View Full Version : Player revolt when instituting homebrew changes?

2007-02-11, 02:29 PM
Lots of people on this forum have come up with intriguing ideas for balancing the game. I've seen all manners of "fix the fighter" threads, "fix the monk" threads, "nerf the casters" threads, and so on. Yet as you also know, every time we have a class balance thread, there are always the people who chime in saying everything's fine, don't fix what ain't broke, etc. So I'm writing this thread to ask what has happened to those DMs who have actually tried to institute the changes we talk about here.

I'll share 2 such experiences. In a campaign I play in, the DM tried to institute the policy that a cleric or druid - those classes who know every spell on their list - start with a maximum number of spells equal to what is in the Player's Handbook, and if they want spells from the Spell Compendium or other sources they must swap out spells on their current list to take them. The only player affected was very upset by this; he claimed that he'd taken all the various craft feats so that he could make use of the extra spells and had already made items with them, etc. So the DM backed off.

I run a very occasional group, and I announced the rule change that ki focus weapons do the monk's unarmed damage. One of the other players wrote back to me asking if I was high and was the monk player slipping me money on the side? I have not backed off and the ruling stands, but now I stand accused of class favoritism.

How well have you other DMs out there fared?

2007-02-11, 02:36 PM
A gaming group is a social contract. Everyone needs to play by the same rules; and obviously when rules changes only really affect one person, their opinion about them should weigh a little more than the "Yeah, sure, whatever" of everyone else. (Whether that opinion is complied to or not is a different thing.) It's all about negotiation and discussion.

I don't have problems with rules changes; in fact, I rarely need them in D&D, because my players and I get along well enough that I can just request "Can we think of something else? That's pretty likely to unbalance the game." And we think of something else.

The only "revolts" I get are when I want to run a game; each of my players has different preferences, and getting them to agree on any one game at any one time can be very difficult.

2007-02-11, 03:03 PM
I change rules all the time, I allow books and disallow books and luckly my players never complained much. But they don't know **** about rules so I explain them why I make the changes and that's it.

2007-02-11, 03:09 PM
I have a self-imposed rule of making broad-based rulings ONLY when a campaign is starting, before characters are submitted (or even contemplated). I'll tell people "I'm going to be running a game. These are my parameters for these types of characters. If you want to run a cleric and I've said no clerics, you need to come up with something different."

I'm very tempted to try a game where there are no full spellcasters.

2007-02-11, 03:12 PM
It's usually best to go by the allow/ban a whole book method. Or implement a variant rule from the very start, so players are aware of any such rules before they've made their characters. Changing things mid-campaign makes it a lot easier to anger/offend someone, especially if they optimize their character in a direction you nerf the hell out of or negate by improving another character.

2007-02-11, 03:23 PM
It's usually best to go by the allow/ban a whole book method. Or implement a variant rule from the very start, so players are aware of any such rules before they've made their characters. Changing things mid-campaign makes it a lot easier to anger/offend someone, especially if they optimize their character in a direction you nerf the hell out of or negate by improving another character.

The problem is that campaigns are very long. The one I play a monk in started in 2000, took a break for a couple years, and is now back steady. We plan to play to at least level 21, so we've got several more years to go. It is not realistic for a DM to say, "Gee, those are the books I said you could use, so I guess I'll just live with it" or "Gee that class or feat is overpowered, so next campaign I'll nerf or disallow it" because you may be old & grey when it comes time for that next campaign.

2007-02-11, 06:30 PM
I'm very tempted to try a game where there are no full spellcasters.

I've done this. I was inspired by a book I read once.
There were no wizards/sorcerers/clerics/druids/bards, etc. No casters at all actually. Any class that would have had limited casting available later was required to take the non-spell casting variant.
All of the players started play with a special ability, similar to the way psionic wild talents were run in AD&D. Some were actual spells or psionic powers. Others were crafted my me. All of these "gifts", as I called them, were decided by me (based on character concepts and so on) and given to the players in secret.
Each was unique and each was usable a certain number of times per day, or at will, depending on the power of the gift.
"Sorcerer" was an evil-required prestige class. Sorcerers sought out and killed those special individuals that had "gifts", trapping thier souls to harness the power of these gifts for thier own use.

