Daily Houserule tweets: November 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. 274 to 303


2022-11-01: New DF/DFRPG gear mod: Elvish Chic. Minimalist/sleek/”tasteful” design impresses those with appropriate connoisseur-type skills or eye for art. No effect on rubes impressed by the gaudy and bejeweled.

Treat as Ornate mod but at half CF.

Hm, how about the opposite, Gnomish Gnouveau? Baroque, flashy, needlessly complex. Elvish Chic cost but opposite effect: impresses the rabble, not aesthetes.

(I’m not dissing gnomish function or even all design! I’m just imagining some gnomish goods as having garish bling.)


2022-11-02: DFRPG: All elves and half-elves can learn spells. Cool, but… how many spells are available to Magery 0? Is “wizard by birth, not training” worth it?

The game doesn’t offer a list of wizardly spells by Magery level, so I’ve got your back: link

Turns out that Magery 0 unlocks roughly half of all wizardly spells, including some great ones! But… it may not be the deal it seems at a glance.

Check the page for the list and brief advice on being an effective wizard on a discount point budget.


2022-11-03: DFRPG: “Most scrolls cast at skill 15. Triple value for skill 20.”

Restated, that’s +2 CF for a scroll with skill 20.

If you prefer to finesse the price for skill levels between 16 and 19, you can use +0.4 CF per +1 skill above 15.

How about skill 21 and beyond (if the GM allows it)? Just keep adding that +0.4 CF per +1 skill.

Or switch to a higher CF (+1 CF per +1 skill?) once skill passes 20, if you want to make scrolls of skill 21+ wildly rare and expensive.


2022-11-04: DF/DFRPG: If you’re on a diet of all-dwarven rations (“keeping khôsher”, they call it), be careful: dwarven rations are special order items. If they become unavailable, say goodbye to that poison resistance boost. Stock up when possible!

But what if Town is out of special dwarf or elf foods? The GM can concoct a mini-adventure to locate those lembas.

Or resolve it like this: A dwarf/elf can work connections to locate a secret stash (MoS x 3d6 meals) with Merchant, Savoir-Faire, or Streetwise, but at no discount.

See more food choices, and suggested bulk prices, at link.

FWIW, I say cat-folk and gnome rations are special order, halfling rations are not, and orc rations are decidedly un-special.

Final tip: DFRPG Companion 3 “Quick Equipment Kits” offers this good advice: Mix normal and lightweight rations. Eat the heavy normal food on the way to the dungeon; save the elven food for the road back, when you’re heavy with loot.

(Buy the book for lots of good stuff like this!)


2022-11-05: Sense of Duty is described as trumping all other conflicting disadvantages and concerns. It’s so strong that it allows the unusual step of the GM overriding the player!

But I think one disad should override even Sense of Duty: Fanaticism.

This isn’t odd if you consider Fanaticism to be Sense of Duty (The Cause), at the -15-pt level.

Case study: DFRPG’s Samar Alqatil has both Higher Purpose (Slay Demons) and Fanaticism (“Fight all demons”). What do these mean for her Sense of Duty (Adventuring Companions)?

My take:

Without Fanaticism, Samar would place Sense of Duty over Higher Purpose, if demon-fighting would endanger friends.

But Fanaticism trumps even Sense of Duty: she’ll sacrifice even friends to fight demons. That’s fanaticism – and it should rightly worry her companions!

(An arguable bit of “legal precedent” for this: In DFRPG Companion 2, the magic item Oudou can force the wearer to adopt Fanaticism that overrides “companions, quests, and other behavioral disadvantages”. That could be read as overriding even any form of Sense of Duty. More directly, the description of Fanaticism on p. B136 clearly states “…you put it ahead of everything else.”)


2022-11-06: DF/DFRPG: Lantern, torch, candle: Whatever the light source, there’s zero darkness penalty within base range.

What about a really dim source, though?

My rule for a glowing mushroom or other light that can’t hold a candle to even a candle:

A light dimmer than a candle has -1 or worse darkness penalty within its own hex, another -3 per hex beyond (up to -9).


