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Worst Rule Ever

By Shamus
on Wednesday Nov 26, 2008
Filed under:
Tabletop Games


I’ve already made it clear which rule I think is the most annoying in tabletop gaming. (Aside from the rules preventing me from hitting other people at the table.) But I haven’t played that many game systems, and I have never sampled the gaming systems of yesteryear. Certainly there are worse out there.

Topic for discussion: The worst rule you’ve ever encountered. Perhaps it breaks immersion. Or starts fights. Or unbalances the game. Or leads to excessive paperwork. Or it’s just, you know, stupid. Please identify the worst rule “ever”, and why it ruins the fun.

I’m very interested to hear the responses. Yes, I’m sure this is a terrific idea for a discussion and won’t lead to any flame wars or rancorous debate. I mean, this is the internet, and everyone is so nice here, right?

If you need me, I’ll be in my bunker until this thread blows over.

Comments (190)

1 2 3

  1. I vote for the fact that in D&D, if you roll a 1 on a saving throw, you STILL FAIL. In fact, I’m not really all that fond of the idea of critical failures to begin with.

    This becomes especially annoying at higher levels if you’re playing either a spellcaster OR a class with insanely high saving throws (paladin). As a spellcaster, it’s annoying because they seem to have used this crit failure rule as an excuse to give everything saving throws up in the 30’s and 40’s, much higher than even a wizard with godlike intelligence could ever get their save DC’s. So, unless the monsters or NPC’s DO crit fail, they are going to laugh all over your stupid little spell.

    As a high-save person, it’s amazingly annoying when you SHOULD just be able to laugh off a given spell, yet you roll that 1 at the worst possible moment and wind up getting your entire team killed.

    I don’t mind crit fails on attacks so much because you get another attack or chance to attack shortly, but with spells you usually only get one go so I’d prefer that it be a legit one.

  2. McNutcase says:

    I don’t really have a rule I hate that way. I will admit to usually scrapping encumbrance rules, for leading to paperwork and lawyering; instead, I run a system of “be reasonable with me, and I’ll be reasonable with you”, and have had no major problems so far with simply ruling “that’s ridiculous” or “Yeah, sure”.

    Although I recently picked up a GURPS 3rd sourcebook, and that has numerous little bits of crunch that are causing “Wait, what?” reactions. Most amusingly, at character creation, “Mute” is a 25-point disadvantage. Meanwhile, Social Stigma (Dead) is 20 points. Yes, apparently being unable to speak is 125% of the disadvantage of simply being dead… and to think I used to vaguely want to run GURPS. Now I want the core books, if only so I can laugh at them…

  3. Heph says:

    I think I have to agree with the critical failure/succes rules. In D&D that can sometimes be annoying, but luckily, you’re still working with d20s, so they’re not all that common.
    I’ve seen the same rule – 1 always fails, or the inverse, a top roll always succeeds – in games using d6s. Needless to say, this is horrible. If I’m not mistaking, it’s used that way in Bloodbowl, amongst others.

  4. McNutcase says:

    On critical failures, I think Savage Worlds scores well. It DOES have them, but not as often as you might think. With a minimum PC roll, you’ll critically fail once in 24 attempts, assuming fair dice (d4 and d6 both coming up one). Develop your skills, and critical failures will become rarer as your dice get bigger, since they only happen when both your dice say 1. At a maximum PC roll, that’s a d12 and a d6 both coming up 1, and that should only happen once in 72 attempts.

    Savage Worlds doesn’t have critical successes as such, but it does have exploding dice which serve a similar purpose.

  5. Strangeite says:

    Without a doubt that honor would go to the 4th level Wizard spell Stoneskin as written in 2ed AD&D.

    There is nothing in the spell that says they can’t be stacked and they don’t expire until used. A ninth level Wizard would grant immunity to five to eight attacks per casting of the spell. Without intelligence bonuses they would be able to cast the spell 2 times a day. Have a party of four camp out for two months so that the Wizard can keep memorizing the spell and suddenly (hahahaha) you have a party where each character is immune to the first 150 to 240 attacks. In theory, you could raid an entire dungeon and never lose a single hitpoint.

  6. Dev Null says:

    I once played a game which was written by a design team of a martial artist and a military doctor. I have no idea what it was called now, but it was so hideously detailed that almost any rule in the game would qualify – which probably means I’m cheating by pointing out the worst game _system_ I’ve ever encountered, instead of the worst rule. Lets go with the one that let you calculate which organs each thrust of your sword passed through on every hit; both for the tedious number-crunching, and the “ick” factor.

    Worst game mechanic I’ve ever encountered has to go to the original Shadowrun’s system of determining the difficulty of any task from three different inter-related factors: number of dice rolled, target number, and number of successes required. Especially because it _seemed_ so cool right up until you tried to use it for anything…

    • Will Rhodes says:

      I think you’re describing Stalking the Night Fantastic. Or one of the other TriTac games. It is truly the worst combat system ever. We refer to it as, “Ow! He got me in the duodenum!” Yes, the duodenum was on the hit location table. Also, a hit could become a miss, if the body part hit was missing. You could also miss by rolling a hand hit, then getting a location past the tip of the thumb. Completely bonkers!

