“Dust Covered Opulence” by Shadow's Symphony from “The House in the Mist” © 2011. Used with permission.

“Then there are Ceremonies, which are all of them important,
but some are more delightful than others …”

-Arthur Machen, “The White People”

House Rules that go
Beyond the Supernatural

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This is a listing of house rules that I use in my home game, as well as rules suggested from various house guests.

For ease of use, click on the following links to visit that section directly:
Weapons Related
Skills & Attributes
Game Rules
Supernatural
Using the Leap, Run and Swim Stats on the Character Sheet (Miscellaneous Section)
Calculating the Leap, Run and Swim Stats on the Character Sheet (Miscellaneous Section)

Weapons Related:

Wooden baseball bats do 1D12+1 damage:

This house rule came about solely as I feel that 12-sided dice are getting ignored more and more. So out of sympathy for the 12-sided die, the fact that my players love arming their characters with baseball bats, and the fact that baseball bats are potentially more lethal than a 1D8 suggests, I raised the damage of wooden baseball bats to 1D12. Aluminum bats still only do 1D6 damage (taken from page 114 of the Dead Reign main book).
D.R. Note: Till something is released with more details concerning weapons in BTS, the weapons section of the Dead Reign main book is a great resource for weapon stats and damage.

Melee weapon proficiency damage increase bonus

While taking a second look at how melee weapon Proficiencies work, virtually all weapon experts that I've researched agree that part of being an expert means knowing how to use a weapon more precisely as well as more lethal in combat.

However, while precision is covered in the Weapon Proficiencies via bonuses, there's no accounting for being more dangerous / lethal / damaging. In the current format, anyone can pick up a weapon that they've never used before and be just as deadly with it as the 15th level guy with a W.P. in the same weapon. “I have a knife, and I know how to use it” should be scarier than it really sounds in the current format.

To compensate for this, I've created a house rule that adds a +1 damage bonus that's accumulative at levels 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14, to all melee weapons that the character has a W.P. for. And like new skills that are added as the character progresses, these bonuses start at 1st level.
 Example: A character at 3rd level takes a Blunt W.P. as a new skill. When the character reaches 4th level, his Blunt W.P. is now considered to be 2nd level and gets a +1 damage bonus to his blunt weapons.

Melee weapons do maximum damage with a critical hit:

This house rule stems from the joy of getting a critical hit with a melee weapon only to be deflated and frustrated due to a poor damage roll. For example, if a character without a damage bonus gets a critical strike with a baseball bat and rolls a 1 for damage, all he gets are a lousy 2 points for a critical hit.

I understand this frustration just as much as I understand that BTS characters tend to have a lower P.S. attribute, and therefore have less damage potential than other RPG's. So I allow my players to increase the damage of their critical strikes to the maximum amount of the melee weapon being used. Using the baseball bat example above, the minimum damage of a critical strike is raised to 6 if it's made of aluminum and 12 if it's made of wood.

Pistol whip and rifle/shotgun smash damage

A pistol whip does 1D6 damage +P.S. bonus, while smashing with the butt of a rifle (AKA “hitting them with the soft end”) does 1D8+1 damage +P.S. bonus. Note: W.P. Blunt bonus will not apply to this attack as it this is not the intended method of using the pistol/rifle/shotgun (and it’s difficult to do in this manner with any accuracy). However, characters with the W.P. Gimmick/Improvise skill (see below) may add a strimke bonus to this attack.

Concerning shotguns (and buckshot)

The shotgun is a favorite weapon in my group, so much so that the game mechanics needed to be looked at, discussed and fine-tuned every now and again. So after some discussing, some tinkering and some play testing here and there, I've come up with the following house rules when using shotguns:

-When using buckshot ammo (which scatters and covers a 3 foot area up to 30 feet away and then covers a 10ft area for another 30 feet), such a wide area coverage lowers the A.R. rating of the target by -2 due to more coverage by the spread of the buckshot.
For example, firing at a Dybbuk with a round of buckshot only requires a roll of 11 or higher instead of the usual 13. The trade off is that buckshot doesn't do as much damage or travels as far as solid slugs.

-When using buckshot ammo on a shotgun that’s equipped with a flashlight, all “single shots” (not bursts) gets an +1 bonus to strike when the flashlight is turned on and illuminating the target. The mentality here is that between the mandatory close range use of buckshot and the fact that the flashlight beam typically has a radius of about three feet in diameter, whatever is in the flashlight’s beam will effectively get hit. As a lot of BTS games take place in the dark (or in poor enough lighting that a flashlight is needed), this is a rule that comes into play often. Coincidentally, this mentality has been tested and proven in a lot of first-person horror survival video games.