  • Teeny survival candle: -2 in own hex, -5 at 1 hex, -8 at 2 hexes, no light beyond
  • Weakly glowing mushroom: -4 in own hex, -7 at 1 hex, no light beyond


2022-11-07: Knot-Tying skill deserves respect. It lets you:

  • Set trip lines
  • Rig trap counterweights
  • Make nets, slings, lariats, bolas, lanyards, hoists, bridges
  • Hog-tie captives
  • Suspend supplies (or captives) high up
  • Lash wood into ladders, rafts, shelters, stretchers
  • Hitch animals
  • Splice ropes
  • Hold together battered armor and containers
  • Add handles to anything (maybe add +25% max wielders to a battering ram log?)
  • Moor a ship or secure a campsite on a precarious ledge
  • Fix a hundred things on a ship
  • Gauge climbing rope strength

Really, “Ropework” would be a better name for Knot-Tying. As a main or complementary roll, it’s a multi-purpose armory/craft skill.

Default skill plus extra time is all you need for a lot of basic tasks, but mastery performs even fancy tasks fast and skillfully.

Bonus use in fantasy: Knot complex talismans, “dreamcatchers”, etc., with whatever effects the GM allows. (Idea: Use the skill to craft certain spell components from DFRPG Companion 3.)

Bonus use in sci-fi: Time-travel to 1970s USA and get in on some of that sweet macramé action.


2022-11-08: Lasso isn’t a popular skill. But it can be, if magic lariats have spells/abilities like these:

  • Affect Spirits (wrangle ghosts!)
  • Calm Animal
  • Wizard’s Staff (cast spells as if by touch, on a lassoed subject even several yards away)
  • Electricity, Deathtouch, constriction, other ongoing dam effect (best to place limits, such as draining wielder FP)
  • Dispel Magic/Magebane (render lassoed mages impotent)
  • Compel Truth (Amazonian-approved!)
  • Dispel invisibility (if you can lasso the invisible target to begin with…)
  • Garlic-, wolfsbane-, or holiness-infused lasso for roping vamps, lycans, or demons (I’m not sure what the effect should be if lassoed! Some sort of Dread-induced agony/paralysis?)

Final thought: Enemies wielding weird lariats make for a memorable encounter.


2022-11-09: New tool: A marlinspike (or fid) is a pointy (but not sharp) sailor’s tool for rope tying/untying, splicing, etc. Let it cut Knot-Tying penalties for tough tasks by 1.

$20, 1 lb., treat as large knife in combat (but -1 skill; thr-1 cr, sw-3 cr dam).

Want more detail? Let the tool cut penalties for tough tasks by 2 if it’s the right size for the rope (GM call). Treat as small, large, or long knife, or shortsword (for BIG ropes!); $15, $20, $30, $40, respectively.

Combat: -1 skill; use the corresponding weapon’s thr and sw dam, each reduced by 1; all dam is cr.

Trivia time: Are a marlinspike and a fid the same thing? They technically differ in their materials (a marlinspike is usually metal; a fid is traditionally wood/bone) and primary uses (too fiddly to get into here). For game purposes, they’re easily considered identical.


2022-11-10: Oh, you like yesterday’s ropeworking tool, but want it to be deadly? (Sigh. Gamers.)

I don’t know whether a sharp-pointed marlinspike is a bad idea for ropework. Probably. But allowing it for fun, add 1 to thr dam and make it imp for +1 CF.

This stabby tool is of course the version that any PC mariner will want…

Alternately, take a stabby (but not cutting) weapon like a dagger or sai, and tack on +$20 to let it double as a marlinspike. This is an actual weapon with thr imp damage the same as the base weapon, although sw damage remains cr and is decreased by 1.

Know what’d be cool and unusual? A marlinspike with Affect Spirits. Because then you could whack ghost-ship pirate spirits, sure, but you could also work ectoplasmic ropes.

Okay, near useless. But it sounds cool anyway.


