1. All attack rolls are player facing; players roll defense vs room target. The accuracy of the enemy might make the roll easy/hard, and a nat 1 means the enemy crits.
Explanation: Player facing rolls are great because:
- It engages the players during the GMs turn.
- It gives players the feeling that their fate is solely in their own hands.
- Players dodging an attack is way cooler than a monster missing their swing.
- The GM doesn’t have to constantly ask for the player’s defense stat.
- It balances the workload more between the players and the often overburdened GM.
- The GM can roll damage while the players figure out if they’re hit, speeding up combat.
- The players can never accuse the GM of fudging rolls or being dishonest; it strengthens the trust between player and GM.
- The mechanics are already there! Nothing needs to be changed on the player’s sheet!
2. When a player falls to 0 hp, they may act as normal — aside from the recover action — but at the end of each of their turns, they must roll Con vs the target to avoid permanent death. (Additionally, if a player takes further damage while at 0 hp, they must immediately make another Con roll to avoid death.)
Explanation: I can see this one being controversial, so let me at least explain my reasoning first:
- Being unconscious sucks. In my experience, players don’t have fun when they can’t play the game!
- Rolling a 3-4 on the death timer feels too slow. The rush of saving an ally isn’t there when you don’t need to save them for a good while.
Through this new system (which I was not the first to do for ICRPG by the way):
- Dying players can still play the game! (It also feels cool to keep swinging when you’re mortally wounded!)
- Because the dying character can still act, it’s much less likely that the encounter will snowball into a TPK.
- Every turn that a character is dying is filled with suspense as everybody scrambles to heal the dying character.
- If somehow the character is not stabilized, the following Con roll will be extremely suspenseful, and living to fight another round will feel earned.
- Constitution is slightly more useful as a stat.
Another thing to consider: I’m giving my players 2 hearts instead of 1 to offset this.
3. The resurrection spell is banned.
Explanation: Death is important in RPGs, it makes the world feel real and makes the players take danger seriously. Losing a character sucks, but the tone of game is better for it.
4. When a player dies, they’re able to find the strength within themselves to make an epic final stand. Dead players may immediately take 2 actions, both of which are guaranteed crits.
Explanation: Slowly bleeding out is one of the least interesting ways to die. It may be realistic, but it feels incredibly disappointing. With this rule, players can go out with a bang and have epic “you shall not pass!!!” moments.
5. Natural 1s for spells will fire/activate the spell at/on a random target.
Explanation: In my games, I want magic to be unpredictable and dangerous. You want that d10 effort die? You have to accept the risk.
With this, I don’t have to worry about balancing spells and spell-related items either. Go ahead and equip that overpowered staff of elements from the ancient loot table! Just be willing to accept the danger and unpredictability that comes with powerful spells.
6. Players dont track standard ammo, but natural 1s for ranged weapons mean that the weapon jams and the player needs to spend a turn unjamming it.
Explanation: Critical fumbles are already in the optional rules section, but there are some important points I want to touch on.
- I used to have it that a natural 1 meant you were out of ammo, but that made the characters feel incompetent, especially if they started a battle with a natural 1. A great GM should always assume the PC’s are competent enough to resupply ammo when they get the chance.
- A player tracking ammo themselves is tedious, even with clever innovations out there like ammo dice.
- There still needs to be some sort of downside to ranged weapons in comparison to melee weapons.
I think that this is the way to go. No boring bookkeeping, the players are assumed to be competent, and there’s still a mechanical downside to ranged attacks compared to melee attacks.
7. Khan’s Hero Cards in place of hero coins.
Explanation: Khan’s products are just amazing. The hero cards turn the simple hero coin mechanic into one of the best parts in the game (while surprisingly being balanced). I recommend buying the complete hero deck.
And that’s it! Please let me know what you like/dislike, if you have questions, if you’re going to use any of this, etc. I will respond to any and all feedback.