It was a great game, and the players loved the change.
Not having the use of healing magics (unless that was your gift) really put the players on the edge of thier seats.
I've been wanting to play it myself for a long time, seeing how much they all loved it.

2007-02-11, 08:17 PM
As people said, get in an agreement with your players, an never change base rules in the middle of a game. Else it will happen something like what happened in the OotS's first strip.

2007-02-12, 11:28 AM
Actually, I haven't had any real problems with changing rules inbetween campaign sessions. Usually, though, it is a fix for something newly introduced or encountered that we all thought overpowered. Agreement within the group is by far the most important thing, but that is usually a result of playing with like minded and reasonable people.

Fax Celestis
2007-02-12, 11:47 AM
My players have learned to understand that, if I DM, there are fundamental changes to the rules that are going to occur. They've also learned that, if they don't like it, they don't play.

This sounds tyrannical, certainly, but since I'm the only person in the group willing (or able) to DM, it means that when we play, we play on my terms.

Most of the changes I institute also make the game's playing field more evenly balanced, which my players are perfectly fine with.

My typical listing includes the following:

When two-weapon fighting, attacking with both hands is a standard action, as long as you have the Two-Weapon Fighting feat. That is, you can move your speed and then attack with both hands once.
The Two-Weapon Fighting tree (TWF, ITWF, GTWF, PTWF) is condensed into one feat (TWF) that graduates as you level.
Druids use the Shapechange PHB-II variant. Clerics use the Cloistered Cleric UA variant.
Coup de Graces are made as follows: Roll damage. Add in precision damage dice if applicable. Multiply damage as if it had been a critical. Receiving end of the CdG makes a fortitude save vs. half the damage dealt or dies.
Experience will be awarded at specific points in the adventure (usually when you rest). At that point, I will ask for "awards" and set an amount. Each participant gets to award another participant for actions in game since the last experience checkpoint. Anyone receiving such an award will immediately gain the amount of experience I named.
Commoners use an alternative level system I've come up with.
Masterwork weapons can receive +1 to attack or +1 to damage. Magical properties overwrite this.
All characters receive a nationality feat at first level.
The Spiked Chain, weapon of cheesygoodness, does not exist.

I also use a variety of homebrewed material (races, feats, spells, and classes), though the players tend to not take the homebrewed stuff (strangely).

2007-02-12, 11:51 AM
My gaming circle consists of many people who DM, so perhaps they are more opinionated than most.

2007-02-12, 12:49 PM
My group basically alternates between a number of campaigns we each DM in turn, so generally there's little complaint, since we all know how that sort of things work.

We're also homebrewing fiends, though.

2007-02-12, 12:51 PM
Generally we can talk like adults about the rules and iron out any kinks along the way.

2007-02-12, 01:21 PM
I think rulings should be given up front before play starts so everyone knows what is allowed and isn't. Having said that, there will always be a rules issue that has not been covered. When it comes up, the DM has to rule on it one way or the other. It's his job. Fundamentally changing classes in a long running game would fall into the former category.

Such massive changes should be addressed with more tact and caution. After all, you might take away something that a player cherishes about his class like a druid's animal companion. But ultimately, the DM does have the authority to make any change he or she desires. They should just consider player opinion before they make sweeping changes.

That Lanky Bugger
2007-02-12, 01:33 PM
I usually don't get revolts when I implement changes, but then again I'm the only one who GMs. The rest of my group is either too lazy to come up with a game themselves or want to run something the rest of us have no interest in whatsoever.

Then again, the degree of change I implement is entirely determined by how much I tell them in advance. If I'm pondering a game and put it to my players with the caveat "No Clerics", they're fine with that. I imagine if I tried to say that after everyone had rolled their characters and the game was ready to start, it'd be another matter entirely.

Explaining things is important, I've found, whether it's done for balance or for flavor. Players will be a lot more likely to swallow a change if it comes with a rationale.

2007-02-12, 01:46 PM
I don't change classes, spells, rules, whatever to "balance the game", I change them because I want to play differently, because my campaign setting or adventure is set in a melieu where the existing SRD rule isn't quite right.
I think the Spooky Wizards have done a great job of making a fantasy RPG, but there are changes I want to make to have the rules fit the world I have in mind. I do my best to balance them, but always with reference to the original rules - you know, if I take off a bonus to X, I give a bonus to Y in its place.

