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Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childhood

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Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childhood

Postby Kurgan » Monday January 16th, 2023 12:42pm

When many of us played HeroQuest for the first time we were pretty young (the original version was recommended for age 9 and up, in the US it was 10 and up). I was about 12 and my brother was about 6. This was the first game of its kind we played. I knew Dungeons and Dragons existed but my knowledge of it was limited to the saturday morning cartoon show, some large rubbery figurines we picked up at a hobby store once and a few vague notions that some people thought it was "evil" or whatever (back then in my child mind the struggle was between parents who thought stuff was too "scary" or "violent" for their kids and kids who just wanted to have fun).* Most of the time we had only two players, so it was predictably myself controlling four heroes and my younger sibling as the GM. We had the Game System and the first two expansions so this has probably late 1991. I think within a couple of years I'd shifted my attention more to video games and so I played it less and less (until we rediscovered it in 2002-2003, then put it away again until like 2017 I think?). I think we might have played with four players a couple of times when my friend came over and my other sibling was old enough to play, but those were rare compared to the 1 v 1 situation. Without the internet, we didn't know about differences between regional editions (the NA edition was it for us) nor details of changes in the 1992 expansions.

We didn't quite understand the rules (or didn't want to). My attitude back then was to get through the rules as quickly as possible to get to the game. I was the impatient type who tossed away the instructions if I thought I already "knew" what to do. We were pretty advanced for our ages (we thought) but still, it led to us creating some interesting little "house rules." Some of them were silly or contradictory and we didn't necessarily have them all at the same time. The mechanics of traps and magic were kind of the last things we really learned about.

I'll try to remember as many as I can:

1) Mind Points. We didn't understand really how these worked. When it said "rolls 1 red die for each of his mind points, if a six is rolled the spell is broken," our odd interpretation of this was that you had to roll the number of your mind points on a single roll OR roll six and you beat the spell. Okay, so we made it easier (Barbarian would roll a 2 or 6 to get out of it). But then we got more confused and thought maybe it really meant roll your mind points OR MORE. So the Barbarian could roll 2-6. This led to a hasty rationalization that maybe the Wizard (now being most susceptible to magic) was the type who was most impacted because he "knew" how deadly the spells were, while the oblivious, primitive minded barbarian just couldn't be charmed so easily (he "didn't believe"). So the opposite of what was intended! Finally we came back to the game later and realized, oh, just read it word for word and it makes much more sense. :D

2) Movement. We hated not using our full movement. So we invented the bunny hop. This came from playing a lot of super mario bros (didn't own an NES back then but rented one from time to time or played at friends' houses). If you were a hero and moved to a square that another hero was occupying and it was your last square of movement, you "bounced" off his head to the next free square. So if there was a row of heroes in a corridor that last one in line could bounce off three ally heads to the front of the line! And if he changed his mind he could bounce all the way back too, I think. Also we made sound effects to indicate we were utilizing the trick "bump-uh"! :mrgreen:

3) Blacksmith. As a hero I hated spending too much gold. I wanted to get all the best stuff right away, but I saw that Plate Mail and Chain Mail were expensive. So I rationalized that I could just buy a bunch of Helmets and save some gold, then "take them to the blacksmith shop" and have them hammered into a suit of armor and get all the benefits (and none of the downsides) of the other gear. So no shield restrictions, and no movement restrictions. Little did I understand (or care to try) that the blacksmith would have charged me for the labor and so I would have probably spent the same amount (or more), plus the restrictions would come about anyway. At least we didn't try to "cheat' with regard to carrying capacity ("well you can stow the shield on your back, the sword at your hip, the rest of the stuff in your backpack, and a weapon in each hand..." etc).

4) Crossbow. Yes, we know that nowadays people will be quick to point to the fact that Avalon Hill reps have "answered" this question via Twitter that they intend the four close diagonal squares can be hit by this weapon (giving it half the strength of the longsword already, plus the ranged ability), rather than explicitly banning the eight squares surrounding a hero. We took that to be how the weapon worked. Similar to thinking that Zargon was the person depicted on the GM screen, this I think was a common "error" for players of this edition back then. I still use this rule though, even though the only edition that explicitly states it is actually the Japanese one.

