I don’t get around to posting much anymore. I do so much writing in my full-time job that I haven’t felt much like writing in my spare time lately. I’ll bite the bullet today, though, to post up something I’ve wanted to do for quite a while: my “house” rules for the Hideouts & Hoodlums superhero roleplaying game.

First of all, I’ll tell you straight up: I’m not big on player character mortality in this game. It was one thing when an OD&D character bought the farm: “Oh, Vasgard the Fighter got killed? OK, I’ll throw some dice for a new fighter; hmmm…I’ll name him Zasgard the Fighter.” Characters in those days tended to be fairly expendable and interchangable from 1st through 4th level or so; one first level fighter in OD&D looks pretty much like any other (and, in our games at least, they all pretty much tended to be modeled after either Conan, Fafhrd, or John Carter).

H&H characters are quite another story; they seem to require a bit more emotional investment on the part of the player. Sure, you could just create a cookie-cutter character, but it’s a lot more fun to try to figure out how to hammer out weird and diverse powers into a coherent background (especially when you can pick new powers every 24 hours or so if you wish). I also think it’s inherently somewhat unfair for 2 or 3 characters to have to tackle a hideout which is butt-deep in villains, hoods, and monsters without getting some sort of break.

Hence House Rule #1: Player characters of Level 1-3 don’t roll for hit points; they automatically get the maximum HP for their race and class.

House Rules Part 2 consists of rules for healing. Normal healing occurs as in the Hideouts & Hoodlums rulebooks: 1 HP for every 4 hours of rest. Also once every 2 hours a PC can make a save vs. Science with a success resulting in the gain of another HP.

That’s all by the book. Here’s the house rule for healing. Being as there are no “iron rations” in H&H (remember those? Back in the day it cost your character 15 gold pieces just to start a dungeon expedition because they had to buy “iron rations”, providing players some incentive to keep going deeper into the dungeon or risk going broke), we need to find a way to attach some kind of price tag to “hideout crawling”. In H&H, the characters can pool their resources and buy the (pricey) first-aid kit from the equipment list in Book One. The kit can be used an unlimited number of times in a single hideout expedition, but as soon as the characters emerge from the hideout, the first aid kit is considered used up (thus a new one must be purchased before the PCs can return for another crack at the hideout).

A first aid kit must be used on an injured character immediately after the end of a violent encounter; roll 1D4 for the number of hit points regained. Only hit points lost in that encounter can be regained; prior damage can not be healed in this way. Any damage suffered in that fight and not healed immediately by the kit must be healed later by one of the two “book” methods.

Examples: Tesla the Human Dynamo goes into a fight already having suffered 3 points of HP damage. In this current (no pun intended) fight, he’s hit for 3 more points (total=6 HP damage). Immediately after the fight Tesla uses a first aid kit; the player rolls 1D4 and gets a 4. The three points Tesla suffered in the fight which just concluded are healed; the surplus 1 HP of healing is lost.

In his next fight, Tesla begins with 3 HP damage and (again) suffers an additional 3 HP damage in this new fight. Immediately after the fight Tesla uses the kit; the 1D4 roll is a 1. Tesla heals one point of the new damage; the other two points must be healed by rest, a saving throw, a healing pill, etc. but can’t be healed by a first aid kit. Tesla now has 5 HP damage as the adventure continues.

House rule #3: Revised treasure rule. Lawful good characters get screwed on treasure and XP, which means that a lot of players will opt to play chaotic or neutral characters just for the bigger payoff (which seems to be pretty antithetical to what H&H is supposed to be about). If you don’t want to totally disregard the saving throw requirement for lawful characters to be able to cop some cash and goodies from the bad guys, you can at least give them a decent piece of the action every so often: Lawful characters can always take money and treasure recovered after defeating animals, non-sentient creatures, and extraterrestrials, as well as anything found “lying around” unguarded.

House rule #4: Money conversion from 1st edition AD&D to H&H.

For those of us who are fond of using the random dungeon rules in the back of 1st Ed. AD&D’s Dungeon Master’s Guide, here’s the “D&D to U.S. currency exchange rate”:

1 copper piece = 1 penny

1 silver piece = 1 dime (or two nickels, if your characters need change for a pay phone)

1 electrum piece = 1 quarter (or half-dollar, if you want to stick with a strict relative AD&D conversion)

1 gold piece = 1 dollar

1 platinum piece = 5 dollars

For amounts in dollars, it’s always GM’s discretion as to whether the currency is composed of coins or paper (or a mixture of both).

House rules Part 5: Hideout lighting.

This part is always a pain in the patoot. GMs have to annotate their maps with how a hideout’s rooms and passages are lit; it was so much easier back in the pre-Edison sword and sorcery days when dungeons were blacker than the deepest pit of Hell except in rare and special instances. But you can’t just blow off the subject of lighting, otherwise human characters might lose their “dark/dim light” defensive bonus.

Each room in a hideout has a lighting fixture. In passages, lighting fixtures are located every 60′. Electric bulbs in these fixtures will cast light in a 30′ radius.

I have two methods for determining lighting. The easier method to understand is also more of a pain in the butt for map annotation:

Die Roll (1D6)

1-2 Completely dark (empty fixture or burned-out bulb)

3-4 Dimly lit (low wattage bulb or one on its last legs)

5-6 Brightly lit

The second method is easier to annotate (hollow dot for working bulb; black dot for empty fixture or burned-out bulb), but a hair more complicated in execution:

Die Roll (1d6)

1-3 Completely dark (empty fixture or burned-out bulb)

4-6 Brightly lit

Both charts can be easily be “tweaked to taste” (if you prefer a darker hideout, make a roll of 1-4 indicate a dark fixture, for example).

On a map grid using 10′ squares, a square containing a lit bulb and all adjacent squares are brightly lit. Squares which are 2 or 3 squares away are considered to be dimly lit (and thus provide the defensive bonus for human characters).

PCs can disable a working lighting fixture (e.g. smash the bulb) at a cost of 10′ movement.

I was going to provide my “homebrew” encounter charts for “realistic” H&H games (that is, campaigns which run more toward mobsters and less toward fantastic monsters) as part of this post, but I’ve realized that they might best be provided as a PDF download. So I’m going to ponder that one awhile and come back to the subject later.

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.