Consequences in Role-playing Games

Consequences in role-playing games. We talk a lot about how “If the PC or Player does something ‘stupid’ they should pay the price for it’ – but is one way of doing this better than another?


Random Encounter

Yo it’s the mysterious brother here. Just wanted to throw my 2 cents in about house ruling. So I drink whiskey, much like Brett By the way what where you sipping on the last episode. Anyways I say the best whiskey is the whiskey you like to drink the way you like to drink it, on the rocks, straight, mixed, whatever. I think this can be applied to gaming as well. The best game is the game you like the way you like to play it. Just wanted to throw that out there. Y’all have a good holiday.

Ps. My best whiskey is monkey shoulder, it’s a blended scotch. I drink it straight usually with a cigar. You should try it man!!

Late to the discussion! Meant to post this before so as not to bring it into a three parter episode….my bad. If it’s gonna make the episode too long just ignore it!

I am always houseruling. When I first read through a game I take notes, and write up a wiki on obsidian portal with all the house rules I’m going to use for that system/game. Yes, I house rule before I even play a game! In fact nearly all my house rules come from before I even play a game, only adding others to parts that are fundamentally broken we find during play. The nice thing is my players know them all going in, and if something doesn’t work I allow pretty generous rebuild rules, but that hasn’t been an issue for many years now. In the last decade or so I’ve only had maybe 4-5 times I had to change a house rule, and thats on 17 games in 12 systems, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I will say, that came from a LOT of trial and error for the 15 years previous….

Despite this, I’m sympathetic to the “why are you playing that game then” crowd. I often wonder why when I read about all the changes some people make to their D&D game, they aren’t using a system that does what they want it to without major alterations, especially in this day and age where we have so much variety. I read almost daily about people massively overhauling a game (9 out of 10 a version of D&D) and can name 5 games that already do what their goal is without all the fidgeting. I really do think many more people would be happy if they branched out even a little.

However, I am familiar with a fair number of systems and intimate with enough that usually I pull the game I want, but it still needs more customization. So for me, it often comes more to making the game more what I need it to do.

I do have some house rules I tend to carry from system to system, though I won’t make it fit if its clunky. They are: Cards for initiative, Player Facing Dice, Chase Rules (though I’m still looking for a set I’m really happy with – I have ones that are more adequate than what I usually find), expanded ways to earn and use hero points/bennies/fate chips/etc..

Oh, and for once I think Sean was wrong (Sean your back to zero) though I think he back pedaled a little on the follow up episode.

Fantasy Heartbreaker(you said it first)….I have a buddy whose only ever played and read D&D and PF, and he’s designing a game. Every “innovative” idea he excitedly tells me I can name at least a few games that already did, and usually better than how he’s planning to do it. I’m trying to give him some tough love…but I just can’t get through to him! He always walks away sad b t doesn’t really take any action to remedy the situation.

I am also designing a game, but have played dozens of games and immersed myself in at least 50 more before even embarking on the journey(and I admit this is probably the other extreme of no Knowledge…) That may be a better resource than a new system actually. The last reference guide I saw was from 2012, and the industry has done A LOT since then. But I’m also not an engineer like that guy was….

Is setting a house rule? At first I thought no, but as I thought about it a little more I think Brett is right and its a type of house rule(Brett – you tied it back up again).

Anyway, very interesting couple of episodes. The important thing is I learned I’m gaming wrong again ;)! Keep up the great work!

Oh, also I started a blog. It’s pretty bare bones still but I do have a review of Mutant Year Zero after my first few sessions if anyone’s interested in that system! My players love it so far:

Hey BStie boys,

I wanted to let you know about a couple house rules I’ve really enjoyed using in my campaigns. One was with a homebrew world of mine using Exalted 2E rules. That system features Charms, supernatural skills that PCs can learn in a similar way to getting dots in Vampire: The Masquerade disciplines. You spend the XP, you get a charm. But in my game, charms came from one supernatural entity that visited the characters in their dreams and would only teach a charm to a character if they did something that constituted a sin against one of their virtues. I ruled that whenever that happened, they risked permanently losing a dot in the virtue, similar to the way V:TM characters risk losing dots of Humanity when they commit inhumane acts. And in my game, if a character’s virtues all became zero, they became a raving madperson (and an NPC). So this set up a delightful tension between characters’ need to grow in power (to defeat the really bad guys) and their need to avoid becoming one of them. Needless to say, this campaign had a pretty dark mood. I know this might go beyond house rule territory and into the area of fundamentally modifying the game, but your recent episode on house rules made me think of it. And hey, maybe some listener running White Wolf might want to do something similar!