5) Endless Trade. We knew you could move adjacent to another hero and give him a potion. We forgot that it says "on his turn." So we would have two heroes move together and boom... they could just start swapping items. One guy could give literally all his gear to the other and the other could give him all of his, effectively swapping everything. We didn't really put this to good use and cheat (I've heard stories about people passing around crossbows and things), but that's what we thought. We hadn't yet gotten online (c. 2002) to print off the EQP/BQP and see that they wanted to stop this from happening when a monster was adjacent.

6) Re-selling items. I think it was my best friend who suggested this. How he knew it, I don't know, because I don't think we got to things like the web until a year or two later and this wasn't explicitly defined in the rules until EQP/BQP (which we never owned, but we knew they existed from the fliers in KK/ROTWL). I wonder if this was just a popular house rule, carried over from video games. I was familiar with RPGs (like Phantasy Star II on genesis) that let you sell stuff back but not get the full price in return. I imagine then a lot of kids made this "house rule" until they knew it was official. It made sense.

7) Combinations. Here again a lot of people struggle with this one today or make up new rules. I thought you could "stow" the shield and not use it, same with the Battle Axe and Staff, and get the bonuses or get past the restrictions. We didn't worry about whether it "took an action" to switch or something, you just could but we never exploited it to its fullest extent trying to cheat (the "hammer the helmets into armor" was probably me trying to cheat, the rest of the stuff I think were honest mistakes or flights of fancy because we were too bored to bother scrutinizing the rules, whatever made sense to us at the time and get on with the game).

8) KK sucks!? Kellar's Keep had so many cheap ways to screw over the heroes I thought. As a kid I was not such a gracious loser as I am today (hey!). The rolling boulder was interpreted to mean that it ran over everyone, hit the wall and then BOUNCED BACK. The idea that it was intended to kill heroes and force them to revive with healing spells didn't really sink in. I thought the game was broken. I almost quit playing at this point (but my love of the game got me over it). And yes, we played KK AFTER ROTWL (which I still today consider the superior entry). I prided myself that I was able to carry three heroes to the finish line through these two expansions (early on many heroes died, in fact we had a few TPKs on The Trial, of course).

9) Debates over Command. Early on we assumed "Command" meant Zargon had complete control over the hero. He could do anything... use up potions, throw gear away, use spells in crazy ways (we didn't quite get to the "trap yourself inside solid rock forever" thing but it was on the menu in theory). As a hero I haggled it down to "can attack other heroes" (including the use of combat spells). We still kept it to other hero attributes (he can fall into traps and still rolls white shields for defense). Looking back I suppose we really nerfed the spell but today I have kind of the same attitude even when it's my turn as Zargon!

10) Finding traps. When a trap was searched for and found, we put other stuff on the squares (spare dice, usually). And Zargon didn't move them. :evil:

11) Treasure Deck. If you're reading the Instruction Booklet today you'll see that in one place they make it sound like you shuffle the treasure deck once per quest. In other place it clearly says you shuffle before every search. We stopped at the first instruction and didn't read the second one closely. So to this day that's how I play, shuffle before the quest and then don't shuffle again until the next one. We also had the hero hang onto the good cards he found and not discard them until they were used. The bad cards went to the bottom of the deck but there was no reshuffle there either (some say you should re-shuffle when bad cards are returned only).

12) Toss me the Potion! Yes, the first "uncommon feat" (we didn't use that name) actually predated our second re-discovery of the game in the 2010s (where it became the "heroic feat," before its finally solidification in the streaming days of the pandemic). A hero was on the other end of a corridor from his fellow. The one had a potion the other needed. So the idea is the one character will "throw" it to the other. If you roll a skull, it's a fumble and the potion breaks. Otherwise you get it! I think we tried this maybe twice and once was a success and the other broke but my memory is vague on that one.

13) Secret Doors. When you find the secret door, we put down the tile. When you walk up to "open" it, we replaced the tile with the old door piece. Yes, that's actually wrong, but there's only very few quests ("The Maze" being a good example, which we didn't know existed at the time) where you will "run out of doors" this way.

14) Castle of Mystery. We didn't play this the way many others did. You moved up to the doorway, then you rolled again (I think that's how we did it) as if it was a teleport pad, and the coordinates sent you where you were going. It wasn't until recently I was thinking you move out into the hallway first (I'd have to read it again even as I'm thinking of this.. it was the one off gimmick and it was a long time ago!).

15) Courage. Even today I've homebrewed this back into the game but this was one of those early instances where as a hero I didn't want Zargon to just have his monsters run away to dowse the spell, so we had it so that after clearing out all the monsters if you have your movement left you could still RUN to the next area where you could see monsters and consider the spell still in effect.

