On the Dungeons & Dragons OSR (old-school renaissance) subreddit, someone asked for everyone’s house rules, so I wrote up mine for 2e. The idea (mine, not the original poster’s) was to fix the game by filling in holes, modernizing certain aspects, and generally making it faster and more fun in as short a space as possible. I managed to keep my D&D 2nd Edition house rules to four pages.
2nd Edition D&D was a great game, but there was a clear imbalance. Spellcasters got access to a new level of spells every odd-numbered level. Other classes didn’t get anything nearly so exciting.
The only features fighters got were weapon specialization, extra attacks, and elevation to lordship. Thieves similarly lacked advancement, apart from regular improvements to the same old skills. And neither had much they could do in combat apart from attack.
So I set out to create some simple tactical options for combat and a few carefully chosen extra features, mostly for fighters and rogues. They’re short enough that I decided to post them here as well. They include simplified versions of some rules I’ve posted here previously.
Roll 4d6; drop the lowest die–unless you got more than one 1. This is your CHA. Roll 5 more times and assign these to abilities as you like. If no score is at least 15, raise your second highest score to 15. You can swap CHA with another score to make CHA higher but not lower.
Strength gets attack and damage bonuses at lower scores (see below), but adventurers do not get percentile strength without magic.
- 14: — attack/+1 damage
- 15: +1 attack/+1 damage
- 16: +1 attack/+2 damage
- 17: +2 attack/+2 damage
- 18: +2 attack/+3 damage
- 18/01-50: +2/+4
- 18/51-75: +3/+4
- 18/76-90: +3/+5
- 18/91-00: +3/+6
- 19: +4 attack/+7 damage, etc.
PCs start at 3rd level with 2d3 hit points. Hit points/level (from 1st to 9th) are: warriors 4, wizards 2, priests 3, and rogues 3 (plus CON bonus). Attack bonus (20 – THAC0) replaces THAC0.
Experience points are awarded for successful milestones (half of what is needed to advance to the next level) and for each gold piece spent. At 4th level, new experiences of adventuring boost your lowest ability score (one only) by +1. At 9th level, you gain +1 to any ability. At 18th level, you gain +1 to INT, WIS, or CHA.
Warrior classes features
All warrior classes get the following features:
- Steely nerve–At 6th level, you are immune to non-magical fear, phobia, and morale problems. You get advantage (per 5e) in checks for magical fear and similar effects.
- Multiple attack–At 7th level, you get an extra attack at disadvantage (per 5e), which becomes normal at 13th. Specialized fighters get this at 1st and 7th and a third attack at disadvantage at 13th, which becomes normal at 17th level.
- Grand charger–At 16th level for a fighter or paladin, and 10th level for a ranger, you can go on a quest to find a (semi-intelligent) fantasy mount, such as a griffon or giant panther.
- Sense unseen–At 18th level, you can uncannily detect creatures within 20 feet that are invisible or otherwise naturally or magically hidden.
Your ability to detect evil intent begins at 5th level and is limited to 1 foot per level. Your aura of protection begins at 8th level. You can cure disease (and become immune to it) at 11th.
You pick your species enemy at 3rd level. Dual-weapon fighting ability begins at 4th level. You cannot build a stronghold; at 9th level, you become a forest warden and begin attracting followers, one per level, starting with a mundane animal.
- Warrior’s instinct–At 3rd level, if you use a shield, you can spend a point of luck to block an attack on yourself or someone within 5 feet of you after you know what damage it would do. Or, instead of luck, you can sacrifice your shield, damaging it until it can be repaired by an armorer. If you are not using a shield, you can spend a point of luck to act as if you had an action readied for the round; this is not an extra attack.
- Battle cry–At 8th level, you develop a battle cry that, when shouted as you close for melee, gives heart to all allies within 30 feet, including you. You each get advantage on your next attack in the current combat (once per combat).
- Horde bane–At 11th level, when facing at least three of the same type in melee, you treat creatures of 2 hd or less as if they had just 1 hp per hd. At 16th level, 4 hd or less.
- Defiant Spirit–At 15th level, you can draw on your heroic spirit to cut the duration of magical effects on you in half and make saves against magic with advantage.
- Unparalleled prowess–At 20th level, you can spend a point of luck to turn any successful hit into a critical hit or any miss into a normal hit.
All spellcaster classes features
Spellcasters don’t have to memorize specific spells.
Wizard classes features
You can use Cantrip at will. In place of mundane spell components, you carry a staff, wand, or other sorcerous channel (which you must spend 1 day attuning to). Without it, you cannot cast spells (except cantrips). Fireball does 3d6 hp damage +1 hp/level of the caster.
Priest classes features
All priest classes get the following features:
- Favor–You gain 1 point of luck each morning when you pray.
- Minor miracle–You can spend a point of luck to find–or suddenly recall packing–one item or a few small items of a mundane sort, such as an hourglass or candles.
Rogue classes features
Lucky–At 3rd level, you start every adventuring day with 1 point of luck.
Rogues pick up their skills somewhat randomly. At 5th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th levels, the DM should offer two random choices of features you don’t already have:
- Evasion–When you are hit in melee and after you know what damage it would do, you can spend a point of luck to evade the blow, but you end up several feet away… (1d12: 1=DM’s choice; 2-10=clock positions around opponent, 11-12=your choice).