      All that aside, each of the TriTac Games has an absolutely awesome setting! I have run Stalking the Night Fantastic in GURPS and was considering it for Savage Worlds.

  7. BarGamer says:

    Yeah, I hate the “1 is always a fail” rule too. Think about it: No matter how good you are, you could be a Grandmaster in your craft, but if that 1 comes up, well, you just blew up your workshop. An arbitrary 5% failure rate, no matter what. Which is why I really appreciate rules that say you only fail on two successive 1s. Not “roll to see how badly you failed,” I mean the nicer one.

  8. ShockedMonkey says:

    THAC0 from AD&D drove me insane. Your THAC0 score determined what you had to roll to hit an enemy with an AC of 0. So, you roll your D20, subtract the enemy’s AC, and compare it with your score. It was a convoluted mess that caused more trouble at my table than anything else, never mind trying to teach a new player. “Wait, so my weapon should have bigger numbers to be better, but my armor has to be negative? What?”

    – Matt

    • Sudokori says:

      If every person who regularly plays 3.5 can go through the huge mess of rules in 3.5 I think it’s pretty simple to remember one simple rule in AD&D. So stop whining

  9. henebry says:

    Savage Worlds is great fun.

    But to respond on-topic, I’d nominate the shotgun system from GURPS. Except I don’t understand the rule well enough to describe it to you. Suffice to say, lots of recordkeeping just to fire a 12-gauge.

  10. ShadowDragon8685 says:

    In Exalted, the Limit Break rules.

    No, not Limit Break from Final Fantasy VII. In FF7, if you Limit Break, you get to do some awesome ass move that kicks somebody’s ass

    In Exalted, if you Limit Break, control of your character is taken away from you, and you do something ‘epically flawed’ (in the Greek Tragedy sense) like cry in your tent because your best friend stubbed his toe whilst your army gets slaughtered for want of good leadership, or flip out, go berzerk, and try to kill your friends or some shit like that.

  11. David says:

    For Stoneskin: Dump bushels of rocks on their heads :)

    For that matter, where are they finding that much diamond dust? Stoneskin was not among the cheaper spells in 2nd, as I recall – and it did require a very specific component.

  12. onosson says:

    Thank you, thank you for that link at the top of the post! I had forgotten just how funny DMOTR was! I might have to go back and read the whole thing… which means no more sleep…

    Curse you, curse you!

  13. John Callaghan says:

    Not quite the same thing, but the most ignored rule (which is in every rulebook of every system): “these rules are only a guideline! Ignore them if you don’t like them!”

    Also not quite the same thing, but slightly more pertinent, is the XP system in the old Marvel Supers game. If you’re not saving bus-fulls of nuns each session, you get about 7XP. And it costs 125XP to improve even the smallest thing. One can imagine the training camps where bus-fulls of nuns are repeatedly flung at walls so that people can rescue them…

  14. Illiterate says:

    5% chance of unexpected failure, 5% chance of wonderful success.

    I like that rule. I liked it better in 3.x when they added confirmation of critical success.. Makes it easier to justify true critical successes.

    I’ve always figured we should have some sort of “confirmation” roll for critical failure, to distinguish between a minor unexpected failure and a major one.

    One extra die roll. I know it’s D&D, not rolemaster. There is no “critical failure chart”, with “sword disassembles for easy storage” on there. Just a confirmation roll to say “yeah, the dice really boned you”

  15. Nilus says:

    There is the classic Palladium system(Rifts and such) armor rule that goes something like this.

    No matter how close your armor is to being destroyed, it always absorbs all of the final impact damage.

    So basically a guy running around in a mega damage diaper can survive a nuclear bomb blast because his armor will absorb the entire damage(even if its just one point or armor). Stupid rule in system full of stupid rules.

    Second choice would be the Palladium to hit rules. You always hit on a 5 or better, but then the guy gets to dodge. Then he can try to parry(sometimes) and then he can try to roll with the impact for less damage. Yep thats 4 rolls just to figure out if someone was hit or not.

    Palladium truly has the worst system out there.

  16. Jeysie says:

    Hrm. While I can certainly think of some rules that are annoying… (AoOs, Grapples, basically any sort of “paperwork/roll-heavy” rules), I can’t really think off-hand of a rule that makes me go, “God, I HATE this rule.”

    The gripes here about critical failures drive home how weird my group is… while we don’t exactly love failures, we do embrace/accept how entertaining they tend to make things as matters go hilariously wrong and we have to dig ourselves out again. Whenever the DM offers us a choice of what to do, the response is inevitably, “Which will be funnier/more entertaining”?