-Shooting one handed with a rifle is attempted with a -2 penalty to strike, even when aiming or using call shots (unless using the Trick Shooting skill). However, if an action is taken to aim a shotgun that’s loaded with buckshot, the penalty is removed, due again to the area coverage of the scatter.
Note
: A saving throw to keeping balance should be made when attempting this (see Shooting from the Hip below for determining how to save.)

“Shooting from the hip”

“Hip shooting” is an action/reaction with a handgun, shotgun or rifle as seen in the movies & on TV. This reaction is usually done as a "surprise reflex" or "quick initiative" action when the character wasn't aiming at anything and his rifle was slung or held at his side. As BTS creatures love sneak attacks and jumping out at characters from the shadows, trying to beat the creature's initiative when its attacking you is an outright survival mechanism (especially if you tend to have lousy dodge rolls).

The rules work like this: The character gets a +3 to initiative when hip shooting, but is at a -2 to strike (no aiming bonus are added as the sights are nowhere near eye level and there's no time to aim). As the stock isn't braced against the shoulder (its at waist level), there's no recoil absorption when the weapon fires, and may throw the character off balance (needs to make a saving throw to keep his balance).

Using percentage dice, the character attempts this save by rolling lower than the combined total of both his P.S., his P.P., and his experience level. For example, a 5th level character with both a P.S. & a P.P. of 20 would need to roll a 44% or lower to save. Failing this roll means the character is off balance for the next two actions and loses any bonus they may have for those two actions (be it attacking, defending, dodging, etc.)

Note: Characters that have the "Sense of Balance" skill (obtained from the "Ballet", "Acrobatics" or "Gymnastic" skills) may use this in place of the tallied up attribute numbers.

Its been pointed out that the player can do a simultaneous strike if they fail their initiative roll. If a Player Character does this, they can still attempt the hip shooting tactic if they weren't holding a weapon.

“Close Combat Firearm Rules” worth noting

The “Zombie Close Combat Firearm Rules” on page 182-183 of the Dead Reign main book works well in a lot of situations with little modification in BTS and I encourage you to use them. In fact, there’s a of rules in D.R. that works well in BTS, so I encourage you to get the book if you don’t already and consider it part of your BTS library.

Revolvers do not jam

This rule was added due to one of my players being a “wheel gun man”. GM’s that use any sort of critical fumble rules (such as the Lucky Psychic rules in The Rifter #53.) that could cause a weapon to jam should note that Revolvers don’t jam like semi-auto handguns do. If the bullet doesn't fire, it just sits in the chamber, allowing the shooter to simply fire the next bullet. This saves the action or two of switching weapons or unjamming the gun.

Ecto-Slayer Shotgun damage explained and range added

This weapon is missing its range and most (including myself) found the damage to be confusing (see page 53 of BTS-2). To that end, I went to the source (Kevin Siembieda) to clear up the confusion. This is what how he put it:

“The simple way to explain this is that both the number of D6’s and the 'plus' damage increase. So at level two the shotgun would do 2D6+2, then 3D6+3 at level three, 4D6+4 at level four and so on. So in time this shotgun becomes a pretty badass weapon, especially against Ancient Evil, Alien Intelligences, and creatures vulnerable to fire as it does double damage to them! And 150 feet would be the appropriate range.”

Skill and Attribute Related:

Weapon Proficiency “Expert” Upgrade

Similar to how select skills can attain a professional quality, W.P. skills can be upgraded to Expert at the cost of an additional two skill selections. These skill selections represent the extra time and resources devoted to mastering these particular types of weapons. The payoff to becoming an expert with that weapon type is that it doubles the bonuses earned from that W.P. skill.

Example: Joe selects the weapon proficiency “Archery”, but decides to become an expert, spending two additional skills to obtain this upgrade. At level 1, Joe get gets a +2 bonus to strike (instead of +1). At Level 2 he gets a +4 to strike (instead of +2), at level 4 he gets a +6 to strike (instead of +3) and so on. His bonus to disarm (and the damage bonus house rule) also doubles.
Note: Needing two actions for a Called Shot or Aimed Shot stays the same, as well as all potential penalties (shooting blind, shooting bursts, shooting at moving targets, etc.) None of the tricks from “Trick Shooting” are altered either.

Using I.Q. and M.E. attributes for percentage rolls

I believe that the I.Q. & M.E. attributes are important to characters in BTS, but they tend to go unnoticed and provide little use outside of a possible skill percentage bonus or a save vs. psionics bonus. I also believe that it can be difficult playing a character with a high I.Q. or who possesses skills than the player knows little about, and role-playing “brainy” characters can suffer because of this.

