Also posted on OOTS, but I don't think linking there is permitted so I'm reposting here. Hopefully this will prove useful for current and prospective 4E D&D DMs.
Ritual mastery, and surge powered rituals:
When learning a ritual, a character makes a skill check against a hard DC of one of that ritual's key skills (the character's choice). For every 5 points he exceeds the DC by, the time required to learn the ritual decreases by 1 hour to a minimum of 1 hour. For every 5 points he fails the DC by, the time required to learn the ritual increases by 1 hour instead.
Rituals can be mastered in half the normal time (normally 4 hours) if the person learning the ritual benefits from a successful Aid Another attempt on the skill check to master that ritual by another creature who has already mastered it. On a failure, the ritual takes twice as long to learn as the student is mislead and confused. Only one creature can use Aid Another in this way.
Rituals half a character's level or less are considered trivial for that character and can be learned in the duration of a short rest without a check (5 minutes).
Mastered rituals that are half the caster's level or less (rounded down) count as being memorized and have the following properties:
Variable Cost Rituals:
- Memorized: They don't require a ritual book, spellshard or any other such receptacle to use for the caster.
- Surge Spending: Their component costs can be paid for by losing a healing surge rather than the normally required cost.
- Faster Cast Time: They can be done within the duration of a short rest (or 5 minutes/50 rounds), or half their normal cast time (minimum 1 minute/10 rounds, unless their default cast time is less, in which case it doesn't decrease), whichever is faster.
- Expediting: They can be cast in 5 rounds (expedited) before making any skill check associated with them by losing an additional healing surge, quickening its completion with an investiture of raw life force.
Special rituals with variable costs like Raise Dead are either excepted from being paid for with surges (DM's discretion; they may be expedited), or value healing surges at 5 GP * 5/50/500 per tier (so 25 GP for a heroic character per surge, 250 GP / paragon surge, 2500 GP / epic surge). A character spending surges in lieu of components must equal the component cost with surges spent in this way. The latter option permits use of variable cost rituals with healing surges without allowing for abuse of rituals such as Raise Dead, given the exceedingly high cost of its components.
Focuses and Wealth Creating Rituals:
Focuses, and the component costs of any ritual that creates a permanent item or effect with a defined monetary value (such as Brew Potion or Enchant Magical Item) can _never_ be paid for in this way with healing surges (but they may be expedited). For rituals with a permanent duration paid for with healing surges, you must lose a healing surge to sustain it at the end of each extended rest, or its effects end. A ritual sustained in this way for a year and a day becomes permanent.
Healing Surges Lost to Ritual Casting/Sustaining:
Any creature that loses healing surges to sustain or cast rituals with this rule supplement cannot have more healing surges than their normal allotment of healing surges per day minus any healing surges lost in this way until the end of their next extended rest. Any healing surges above this maximum are immediately lost.
- Subtract the number of creatures that unsuccessfully used Aid Another to assist in performing a ritual from those that did so successfully.
- If this difference is positive, divide the casting time by 1 + this difference. Otherwise multiply it by 1 + this difference (as a positive number).
Note that any character using Aid Another in this way will be preoccupied for the full duration of the ritual.
The casting time of a ritual cannot be reduced to less than 5 rounds in this way. These casting time modifiers apply before all others.
Rituals Without Skill Checks:
For rituals with no skill check, you instead make a skill check against a Hard DC of that ritual's associated skill and level. If your check succeeds, you can reduce the casting time of that ritual by 20% of its post-modifier cast time, plus another 20% for every 5 points your check exceeds this DC to a minimum of 5 rounds. Failure by 5 or more points means you take twice as long to perform the ritual instead.
This allows for the more consistent application and utility of rituals, particularly at the lower levels by making them practical to use and affordable, while simultaneously retaining definitive limits on their frequency of use. It also helps with issues of purchasing insufficient quantities of the needed reagent/component type. In the context of a 'work/adventuring day' it further presents a risk vs reward component, and introduces resource management depth to the game, particularly for casters with smaller healing surge pools (like the Wizard); the healing surges they spend could make all the difference between life and death. Lastly, it makes all rituals benefit from having a high score in their associated skill, rendering ritual casting more consistent and 'fair'.
Overall, this would neatly solve and address the problem of rituals rarely seeing use because of uncertain utility and prohibitive and recurring costs (especially at the lower levels) which are highly unpopular or even truly untenable for most players and campaigns, as well as no check rituals completely failing to reward/penalize high or low skill checks. It also makes them situationally but potentially useful in combat encounters given the 5 round cast time floor, perhaps permitting an interesting scenario where the party wizard struggles to conjure an escape portal while he's defended by his allies.
Each player gains one free expertise and one free defense bolstering feat of that player's choice. The defense feat chosen must permanently and unconditionally increase at least one defense.
Both Expertise and defense boosting feats are required to keep pace with monster defense and attack roll progressions; these are universal feat taxes.
Further, these feats are so powerful relative to other feats of the same tier (particularly by Paragon) that they are de facto feat taxes.
Each defender that has a primary ability other than strength gains a free Melee Training or other feat that enables them to substitute their strength with their primary ability score for the attack rolls of opportunity or melee basic attacks.
Precludes non-strength defenders from suffering an unnecessary feat tax in the form of Melee Training and equivalents. These feats are required if the defender wants a strong opportunity attack, which is essential for the role.
A creature can only take damage from entering or exiting a zone, square, aura or area once per turn.
Prevents degenerate forced movement combos accumulating massive amounts of automatic damage (see Storm Pillar + readied forced movement as an example).
PCs are only allowed one (1) slotless Alternative Reward item (boons, grandmaster training, etc...) per tier.
Generally, these items are incredibly and disproportionately powerful for their cost and rarity. Coupled with the fact that they're slotless, they're far too strong to be permitted without any such limiter.
If I'm missing any other high priority/important house rules, be sure to let me know.
Less Essential Houserules:
Though not as critical to an enjoyable 4e experience as the above changes, I find the game does work better with these additions:
Added the following under "Less Essential Houserules":
PCs have a +1 innate enhancement bonus to all attack rolls, damage rolls, and defenses at level 5. This bonus increases by +1 every additional 5 levels thereafter. PCs further have bonus critical damage dice equal to +1d6 per enhancement bonus gained in this way. These bonuses overlap but do not stack with enhancement bonuses from magical gear.
Allows PCs to viably use a broader variety of gear in combat, notably increasing player options without penalizing and disincentivizing investments in primary gear overtly. Normally secondary gear sets far too fall behind to be useful at higher levels, which results in stagnant, fixed loadouts.
Basic, mundane ammo isn't tracked. Currency weight isn't tracked, nor are currency denominations except where necessary. Players are always assumed to have adequate food and water unless in situations where these essentials are scarce at which point it's up to the DM to decide what rations the PCs have unless they've undertaken especial efforts to stock sustenance.
Prevents the game from being bogged down in pointless, simulationist minutiae. Most games follow this rule in practice anyways.