  17. vdgmprgrmr says:

    I really like THAC0 in AD&D… It seemed convoluted when I first saw it, but once I DM’ed a session with it (and taught my player to use it) it became very simple. The only problem is that my player at the time was very intelligent, and picked it up quickly. But when an average person comes along, trying to teach it to them is harder. Still doable, but harder.

    As for the rule I hate the most; I don’t know. I could be snarky and say third edition D&D is my most hated rule, but that would be snarky. In 2ed AD&D, I would say the worst rule is encumbrance, because every time you pick something up or drop something, you’re carrying more or less, and you might be carrying a light load now, or a heavy load, or maybe you can carry it over your head or drag it… So I house-ruled it into oblivion. My new rule? If you’re strong you can carry lots, if you’re weak you can’t carry much. Yeah. It sort of goes with the rule of awesome; If it’s totally cool, do it. You’ll succeed. Trust me.

  18. Sam says:

    not so much D&D but the old warhammer and warhammer 40K (so sue me) rules used to have an entire game devoted to magic.. sorting out 200+odd cards to cast a single spell was a pain – you essentially played a secondary round of poker every magic phase

  19. henebry says:

    Illiterate: I don’t think critical failure is a rule in D&D 3.5. If you roll a 1 you fail at whatever you were trying to do. That’s it. The idea that rolling a 1 means you stab yourself in the groin, well, that’s a house rule if I recall correctly.

  20. Woerlan says:

    Worst Setting-Specific Rule: Robotech/Macross (Palladium Games) – The rule which states that a missile volley of 4 or more missiles cannot be evaded/dodged. This is despite multiple instances when skilled pilots in the anime would be shown to dodge missile swarms containing many more than 4 missiles. My group thought this rule was so stupid we dropped it instantaneously, unanimously, and without debate.

    Worst Game System Rule: GURPS – Every combat round is ONE SECOND long. One. Fricking. Second. This concept, while realistic, results in so many combat complications that it bogs down fights to insane levels, especially in epic, large battlefield combat. Whole rounds can go by without your character doing anything but move, or aim, or load. Often, such actions would have to be repeated over multiple rounds in order to complete them. There’s got to be an easier way.

  21. Robert says:

    I hate to just echo Shamus, but AoO not working for bows is just asinine. I’m carrying a pike, someone charges me from 60 feet away, and I get to whack him with my reach weapon as he enters the adjacent square because he left a threatened square. But if I’ve got 500 archers sitting and watching the guy pound across the empty field, none of us can get a shot off as he crosses 12 “threatened” squares. Idiotic.

  22. Tom Jones says:

    I want to second the critical failure nomination (I hate critical successes too, just not as much), for all the reasons listed above, and more. I hate critical failures not just as a player, but also as a GM because it supposes that players will never be in a situation where failure really is bad, and ultimately can discourage risk-taking. If you ask me, not succeeding at whatever task it is the player attempts is usually enough of a disaster, especially in a game like Call of Cthulhu.

    (I should specify, pace henebry, that I consider any kind of “automatic fail on a 1” type of rules to be of a kind with critical failures, since they are all in effect failures that do not reflect the character’s skill or the circumstances).

    It’s completely unrealistic, too. 1 in 20 is still ridiculously frequent, even 1 in 100 is far too often. While we might think it makes sense that there’s always a chance to screw up in combat, in the real world such critical failures tend to be far between. Top-notch trap-shooters can hit 400 targets out of 400 with no jams, misses, malfunctions, or self-inflicted wounds, Olympic fencers can participate in as many as 1000 passes or exchanges in the course of a tournament without dropping their weapons, fighter pilots can rack up hundreds of kills in wartime without any mechanical errors or navigational miscues, and Grand Prix drivers can go for hundreds or thousands of miles and around hundreds of turns without ever rolling out and crashing, or even bumping their competitors. And that’s in a world without magic, enchantments, and bonuses!

    There are plenty of other rules that really annoy me, though. I hated the old Vancian magic system in D&D almost as much as I hate the 4E approach, and in general I hate anything that encourages min/maxing and munchkins, although that’s probably more an issue with the system gestalt focusing too much on one thing, such as combat, to the exclusion of other mechanics.

  23. Dave says:

    Spell resistance in pre-4e D&D and related d20 games. Why does the monster get a saving throw to determine if it has to make a saving throw again? If the thing’s especially magic resistant, can’t it just have better saves?

  24. Vegedus says:

    It doesn’t seem bad enough to really warrant “worst ever” but the only thing that comes to mind right away is randomised character stats.

    In DnD, that would be specifically be rolling your attributes and rolling for hit points at level up. I don’t believe something as signifigant as your characters overall capabilities should be left to chance. Sure, it’s fun to roll stats, but if any sufficiently extreme roll shows up, whether high or low, a lot of the entire game won’t be fun for some of the players. When rolling attributes, there’s a lot of bellcurve and various failsafes you can apply. There’s neither with the hit die, short of getting rid of it and giving out a consisten value.

