On A Collection of House Rules and How You're Ruining Your Game

Do you like the game your playing?

So much that you'd never play another game ever again?

What if every time you sat down to play a new game, you turned it into exactly the same game you always play - how would you ever discover something new?

By the way if your first thought is that you can sit in a white room, and do some math and magically know how something is going to work, then you lack a little thing people in the know like to call experience with life.

The fact is, cooperative and competitive games are not played in a vacuum. Certain things which look bad on paper, may in the course of play, turn out to be awesome, and certain things which look awesome may be clunky.

But if you don't sit down and, you know, actually play a game RAW (that's rules as written), without changing 1000 different rules to the 'way you think things should be', then you will never be playing anything other than the game you are currently playing.

A blog is pretty big on opinion, but you can ask yourself why MMO's or RPG's have betas - or why people playtest games, and how they change in development before they are published. Trust me, if the companies didn't have to spend money on testing and development- they wouldn't. The money spent on testing and development insures a higher profit after release. Because it makes the games better (more fun, more equal, etc.) upon release.

I have played a great many games "rules as written" and find it difficult to think of one that is *just* a collection of house rules. As in, my experiences of playing Hackmaster, are as different as my experiences of playing 4th edition, are as different as my experiences of playing second edition, as they are of playing Shadowrun as they are of 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder. These are just a fraction of the RPG's I've played.

Having actually played the DCC RPG I can say that the 'funnel system' of character creation is unlike all of those other different games listed above. It is, in combination with many of the new rules, and the new dice, one of the things that truly makes DCC RPG its own game.

I challenge anyone out there to point us to a system that they've played that is nothing *but* a series of house rules to an existing system. I can think of one example - Pathfinder is a series of house rules for 3.5. I heartily approve of the reason behind those changes, and therefore play pathfinder over 3.5 - any others?

17 comments:

  1. I think there will always be tension between RAW and houseruling, though I dont think houseruling necessarily makes a game more like others you have played in the past. SOmetimes the houseruling is to fix something that is truly broken about the system, something that wasn't obvious to the designers and play-testers. Other times, it is to add complexity, or variety.

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  2. Are you suggesting people should play games other than what they already know? HERETIC!

    :)

    So when are you going to play FATAL?

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  3. I think I must be weird or maybe I'm a mental or emotional defective. I don't want to play new rules or learn new games. I belong to a game group and every other week someone says, "Hey, have you seen the new XYZ game? It's really cool and has rules that let you do this or that or the other thing..." and the very idea of learning a new game just makes me tired.
    I've been thinking long and hard about what I liked about D&D when I first played it in 1978. I liked that I knew how to play about 1/2 of the game before I sat down. I needed to have things like how my intelligence allowed me to have x number of spells and I needed to roll high on the 20 sided dice to hope to hit anything and that I rolled 3d6 to figure out how strong, smart, etc., I was... all that was new... but when we started to play, I didn't need to know what to do when the DM said, "You see a goblin," or "there is a door at the end of the hall." I already knew, without being told, that I could choose to attack or try to open the door and the DM and other players would then tell me about how I do that within the game (roll this dice, etc.). That, rather than assuming strange personal characteristics or a scottish brogue, was the 'roleplaying.'

    C- I don't know if I am hijacking your blog. Many times I feel like my fellow players are always searching for the "Holy Grail" of games --- the one that does everything perfectly. So player A says he hates the 'Vancian' spell casting system, player B wants rules for social combat, player C wants to be able to pick and choose abilities for his character 'a la carte' rather than being stuck with the standard fighter, magic user, cleric, halfling, etc.

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  4. I've found that most of the games I've played have started RAW and then become house-ruled (almost to death in a few cases). Why is that I wondered, then I realized that I generally game with people who are at the extreme high-end of the intellect curve, probably in the 2nd or even 3rd standard deviation. So, what lead to the house-rule is that we wanted (or felt we needed) some mechanic to resolve some issue that made it more random than just having extreme knowledge about how to resolve the "issue".

    There are, were and will continue to be game systems that work well and that just don't work. But in trying a variety of systems, both RAW and house-ruled, you get an idea of what you like. And it's likely different than what one of your fellow players likes. But you play the game, because ultimately, it's about being social with people you enjoy spending time with - not because you have the "right" game system.

    If you are there to "win", there are tons of board games you should try instead.

    PlagueAle

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  5. I've examined a number of game systems, and find many to either be a "me too" variation on D&D, or they try to reinvent the wheel entirely, ending up with essentially the same D&D type game, with entirely different mechanics. I rarely find a game that is both original and easy to learn and play. I ultimately go back to my own D20 "lite" version because it does what I want it to do.

