On House Rules

(Has it really been 10 months since my last post? I really need to post more often! I do have things I can put up here...anyway, I digress).

While tweaking my Campaign Guidelines page recently (though I'm still not satisfied), I realized that I’m not a huge fan of “house rules”. I use them like everyone else, but I’m trying to minimize that. To me, when you sit down to a game at someone’s table and they say they’re playing “Game X”, if you already know that game you shouldn’t have to re- learn a bunch of things you already know. I can’t get away from tinkering a least a little bit, but ultimately I have to ask myself if a change is really necessary. Most of the time, it isn’t.

That said, I do consider there to be two types of “house rules”: rules changes and option availability. The former are actual changes to existing rules, like saying that active Perception rolls can’t be lower that a character’s passive Perception score, or that items need to be saves if their possessor fails their’s (assuming you’re playing 5E rather than 1E). Option availability is different - this is what races, subclasses, backgrounds, etc. are allowed. Still a “house rule”, but not being able to play a halfling or a wild mage sorcerer doesn’t change the rules of the game, it just limits what you can choose from when creating your character. I’m more flexible on this kind of house rule since I feel those are necessary to represent a setting and keep it from becoming a generic “kitchen sink” type of world.

What about variants, such as those from the 5E DMG? They’re “official” but what’s used and what’s not would still fall under the “option availability” category...mostly.

My opinion about minimizing house rules (the “rules changes” type, at least) is that at some point if you have to keep changing the rules of the game, maybe you’d be better off playing a different game. I remember years ago during the 1E/2E era running across a Word doc online (PDFs really weren’t a thing until much later) called “ED&D” or “Enhanced D&D” which was a couple hundred pages of the author’s house rules. I remember wondering why the guy didn’t play something else or just create a new game (these days, that’s likely what they’d do, and publish it through a Kickstarter...).

I’d say if your house rules can’t fit on a single printed page, you may want to think about whether a different game is in order, or whether the changes you’re making are necessary.


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