    Especially jarring is that in 3.5, you don’t have a lot of survivability at level 1. You could argue it’s realistic, since a single well placed sword slash can make most fall. If you’re the tank of the group, warrior or barbarian and get a low number when reaching level 2 and 3, you’re pretty much screwed until you get some more levels with some better rules.

    On another note, Henebry is right. Rolling one on the d20 is always a critical failure, it’s not necessarily a fumble. Dropping your weapon, stumbling, hitting a comrade, that sorta thing is a house rule. A house rule that is mentioned in the DMG, but never the less not part of the core rules. It is very popular, though, to the point assume it really is in the book.

  25. As a GURPS player, I feel the need to point out that McNutcase seems to have misunderstood his example. What he’s looking at is the *social stigma* of being dead. That is, if the dead person is otherwise normally functional (e.g. some sort of undead, or with cybernetics animating the corpse, or whatever), it’s nonetheless a -20 point disadvantage because people look at you funny and sometimes try to have you burned when you walk around dead. While distinctly annoying and maybe dangerous, this is still probably not as much of a pain as being mute, although that’s a judgment call.
    Other advantages and disadvantages relevant to being dead vary a lot, and GURPS tends to put together packages of them for particular types (zombies, vampires, whatever) but the specific problems that go into those packages remain distinct, making it a lot easier to come up with homebrew critters.
    Not to say there are no annoying or stupid rules in GURPS, just that isn’t one of them.

  26. Derek K. says:

    FYI, there are no crit failure rules in 3.x If you roll a 1 on a saving throw, you fail. That’s it. The rest are suggestions or house rules or misunderstandings.

    Additionally, the take 10 rule means that masters never fail unless they’re at risk (can’t take 10) or trying for a better roll, which suggests they’re outside their comfort zone.

    You people decrying GURPS have never seen some of the truly awful systems out there.

    My most hated rule is the Wish spell. Either you do nothing interesting with it, which is useless, or you do something interesting and the DM is encouraged to hose you.

    Also, templates with an ecl. The only ones worth considering are erpowered. You can’t be a halfdragon wizard, ever, if you want to be ever remotely accomplished.

  27. brian says:

    Death from massive damage in 3rd edition D&D. What a terrible, terrible rule. There’s three kinds of characters:

    A) characters with less than 50 hit points who die outright

    B) characters that can’t fail the DC 15 fortitude save

    C) characters that have more than 50 hit points that can fail the DC 15 fortitude save

    Sucks to be C. The rule is just mean-spirited.

  28. Kris says:

    November 26th, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Yeah, I hate the “1 is always a fail” rule too. Think about it: No matter how good you are, you could be a Grandmaster in your craft, but if that 1 comes up, well, you just blew up your workshop. An arbitrary 5% failure rate, no matter what. Which is why I really appreciate rules that say you only fail on two successive 1s. Not “roll to see how badly you failed,” I mean the nicer one.”

    Just an FYI, in 3.5 a roll of one on skill check is not an auto fail. The 1/20 rule only applis to attacks and saves.

  29. Derek K. says:

    Robert: I hate to start this, but Shamus wanted flames, so….

    I rather enjoy AoOs.

    And the reason you don’t get AoOs with a bow is that turn based combat is a simulation of real time. If you have a bow, you can do one of two things: Make attacks, and not shoot people running at you at the same time, or hold your attacks, and shoot people running at you (ready an action).

    You have a number of times you can shoot a bow, based on time. You don’t have a number of times you can stab someone, as such. That’s why a pike wielder gets an AoO – that simulates the fact that they are moving about and swinging all the time, and they see a chance to hit this person because of what they do.

    Now, the fact that ranged combat and melee combat have two different systems might be an issue. Melee combat simulates all the swings in to a single roll (or multiples, if you have iteratives), where as ranged combat simulates each arrow as one roll. Using that as your base, it makes sense that bows don’t get AoOs.

    But overall, I love AoOs. They are a tremendously fun sub-system of the game for me. Figuring out when I can and cannot do things, and making the tactical decision to take an AoO or not, and then planning who draws the AoOs because they have the best of survival, etc are all very fun. But I’m a tactical combat gamer. I get annoyed when my friends won’t put the minis on the mat, and just say “You’re about 20′ away. You can move in a way that won’t draw AoOs.”

    And I again second Kris who says “Just an FYI, in 3.5 a roll of one on skill check is not an auto fail. The 1/20 rule only applis to attacks and saves.”

    In fact, allow me to provide you a key link:


    Note the last sentence of the first paragraph (which is the SRD): Unlike with attack rolls and saving throws, a natural roll of 20 on the d20 is not an automatic success, and a natural roll of 1 is not an automatic failure.

    Skill checks don’t auto-fail. Attack rolls auto-fail, but don’t crit-fail.

  30. krellen says:

    I’ve got two.

    First are save-or-die spells. An ability whose entire usefulness is based on whether or not the GM rolls low is a bad investment, and on the converse side having your PC or epic Villain reduced to a single die roll is anti-climatic and un-fun.

    The second are the damage type rules in Palladium/Rifts. The MDC/SDC divide is perhaps the stupidest, most needlessly harsh system ever devised, especially when you start getting into creatures with “MDC structures” themselves.

    And then there’s the “typed” strength, where someone with a 20 Supernatural strength is somehow stronger than someone with a 24 robotic strength. Stupid.

    Nilus at #14 is right; Palladium is the worst system ever.

  31. Strigoi says:

    I can’t really say I “Hate” any of the rules I think the ones that really brings the game to a hault or caused the round to go longer then it really should have for my groups has always been the AoO’s. People not realizing if a creature has a 5, 10,15 foot reach to choose the place there going to in the room. Also the Grapple Rules have always got on my nerves. Never understood the point to have a creature with a 60+ grapple check. A situation comes to mind where I had a 20th level fighter with a bunch of feats designed for grappling. I remember rolling, adding everything together and getting a 48 and feeling pretty good with that roll and then the DM doesn’t even have to roll to know I failed.

  32. mixmastermind says:

    I play paranoia, so I would say needlessly complex rules about laser beams.

    Or perhaps too-serious players. Not really a rule, but still.

  33. Groboclown says:

    For me, the most convoluted rule system that I could never understand was how armor worked in Twilight 2000 – all kinds of charts and modifiers. I studied the rule books trying to figure out just how to hit something with a gun, let alone calculate what it did. I ended up just tossing out those rules and coming up with my own.

  34. Roxysteve says:

    I think the rule that says that yer average D&D player must turn off their attention span once the game starts so that something as simple as the AOO rule* causes trouble out of all proportion to its importance to the game. 90% of the problems I’ve seen with AOOs come from people not remembering that combatants get ONE AOO per combat round (unless they have a specific feat or ability that says otherwise). It’s not like it’s something hard like the order of winning hands in poker or the binding order of operators in “C” fer cryinoutloud.

    * The very sensible and on-target comments about archery notwithstanding

  35. James says:

    I went to an AD&D game once where the DM said “No quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail” at the table. I never went back.

  36. Zaxares says:

    brian: I always found that rule pretty damn silly too. One time I had the party face off against an Ancient Black Dragon with like 450 HP and was an absolutely brutal melee machine. The paladin won initiative, charged at the dragon, and used Smite Evil (with a critical) for 70 or so damage. Rules demanded that the dragon roll a massive damage save.

    He rolled a 1.

    The dragon keeled over and died.

    Even my players agreed that it was awfully anti-climatic.

    Since then I use a home-brewed variant of the massive damage rule:

    In addition to the 50 points of damage you must receive from a single blow in order to make a massive damage roll, you also get to add your level AND your Constitution modifier. So that same Black Dragon, with 24 HD and a Constitution of 32, would have had to received 85 points of damage in a single blow before making a massive damage roll.

  37. Apathy Curve says:

    Dev Null: “I once played a game which was written by a design team of a martial artist and a military doctor. I have no idea what it was called now, but it was so hideously detailed that almost any rule in the game would qualify – which probably means I'm cheating by pointing out the worst game _system_ I've ever encountered, instead of the worst rule. Lets go with the one that let you calculate which organs each thrust of your sword passed through on every hit…”

    Would that perchance have been the Phoenix Command Combat System? The one with all the funny quotes in the margins? Like: “Welcome to the Red Temple membership drive. Get weapons and armor from the pile of bodies on your left. Fight’s down the hall to your right.”

  38. Ethan says:

    I’m thirding Palladium as a terrible system. Whenever I run a Robotech or Rifts game, I modify the MDC/SDC rules so that 100 points of SDC damage = 1 MDC. It doesn’t make sense any other way….

    Well, without completely trashing Sembieda’s horrific rule system.

  39. kathleenb says:

    The combat rules (particularly the area effect explosion) for Cyberpunk 2020 always drove me nuts. It’s a great, if a bit dated, setting, but the combat rules kill the fun.

  40. JKjoker says:

    i never liked the method of regaining spells in D&D, you depend on the dm too much to stay useful.

    sometimes a dungeon crawl would extend several sessions where the fighter and thief were at the top of their game during the whole dungeon, the cleric spent most of his spells after the second part but could still heal spontaneously with his you-never-use-them-but-need-to-memorize-just-in-case spells and could handle himself in a battle, meanwhile the wizard became useless after the first third, forced to use his VERY rare wands and VERY rare scrolls to stay alive (the dm wouldnt allow for long periods of in game time to stock up and the world was kind of low on magic items)

    this thing also shows up in computer games, you either can memorize everywhere whenever you want without penalty (in that case the wizards rule the land) or you can memorize maybe twice during the entire game (making them useless compared with any other class).

