Finally back to this blog. I've done some editing on the earlier monster entries, and finally added the lore and descriptions for the Mummy entry (check it out; I'm quite proud of it).
More importantly though, I've been trying out some new houserules with my group that turned out to be a great success. Allow me to share them with you.
Let the Players Roll All the Dice
This is really extraordinarily simple; I'm surprised it hasn't been popularized before. One of the most annoying things about playing D&D is the sheer number of things determined by the Dungeon Master's die rolls. Every time something happens to the PC, its up to the DM's dice. If you're attacked by a monster, you just sit there and wait for the DM to determine if you get hit or not. If you're using a passive Perception skill, you just stare at the number on your character sheet and hope that its higher than whatever the DM rolls.
With this houserule, every die roll that involves conflict between a PC and an NPC is rolled by the player. The character sheet no longer has any static values (well, aside from hit points). The monster stat blocks no longer have any d20 modifiers. If the paladin is getting stabbed by an orc, the player rolls 1d20 and adds his armor bonus in hopes of beating the orc's static attack value. When his paladin counterattacks, the player is still rolling the dice, making an attack roll against the orc's static AC as per usual.
Its super easy. Just tell your players to subtract 10 from all their defenses and passive skill values (in fact, you can just cross out "passive perception" and "passive insight" on the sheet entirely), and draw a little + sign in front of the remainder. On the DM's side of things, add 10 to the attack and skill bonuses of all the monsters and remove the +. In most battles, the Dungeon Master will not roll a single d20.
I've found that doing things this way makes the players feel more engaged in the combat. It also makes them feel more in control of their characters' safety, even if the dice are still random.
Sometime in the next few posts, I'll share another new houserule of mine, this one related to simplifying the frankly bloated character creation process.