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Our group has been playing RPGs in changing formations for the last 10 years or more. We have played many different systems, but some of them we always eventually return to (Rolemaster/MERP, Star Wars D6, ). Over the years we encountered areas in which we were not satisfied with these systems and thus created house rules to patch them up.

The problem is that I find it hard to get our group to agree on a stable set of house rules and use them for a while.

Situation:

  • We don't have a single designated GM: all players will GM now and then, sometimes even in the same campaign. Thus, there is no single authority which can enforce house rules
  • We work almost exclusively on paper and (almost) every one of us has a complete set of rulebooks - thus synchronizing additional rule sheets can be an issue.
  • We often do agree on needing house rules, and we also mostly find a reasonable consensus of what these rules should be (so the problem is not that we cannot find an agreement at the table).

But we seem to be unable to really commit on house rules in the longer term, often falling back to the canonical rules.

As a result, house rules are often only temporary fixes, and seem to be forgotten the next time we play said system. Or a different GM will choose to come up with a new set of rules to cover basically the same area. Or some players/GMs decide that these specific house rules are not needed after all, falling back to the basic rules.

  • How can I motivate my group to commit to a set of house rules?
  • How can I make it easier for them (and me) to keep track of house rules we came up with in the past?
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There's two hurdles: social and logistical. The logistical side is easy, and I'll start with that, because if you are lucky, it's the only reason people haven't really coordinated house rules, though odds are that there's more to it.

Logistics

Write down house rules during play, or just after. With a full, committed group, someone can do this, especially if house rules only come up a few times a session. After the session, someone should type it up. You may PLAY on paper, but you can certainly store it electronically - make a wiki or common file (Dropbox, Google Docs, etc.) that everyone can see. Print out the sheet for the next time you play.

Next time you play, (same GM, different, whatever) they can reference the sheet. The sheet doesn't have to be "this rule stays the same forever" but it does give them an example to come back to and they can either just use it, change it, or ignore it, but now it's an informed choice and not because they just forgot about it.

If there's no major philosophical differences about game goals and style, this sheet will grow and collectively you'll find some rules become everyone's go-to, some will see revisions over time, and some will be forgotten. You may have to re-organize and retype the file periodically depending on how large it gets.

Social Commitment

There's no guaranteed way to assure everyone will agree to the same house rules, but you can sit down and talk about doing the logistical fix above, and see if everyone is interested.

If it's a small hurdle, maybe everyone is interested in it, but no one has taken the steps to make it easy, in which case, the logistical step should resolve some of that.

If there are significant differences in how people want to run the game, they may be avoiding canonizing the house rules because they don't want to be forced to run it a way they don't like, or perhaps, they don't want to force others to run it their way. That's an extra hurdle to jump.

Or, in a worst case scenario the differences are even larger and having that discussion will reveal it, at which point, you find out several of you are actually there to play different games... and that becomes a hard conversation for a lot of established groups to navigate.

All you can do is have a talk about it and see if everyone is willing to give it a try.

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They're Just Not That Into You(r Rules)

You probably can't, and probably shouldn't.

There's a reason these rules aren't sticking from one campaign to another, and it's that clearly the group is not interested in anyone in the group making rules that other campaigns should feel compelled to abide by. As revealed in your question, it's not that they forget, it's that other GMs decide to fix it a different way or decide it doesn't need fixing. There may be "consensus at the table," but given the fact that people then discard that consensus, it's likely consensus to make someone happy or make the discussion stop, not real long term buy-in.

Every GM's game is their game. When you're in their game, their variant of the rules, setting, etc. is law. In my experience most GMs would be actively hostile to the group (or one person, it sounds like) demanding that they use specific rule X or Y.

