Monday, April 21, 2014

Class-based Rule Responsibility

I've long wanted to do some player handouts or booklets specific to each class.  Someone wants to play a fighter, give them a handout with all they need to know about fighters: how shields work, weapon damage, missile range, experience chart for leveling.  I haven't made these yet. 

But I was just thinking that in addition to giving that player everything they need to know at their fingertips, it could be quite nice for more casual players to have rule expertise in one realm and not need to worry about the rest.

So, if you have a house rule for armor wear and tear, let the fighter know about it, and they can explain it to the other players.  If you have special resurrection, level draining, or healing rules, let the cleric/priests become the expert on that.  This gives each player a reason to be important and it would probably increase the number of house rules/mini-games you could get away with without becoming too complex, because no players will have to know them all. 

Traditionally, a lot of the rules can be dealt with when need arises and only the DM needs to know the rules at all.  But when your start talking about subsystems like hunting, repair, special house rules dealing with travel, players need to know this stuff to be able to make decisions.  So, split up the responsibility of that rule knowledge.

Magic users could know about your world's languages and writing systems, all about scrolls and making them, perhaps about maps and curses and such.  Maybe also enough vague history of your realm to know what things are older than others.

I would probably include a lot about the undead for divine petitioners, and like I mentioned above, how healing and disease works.

Thieves would know any relevant lock mini-games, of course, but would be a good place to put knowledge of the values of treasure sold in different towns, the going rates for different gems and different types of coins, etc.


  1. An interesting concept, especially for rules-light / modular-rules games, but I can see one obvious difficulty:

    Do you make a rule that every party has to have one member of every class or type? What happens to a party without a cleric when someone catches a disease, or a party without a magic-user when someone wants to learn a foreign language? The issue then isn't that they can't heal their party member or speak the language, so much as they don't even know how the sick person progresses through recovery or death; they don't know how language-learning even starts.

    Yes, the DM can pick up the slack, but then you're just back at the usual system: the DM has to know everything, and everybody else picks up the specialized systems piecemeal as they think is appropriate to the needs of their own characters.

  2. This seems like a great idea for quick-starting someone new to tabletop or new to the system. Eventually everyone will be as familiar with the rules as they want to be. But in the mean time, there's the rules you'll be using 90% of the time right in your hand.

    Very clever out of the box thinking.

  3. This actually works quite well for more complex games too. The GM really should have some faculty with all of the various rules and sub-systems, but if you relegate all of the magic rules to the Wizard character it takes the load off the group. Also, it's just bad form to not know the rules that govern your character's actions (unless you're new).

  4. @Confanity: Yeah, it's never good to make assumptions about the choices players will make. And I tend to forget that with party make-up. A couple things I'm thinking now, that one reason it might be good to do this is to make classes like cleric more attractive to my players so they'll play it. If they see a booklet of cool stuff that class gets to know and do, maybe I'll have more clerics. Another thing, it might not be bad for players to not be privy to some subsystems, disease is a good example, because if nothing else, it might make them seek out expert help or hirelings and make classes feel more real, in that they actually do know things about the game world that the vanilla fighter doesn't.

    @Scott, Vanguard: Thanks. I think one thing you need to know too is that I'm not really playing a system as such. So my players couldn't just pick up Swords & Wizardry, say, and learn all the relevant rules. My rules change as I revise them or come up with whole subsystems that I didn't have before. In that situation, having specific players you could "roll out" a new house rule too could be useful. I'll have to try it.

  5. This is one of the key things I strive for in my own house-rule experimentation. Problem is, it's at odds with my other objective, which is compactness and simplicity. The more interrelated different systems are, the harder it is to carve some of them out as the "fighter's domain" or the "magic user's domain." And the prevalence of combat necessitates that all players have some knowledge of the combat rules.

  6. You could call it a "player's handbook".

    Too bad they're 600 pages these days instead of useful like what you're describing

  7. I really like this idea and how it bridges the in-game / out-of-game barrier. It echoes what I have been unwittingly doing in my game which is to expect the wizard player to know the rules for magic better than me. That way I can concentrate on the fun parts.