Daily Houserule tweets: February 2022

From February 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023, I posted an entry a day to the @gamesdiner Twitter account, using the hashtags #TRPG, #GURPS, and #DailyHouserule. The concept: Make tweets out of a bunch of minor GURPS houserule items, GM/player advice tidbits, and other tips & tricks, to have a bit of fun engaging with other gamers and get the #GURPS tag out there more. (See the initial announcement here.)

The year is up! I’m now posting those tweets to this site, a month per page. Links to all 12 months are below.

Do forgive the overly abbreviated and janky writing. These were tweets, so the text is full of shortcuts to fit the format. For better or worse, I’m leaving the content mostly untouched.

Entries by month:

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Entries No. 1 to 28


2022-02-01: If a PC just fails a self-control roll (i.e., fails by 1), allow one last chance to pull back from the brink. Have the player act out hammy dithering or stressing, spend 1 FP, and make a Will roll. Success means the PC keeps it together (barely)!

In short, things that encourage hammy acting are good.


2022-02-02: DF and DFRPG allow armor-wearing by spellcasters – and even encourage it by letting expensive armor double as a power item.

If you’re OK with mages wearing armor but don’t want to encourage it, just rule that armor can’t act as a power item.

The effect will be to nudge wizards toward gems or ornate gear like a wizard staff with a big pricey crystal ball on the end as a power item, not armor. (Expensive swords will still be good power items. That’s also against the OSR image, but hey, Gandalf carried it off.)

I’ll also note that armor makes for a slightly fiddly power item, in that the player has to define which pieces compose the power item.

(That said, being able to say “my vambraces and cuirass are my power item” is sort of cool.)


2022-02-03: Let Psychology (Undead, Demons, or Spirits, as appropriate) act as a complementary skill for Exorcism rolls. Demons et al hate it when an exorcist gets inside their heads!

Hidden Lore (same types) also makes sense as a complementary skill.


2022-02-04: Falling damage in GURPS is fine as-is; it can be painful (even deadly), yet is mostly survivable for PC mishaps.

But if you want to be brutally realistic, you should arguably double falling damage.

(Why? A reality check: link)


2022-02-05: In any use of Intimidation or Interrogation, use Psychology as a complementary skill for that classic police drama trope of manipulating a target by “getting inside his head”.

In DF/DFRPG, where Psychology (type) becomes a skill for grokking the minds of specific monster types, you could even let Psychology replace Intimidation or Interrogation vs the monster type (with Intimidation/Interrogation then acting as complementary rolls if desired).


2022-02-06: Want to intimidate a demon or undead (assuming it’s not Unfazeable)? I’d let either Intimidation or Exorcism do the trick (with the other as an optional complement).

This gives Exorcism a workout beyond the occasional possession or curse removal.

In DF/DFRPG, Psychology (Undead, Demons, or Spirits, as appropriate) would also make a good complementary roll here – or even serve as the main roll, per yesterday’s tweets.


2022-02-07: DF/DFRPG: The Turning ability is fun, but clerics can’t improve its Will roll other than by buying more Will or PI.

To make the ability more improvable, let Intimidation (if the target isn’t Unfazeable) or Exorcism replace Will for Turning rolls.

These skills are Will-based, so the idea doesn’t change the Will-based nature of Turning. It simply lets a cleric improve Turning ability (like clerics in Other Games), without introducing some new skill or stat. And it gives the noted skills a little more workout.


2022-02-08: Photographic Memory invites abuse: “I recall any info I ever encountered!”

A fix for this: PCs can only recall what was noticed to begin with.

“Sure, you recall the cop’s badge number—if you actually noted it. Make a ‘flashback scene’ Observation roll.”

This is one of my earliest house rules: I came up with the Observation skill (before it appeared in GURPS) to model the way TV detectives always spot interesting things, and specifically as a counter to the abuse of Eidetic Memory as some always-on omniscient camcorder.


2022-02-09: DF/DFRPG: Skilled poisoners can apply 2 doses of poison to a blade (-2 to HT rolls, x2 dam), or 4 doses (-4, x4).

Allow a new option: 3 doses (-3, x3).

(I admit: It didn’t take much thought to devise that. Don’t worry, better entries are coming.)


2022-02-10: The legendary assassin’s blade! A knife or sword with notches and grooves to better carry and deliver poison. Boosts Poisons rolls to super-dose blades and retains poison for more stopped hits. But its ill intent earns poor reactions.