2022-11-11: The most unexciting dungeon gear mod possible:

Get your dungeon rope marked in feet and yards! Nice for measuring room lengths, the height of ceilings (with the Stiffen spell), the depth of dark pits…

Cost: Maybe $1 per 10 yards? Or DIY?

Boring… but you’ll wish you had it when you need to measure distances.

(More likely, you’ll wish you had the appropriate spells to give you that info. Or a magic rope that reports its played-out length: “60 feet straight down, Master!” Any example of such a rope in GURPS or other games?)


2022-11-12: FWIW, I see Expert, Professional, and Hobby skills as the same thing (differing in difficulty); the labels are only descriptive of typical examples. All share the same mechanics: Each replaces multiple other skills, for some narrow theme only.

(How to Be a GURPS GM: Expectations suggests the same.)

Also: Don’t be afraid to drop the stipulation that Expert Skills “never provide the ability to do practical tasks”. The Basic Set‘s examples, in some contexts, sound like practical tasks to me! (A matter of interpretation, maybe.)


2022-11-13: DF/DFRPG: Casting magic via a scroll takes twice the time. Fair enough, but it’s too slow in an emergency!

A semi-serious solution: Read fast!

Success on Speed-Reading and (Fast-Talk or Public Speaking) lets you cast the spell in normal time.

But a failure on either roll means you trip over your tongue and the casting fails.

A critical failure on either roll becomes a casting critical failure. (“Idiot druid! It says ‘I summon bees and bears’, not ‘I summon Beelzebub’!”)


2022-11-14: DF/DFRPG: Skills that can reasonably aid Research rolls in the library:

  • Speed-Reading (plow through more books!), Hidden Lore (if relevant), and Cartography (if maps are involved), as complementary rolls
  • Autohypnosis (+2 bonus, per RAW)
  • Whatever else the GM OKs: Thaumatology as a complement for research into magical texts, Savoir-Faire or other social skills to cut penalties at a library that withholds info from scruffy delver types…

Many other knowledge skills might help guide the researcher, complementing Research into the relevant topic.

(Of course, the most important use of such knowledge skills is providing the PC with the desired info in the first place, avoiding a trip to the library.)


2022-11-15: DF/DFRPG: If the GM’s willing to detail libraries a bit, languages can be vital to PCs’ research.

For example, without Elvish fluency, Research would be penalized (-4?) at a mostly-Elvish library, impossible at an all-Elvish library.

Or a library might be useful for researching historical info but not monsters – unless you can read its exclusively Dwarven collection of bestiaries.

But for a generic library without GM tweaks, assume texts in varied tongues. Languages can be ignored or can be handled simply, like this:

A researcher obviously needs at least one written fluency to enjoy a plain Research roll.

From there, give a bonus for additional written fluencies: +1 for 1 extra fluency, +2 for 2, +3 for 4, +4 for 8, +5 for 16… (There likely aren’t that many tongues in the game anyway!)


2022-11-16: DF/DFRPG: Yesterday’s entry suggested bonuses to Research for multilingual users of multilingual libraries (+1 for 1 extra written fluency, +2 for 2, +3 for 4, +4 for 8, +5 for 16…).

A little more on that if you like:

  • A library may have works in many languages, but mainly in one (often Common). As briefly suggested yesterday, if the main language isn’t among the PC’s fluencies, Research is at penalty (-4, or whatever the GM sets).
  • A detail-happy GM can decide what languages are represented at a given library, i.e., what languages do and don’t count for bonus purposes. “You’ll find the Gnomish Records room over there, and… Hm? Orcish? In our collections? I think not!”
  • Even without detailing a library’s specific languages, a GM can cap the fluency bonus appropriately: +0 (naturally!) at a monolingual library, max +2 at a small library with only a handful of languages in its collections, max +5 at a library with dozens of languages. (Restated: Use the character’s bonus for multilingual fluency, or the library’s bonus for multilingual collections, whichever is lower.)
  • Magical access to all languages would award as high a bonus as the GM allows (max +5?).

But look carefully at Gift of Letters: given its high casting cost and very short duration, access to that particular spell might count as only one added fluency (or three added fluencies on a Speed-Reading roll).


2022-11-17: DF/DFRPG: To make languages more valuable, don’t forget to have scrolls in treasure hauls (and even in shops) turn up in a variety of tongues.

This gets more interesting if you make some languages a natural match for certain spells.

Make up rules for that, or just keep it as simple as having scrolls in the right tongue more likely to be powerful (i.e., charged and/or Skill-16+).

Ideas for language + favored college combos:

  • Ancient: Necromantic
  • Angelic: Healing (or any deity-appropriate college or spell)
  • Common, Orcish: No favored spell types?
  • Demontongue: Body Control, Mind Control (especially harmful spells!)
  • Draconic: Animal (Reptile), Fire
  • Dwarvish: Earth
  • Elder Tongue: Gate
  • Elvish: Meta
  • Faerie: Plant, Animal
  • Gnomish: Making and Breaking

Or go with whatever seems appropriate. If Angelic just seems right for a Flaming Weapon scroll, then make that scroll extra powerful when written in Angelic.


2022-11-18: DF/DFRPG: A minor bit of modded equipment:

Spiked anti-garrote collar: An anti-garrote collar that also functions as spiked armor vs choking hands (or vs throat-biting wolves and undead). +2 CF, +1 lb.

Has a nice punk/goth vibe, too.

Bonus equipment tweak:

Let any appropriate heavy clothing stand in for a light cloak (for use with Cloak skill). That includes the apron from alchemist’s garb. (The whole set of garb is 5 lbs; I assume the apron is 2 or 3 lbs, heavy enough to be a light cloak stand-in.)


2022-11-19: DFRPG: Rules allow a breastplate that protects only the front of the torso, at 1/2 the cost and weight of full torso armor.

It stands to reason that you could buy the reverse, protecting only the back – a backplate? – for the same cost and weight.

It’s handy for a character who really wants to get that torso armor weight just so, with one type of plate in front and another type in back.

It’s also amusing for a character inspired by turtles. Or for any character whose battle strategy is “show the foe my backside and run away”.


2022-11-20: DF/DFRPG: A $40 file lets even the weakest schmuck defeat the strongest padlock in (DR+HP) minutes.

I pity the lock owners.

To make locks more meaningful:

Filing takes 5x as long if burglar ST is less than (lock DRx2); filing doesn’t work at all if ST is less than lock DR.

(For this comparison of burglar ST vs lock DR, allow Forced Entry its usual effective ST bonus.)

This is one quick and crude idea; improve on it if you can.

(Progressive destruction – abrasion with file, chipping away walls, etc. – doesn’t always mesh well with the mechanics of DR and HP.)


2022-11-21: Lion tamers agree: Whips are intimidating to animals (and more; GM call).

Idea: Take +1 on Intimidation for any whip-waving.

Option: Add a complementary Whip roll for further effect. (Roll at -4 to crack whip; double the bonus if successful.)

Rewording that:

  • Anyone waving a whip around gets +1 to Intimidation; no skill roll needed.
  • An optional complementary roll vs Whip adds a further -2, -1, +1, or +2. (One more option: Crack the whip by taking -4 to the Whip roll, and that further mod to Intimidation becomes -2, -1, +2, or +4.)

Side note: I suppose it’s fine for that complementary skill roll vs Whip to take +4 for AoA (Determined), if the intimidator feels safe from reprisal attack.


2022-11-22: DFRPG: Exploits p. 10 addresses the business of Influence rolls affecting PCs, but only briefly.

What about Intimidation? I say success by foes should influence PCs. Treat success as a penalty on PC actions against the intimidator – but only for one turn.

Success shouldn’t force any PC actions (per general principle of not removing player agency). But applying the intimidator’s MoS as a penalty on any action by a PC against the intimidator, for one turn, seems fair.

That’s a good time for the PC to back off, or go on AoD!

Game rationale? This:

Letting Intimidation have a specific effect on PCs gives monsters, bullies, etc. reason to occasionally spend a turn roaring and raging (especially as a combat opener).

It also gives PCs with Fearlessness more chances to look cool!


