Daily Houserule tweets: August 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:

20220203040506070809101112202301List of all pages

Entries No. 182 to 212


2022-08-01: DF/DFRPG: In town, druids can use Herb Lore to craft healing potions and natural preparations.

That’s fine, but other rules tap Pharmacy as the skill for brewing anti-toxins in the field. So IMO, it makes sense to use Pharmacy for anti-toxin crafting in town, too.

That is: Use Herb Lore to craft (magical) healing potions and most natural preparations, but Pharmacy to craft (non-magical) anti-toxins.

I’m always a fan of giving more skills more chances to enter play…

Related tip: Packing dungeons with predictable poisons, which can be neutralized by anti-toxins economically crafted and prepped in advance, keeps druid PCs appreciated even underground.

(Don’t forget to make them slow-acting poisons. Instant-damage poisons give anti-toxins no chance to act.)


2022-08-02: DF/DFRPG: Druids “prepare” garlic and wolfsbane, but these seem to be mundane bundles of the stuff. What is Herb Lore accomplishing here?

Simple idea: These $5 natural preparations are long-lasting items that stay potent until PCs need them.

Normal, non-druidic garlic/wolfsbane repel baddies just as well, but lose potency (1 week?). Price these mundane items at $1 (or free on a Scrounging/Naturalist roll?), with no Herb Lore crafting discount.

Delvers wouldn’t bother with that! They want the $5 long-lasting stuff – or even better, this:

High-potency druidic garlic/wolfsbane: Long-lasting and 2x repulsion (Dread) range, $20 (halved for Herb Lore crafting).

Note that for vampires and lycans, doubling Dread range merely increases it from 1 to 2 hexes. That’s still uncomfortably close, but a welcome boost all the same.

To summarize:

  • $1 or so for normal, short-lived garlic/wolvesbane (no Herb Lore involvement; buy or find anywhere)
  • $5 for long-lived garlic/wolvesbane (the stuff in the books; Herb Lore crafting applies)
  • $20 for long-lived, high-potency garlic/wolvesbane (new idea; Herb Lore crafting applies)

(Tangent: What would happen if you ring-tossed a garlic wreath around Dracula’s neck? I don’t know how I’d GM that.)


2022-08-03: DFRPG: Wither Plant can hit the meanest, greenest plant monster with a one-shot kill, but it’s no fun when the crushroom shrugs it off 100% with a HT roll.

Cheer up that druid: Let the spell deliver 3d dam (bypassing DR) even on a save.

Or make that 1d damage if you want a milder effect. The point is simply to allow the one-shot kill effect and some damage, not just the former.

Repeated blasts of Wither Plant should wear down leafy foes, even if HT repeatedly resists the insta-kill!

Another way to do this: Rework Wither Plant as a clone of Deathtouch. (Rename it “Blight”, maybe?) Same mechanics as Deathtouch, but affects plants only. As compensation for that big limitation, the plant must resist with HT; failure triples the damage.

Something like that.


2022-08-04: To give druids a bit more roar, let dramatic Mimicry (Animals or Birds) and Disguise (Animals) rolls* complement casting of fitting Animal Spells. (For Plant and other nature spells: Camouflage, maybe?)
*Consider +1 to these if player hams it up.

Yes, the idea is that a committed druid will growl and stomp and claw at the air when summoning a bear, or get dolled up in greenery to control plants. This gains extra favor from the nature spirits (if successful), for a small bonus (which druids often need).

On the downside, this sort of ritual-like casting should disallow any reduction in casting time for high skill. (Making funny animal noises isn’t too good for stealth, either.)


2022-08-05: DF/DFRPG: Feel that druidic magic needs more combat punch? Go beyond the profession’s “natural” spells to allow wizardly weather weirdness like Chain Lightning. In a world of fantasy weather, such weird phenomena may be perfectly natural.

I’m OK with what druids can do, but some players want to see more dramatic magic. Access to more elemental and weather spells is one solution. (Is Explosive Lightning “nature”? Sure, if you say so; it’s fantasy nature!)

(A downside: The GM has to set PI for any added spells.)


2022-08-06: Another way to give druids more punch in the dungeon: Give them power over slimes. Some slimes, that is—those that are more “dire amoeba” than “cosmic aberration”.

One way to do so: Concoct Animal/Plant spells that affect slimes.

An easier way: Simply label some slimes as animals (vermin) or plants. (Or dual labels: “Slime/Plant”). Simple, non-magical slimes without overly exotic powers best fit this role.

