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The rules of any given tabletop game do not have to be limited to what is listed in the rulebook. Any rule that players add to or change in a standardized game is a house rule, named after the varying rules used in casinos (where you bet against "the house"). House Rules are, in a way, the Fan Fiction of Tabletop Games.

There's a few reasons why house rules would appear In-Universe. In many cases, this will be used for characterization, where the new rules emphasize certain traits. If Smart People Play Chess, geniuses play Variant Chess. Alternatively, the presence of new rules at all could show the characters in question to be creative, playful, or meticulous, depending why the rules were introduced in the first place. In works where games are important to the setting, house rules are a great way to bring a skilled player out of their element, forcing them to adapt to the new procedures. Other times, they could be used to show worldbuilding, either in showcasing how a game is widespread enough to have notable variance, and in some cases, may even demonstrate the underlying cultural values. On the other end, they can be used for the sake of a gag - moreso if the base game is well-known by the audience.

For the video game equivalents, see Self-Imposed Challenge (undertaken within the mechanics of the game) and Game Mod (altering those mechanics themselves). Can be applied to create unofficial Solo Tabletop Game rules. Also see Calvinball, where the rules are made up along the way.

For the book of the same name, see House Rules.

In-Universe Examples Only. For out-of-universe examples, see Popular Game Variant and No Unified Ruleset. For official examples, see Official Game Variant and Ascended House Rules. If a Tabletop RPG tells Game Masters their rulebook is merely a suggestion, see Rule Zero.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!
    • In the Virtual Nightmare Arc of the original series, Noah implemented the Deckmaster system for duels, mostly due to his desire to prove himself superior to Seto Kaiba; the idea was to improve upon Seto's favorite game. This is the best-known example of House Rules in the franchise (and a favorite among fanfiction writers who use the franchise as a base). Ironically, despite using a Deckmaster that was more powerful than any other, Noah's plan to prove his superiority failed miserably; both Seto and Yugi adapted to the new rule almost perfectly, Noah had to cheat to defeat Seto, and Yugi straight up beat Noah with a Deckmaster that was almost worthless.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions: Aigami uses his mystical Quantum Cube to enforce Dimension Summoning rules for all his duels. Each player can Special Summon as many monsters as they want without Tributing, but they have to use their own spirit energy to fuel the summon and raise the monster's ATK and DEF to their original values. Players do not take regular battle damage from battles involving Dimension Summoned monsters, but instead take battle damage equal to their monster's current ATK or DEF when they are destroyed, depending on their battle position.
    • The special rules for Turbo Duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds (which involve the "Speed World" Field Spell which prevents the use of all Spell Cards except "Speed Spells", where the number of "Speed Counters" you have determines how powerful a Spell Card you can use) can also be considered House Rules.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, there are Action Duels, which combine dueling with performing arts. The rules are complex, and a brief summary of what is known so far is found here.
    • Speed Duels in Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS add the one time use of a Skill along with a severe cutting down of the playfield zones. Unlike previous duel variants in the anime, this one is actually officially supported- not only being the variant used in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links but also having official packs dedicated to it, including official Skill cards.
    • The Rush Duel ruleset of Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS is explicitely Yuga's own house rules for the card game, that he made up because he thought the standard ruleset was getting stale and boring; his plan to spread the new system around town makes up much of the plot of the series. The rules are designed to enable comebacks much wilder than normal: players draw until they have five cards in hand each turn instead of just one; there are only three Monster Zones, but no restrictions on how many monsters one can summon in one turn; and all effects are inherently only usable once per turn. Rush Duels also got real life support, to the point of being a full-blown alternate format as the cards are different from standard Duel Monsters cards.

    Comic Books 
  • In one issue of Runaways Molly argues with Victor and Gert over these while the three are playing a game of Monopoly. She's used to using the "Free Parking Jackpot" rules when playing with her family, while they're going with the baseline rules.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Running Gag in Sally Forth (Howard) is Ted coming up with increasingly absurd house rules for Monopoly, until it isn't really Monopoly any more. He has tried to introduce zombies, time travel, and giant robots, amongst other things.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Kea's Flight: As an adolescent, Kea becomes obsessed with chess. She invents dozens of sets of rules for between one and eight players. Nobody wants to play House Rules Chess with her, so she spends hours playing by herself.
  • Stim: When Chloe and Robert play Monopoly, they add extra features to make the game more realistic, like "printing" new money to simulate inflation.

    Radio 
  • The faux-game Mornington Crescent consists almost entirely of the players "arguing" about which house rules are in effect for the particular game. Minutiae such as what day of the week it is, whether the House of Lords is in session at the time of play, and how many buttons are on the shirt being worn by the player to your right can all potentially be of significance. Rumors that the actual gameplay just involves shouting the names of Tube stations until time runs out or someone says "Mornington Crescent" are to be dismissed without comment.
  • The radio panel show The Unbelievable Truth, where four panellists each give a short lecture on a subject that is entirely false save for five true facts which the other panellists have to try and spot, has established two "unofficial" rules over its lifetime. The first is that a panellist can guess that the next thing the current speaker is going to say is true before it's actually said (although the rule that you lose points for an incorrect challenge still applies, so it's a risk), and the second is that panellists can get bonus points from truths the speaker accidentally included apart from the five they were given (which tend to be examples of Exact Words or Loophole Abuse more than anything).

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Spanish comedian/magician Luis Piedrahita discussed the House Rules in a monologue, claiming that the phrase "That's how we play at my house" is a perfect summary of the rules of every board game ever.
  • In a Victoria Wood routine about spending Christmas with a friend's family, one of the things she mentions is a Monopoly game. If you play Monopoly for the first time with people who've been playing it together for years, then everything you do will be wrong.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Blackjack: The House always wins. If both the dealer and the player go bust, the dealer takes the player's wager even if the dealer went bust by a greater margin.

    Visual Novels 
  • Discussed in-universe in Melody, when a bunch of people at the college party play Suck n Blow. The protagonist mentions that while he played the same game when he was in college, the rules are slightly different from the ones he played with.

    Web Comics 
  • Here in +EV. Be careful to play against Konsta with his own deck.
  • Ozy and Millie has House Rules Parcheesi, which appears to have more in common with Calvinball than any board game. We never hear anything about the rules or gameplay, seeing only snapshots and aftermath.
  • In Charby the Vampirate when Kavonn is DM he applies the rules of their 'verse's actual magic to games. This tends to kill off the player characters more quickly.
  • Dork Tower:
    • One strip had Kayleigh seeing Carson and Igor playing a board game about Mississippi riverboats, and congratulating them on playing something non-violent for a change. After she'd gone, Carson commented it was a good thing she didn't know about the house rules, which included cannons.
    • Another sees Igor describe the rules for what appears to be a typical violent RPG, until Matt frustratedly reveals in the last panel that they're playing Candy Land.

    Web Original 
  • Mocked in the article We Tried Baseball and It Didn't Work, where some people decide to try baseball and don't like the official rules, so they make a bunch of inane "improvements" like replacing baseballs with woolen socks. When they have a bad time playing it, they blame it on baseball being a bad game.

 
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Wartime Monopoly

A World War II-era Monopoly set came with something unexpected when unearthed: a custom game board drawn by the original owner introducing new mechanics.

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