Thursday, February 2, 2012

Question of the Day: To House Rule or Not to House Rule?

Greetings, all! I don't have much time today, but I wanted to ask another question (geared mostly toward D&D and its spawn):

What is your stance on house rules? Do you avoid them totally, or do you use them to some degree? If you do use them, how extensive (or not) are your house rules? And what are the aspects of the game that you house rule?

For myself, I like to keep house rules to a minimum. I've limited myself to one 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper for house rules for my C&C campaign. And actually, only one side of the sheet has the house rules. The other side has rules from the Castle Keeper's Guide that I am using to augment the rules from the C&C Player's Handbook. So again, just one page of house rules.

My criteria these days for choosing a rule set to use is how much I would have to house rule to get a game I want to play. C&C is one of those games that I don't want to/need to house rule too much for it to do what I want it to do. When I find myself house ruling a game too much, that means (to me) that it's not one I want to play.

There is, however, something to be said for remembering to try playing a game for what it is (rules as written). Lord knows I have a hard time putting that into practice. I just dive automatically into tinkering for some reason. I'm trying to resolve/rethink that impulse in my mind right now with regard to Labyrinth Lord. I want to potentially run some LL games but I keep trying to house rule it too much (in my opinion). But I think I'm reaching a point where I'm accepting the game for what it is, rules as written.

Anyway, looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

P.S. I know JB at B/X Blackrazor has written about house rules, and his opinion is pretty clear, I think!


  1. My last game I used three: shields will be splintered; 1d30 rule; and my own burn hit points to re-cast spells. In the new game, probably just the first two.

  2. I use a fair number of house rules for my Flashing Blades campaign. Most fall into two categories: tweaks to existing rules to achieve a particular setting flavor and new rules to cover situations not addressed in the rules as written.

    It's rare for me to look at a block of rules and throw them out because I don't like them - I'm picky about the games I play, so if the rules bother me that much, it's unlikely I'll be all that interested in the game.

    Typically I will fit my house rules as closely as possible to the existing structure of the RAW; it's much easier for a player familiar with the rules to then pick them up, rather than asking the player to learn something completely different.

  3. I use some houserules. D30 rule, critical hits and fumbles from DCC in my C&C game.

  4. I'm trying to get together a game right now (my first in quite a while) and my plan is to go almost entirely with the RAW. Apart from simply identifying which optional rules (already in the RAW) will be in play or not, I have exactly 2 minimal houserules in mind: 1. PCs automatically get max hp at 1st level; 2. after rolling 3d6 in order for attributes, the player can swap any two scores. Other than that, I don't plan to have any house rules.

  5. @Bard: I really want to be a RAW guy. But SOMETHING inside me feels that strong tinkering urge! Trying to suppress that!

    1. Well, you know there's no rule written that say you need to be a rules-as-written guy. You just have to do what makes you happiest when you play.

      And in a spirit of full disclosure, I'm keeping the houserules minimal because I'm going with a set of rules that is a) very lite so there is little substance to actually change (S&W WB), and b) it's a set of rules that aligns very closely to how I want to play.

    2. One more bit of full disclosure -- my houserules now number 6, though most (five of them) are very minor and simple like the two above. So maybe I'm not quite as RAW as I thought. :)

  6. I've been looking to cut back on my house rules. I've basically got my own retro-clone at the moment. It was good for me to try out a lot of new stuff, but now I've got the feeling that if I want to run a Classic D&D or LL game, I should take it back to basics.

    There's still a part of me that says, "Hey, you put all this time and effort into all this stuff, why not keep using it?" but I think I can live without it, actually.

  7. I have a handful of rules but I try to hew close enough to the printed rules that a newbie running a first level PC won't be thrown for a loop right away.

  8. Since I've never met a perfect game of any kind I believe house ruling is as essential a skill as adventure creation or any other skill.

    It started for me at an early age when errata wasn't just around the corner. I played Decline of the Third Reich when I was 9 for the first time and even then I knew something was wrong. Those first few printings as I recall were pretty rough. Starship Troopers also had problems but I believe that one included a sheet with the corrections.

    And then there are things I just think are, well, stupid. Recent example: Arkham Horror. LOVE the game. Did away with those damn skill sliders in about 15 seconds. ARGH! Like it's really going to make that much of a difference when I'm being attacked by three monsters as I'm being sucked through a gate into another world. Right.

    My only rule to house rulers: You must inform your players up front about ANY house rules and preferably have them printed out as a hand out. That way there is no disagreements later...and people don't come at you with a knife...maybe no alcohol at the game table either...just to be safe :)