Tuesday, 2 May 2017

The Importance of House Rules

Greetings friends,

So for those who know me away from the Internet, you'll know that the past few weeks I've been heavily focused on following the delivery of Dark Souls the Board Game within the U.K.

This is largely because I was someone who backed the game, but also because I've spent the last 12 or so months loving the Souls videogames, even playing the original Demon's Souls on my PS3.

One of the things I have seen recently is how a large number of people view house rules.

Now this is interesting to me, because what one person considers totally 'normal' is apparently not to other people, and I like to explore the hows and whys, because after all, we can only see the world through our own eyes and experiences, so trying to understand from the views of others can be of great benefit.


My stance is really simple.

I love house rules.

I do not think there is a single game I have played where I haven't House Ruled at least one thing.

It's just how I game, I find something I like, and I try to make it better.

Sometimes these additional rules make the game less enjoyable, but more often than not, it becomes more enjoyable.

Others do not share this opinion.

Over on the Dark Souls Board Game Facebook Group, I have seen countless people who say such comments as "the designers developed the game, we should therefore play it as it was intended".

I can see where they are coming from, but if a different/additional rule will either make the game more enjoyable (or in some cases, turn a not-enjoyable game, into one you do enjoy) then what harm is there?

I know for the past few months I have been going over the Dark Souls rulebook and changing rules for my own play, some of which are done to make sense to me such as the rule about death of a single player resetting the encounter. Another rule I have changed is about losing 'sparks' or lives when you voluntarily reset the encounters. For me this change gives players control over how long they play, and if they want to spend an entire evening grinding the same room repeatedly in order to max their stats and get the best gear, then they can do so, after all in the video games you can pretty much do the same things in order to get higher levels. It isn't without tradeoff, what you gain from additional currency, you lose in time.

These are my rules, and after playing some games over the weekend, I can honestly say that they have already made my experiences more enjoyable.

So then, with that in mind, surely if I, and in this example, the others I am playing with, have more fun, then that is a great thing? It is win/win, right?

Not according to some...


I remember a number of years ago, when the company Wyrd moved Malifaux from edition 1.5 to 2.0, there was a similar discussion right there about this exact sort of thing.

From what I remember going back, there were maybe 3 or 4 camps of public speaking players. You had those who jumped on board with the new edition, you had those who were adverse to any change at all, then you had those in the middle who wanted to pick and choose from either edition, and of course you had those who didn't give a crap.

I remember I was in the camp who wanted to pick and choose rules, to stick with what we liked from 1.5, and add what we liked from 2.0 (pre-measuring for example). I even remember a certain someone who tried to rally those of us who thought similar under a banner before being required to shut down proceedings, and it was these actions which lead him and I to become friends, so that's pretty cool in a way...

I remember at the time, there we so many who hated the idea of house rules, who said quite adamantly that unless the developers have declared it to be a hard rule, that it didn't count and shouldn't be followed.

Others of course gave reasons that made more sense to me, such as tournaments. The argument meant that tournaments needed to follow official rules so that anyone who attended knew straight off the bat what rules to follow.

This does make sense to me, but then there is the discussion of 'Comp', something I understand became popular during the Warhammer Fantasy Battle (WFB) days. The idea was simple, when you signed up to an event you were also given (nowerdays via a digital download) a set of custom rules, such as points adjustment for models, banned/restricted models, and of course adjusted rulesets.

The idea was straight forward, that it was the responsibility for every player to familiarise themselves with these custom rules, just like it was their responsibility to familiarise themselves with how many points they were allowed to take, or where the venue for the event would be.


Ok, so I have given my argument for why house rules are 'good' in my opinion, but why are they important? Why should they be encouraged rather than discouraged?

Well, for me, from a cognitive view point, it's for two reasons.

For starters, no game design team is infallible. They/we make mistakes. Lots of them, a lot of the time. Things are made overpowered, and underpowered, must take, unplayable, unfun, nonsensical, and of course, ill thought out.

A game designer can not test for everything, and even if there is a mass market open beta, there will still be only a select number of combinations that will be tested, compared to the almost limitless combination when the project is set loose in the wild.

In some cases these house rules, or 'comps' will make the game more balanced for their select meta. In other cases, they will add whole new ideas that you and your team had never imagined, and just because they are different, that doesn't make them wrong.

If anything, I would say that game designers should not only actively encourage house ruling, but they should get waist deep in those house rules themselves, experience what is new and different for themselves.


Who knows? Maybe I'm just talking out of my arse.

What I do know, if I had a game that was selling like hot cakes, I would be actively encouraging the player base to try new things, and when they do, to share them with us...

And who knows, maybe people would then find those house rules being added into the next revision of the ruleset?

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Temperature Management - A game idea set in the First Law: Override universe

Greetings friends!

So yesterday while going on brief walk in an attempt to get a little fitter (read: need to get a lot fitter) I had an idea, something that I have been thinking about for a while on the severe back burner, but which finally clicked into place.

We are talking about a game idea for a First Law: Override spin off with a strong theme around temperature management.

Sounds a little crazy I know, but hear me out!


From a fluff stand point: We have the 5 main regions on Honos, The Deadzone, The Badlands, the Midlands, New Brasilia, and the Frozen North.

