House Rules and Me

I've said it before, but when it comes to games, I'm a rule-follower. I really like a system that's fleshed out well enough that I don't have to wing it terribly often and make things up on the fly outside of the normal purview of world creation. I'm not one of those people who immediately starts thinking up ways to change the game, even though most every game designer, back to E. Gary Gygax said that that was totally okay.

And yet, I find myself immersing myself in GURPS and strangely enough, embracing house rules. Even some that I came up with myself!

As so many games are focused on combat situations, that tends to be where the most work and the most time is devoted. So it's no surprise to me that most of the rules I've adopted directly impact that particular sphere of influence.
  • Grazes - I've taken T-Bone's rules (as published in Pyramid 3/34 - get this issue, all of the ideas in it are worth considering, and most if not all of T-Bone's suggestions I like) and applied them liberally. If you roll exactly the number you need to hit (a margin of success of 0), you have grazed your target, and damage is halved. Similarly, if you just barely miss your defense roll (Dodge, Parry or Block, margin of failure of 1) you have been grazed, and damage is halved. In the rare occasion that both situations occur at the same time, damage is divided by four. Round down, as always. [Why? Because the weapon rules in GURPS are hampered by the fact that the only dice you have are six-sided. When you start adding more dice, or more static bonuses, you find yourself unable to cause a one-point wound, which is inherently unrealistic. Yes, this is one more situational rule to remember. Yes, it's worth it.]
  • Hesitation - Another one from T-Bone and Pyramid 3/34 (so they're not entirely house-rules at this point. I mean, they were published by SJG, right?), every time an attack roll misses by one or two (margin of failure = 1-2), you didn't make the attack, instead you hesitated. You don't gain anything, but you also don't lose anything - no ammo was lost, and weapons that would become unready or unavailable for a parry don't. The only time this doesn't apply is in an All Out Attack or Committed Attack. Those always happen, by their very nature.
  • Shock - Finally a real house rule, made up by me. I've modified the shock rules slightly, to allow for even the heartiest of warriors to be impacted, but also to allow for the effects to last longer than a single second. The maximum penalty that you must take from a wound is still -4, but High Pain Threshold is no longer a monolithic advantage, but a leveled advantage, and it reduces the shock value by it's level before the -4 maximum is applied. So a 5 point injury would normally be a -5, but the maximum is -4. High Pain Threshold is applied before the -4 ceiling, so the same injury to a character with HPT 2 would be reduced to -3 (5 - 2), not -2 (5, reduced to 4 - 2).
  • Per and Will divorced from IQ - This one is pretty common, but I saw it first on RPK's MyGurps website. Where all of the other figured characteristics feel fairly organic, this one always felt a little off, and led to characters who were forced to sell back secondary stats that made no sense, often interfering with disadvantage caps.
  • Dwarven Weapons - This one is Dungeon Fantasy specific. Instead of allowing one to apply Dwarven as a modifier to any weapon that is unbalanced, and becomes unavailable to parry after and attack (or vice versa), the Dwarven modifier can only be applied to items that fall under the category of Axe/Mace (whether one or two handed). This brings it more in line with the Elven modifier, which can only be applied to bows, and makes it less of an "essential" option for many players.
I'm considering next using Doug Cole's Action Points system from The Last Gasp (in Pyramid 3/44 - the successor to 3/34) to better represent fatigue in combat, and the sort of lulls and breaks you get, rather than seeing an attack and a defense (or more!) every second of every fight. I'm also re-evaluating the enchanting rules from the standard Magic rules, to avoid situations like we have now, the enchantment to Fortify and Lighten heavy leather armor costs less than the armor does. But I think these are enough to forward with at this point - it's enough that I'm willing to start making tweaks to published rules, honestly.

Next thing you know, I'll be looking at narrativist systems like FATE with a serious eye!


  1. I like the hesitation rule. I'm stealing this. I tried the Action point system, but I used it first with a group that was doing their first GURSP combat (ever), and setup the combat from too far away. We ended up manipulating pennies for much longer that we should have. This was just not the right time to try the AP system.

    I want to use a simplified AP system where Attacks/Active defense cost 1, and every 10 AP, one FP is deduced. This would replace the RAW about rolling for HT every 10 seconds. Some of the monster that I designed rely on FP as their winning strategies, so I think that I need something along these lines.

    1. I wish I could take credit for most of these, but they were inspired by those who've been playing 4E longer than me by a long shot.

      I appreciate the Short-Term Fatigue rules and how they can keep a battle from bogging down into a slug-fest, with every second populated entirely by attack and defense, but I'm a little leery in my second reading of the costs for movement. GURPS battles can be pretty static as is. If you start docking folks APs to move around, they're going to be even less inclined to move around.

  2. The easiest way to control enchantment is to either rule that Quick and Dirty enchantment doesn't exist, or at least increase the cost. If Q&D only works up to 50 energy points, and costs $5 per point when its available, then you'll see more people buying better armor.

    1. I'm leaning towards the former. It'll make magical items a bit more rare and wonderful, instead of their being a tier of easily accessible enchantments.


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