See link


2022-02-11: Dungeon delvers deal in weird stuff! Consider two nature skills (cross-default at -3): Naturalist for “normal” nature, and Unnaturalist (IQ/A) for dire animals/plants, hybrids, lycans, slimes, dragons, gargoyles, and other humanoid and dungeon oddities.

Think of Hogwarts: Classes cover animals and magical plants, but it’s definitely not your normal school biology!

There’s a FRPG counterargument: “But dire beasts and slimes are as normal as bears and poison ivy in my dungeon world!” Sure; if that’s the world concept, that’s fine.

Me, I just like a fantasy setting where, yes, monsters are real, but normal country folk and city scholars learn one thing, while adventurers delving the dark places of the world learn… something else.

Weird knowledge is fun.


2022-02-12: GURPS Underground Adventures introduces new specialties: Navigation (Underground) and Survival (Underground). These are both perfect additions to DF/DFRPG. Like Unnaturalist (yesterday’s tweet), they cater to delvers’ uniquely specialized knowledge.

Note: Dungeon Fantasy Setting: Caverntown introduces Survival (Subterranean). I assume this is just Survival (Underground) under a different name.

(Another note: Even if you don’t use Caverntown’s setting, it and Underground Adventures are full of good stuff for dungeon campaigns.)

Navigation (Underground) and Navigation (Land) cross-default at -2; Survival (Underground) and Survival (other) cross-default at -4.

Feel free to change both of those to -3 for ease of remembering.


2022-02-13: Mapping caverns presents a whole a new 3D challenge: warped “rooms” and formations, twisty chutes, slopes, levels, and more.

Inspired by GURPS Underground Adventures, I came up with Cartography (Underground), cross-defaulting to Cartography at -3.

Again, I like the idea that spelunkers and delvers learn skills that differ a bit from those of above-ground “normal” people. Special skills let delvers stand out, and create a need for underground guides, mappers, survivalists, and other subterranean specialist hirelings.


2022-02-14: Animal Handling in combat: The AD penalty that the skill inflicts on animals is fine, but the TH penalty doesn’t make much sense, rules-wise.

Change it: High skill means an AD penalty (not TH penalty!) for the animal and an AD bonus for the PC.

It’s an old (minor) gripe of mine. A TH penalty for the animal makes no sense. “You’re completely unaware as the beast pounces on you from behind… [rolls] But thanks to Animal Handling, it misses you!”


An AD bonus for the character is the proper GURPS-like way to handle this.


2022-02-15: There’s tons of good advice out there on speeding up combat with mooks.

One small idea: After any injury or setback, have a mook automatically take a Step back + AOD for 1 turn, to check for injury, assess the battle, and decide whether to press on.

The idea is to address the omniscient situational awareness and zero-time decision-making that are unavoidable features of RPG combatants.

Here, a mook who takes a hit realistically drops out of the fight for a second to reassess the situation (and his safety, and his life path?).

This gets a mook or two out of the GM’s hair on a typical turn, and helps get that result of mooks attacking one or a few at a time while others hang back, without obvious GM fiat.

More on mook fighting: link


2022-02-16: Want Long-Distance Modifiers, without the table (BS p. 241)?

  • Divide the regular Range modifier by 3 (round unfavorably) and add 4.
  • Max mod is +0 (which happens at 200 yards and closer).

(Okay, not an exciting tip. But there it is.)


2022-02-17: GURPS and DFRPG apply encumbrance penalties to Acrobatics rolls for some feats, but not for others.

For simplicity, I go with “encumbrance penalties apply to all Acrobatics rolls”, across the board.

It’s easier, with no specifics to remember.


2022-02-18: New Talent: Underworld Gift [5/lvl]

+1 Engineer (Mining), Geology, and Prospecting. Also +1 Cartography, Navigation (Land), Survival, and Naturalist only to deal with natural subterranean settings and life.

Reaction Bonus: Dwarves, troglodytes, spelunkers, other Chthonic beings who admire your underground prowess

Alternative Benefit: +1/level to spot slippery surfaces, pits, potential rock slides, other natural underground hazards

See link


2022-02-19: New Talent: Underground Adventurer [10/lvl] (for GURPS + Underground Adventures book)

+1 Cartography (Underground), Engineer (Mining), Geology, Hidden Lore (Chthonian Lore), Hobby Skill (Rock Collecting), Navigation (Underground), Prospecting, Survival (Underground), Naturalist (subterranean life), other Hidden Lore or Expert skill dealing with underground phenomena/beings.

Reaction Bonus or Alternative Benefit: Subterranean beings or hazards, respectively (same as yesterday’s entry)

Per No. 13 in this series, Cartography (Underground) is my invention. If you prefer, call it regular Cartography (but limited to caverns and other subterranean locales).

