[13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

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Tim Baker
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[13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am

I wanted to say this up front: this post is intended to drive discussion about any fantasy d20-based system's house rules, and not just a particular system. I'm tagging this as a 13th Age discussion, because that's the system I'm interested in, but I learned a long time ago that 13th Age is flexible and modular enough that it can benefit from rules and house rules from many other systems, particularly other F20 (fantasy d20-based) systems.

So with that being said, here are some questions that I'd love to get the community's answers for. Please provide answers based on your F20 system of choice.
  1. What system are you playing/house-ruling?
  2. What are your house rules?
  3. And do you think those house rules would translate well to an F20 system (or another F20 system, if you're already playing something like D&D)?
  4. How do you communicate your house rules to your players (or how did your GM communicate them to you, if you aren't the GM)?
  5. Do you feel that your house rules should be incorporated into the official rules? Or are they too tailored to your table?
I'll answer these questions for my own game in a comment, below.

UPDATE: I updated the post to make it clearer that I'm interested in answers from the spectrum of F20 games.
Last edited by Tim Baker on Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:26 am

Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am
What are your house rules?
Here are my house rules:
  1. Meaningful deaths (optional rule from core book -- to summarize, only named enemies can kill PCs. Minions can certainly maim, capture, or do other horrible things to PCs.)
  2. Lasting Wounds (optional rule from core book -- maximum hit points are reduced temporarily if a PC reaches 0 hit points. I also use Injuries, which I adapted from an optional rule from D&D 4e -- I give PCs a negative background (like a free-form skill) to represent injuries. Since backgrounds only apply to skill checks, it doesn't cause a death spiral, but still leads to some great role-playing, and gives a little more impact to when a PC is downed.)
  3. Icon dice as player currency (this one's pretty specific to 13th Age, so I'll summarize here, but this may not make a lot of sense if you don't play 13th Age. This is based on one of the options from the 13th Age GM's Resource Book -- additionally, I let each player roll the d12 icon die if they roll no 5's or 6's. Whatever they roll on the d12 is an icon they get a 5 with for the session. On top of that, the GM can "spend" the PCs' 5's in advance. In other words, the complication can come up in play, even if the player hasn't used a 5. This prevents players from hoarding their 5's because they're afraid to use them (Glorantha runes ended up doing something similar).)
  4. Fumbles (I roll on the Laying Waste critical fumble table, then adapt the results for 13th Age -- since there are more monsters than PCs in an average battle, this is actually more fun for the players, as they watch the enemies suffer more often than the PCs do from this rule.)
  5. Round-Robin Initiative (for small groups or groups of new players, I use round-robin initiative, as described here: https://www.tribality.com/2015/01/22/dd ... tiative-2/)
  6. Dicey Stunts (this option from the Pelgrane blog provides a mechanical framework to allow PCs to attempt cool stunts without stepping on another PC's class features: http://site.pelgranepress.com/index.php ... -13th-age/)
  7. Mob attacks (adopted from Shadow of the Demon Lord -- large groups of mooks have not only a single pool of hit points but require fewer attack rolls)
Most of these are things that the GM needs to remember, not the players. So while the list might seem long, these are largely independent from stuff going on on the character sheets (injuries being the exception).
Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am
And do you think those house rules would translate well to an F20 system (or another F20 system, if you're already playing something like D&D)?
13th Age is a joy to pick apart for use with other F20 systems. This is actually why I invested in the core book to start with. I incorporated its subsystems into my D&D game, and my players really enjoyed it. Six months later, we switched to 13th Age, because we realized we'd already been playing a game that more closely resembled 13th Age than by-the-book D&D at that point.
Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am
How do you communicate your house rules to your players (or how did your GM communicate them to you, if you aren't the GM)?
I have a campaign handout that includes some basic setting information and lists our house rules.
Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am
Do you feel that your house rules should be incorporated into the official rules? Or are they too tailored to your table?
The game runs fine without these. This list is the result of playing 13th Age for 6 years and tailoring my game to the specific needs of my players. I wouldn't suggest implementing these universally. I wouldn't mind seeing them incorporated as officially supported options (and some of them already are), but like nearly everything in 13th Age, the game is meant to be molded to fit each group's personality.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Big Mac » Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:12 pm

Tim Baker wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 2:13 am
What are your house rules?
I've not got a game of my own going at the moment. I'm in someone else's game, but that's not the same as having your own one.

But one house rule I've already thought about is more of a "crystal sphere house rule".

And that is that I want to run 3rd Edition D&D Spelljammer games, with just the core rules (PHB + DMG and MM) as how the entire D&D Multiverse works, and then add in rules from non-core rulebooks to be "house rules" for individual crystal spheres.

