I recall posting that my system of choice for D&D is “a digested, 20-page, home-ruled version of Labyrinth Lord”. Ignoring the fact that I meant house-ruled, not home-ruled, I have decided to share some of my house rules here.
Firstly, I think that the rule “At 0hp, you’re dead” is a little harsh, especially, for 1st-level, first-time players (and it feels mean to a first-time DM). So, after ruling for the first session that they just got knocked unconscious and had to rest for a few hours, I made up the following chart:
It doesn’t rule out death (because someone died in the first session I used it), but it makes it less likely. And better, I think, it’s still spelled out in black-and-white–it doesn’t require the DM to fudge rolls to stop a player from dying. There’s also a few good moments of tension: will I fail two rolls and be out of combat, will I fail three rolls and die completely, or will I save three times in a row and stand up to fight again? It was awesome in a game last week, when the wizard was riding past a tower on horseback, took and 8-point crossbow bolt in the back, and saved 3 times, and kept riding.
I also have a table for Badly Wounded:
1. 1 eye blinded (unless wearing a helmet)
2. Left arm broken
3. Right arm broken
4. Left leg broken
5. Right leg broken
6. Face badly scarred
I also use the following rule: if you take ten more than your current hit points in a single hit, you die instantly without a save. For example, if Feanaro the Elf had 5 hit points, and took 15 damage (say, from a bear), he would die. But if he had 6 hit points and took 15 damage, he would still get to save on the table. I don’t apply negatives–you’re either dead, on zero, or still standing.
I also have a rule about critical hits and fumbles: whenever you roll a natural 20, it’s an automatic hit, and you roll a d12 to find out what awesome thing you did. Whenever you roll a natural 1, it’s a fumble, and you roll a d12 to find out just how pathetic you are. (They sometimes require a little interpretation, either on your part or the player’s).
It also makes for more interesting times: once, the party was faced with more goblins than they could poke a stick at. Suddenly, I was rolling really badly for the goblins, and one of them killed his buddy, another stunned himself and a third killed himself. The cleric managed to hold four more, and then there was just one left for the dwarf to cleave in half.
There’s a whole lot of house-rules people have made for D&D. What’s some other rules you guys use?