My 7 important house rules, with explanations


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.


I do player facing rolls as well, I basically wouldn’t know how to do it any other way at this point.

I really like the idea of CON vs DEATH when dying. I have a couple PCs who play orcs and I gave them the ability to move and act while dying. Combat actions (Attack/Dodge) are now EASY, everything else is HARD.


It’s really cool to see things you have thought about in other contexts being useful to other people and their games. :slight_smile:


I agree Micah, player facing rolls are so game changing that you won’t want to ever go back.

That orc idea is very intriguing, do you have special abilities for every life-form?


Thanks Kagozaiku, your post was very inspiring and one that I thought about for a long time.


Nope! So far I’ve pretty much kept it on a player to player basis. If I ever have a player who wants to be a hobbit I’ll see if they want to brainstorm something. I’ve got a couple of humans, a couple of dragon/lizard types (straight out of ICRPG 2e), and a couple of elves.


#4. Love this. I’m stealing this. By the way, you could have it as an option only, a dilemma–roll death saves or go out in a blaze of glory. Love to see a poll of what players at least think they would choose.


This was great. Thank you. I am just getting ICRPG for the first time and am blown away by the community. The DIY spirit is inspiring.

As I read through you post I wanted to clarify something. Let me know if I got this wrong.

#1 Facing Rolls

Facing Roll Example:

  1. Monster does regular attack (GM describes and announces which PCs are affected
  2. Players roll their DEF stat to attempt to meet or beat the Room Target
  3. If successful PCs take no damage, if unsuccessful…
  4. GM rolls for damage

Then we get into a deviation on how SOAK Armor works.

Also this method makes it look like stat bonuses for Monsters matter a lot less. Is that true? Looks like EASY/HARD would still be possible as you described it.

#2 Going Out with a Bang

I really like this idea. As others have said I’m hesitant to do this with my “group” since it’s mostly my own kids haha. But I applaud you for trying to make CONore relevant. I appreciate anyone who tries to make any playstyle valuable and cool. I’m my LOTR Hack I’m working on I use CON a lot for travel/Journeys so I don’t often have the same concern.

#6 Nerfing Ranged Weapons

I really like this! I personally like tracking ammo but my kids don’t. This makes using Ranged weapons over Melee a little more risky. I will absolutely be using this. As you said it’s in the optional rules but it’s one I haven’t used yet. Great reminder.

#7 Khans Cards

I should have grabbed them when I ordered the ME! I don’t play a lot of magic in my games. Prefer the low magic setting of LOTR, Sci-fi or Historical Westerns. So I was concerned it would have a bunch of cards I don’t use. You think I’ll be disappointed with little to no magic in most of my games?

Thanks again! Awesome post. Saw it on Reddit and decided to reply here.


That’s an intriguing idea Luther. Though I will have to give some thought to that before I form an opinion. I would like to see that poll though.


Thank you IronShepherd for the in depth response and praises! It means a lot because I put a lot of thought into this.

For player facing rolls, you’ve got it exactly right!

As for the attack bonus of the monsters, if a monster has a relatively high attack bonus, you might consider making the defense roll hard. If the monster has no attack bonus or generally seems clumsy, you might consider making the defense roll easy. I don’t have a specific conversion chart, so the takeaway is to simply go with your gut feeling.


Ok thanks. I know some monsters may still have use for Stat bonuses if they do something besides combat but it sounds like we sacrifice a little bit of enemy stat nuance in order to allow PCs to roll when attacked each time (which I really like).

Enemies basically become EASY/HARD other than their special abilities.

Appreciate it. I was pretty confused at first but it all makes sense. Will be trying this out soon.


I use Monster attack bonuses as the Room Target. Most monsters have “+X All Rolls”, so 10+X is the target for the scene.

Ogres have +8 STR and +3 everything else if I’m remembering right. I run them at TN 15, they’re HARD to dodge (18) and basically EASY to hit/outsmart/confuse.

I stole an idea from here on the forums that your monsters roll under the Room Target, so as the target goes up, the monsters have better odds.


