One of the most useful tools in a narrator’s arsenal are the house rules. These are rules created by the narrator that override the standard rules of the game. These rules are usually made in order to make the game more interesting or in some cases easier to play. For games like Shadowrun the latter is the usual cause. Technomancers and hackers have such complicated rules that many narrators tend to simplify them with house rules that strip out much of the complexity. Games like Tephra and Star Wars are so loose in their rules that many house rules exist in order to help bring structure to the game or to override some of the standard rules that aren’t as much fun such as morality and conflict in Star Wars.
House rules can become a problem with the players if they aren’t handled properly. House rules should be explained to the players clearly when they’re created so that the players are aware of them going forward. If they are playing and assume the normal rules are still in place when you suddenly spring the new rule on them they can feel like you just made it up to mess with them. The trust between the players and narrator is paramount to enjoying the game. This can also cause issues with rule lawyers since they can argue with you over any house rules. It is important to explain to the players the new rules and, just as importantly, why they exist. If the players know why the rules have changed then they are more likely to go along with the rules.
House rules should only be made to fix a problem or to add additional enjoyment, never to punish players or make things unnecessarily difficult. Most house rules will actually come from a problem in the game. A good example is if a player wants to do something that the book doesn’t have rules for. If the group is playing Tephra and they want to blow up a building or destroy it with brute force then the narrator will have to come up with something on the spot. However, if this is most likely going to become a common idea or strategy of the group then it’s in the narrator’s best interest to create a house rule to govern building demolition. House rules are also useful when the rules in the book are vague. When a rule conflict comes up but there is no clear answer in the book the narrator can and should establish a house rule with their players that gives clarity to the original rule.
House rules are important and can often be found in any group as they allow the group to tailor the game to their interests. There are also a plethora of forums where narrators discuss house rules that they use. These can be fun to browse if you are going to be, or are in the process of, running a game and want to see what common fixes or upgrades others have made for that same system. Just remember that house rules are for improving the experience of everyone at the table and that they should always be clearly communicated.