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  6. I found this interesting because I am a RAW guy. I tend to play RAW with any game I'm running and I don't houserule whenever possible.

    Note that I differentiate "house-ruling" from creating campaign specific content... I've invented new races and new classes and new religions, etc. But I do try to run my games as close to the original rule set as possible.

    I do this because it has been my experience (and I emphasize "my" experience, I know others feel differently) that when a GM starts telling me about their "house-rules" and alterations to a system, that's usually a red flag to me that I don't want to join a game.

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  7. Why shouldn't I stick with a game that me and my friends love? Why do so many people always assume newer is better?

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  8. Of course DCC is its own game. But the game also strongly connects itself right up front (under "HOW IS THIS GAME DIFFERENT FROM WHAT I HAVE PLAYED BEFORE?") to various iterations of D&D. The opening "manifesto" invokes Gygax, Arneson, and the other D&D founding fathers. Attribute scores are in a range from 3-18. It has the same classes as OD&D (right down to race-as-class for elves, dwarves, and halflings). Some of the art is a direct recreation of specific pieces from old D&D books. I could go on and on. I'm not pointing all this out as flaws in the game. I'm just saying that it sure seems like D&D, doesn't it? And that's all good! But to me, these differences in the rules can certainly be considered house rules. Just because it's a game company that puts out a slick product doesn't mean the same rules variants couldn't have been whipped up by an anonymous gamer in his home.

    Look, one can argue that all fantasy RPGs have some degree of inspiration from D&D, since it was the first of its kind. It's just my opinion that DCC seems to be a lot closer in mechanics, etc. to various editions of D&D than other games. But you know that I'm not saying that DCC sucks and no one could ever enjoy it. I'm not saying that it's an abomination that no one should play. I just think that there was a huge amount of spin created around the game, portraying it as some groundbreaking event in the old school scene. And it may be groundbreaking in the fact that a strong company like Goodman produced a great OSR-influenced product.

    I have no issue with anyone loving DCC. But I think it's perfectly understandable if someone looks at it and goes "huh, it's a lot like D&D with some alternate rules added in." The game isn't for me, but I am adult enough to understand that my opinion is not that of everyone else in the gaming world. I'm a firm believer in system being connected to play style. If you want a play style similar to what DCC will give you, then use it. The wonderous variety of OSR/old school products out there means that you can try a little bit of everything until you find the right system for you. DCC added to that spicy melange of goodness. I can't argue with that, even if I don't think the game is all that innovative. But hey, I do really like aspects of it, like spell duels (which I've struggled in the past to house rule) and DCC's "softening" of the strict Vancian "fire and forget" spell casting.

    You can read more of my thoughts on DCC here on my blog:

    http://unto-the-breach.blogspot.com/2011/06/my-impressions-of-dungeon-crawl.html

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  9. I should point out that Sorry, Dungeon, Monopoly and life all have lots of similarities also.

    That does not mean that they are the same games.

    You could say that when you land on a piece in sorry it goes back to the beginning and the inability to buy property are houserules of monopoly - or using cards in candyland to move instead of dice is a houserule of other board games.

    Only they aren't house rules - they are printed rules of a different game with a different title of a /certain genra/.

    The comment that it's a lot like D&D (assuming they aren't referencing the fact that it's a role-playing game) can only come from someone who hasn't played it.

    In fact, other then the OGL parts (roll a dice, beat a target number) NOT ONE of the class based systems (Warrior action die, luck die, spell inertia for clerics, spell checks for wizards) are similar to any other fantasy type role playing game.

    You say that the similarities between the DCC and D&D are numerical representations of stats, the similarity in art, and the names of the classes of a game that's been out of print for 30 years.

    What role playing game *doesn't* have numerical representations of stats, a similarity of art, and classes and arch-types beyond those created at the dawn of the hobby.

    I see from your post that you have not played nor run this game, and frankly that makes you unsuitable to pass judgement on how similar or not it is to other games /you have actually played/.

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  10. It's more than the mechanics, though. Again, they talk about the creators of D&D as if they were saints. And like I said, their "what's different" section is a discussion of how the game is different from D&D specifically, as if Goodman expected inevitable comparisons.

    Yes, I haven't run a game of DCC, you are right. I haven't used the rules. This is a non-argument, because I think the game is viable, and has some stuff I really like (if you really read my post, you would have seen that as well). I just don't agree that it should be considered something groundbreaking. It's a great addition to the OSR realm, but not better than every other OSR game out there, in my opinion.

    Hey man, game on! That's what's most important. Agree to disagree, eh? Vive la difference!

