House Rule: Revised Searching

So spoiler alert, there are a lot of traps and secret doors in the Emerald Spire. Normally I don’t like spoiling adventures like this but it’s a dungeon crawl…saying there are traps and secret doors inside is like saying there are monsters inside. So it’s not really a spoiler I guess. Anyway, both of these elements are well represented inside the spire and my PCs are being careful when they can. The problem is the system of rolling for search we’ve been using is putting a whole lot of extra dice rolls on the table.

And play is slowing down.

So, I’m going to experiment with some variant search rules somewhat inspired by other player’s descriptions of 5e’s passive perception and the current Armor Class rules. Note this augments the current Perception skill it isn’t intended to replace it. If a PC wishes to examine a particular dungeon feature or item they’ll roll perception normally this rule is more for moving through a dungeon with the sort of care that will (hopefully) help them find things in a more generalized area.

So starting tonight my PCs will have a Search Rating: Basically just Perception + 10. Whenever they encounter a trap, secret door, sneaking villain or whatever I’ll roll Stealth for adversary against this DC. Since traps and secret doors don’t have the Stealth skill so I’ll need to get them an equivalent number. To do this I’ll simply take the Perception DC and subtract 10.

Now sure, I could roll for the players in secret but I’ve never been a fan of that. I may be weird but I don’t like rolling for the players. Against them sure but rolling for them feel like I’m taking away some of their agency.

Now while we’re talking player agency let’s talk about Searching carefully. The above rules work fine for normal passive perception but let’s talk about giving the players some options. If a player wants to search carefully she gains a +4 to her Search score but may only move at half-speed.

I think this will speed things up and allow me to give my players some choices even if I’m the one rolling the dice.


House Rule: Revised Initiative

I recently posted about variant XP and Hero Point rules I wanted to use in my Emerald Spire campaign. Today I’d like to share a simple house rule I’m using to speed up combat in that same campaign because sometimes it’s the little things you do behind the screen that make the game run smoother.

First of all, I like to have combat sheets for every encounter. I keep full statblocks for every NPC and monster my PCs will encounter. Sometimes I’ll include rules and spell descriptions. This does take considerable time to put together but I have all the rules references I’ll need right at my fingertips.

Lately, instead of having the NPCs roll for initiative I’ve assigned each NPC an Initiative Score and placed that on the statblock instead of the normal modifier.

The Initiative Score is typically equal to 10 (or 11 in the case of named NPCs) + the character’s initiative modifier. Situational modifiers might adjust the current score up or down. In this system, PCs roll initiative normally and the NPC acts on the same count as his or her initiative score. It’s that simple.

What this does for me is by removing this single die roll I can focus quickly on getting all the PC’s initiatives logged and then dive right into combat. This is even better when there are multiple NPCs.

Using this house rule isn’t a big change but so far it has really helped me keep combat scenes moving along quickly.