In an effort to help these players out, I came up with a percentage system that allows the character to know something that the player himself may not know or had realized (“I’m not a scientist, but I play one as my character who knows this stuff”).  This also covers the aspect that a character may know something or could make an educated guess about something he lacks the appropriate skill for (“While I've never really studied any magic lore, I do recall hearing somewhere that you can use good quality kosher salt for banishment spells”), and for figuring out puzzles, riddles or mental challenges the player has given up on, etc.

The setup is similar to my shooting from the hip rules above as you add your character’s I.Q. stat, M.E. stat, and level of experience together (representing both the intelligence and the mental agility to recall obscure details or when figuring out a mental challenge) and attempt to roll under that number.

Note: If you plan to use this House Rule then I strongly reccomend that you use the “Go Mental!” article from Rifter #19 as the skills presented in that article are all about raising the mental attributes that don’t get as much use as they should and includes some new physical skills and bonuses for exisitin skills. If you don’t have The Rifter #19 then I recommend getting it, if only for said article.

Using the Diminishing Returns & Running Skill Optional Rules from “Go Mental!”

I use the optional Diminishing Returns and Running Skill rule from the "Go Mental" article mentioned above. I find them both to be appropriate in the modern day setting as they not only keep the Physical Skill junkie's in check, they also encourage them to pick other types of skills to round out their character. Its worth noting that the attribute increases from both the Natural P.C.C. and Physical Psychic P.C.C. bypass this rule.

Frankly, the entire Go Mental article is used extensively in my BTS game and I highly recommend using it in your own game (if not already).

W.P. Gimmick/Improvise

This Weapon Proficiency is for those players who understand that sometimes you have to make use of whatever you have on hand as a weapon, and by any means available to them. These can include bar stools, chairs, broken bottles, pens, pencils, pistol whipping, using the butt of a rifle or choking with cables, belts, leashes, neck ties, and so on. Some common sense needs to come into play with this skill however as most objects will break quickly when used as a weapon (this wasn't their intended purpose). My general rule is the object suffers ½ the damage it deals.
+1 to Strike at levels 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15. +1 to Throw at level 4, 8, and 12.
    Small objects: small and/or light objects like pens, pencils, flashlights, deer antler, bottles, pool balls, bricks, skulls, bowling pins, etc. does 1D4 damage +P.S. bonus (includes throwing damage).
    Larger objects: Wooden, plastic and plaster items like chairs, bar stools, crutches, large planks, bowling balls, bowling pins, bed posts, champagne bottles, prosthetic limbs, etc. do 1D6+1 damage +P.S. bonus.
—Metal objects like foosball rods, gum ball machines, handrails, paper cutters, tire irons, electric conduits, iron frying pans, drive shafts, fire pokers, gas pipes, rebar (bent or straight), etc. does 1D8+1 +P.S. bonus. Throwing any of these items does 1D6 damage +P.S. bonus.
   Flexible objects: Objects like coat hangers, neck ties, T-shirts, plastic bags, belts, cables, leashes, extension cords, piano wire, etc. does 1D4 damage per choking attack to S.D.C. for the first melee round (15 seconds), then 1D4 directly to Hit Points for every continued choking attack afterwards. Note that these type of attacks tend to be ongoing and requires escaping the hold somehow.

New Trick Shooting selections

I love the W.P. Trick Shooting skill and felt that more tricks were needed.
-Spaghetti Western or Pistols Akimbo: The character can fire two handguns simultaneously without an “off hand penalty” (which is usually -2.) Burst penalties still apply as normal.
-Fanning: Fanning is a revolver shooting technique (made famous in western movies and television) in which one hand holds the trigger and the other hits the hammer repeatedly. This turns the cylinder and hits the firing pin, in that order, allowing for 'semi-automatic fire' of single action revolvers. This trick is performed in shooting shows (where trick marksmen entertained crowds with shooting tricks) fast draw competitions and by many a curious target-practicer; but it was probably not common in actual fire fights, because it doesn't lend itself to most real-life tactical situations, in accuracy or cover. However, there are times it can be a useful action.

When taking Trick Shooting (see page 216 of BTS-2) and selecting Fanning as the trick, the character may fire in bursts with a revolver. Note that this trick requires using both hands.
Firing three bullets takes one action to perform; strike bonus is reduced by half and damage is bullet caliber used (typically 3D6) x2.
Firing all bullets requires two actions to perform, has a penalty of -6 to strike (considered a wild shot) and damage is bullet caliber used (typically 3D6) x4.

Secondary Skills are given regardless of Occupation

Not all of the occupations in the book offer new skills as character's progress in levels. I don't agree with this personally, so I've added a house rule that player characters earn one new secondary skill at level 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 including what their occupation allows. I also allow players to convert two secondary skills into an elective skill if they want to get something from their available elective skill selections.

