Saturday, December 27, 2008

Do You Keep a House Rules Document?

I believe most gamers house rule. Occasionally on the WotC/ENWorld forums, I'd run into hard-as-nails, rules-as-written types, but I think for the most part we all fudge, tinker with, and tweak systems as the experience of actual play dictates.

I was thinking in particular of an old Rolemaster campaign I was in (on the player side of things). The GM and one other player had been playing a long time, and had created extensive house rules for that edition of RM. However, he went along the lines of "if something is different, I'll tell you when it comes up in play". While this might work for a tweak here or there, he had changed a lot--and I mean a lot--of rules. Therefore, the players ended up feeling like things were too arbitrary, inconsistent, and confusing in a lot of situations. In hindsight, it was a campaign that underscored to me the importance of ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to rules. You don't NEED a house rule document--sometimes, changes are miniscule enough that a quick word at the start of a campaign is enough--but you do need communication about house rules.

So how formal are you house rules? Are they written down, just generally understood, or compiled into a pdf document?

Here's an excerpt from our (Castles & Crusades house rules, which are both handed out and kept on our group website (currently under renovation):

House Rules

-The Game Master (or Castle Keeper, as it may be) makes rulings. We are not slaves to the rules.

-Attributes: If after attribute rolls your sum total of attribute modifiers is -1 or less, you may opt to re-roll until you surpass that mark.

-Challenges: The base challenge rating for Primary/Secondary stats has been changed from 12/18 to 12/15, which seems to work a bit better.

-Critical Hits: We will be using Arms Law to resolve critical hits. If you roll a critical, there is no need to reroll to confirm. You automatically do double (or triple) damage, as dictated by the weapon. However, you must roll a d6; on a 1-2, you roll an "A" critical; on a 3, a "B"; on a 4, a "C", on a 5, a "D", on a 6, an "E". You then roll percentiles to determine the additonal critical hit made.

-d30 Rule: Once per game session, a player may choose to roll a d30 instead of any normal dice roll. This cannot be used for any purpose during character creation or for hit point rolls.

-Initiative: Your Dexterity modifier is added to your initiative roll.

-Magic: Rolling a 1 on a casting roll equals a botch/critical failure, and can mean anything from a simple spell failure to losing the spell or opening up an unintended tear in space-time. Rolling a 20 is a critical success, and generally means the effect time, duration, or damage is doubled.

-Mass Combat: There is the very likely chance this game will see multiple instances of mass combat. Where appropriate, we will be using the Mass Combat rules from Farland World:

-Miniatures: Any placing of inappropriate miniatures, such as Giant Frogs or Golems on the table either in a) random fashion, b) an attempt to once again play out the "this represents my character" shtick, or c) an attempt to drive me mad, will result in negative roll modifiers for the entire night's play to be levied against the entire group.

-Mulligan Stones will again be used. They may be used to re-roll any player dice roll. Every character will start the game with one. They are handed out (sparingly) for good roleplaying, teamwork, great one-liners, fervent game participation, and general awesomeness. In a new twist, they may be used to add +5 to any one player roll (limit one Mulligan Stone per player roll).

A player may use their Mulligan Stone on another player's roll, provided that other player agrees.

-Powers & Feats: Feats or a 3.5-style skill system are not included in the game by default; however, bonuses and special statuses may be handed out by the GM/CK depending on circumstance, accomplishment, and how often you compliment me.

-Suggestions are always welcome! If something isn't working, let's discuss it. This is a game that lends itself to houseruling. Let's keep it simple, keep it fun, and make it ours.


clovis said...

i have 72 pages of typed & illustrated pages on DnD homebrew

(designed to be ran in a 2.5 setting)

drop me an Email @

IF you are interested

Zachary The First said...

Oh, you KNOW I am! Email sent! :)

Norman Harman said...

Wiki, hand outs, 3x5 cards(what you can use "fate" stones for). Too many on the spot in game rulings that then get documented later unless I forget.

"Inappropriate miniature placement ist verbotten!" That rule cracks me up. Sounds like there's a humorous, possibly not to the DM, story behind that.

I'm curious what issues you found with 12/18 that prompted change to 12/15?

thanuir said...

I run a lot of homebrewed games and usually write the rules down as a blog post.

Otherwise, not really.

Zachary The First said...

We found that the move to 15 just was a sweeter spot for our group in terms of character competency. I've played both ways, and that's just sort of where the indicator is at this time. I know of a few other folks (Doc Rotwang of I Waste The Buddha With My Crossbow, for one) who have done a similar adjustment.

Zachary The First said...

@ Norman: And yes, there's a story behind the rule against inappropriate minis placement. Its sort of a running joke that my players try to select the most inappropriate mini possible to represent their character when we're getting started--Treants, Storm Giants, Dragons--you name it. They also enjoy placing Giant Frog minis on the table when I'm not looking. :)

Wyatt said...

I have a large blog post I constantly update with whatever random houserules I can think of for D&D 4e, but I don't use all of them. In fact I've only used like three of them and there's like 20 or 30. When I'm actually starting a game, I make a list with the names of the houserules, so players can look them up in the blog post (browser in-text search for the win).

Adaen of Bridgewater said...

I heavily houserule, so I usually prepare a word document detailing them. My GM for the 3.25 campaign I play in has a thread that maintains all the houserules on our game board.


-gleichman said...

I typically do a significant number of house rules for any published games- mostly because game publishers suck as designers.

I post them on my web page for the players to reference. Right now there's a ton of stuff there for classic Deadlands (although we've stopped using the Deadland rules) and HERO System.

Giga boy said...

I used to house-rule heavily but as time passed by I got sick of rewriting entire rulesets and painstakingly update my docs. So I finally found a system I'm in love with that just needs very little fixing: Castles and Crusades.
Here is all I do:

1)All Primaries have a Target number of 11 and Secondaries had a base target of 16. (But I'm tempted to leave them as they are)

2)Only class abilities and racial abilities add the full level to the roll. All other rolls (including Saving Throws) only add one-half the level round down. Additionally the difficulty of a task is increased only by one half the enemy's/target's Level or Hit Dice.
Any roll that crosses in the domain of another class or race does not add anything for level, but I allow those kind of actions.
My rationale for this is that I have a slightly better chance for everybody of doing things -even basic things- and reduce the effect of levels and level difference on Saving Throws (which IMHO is a bit too drastic).

3) I give wizards and illusionists the chance to use armor introducing a failure chance based on armor worn. The casting magician rolls 1d20 and subracts the base AC modifier of armor and shields worn: if the total is 1 or more, the spell is succesfull and this same roll is used to penetrate Spell Resistance. On a modified result of 0 or less the spell slot is spent and the spell fails. (However I'm thinking of doing away with this too and leave spellcaster armor restrictions as they are).

4)I use the optional rules on Multi-classing from the Castle Zagyg download, yet I advise you do not add the levels of all classes to get the character's effective level, just average them rounding down. Only two classes per character at most. If a class duplicates another class ability (like Disguise for Assassin/Illusionists)they get a +2 to the Siege Check. I don't allow Dual class characters from that document as I think there is something wrong in the way HD and character level are calculated.

5) Combat dominance works on all 1HD ceatures regardless of HD type

Best regards