House Rules vs Rules as Written


  • Pitcrew

    (or "Oh Baby, I like it RAW)

    A constructive thread, I hope. I have, in the past, probably in the past 10 to fifteen minutes, mentioned that I am not terribly fond of House Rules when they are not necessary.

    I feel that, whenever possible, it is best, and simplest, to stick to the rules presented in the book for whatever game you are running. On a MU especially, House Rules add confusion and pollute the community with expectations. What is actually a HR on a popular game becomes ingrained in the zeitgeist and assumed to be "just how it is".

    Also, HRs can be poorly designed and/or written - sometimes the most awesome of rules is poorly explained by those who write it.

    Now I am not saying that HRs are evil - they have a place. Some things are just not workable as written, either for a MU environment, or for balance or sanity reasons. Sometimes the rules in a book are poorly explained and need a solid interpretation.

    But I am curious where most people sit on this issue, and thus, a thread is born.


  • Pitcrew

    House Rules should be used to minimal, but precise effect. Particularly when you're hosting/playing a game that is based on a source material, which features multiple groups or organizations. World of Darkness for example. The moment you start House Ruling and creating a plethora of custom content for one group/sphere/organization and don't make an effort to balance it? You're throwing a lot of that game out of whack.

    There's my opinion on it. HRs should be minimal, while being precise in their implementation and effect.


  • Pitcrew

    I tend to agree; HR's should be minimal and only used in cases where something is obviously broken or unbalanced, or otherwise designed to work fine in a tabletop setting but not so well in a multi-sphere, open world setting. HR's by their nature, especially the ones that push for massive changes or rewrites tend not to be playtested and very rarely consider implications outside of whatever detail they're trying to address.


  • Pitcrew

    This isn't always the case, but far too often "house rules" tend to be a reaction to one abusive person, rather than dealing with that person directly and swiftly.


  • Pitcrew

    I think part of the reason why many systems and character concepts dont work is because we throw players in a MU and expect tabletop systems to function in a completely different environment they were designed for.

    IMO House Rules should be used shift the already faulty and unbalanced tabletop mechanics to a MU environment, so I guess Im in the small camp that believes they should be used more.

    Also... "poluting the community with expectations" seems to be a community problem not a HR problem?


  • Pitcrew

    The other inherent difference is that in TT there's always a ST there to adjudicate and to tell a player if they're being an idiot. That's not the case on a MU, where it's usually left to one person's interpretation of the rule vs another persons.


  • Pitcrew

    And to be clear, I think house rules have a place on MUs. It's just that they tend to be implemented as knee jerk reactions to assholes then applied sort of to everyone else, rather than thoughtful and balancing things independent of reactionary stuff because of a big blow up--and thus very many times creating more problems than they solve..while not doing anything to eliminate the real problem.


  • Admin

    House rules are fine but there should be an explanation as to why they exist; in my experience if there isn't a compelling, well thought-out one - for instance sometimes the only reason has been 'that's how TR used to do it' - then they shouldn't be there in the first place.

    Look at it this way, what are the reasons we use published mechanics? It's mostly because they're already known by many players so they're already experienced at them and they've been developed by professionals, right? Well, if we have too many HRs then those factors are invalidated - and I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, only that there needs to be a good enough reason for it.

    The other small peeve I have about HRs is they're sometimes not all in a single place but they're scattered over different helpfiles or wiki pages. For example I was going to buy Claws of the Unholy for my Gangrel on Reno when I was told it didn't exist. It's little inconveniences like that.


  • Pitcrew

    I find house rules to be a necessary thing. Most tabletop systems are not designed for a persistent world that has more than 5-6 people, and thus absolutely must be modified with that factor in mind.



  • I'm firmly in the camp that believes House Rules should be kept minimal and aimed to fix only issues of clarity of RAW or transferal of medium. Yes, there are times where House Rules are necessary, but the bloat of unnecessary House Rules tends to cause as many or more problems than they were meant to fix.



  • For online, game system engagement is minimal, and so keeping things simple and as written is most effective.

    For a game I am running? Its how we focus in on whatever I wanted to focus in on, before or after player input.

    As an example, my players felt odd about 1 point of damage being enough to kill you in WoD. So we HR'd something in, which happened to fit with both what I wanted to project about being supernatural, and my general sense of realism.

    So in order to support your generic every game everyone understands what we're doing because it's what we've always done regardless of rules or setting and will not change experience, don't change a thing. Its a waste of your time.



  • One side effect of house rules, in my opinion, is that they both tend to create unreasonable expectations across cultures, as mentioned above. But they also have two other side effects.

    1. They tend to become somewhat enshrined, even moreso than the RAW. Someone once upon a time created a house rule to deal with an issue. Nobody remembers what the issue was, half the time. The reasoning for the rule is rarely clearly explained. How it fixes a problem is left to vague interpretations. But nobody wants to remove it, even when it seems senselessly restrictive, because nobody wants to risk pulling the band-aid off of whatever bullet wound is covering it.

    House Rules need to be written, IMO, like court opinions. You need to both announce the change to the rules, and explain the reasoning for it (which is an excellent use for MU Talk Pages). You need to offer some background to explain why this fixes a problem, so that (in the event someone has an idea that actually does it better) you can scrap the thing. Or, if it turns out you were just being needlessly reactionary after people review it, you can remove it and go back to basics.

