I hate house rules.
Excuse me, I did not emphasize that enough. I HATE house rules. I detest them. I loathe them. Of all my pet peeves, "house rules" are the most irritating, spiteful things I can think of when it comes to gaming.
At least, this morning they are.
"But JB, isn't your blog full of 'house rules?' Don't you use various (and fluctuating) house rules in your games all the time? Isn't your B/X Companion kind of a compendium of house rules?" Hey, give me a chance to explain, okay?
I...me, JB...and NOT a "rules tinker" type by nature. I'm not. I don't buy new games off the shelf and immediately start tinkering with them to match "my style" of play. I don't say, "hey wouldn't this work better IF," nor even, "this would work better for ME, if..."
I am a gamer.
I prefer Rules As Written. I like to know what to expect. For me, a certain amount of "system mastery" in game play. When I read a game, I have certain expectations about how it is supposed to play based on the rules as designed. Sometimes I find it plays a bit differently in practice from the designers text (for example, Vampire) and that can be bad. Sometimes it plays BETTER than one might expect (for example, old school D&D) and that can be great. But I want to be able to sit down and play games out-of-the-box.
I don't like "fixing" things in a game.
Now that doesn't mean I don't enjoy "adding content." If B/X only goes to level 14 and promises certain "extras" at "higher levels" and then fails to deliver, then By God, I don't see anything wrong with adding a book to the mix to fill the void. My Companion rules doesn't change anything in the original B/X rules, save that it corrects a typo or two (the character's table, the dwarf/halfling saves, the addition of the 2nd level detect invisible spell). Where there are rules that would CHANGE game play (for example, variable weapon damage by class) they are presented as OPTIONAL rules. I'm not trying to "fix" B/X...I am adding to the existing body of work.
But this is why I'm not a huge fan of Labyrinth Lord. Now let me clarify THAT. I am a BIG fan of LL and Goblinoid, but I'm not a huge fan. I really appreciate what they've done to revitalize old school B/X play (which I prefer to OSRIC, S&W, HackMaster, etc.), I hawk their book to everyone who wants to get into the B/X game, I've purchased (not just downloaded) three or four copies...four; I just gave my brother a copy for Christmas...and I talk it up to folks at the game shop.
But I don't like the changes to the game. I mean, I'm pretty sure I understand the reasons for the changes: a combo of copyright considerations and later adaptation of AD&D rules to B/X style play. But I don't like it. I don't like the expanded equipment list. I don't like the AD&D combat charts and AD&D spell lists and (God knows) I absolutely HATE clerics having a spell a 1st level (even Mentzer's BECMI stayed true to B/X and OD&D on that issue...clerics have enough handed to 'em for goodness sake! Make 'em work for something!).
To me, Labyrinth Lord feels like B/X with someone's house rules added. And it is so damn frustrating to me, because I LOVE Labyrinth Lord. I'm flipping through it now while I'm writing this (I own the "purple cover" edition) and I just dig it so much...it really is a great book. Nice clean lay-out, beautiful easy-to-read fonts, everything in one place instead of spaced over two (or three) books.
And is it really such a big deal that magic-users get 7th level spells at level 13? I mean, that's actually kind of cool, right? Though I immensely prefer MY 7th level spell list to LL's...(*sigh*).
ANYway...I am really, REALLY going to make a concerted effort to cut down on the amount of house-ruling, aka "variation ruling" that goes on in my games. I LIKE consistency as much as anyone, really. If the damn B/X books weren't out of print, I'd be going by them exclusively.
But maybe I DO need to change things up to Labyrinth Lord.
+++++EDIT: I should have noted the thing which made me post this little rant in the first place. Namely, I came to the conclusion (this morning) that it's nearly impossible to play ANY version of D&D without some "house rules;" even B/X. My frustration (because I DO prefer Rules As Written) is what got me thinking about this stuff in the first place.
As an additional side note, I do feel much less "ranty" now than I did this morning.
: ) +++++