In a game I'm planning on running, I'm planning to run it in an "Ironman" fashion, reminiscent of Nethack and the Diablo options.

I have established that:

  • there will be no possibility of resurrection (though if the characters do get epic level class features of "I can't believe I'm not dead" that's perfectly acceptable.)
  • new characters start at 0 XP, but the group has an XP "pool" that can be spent on different characters at different rates. (For example, the group could determine that they really want the striker to be level 2 this session, and spend 1000 XP from the pool to level the striker before the rest of the party. This also provides a way to catch new characters up to the rest of the party.)
  • Items are persistent in the world: corpse runs are always "Fun"
  • Character stats are 4d6k3, with the order unchangeable. (There are other provisions in place to allow players to play characters that they want to play.)

What other house rules are appropriate to support this style of play? Are the house rules as described above viable and entertaining?

  • \$\begingroup\$ How deadly are you thinking? Are you planning on using save/reload rules? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cthos
    Apr 23, 2011 at 23:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ No save, no reload, standard encounter difficulty as presented in the modules (verrrrry swingy) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2011 at 0:18
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Did you ever run this? I can hardly imagine it being possible in 4e to have a group with character level more than about 3 levels apart without the lower level guys being a complete waste of table space... \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jul 25, 2015 at 7:10

2 Answers 2


First thing I though of was Fourthcore over at Save Versus Death. It's basically what you're talking about here: old school brutal dungeon crawling and if your character bites it don't come crawling to me. If you Google Fourthcore, you'll get a list of things to look at. The intro is over here and the Fourthcore manifesto lives here. I found some houserules in this ENWorld thread which you could mine for ideas.

Other "gritty" houserules came out of Dark Sun. I've bookmarked Greg Bilsland's houserules post for his ideas, plus other ideas in the comments. Reducing healing surges really makes 4e players think twice about diving into combat, so you may want to consider the possibility that you'll be encouraging them to actively avoid combat.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It appears Greg Bisland's blog has become a diet, fitness, and weight loss faux blog/advertisment (so... um... don't go into the edit history and click it, I guess?). I've deliberately deadened the link. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 25, 2015 at 2:32

So when I first saw this question, a couple of things popped into my head:

  1. AD&D (2nd Edition) Hit Points Essentially, this would mean that if you reach 0 hit points, you are dead. Period. I would not go so far as to randomly roll for hit points, as the dynamic in 4th ed is not built for that at all. This option would also kill your party more times than not, most likely.
  2. Revamp the Rules on Healing Potions - Diablo gave you plenty of opportunities to heal yourself if you got battered. I would say something like a potion still heals its static value, but you don't have to spend a surge to use it. Alternatively, a potion would heal you for a static value plus its surge value but does cost a surge to use. That would help increase survivability for awhile and also put more emphasis on Diablo-style looting.

I'm not super-familiar with that style of play, as I never looked at the AD&D Diablo crossover thing, but it should be fairly interesting to convert to 4e.


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