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  11. And again, I never "passed judgement" in the sense I suspect you mean: that by stating my opinion I am telling everyone who reads my words that they should not play the game because it sucks or whatever. That's clearly not what I was doing. I'm stating my difference in opinion, and putting forth something of a cynical perspective on the supposed groundbreaking nature of the game. Anyway, thanks for the debate!

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  12. Erm... that's mighty personal. I came back to see what else might have been said here, but I guess I don't really understand the rancor?

    Drance didn't actually say anything negative about the game... heck I feel pretty much the same way about DCC -- and I think that the associations with OS D&D are meant to be abundantly clear to the reader. And when one is conversant enough with games it does actually become possible to "begin" evaluating a system without running a campaign. I won't go so far as to say that you can completely evaluate a game without playing it, but it is possible to read a game and get something from that before play.

    So -- why all the upset?

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  13. I think you are misreading the express and clear condemnation of a non-viable viewpoint as an emotional response.

    Two things:
    1) You'll notice a distinct difference in the comments between those who have actually played the game versus those who have just read it.

    and

    2) "I've read the ingredients list and am here to tell you that this food is terrible!"

    "I read the plot summary and want to let you know this book is no good!"

    "I read the instruction manual, and this computer game is terrible!"

    etc.

    If anything - it's disappointing that anyone makes statements like the above, much less buys into them as viable viewpoints.

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  14. -C, You seem to be reading what you want to read in my statements, and not the entirety of what I am saying.

    Again, I have not stated that the game is terrible or no good (to use words from your examples above). I think I've made that pretty clear. I've even praised certain rules of the game and may use them as house rules for other versions of D&D. And I stated that the system is clearly viable and will be very very playable, and a goodly number of people will no doubt have a great time playing it.

    What I was doing was stating my opinion that there was considerable hype leading up to the release, both from Goodman as well as among bloggers across the gaming blogosphere. It seemed a bit too much spin and hype, in my opinion. I believe the game would have been better served if Goodman and the bloggers had been a bit more subtle about the game (there is such a thing as being subtle in advertising). And while I do believe that the system does have some innovations (spell duels, mighty deeds of arms, funnel system for characters, etc.) it is still, to me, another variation of D&D, and a rather close one at that, due to obvious invoking of D&D and its creators and many of the founding mechanics of DCC being based clearly on D&D.

    I am a fan of your blog, I'm not here to spam you or cause some new blog wide debate/discussion. I just don't understand why you are so vehement when it comes to this subject. Did you want different opinions stated here? Apologies if that's not what you wanted.

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  15. No, I don't view it as spam, or have any desire as to the type of opinions stated on this blog.

    I just feel that one cannot have a valid opinion of a book that one has not read, a movie one has not seen, or a game that one has not played.

    There is a substantive difference in the comments of those who have played the DCC versus those who have just read it.

    I think they 'hype' you refer to is simply the comments of the experience of those who have had the chance to play. No one set out to say that this is 'the best most ever'. People reported just how much fun they had playing it - and it seems to hold true of everyone who actually plays it.

    I have a player who dislikes the randomness and high lethality of old school games to the point of disgust, and yet while playing this game he was laughing and saying at one point that this was the ideal of role-play (the interaction caused by the game).

    It is a thing that should be experienced, unique to itself.

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  16. I agree that you cannot judge things on sight, not having truly explored them.

    However, I disagree with your statement that the comments I've been seeing in praise of DCC are entirely from those who have played it. I read a lot of praise from bloggers who clearly had done what I had done: read the beta. So I turn your theory back on them: how can you say something is great if you don't truly experience it?

    I am getting the feeling that Goodman Games is trying too hard to be...something. Trying too hard to be "legit old school"? If they're trying to do that, they that's setting themselves up for a big burst hype bubble.

    Why? Let's be honest here, and admit that for most of us the definition of old school is a moving target and thankfully open to very broad interpretation. Every gamer in the OSR basically has their own definition, with those definitions having some commonalities of course.

    I am wondering if Goodman is trying to make the DCC the OSR game for EVERYONE. The game that will unite the clans, so to speak, under one ruler. They might be trying to pander to every type of old school gamer, and that to me is an impossibility, a futile effort if there ever was one. I just don't think they can "fool" (or maybe "convince" is a better word) all of the people even some of the time...but maybe they can convince some of the people all of the time.

    Maybe I should be trying to interview the brass over at Goodman Games and ask them to respond to my thoughts ;-)

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  17. Joe Goodman has been watching the OSR for quite a while. I know he talked to me about Swords & Wizardry, and I think he also talked to Dan about Labyrinth Lord, although I can't swear to that one. This was a couple of years ago, or thereabouts.

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