First off, let me wish everyone a happy thanksgiving! I just returned a couple of hours ago from a wonderful thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house and am happily satiated.
After a bit of TV, I checked my email and read a message from someone pointing out two posts in which I contradicted myself. My response was that if he only found one instance of contradictions, he must not have read many of my posts. :)
Seriously though, changes happen. When it comes to your attention that there is a better way of doing something, should you stick with the old method in order to remain consistent, or should you adopt the better way? I’m sure that many would leave well enough alone and this approach has merit (especially for newer DMs), but I rather enjoy testing new methods (so long as they appear to be an improvement) and trust in my experience as a DM to allow me to deal with unexpected repercussions as we go along.
At the end of a previous article, I said:
I think it is important for each DM to go through the spells and make whatever changes she feels necessary in order for the spells to reflect what kind of game she wants to run. D&D, from the very beginning, has revolved around customization of the rules to fit each individual game. The growing mindset among new DMs (and players) is that the rules are sacrosanct and must not be questioned.
Consider that the 1st edition rules were gathered together from various notes and scribblings and assembled by one man (in his spare time) in less than a year. That hastily assembled work is largely unchanged today (compare a few of the Pathfinder spell descriptions, or even 4e rituals, to the 1st edition text).
Gary did a wonderful job, but I don’t think he’d mind (in fact I think he’d be pleased to see us keep up the tradition) if we changed a few things to suit our needs.
This should be expanded to encompass all rules, not just those relating to spells. And then it should be further expanded to encompass my own house rules. When I adopt a new house rule, I spend considerable time anticipating the ramifications of that rule. At a later time, I may discover an unforeseen effect and need to make further adjustments.
There is no way around this. Rules must be modified from time to time. I don’t see this as a problem. In fact, I see each case as an improvement, and don’t worry about the fact that one stance may contradict a previous one.
However, the implementation of any change must be handled in a way that does not annoy your players. Players rely on having static rules in which to work in order to know what they can do and how they can do it. Therefore, when I do make a change, I try to do so in a way that lessens the impact on any existing plans and attempt to compensate the characters for any changes that are not in their favor.
It may be noteworthy as well that the vast majority of the changes I have made have been either to benefit the characters or to increase the enjoyment of the players.