2022-11-23: Final thought on Intimidation (see last two days):

I haven’t tried this yet, but I like the idea of “All-Out Intimidation”: +4 skill, at cost of defenses. Potentially effective, but risky!

This would be full-on commitment to threats, poses, yells, whatever the intimidator’s doing, so intense that defense isn’t possible.

(Maybe a little over the top? To borrow from Martial Arts’ Committed Attack, “Committed Intimidation” at +2 skill, -2 defenses, might work better.)


2022-11-24: DF/DFRPG: A few extra skills that I consider part of the Scout template:

Disguise (Animals), Fishing, Mimicry (Animal Sounds), and Naturalist. These are boosted by the Outdoorsman advantage, yet aren’t on the template.

I think the following is a good general rule (and is probably already followed by lots of GMs):

When a profession’s template offers some advantage that boosts skills, all of those skills should be considered part of the template.


2022-11-25: DF/DFRPG: A couple of skills that belong on the Thief template: Jumping and Running.

Add these to round out the thief’s prowess in cat burglary and fleeing from the law. (Anything that’d factor into rooftop chases seems fair game for the Thief template!)

(And see link for a bunch of thievish talents.)


2022-11-26: DF/DFRPG: Add Teaching as an optional skill on the Knight template. Knights train squires, sergeants train recruits, and so on. (That’s probably how knight PCs got their skills to begin with!)

If only Teaching skill had more in-game uses…

GURPS Social Engineering: Back to School is a whole tome of great teaching-related ideas and mechanics. Alas, much of it goes beyond the simple, in-the-field uses of Teaching that would fit combat-focused dungeoneering.

More ideas to come…


2022-11-27: I’m looking to make DFRPG’s Teaching skill more useful.

A small idea: If a PC wants to offer skill instruction/guidance (e.g. a complementary roll), but the GM’s unsure of whether/how it’s possible, a Teaching roll means the PC makes it work.


Ed has a court date. (“Busking is allowed, barbarian – but not sky-clad!”)
Marge wants to help Ed’s sad Savoir-Faire skill with a complementary roll vs her own Savoir-Faire skill.
GM: “But you won’t be with him in court.”
Marge: “I prep him with tips.”
GM: “Hm. Roll Teaching…OK, I’ll allow the complementary Savoir-Faire roll.”

Another small use for Teaching: Use as a complement to Writing when a PC “selling the tale” (Exploits p. 17) writes an instructional text.

Stuff like “Avoiding Oozes: Lessons Learned from Comrades (with Foreword by Legless the Elf)”.

Teaching should help here.


2022-11-28: DFRPG: One last idea for Teaching skill:

When rolling against one PC’s skill to lead an unskilled group through a task (“Part of the Solution…”, Exploits p. 6), both Teaching and Leadership make sense as complements to the guide’s skill roll.

Similarly: When an observer uses Tactics to advise a comrade in a fight, Teaching and Leadership make sense as complements (though I suggest just one complementary skill roll vs each at the start, not every turn, to keep things fast-moving).

Not much of an idea, but there it is.

Got any tales of your own on how you’ve made Teaching skill more useful in DFRPG or a similar setting?


2022-11-29: DF/DFRPG: A good addition to the Knight template is Wealth. A “knight” may be a far cry from moneyed nobility, but then again could be just that.

Allow Wealth (and see this thread for a discussion: link)

Wealth isn’t particularly tied to any profession or adventurer concept. It’s the sort of trait that’s easy to allow to anyone.

IMO, when a trait presents no risk of dimming another player’s spotlight or otherwise disrupting the game, it’s safe to consider it available to anyone.


2022-11-30: If you’re willing to hack at game foundations, here’s a look at replacing ST-based thr and sw dam scores with a single ST-based dam score: link

It’s a tiny simplification with several modest but real benefits.

A look under the hood is too much for tweets, but in really simple terms, it replaces weapons’ sw dam with thr dam, plus a little extra for the swing: another +1 for small weapons, +2 for many “medium” weapons, +3 and higher for larger weapons.

So far, I like the effects…

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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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