the creature the attacker is aiming at is engaged with a friendly character.

Most combatants can make a melee attack on any foe in their front or flank spaces that is within 5 feet of them. Polearms and poleaxes can reach foes between 5 and 10 feet away, but not closer. Pikes can reach foes between 10 and 15 feet away, but not closer. Large-size monsters can reach foes up to 10 feet away with their natural attacks. Large-size monsters 15 feet or over in height or length can reach foes up to 15 feet or their height (whichever is larger) away with their natural attacks.

*This rule is from Mr. Reaper's Rules Cyclopedia Errata and Companion Document.

Special Attacks

Energy Drain
Character struck by an energy drain attack are allowed a saving throw vs. death ray to avoid the long term affects of the drain. The saving throw is penalized based on the HD (not level) of the creature utilizing the energy drain attack. If the attacking creature has a double energy drain attack, the character must make a saving throw versus each energy drain. If the saving throw is successful, the energy drain still occurs, but the character will regain the lost level after 24 hours have passed.

Example: a character struck by the double energy drain of a 7 HD vampire must make a saving throw vs. death ray at -7 for each energy drain attack. He still suffers the immediate effect of the level drains, but if he successes in either of the saving throws, he regains the lost level(s) after 24 hours have elapsed.

Death in the Campaign

When your character’s current hit points drop to 0 or below, he’s dying. A dying character immediately falls unconscious and can take no actions.

A dying character loses 1 hit point every round. This continues until the character dies when reaching negative his Constitution score (or lower) in hit points.

If the character survives until reached by a healing cleric, someone with the Healing general skill, or someone with a healing potion to give to him, he can be saved. If the healers can heal him up to 1 hit point or more, or the Healing skill roll is made a at a penalty of -5 (regardless of whether it heals him up to positive hit points or not), then the character is alive. He’s critically wounded, but he’ll survive.

I have a few other house rules as well. I limit the use of the raise dead and raise dead fully spells in that there must be good reason for an Immortal to grant restoration of life to a person who may or may not worship them. I allow maximum hit points for PCs at 1st level, allow druids to begin at 1st level, and allow optional demi-human classes (such as Elf Clerics, Dwarf Thieves, etc).

I'm still working on ironing out house rules for my campaign, but for the most part, these are what I am using currently.