Fill a dungeon with such slimes, and watch happy druids sic ’em on foes.


2022-08-07: In the past, I pondered how to let mistletoe, etc. aid druidic spellcasting.

DFRPG Companion 3 has the simple solution: spell components. Load up on herbs, wicker fetishes, etc. to get spell bonuses—a lifesaver when Nature’s Strength is wan.

Let druids craft those components with Herb Lore (50% off on success, +10% on failure).

(Hm, similarly, wizards could craft spell components… with Alchemy? Clerics, meanwhile, don’t really craft, but should get automatic half off on “clerical consumables” (Entries No. 151-160).)

Thank you for your patience during Druid Week, seven days of entries on these natural mystics (who really should be scarier characters than a lot of players picture them, IMO).


2022-08-08: New technique idea:

Hide Tracks (Average)

Default: Tracking

Prereq: Tracking

Max: prereq +4

Use this technique to cover and hide your tracks, as described on p. B226.


2022-08-09: New technique idea:

Peroration (Average)

Default: Public Speaking

Prereq: Public Speaking

Max: prereq +2

Peroration is the rousing, emotional “call to action” at the close of a speech. Use this technique to inspire or spur listeners to act.


2022-08-10: DF/DFRPG: Pressure Points skill “is at -5 against monsters (rather than humans, dwarves, elves, etc.).”

Idea: Let success on the appropriate Physiology skill do away with the penalty (or reveal a lack of pressure points if the monster has none).

A stricter GM could instead just reduce the -5 penalty by MoS; you’ll have to succeed by 5 or more to fully eliminate the penalty.

Either way, it seems the penalty should be smaller for humanoid monsters; say, just -3 for Pressure Points against bugbears?

Or are humanoid monsters meant to be treated like dwarves, etc., meaning no penalty? I don’t know; it’s your call.

(If you do apply a Pressure Points penalty, Physiology (Humanoids) would be the roll to lessen it. But you’ll have to introduce that skill; it’s not in the rules.)


2022-08-11: New technique idea:

Make Fire (Average)

Default: Survival

Prereq: Survival

Max: prereq +6

This is the ability to start and maintain a fire using primitive tools and techniques. (Flint and steel, lighters, etc. can add big bonuses or do away with rolls.)


2022-08-12: A tiny, fiddly thing:

A. Skill mods for extra time follow the time progression x2 x4 x8 x15 x30.

B. Mods affecting skills like Power Blow and Breaking Blow follow the time progression x2 x4 x8 x16 x32.

Unify these if you like. (I prefer A.)


2022-08-13: New technique idea:

Eye on the Ball (Hard)

Default: Shield -2 or other prereq -4

Max: Shield -1 or other prereq -2

Prereq: Shield or other melee skill (but not Knife or fencing skills).

Buys off up to half the penalty for Parry/Block vs a flail.


2022-08-14: DFRPG: Compulsive Gambling adds a fixed Cost of Living Increase (CoLI) to weekly expenses.

All nice and simple. But for the vice of gambling in particular, it can be fun to let the punter’s prowess at the tables—and Lady Luck—also have a say in things:

When it’s time for the week’s CoLI, roll vs Gambling at a penalty set by the Self-Control Number, then multiply CoLI as follows:

  • Critical success.: CoLI doesn’t apply. You break even!
  • Margin of Success 2+: x1/2 CoLI. You cut your losses.
  • Margin of Failure 2+: x2 CoLI. Tough breaks.
  • Critical failure: x5 CoLI. The dice hated you.
  • Other: Normal CoLI.

Net effect: A gambling compulsion means you’re going to blow money, per the rules – but if you’re actually good at gambling, the losses won’t be as bad.

But if you live to gamble and are bad at it… Ouch. Pay the boosted CoLI, or prepare for “wandering collector goon” rolls…


2022-08-15: New technique idea:

Tactical Hand Signals (Average)

Default: Gesture

Max: prereq +6

This covers a specific set of tactical signals used by a particular team: military unit, hunter band, crime ring, dungeoneering party, etc.

A set of signals is unique to a group; a different group’s set may seem like a foreign language (and thus a new set of signals to learn as a new technique).

This technique is one way to handle team tactical signals, anyway. But you could instead ask these questions:

  • Why don’t teams just learn a whole sign language for 3 pts, allowing any communication, no matter how complex?
  • Instead of a leveled technique, should a “tactical signals” subset of a sign language cost just 1 pt, period?
  • Next to a sign language, just what is Gesture skill, really?

But such things are beyond tweet level.


2022-08-16: New technique idea:

Pack Running (Average)

Default: Running

Max: prereq +4

Use this technique for any Running roll to avoid a slowdown or collision in a tight pack, to obstruct other runners, etc.

(Unexciting, but apparently a real thing!)

I think that’s all the “new technique” entries I have lined up (for now).

My list of new techniques is available here: link


2022-08-17: I’ve played with ideas for a Dodging skill for specialists in ducking and weaving. My fave take:

Dodging (DX/E): Replaces DX rolls for evading foes or avoiding physical threats. Also replaces DX in (DX+HT)/4 base for Dodge calculation only.

This skill is good for turning, say, Basic Speed 5.75 (rounds down to Dodge 5) into a nice Dodge 6.

High levels of the skill can really boost Dodge, but you’ll need 4 levels per +1 Dodge, a cost in line with Enhanced Dodge. (I wouldn’t let Talents cheaply boost this skill.)

Needless to say, this old idea for “replaces DX in (DX+HT)/4 calculation” is one for the detail fans.

(I think a hypothetical simpler GURPS of the future would do well to get rid of “(DX+HT)/4” altogether. But that’s another topic.)


2022-08-18: How about a Balancing skill for tightrope walkers, etc.? Acrobatics does the job, but here’s a cheaper skill for specialists:

Balancing (DX/E): Roll to traverse beams, maintain footing after knockback, etc.

Perfect Balance still works as written.

Actually, that’s an old, old house-rule skill. For modern games, it’s superseded by an official published alternative: a Balancing technique for Acrobatics (see Action 3: Furious Fists p. 16).

Go with whichever version works for you.


2022-08-19: GURPS keeps fractions for Basic Speed, but drops fractions to get Basic Move.

That’s necessary for combat maps. But for long travel and footraces, keep those fractions, and figure results from unpruned Move 5.25 or aquatic Move 1.05 or whatever.

As noted in Entry No. 82, you can use this fractional Move at any time if you play out action on the tabletop with a ruler alone, no hex maps.

Using hexes, you do have to round Move down. But letting PCs claim full Move for long-distance feats, with nothing rounded off, is fair.


2022-08-20: More on yesterday’s benefits of not dropping fractions from Basic Move:

Two lightly encumbered PCs have Basic Speed 6 and 6.5, respectively.

Per RAW:

  • Round both down = Basic Move 6
  • Mult. x0.8 for enc = 4.8
  • Round down again = Both are Move 4

But, if instead of rounding down twice, you only round down once at the end to get final (hex map) Move:

  • PC 1: Basic Move 6 x 0.8 = Move 4.8, round down to Move 4.
  • PC 2: Basic Move 6.5 x 0.8 = Move 5.2, round down to Move 5.

The point: Rounding down final Move at the end, instead of rounding down Basic Move from the get-go, can let fractional Basic Speed matter even on the hex map.

That’s fairer to a PC who keeps his fractional Basic Speed score instead of rounding it down to nab points!


2022-08-21: Should Running skill add a bit to Move, like in 3e?

If you think so:

Let HT-based Running replace HT in the (DX+HT)/4 base for Basic Speed, only to set Basic Move on land.

(Restated: Every +1 Running above HT = +0.25 Basic Move.)

With this, a fair bit of Running skill can boost a fractional Basic Move score to the next higher integer.

Skating and Skiing skills could also work the same way to boost Basic Move. (Not Hiking, though; it already has its own unique rule for boosting distance.)

(A different way to have Running affect Move might be a form of the Hiking mechanic: Roll vs Running for each Move maneuver; success grants +20% Move. It’d look nutty in a race as runners make little speed spurts, but kinda workable in the abstract? I haven’t tried it, though.)


2022-08-22: Should Swimming skill boost aquatic Move, as it did in 3e?

If you think so: Let HT-based Swimming replace HT in the (DX+HT)/4 base for Basic Speed, only to set aquatic Basic Move.

(Restated: Every +1 Swimming above HT = +0.25 Basic Move.)

Of course, Basic Move is then divided by 5 to get aquatic Move for humans and the like. So using this rule, Swimming skill makes a tiny contribution to actual yards-per-second speed. But that little bit matters a lot to aquatically clumsy humans competing in the water!


2022-08-23: If you like the previous two suggestions to let Running and Swimming skills boost land and water speed a bit:

Let HT-based Flight skill replace HT in the (DX+HT)/4 base for Basic Speed, only to set aerial Basic Move.

Context: Some players grouse a bit that Running, Swimming, and Flight skills should actually boost speed (which is not an unreasonable thing to expect).

For any gaming groups that share that sentiment, these last three entries are ideas to address that (if with modest boosts).

And if you don’t like the ideas, you could tie the skills to Move a wholly different way:

Let high skill raise limits on Move. For example, if the GM caps Move at its figured value +3, high Running skill could raise that cap to +4 or more.

(Details left to future tinkering…)


2022-08-24: GURPS’ Running skill does nearly nothing until you spend 4 points.

Borrow the improved skill from DFRPG. It adds DX-based maneuvering (still useful only at the 4-pt level) plus complementary rolls (potentially useful even with 1 pt in Running).


2022-08-25: Running is an Average skill – which feels odd to me when Swimming is Easy. (If anything, the opposite would seem to make more sense for us terrestrial creatures…)

I prefer both Running and Swimming as Easy skills. (Flight too, maybe?)

Looking at yesterday’s entry, this change lets a 2-pt, not 4-pt, purchase of Running rise above the base attribute and become useful. That’s good, IMO.

And to repeat yesterday: Borrow DFRPG’s use of Running complementary rolls. Even 1-pt Running becomes potentially useful.


2022-08-26: Movement in water has Swimming skill as its Running equivalent, and Aquabatics as its Acrobatics, but it lacks a Hiking counterpart.

Feel free to invent one: call it Paced Swimming? Most non-aquatic creatures would have little use for it – but if you’re going to swim the English Channel, it’d be your go-to skill.

(Well, you’d want this Paced Swimming skill, plus normal Swimming, plus high HT and FP and Will, plus Very Fit, plus Temperature Tolerance, plus… Basically all your character points, it sounds like. : )


2022-08-27: The Flight skill seems an aerial mashup of Running and Hiking.

If you dig symmetries, divide the skill into general Flight (akin to Running in intent and effects) and Paced Flight (i.e., aerial Hiking).

Don’t forget Aerobatics for fancy moves!

Paced Flight would include choosing the safest and most efficient flight routes (best altitude for favorable tail winds, use of thermal updrafts, etc.).

Nice for migrating birds; not terribly useful for PCs. : / But hey, for the right PC concept, there it is.


2022-08-28: Trying to make an impression on foes? Hammer it home with the new light maul!

Two-Handed Axe/Mace skill; sw+4 cr; R 1, 2*; Parry 0U; $70; Wt 9; ST 12‡

A favorite of dwarven clerics (or so I hear).

A weapon of this sort could represent a lot of things: a long mace or war club, a sledgehammer, a mason’s mallet, whatever you like.

(For game purposes, all variants can share the same stats; if you’ve seen one big hammer, you’ve seen a maul.)


2022-08-29: DFRPG: The casting and maintenance costs of (Animal) Control spells are fixed by animal category.

No problem there, but here’s an alternate, universal cost: The cost to cast is target animal’s IQ; the cost to maintain is half that (round up).

With this, controlling an unusually smart specimen, e.g. an Animal Companion cat with IQ 5, costs more.

(I thought this tiny idea was mildly clever, until I recalled that it’s already—sort of, if not exactly—the cost GURPS Magic uses. Oh well. Here it is for DFRPG, if you like.)


2022-08-30: DF/DFRPG: Spells that affect animal minds (IQ 5-) and sapient minds (IQ 6+) are clearly separated.

That’s fine. But in the spirit of “humans are animals too!”, you can muddy the boundary a bit if you (and players of spellcasters) are game:

Let sapient mind-control spells affect animals, at -4 per pt of subject IQ below 6. Let animal spells affect sapient minds, at -4 per pt of IQ above 5.

Yes, in the realm of mind control, this lets druids and wizards encroach on each others’ territory – a little, anyway.

To make things more interesting, halve the penalty for druidic magic controlling higher-IQ minds if the druid has Empathy; halve the penalty for wizardly magic controlling animals if the wizard has Animal Empathy.


2022-08-31: Hybrid animal spells are cool, creating a role for specialist casters.

But if the spells see little use or interest in your games, drop ’em for simplicity. Just require that casters use the lower of the other spells already needed.

That is, use the lower of Mammal Control and Fish Control to control a merlion. That’s arguably challenge enough, without needing an extra special spell!

With this, consider the Hybrid monster class another sub-class of Animal (along with Dire and Giant), with no need for special spells.

By the way, if you’re looking for more hybrid creature ideas for your game, Wikipedia has quite the list: link

Entries by month:

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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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