Out of these regions, most fluff, and therefore gameplay focuses on the middle 3, The Badlands, the Midlands, and New Brasilia. The Deadzone and Frozen North are too inhospitable for people to travel around freely.

But what about a game that not only takes these ideas and plays with them?

The Frozen North, called so because it's biodome has yet to terraform the already frozen landscape from its massive ice block, but it has made the air breathable.

As part of the fluff, there is a massive amount of resources in the Frozen North, from raw materials such as minerals and fossil fuels, to research data including ancient alien artefacts.

In other words, exactly the sort of place the Honos Mining Corporation (HMC) would be interested in laying claim to...

What the HMC don't know however, the Frozen North used to be home to more than just ancient aliens and fossilised trees, as the region is now the resting place for numerous slumbering hives of monstrous bug like alien creatures!

This is the game idea that I've had swimming around for a while, I wasn't sure exactly the pretence, or who you're characters were, but this weekend it all slipped into place (I wouldn't be surprised if playing the new Dark Souls Board Game had something to do with it).

So the game is set in HMC mine RA-795 which has been recently abandoned, reports received reveal that they left in a hurry after digging too deep and releasing a long dormant threat.

RA-795 is positioned right in the centre of the Frozen North, meaning you can't travel it without external heating sources, originating from either powerful but unwieldy heat lamps, or the more lightweight, but less powerful, thermosuits.

Each organisation from Override is there, each presenting an agent of their own to try and capture information, but of course one important factor is that the organisations don't want to look like they are sending an aggressive force, and so are instead sending single units to work cooperatively and establish their goals, meaning you will have team goals, but also individual goals, some of these will be to retrieve research data, others will be to hamper others from achieving their goals (after all, the Trydan never play fair).

So we are talking about a game that is typically a dungeon crawler, only the differences here is that it is focused more on dynamic, thematic situations, all the while having the team very much aware of the encroaching cold and darkness.

Imagine if you will a temperature chart. When someone is in a safe room, under a heat lamp, their temperature is in the blue. We like blue, blue is good.

But that character, let's call them Jones... so Jones leaves the safe room and steps into the cold. They are walking along at a nice pace, the floor is well lit, so their thermo suit has kicked in, but is ticking into the green. Green is fine, not as great as blue, but it's fine.

But wait, the area ahead is dark, so on come Jones' inbuilt Suit lights, this drains the thermo suit even more, this knocks the suit down to the orange. Oh dear, Orange isn't looking so good.

Jones reaches the next safe room, but it's not powered on, Jones needs to power it up which is not good, the noise of the generator starting is sure going to attract anything and everything in the area... so Jones bunkers down and prepares to hold the area while the generator powers up...

Only problem, the thermo Suit has a routine kinetic charger built in, Jones is no now longer walking, but crouched down behind cover waiting for a wave of bugs to come crashing in, so the Thermo Suit has less power... now it moves into the red....

Red is really bad, Jones can't hold out for long in the red as the suit's power supply is pushed to the limits, Jones jogs on the spot to try and get the charger working, but it bearly blinks beyond red...

Then the wave of aliens arrive, with claws and teeth they leap at Jones. Jones' rifle fires off shots and the aliens fall to the floor, but not before one of them tears a small hole in Jones' Thermo Suit.

Instantly the cold air rushes into the suit, while thermo fluid pours out of the opening, the suit struggles, but it can't retain the internal pressure, it drops to Black and Jones can feel their body beginning to seize up from the cold.

Jones' health begins to plummet, the cold cloying at skin and bone. Within Jones' inventory there is a patch which is applied across the hole and restores it to a low level red scale.

The power turns on, the heat lamps activate, and light fills the room, and Jones' suit can reduce it's stress. It returns to Orange. Jones knows that a replacement suit will need to be sourced, or else with the slightest further damage, it will give up and death will be inevitable.

Jones sets out to explore what is left of the mine level, hoping to find a supply cupboard, outside the safe room it is dark, but Jones keeps the suit lights turned off, the suit can't take that sort of strain anymore.

Ahead there is a deep rumble and growl, Jones readies the rifle, but without the suit lights it is impossible to see more than a few feet in front.

A large alien creature prowls into view, it pounces and lands on top of Jones, it's claws tearing up the front of the suit.

The cold rushes in, Jones freezes in an instant, and is dragged off by the creature to be eaten later...


This is the pretence for the game, and it's only loose at the moment, with little back it up in terms of actual gameplay, and I'm unsure when I'll be able to expand on it, but it seems to me to be something that could be fun.

To date I've got the following characters planned, because unlike a normal game of Override, this game would have preset characters:

UEF Soldier: Comes with a high powered rifle, and deployable auto turret.

HMC Security: Equipped with a prototype Thermo Suit, better survivability, but less damage output.

Wraith Assassin: Melee combatant with a focus on dodging and movement.

Trydan Hitman: General overall combatant, great against single targets, but easily overrun.

Red Claw Warrior: Melee focus, tough to take down but inferior Thermo tech.

Regime Warrior: Toughly armoured, but slow moving.

Raider Combo: A 2 player combo, one plays a hacking Ghost with great abilities at interfacing with facility tech, the other with a custom combat mech, great for combat by unable to interface.

Working together, there is little these characters can't deal with, alone however they have massive weaknesses.


And that's it.

Sound good? Sound bad?

Let me know your thoughts.

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley