What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Tinker, tinker, soldier Why?

As a DM, I don’t tinker with the rules much. 

Oh, as a writer, I’ve dabbled plenty — articles in Dragon magazine and in a couple of pdf supplements.

But for my home game, I’m actually fairly conservative in rules experimentation. Deciding whether the players should roll for their ability scores or use the 25-point buy is about as far as it gets. 

Beyond that, the game is played as written. Not because I’m a rules fiend — far from it. It’s a matter of simplicity, really. And caution: I’m not eager to have one of my goofy rules changes ruin the play experience for someone else.

View from the sidelines

Maybe I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid, but I’ve often read message-board posts that bemoaned how such-and-such a rule or game mechanic was “unbalanced” or “obviously broken” and just shrugged in response. 

A rule is broken? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Maybe it just depends on how many other house rules have been implemented at your game table and the ripple effect they are having on other aspects of the game.

And maybe it’s just me, but not every play experience has to be a demonstration of the PC’s souped up attributes and their ability to overwhelm their monstrous foes. 

Where’d that go?

Over at Paizo, during the Alpha playtest for the Pathfinder RPG, I saw with a tad dismay that the skill Use Rope was being dropped in the pursuit of a consolidated skills list. 

I offered a protest, a protest that fell on deaf ears. “Nobody uses Use Rope,” I was told. “Everybody just hand waves it,” I was informed. 

Wait a sec! I used Use Rope all the time in my games. Who is this “everybody” they’re talking about? When had Use Rope been universally house ruled into oblivion? (1)

I’ve heard all the arguments and imagined uses for the Profession skill and I remain unconvinced these work-arounds separate the sailors, cowpoke wranglers and Boy Scouts from the rest of the gang. I will remain a voice in the wilderness on this one.

 

(1) Even the Rules Compendium, Wizards of the Coast’s last word on the 3.5 rules, had seemingly given up on the skill. A sidebar by editor Logan Bonner all but said there’s little use for the skill, and in many situations it can derail play.