House Rules

Early last week I posted a poll here at The Iron Tavern about reader’s usage of house rules. There were four options in the poll:

  • No house rules at all, rules are rules
  • Minimal house rules, more like table clarifications
  • Some house rules, change things that need changing
  • Lots of house rules, my house rule doc is more than 2 pages

Based on this poll, everyone house rules at least a little. No one chose the no house rules option. 31% chose the minimal house rules or the more like table clarifications. Table clarifications could be tweaks to starting gold, hit points gained during leveling and items like that. 54% went with some house rules stating that if something needs changing, then they would change it to work for their game. And the final 15% confessed to house rules breaking into multiple pages.

The poll question was sparked by my reading of the Castles and Crusades Castle Keepers Guide the weekend before. Right up front there is section that plainly states that if the rules are impeding your fun, amend it or change it, but do not let it impede your fun. This got me thinking about the amount of house rules I use and whether I bend to the rules or if I bend them to my game.

I have frequently run Pathfinder games in the recent years. Some of the games I have run are for my local group where I have lots of flexibility and other times I run Pathfinder Society games under the organized play umbrella. There really isn’t room for house rules under organized play, as one needs to provide the same experience from one GM to another. But my home game has no such restriction.

Even for my home game I fall into the minimal house rules category. The things I rule on are much more like table clarifications. Things like rolling hit points being if you don’t break half on the die roll, take half. Or possibly just a clarification of a frequently debated rule with how we interpret it for my campaigns. I really don’t dig inand house rule things very much. I could fit it on a half a page I bet.

I was the same way with D&D 3.x as well. I did not make a lot of changes to the rules. I pretty much played by the rules as written save for the minor table modifications.

After reading the Castles and Crusades rules I am feeling more of an urge to tinker, to really play with the rules and mold them for my group. That isn’t a slight towards the game, it is more like a feeling of liberation, like I’ve been given the blessing of modifying the rules.

Why is it I feel more able to modify with Castles and Crusades versus something like D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder? ¬†Even the Pathfinder Core rulebook mentions some flexibility with the rules, though more in the vein of making quick rulings when the interpretation of the rule is unclear. Castles and Crusades comes straight out and says change the rule if you don’t like it.

I think it is more than that as to why I feel more willing to modify or house rule something like Castles and Crusades. I think systems with more rules, while trying to help the GM judge decisions actually end up restricting the player’s freedoms. Everything they want to do is regulated by a feat, skill or some other mechanic instead of common sense. In the end while it can make things more black and white, I think it can be restricting.

With a more rules-light system there is a lot more room to tinker while still staying within the system. This tinkering can include adding in some house rules to keep things consistent between game sessions.

I think as I spend more time with Castles and Crusades and other rules light systems I will move from the ‘table clarifications’ response to my poll to the ‘change things that need changing’ portion of the poll.

So what do you think? Does the system you play have an affect on how much you house rule?