That way Realmspace gets The Weave, the Shadow Weave, Spellfire and some other Realms specific stuff, while Krynnspace gets High Sorcery with magic controlled by the phases of Krynn's moons.

Deities that can be worshipped would be "crystal sphere house rules", as each deity can be worshipped in one or more crystal spheres. Trying to regain spells from a non-local deity is a feature of Spelljammer, so I would either be picking a list of deities for each crystal sphere or making something like a Random Encounter table to decide if a deity has local access or not.

One of the editions of Manual of the Planes had some sort of rule about the level of magic on a Material Plane. I believe in the One Prime model, but I would still use that rule...only it would become a "house rule" for that crystal sphere.

This means there could be some crystal spheres where it takes a week instead of a day for Clerics to regain spells (that's inspired by something someone told me about how D&D Lankhmar works). Or there could be a crystal sphere where everyone can cast cantrips when they get to 10th Level.

There could be crystal spheres where all animals are naturally Awakened (as per the Awaken spell), and can speak Common.

Or you could have special materials that can be turned into weapons that act like +1 magical weapons, rocks that are explosive (like grenades) or dust made from ground up wizard bones that dispels magic.

Everyone does things their own way, but I personally think that lots and lots of house rules can make things a bit difficult for players. (You end up needing to create your own Player's Guide to give players a list of your house rules.) But I think that, with a transitive setting like Spelljammer or Planescape (and maybe even with Ravenloft) you can do some funky stuff in a specific area to make that area seem special and not have that stuff impact on the entire campaign.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by John WS Marvin » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:08 pm

Tim: How does the whole negative background thing work? I'm intrigued.

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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Sat Jun 09, 2018 10:44 pm

Big Mac wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:12 pm
But one house rule I've already thought about is more of a "crystal sphere house rule".

Everyone does things their own way, but I personally think that lots and lots of house rules can make things a bit difficult for players. (You end up needing to create your own Player's Guide to give players a list of your house rules.) But I think that, with a transitive setting like Spelljammer or Planescape (and maybe even with Ravenloft) you can do some funky stuff in a specific area to make that area seem special and not have that stuff impact on the entire campaign.
I agree with you that too many house rules can become overwhelming. My list runs the risk of looking long, but the players only really have to remember that injuries are a thing to track. The other house rules are things that I do when running the game. I include them in the list so that nobody's surprised when an optional rule in the book is used or when we do something different from the book (e.g., simplify initiative, or a group of monsters get to act as one "mob").

So in your crystal sphere house rule, the same characters would have different abilities in different crystal spheres, correct? Or do they embody the crystal sphere where they're from, and that sticks with them wherever they go?

Do you hand out a new house rules one-sheet for each new crystal sphere? If the characters themselves change with the spheres, do they use a different character sheet for each? Or does one suffice, and there are sections that are "enabled/disabled" based on where they're currently adventuring, for lack of a better term?
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Sat Jun 09, 2018 11:06 pm

John WS Marvin wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:08 pm
Tim: How does the whole negative background thing work? I'm intrigued.
I can't take credit for thinking up negative backgrounds. I came across the concept in this post from Thought Crime Games. I don't use the same rules from that post around using injuries to provide bonuses to death saving throws, but the concept of the negative backgrounds is the same.

In play, I find that the negative backgrounds make falling to 0 hit points a little more serious in my games, without leading to a death spiral. Because negative backgrounds only apply to skill checks, they don't affect combat effectiveness. But skill checks come up frequently enough in my games that negative backgrounds still sting, and generally lead to failing forward more often.

I also found that the players at the table commit these injuries to memory. They start explaining how the injury was clearly the cause of that recent fumble or miss in combat, even though it had zero mechanical influence on it -- this is purely role-playing. I've seen injuries make a player play the character more cautiously, even though the PC is just as effective in combat as ever. Again, it's just role-playing without any mechanical teeth, but it's been something my group has really latched onto.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:54 am

I'm going to collect some of the responses from around social media, so there's a single spot where you can find how people are modifying 13th Age to suit their tables' needs. Note that these all came from 13th Age GMs/players, so they may be specific to that particular flavor of F20 gaming.
Dan Zelitch wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:01 am
Hero Points: A good GM of mine said that incentivizing players to make the game more exciting is always a good idea. At the end of each session, each player may award another player a reroll to be used in the next session.

