Optional Rules for Classic Games

Magic Items

You might want to throw out magic items that make no sense or are stupid. Potions of Bug Repellant, Climbing, and Speech come to mind. Plus, make your own items to put on the chart by adjusting existing items (to make sure you are keeping game balance) and throw out a lot of the typical magic items because most players already know what they do. Make existing items more sensible or easier to handle. Instead of Boots of Speed giving horse movement, just have it double movement. Also I suggest if you make your own treasure charts to give a better chance to get wands, staves, or rods. They are so rare.


If you make your own treasure charts, try to base it on a different system than what is in the book. I don’t even know how those things came about. Make different treasures based on how much gp value you get and what types of items you get. Plus, include personal, normal items that creatures might be carrying. Just random little items that give the game much more context. Also, throw in a few normal items in a treasure horde, so that players don’t automatically assume that finding a helmet in a dragon’s den means it’s a magical helmet.


Spell variations are some of the best rules I’ve ever heard of. I think this is the best way to handle spell variations: Spellcasters make their own descriptions of spells and can cantrip any time. The way to make a spell variation is to take an exsisting spell and just change its description. Gandalph’s Electromagnetic Barrier is really just a Wall of Ice spell but made of an electrical curtain of force. The players will never know it’s the same spell, it’ll just look cooler because they’ve never heard of that spell before. Cantrips are important too, because it allows a wizard to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way. For example a magic-user who likes to use a lot of fire variations, can just light his pipe with a snap of his fingers instead of having to use a tinder box like normal people. And when the villagers see that, they know he’s got power.


An optional way of calculating xp is to forget xp from treasure and multiply all the xpv for monsters by 5 or 10. Multiplying by 5 will make up for the treasure according to the rulebook, but I found that 10 actually makes more sense in game play. Alternatively, instead of multiplying by 10, you can just divide all the xp requirements by 10 (fighters need 200 xp to get to level 2). Result: defeating the monsters will be more rewarding than finding treasure.

Wandering Monsters

By all means, don’t rely on the rulebook for good wandering monsters. The easiest way is to just thumb through and choose something you like. Otherwise, make your own charts and you can include your own monster variations. You might also want to roll for encounters weekly instead of daily depending on how long it takes your characters to get from place to place.


One of the things I’ve always hated was the concept of “adventurers.” Just bunches of adventurers running around towns, killing monsters? I suggest making adventurers rare, and socially unacceptable in town. Most people think they’re kind of weird, because normal people wouldn’t want to go around risking their life, and in fact most adventurers only do it because there is something important to be accomplished. There is nothing fun about harsh travel, weather conditions, and monsters who could surprise you and kill you at any moment.


One of the hardest things for me is having adventures for level 1 characters, and getting them past level 1. One solution is to just let players start on level 2 or 3, but make a reason why they are on that level and still start them out at xp 0 instead of what they are at their current level. By far, my favorite time for gaming is when players are on levels 4 through 8.


I allow everyone to move 5′ and attack on the same round. However fighters also have the combat option to charge. This allows a fighter to use a lance on a horse and do double damage. You can also say that fighters can run up and attack by charging with any weapon, but they don’t get double damage, and they will be prone to set spear vs charge. If you do this, you should also allow certain monsters to charge. You might not want to let monsters use every attack every round. Like dragons get 3 attacks: 2 claws and a bite, however you might want to say they can either claw or bite, or maybe even claw just once (or maybe they just don’t want to because they are arrogant and don’t consider the player a threat). In addition, two other requirements for fighter combat options that I would suggest is requiring smash to be performed two-handed.


One of the things I liked from AD&D is the 1d10 initiative where the number rolled represents the second of the round that you go on. This also makes it easier for the DM to determine special situations where strange actions are taken that might give some kind of penalty to your initiative. I still like to roll surprise on a 1d6 though.

By on September 6, 1999
Last modified on June 9, 2016

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Categories: Rules Hints & Tips

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One Response to “Optional Rules for Classic Games”

  1. Drew says:

    Have you read Castles and Crusades yet, your points about Saving Throws are very much in line with C&C

    Keep Rolling – Drew

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