16) Line of Sight. Here's one where we just didn't take the drawing in the instructions booklet literally enough. Literally it shows arrows "off axis." We didn't think about drawing straight lines from the center of the figure or the square or whatever. Instead we just did it by square like a Queen attacking in Chess. So the literal diagonal squares from your character is what you could hit with the weapon. I think we didn't really think much about "line of sight" with spells until we used Genie for the first time. I think when it was advantageous to just hit someone who was on the board with a spell we did, though we later started thinking about it in turns of chess squares.

17) Rust spell. When we finally came across this at first we ignored the "helmet or sword" thing. We just figured anything with metal in it (which was everything but the staff) would be damaged by it (this was close to how Rust worked in Wizards of Morcar, but we didn't know that pack existed at this time).

18) Disarming. I think we played an entire game thinking that each hero had the inherent ability to disarm a trap, not just the dwarf. I think I didn't read the toolkit description carefully enough to see it was a 50% chance. So what were we thinking? That you had to roll a white shield to disarm a trap WITHOUT a toolkit as the Wizard/Barbarian/Elf?

19) Pass Through Rock. I think we probably did the whole "but what if the furniture is made of rock" trick to try to get more use out of this spell. But we interpreted it to mean the white walls and also solid blocks/rubble could be passed through. I don't think we ever got to the point of arguing whether the Gargoyle was "made of stone" (some monsters in the quest books are described as being made of stone or whatever).

20) Gamble for more gold! Yes, this was a developed house rule for in between quests, but I don't remember actually ever using it myself (my siblings might have). Good for when you were so close to affording the thing you wanted and needed an excuse to try to get more. Basically there was the easy bet and the hard bet (if you were low on stuff you could use equipment as collateral).

21) Sleep spell. The one who has fallen asleep has their miniature tipped over on its side to show he's asleep (yes!). Everyone can just walk through him and search the room like he's not even there. I still play it this way.

22) Zargon's attitude. We didn't really give away what our secret was, but back then I took it that Zargon had to follow the game rules (no cheating on his part) and his goal really was to kill the heroes and win. So we didn't have any of this "adjust the difficulty on the fly" attitude that is now more of a GM option or the idea that Zargon really is pulling his punches and letting the heroes struggle on but is just there to ensure the quest goes on. Yes, we did want the quest to go on but we had no problem replaying a quest (and remembering to remix it using the blank map.

NEW! 23) Treasure Chests. After a little while we came up with this rationalization (which doesn't fully explain the clear 1990 error in Lair of the Orc Warlord, compare to the earlier EU edition of this quest for what was intended... the error was carried over into the remake even!)... when you "search for treasure" you discover what's inside the Chest(s), but have to walk up adjacent to the furniture piece to "pick it up" (the act of picking something up not using up an action of course). This doesn't quite make sense because the way traps work is the first person who SEARCHES for treasure (without first disarming the trap) triggers it. Searching for traps would locate the trap squares (including whether furniture itself was suspicious). But this half baked idea lingered on for awhile and it turns out there are people online who played it that way.

In 2002 discovering the Combat Cards (probably the first customs I ever printed out, from Phoenix's page, and I think it was still Dewayne Agin's Inn back then too), got our imagination going, and we started throwing in interesting little things here and there, my brother especially. A decade and a half later and we really go at it with the imagination, though I'm more of the "it should be on a card/miniature" more than my brother. Still, I have learned to let loose a little more and it's a lot of fun.

No, we never thought to wield two weapons at once (with a bonus) or put the magical armor/weapons on the Wizard...

I don't recall what else, if we ever let you roll again for doubles (like Monopoly), but that's the sort of thing that usually got us going, some other game had some gimmick and we wondered what it would be like to do it in this one. As long as you can convince Zargon...!

In 2002 I kind of started over and tried to really read the instructions and learn how to play "the way it was intended." In 2016/2017 I was more like I'll use that as a base and then add my house rules on top. I wanted to keep the nostalgia for the game I'd developed but also have a little more fun with it, and old habits die hard so some of those house rules endure, even though I have played now with other people who have different house rules and just learned to accept that they played the game differently than I!


Any interesting or fun ones you want to share?

