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Rules are a necessary part of every game, the main reason we can have competitive pastimes that aren't just about hitting each other with sticks.

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Well, not just about hitting each other with sticks.

But games comes in all forms, whether they're board, card, or video, and although all these forms of games come with "official" rules, sometimes those rules aren't always the most appropriate. Because these games are played by people with wildly varying levels of experience, ability, and competitiveness, the official rules are often tweaked to suit each particular group's needs. These variations are called house rules, and whether they're done to make the game more fun or more fair, they can dramatically change how the game is played.

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There. Much better.

The Tweak

As Seen In: Putting Money on Free Parking

Monopoly is one of the most famous board games in the world, and everyone knows the rules to it, so no one has to read the rule book, because seriously: What's that going to tell you?

That the dog's the best, that's what.

And because no one's ever actually read the rules, unofficial variations to those rules have become incredibly commonplace. The most famous is the rule that says you win money for landing on Free Parking, a tweak that is decidedly not part of the official rules (which no one's read).

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"Honey? Do you have two dice handy? It says we need to roll an eight or higher to park here."

Why It's So Important:

It ruined the game, for one. That's kind of a big one, actually.

The reason this tweak came into being is obvious. The game is mostly played by kids, and kids are greedy idiots. Getting money is fun! Who wouldn't want that?

Everyone, it turns out. Getting extra money isn't just more fun, and it doesn't just make the game easier to win. It makes it harder to lose. And because Monopoly can't end until every player but one loses, all this extra money helps turn Monopoly into one of the most famous relationship enders in the world. This very popular house rule sucks the fun from the room faster than a competition to see who has the worst open sores. It turns a game about accounting into a longer game about accounting.

The Addition

As Seen In: Hitting Each Other in D&D

Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop role-playing game where players create and control individual characters and then take them on adventures where they butcher and rob things weaker than them.

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Like bards.

There's a lot more to it than that, of course; the adventures they go on can and do involve things like puzzle solving and role playing and collaborative storytelling. But that central mechanic -- whaling on things with an ax until they die -- is very much at the core of the experience. Which makes it all the more surprising that the first version of Dungeons & Dragons didn't actually have rules for combat, instead suggesting that if players needed to hit something, they should use the rules for another game called Chainmail. And because hitting something was, yes, something that players wanted to do very much, but not everyone owned this other game, they just made up their own rules.

Wikimedia Commons
"The Bard begs you to spare his life!"
"Roll to ignore the Bard's pleas!"
"20! The Bard is killed instantly! You receive 15 xp."

Why It's So Important:

It set the precedent for the entire genre of games.

The example listed above is really an Ur-example, because in reality, tabletop role-playing games are all about the house rules. By design, these are very flexible gaming systems, intended to accommodate a huge variety of gaming needs. Just about every one of these games has a player acting in the role of dungeon master, who serves as both the primary referee and the primary world builder. If you give a player the power to decide the shape of the universe, that's a person who can decide what happens to that universe when you hit it with a mace.

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"The Bard leaves behind a broken lute and three children!"

Continue Reading Below

The Forbidden Tactic

As Seen In: No Rushing in Real-Time Strategy Games

Real-time strategy (RTS) games, like Warcraft and Command & Conquer, involve the player moving around little military units that go around doing little military things, like delivering humanitarian aid or getting caught up in quagmires.

Victory Conditions: Everyone Must Hate That You're Here, Hate What You're Doing, and Hate That You Haven't Done It Yet, and Both Your Jeeps Must Be on Fire.

These games come in a few flavors, but the classic examples all involve base building of some sort, where the player spends the first part of each game establishing their economy, building up their production capacity, and erecting static defenses. In the single-player version of these games, this is normally done at a fairly leisurely pace, with the computer generally leaving you be while you get everything set up the way you like it.

That is decidedly not the case in the multiplayer versions of these games, where an opposing player could choose to delay much of their own base building to dedicate all their resources to launching a "rush." This is a very quick attack that is done in the hopes of catching you before you have your own defenses set up, which can quickly end the game, and possibly a friendship. So, depending on how competitive (and friendly) the players involved are, they may make a gentleman's agreement not to rush, or at least not before a certain time limit has elapsed.

Why It's So Important:

It's an anti-cheesing measure.

Rushing is one possible (and debatable) example of a game tactic that's "cheesy." It's a nebulous term, but roughly speaking, it means a tactic is simple and easy to execute, is quite powerful, and easily negates other, more "honest" tactics. That in itself is a big debate, and if you're interested in reading more about what constitutes an honest or dishonest tactic, just look for arguments written in capital letters anywhere on the Internet.

In this particular case, a rush, whether successful or not, will typically end the game extremely early, before a lot of the most interesting units and tactics become available. When used to the exclusion of all other tactics, it can make the game less fun. A house rule banning rushes, then, is an attempt by the players to resolve what they perceive is a mistake in the game's design, and to encourage what they feel are these more "honest" tactics.

Whaling on buildings with a club? Surprisingly honest. Just, you know. No hurry.

The Forbidden Character

As Seen In: Oddjob

GoldenEye was a first-person shooter for the Nintendo 64 with an infamously good split-screen multiplayer mode.

Despite looking like the inside of a cubist's bowel movement.

One slight weakness it possessed, however, was its controls, in particular the difficulty in aiming up or down (in the default control scheme, at least). In most sections of the game, this wasn't much of a hindrance, with all the players running around on the same level. It was only when an enemy was substantially higher or lower than the player that it proved to be an issue. Which meant that if there was an enemy who was permanently lower than everyone else ...

He's the perfect height for giving sexual favors and shooting you in the groin, and he's all out of sexual favors.

... he'd have a massive advantage. In GoldenEye, that character was Oddjob, and few people played this ankle biter more than once before instituting a "No Oddjob" rule.

Why It's So Important:

It stopped people from murdering each other.

There's a concept called "balance" that needs to be discussed here. In most sports, opposing sides will have symmetrical powers -- for example, in a basketball game, both sides will have the same number of players, both sides are allowed to pass the ball, and so on. What we don't do is give one side tennis rackets and the other side fetish outfits.

Although maybe we should.

But unlike sports, a huge percentage of modern games (in the board, card, and video genres) are designed to be non-symmetrical. Players are granted wildly different characters and abilities and techniques, and it's this variety that makes these games so interesting and fun. Anything that interferes with that variety, like an overpowered character that everyone (who wants to be competitive) is forced to play, reduces that fun.

Many video games have featured characters that were overpowered to the point that they've been the subject of bans or gentleman's agreements not to use them. Street Fighter II had Akuma and Sagat. Super Smash Bros. Brawl had Meta Knight. Tecmo Bowl had Lawrence Taylor.

Monopoly had the dog.

And yes, those are cheap characters, fully deserving of their bans, but they also weren't 2-foot-tall cock-shooting machines. No one, no one, has deserved a punch to the throat more than a man playing Oddjob.

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Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and your best friend. Join him on Facebook or Twitter and make him reconsider that.

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