Noble Sacrifice: If the heroes are in a desperate and dramatically appropriate fight, a PC may, pending GM approval, sacrifice him/herself to carry out a last action to save the day. My PCs have used this to throw themselves at a dragon with a barrel of explosives to save their team, shatter a lich's phylactery, and redirect an asteroid to crash into the BBEG's secret moon base. Since I usually don't allow resurrection in my campaigns, this means that the sacrifice is permanent.

Also, I added Ship to Ship Combat rules for my airship game. Enemies function as normal, but the PCs instead use specialized rolls for their respective ship positions: https://docs.google.com/document/d/18Xq ... TLtvw/edit
John Dennis wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 12:33 pm
I've always incorporated a title system for various actions either the whole group is known for, or individual PCs.
So for example: if the group raids a dungeon and puts an end to the Gnoll menace affecting a local hamlet, word would spread about "The Gnoll Smashers" causing folks to be more favourable to the PCs, or look down on them as glory hounds, or even have Gnoll warbands fear them or hunt them down etc etc.

I find it gives more life to the world when NPCs react to PCs actions without being in LoS.
Jim Carstensen wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:21 pm
Boons - an idea for for magic-item-less play in D&D 4e that gave innate powers. I just liked the idea and while I hand out items, where appropriate I also can hand out an innate ability.

I do things closer to a mechanic or an item. For example, because of a particular in-game incident, our dwarfforged fighter can now once per combat do the equivalent of Intercept on a magic spell targeting an ally.

But not always. The heavily Prince-of-Shadows involved violinist can fade into the background - any scene where he hasn't been explicitly referenced yet he can be any background character. The servant who took your jacket, the crewman mopping the deck when you've been captured by pirates, etc.
Alex Corrin wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 2:55 pm
I'm currently working on an Affinity system for my homebrew world (elemental magic system with six elements and gifts granted to players on creation and upon reaching each tier). It's roughly inspired by the Glorantha rune system.

Besides that I currently use a few player incentives, namely Inspiration (inspired from 5e for rerolls) and Miracles (inspired from the previous edition spell which acts like ramped up relationship basically with divine influence). Miracles also allow complete rebuilding of the character from the ground up if required, though with the ability to retrain feats/talents and whatnot already it hasn't been used that way yet.

Inspiration is pretty simple. It grants a reroll of a d20 roll. I allow each character to have up to 5 per Tier (there were some issues with hoarding them). I tend to hand them out at incrementals and level-ups and as bribes for good roleplaying of characters and making people laugh. It's easy to get.

I don't find they tend to overlap with icon relationship rolls. Relationship mechanic I've adjusted slightly so it is player initiative driven. The plotline is still determined by which Icons they chose but when they use their rolled relationship 5s and 6s they narrate what happens, how they get the advantage, and what happens. I just try make it work or mediate it. My players tend to use it more for storyline advantages and pulling through where it counts.

I personally see them more as Tiers. Inspiration comes fast and goes as quickly for the most part (rerolls are used fairly often and don't tend to have huge impact). Relationship is a bit more potent, letting them impact the story a bit for an advantage (with potential drawback) and miracles are literal divine intervention.
Michael J Rivet wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:04 pm
Vampire the masquerade has a social boon system that works well if there are repercussions for not following through - PCs could give boons as well as receive plus trade boons they have to others. It's RP, so it's just a note - like an IOU. As in VTM there's no mechanic.
Brian Hess wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:43 pm
We kinda had Bennies from savage worlds..we called the Floating Rerolls and they were won at the end of a session for someone being democratically voted having the best RP moment. You could hoard them and use them on any roll.

No limit to them. Just keep crushing rp they’re so precious that they’d get saved for dailies and such. No one built up THAT many. And rp awards were pretty regularly distributed so it wasn’t always the same person.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jun 10, 2018 6:59 am

Here's another brief set of house rules from a Discord chat. I've seen several others mention giving the druid an additional talent at 5th level, so this one seems to have a fair amount of adoption.
Saturnine wrote:
Wed Jun 06, 2018 1:01 am
The house rules of mine that jump to mind are barbarian rage per battle, and an additional talent for druids at level 5. There's a change or two to special barbarian powers that I made as a result of the per battle rage - the ability that allows a crit if both rolls are over 11 is a daily now.
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Re: [13th Age] What House Rules Do You Use?

Post by Tim Baker » Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:19 am

The discussion continues on Facebook.
Dan Zelitch wrote:
Sun Jun 10, 2018 7:16 am
One more thing we do is blend the montage with 4E skill challenges, with the PCs receiving either story or mechanical bonuses/penalties depending on the results.

I almost forgot the mechanical house rules:
Toughness is now a +2 flat bonus to base HP.

Druids get another talent at 5th level.

Barbarian base HP is 9.
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