Optional Rules for Classic Games

Written by Angelo and Jeff

Here are some optional rules that you may want to adopt in a more basic type campaign (which I find more fun). When deciding on a rule, go for whatever is more fun or will make a better story-line in the game.


Even though it may not be fair to my old players, I think I might adopt this system also. Just roll 9d6 for each phsyical (STR, DEX, CON) and mental (INT, WIS, CHA) attributes and then let the players choose where they want to put them. Allow players to trade 2 for 1 between the 2 categories. If you want, you might consider just rolling 10d6 for each category to give a better chance of getting good scores. Also, don’t roll ability checks much, if at all. Too much rolling dice makes the game too random and not enough story. If you can’t base it on a saving throw, you probably shouldn’t roll it. How creatures react to players should be based on how the players have acted, not on a charisma check.


Alignments don’t seem very important. Either just ignore them, or rule them out completely. Also, I would rule out alignment languages since they don’t make any sense. You can give a group of thieves a secret code but chances are the thieves in a city 1000 miles away won’t know it.


I don’t think every little sub-class should have it’s own class and an entire set of rules. I would say just add a little flavor to your campaign by giving guidelines for certain titles. Like a thief can be a ninja-type character, hiding in shadows, using assassin weapons, climbing walls, backstabbing, etc. So that could be his title if he dresses right. So you can make variations on any class. You can even offer/show these variations to players to see if they want to use it. However, I found that most players don’t want to go with something like that unless the rules change for their character and they’re getting extra bonuses. Class variations are a good way to add personality to your NPCs.


Unlike just about any other game, D&D makes it easy to buy the best (normal) armor and weapons at the very beginning and makes no reason to buy the cheaper, crappy items (like a club). One way to get around this is to make your own treasure chart, plus don’t have every city and town sell everything on the equipment lists. Small towns and villages (perhaps where the characters come from) may have few items. Also, you might want to give players less gold to start with, maybe only 1d6 x 10 gp.


I treat food very losely in my game and don’t count time spent very carefully. How much food you consume ends up being a DM discretion. However other people just throw the whole requirement out of the game.

Saving Throws

One thing that I like is making saving throw modifiers based on other abilities. This makes it a little more important to have good abilities, and makes certain classes generally more resistant to certain attacks.

  • STR – paralysis/stone
  • INT – mind attacks (charm, confusion, fear, sleep, etc.)
  • WIS – spells
  • DEX – wands and breath
  • CON – poison/death
  • CHA – none

Also, one optional rule is to make players request saving throws (say they are going to do something besides just stand there and take what’s coming). Ex: a dragon breathes on a fighter and a wizard. The wizard’s player says, “Jump out of the way.” The fighter’s player says, “Hold my shield up over my body.” The fighter makes his saving throw and lines his shield up. The wizard misses and jumps half-way out of the cone of fire and is blown back a few steps. This makes it a little more realistic… if you want a saving throw, you need to try and move out of the way or resist it somehow. Players get too used to automatically getting saving throws.


Monsters can be really boring if all they do is attack and have nothing unique about them. One way I solved this problem was by creating monster variations. This is REALLY good if you have a basic game and not a lot of monsters to choose from in the book. One of the things I saw was how they had 10 types of giants when all they had to do was have 1 kind of giant and just make variations off of that. It makes the game a lot simpler. All you need to do is change the description a little bit.

A goblin attacks, an orc attacks, a gnoll attacks, only a few hit points seperates the monsters and all they are is a threat to the character’s life. An interesting way of changing that is to give each monster class a personality, such as making bugbears act like Klingons, having honor above life but still acting evil. Kobolds can usually have a lot of jewelry but never, ever fight, always running and finding a way to escape. Lizard men can be the rudest creatures in the campaign, flicking the characters off or waving their private parts in their general direction or something.

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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