If there is one thing true about table top rpgs, its that even if you are playing the same system, the same adventure, or even the same classes, no two tables are quite the same experience. One of the main reasons for this is house rules. Sometimes these are codified, but all to often they form a web of assumption and unspoken agreements between players and GMs that make up a suite of custom rules. The group may have become so used to these customizations that they are no longer even aware that they are house rules, which can make coming into a game as a new player a little more complicated, since you may have to watch for the assumptions in order to figure out what is going on.
Why are house rules so common? I think in a lot of cases they are boil down to the players and GM trying to keep things simple and fun. Nothing ruins a session quite so much as a 30+ minute break while people look up and debate rules, so either something gets glossed over, or the GM makes a ruling at the table, and that becomes the understood rule from then on. Or something about the rules just strikes the GM as enough of a personal problem that they change it at their table. GMs are fickle beasts like that. The truth is most likely a combination of the two.
I encourage you to take a moment to think about what house rules you have in your games. If you are the GM, do they make sense to you? Are they leading to some players taking advantage, and if so, do you need to discuss that with those players or with the group in general about changing that house rule? If you are a player, do you know what the house rules are? Consider having a talk with your group about them, and whether they are something that you all, in fact, agree on. We are all playing the game to have fun, after all, and that experience can only be enhanced by everyone understanding what the playing field is.
Here are my three main house rules, and why I have them:
Intelligent Undead are not immune to psychic abilities.
This is one of my pet peeves about Pathfinder and Starfinder, and one that bothers me so much I changed it in my ongoing game. There are a lot of things immune to mind-affecting magic – constructs, vermin, plants, etc. And while I can certainly understand why unintelligent undead are immune as well, it has always struck me as unfair that intelligent undead, many who have mind-affecting magic of their own, are somehow walled off from those powers themselves. So, at my table, you can Mind Thrust that space vampire to your heart’s content. So far I haven’t noticed it changing encounters all that much, and it keeps one of the Mystic’s main damage spells relevant even in undead heavy adventures.
I don’t track ammunition.
This isn’t as hard and fast as the above, but in general, if a character has a weapon with enough batteries/clips on hand to function in a 10 round combat and reasonable access to technology to recharge those batteries (or access to tech that can make more bullets), I’d just as soon not get bogged down in keeping track of every bullet spent. This is slippery ground though, as there are feats, items, and abilities that are built around ammunition expenditure, not to mention weapons with extremely small capacity as a trade off for power. So far I have done my best to deal with those situations as they come up, but I’m also open with my players about the rule. If it ever becomes an issue, or if we are playing an adventure where resource management is granular and important to the story, I would change the rule.
“Yes, and” or the Rule of Cool
Players love to come up with ridiculous plans and outrageous stunts, often in such a way that there are not clear rules for dealing with what they want to do. As a GM, it can be very easy to fall back on just saying no to such things if there aren’t rules to cover it, but I’ve found it a lot more fun for everyone at the table to try to make a space for such things. Often they are not easy, usually involving several skill or ability checks depending on what is being attempted, but when they pull it off you can see the smile on the face of everyone as shenanigans ensue. Don’t let rules stop you and players from crafting a great story, and don’t be afraid to say yes to the ludicrous. Conversely, don’t be afraid to come up with similarly outrageous consequences for such actions, both to up the stakes, and to raise the risk involved. Many players like to stick to the safe option, but there is all to often a daredevil at the table, and they should have a chance to shine.
What kinds of house rules do you have, and what reasons do you have for them?
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Until next time Starfinders!
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