House Rules

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House rules, in Role-playing games or wargames, are either modifications to the published rules or meta-rules adopted by a specific group. They can address either game mechanics, like how a particular action is done in the game, or real-world situations, like how dice must be rolled.

New players would often have the in-game house rules explained on joining; the meta-rules were often not mentioned until they showed up in play. Some groups use this as a form of hazing--making up fake rules and convincing the new player that they're standard, until the new guy's character dies from misapplication of the rule.

Some gaming groups developed elaborate house rules based on the antics of a single player; the 1925 things Mr. Welch can no longer do during an RPG is a long list of restrictions that are not expected to be tested by anyone else.

Examples of in-game rules

  • All spell costs are doubled to make the game more challenging (used in Ars Magica)
  • Use ST for hit points & HT for fatigue points, instead of the other way around. (GURPS; this was so common and effective that it was brought into the 4th edition rules as canon.)
  • Use Arduin Grimoire rules for critical hits and fumbles (many fantasy games did this)
  • GM will use 10- or 12-sided dice instead of 8-siders for "very tough" monsters. (D&D. Particularly vicious GM's used 30-siders.)
  • Paladins are allowed to be of any alignment, not just Lawful Good. (D&D; some groups used an article from Dragon magazine for the details; others made their own modifications.)
  • Elves' infravision works at the same distance as normal sight; it doesn't stop short at 60'. (D&D)
  • Elves don't speak 14 languages to start; that's just stupid. (D&D)
  • (Elaborate rules of cross-species fertility, allowing for halfling-dwarf crossbreeds but not elf-dwarf.) (D&D)

Examples of external rules

  • All dice must be read from where they land; only cocked dice are re-rolled.
  • All dice must be rolled on the table; if they fall off, re-roll that die.
  • If any die falls off the table, re-roll the whole set.
  • The darker-colored die is always the 10's place; lighter colored is the 1's place. (Gamers have lots of rules about dice.)
  • The person who brought the rules goes first
  • If you say it out loud, your character said/did it (many games)
  • No Monty Python jokes allowed. Penalties will be assigned by GM, based on how tired he is of hearing them.