Also, I’m currently running a Pathfinder 1E game in which I’ve made a house rule to modify how magic items are made. With the Pathfinder groups I’ve been in, I’ve found that there’s a real appetite for treasure and sometimes even an expectation that PCs will be rewarded with enough gp value in treasure to keep up with the standard amount of character wealth by level. This is largely to fund their (often optimized) magic item creation schemes. While I don’t have enormous problems with powergaming (if all PCs do it roughly equally), I do find that this expectation limits the kind of encounters and story arcs I can include in my campaigns. So in my current game, I’ve ruled that gold is not the currency for magic item creation. Instead, whenever a character does something exceptionally creative or clever to accomplish their ends, a god (of sorts) rewards them with “quintessence,” the proto-substance of all magic items. And I’ve made the values of quintessence rewards such that party members will keep up with their expected character wealth by level if the party as a whole performs ten such creative acts each level. The players are happy to have their crafting schemes, I’m happy to have whatever kinds of encounters I want, and the setting benefits from having a more sensible economy. Everybody wins!

Keep on gaming and BSing, all.


On House Rules, they used to be my jam. In the 90s, you weren’t a GURPS GM worth your salt if you didn’t have a couple of dozen house rules. USENET was a pretty incredible place for sharing ideas back then, and I remember printing off *hundreds* of pages of rules people had come up with and shared.

These days, I try to only house rule if something in the system seems seriously borked. Annoying little things used to catch my attention, like a .45 pistol having a higher damage rating than a hunting rifle, but these days I skew towards simpler games that usually don’t provide that level of simulationism. That might be part of why I dig lighter games these days — no need to fuss over stuff you can’t ‘unsee’ in the system.

One of the reasons I like both the OSR and the Tiny D6 games so much is that both provide tons of room for the GM to flex their creative muscles, *without* the need to gut the system or replace a bunch of core pieces. Both offer many opportunities for bolt-on coolness that scratches that tinkerer itch.

I’ll close with a couple of ‘portable’ house rules I’ve been using lately across a few different systems.

The first is Pushing — for example as seen in Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, where a player can choose to re-roll a failure if they are willing to accept much graver consequences if they fail a second time. There aren’t too many systems you can’t graft that onto, and it makes for wonderful storytelling.

Second, I love rolling a d6 as a GM when an event or outcome is uncertain or unrelated to the capabilities of the PCs. Low is bad, high is good, and I have particularly interesting things happen on ones and sixes. This is an age-old idea that stems, I think, from the AD&D DMG, but I’ve recently rediscovered how much I like it in practice.

Something else I like these days are straight up luck systems — like DCC has, or like Call of Cthulhu has… diminishing resources the players have to manage. Maybe not appropriate for all games, but pretty damned cool in those situations where the GM is slowly wearing down the party, forcing them to make harder and harder decisions.

Enjoy the holidays, guys. Here’s to 2020 beating the crap out of 2019, putting it in the trunk, and dumping it in the lake.


Greetings BSers,

I am curious what system neutral GM aids you keep in your toolbox, to help you craft your games and worlds. Do you have any that you find yourself coming back to time and again?

When I look at my shelf, the books I most frequently reference are:

* Tome of Adventure Design by Frog God Games

* The “Alphabet” series from Goodman Games, including the Dungeon Alphabet by Michael Curtis and the Monster Alphabet by Jobe Bittman

* The Random Esoteric Creature Generator by James Raggi

* The Storyteller’s Thesaurus by James Ward and Anne Brown

* How to Write Adventure Modules that Don’t Suck by Goodman Games

I’m sure there are many other gems out there that you and your esteemed listening public can recommend, to build on these valuable resources.


DM Cojo


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  • Tony Suga Loaf supplies us with a character sheet for those that have dyslexia: article on geeknative and pc sheet
  • Kevin Kulp, someone Sean follows on Twitter and person behind Time Watch RPG, mentioned getting Save the Universe rpg by Don Bisdorf if you want a Star Wars-like rpg. Get it on drivethrurpg
  • Call of Cthulhu comes to Article on
  • ENworld is running a poll – Vote for Your Favourite RPG Talk Podcast. Polls close Jan 1st. GO VOTE!
  • Matt V’s blog – check it out!
  • Let us know about your system neutral GM aids on our forums

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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.