Great set of house rules! I love player facing rolls, and I like letting PCs act while dying, thoughI do like the idea floated of giving players the choice of acting v. staying safe. I actually made a critical hit chart which included a kind of narrative injury plus a narrative boon they get to roll for when they hit 0 HP. Gloriously Dropping to 0 HP Check it out!


That’s a clever idea Merlitron, though it would slow down my table too much. Looks fun though!


I’m just chiming in to say, I think player facing is a TERRIBLE way to play, and there are a number of counterpoints, not the least of which is that your game becomes a boring slog of all-saving-throws-all-the-time! :stuck_out_tongue:

All teasing aside, this is a chocolate versus vanilla argument. Plenty of folks enjoy one or the other. So play the way you want to play. In my case, I like having both DM tools (chocolate and vanilla swirl?) and not limiting myself to one or the other all the time. As the DM, I like rolling dice and “being a player” with skin in the game too, so I usually roll against the player defense as written in ICRPG. But. My favorite prized pony to trot out is a good save made by the player from time to time: “The dark wizard forms a ball of obscene energy and throws it in your face! Make a Defense or CON save or have your life force drained!!!”

As for the other stuff, my players and I don’t use those mods, but hey, if they work for your table, rock on. The only thing I would say about home brew is just be aware of what you’re gaining and what you give up when you change the core rules. ICRPG is pretty elegant as written, so I always recommend folks play it about five times before hacking it apart. Otherwise, DIY away!


Nice ideas overall.

  1. I disagree with player facing rolls but it is a subjective topic. If you like them, go use them! Personally, I find them slow because players don’t act as fast as I do as the GM. It slows the game down and gets me bored.
    Like @Alex said, if I want my players to evade something, I give them saving throws.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree that being unconscious is lame and boring and find death timer anticlimactic. I use “Death’s Mark” as in if a character ends a turn with 0 hp, he immediately gains a Death’s Mark. If a character has 2-3 (GM can adjust it per scene) Death’s Marks and ends a turn with 0 hp, he dies.

  • The catch is, Death’s Mark doesn’t reset until a long rest or the GM says so. I’m still fine tuning this, so I might make changes. I stole this from “Death’s Door” mechanic of a game, which I don’t even remember.

  • A couple issues I have with “sudden deaths” is that sometimes they can be very anticlimactic. As the GM, I crit (I tend to roll a lot of 20s) and then the player fails a single roll (CON or whatever) and dies. I don’t like this, so I want to give the player a bit of a leeway but not much. Too much takes all the tension away from dying. It is a hard thing to get right because there are too many variables.

  1. We play Eberron where resurrection is problematic anyway, so I don’t have this problem but I agree fully.

  2. Great idea! I stole it immediately. I might even give 3 free actions which are all auto crit. And/or I can immediately give n number of Hero Cards as well.

  3. I already have my mercurial failure tables from my book, which makes magic dangerous but still keeps things exciting because each time you get a different bad effect. In addition to that, I sometimes increase the blunder roll from NAT 1 to NAT 1-2-3… etc. That keeps the casters in check.

  4. I don’t like to track ammo at all but some of my players do. My hands are tied in that regard.

Thanks for the shout-out! I was wondering where all those Hero Cards sales were coming from LOL. “By all” I mean all 5 of them. :blush:

Hey there,

Hero Cards don’t have much to do with magic or spells. Only a couple of cards specifically mention spells. Vol 1 only has a single card affecting spells; Vol 2 has none. Hero Deck (print-on-demand version) has 2 additional cards affecting spells and that’s it.


Awesome to hear from you! I first heard about your Hero Cards while watching every ICRPG I could find when I first discovered ICRPG. The Dave Thaumavore video in particular got me super interested.

Sounds like they will he a perfect fit for most of my low magic settings. Really appreciate that explanation. Finally make the decision and grabbed them.

I noticed that the printing/shipping is done at a different location from the books (I grabbed Hard Suit) so it doesn’t really matter that I missed it before because it’s a separate shipping order. Either way can’t wait for them to arrive.