Sunday, November 3, 2013

At What Point Do House Rules Become Their Own Ruleset?

Swords & Wizardry begot Crypts & Things and perhaps X-plorers and others.

+Joe D is working an an awesome houseruling of LotFP Weird Fantasy (I've seen it and played in it and it is good). In the end, it I suspect it will be a combination of houserules and setting, more of it's own thing than the rules that it is based on, but time will tell.

I play with a houseruled version of S&W Complete, which is close enough to the core rules that my house rules can fit on a single page.

At what point do houserules stand on their own as a separate set of rules?


  1. Good question. It's clearly a continuum. At some point you've changed so much that it's easier to start with the house rules and point to similarities within the "original" rules set instead of starting with the "original" and explaining the house rules.

    You go from "It's AD&D, but with these house rules" to "These are the rules, and we borrow these bits from AD&D." I'd say once it is easier to explain as a new entity than as a booklet of house rules, it's a new game based on the original.

  2. At the time Lulu was invented. :)

    Lots of games branched from S&W. In addition to the ones you listed, there was Hideouts & Hoodlums, Woodland Warriors, and Ruins & Ronin. Probably more I don't know of, too.

    1. yeah, I'm sure we missed a few. S&W IS the ruleset to houserule and then some ;)

  3. When it costs you more to print out the house rule then it did to buy the original game, you've got a new rules set.

  4. I was going to reply, but it got so long I turned it into a post of my own:


  5. Anytime the OSR publishes a new ruleset.

  6. I am somewhat deliberately doing this - I have been working on an OSR campaign setting basedd around the events of X4/X5 and a massacre of Greyhawk's goody-two shoes deities. I started with a vision of going through just about every D&D/AD&D system and clone and putting together a custom setting tailored this way. i very much like the 'house rulesy' feel of B/X and 1E and seek to recreate that for my own specifgic ends.

  7. In the past you could've said: house rules become independent rules once they're published, e.g., Steve Perrin's heavily house-ruled D&D begot RuneQuest. Today with free PDFs available on the internet, it is difficult to draw the line.

  8. Good question! I'd say as soon as conversion to the original rules becomes a problem, you have created a system of your own.

  9. I discussed this topic from a setting point of view:

    I also asked some provocative questions regarding this topic:

    A wild thought off the top of my head, sparked by the first comment. Let me borrow a term and slightly rephrase it: "RPG continuum". You see, in linguistics, human languages and all its varieties form a "language continuum"; varieties close to each other are mutually understandable (say, Received Pronunciation and General American), and the farther we go, we find less and less mutually understandable things (English-German, English-French, and English-Sanskrit). Interestingly, there is no linguistics definition for languages for, ultimately, it is decided by politics.

    In our case, we may examine two rules sets and if we can find rules that are interchangeable without screwing up the maths and general intentions of the rules, we may say the two rules sets are close to each other in our continuum.


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