* Yes, there were D&D video games, but I didn't understand the whole context of "forgotten realms" and "dragon lance" etc. D&D was like Robotech, a mysterious game "older kids" played that we didn't know much about.
Last edited by Kurgan on Wednesday January 18th, 2023 11:32pm, edited 8 times in total.


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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby j_dean80 » Monday January 16th, 2023 1:01pm

We stacked dice as you got more weapons. Instead of only counting dice of the “equipped” weapon. This matched what the armor intended of stacking. This made Heroes way way OP.
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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby Kurgan » Monday January 16th, 2023 1:46pm

j_dean80 wrote:We stacked dice as you got more weapons. Instead of only counting dice of the “equipped” weapon. This matched what the armor intended of stacking. This made Heroes way way OP.


Oh wow, so a battle axe means you attacked with 6 dice! Or buying a second battle axe would would be 10 dice... I see what you mean!

That was a bit confusing when the armor let you roll 3 or four combat dice (meaning your total, including your base of 2 dice) and then the helmet or shield stacked on top (the logic of only wearing one helmet was embraced by us after we dropped the blacksmith ploy... and we thought having two shields was possible but you can't attack, though following rules as written a two shield wielder would still attack with 1 die adjacent!).


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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby QorDaq » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 7:18pm

Some fun insights there Kurgan, I enjoyed getting a peek into your early HQ experiences.

I was a bit older when I picked up the game from Walmart ~91 or so, I was in my mid-20s'. I had a lot of RPG experience by then, and my gamer friends and I were playing a fair number of board games at the time (Hacker, Illuminati, Nuclear War and its expansions, Talisman, Warhammer Epic 40K, and so on), so we were all fairly comfortable with reading rulebooks. However, it only took one game to realize the potential to make HQ into an RPG-lite system. I knew that as a toolbox HQ was wonderfully simple and thus malleable for sandbox play.

Assumptions about things like selling equipment for half-price were integrated without any debate. Approaching a trapped item of furniture before it could be disarmed was a given, and searching for treasure auto-triggering a trap from just inside the doorway was scrapped from day one.

I think the first significant House rule though, was implementing overland travel between quests. It was kept simple; I had both hex-based, and standard square-grid battlemats from Chessex, and a simple random encounter generator i came up with. Each hex was 1 day of travel as I recall, and I had some weather dice. We'd roll a random number of "Days" travel between a Quest and a town (they were not persistent dungeons/ towns or distances), the weather might affect travel time and likelihood of a random encounter. Early on the encounters were mostly overland versions of hazards or actual combat encounters, with the later played out on the square-grid mat.

It was all kept straightforward.

Another thing that I did (Not at all straightforward), was attempt to convert some D&D modules to HQ. The Keep on the Borderlands and The Isle of Dread are the only two I remember trying to extensively convert. My thinking was that it might be easier to get an actual campaign going with the simpler rules for HQ. The idea was good, but a lot harder to do than I think I was expecting. This project yielded limited game play when compared to the effort put into it.

Another (Sort of?) addition was Homebrew Heroes, a Cleric and Paladin in particular. The biggest experiment there came from playing Talisman. At one time Talisman introduced an expansion called Timescape. This was an attempt to introduce elements of WH40K to Talisman. Because of my familiarity with GW, the idea of adding some 40K characters and enemies to HQ was just too tempting. They all proved OP as hell, and were all but unplayable. Fun to theory-craft though.

Regardless, it was incidentally, a later re-developed interest in HQ when my Daughter was around 5-6, that lead to my discovery of the original Aginn's Inn back in the early 2000s' which was my first glimpse into other players also making HQ their own. Fun coming full circle there.
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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby HispaZargon » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 8:42pm

Not too linked with the thread's topic, but here is a short story from my childhood:

At the very young age of 8 years old, I was really fortunate to own a HeroQuest box, which I got on 1990's Christmas. It was a Spanish 1990's Edition of the game (of course with their worldwide known trollish errata) and I perfectly remember the first time I played in the role of the Evil Wizard, which I guess it also was my first time playing the game ever, or at least the first one I remember.