See link


2022-02-20: New “Talent” for DFRPG: Underwordly [5/lvl]

Each level confers +1 Prospecting skill; also +1 Cartography, Navigation, Survival, Naturalist to deal with natural subterranean settings and life; also +1 Hidden Lore (Lost Civilizations), Hidden Lore (Nature Spirits) to deal with subterranean civilizations and spirits.

Finally: +1/level to spot slippery surfaces, pits, potential rock slides, other natural underground hazards.

DFRPG would call this an advantage, not a talent, but either way it’s my GURPS talent Underworld Gift – No. 18 in this series – reworked for DFRPG’s skill list.

See link


2022-02-21: Acrobatic Dodge (DFRPG Exploits p. 48) is a fun way to boost defense.

Idea: Let Jumping replace Acrobatics if dodging an attack on the legs (or Jumping +2 for an attack on the feet).

This is the classic “jump over the sword swing” move!


2022-02-22: In addition to the Do Nothing maneuver (defense but no movement), consider…

All-Out Do Nothing (AODN)!

Yeah, it sounds goofy, but let it do this:

All-Out Do Nothing allows no defense, but allows a Step (maybe to stagger away from danger?).

Not a totally serious suggestion… but having some option letting a stunned character stagger off (not doable with Do Nothing) isn’t unreasonable.

Trading away Do Nothing’s defenses (hence “All-Out”) to gain this minimal movement arguably does the job. (Goofy name, tho…)


2022-02-23: A small but (IMO) good idea:

Change the Aim bonus from “+Acc +0/1/2” to “+Acc +1/2/3” (i.e., a straightforward +1 per second of Aim).

There are several benefits to this. It’s easier to remember, too.

See link


2022-02-24: If you create your own character sheets, or modify existing ones, add a “Character concept” line at the top, for writing “Naive young pilot looking to prove self”, “Gruff mercenary with heart of gold”, etc.

Every character sheet should have this!

A “First impression” line is also interesting: Short description of the initial impression the character makes on others. It may be similar to “Character concept”, may differ a lot.

“Slim elf in scruffy hunter’s garb, seemingly aloof but watchful. Blue hair, ornate bow stand out.”


2022-02-25: Survival (Underground) is no replacement for the ability to see in pitch dark. But a Per-based roll (+Acute Hearing) to gauge echoes should allow crude guessing at cavern size, or detect echoes from below (indicating a ledge or pit ahead), etc.

I’m talking about the GM offering a little info based on caving experience. Don’t let this use of Survival step on the toes of proper Dark Vision or Sonar, or the Song of Echoes ability of DFRPG bards.

(Note: Survival (Underground) comes from GURPS Underground Adventures.)


2022-02-26: DF/DFRPG: Faith Healing is nifty, but it’s too bad clerics can’t readily improve the IQ+PI roll.

Hm, could Esoteric Medicine (Holy) replace IQ here? Given the 8-pt cost to get EM at IQ+1, it seems fair (and lets the pricey Healer trait help out).

See Entry No. 7 in this series for a similar idea: letting Intimidation or Exorcism replace Will for clerics’ Turning roll, as a simple way to make that ability more readily improvable.


2022-02-27: Old house rule: Allow +1 Dodge for mobile extremities: arms, hands, tail, head (assuming neck!), etc.

Options include additional +1 Dodge vs attacks to the face, for “flinch” reflex.

Reasons, details, and options: link


2022-02-28: Tip for faster combat: Have mooks and monsters use more All-Out Attacks. LOTS of ’em!

This skips foes’ defense rolls and lets PCs hit squarely (pleasing players), all with no rules cheats.

(A small, obvious tip, but new GMs may find it helpful.)

More on this topic: I like applying rules equally to everyone and everything.

  • “Monsters don’t defend (because they’re monsters)”: Bleah. 👎
  • “Monsters don’t defend (because they use AOA)”: Fair! AOA is not always tactically wise, but it’s a legitimate choice with its own merits. 👍


  • “Mooks collapse at 1 dam (because they’re mooks)”: Rules cheat.👎 You can smell the GM fiat from a mile away.
  • “Mooks run away at 1 dam (because they have poor morale)”: Reasonable!👍

The general idea could be restated as “Cheat to PCs’ advantage through the situation, not through the rules.”

That’s my preference, anyway.

Months in this series:

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Header image: Posting tweets the old way.

Source: “Georg Liebe – Der Soldat” 1899
Woodcut from Prüss, Strassburg (1488) Montevilla

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