  41. Casper says:

    “The ogre hits you with his battleaxe (again) and deals 14 points of damage. Ok, you now have 45 hitpoints left. Your turn now.”
    A 5 point hit is a serious injury for character with 10hp, while only a scratch for 50hp character. Newer game systems try to explain that hp represents more than just injuries, etc., but it still sounds very unrealistic.

    In my homebrewed system I use, PC has 2xStrength hitpoints (usually 20). A single hit with an axe or gunshot can be deadly. If the attacker wasn't aiming, you also roll a d10 and see where you are injured. If the injuries are not treated you continuously loose small amounts of hp. To be exact, hitpoints represent blood in my rules.

    As for the encumbrance rules- they are not that bad. I only calculate the weight of weapons and armor they bring in battle- we assume the PC`s simply drop their backpacks with loot when a fight starts.

  42. Kevonovitch says:

    well, no rule specifically, except ones that sound+look+act like they were left open to interpertation.kinda like that whole attack of opportunity thing.

    oh, and this may sound stupid, but, alignment restrictions, except the DM always allows me to get off it with a good backstory and the right diety.

    what? i like being a CN monk :D

  43. Craig says:

    I tried to come up with something to say for this earlier but then realized that any annoying rule I generally forget the details of and either just make stuff up on the spot, or relegate a rules nazi, if one is available, to figuring it out while it isn’t their turn. I will say that AoO and grappling usually cause the most confusion at my table, but it never lasts very long.

  44. locusts says:

    I am currently running Dark Heresy, the 40K role playing game, and the rules that are frustrating me are the firearms rules. The whole skill system is a target number and percentages, similar to Palladium. A semi or fully automatic weapon gets multiple hits, one extra for every full twenty points your number is under the target number. Easy enough to figure out. Shotguns have a rule called scatter, which does the same thing at close range. The fun thing is that there are semi and fully automatic shotguns in the game, but no explanation as to combine the effects. Why give the game the ability to do both and not give a rule to cover both?

  45. WindBlade says:

    In wargaming, I have to say 2nd edition 40k’s ‘jump-pack scatter’ rule. any model with a jump-pack or similar nominated their landing point, and then rolled a d6″ and a random direction to as to where they actually landed. Normally, your doing this with ten men squads… and you rolled the scatter SEPARATELY FOR EACH MODEL

    This slowed down the move a lot, led to lost models as people landed on impassable terrain (or each other), and could really wreck a carefully planned charge (these were mainly given to assault troops) leading to at times only one or two of your ten-man squad actually making contact with the enemy, or could find a carefully aimed leap into cover left you exposed to lots of heavy weaponry.

  46. Evlkritter says:

    I think AoO is an interesting idea, but I have only encountered a situation where it came up once in my gaming career.

    Worst rule, hmmm…I can’t think of any true abominations, but Thac0 frustrated me because it slowed down combat (only the DM has coherent 2E knowledge), and of course the “1 damage always passes DR” rule. It just bothers me that EVERYTHING and ANYTHING can be pennied to death.

  47. Eric says:

    The thing that breaks immersion for me isn’t a rule, though it should be: called shots. This was made even more prevalent to me during my brief(thank goodness)time with modern d20. A player’s character was a sniper, yet as a sniper he can’t 1 shot kill anyone by those rules. I also feel the same away about being able to call shot on enemies limbs. It always just bugged me, people can throw fireballs, but an archer can’t take a couple minutes, aim, and kill them, neither could a sniper I guess.

  48. Noumenon says:

    Also the Grapple Rules have always got on my nerves. Never understood the point to have a creature with a 60+ grapple check. A situation comes to mind where I had a 20th level fighter with a bunch of feats designed for grappling. I remember rolling, adding everything together and getting a 48 and feeling pretty good with that roll and then the DM doesn't even have to roll to know I failed.

    My answer is don’t add the defender’s BAB on grapple checks. Why should your base attack bonus help you on defense anyway? This gives a cleric like a 1-in-8 chance to escape a grapple (instead of 0.01%) and a fighter might actually want to stay in the grapple because he can actually do something when he’s the attacker (like moving the grapple or using the other guy’s weapon against him).

    My least favorite rule is the fascinate mechanic from D&D 3.5. My first character was a rainbow-themed wizard who took all the hypnotic patterns and stuff. Little did I know how useless they were! You can’t use them in combat, because the sight of your buddy holding a sword breaks the fascination. You can’t use them to sneak past groups, because one of them always makes the save and he can shake the others awake. And they don’t work on zombies or insects or plants. My wizard sucked for half his career, just because he assumed the spells in the PHB all actually did something.