As for revolts - I've not had any. I've had plenty of reasonable debates and discussions about how my new ruling might affect the game, and I listen carefully. The group I play in has over a century of combined experience playing - and outside that regular group, I can pool another century or two of experience - so together, we can make it work.

Josh Inno
2007-02-12, 01:54 PM
The DM has ultimate authority in the game. However he must remember that this authority is vested in him by those playing the game with him. Should his behavior be so offensive to his players as to cause them to leave, the game would end even more surely than if the GM were to vacate his throne.

Keeping this in mind, the duty of the GM is to attempt to help the group to have fun, while having fun himself. What this means for each individual group is different. I recently created a character and played him in two sessions before a rules issue came up. Simply because I wasn't able to meet with the DMs outside of other gaming sessions, and I still hadn't finished making my character through the first session (due to playing 'look up the rules' monkey for some other people working on their characters, one of whom in particular was lost and forlorn), and due to people wanting to leave before the game even came to a close. So, of course, no time.

At this point we're calling for an official ruling from wizards on the subject of the intent of the wording of a prestige class's core ability (scorn earth for elocators). But the DM reserves final judgement to adjudicate.

I designed my character to basically be a grown up halfling version of Ang, the airbending Avitar. I want to be able to zip up craggy cliff faces and waterfalls. He was to be 'mister floaty'

Failing that, I'm scrapping the character entirely, and making a halfling druid that rides around on a dire bat and rains sling stones down from above.

PnP Fan
2007-02-12, 02:46 PM
In an ideal world, where only one set of rules existed, and you could pick and choose everything in advance, I would suggest picking your rules, and sticking to your guns. And I highly suggest you try for that. Inevitably, when you only have one brain, and one set of eyes to review rules, one of the 4-6 people on the opposite side of the DM's screen is going to come across some combination of class/feat/race that is going to create some kind of balance issue. You have to fix that, to ensure that the game is fun for everyone. Plus, you (or your players) will want to incorporate material from new books as they get released. I'd suggest a few things.
1. Set up your ground rules at the campaign start. Everyone needs to have some idea of what's going on.
2. Figure out a period of time, perhaps every 3 months, or every 5 levels, or whatever, to review game mechanics. You might take notes on your perspective, and your players may have issues with a particular combo. If you find you do have issues, fix them periodically. Don't make sudden changes to the rules in the middle of the session. (not to be confused with "making a call" on a rule)
3. I would hesitate to use the word "authority" with what the DM does. It's more like hosting a party than exerting authority. If your players don't like what you do, they leave and spend time doing other things. Not exactly authority. But it is your job to help folks have fun.

4. As a DM, I tend to keep my games "homebrew light", and stick to the rules, so my players know what to expect from me. (my focus is on story, and less on crunch, so I just as soon leave the crunch as written most of the time).

5. As a player, I've played in groups with lots of home brew. I personally find it mildly annoying. Not because the homebrew is bad, or unbalancing, or whatever, but because no one tells you what the homebrew is (neglegence not maliciousness), and it's hardly ever documented (like a pamphlet to hand out to your players) so you never know how to play the game or how things work. Half the time you feel like your getting the shaft because things don't work the way you expect. I guess what I'm getting at is to consult your players and get them invested in the decision. It's still your decision, but they'll probably take it better if they know why you decided something, or at least that the decision is being made.

And this is dragging on too long.

2007-02-12, 03:01 PM
Our current DnD game is fairly homebrew heavy. We created the world together and of the 5 players we have the following base classes, Gun Mage (my version), Vampire Hunter (made by GM), True Sorcerer (again, mine), Psion, and cleric. It should be noted that the cleric was also allowed to create his own diety that he worships, and several other dieties have been designed by players that were interested in them. We have several distinct changes to the base setting (such as airships), and everyone is happy.

2007-02-12, 03:06 PM
"The players are revolting!"
"They sure are!"

Cue laughter.

2007-02-12, 03:11 PM
Its good to be the king.