I am part of a large gaming group (So large it's a bunch of different campaigns on different nights of the week that don't all have the same members.) We certainly have some house rules that most or all of us have adopted because we've used them and like them. For example, for Pathfinder, we always let Aid Another add an additional +1 per 5 points the helper beats the difficulty by. We've used that so much that we just kind of assume a new Pathfinder game in our group is using it. But if a GM said "we're not doing that in this campaign," everyone would understand that is their choice and not contest their right to make it.

If you want control over the rules - run your own game. The rest of your group is clearly operating under the common assumption that it's socially inappropriate to try to hijack that control from the GMs. (Not to say a given GM isn't welcome to take player input or even have them vote on what house rules/setting/adventure elements/whatever will be used - but it's their sovereign choice to do so.)

You bring up the problem of "same campaign." Well, there's two different cases here. One is a long running campaign world that you come back to after breaks and there's different GMs. This is pretty close to "a new campaign" and unless you have done some hard character build around a specific house rule, you just need to let that go. If this is really "we rotate GMs weekly and then the rules are different!" that's more of a problem, but I don't see any evidence in your question that's actually the case.

I played in a 3e game where we bought a wad of modules and then rotated GMs with each one. Different GMs ruled differently, and it was fine - we never made large scale House Rules (tm) like "here's a new fighter class," we had small GM-preference house rules like one GM would say "Diplomacy checks are for dinks, RP it." It's not really a problem that needed solving for most of us. You seem to be the one person at the table who is disturbed by it, but you have to understand many other folks won't be and don't really want to be constrained in what they do by some conversation a year ago some guy pushed through.

Now, if there are specific effects of these changes, other than prodding your OCD, you could talk about those with the group and how to mitigate them. "Hey I thought we agreed monks have full BAB, and I'm running a monk, I don't really want my attack bonus on the same character to go up and down week to week..." That's a reasonable problem the group can discuss and come to a conclusion on. "I want permanent house rules" is possibly not the right solution, and one many GMs will find disaffecting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue is, that we also have rotating GMs within the same campaign. That's what I meant with "there is no clear authority". If there were a designated GM per campaign, I'd 100% agree with what you wrote. \$\endgroup\$ – fgysin Jun 2 '15 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fgysin In that case, every GM should agree on the rules to be used because the house rule in one session could compromise the next if it's not consistent. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Jun 2 '15 at 13:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ That sounds like a minority of the time from your question. But I've run multi-GM games like this too. Be more specific - is it switching GMs session to session in a live campaign or is this "well we came back to the same setting/characters after a year off and a new GM was running it..." Those are pretty far apart on the continuum. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 2 '15 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be a very good answer to a slightly different question from the one actually asked. This situation isn't about one person "demanding that they use specific rule X", it's about one person letting them choose any houserule they want, but demanding that they make an actual choice, and keep that decision for months instead of minutes. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Jun 2 '15 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ And I know he and you see a difference between those two, but in real social situations they're the same. "Oh yeah that's a good house rule fygsin we're totally on board. Next session - forget that house rule!" That's consensus to make someone happy, not real long term buy-in - hence the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 2 '15 at 16:11
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You need to have all the people that are going to GM sit together and agree on the house rules before you begin play. I have had similar experiences, and you need to get everybody on board or else someone with just undermine it in a week or two and then it's gone.

Sit down as a group and address what rules you find dissatisfying or insufficient, then brainstorm together and agree together on what these rules will be and how they work. Make sure everyone there understands how the will work and affect the game (this helps prevent having to rework them or argue about them after they have been "accepted").

Have a place (my group uses a big 3 ring binder) where you keep your house rules. Bring it to game sessions as you would any other rule book and treat it with just as much authority. You need to develop a culture of respecting the house rules or else they just won't stick and you will just slip into the default rules.

Again, it is important that all people planning on running the game agree to these rules. If anyone opposes the rule then don't bother, you don't want the house rules looking arbitrary or inconsistent so make sure you really think them out and commit to them. That isn't to say you can't tweak them as you go, but accepting them as a legitimate part of the game is critical if you want the rule consistency you seem to be looking for.

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