I must create a system, or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.

- William Blake

Friday, March 25, 2016

One Page Rules (or: Taking a page from other peoples’ books)

The problem

I like finished books, but I also like "hacks" and house rules, most of them found online, in blogs and such.

I love retroclones, neoclones, etc, but they are  more than I can count and most of them seem to be 90% repetition of each other, sometimes on purpose.

Many of them are cool, but none is cooler than being able to freely combine OSR Links to Wisdom, for example.

I should probably write my own clone (take a look at what I got so far), but it will take a while (I’m writing something else at the moment - check my DotD posts, more to come), and time seems scarce this days.

Also, it might be 90% repetition anyway.

One possible solution

One Page Rules.

I'm not sure where I got the idea from; probably Roles, Rules, and Rolls. Or the One Page Dungeon contest. Maybe Links to Wisdom, Searchers of the Unknown, Doomslakers!, etc.

Of course I can't the first one to have thought of that; if you already know of a compilation of pages such as this, let me know.

In any case: if you have a cool idea for a mechanic, class, task resolution system, etc, try to reduce it to one page. This page must contain one single subject or subsystem, not a whole game or a compilation of different house rules.

Want some examples?

Roger G-S has just posted his New Edition of 52 Pages here. In most cases, you can use each page separately. One of my favorites is this page, for example.

Check this fantastic page from James V. West. Here is another example. You can find more in his blog.

(Both blogs are awesome BTW).

Moldvay's Basic D&D has some good examples: one page for character abilities, one page for their bonuses and penalties, one page for alignment, one page for weapon and equipment cost, one page for encumbrance and equipment weight, etc.

My first effort was OPH - Hazards, based on this post. It includes rules for food, water, suffocation, poison, intoxication and other dangers.

What's the point?

The one page limit does wonders for brevity. It works well for the One Page Dungeons, right? IF you ever wanted to write your own game, finishing a single page is a good experience. And any class or sub-system that takes more than that is using up time I probably don't have anyway.

The idea is that, after we have a complete set of house rules, you can physically build you book with your favorite rules. Or just instantly merge every page in a pdf.

One page for describing how to create a character. One page explaining character abilities. One page for equipment, one page for movement and encumbrance, one page for saving throws, etc. One page for alternate rules on 0 HP, or stunts, or proficiencies, or feats, etc. A die drop table for hit locations, starting equipment or something else. Maybe one page for all spells, or one per spell level, etc.

Well, you could just do all the work with microsoft word (or something), editing each word to fit your tastes (start here if that is what you want); but the idea of having a chaotic Frankenstein of a book where each page is designed by a different OSR author just sounds too cool to pass.


Choose a single subject per page. Not a whole system, but one mechanic: abilities, saving throws, alignment, a new class, etc.

Make it compatible to classic D&D (or 5e, or both; just make it clear). You can take the usual shortcuts: "XP progression: as cleric", "armor: as chain", etc. If you want to add something weird, make a reference to something familiar (for example, if you mention a "luck check" in you class, say "luck check or Save vs. Spells", for example).

As far as the formatting goes, use whatever you like. Make sure it is readable on a printed page. I would use portrait over landscape, but there are already cool examples using the latter.

You can use something similar to B/X for familiarity, or you can use templates and guidelines found here.

If you need art, check my public domain folder on Pinterest, use an art pack from Kevin Crawford, or check Roles, Rules, and Rolls.

If you like the idea and are willing to participate, comment on this page with a link to you blog post or .pdf page with your one-page rule; and link back to this post or share the idea somehow.

Make it free and easily accessible, of course. Needless to say, nobody would own your stuff but you. This is just a compilation of links, at first.

If you want, you can put it under the "Creative Common Attribution-Share Alike 3.0", like they do on The One Page Dungeon Contest, so anyone can use, share and remix freely.

Some things can take a couple of pages, or even a bit more, as long as you keep it modular and limit yourself to a single subject. For example, you can use two or three pages to describe all equipment, including costs, starting equipment, encumbrance rules, etc.

Many heads are better than one. Right? Source.
What else?

Let me hear your ideas. What is a good name for the project? Should we have multiple covers? Are multiple pages or more on the same subject allowed? Should we use docs instead of PDFs? Scissors and glue?

(BTW: and what about one page monsters? Remember using a three-ring binder to collect your monsters? Why not do the same today, without the hassle of missing pages or having a monster in each page screwing with alphabetical order? Sure, old school monsters might need no more than a line, but with a full page you can have art, plot hooks and subspecies).

I might edit this post to try and keep things organized.... somehow. I'm not sure that there will be any interest at all - if I don't get any responses, I might just organize a list of links on this page.

And let us see what comes out of this.

UPDATE: I'm encouraging anyone who has a one-page house-rule to add it in the comments, and I've been writing my own, albeit very slowly. Here is what I got so far (if you want the PDFs for this "one page hacks", look for "OPH" in the links below):

B8 (character classes & skills):  PDF - post.

B12 (equipment & money):  PDF - post.

B20 (encumbrance and Movement):  PDF - post.
Updated version (harsher encumbrance, better organized): PDF.

Hazards: PDF - post.

UPDATE 10/12/19: ultimately, my "one page rules" effort led me to publishing Dark Fantasy Basic my own homage to B/X. Check it out!


