I’ve been running and co-DMing a lot of 3.5 D&D recently, so I can’t get it out of my head. At some point we should switch over to Pathfinder since everybody in the area universally hates 4th Edition. But, the large part of the group are newer players who never played D&D before (ironically, my roommate’s Savage Worlds Pirates and my own TORG games were their introductions), and since the experienced players don’t have hard copies of Pathfinder core rules and hate using .pdfs, we’re on a 3.5 kick.
Our group(s) are mostly house-rule free, excepting where DM Fiat and the Golden Rule comes into play; however, we do tend to use two house rules fairly regularly, or at least talk about them and never use them.
Buying Feats with XP
This is a house rule that a friend of mine found and uses for all his D&D games. We’ve since adapted it for every D&D game run, even if it’s never used. It’s vanished off the internet from what I can tell (via a quick Google), but here it is: buying feats with XP. Everybody loves feats. Players always want more of them. Well, why not just let them buy some? The idea is that each feat costs half a level in experience, as shown on the following table. Note that it’s half a level in the overall advancement scheme, and not half a level in regards to the current character’s XP.Feat XP Cost First – 500 Second – 1500 Third – 3,000 Fourth – 5,000 Fifth – 7,500 Sixth – 10,500 Seventh – 14,000 Eighth – 18,000 Ninth – 22,500 Tenth – 27,500
You get the picture. I could go all the way to twenty with this, but I don’t see players taking twenty of the damn things. (If so, you’re probably handing out too much XP or something.)
I was pretty skeptical at first, but in the end things balanced out nicely. A couple of feats is not equal to gaining a level, so if you keep the challenge ratings going up at the standard rate players will still have to take levels instead of just buying feats. Most players always have some feats on their wish list that they can never afford, so it’s a way to get around the slow and limited feat progression.
Obviously, it shouldn’t be an excuse to spend 500 xp for that really broken feat from some obscure supplement. As GM, you still have final say on whether they can get a Vow of Poverty or whatever using this rule; it only gets as power-gamer munchkin-y as you allow. Likewise, if you want to slow it down a little you can always make them train for bought feats, or limit purchases to one per level. In my experience, my players usually buy them about once per level, or put off advancing by buying like three of them around 3rd-5th level, so I haven’t even needed to insert or enforce that.
Cross-Class Skill Ranks
Speaking of house rules, this one’s pretty standard. It showed up as an official rule in first edition Spycraft, but I’d already been playing games for a while with this rule.
I still don’t know why they did it, but the “half ranks” in skills just drives me up a wall. I’ve never seen anyone take a half rank, and in fact the mere complication and inanity of half ranks has driven a number of newer players away from putting points in cross-class skills. I guess if you only have one skill point and you’re at max with class skills, but still, incorporating fractions into a game system is a terrible idea.
Here’s where the rule comes in: instead of dealing with half ranks, cross-class skills just cost two skill points instead of one. World shattering, I know, especially since AEG used it for Spycraft, but my (mostly newer) players really like it. Pretty much the same thing, speeds up explanation and is slightly simpler. If it needlessly complicates things and drives away newer players, simplify it… keep it simple, stupid.