I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, October 28, 2022

My favorite B/X house rules / changes / bits from other editions [2022]

So, here is a list if things I like about modern D&D (or OSR games) that I don't find in B/X. I have a "fix" for each of these, which I'll explain below.
  • Race separated from class.
  • Advantage/disadvantage.
  • Backgrounds.
  • Critical hits.
  • Streamlined saves.
  • Unified XP.
  • Streamlined skills.
  • Feats.
  • Weapon details (especially 3e/4e), without going overboard (AD&D).
  • I like "metaclasses" from 2e (warrior includes fighters, paladins, etc.), and also new classes such as the 4e warlord.
  • Alternatives to Vancian Magic (spell points or spell roll)
Some of these require completely new systems, while others are fixed with a couple of paragraphs. My own retroclone, Dark Fantasy Basic, tries to "fix" all at once. But each can be resolved separately.

[The reason I've compiled these formally is because I'm starting a new campaign].

Let's see...

Ugly AI art
  • Race separated from class.
This is relatively easy. B/X races have limited powers. Just let humans add +2 to a couple of ability scores (or a couple of feats) due to their "adaptability", while Halflings and dwarves get +2 to all saving throws, and all demi-humans get their usual languages, infravision, keen senses, etc. Now, demi-humans must pick a class, identically to humans. You might limit some combinations; it seems fitting to me that humans can be anything, dwarves can be fighters and clerics, halflings fighters and thieves, and elves fighters and MUs, but it all depends on the setting.

I have started writing a small PDF on that subject too (with about 20 races, from vanilla to very weird), but not sure where it is going.

  • Advantage/disadvantage.
This is readily adaptable from 5e (i.e., throw 2d20 and pick best/worst). If you dislike it, you can add a +4/-4 modifier due to circumstances. It is almost the same.

  • Backgrounds.
Another effortless addition. Just choose a relevant background (or "profession" in AD&D terms) and you get adequate knowledge, and also advantage (see above) in appropriate circumstances. Tons of flavor, zero complexity. This is from Dark Fantasy Basic:
1 – Peasant/Slave: Folk Hero, Escaped Slave, Village Champion.
2 – Military: Hero of the Great War, Hedge Knight, Sword for Hire.
3 – Nobility: Fallen Aristocrat, Second Son, Usurped Heir.
4 – Clergy: Herald of the Dying Gods, Former Cultist of the Great Old Ones, Axe Preacher.
5 – Outlander: Desert Nomad, Barbarian of the Frozen Wastes, Clan Outcast.
6 – Criminal: Professional Assassin, Sly Pickpocket, Charlatan.
7 – Artist: Minstrel, Wandering Actor, Circus Freak.
8 – Artisan: Blacksmith, Leatherworker, Tinker.
9 – Commerce: Merchant Traveler, Fence, Trader of Exotic Goods.
10 – Arcane: Scholar of Forgotten Lore, Diabolist, Shaman.


  • Critical hits.
I've been doing some play-testing with this one. Here is what I'm currently using.

  • Streamlined saves.
I do not need five vaguely defined saves. I am using a single save (roll 1d20+level, target 18), and I'm considering adding dex/wis/con modifier depending on the case.

  • Unified XP.
We would have to "balance" the four main classes to use the same XP tables for all. This is especially important for me since I'm testing milestone leveling.

Here is what I've suggested in Old School FeatsIf you prefer unified XP tables, we recommend using the magic-user table for all classes, adding a few extra feats for Clerics, Thieves and Fighters. Thieves also get 1d6 HP per level, like clerics. Clerics need no further enhancements. This changes some assumptions but is still balanced in my opinion.

Notice I also changed the cleric a bit.

If you don't use feats, just give +2 to one ability score instead.

I'm not sure this makes all classes perfectly balanced, but I'm certain it eventually makes classes MORE balanced than the original.

  • Streamlined skills.
Again, Target 18 works perfectly for thief skills. Add dex/wis if you want - I think thieves deserve the boost. Also, only a natural 1 triggers potential disaster

In addition, the various d6 tests (forage, hunt, find direction, find secret doors, etc.) can be replaced by skills (nature, perception, even persuasion). How to pick a new skill? Spend a feat to get a bonus equal to half your level.

Combat and spellcasting can be replaced by skills too (which I did in Dark Fantasy Basic - see below for spellcasting).

  • Feats.
I wrote a small book about that. Half of the book is in the preview, you can check it for free. Feats are a versatile way of adding unique features to PCs. Just be careful with how you use them. Read on for a bit more on the subject.

  • Weapon details (especially 3e/4e), without going overboard (AD&D).
This is something I have yet to tackle again. For now, I just ignore the "slow" tag. Here is a post about that.

  • "Metaclasses" from 2e (warrior includes fighters, paladins, etc.)
Yes, four classes are enough for me. Rangers, paladins, etc,. are "class packages" in Old School Feats. This way, character creation is a lot faster, and you only worry about your subclass on level 2. The warlord is included as a class package too.

  • Alternatives to Vancian Magic (spell points or spell roll)
I also wrote a small book on that too. It has lots of alternatives to choose from. Lately, I've been using spell points from that book. 

Also, been considering Target 18 spells, which is really simple and diminishes the power of high-level casters a bit, since they learn fewer spells.

Is this still B/X?

Yes! Or at least compatible. I use the same weapons, monsters, magic items, spells, and most procedures. I borrow liberally from other games too (AD&D, 2e, some stuff from the RC,  BFRPG and DCC adventures, etc.).

But why B/X?

Even with all these changes, my game is significantly simpler than 5e and even AD&D. I have enjoyed fiddly games, but I just want something easier to run. Creating a 5e or AD&D PC takes a while, and my players forgot half their features by level 10 in my 5e campaigns. So, it is also a lot easier on my players.


This are the house rules I'm currently using. Looks like a lot, but their explanation fits a single post. As I've noticed, most - but not all - of this is in Dark Fantasy Basic, which I have been trying to expand for a while. Or maybe I should write a "B/X house rules" PDF? Let's see where it goes.


  1. I love to read house rules. I like many of this list, and I am also considering unified XP too. Can I ask: Why do you use the MU chart? Maybe it could be easier to use the fighter chart and nerf the MU a little if anything at higher levels

    1. Glad you like it!
      I'd say use the fighter. I'm using milestones myself. I mention the MU chart because some people say it would be "unbalanced" otherwise. So, if you want to balance a fighter with feats with a fighter without them, use the MU, but I don't see the point TBH.

  2. This is a really cool overview -- thanks for sharing!