  1. Yes, of course. An idea that is so simple and fundamental one feels a bit stupid for not thinking of it.

    As to multiple-page rules, it's up to you, you're setting the parameters here, but as a user, I guess the key is modularity rather than necessarily brevity. If the sub-system is good but it can't be put into 1 page, then that doesn't seem to be a good reason to reject it.

    As for a name, maybe something like the Chimerical Codex (or some similar term expressing both a collection of knowledge and something made of bits) would be suitable. I like the idea of a book that is slightly different in every copy.

    I don't have any one-page rules I can link to on my blog yet, but I'll put down markers for some monsters and a rule that in my gaming group has acquired the name 'Elelmentary Staunching' - it's a 'how to survive at 0-hp' rule that has saved (at least temporarily) probably 12 PCs in the last 18 months, some multiple times. Unfortunately, I can't remember where the original inspiration for the rule came from after my hard-drive died with all my links on it a couple of years ago. I'll write it up on my blog http://fantasyadventuringblog.blogspot.co.uk/ and then post back here.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      You're right about the one-page limit; the "one subject" limit is more important. I see no problem in using 2 or 3 pages for equipment, for example, including weight, cost, and encumbrance rules. I'll add a paragraph about this.

      In any case, all these guidelines are meant to be flexible. I am just throwing the idea out there, to see how different people will make different pages.

      "How to survive at 0-hp" sounds like a good subject for a page!

    2. "Chimerical Codex" sounds very cool, BTW.

  2. I said just yesterday that the community needs more projects. This one is ambitious, but that shouldn't hinder people from trying. So I'm in :) I got some house rules on my blog that would fit in nicely, all based on the D&D RC. Here is one I'm fond of:


    I'll rewrite it a bit and make a page out of it if we actually get to give this a shot. Might have more of the same.

    And I like "Chimerical Codex" but would put a "The" in front of it to make the acronym work (TCC instead of CC).

    I'm curious to see how this develops. I think it'll need a time window (til end of the year?) and some structure (chapters or folders, when is it considered "complete"). But the good thing is that even if this doesn't get completed, it might still end up being a nice collection of house rules from all over the community :)

    1. Thanks, Jens! Great to have you on board!
      I have some structure in mind, but I want to make this an open call at first. I'm open to suggestions, I really want to make this a community effort.

  3. Well, I feel like I've done a lot of work for this already ;) but your project can certainly use one of my pages. Perhaps the most stand-alone of my 52PP is the chase rule (http://rolesrules.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/one-page-chases-final.html) but a single page I never included in the 52 is the level titles secret society: http://rolesrules.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/order-of-st-hermas.html ...

    1. You certainly did, and thanks for the inspiration! :)
      This pages are awesome. I am not planning of making a compilation right now; I'm just organizing a list of links, and these are very useful!

  4. I've got lots! Feel free to use, though I'd appreciate a mention:

    The Table of Death & Dismemberment

    Shields Shall be Splintered

    Class: Gnome - This one goes a touch over a page, but not if you cut out the commentary bits.

    Class: Half-ogre - Again, more than a page for the whole blog-post, but the class is only about half the article's length and easily fits on one page. Their interaction with weapons might require some fiddling, as I based it on the idea that one-handed weapons do 1d6 damage and two-handed weapons all do 2d4 damage.

    Class: Nixie

    Class: Pixie - Does reference some original twists to initiative.

    Class: Rogue - Again, lots of commentary that's easily excised, making the actual rules themselves easily fit on a single page.

    Class: Witch - Once again, lots of commentary-bloat on this one. Feel free to ignore the first six paragraphs; the rest should fit on a single page, though maybe not with the spell list? I can make it work, but it's not pretty. :p

    1. Thanks! It's really nice you of you to offer that, Shields Shall be Splintered is one of my favorite hacks, ever!
      I don't intend to create a book myself for now, I am only inviting people to contribute with their own page to the project.
      OTOH you surely have lots of cool material to use, and I can certainly create a page or two based on it (of course I'll mention you if I do).

  5. Hi Eric! Congratulations for the project!

    Here's my humble contribution, THE DOOM CLOCK - http://lonelygm.blogspot.com.br/2016/06/the-doom-clock-one-page-rule.html

  6. Hey, Eric.

    I recently started a blog for my own devising, namely hacking 5e for a home campaign with OSR flavour.

    I found your thoughts on this matter to be invaluable, you're now on my reading list and already helped myself to your starvation/dehydration rules nearly wholecloth.

    As silver-lining, provided that the concept of diminishing returns appeals to you: you're welcome to yank back anything you wish.

    1. Thanks man! Your blog looks awesome; I'll take a deeper look as soon as I can!

  7. This is awesome! Is a really clever idea. I also like the idea of single-page mechanics of descriptions because speeds the preparations of a game. You can easily print the pages needed to start, or give each player the rules for play his character without the need of consulting the rulebook.

    Sorry if understandable, my english ib really bad. Greetings from Argentina.

    1. Thanks man, I appreciate it! I'm glad you enjoy it! Muchas gracias!

  8. I really like this idea. I had a similar idea recently regarding bestiaries. If beasts were written up so that no beasts shared a page with another it would be easy to assembly a unique bestiary for a campaign in the way 2E had intended with those loose leaf binders. This is even better.