  49. Shadowrun’s success system with its cascading dice remains very odd. For some reason it often works OK in practice, but . . . take the example of a +2 difficulty modifier.
    If the number you needed for success before was 4, you now need a 6; on 6-sided dice, you will succeed one third as often with a +2 difficulty. Big change.
    On the other hand, if the number you needed for success before was 6, you now need an 8. Now, on a roll of 6 you reroll the die and add–so technically you can’t roll 6, only 5 or 7+. You’ll roll 2 or more 5/6 of the time, so a roll of 6 will result in at least an 8 5/6 of the time. Very small change.
    At the high end, increasing skill just can’t compensate for increasing difficulty; you’re only going to roll a 12 one time in 36 on average, and getting enough skill + dice pools to be rolling 36 dice is kind of hitting the ridiculous end. Yet difficulties of 12 are not that unlikely; they don’t seem to represent the kind of tough that should require a superhuman to succeed. Skill just doesn’t scale the same way difficulty does, and at the high end it really breaks down.

    I have to admit that in practice, things always seem to work out better than they ought to. Dunno why.

  50. Character creation in Traveller has to be experienced to be believed.

    The fact that reasonably easy to die during the phase which in D&D would be called “rolling up your character” is actually the least of its problems.

  51. Germelia says:

    I’m really annoyed by the no-casting-spells-8-hours-before-you-prepare-new-spells-or-they’ll-be-substracted-rule in DnD 3.5. It really makes the work of a good cleric with a deity who associates itself with sundown impossible.

  52. Khizan says:

    D&D 3.x: Falling Object Damage

    To quote from the SRD, “For each 200 pounds of an object's weight, the object deals 1d6 points of damage, provided it falls at least 10 feet. Distance also comes into play, adding an additional 1d6 points of damage for every 10-foot increment it falls beyond the first (to a maximum of 20d6 points of damage).”

    This means that if I throw a sack filled with bowling balls out of a second story window, it deals the same amount of damage as a club. Likewise, this means that if I have a cunning trap above the door to drop a sack of bowling balls on whoever opens the door, that sack of bowling balls deals no damage, having fallen less than 10 feet.

    Also included: “Objects weighing less than 1 pound do not deal damage to those they land upon, no matter how far they have fallen.”

    This means that if I throw half a pound of lead out of a castle window, nobody below will be hurt by it.

  53. Meatloaf says:

    I found Shield Generators for droids in Star Wars Saga Edition to be more than a bit broken. Broken in a win-button kind of way. Here’s how they work:

    Each generator of increasing expensiveness, bulkiness, and rarity has 5 more DR. The limit to what a medium sized droid character could obtain is a 30 Kg, 7,500 Credit, 15 DR military generator. It’s not too hard to get one with a Scoundrel in the party, or anyone with black market connections. I don’t recall there being a level or class limit, so any droid could potentially wear it.

    It’s 15 Damage Reduction, making it good already. Thing is, the only way to dissipate any of the DR is to hit for more than 15 damage. This is easy enough, but it’s not going to happen every time. When it does happen, the shield only loses 5 DR, making it a 10 DR.

    Adding that up, it’s a free 30 DR at any level, plus anything under the threshold simply doesn’t affect the droid.

  54. McNutcase says:

    Purple Library Guy: not so much misunderstanding as “misquoting for humourous effect”. After all, it says right there that it’s a “Social Stigma”, but it’s still amusing that being followed by a constant smell of rotting meat and whatever your setting’s equivalent of Lysol is, is less of a handicap than an inability to speak.

    Also, the creature whose racial template I pulled my examples from also carries the “unliving” disadvantage for 50 points, so it’s clear that simply carrying the social stigma isn’t the be-all and end-all of being dead…

    Also, it’s been niggling at me for a while… the “10” die is actually showing a 1. It’s the top half of a percentile die!

  55. Hawk says:

    I like AoOs, and never found them difficult.

    Critical failures I find stupid, but they tend to be someone’s optional rule anyway.

    Grapple, on the other hand … at least that was a pretty good 4E fix.

  56. Kiwipolish says:

    The old White Wolf botch rules. If you rolled more ones than successes in your dice pool you botched, no matter how many dice you were rolling. Meaning when you were an expert at something, you would either succeed or fail explosively, with nothing in between.

    Also, the older versions of Shadowrun where the Decker was the only person who could get into the net and basically had to go off on a solo adventure to do anything while the rest of the party sat around. That doesn’t sound fun.

  57. Derek K. says:


    “The fact that reasonably easy to die during the phase which in D&D would be called “rolling up your character” is actually the least of its problems.”

    You have described what I feel to be the absolute best thing about Traveller.

    Honestly. You can DIE during CHARGEN.

    That’s just spectacularly awesome.

    And falling objects are neat. Thrown objects are better. If you haven’t seen the Hulking Hurler thread on the Character Optimization boards (or the non-hulking hurler), they are spectacular.

    One of them can create a character that has not yet been declared invalid, who AVERAGES over a trillion damage in a round.

    1 trillion.

    It’s so far beyond sanity, it’s hypnotic.

    The Hulking Hurler build that I typically see is in the 20k range.

    +4 fire.

  58. MrNiceGuy says:

    How about the basic premise in D&D that 1 round = 10 minutes. ONE ACTION took 10 MINUTES! Swing a sword?, Drink a potion?, Cast a spell (What, do they prep the scene with lots of spooky candles)? Those were all 10 minutes.

