4E House Rules

Ability Scores

Determining Ability Scores: If scores are rolled, the 4d6, drop the lowest dice method, is used. Scores are NOT allocated as the player chooses. They are rolled in order and then one swap can be made. Players must have a total positive modifier and there is no limit to the number of bonuses allowed.

If a player prefers to allocate their scores they are free to choose the arrays from the PHB.

(CNote: The 4d6 method (with one swap) has been a prime rule of ours through all editions. It gives a chance for that smart fighter or strong wizard happening. Players in our campaigns very rarely choose arrays - they love to roll. With our method, if you roll a brilliant character you can play it. Characters with noted flaws can also occur and we have had a lot of fun with these. (All characters are rolled in front of DM and only one character is rolled and scores stand, unless the character has a net modifier of 0 or less).

Racial Adjustments: AS with all later race write ups, each race has a set +2 to one ability and a choice of two for the second +2. However, for most campaigns each race also has one ability score penalty of -2. (This penalty will also usually be the choice of two ability scores).

Eg - Dwarf: +2 Constitution & +2 to either Wisdom or Strength. -2 Dexterity or Charisma.

(CNote: I still like to have some races that are not only 'not suited' to some classes, but struggle to perform in that role).

Action Points

Characters still begin each day with an action point and gain an extra every milestone as normal. However, there is no limit to the number of action points a character can use in an encounter. Only one can be used per round however.

(CNote: I have no problem with players saving several action points for their fight with the BBEG at the end…quite often they don't finish the day with a bang anyway. This approach makes players choose to save APs or use along the way).

Action Points don't always grant an extra action - we use poker chips to determine powers. These chips are taken at random from the 'pot' (hat/bag/etc) without the player seeing them.

At the start of the session place one type of chip in the 'pot' for each PC: half this amount for the black/reuse power chip (rounded down).

Black: Player can reroll any roll they do not like, including critical fumbles, but must accept this second roll.
Blue: Player can add 1d6 to the total of a roll just made.
Red: Gain an extra action (as per the standard rules).
Green: Character regains the use of a used Daily or Encounter power (as if it had not been used that day/encounter.

All Action Point powers work as normal. When the 'chip is cashed' powers based upon spending APs apply to that roll. In the case of a Black/Reuse Power chip, any powers/bonuses that can be used apply to when that power is used.

The reroll and +1d6 APs can apply to checks OR damage rolls, but NOT rolls on tables for Crits/Encounters/Etc.

(CNote: Idea came from Savage Worlds. Loved the idea of random benefits. I see 4E now has similar cards for encounter benefits. As an aside, I only use the White poker chips as rewards for roleplaying now).


If players choose to roll their Backgrounds (as first introduced in PHB2) they can benefit from 3 of them, instead of just the one. See the "Backgrounds" document in the files section of the Player's Stuff page.


Critical Hits: Instead of automatically doing maximum damage, when a natural '20' is rolled a d100 is then rolled and compared to the Critical Charts to determine damage and effects. (See attached files below). If an effect doesn't make sense or contradicts another effect, ignore it.
Critical Misses: On a natural '1' a critical miss or fumble results. This is immediately the end of the acting character or creature's turn; no other actions can be taken this round (including those with the use of action points), except for powers and APs that allow rerolls of course. A d100 is rolled and the DM's Critical Misses/Fumbles Chart is consulted for extra effects. (See attached files below).

(CNote: We are aware this makes things 'swingy', but again we prefer to think you can die from one hit in a battle…that is what makes going into any fight a scary prospect).


Struck: This condition results from a lot of criticals, but the DM can rule this anytime a particular body part is known to be injured. When 'Struck' a character suffers a -2 or -4 penalty to all checks and rolls (attacks, skills, damage, etc) involving that body part. Additionally, if it involves a leg, speed drops 1 or 2 squares also.
Treat 'Struck -4' as a precursor to 'Weakened'. So if the condition was to worsen move on to weakened.


Characters do not automatically begin a new day on full hit points. Following an extended rest unused healing surges from the previous day can be used before the new day's allotment of surges is determined.

(CNote: We tend to like a grittier game style where injuries and wounds from one day can carry over into the next).

Monster Defenses

I generally reduce one score by up to 3 (usually 2) or a couple by 1-2.

(CNote: Whilst I realise the game needs to be balanced, I also like creatures with a 'weakness'. Sometimes you just look at a creature and think that its Reflex, for example, wouldn't be that high - but b/c it is based purely on Level, it often is. I like to encourage players to think in this manner and thus reward them with some weakened defenses).

Saving Throws

If a player rolls a natural '20' for a saving throw they can also spend a healing surge if they wish. (This does not count as their Second Wind for the combat). Alternatively, if several conditions are afflicting them, they can remove them all with the '20'.

On a roll of '1' the condition gets worse. If it is a form of ongoing damage, increase the amount they are taking by 5hp per tier. If the number of saves are important count the '1' as two failures (such as for death saves, or vs the progression of poison). For other conditions, look to make the situation a little worse for the player.

Similarly, if a player fails 3 saves of any kind, make the effect a long term one. (Simulating the death saves mechanic). Introduce a penalty, such as treating the area as 'struck', and use the rules for Disease to see whether it improves over days (not rounds). This represents poison that has entered the system, or an infected or swollen wound, etc.

(CNote: I like to make up ad hoc house rulings and for this one it is usually easy to pick what to add to the encounter for dramatic effect).

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