    1. They tend to create serious confusion for Storytellers, which leads to less people telling stories. People don't like dealing with rules above and beyond the rules they're already learning for the game system. In games where you have multiple spheres, like WoD, this becomes rather quickly apparent as you have to memorize sometimes a whole supplement's worth of base rules to incorporate one character AND THEN go through and learn all the house rules for it.

    It seriously restricts storyteller freedom, and staff will often go back through and review things, tap people on the shoulder, tell them why this story that two people ran essentially for their own fun doesn't work, etc, because once upon a time some staff member made a ruling (recorded or not) on some mechanic and now it's that way FOREVER. In some cases, it's justified, but in others, it makes the person who was trying to create plot even more gunshy. So you end up with no storytellers, because fuck that noise.

    So house rules need to be implemented sparingly, if at all (I still feel that the best way to resolve these things is that the storyteller at the time makes a call on it -- subject to appeal to higher powers if it's just way too whacky -- and that's the way it goes). Things don't always work the exact same way, the exact same time, especially when you get into areas like magic. Wind blows a bullet off course by a fraction of an inch, the processor in a computer gets a sudden unexpected load, and the confluence of certain magical energies causes unique, interesting, and unpredictable effects. Storyteller fiat should overrule house rules, and even RAW when called for, but those things should not necessarily be enshrined in formal legalese within the game.

    If you DO enshrine them into formal legalese, then please, offer some elucidation on why you think this is so important it has to apply to all people forever.


  • Pitcrew

    @Derp said in House Rules vs Rules as Written:

    If you DO enshrine them into formal legalese, then please, offer some elucidation on why you think this is so important it has to apply to all people forever.

    This so much. If you can't clearly answer WHY, it should never be implemented.


  • Pitcrew

    @gasket said in House Rules vs Rules as Written:

    @Derp said in House Rules vs Rules as Written:

    If you DO enshrine them into formal legalese, then please, offer some elucidation on why you think this is so important it has to apply to all people forever.

    This so much. If you can't clearly answer WHY, it should never be implemented.

    Thirded. I have no problem with House Rules. I do have a problem with ones that are badly thought out and implemented to fix a problem in the heat of the moment without carefully considering how it interacts with the rest of the world, system, and other situations.

    I do think that any tabletop system requires house rules to run in a MU* environment, and that one of the things that causes a lot of problems is that there isn't a conversation before a game opens about 'what rules (and setting material!) are workable in a persistent, 24/7 game with 10+ PCs, and which ones need to be reworked to better facilitate the game experience in the setting and system we have chosen.


  • Pitcrew

    @Pyrephox In general, I'm most in favor of HR's that bring one set of rules up to a standard that already exists - example, Changing Breeds being able to buy stats higher than 5 at Powerstat ... 3 or something, while every other splat has to wait until 6. There's no reason for it and no justification given. Making them wait until Powerstat 6 not only makes sense, but it makes it at least somewhat more balanced.


  • Admin

    The worst reason - and unfortunately, a very common one - is "it feels too powerful".

    If there are numbers involved them do the math. It shouldn't feel like anything, you should be able to demonstrate the problem. If you can't or won't do the math, but numbers are the problem, do not house rule it.



  • @Arkandel said in House Rules vs Rules as Written:

    If there are numbers involved them do the math. It shouldn't feel like anything, you should be able to demonstrate the problem. If you can't or won't do the math, but numbers are the problem, do not house rule it.

    Sometimes the numbers involved are only involved in tangential ways. Look at Demon's Legend powers, for example. They allow arbitrary creation to fit a specific narrative, and while those constructs might have numbers, Legend itself gives a hell of a lot of leeway on how those things come into play.

    Running the numbers on something like that is more difficult.


  • Admin

    @Arkandel said in House Rules vs Rules as Written:

    If there are numbers involved them do the math. It shouldn't feel like anything, you should be able to demonstrate the problem. If you can't or won't do the math, but numbers are the problem, do not house rule it.

    Emphasis mine, of course.

    If numbers aren't the problem then my warning isn't applicable.


  • Pitcrew

    I have no issues with house rules as long as they are posted clearly and easy to understand and navigate with looking for a specific item.
    I have never been in a role playing situation with out a handful of house rules, not in table top, larp, or a mush.
    To be honest I don't see rules as written as anything especially sacred those people running each actually game should modify what they see fit to produce the game they want, but I do feel those changed should be clearly posted or in the case of table tops announced before hand so players can make educated decisions both in cg and in regards on whether or not to play at a place.



  • Some games deliberately say to discard the rules, powers, setting elements, and whatever else in the canon content that don't work for your game.

    Others include optional systems explicitly labeled as such.

    WoD, from oWoD 1.0, has been very vocal about this, and actively encourages game runners to do these things. A lot of other games have followed suit since then, with similar advice, but they seem to be forerunners here amongst the more well-known systems out there.

    This is important, IMHO. Even the canon in these cases says: our canon is not sacred, you should change what you need to make your game into what you want it to be.

    Different groups, different group structures, different play style goals, and different tastes change a lot. We wouldn't have a different set of rules for LARP and tabletop from the same companies if this was not a known, recognized, and understood reality.

    If someone wants the tabletop experience, they should frankly go to an online tabletop. If they want strictly LARP, go to a LARP. M* is somewhere in between the two. Until some company writes up a M* rules variant to be a canon system, we do not have one for our environment. That means tweaks are going to be necessary to the existing systems to come up with something that works, which is ultimately what the canon tells us to do in the first place.


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