    Played hell if you tried to reconcile different player actions (in and out of combat). Walk 100′? That took you 10 minutes.

    I have no understanding of why Gygax thought this was reasonable or how it held up in play testing.

    We always changed this to one action = 10 seconds in my games.

  59. Ragnos says:

    Encumbrance in D&D is the only one I have any problems with, especially when concerning money. Instead of having the PCs convert their massive amounts of gold into gems or some such, I just assume they’re carrying it arround in some kind of convenient form instead of adding unnecessary paperwork that doesn’t really add anything to the game.

    I don’t use the standard XP system either, rather I decide arbitrarily when the PCs level up according to the progress in the storyline, encounters, roleplaying, etc.

  60. Jabor says:

    Regarding critical failures, we had what I thought was a pretty neat houserule.

    If you roll a natural 1, simply roll again with a -20 penalty applied at the end.

  61. Sempiternity says:

    Without a doubt, it’s old Storyteller’s “Golden Rule”, you know, the one that says that you can ignore all the other rules in your 30$ book for “the good of the story”, ie. the GM’s railroad.

    I’ve always liked Storyteller, but that “Golden Rule” has probably led to more misery around the game table than any other rule – even 3.0’s Attacks of Opportunity. ;)

  62. Sesoron says:

    Energy drain leading to level loss. I mean, come on! Level loss?! And its permanence is predicated on a saving throw, no less (see #1, Jennifer)!

    And what about the monsters who can slap multiple negative levels on you over the course of a single battle? That’s nonsense. What part of this is fun? “They do have a chance of outright killing you through huge piles of negative levels, but odds are you’re going to lose the last several sessions (a matter of months for many people, even longer in PbP) of level advancement if you survive.”

    Yeah, I know that the reality of consequences is what makes victory fun. But negative levels aren’t a consequence of losing, making poor choices, or building bad characters: they’re a consequence for being there and getting hit. Negative levels do two things: they reduce your chances of actual victory and they give you a terrible consequence even if you win. Even if you win! At some point, you may take enough negative levels that it’d be easier just to die and work off the *one* level. Or, depending on how attached you are to the character, to just die and roll up a new character.

    All you can do about level loss is 1. have a high enough AC to avoid being hit by what is often a touch attack (totally implausible), 2. roll high enough on all your saves to eliminate every negative level, or 3. hope your cleric prepared the right spells the right number of times. Those, or just stay home. If your cleric isn’t prepared to deal with negative levels, then there’s no way he can do something about it before they take their ultimate toll. Rolling out level drain against an unprepared group is more or less a big middle finger, probably directed at the fighters and fighteroids, since they’re the most likely to fall prey. And especially at the lower levels, you shouldn’t be expecting the group to be all that prepared.

    That, then, is one of the great things about 4th Edition: no level loss!

  63. TA says:

    I think the Drama Dice system in 7th Sea is fundamentally retarded. Fate Chips too, for much the same reasons.

    A limited pool of things you can spend for bonuses on rolls? That’s a fine idea, Void Points are a good system. That pool determines your experience? That’s bad, you shouldn’t be penalized in character growth for calling on a mechanical resource. Some uses of that pool are “balanced” by giving the GM extra resources? That’s insane. The GM doesn’t need black dice or extra chips if he wants to make things harder. The GM can and should make things exactly as hard as he thinks is appropriate, and “giving him an extra chip” makes no sense outside of a strict-encounter-balance zero sum game, where the players win by defeating the GM.

  64. Alan De Smet says:

    @MrNiceGuy, I think you’re blending several things. In older versions of D&D (2 and earlier, I believe), you had combat rounds (1 minutes) and exploration turns (10 minutes).

    In a combat round you get to do one thing. While a minute in combat is a long time, it’s supposed to represent the confusion and complexity. “An attack” might represent a long exchange of blows with feints, parries, and counterstrikes. “Drinking a potion” included finding a moment where you weren’t in too much danger that you could lower your guard to open a vial and drink it.

    Exploration turns, however, can encompass lots of actions. If your GM was charging you third minutes to pull some rope of out your backpack, tie it to a ledge, then climb down, you’re getting screwed.

    The ten minute turn is really intended to measure exploration speed; an adventuring party can cautiously explore 100 to 120 feet of cooridor every ten minutes. Sure, it’s slow, but you’re in hostile territory. Tt might be filled with pit traps, ambushers, and more. While you’re not “searching,” you are paying close attention to what you see, hear, and smell. You’re typically working with poor lighting. You’re keeping relatively strict marching order. In later editions, you also need to go slow enough races with automatic secret door detection to actually notice the little details that trigger their intuition. Compare this with the speed of someone visiting an art gallery, a situation where modern people go slow to pay attention to the details. I agree that 10 minutes is a bit overkill for this, but it’s not quite as wildly insane as you suggest.

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