Here are some of my favorite house rules that I’ve picked up from other games and Game Masters over the years and use in my own campaigns.
This one is from Max at work, and it’s one that I will apply to any game where the players are slowing down combat by using their turn to decide what they’re doing. It’s simple: if you come up in the Initiative order and you declare your action immediately, you get a +1 to your roll. It can be explained narratively by not hesitating and surprising your opponent, and does wonders to incentivize people to be ready when their turn comes.
Ever since I saw Jay Little’s NPC name lists for his Gen Con WFRP3 game, it’s been a must-have at my table. One of the hardest parts of improvising in a game is coming up with a setting-appropriate, remember-able name for the unplanned NPC the players invariably ask about and go looking for. The solution: come up with a male and female name for each letter of the alphabet, grab one off the list as needed, and cross it out after it’s been used. Here’s an example for Legend of the Five Rings (pronunciations included).
For our Thursday Edge of the Empire game, Dan always rolls the group’s Obligation right after we finish a session. This way, he can better plan for how the character’s demons come to haunt the plot, instead of throwing it in somewhat ad hoc right before the session begins, or forgetting to get to it at all.
Action Points, Destiny Points, Fate Points, Bennies—most systems have some sort of metagame currency that allows players to reroll or add to unsuccessful checks. If the game doesn’t have such a point system already, then I’ll definitely add one. Preferably these points are divorced from player advancement, such as XP or character points, because then players will always hoard them. Instead, they’re given out by the GM to reward good OOC behaviors, like helping a new player learn the rules while the GM runs the scene, or staying in character even when it makes the story harder, or making everyone laugh and enjoy themselves.
At the beginning of every session during our Mage: the Awakening campaign, the GM would have the players recount the events of the previous session. Each player would cover a scene and highlight the most important points, and if we remembered enough details the GM would reward us with an extra experience point at the end of the session. I liked this method of recapping the previous session because it rewards players for paying attention mechanically but also narratively, because the details made it easier to pick back up the story where we left off last time.
What are your house rules, hacks, and shortcuts? Link your answers in the comments below! You can find the rest of the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge prompts here. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on table rules. Thanks again for reading!