Genius P.C.C. may upgrade their skill selection to Elective

Something of an add-on to the Secondary Skill rule above, the Genius
P.C.C.'s has the option of upgrading their Secondary Skills to Elective Skills automatically when they go up in levels. This allows more skill options to the Genius to choose from and these new skills earn whatever applicable bonuses that might come from taking it as an Elective skill.

Trust and Intimidate and Charm and Impress

The Trust and Intimidate: A Way of Life and the Charm and Impress: The Key to Success articles from The Rifter #60 and The Rifter #61 are both good articles to keep around for players who want to make use of their M.A. and P.B. stats. In a modern day setting, there's a lot of opportunity to use these attributes and the bonuses gained from them.

Combat Rules Related:

Re-roll 1's and 2's when rolling for damage:

This house rule allows players to re-roll 1's and 2's when rolling for damage. This rule can be as harmful as it is helpful however as they are only allowed to re-roll once, if they roll a 1 or 2 again, the roll was meant to be and the number stands. This rule can be detrimental at times because, for example, if a player rolled all 2's and then re rolled the dice, I've seen the outcome where all 1's were rolled the second time, reducing the damage total even further.
Note: This rule does not include 4 sided dice.

Saving Throws automatically fail on the roll of a Natural 1

This rule was carried over from my days of running Heroes Unlimited and Rifts, games where getting incredibly high bonuses to saving throws are common place. Some of these bonuses would get so high that the character couldn't fail a roll, creating a false immunity in some cases. To counter this in my games, I took a page from the attack rule that states that a natural 1 is an automatic failed roll, and added it to saving throw rules. Ergo, no matter how high the character's bonus is, a roll of 1 is a failed saving throw roll.

Using the optional Initiative rule

I use the Initiative rules from the Additional Hand to Hand Combat Rule located on pages 54-55 of the Rifter #7. I agree with the details as to why these bonuses apply and they do make the game more interesting at times. The new Physical Skills found on pages 52-53 are also used in my game.

Revised Grappling rules

Another article I like to refer to as needed are the Revised Grappling Rules from the Rifter #3. While these rules dont provide much for dealing with the Supernatural (most of the the Supernatural beings are too strong and durable for these types of attacks to work), they work great against the mortals who are in league with the supernatural.

Using Special Combat attacks for Brawling and Rampages rules

A great resource when meta becomes important while dealing with incredibly strong supernatral beings is the Special Combat attacks for Brawling and Rampages info in the Heroes Unlimited G.M's Guide, pages 54-58. While it should be a rare occourence as the Supernatual creatures and monsters of BTS are more subtle, there can and should be times where a being throws sublty out the window and goes beastly on the investigators/hunters. Throwing cars, improvised power club, running power rams, bear hug power holds and the like can all be found in this info.

Supernatural Related:

Deceiving abilities will mask a creature’s supernatural aura

This may be something that’s already official, but was overlooked in the main book (planning to confirm this with Kevin the next time I talk with him).

When supernatural creatures use shape changing (like the Dar’ota), inhabiting the dead (like the Dybbuk or the Hoarse Whisperer) or are otherwise hiding or concealing themselves in plain sight (like a Tectonic Entity, Syphon, or Scaring Crow) or when using psychic/magic like Psychic Invisibility, their abilities also shield their supernatural aura from psychics. The trade off to this is that the creature cannot use any of their offensive talents unless stated otherwise in their details.

For example, a group of psychic investigators could be having a conversation with a Dar’ota who currently looks like a beautiful woman. None of them will get the “psychic adrenaline rush” unless she changes suddenly or attacks them in some way with her supernatural strength. Using any sort of offensive spells or ability will reveal her supernatural aura to the psychics.

While I’m on this subject, there are abilities that can alert the psychic to the creature’s true nature, but this will not automatically trigger an adrenaline rush. For example, if a Diviner uses “See the Aura of the Supernatural”, he would see through her disguise, but this will not trigger a power boost. The Dar’ota will still need to unleash its aura somehow to trigger this.

Using Hunting Rounds vs. “Defensive” Rounds

When confronting supernatural adversaries that are larger than humans, one of my house rules are that “man stopper” bullets (such as .45 A.C.P.’s and 9mm’s) only does ½ damage against these larger creatures. Bullets that were designed as hunting rounds (like the .357, .41 or .44 Magnum) all do full damage. Most rifle cartridges are considered hunting rounds and do normal damage as well.

Click here to download the PDF file of the house rules

Using the Leap, Run and Swim Stats on the character sheet:

In a modern day horror game, skills like running, jumping and swimming can be essential to survival. However, the main book provides little detail concerning these traits, so I came up with a set of rules for my home game.

Calculating the Leap, Run and Swim Stats on the character sheet:

Added by popular request, this page details how to calculate the “Miscellaneous Section” info, located on the back of the character sheet. For your convenience I've also linked a PDF file for you to keep at the bottom of the page.