Nathanael Cole / Alliterated Games

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Homerules: Something Unexpected Happened Along the Way

In this post I want to share the “Random Encounters and Vistas” house rules that we use in my ongoing D&D campaign. This set of rules has crossed game editions from OD&D (using the Rules Cyclopedia) through 2nd Edition AD&D and into today’s 5th Edition D&D incarnation of this campaign. Before you say it, yes, I know, every D&D blog under the Sun has their own random encounter rules. While some groups out there find the very concept of random encounters completely anathema to their style of play, there are still dozens of approaches to the rules for groups that find them useful. That’s one of my favorite parts about this grand new digital age for my most beloved hobby: there’s any number of ways to do any one thing in your games, something for everyone and then some. So here are mine.


Lately we’ve been playing a lot of exploration-heavy games in our main group. Be it exploring a newly-discovered southern continent in our Forthalome campaign (which I swear I will get back to some day), or traveling cross-country back in the northernmost reaches of the homeland in our Northwarde campaign, the process of The Journey has become a core focus in many of our sessions. The flow we use is in many ways similar to the “Hex Crawl” approach to gaming, albeit with a few personal twists and less of a main stage focus. For us, we always have a starting point and a destination in mind, and everything in between is largely undefined. Random encounters mixed with direct requests for improvisational player input help us flesh out all of that intervening space while also making it an active play event at the table. Read More »

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“One Cool Thing” as an In-Game Reward Mechanic

I’m pretty sure this isn’t an original idea of mine by far, but I’ve never seen it written down as such, so I figured I would go ahead and do just that. I’d like to share with you a really simple procedural House Rule I’ve started using in the games I run, regardless of their core rules system. Really there are two house rules here that work hand in hand: “One Cool Thing” and “Bonus Points.”

At the beginning of every session I run, as a form of recap-and-reward, I go around the gaming table and ask each player to tell everyone about One Cool Thing they remember from the last session. Each time a player recounts a moment of the game that centered around one of the player characters,that character’s player gets a Bonus Point of some sort. I picture it kinda like the “Previously on…” montage at the beginning of most serial TV shows. It’s a way to reward awesome moments of game play while recharging the memories of the players, reconnecting them to the events of the previous session, and allowing that player-driven recount to kick-start the current session.

Bonus Points are nothing new: in-game mechanical rewards for being Awesome. Some games have similar points already in place, but many surprisingly don’t. What I do is set up a universal Bonus Point system, which can be applied to just about any game. Below are some examples of how I apply these Bonus Points in the games I’m currently running.

Shadowrun: Bonus Points in Shadowrun work as additional points of Edge, giving the character a few more uses of that oh-so-valuable attribute.

Savage Worlds: In Savage Worlds games, I implement Bonus Points as “super Bennies.” When used, a Bonus Point allows the player to re-roll the test dice, but instead of keeping the better of the two, the new results are added to the old results. Yes, all dice Ace as normal.

Burning Wheel: With Burning Wheel, the Bonus Points are obviously tied into Artha. If a player is called out only once during the One Cool Thing recounts, then they earn a Fate point. If they are called out twice or more, they earn a Persona. If there are four or more players and all of them unanimously agree on a single awesome memory of that player from the last game, then they earn a Deeds point.

D&D 4th Edition: A Bonus Point can be spent at any time to do any one of the following:

  1. Gain another Healing Surge
  2. Function as another Action Point
  3. Re-use an already-used Per-Encounter power

Regardless of system, there’s a catch to Bonus Points: they must be used before the end of the session! Don’t try to horder them up, as they vanish if left unspent.

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