It was 'The Trial' quest... and of course I didn't know well the rules, so before starting the game with my family (they didn't read the rules too much either), I placed all the furniture, doors and monsters onto the board as shown in the quest map :-) I thought it was the right way to play it, why not?? hahaha, well... minutes later all we noticed of course that something was going wrong, probably I soon run out of monsters or closed doors and it looked weird... nevertheless, I also remember that after that we patiently retired everything placed on the board and we started again the same quest, but now playing it correctly, following the correct board exploration rules as usually and so on. :-)

HeroQuest became one of my very first contacts with fantasy worlds, but it was not the only one, I also started very soon role-playing (MERP and Star Wars D6, mainly) and Warhammer Fantasy 4th Edition. However, I have no doubt this board game was the one I enjoyed more at that time. I also fortunatelly got KK and ROTWL expansions on 1991's Christmas (I remember them a bit dissapointing for me, and probably for many other kids, due to they included the same miniatures as the basic game) and also the WoM expansion on 1993's Christmas, with all those kind of new addons, which looked incredible at the time. In between I also get the Adventure Design Kit, which I still own, but I don't remember when I exactly got it. The rest of HeroQuest products that I never owned at that time were the Advanced Quest Edition of the game (I already owned one game box, so... it did not make much sense at the time having more than one basic box) and AtOH expansion, which I remember myself looking to the box in a mall, but never opened one.

Well, it was other times.

P.D.: Placing every monster, door and furniture onto the board before starting the game counts as a house rule of my chilhood?? :-)


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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby QorDaq » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 9:27pm

HispaZargon wrote:...Placing every monster, door and furniture onto the board before starting the game counts as a house rule of my chilhood?? :-)


Yes!

...*Chuckle*...
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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby HispaZargon » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 9:58pm

Oh, I also remember another good story of my childhood:

One day, around 1992 or 1993, one of my family members found in the street a HeroQuest box, placed on the top of a public trash container! Someone placed it there, probably after needing more space at home.

It was not a complete box, around 50% complete with many of the miniatures already painted, but of course we took it and I could expand a bit more my HeroQuest stuff.


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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby SirRick » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 11:11pm

When we first played the game, I thought when one hero or monster attacks, both figures trade blows until one of them dies.

You could get away with this for awhile with orcs and goblins, but once you ran into a gargoyle or chaos warrior, you were pretty much dead. I thought the game was impossible and only used the pieces as toys until I was properly taught the game from my friend who had a high school aged brother who was well versed in such games.


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Re: Fun, odd and often silly: the house rules of your childh

Postby Kurgan » Wednesday January 18th, 2023 11:20pm

I am okay if this thread turns into "and this cool story from first playing heroquest..." :D |_P

SirRick wrote:When we first played the game, I thought when one hero or monster attacks, both figures trade blows until one of them dies.

You could get away with this for awhile with orcs and goblins, but once you ran into a gargoyle or chaos warrior, you were pretty much dead. I thought the game was impossible and only used the pieces as toys until I was properly taught the game from my friend who had a high school aged brother who was well versed in such games.


Like the "setup the entire quest all at once" I think this is a mistake that more than one person made back in the day. Talk about a battle!


HispaZargon wrote:It was a Spanish 1990's Edition of the game (of course with their worldwide known trollish errata) and I perfectly remember the first time I played in the role of the Evil Wizard, which I guess it also was my first time playing the game ever, or at least the first one I remember.


A delightful "first" story! Personally I say "the heroic Troll, long may he live" alongside all the other wonderful local unique things (not to be cast to the "island of misfit heroquest toys" but forever live in nostalgic memory) like Sir Manfred, Grimdead, Zargon the guy who looks just like Morcar/faceless Mentor (who sometimes wears blue and looks like a twin of Morcar), now Chaos Warriors and Fimirs, etc. (with the remake "in charge").

HispaZargon wrote:It was not a complete box, around 50% complete with many of the miniatures already painted, but of course we took it and I could expand a bit more my HeroQuest stuff.


One person's trash is another's treasure! Imagine how excited many of us would be today at such a find... :mrgreen:

QorDaq wrote:At one time Talisman introduced an expansion called Timescape. This was an attempt to introduce elements of WH40K to Talisman. Because of my familiarity with GW, the idea of adding some 40K characters and enemies to HQ was just too tempting. They all proved OP as hell, and were all but unplayable. Fun to theory-craft though.


Very cool sharing your thoughts and this one in particular interests me... never heard of that one. HeroScape I have (and chronoscope has a line of Reaper Bones Minis). I'm always dreaming about my space crusade/heroquest crossover. I have tried a few experimental fights between characters trying to keep as much of each ruleset on at the same time (maybe the initiative rules from HeroScape will help that out).


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