View Full Version : The Ultimate List of House Rules

06-19-2014, 07:53 PM
Post 'em here, folks. I'm not talking about system changes; I don't care if your White Wolf game uses d20s instead of d6s.

For this thread, a house rule is a rule that doesn't impact the game system: it's free-floating. It's a plug-in.

What's your favorite house rule, or standalone rule?


One Unique Thing (13th Age): each character has something that makes him different from everyone else. What is that thing? (And it doesn't affect game mechanics.)

Free clues (Gumshoe): let the PCs automatically find clues. Finding them isn't the fun part. Deciding what to do with them is.

Bloodied status (D&D 4): when a character is at half hit points, weird things happen. These are usually new or improved abilities.

06-20-2014, 12:32 AM
I like to run a one-on-one session, maybe an hour or two, with each player before the first official session. They are 12 or 13 years old, and the PLAYER knows what they want to do - I run a mini-adventure to see how they can talk their parents out of making them become the next generation of farmer/crafter/whatever.

I don't have many houserules... here's a few:

1. Killing a familiar HURTS the arcane caster like in all previous editions!!
2. Lizard men have stinky musk again.
3. If you want to change an arcane spell on the fly, go ahead and try... but don't be surprised when something happens!
4. All divine spellcasters get spontaneous spells. They just get slots - and if they need 5 Bless spells today, then that's what they cast. They get their power from a DEITY, not a book!!

I also like to TRY to do something special... as in below:

PC is at swimming hole with a half-dozen friends, when suddenly a herd of bugbears appears and captures them, taking them prisoner. How will the PC survive. One friend hurts his ankle... and that night, there is fresh meat in the pot. Things are grim. Do they play along to mollify the bugbears or try to escape? A Dwarf is ambushed, and a bloody foot - still in the boot - is tossed to the kids to eat. Do they survive or starve and end up in the cooking pot?

Now, what class did the player want? For anything non-mage/cleric, it goes like this:

What's this? A neat folding punch dagger is hidden in the boot. The player pockets it. What seems like MONTHS later (okay, it is), as everyone is getting ready to sleep in the snow, the PC sees eyes looking at them from the forest - DWARVES!! The Dwarves ambush the bugbears - and near the PC, they see a bugbear getting ready to shoot a crossbow at an unsuspecting Dwarf's back... do they use the dagger or just cower?

For a Wizard, the boot had a piece of parchment with weird squiggles on it that they can ALMOST read... until that last moment when the PC realizes that they CAN read it (Ooh, Magic Missile scroll!!).

For a Sorcerer, the stress of the last battle suddenly unleashes their cantrip powers - and their special abilities (bloodlines?) come out.

For a Cleric, a wounded Dwarf falls at the PC's feet and is about to breath his last. The PC can "try" to pray to their deity to heal them (for 1HP) and it WORKS!! YAY!!

Their actions - no matter what they choose - will elicit responses from the Dwarves. After rescue, the survivors are escorted home - and NOW the player can start training on whatever class they want. If they saved a life, they get "gifts" - perhaps a wand with 2-5 charges, maybe a MW weapon, maybe a future favor from the Dwarves (I'm big on favors!!).

Soft Serve
06-20-2014, 03:43 AM
Would changing D&D to E6 be a houserule or a system change in your opinion?

06-20-2014, 08:49 AM
System change. And despite the coolness of Malruhn's introductory adventure technique, it's more of a campaign feature than house rule.

His #3, magic spells can be freely altered with potentially hazardous effects, is more like the house rules I'm looking for.

Another example:

The Die of Doom:
The die of doom has six faces: wings, swords, shields, hands, TSR, and the dragon. Each face generally represents:
Wings - mobility
Swords - damage
Shields - defense
Hands - attack
TSR - safety
Dragon - doom!

If you roll your lowest possible roll (like a D&D critical fail), you get a penalty related to one of these. The opposite goes for a highest roll. Where it gets fun: if you catch a player or GM side-talking, then you get to roll the Die of Doom and take a bonus or give a penalty.

Soft Serve
06-21-2014, 04:48 AM
I generally swap out Halflings and Gnomes with houseruled versions of Aasimar, Harsaffs, Kenku, Tieflings, Githyanki, or something else.

And regardless of running Eberron or not, I include Warforged and Warforged Scouts as well as Changelings.

The reason I drop Halflings and Gnomes is because screw halflings and gnomes. Those two races are "special because we're small" and follow exactly one branch. Lovable Rogue and Apt Tinkerer (of magic or machines) respectively. They both need to go the way of the Kender and see themselves eradicated. From history. Real world history. Forever.

06-23-2014, 10:41 AM
- Assumed Gear. I assume a lot of transitional things like (if in appropriate settings) a group having at least a minimal amount of torches and flint and steel, etc. as well as ordinarily inconsequential but reasonable things like having a paper and pen on hand if the player can come up with generally any decent justification. Often even if they don't buy it (depends on the game), I assume appropriate major and peripheral equipment, such as doctors having at least a decent kit and some unusual things other people wouldn't have (needle, scalpel, etc). In this same vein, a "standard adventuring kit" which is assumed to include most all these things, like torches, bedroll, pocket knife, maybe even a tent, etc.

- No abstract/mental Drawbacks/Flaws/Hindrances/Disadvantages for points. I've talked to many other GMs that also adopt this to a greater or lesser extent. Although it is possible it CAN be done well with a whole group of good, responsible players all on the same page, by default, I disallow gaining any sort of character points at creation for taking any negative trait or liability that doesn't directly apply significantly to game mechanics or is otherwise a clearly ruleable issue . I will allow "Can't Swim" and will apply an appropriate rule when attempted (either halving or quartering any default AGL/2 base or even auto fail) or Bad Eyes (perception penalty) for points (if the system works that way), but will not give any for "Leaky Brainpan", "Loyalty", "Bloodthirsty", "Split Personality" or things like that. For FAR too many people, especially new or casual players, this is seen as carte-blanche to act out and disrupt things and get extra points to pump Strength for doing so. NO WAY. I allow players to take most such things and might even apply any penalties (like -2 to Fear Rolls for Cowardly), but they will be playing them as "free" character traits and receive no starting points for them. Roleplaying a liability should be its own role-play reward for the player.

- Hold That Thought. When an issue or rules argument comes up during a game, if possible, we resolve it quickly on the spot with an initial improv ruling and polling players to see if everybody is ok, and then VERY briefly discussing and changing it if there are objections, and adding it to a house rule list which may still be changed later out-of-game by us all. If an issue seems not immediately resolvable, I make a final spot ruling and move on, saying that we can discuss and resolve or research the issue after-game or out of game later, and may even have to redact some of what happens if it turns out I'm way off base. But the important point here is we deal with a problem situation quickly, concisely and as equitably as possible, or make a GM fiat stopgap fudge, but we still move on and keep the game rolling.

06-23-2014, 02:16 PM
- Assumed gear: I like it. Let's keep character sheets lighter, shall we? This goes well with the Err on the Player Side rule. For example, the Rebel squad just successfully assaulted and took control of a star destroyer bridge. But before leaving, no one said "I grab the dead captain's holo-message from Imperial command," their main objective. Maybe you can just assume, later, that someone took it.

- No flaws for benefits: I agree with you, even though this is more of a GM philosophy than a house rule.

I was trying to dream up a cool house rule the other day, since I don't have the broad experience of other RPGs to know what other cool rules are out there. I came up with:

- Spell Debt. Different RPGs have different ways to limit the spellcasting abilities of magicians, but oftentimes the quantity of spells available becomes an issue. Why not give the player a spell credit card, from which to cast spells that must be paid back in the future, possibly with interest? It just might be enough to save a player from saying, "well, that's all my spells. I'll be useless for the rest of this fight."

06-27-2014, 04:29 PM
"Countdown" from What's O.L.D. is N.E.W.:

Want something to end in a certain number of rounds, without anyone knowing what the actual time limit will be?

Grab a pool of dice - I think the default is 6d6 - and whenever you roll a 6, that die gets removed from the pool. Each roll is another round of time. When the last die rolls a 6, times up!

Matt James
06-29-2014, 02:13 PM
"Countdown" from What's O.L.D. is N.E.W.:

Want something to end in a certain number of rounds, without anyone knowing what the actual time limit will be?

Grab a pool of dice - I think the default is 6d6 - and whenever you roll a 6, that die gets removed from the pool. Each roll is another round of time. When the last die rolls a 6, times up!

I've seen variants of that before and I'm not sure if it's unique to What's O.L.D. is N.E.W.

08-21-2014, 04:30 PM
This one's growing on me, mostly because my game doesn't have a critical hit rule:

Exploding Dice:
If you roll the highest result on a die, roll again and add it to the results.

10-15-2014, 02:42 AM
Like the assumed gear the Heisenberg pack. It saves writing down things to start with,. You get 25 pounds of mundane gear. Determine what it is as you go and need it. Once used up that is what you have.

I give bennies for backgrounds.

10-15-2014, 07:40 AM
Perhaps more a Palladium house rule: Head shots are always aimed and a miss always misses (does not fall back to the main body if you rolled high enough for a hit there).

10-16-2014, 11:47 AM
Tesral: I'm guessing the 25 pound rule is a medieval-genre rule? Because in a modern game I'd spend 8 pounds on an assault rifle, and the rest on ammo! (Probably doesn't apply to weapons, huh?)

Snuffy: does that mean you can't get a head shot without trying to get one? Interesting rule. It looks useful for games with specific-hit locations.

Let's see, what have I encountered lately...

5e's Advantage/Disadvantage rule can be broken down into a house rule:
If your game features bonuses to die rolls (+2 or greater), stop using them. A bonus counts as advantage, a penalty counts as disadvantage. The two cancel each other out, so whatever advantages (or disadvantages) remain after cancelling, allow you to roll your d20 check twice. If you have more advantages, you take the higher roll. If you have more disadvantages, you take the lower roll.

10-16-2014, 04:00 PM
Tesral: I'm guessing the 25 pound rule is a medieval-genre rule? Because in a modern game I'd spend 8 pounds on an assault rifle, and the rest on ammo! (Probably doesn't apply to weapons, huh?).

I use it for all eras. And no not usually weapons. You are expected to have gotten weapons. It is for the flashlight, torches, tent spikes, food, coil of rope, and the other things people usually forget to list.

Now you can have an assault rifle and a pack of ammo, but don't ask for a wound kit. You spent your 25 pounds.

The last group I was in I was the only one with a knife. Once we were out of that the character bought EVERYONE a knife.

10-17-2014, 10:17 AM
*Wizards can overcast (casting more than allowed number of spells), Each spell takes a round action to cast going off after the last initiative and There is a progressively worsening chance of Backlash.

*Backlash is not just caused by overcasting other things cause it too like crit-fail an arcane spell failure roll. Backlash looks a lot like the AD&D wild surge list with strange random magic effects. But they always target the caster and they are never a good thing. Some reverse the spell some cast random other spells, some burnout your magic for a day or week, some give you mental disorders or physical impediments. The only one that doesn't target the caster happens when they cast an attack spell and it backlashes they receive half the damage the spell would have done and a random AID type spell of the same level or lower(adding metamagic feats to raise it to the same level) is cast on all of the targets but they have to save as if it was the original spell. So You cast a 6d6 fire ball and backlash on it you take 6d6 * .5 damage and then I roll and determine all the enemies that would fail their Reflex saves gain Empowered Bulls Strength. OOPS

*I hate charging EXP for making magic items. so I make components that are really tough to get. If you want to make a potion of Cure light you have a few ingredients that you can buy and then one like catching a blue lark to get its 3rd tail feather. Hard at level 1 but at level 12 you catch a whole swarm of them with the web spell and make 10 potions. However if you are making an item that has permanent benefits there is a 50% chance the benefits are fleeting unless you spend half the exp that the book calls for to shore up the magic. Also item crafting requires an appropriate craft and knowledge skill. Knowledge(alchemic components) and craft(alchemy) for the above potion. No Craft Item Feats used.

*Any character can use the above rule to create magic items. But non-magic wielding characters need a source of magic like stealing the magic from another item, using a powerful magic crystal, bargain power from a demon or similar creature. They also end up with twice or more times the rare components needed to create the item. So more questing to trap hard to find animals, hiking 10 volcanoes looking for the elusive Fire Lilly, or sneaking past a guard into a crypt of a dwarven king to steal some royal dwarven bone dust.