It's come to my attention that in the Year of Our Lord 2019 someone is linking to this - which is flattering and also fine, however not exactly representative of how I'm running my D&D games nowadays. So I figure it's time for an update on that front.
These are the rules I've been using over the past year+ in my ongoing Red & Pleasant Land campaign. Two major sources pillaged are the LotFP playtest rules in Eldritch Cock, and Evey Lockhart's Broken Wilds setting.
There's maybe room for reflection here on how my approach to running D&D has evolved since I wrote up those older houserules in 2014. However it is already past my bedtime, so those thoughts will have to wait.
A-here we go:
Doing stuff: It's all skill checks. Each skill has a die ranking along this chain: d6 --> d8 --> d10 --> d12 --> d20 --> d30. Most tasks succeed on a 5 or higher; tasks requiring special training need a 7 or higher.
Saving Throws ("Pluck" tests): d20 + Pluck, target depends on difficulty of the Save. Difficulty is loosely riffed off Daniel Dean's XXR Saving Throws.
Encumbrance: My players are too lazy to be diligent about encumbrance so I decided to be a stickler about how much gear a character can carry, hence the Ready/Stored/Pockets/Worn slot system. Anything in Ready, Pockets, or Worn can be used at will. (Worn is for clothing only - sheathed weapons or things attached to belts, etc., count as Ready). Anything Stored takes 1d4+1 rounds to access. Furthermore, Stored items require the use of a backpack or a large sack.
Initiative: Rolled every round. Opposed rolls by the member of each side with the highest Alertness die. Highest roll acts first. Players win even ties, GM wins odds.**
What happens when I run out of HP? [This]***
Talking to NPCs: Printout of page 7 of Beloch Shrike's Fuck the King of Space
Magic: I use Beloch's Magic Words with a couple changes: First, creating a new spell costs 250 gp +250 gp for every word used in excess of the second (or the equivalent value in magical materials). At the time of creation, the player tells me what they want the spell to do and I note it on one side of an index card. On the other side, I write my cruel, malicious interpretation of the name. I then quietly put the card away until such a time as the player decides to try and cast the spell. At the moment of casting, and not before, the player makes an Arcana check to see if they created the spell correctly. If they succeed (5+), it works as they wanted. If they fail (4-), we use my version instead. This check is only made the first time a spell is cast; the result holds for all future castings.*!
Running Away: Everyone makes a Physique or Stealth check. If you're wearing chain or plate armour, it has to be physique. Reduce your Physique die one size if you're wearing Plate. Increase or reduce the entire party's die size one step if there is a significant difference in speed between them and the enemy. The party escapes if a majority (that's half+1) of their rolls are successes (5+). If anyone's die size is reduced below d6, they cannot escape.
Sneak attacks: If you attack an unsuspecting target, add your Sneak Attack die to your attack and damage rolls.
I think that covers it? Man, D&D is easy.
*I don't remember who, but someone wrote a blog post a while back about using plaintext character sheets for online games. My R&PL game is mostly online with a bunch of friends from back home, and that advice has been indispensable. I think credit goes to Saker Tarsos, but I can't seem to find the post in question...
**The use of a skill check for Initiative and the method for resolving ties, and really the entire damn skill system, were inspired by John Bell's excellent Necrocarcerus game.
***I have been using this same table - no, the same printout of this table, since 2015. It has its flaws but generates enough tension that I haven't seen the need to change it. Plus: it looks fucking great when I pull it out of my binder, especially with a few years of wear on it.
*!My favourite outcome of this rule was when a player made a spell called Summon Places. They imagined it as a pretty standard teleportation spell. Unfortunately (well, for them), they flubbed their Arcana check, so the spell actually makes large chunks of land and architecture fall out of the sky. We're all very happy with this development.