House rules; every campaign has them. Some are minor, representing small tweaks to the game system, while other rework major parts of the rules to better suit the participants’ style and enjoyment. House rules are cool; they let a GM and players stamp their personality on a game and customise it to their hearts’ content.
It is always a good idea to note house rules before a campaign begins. That way all participants know exactly where they stand. Providing a handout detailing such rules cuts down on confusion and minimises any arguments that emerge further down the line.
The determination of a campaign’s house rules is something that should be done as a group. While ultimately the final decision rests with the GM, the players are also participants in the game and deserve a voice in such discussions given that most of the house rules will inevitably affect their characters.
While, obviously, the exact nature of the house rules depends on a group’s proclivities, a group should give some serious thought to several areas which will inevitably crop up at some point:
At some point one or more of the participants won’t be able to turn up for the game. In this eventuality things to consider include:
- What happens to the player’s character? (Does it disappear to return when the player returns, does someone else run it and so on).
- At what point should the session be cancelled? Can the group play on if one players can’t make it? How about if two fail to show?
Almost all game systems have optional rules within their rulebooks. It’s a good idea to note which optional rules are in use so that participants can familiarise themselves with these little used parts of the game system. You should also note which options from the core rulebook are unavailable (if any).
It’s also a good idea to list what other resources (such as non-core books and supplements) a player can use to build his character. Suddenly being told that a certain feat or prestige class is unavailable can really irritate a player particularly if he has spent some time working toward the option in question.
Sadly, this happens all too frequently. Character death is a stressful event for the unfortunate player and to reduce the chance of arguments it’s wise to consider the ramifications of a dead PC. For example,
- How easy is it to be raised from the dead?
- If the player prefers to start a new character, at what level should he be? Options include: the same level as the deceased character, one level lower than the lowest level character and so on.
- What happens to the slain character’s equipment? Can the survivors share it out among themselves?
- Does the new character get it? Is it buried with the deceased?
At first glance this might seem like a strange subject for a house rule but dice govern most aspects of the game and how they are rolled is important. For example, the players roll their dice in the open; should the GM? If a dice rolls onto the floor (or into a full cup of coffee as a player managed in my game recently) should it be rolled again or does the result stand? Who decides if a die is cocked and do all rolls have to be witnessed?
The First Session!
About the Designer
Creighton is a keen gamer who passionately believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he releases through Raging Swan Press.
Over the last 11 years, Creighton has worked with Expeditious Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He now releases his own products through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at raging-swan.livejournal.com.
Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduringGREYHAWK fan.
[Editor’s Note: Creighton has graciously offered the opportunity for U.S. readers to check out this series of columns originally posted at the UK Roleplayers site about a year ago. This is the second article in a series. It first appeared target="_blank">here on 1-JULY-2011. Here is the previous article.]
- Game-time expectations from JP on Gaming (jpchapleau.blogspot.com)
- Gloomwrought House Rules from Sly Flourish (slyflourish.com)
- Alternate Rules for Speed from Blog Articles (f1337command.com)
- Creighton’s Corner: Campaign Primer (gameknightreviews.com)
- Creighton’s Corner: Starting a New Campaign (gameknightreviews.com)
- Creighton’s Corner: What’s A Campaign Anyway? (gameknightreviews.com)
- Creighton’s Corner: Know Your Players (gameknightreviews.com)
- Reverb Gamers #28 – House Rules from Pyres of Vam ” rpgs (pyresofvam.com)