Taking best parts of the editions, say 3.5 and Pathfinder, perhaps even some aspects of D&D4e, as long as the group feels it is fair, would this be unheard of?

An example is, two of our members brought it up about the possibility of making use of Healing Surges (if they can figure out how) in our Pathfinder game.

Another suggested using Advantages/Disadvantages from D&D Next (5e) for rogues while in our Pathfinder group because it might seem more like more fun.

Hope I explained that well enough, but am curious if people do this often perhaps turning it into house rules OR is it frowned upon in the RPG community, and group should simply stick to the rules of that edition?


From the perspective of a Game Designer, there is no difference between an official version of the game and homebrew rules. Pathfinder is nothing more than a homebrew itself from the point-of-view of the people who created it (it is a mod of 3.5, the way that the people who crafted it thought would be better). Do not hold the creators of published worked on too high of a pedestal - they are just people making decisions about what they personally like, just as you are.

You can do whatever you want with the rules of any roleplaying game you play. You can use the rules exactly as written, play without any rules at all, or anything in between, from using a few homebrew rules to a lot of them. What you choose comes down to a matter of preference, as well as questions of Game Design. People made the original rules for a reason, and so you should have a reason to ignore them or to make your own. This can quickly get complicated, and if you are not experienced in Game Design, you may find that you make things far less fun accidentally. Even so, experimentation is the only way to find out what works and what doesn't.


Well first of all, you never need to worry about what "the greater RPG community does" if it's fun and works for your group. The Game Police were disbanded along with TSR in the late 1990s.

But rest assured, house ruling RPGs and especially house ruling Dungeons & Dragons is very common. People mix and match mechanics from editions, they alter rules within their edition to suit their taste, they add new rules/systems that either they've made up or they got from a third party publication or magazine or Web site, they add mechanics from other games entirely...

For many of the years of D&D Second Edition, I added a Perception and Luck stat to all characters. Recently, we've added FATE points/aspects to our Pathfinder game. We use firearm rules that I devised that are IMO better than those in Ultimate Combat, and I've added in some feats and stuff from some third party publications. It's all good.

The only exception to this is Organized Play campaigns like Pathfinder Society where things are expected to be "by the book," and when players join your group (or your players join others') they will need to be read in on the rules so they know what they can expect.

As @SouthpawHare points out, game designers aren't gods - you can make decisions about your game just like they can. However, they are professionals who figure out how changes to the game will affect it. You may make changes to the game that have unexpected results - suddenly the rogues are dominating combat, or with healing surges they're suddenly rolling over encounters that used to be harder. As long as everyone's fine with the understanding that you may have to readjust these untested rules as the campaign goes on, you should be able to recover from any large problems. This freewheeling approach works as long as all the players are also freewheeling - basically, the more that your players end up acting like punks over rules changes, complaining that you're taking away their cool new overwhelming power, or being jealous of other characters' new options, is where groups end up worrying more about setting the rules in stone.


As mentioned, you do need to ensure that you don't upset the balance of the game too much. One way to do this is to make sure the rule applies to all: if your PCs can use a healing surge, then so can the bad guys!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Because SE isn't a forum, if an answer is little more than repeating what other answers have already said, it is likely to get deleted. You can upvote others' answers to indicate your approval of them, while your post should be edited to focus on what you have to offer that hasn't been said by others. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 3 '13 at 8:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Thankyou I've been a SE user for 4 years. I provided an additional point I thought relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – Cow of Doom Aug 3 '13 at 8:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, you've offered an important point to the conversation. I'm just concerned that it's overshadowed by the two-thirds of the post which aren't adding anything. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 3 '13 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ This would probably have been better done as an edit to an existing answer (to add the part that's not a repeat) rather than as a new answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Nov 8 '13 at 6:10

Making house rules to add features from one game/version to another is not unheard off. Just note don't try to borrow to much in a single rule. Borrow a single concept, convert it so it fits the game you are targeting the house rule for, then apply.

Be careful as this will offset the natural balance for the target game. Be sure to balance out the benefits and consequences.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you expand with some "why" for the advice not to borrow too much in a single rule? I can think of enough reasons for and against that it's not obvious why you're offering that bit of advice, so saying why explicitly would clarify. Including why would make it more useful advice, too, so people can decide if the why is relevant to their group. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 4 '13 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I am a programmer so in my mind each rule should only cover a single concept so it is not to complex. It makes it easier to balance the rules also. \$\endgroup\$ – RMDan Aug 5 '13 at 4:21

I can't speak for a global community, but I will say there was a group I played with where we mixed Advanced 2e, 3.5e, and 4e in all our games and it worked well. It is important, I think, that you pick the system that most suits you and use that for a base. This gives you a solid starting point around which to build your ideas, as you know what your basic dice, combat, magic and movement systems are going to be. Then look at the rules and what you would like to incorporate or change from that perspective. Be careful with direct conversions for health and damage as they rarely translate well without modification to the new system. For movement, obviously just convert units and round. The rest of it (magic, magic items, additional systems, etc.) will most likely suggest direct conversions themselves, and often can be brought in with little or no modification.

Balance is key as mentioned elsewhere. For example, healing surges in 4e are a "player only" thing.... except they aren't. Among other compensations, monsters have more HP to deal with this set back. That said, it is a great example of a system that can easily be added without much hassle. The system is well established as a percentage of HP so the only hypothetical work is figuring out if you want to keep it once an encounter (and why mess with a good thing?)

I would suggest you playtest all your new rules in small batches. Introducing large modifications all at one time may lead to issues. Likewise, before discarding a new rule outright, you may want to try modified forms of it first before you decide it doesn't fit your game or play style. Also be aware that new rules will be hardest on the DM as the person juggling the construction of the game. The DM is the one who ultimately has to patch over any issues with the ruleset being used.

Finally, while it's most likely you do, having a good knowledge of each of the systems your incorporating is very important, in my opinion. Not that you can't incorporate anything you want, but new rules seem to integrate smoother in my experience if you incoporate the things from the games you have the most depth of knowledge about. So start with those unless there is a real desire for a particular rule change. We had several experienced 2e, 3e and 3.5e players in our group, so it helped inform our decisions immensely when selecting ideas to augment our game. This is especially true if you ever decide to crib from non-DnD systems.

And if you care to know, we augmented the 4e ruleset with 2e and 3e, however, you should pick whichever one you like. It just so happened we had a lot of people wanting to play 4e because it was the brand new thing at the time.


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