- Silver tongue–Given the opportunity, you’re so persuasive that you effectively have the ability of Charm Person by spending a point of luck. If successful, it lasts 1 day.
- Coup de grace–If maximum damage from your backstab could kill a bloodied opponent, you can spend a point of luck, and, if you hit with a normal attack, kill the opponent.
- Swashbuckler–Daring feats only cost you 1 point of luck instead of 2.
- Viper strike–You can perform a backstab-style attack face-to-face, as long as it is the very first attack of a combat encounter. You create your own surprise.
- Jack-of-all-trades–Twice when offered a rogue feature, you can instead choose a fighter or warrior feature of equal or lower level.
- The Big Score–At 20th level, you get a shot at the score of a lifetime. You define it.
- At 1st level, you can use Cantrip at will.
- Your 5th-level feature is automatically silver tongue.
- Once when offered a choice of rogue features, you can instead choose a fighter or warrior feature of equal or lower level.
Adventurers earn a hero die that advances with them: 1d3, 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12.
- Warriors get +1d to the hero die at level 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19.
- Priests and rogues get +1d at level 5, 10, 15, 20.
- Wizards get +1d at level 6, 12, 18.
Add the hero die to weapon damage. If the hero die roll is 3 or more, you get a point of luck.
The DM can award points of luck for good role-playing; and you gain it when you roll a 3 or more on your hero die.
- Spend 1 point to reroll a die roll (keep either roll).
- Spend 2 points to make a normal hit a critical hit.
- Luck resets to zero overnight.
- The DM gets luck when a player rolls a natural 1 on a d20. The DM can take a point of luck by also gifting one to a random PC. The DM’s luck never resets.
Armor class is ascending from 7 for none (the old 10 AC). Shields give +2 to AC instead of +1 (except for very heavy armor, which give such protection that shields offer little advantage; but shield sacrifice still works)
- 9 – leather or padded (old 8)
- 10 – studded leather or ring mail (old 7)
- 11 – brigandine, scale mail, or hide (old 6)
- 12 – chain mail (old 5)
- 13 – splint mail, banded mail, bronze plate mail (old 4)
- 14 – plate mail (old 3)
- 15 – field plate (old 2) large shield provides +1 bonus
- 16 – full plate (old 1) shield provides no bonus
The DM should roll 1d12 near the end of an adventure for meals, water, torches and lamp oil to see what was used, ruined, or lost. On a 1, that item is down to 3 uses.
At 5th level, on a melee hit, you can spend 1 point of luck (warriors) or 2 points (all others) to perform a daring feat, such as:
- You grab and throw a similar-sized opponent to one side.
- You put yourself between an opponent and either an ally or something they are protecting.
- You spoil the opponent’s next attack or attempt to chase you by throwing something.
- You climb on top of a much larger opponent, making further attacks automatic hits.
- You target a body part or item of the opponent: disadvantage on attack, -2 to damage.
- You tuck and roll after a fall (up to your DEX score in feet) to avoid falling damage.
Each side rolls 1d20 and adds the number of characters on their side. Deal with readied actions first, then a chosen character from the winning side, then the opponent of that character, and so on, clockwise around the table. Those without opponents act at the DM’s discretion.
Each round of melee, you can take a +2 to attack (aggressive) or +2 to AC (defensive) or +1/+1 (careful). (Monsters don’t get this, because they weren’t recalibrated, but NPCs do.)
- To attack, roll 1d20, add attack bonus and other modifiers. The result is the AC hit.
- Damage is the weapon die + hero die.
- Natural 20 is a critical hit: do maximum damage (including hero die).
On a natural 19 or 20 attack roll, choose an effect based on your weapon’s damage type:
- Bludgeon/slash–Force same or smaller size opponent back 5 feet (or unhorse them).
- Slash/pierce–Rend opponent’s armor or hide for -1 AC.
- Bludgeon/pierce–Do +2 damage.
If you kill a creature with an attack that does 10 or more points of damage, you chop off its head, crush its skull or spine, or pierce it thru the heart or throat, etc., as appropriate for the weapon. This goes both ways, but PCs get the system shock checks mentioned below.
When reduced below 10 hp (or with any loss, if you normally have less than 10), you are lightly injured and get disadvantage (per 5e) on attack rolls and physical skill and ability checks. Monsters are bloodied when they lose half their hit points.
When reduced to zero hp, you are seriously injured. Make a system shock check to remain conscious and able to crawl. Either way, make a system shock check every round until you get help; if you fail, you die. If you take more damage, you die immediately.
Resting and Healing
If you have at least 1 hp, you can rest and recover.
- Short rest–Rest 30 minutes: regain 1 hp per level (once per combat).
- Good night’s rest–Regain 3 hit points per level.
- Poor night’s rest–Regain 2 hp per level or even 1 hp per level.
If you were reduced to zero hp, without magic you would heal at 1 hp per week until you have 10 hp.
Take 1d6 hp damage per 5 feet. Save vs half the height in feet (10 for a 20-foot fall).
- If you fail but beat a system shock roll, you suffer a broken bone and are left with 1 hp, if the damage didn’t kill you.
- If you fail both, you are reduced to zero hit points (see Injury, above).
Magic items are worth 5x their XP value in gold pieces. A great wizard can give a weapon a +1 for 1000 gp (maximum of +3) or add a magic weapon’s effect to yours by paying half its value.