Since its inception, Dungeons & Dragons has been built on house rules. The game explicitly tells groups to remove, modify, or add rules to their heart’s content. No two tables play D&D in the exact same way. However, some tables go further in having explicit additional rules that they use in their campaigns.
Implementing house rules into a D&D campaign can add a great deal of variety. It can also fix many issues that any given group may have with the game. Some might only work for a given group. However, many are worth considering for almost any group to enhance or change the game.
Updated on January 13th, 2023 by Isaac Williams: The rules as written suit some groups just fine. Others might want to change up the D&D formula. This list has been updated with even more popular house rules that can change a campaign for the better. Some are minor tweaks, while others can change how the entire game plays.
15/15 Minions Can Make The Players Feel Powerful
There are many different aspects to Dungeons & Dragons that make gameplay fun. However, combat is one of the more important and well-developed pillars of the game. Having an epic boss battle at the end of a long dungeon can be one of the most exciting parts of any campaign. Giving players opportunities to feel powerful in combat can help their fun greatly.
One good way of doing this is to bring a rule from Fourth Edition into D&D Fifth Edition. Minions act exactly like the normal version of a creature. However, they only have a single hit point. This lets players scythe through them easily. Using minions can allow for more sprawling and epic action scenes and add a more cinematic feel to the game.
14/15 Inspiration Allows For Rerolls Rather Than Conferring Advantage
Inspiration is a commonly misunderstood rule in D&D 5e. Many groups think that it allows players to reroll on any attack, saving throw, or ability check. According to the rules in the book, this is not actually the case. Instead, inspiration offers the character advantage when they make the roll, meaning it must be used before the roll is made.
However, letting Inspiration give a reroll doesn’t have to be a mistake. A group should feel free to make it the official way that they use Inspiration at their table. This can prevent it from being wasted if a player ends up rolling well with both dice. In addition, it makes players less likely to forget they have it if it’s their panic button.
13/15 Popcorn Initiative Can Avoid Swingy Fights
Randomness is a key part of D&D combat. However, it’s not fun for either side if combat turns out unbalanced because of simple dice rolls. This can especially happen in Initiative. If one side gets one turn after another, it can leave the other side with few ways to defend themselves.
Popcorn initiative tries to solve this problem. It foregoes rolling for Initiative altogether. Instead, one player takes their turn, and then an NPC, and then another player, and so on. Players choose when they go. This can also speed up combat and let players strategize more effectively.
12/15 The D&D Group Can Give Inspiration
Typically in D&D 5e, the Dungeon Master can award inspiration to a character for any number of things. It’s commonly a reward for excellent roleplaying, heroic moments, or clever ideas. However, a table can add extra ways for a player to get inspiration
One house rule that can help bring the table together is to allow the group to award one token of inspiration at the end of every session. Let the players choose their own criteria for whom they think deserves it, and take a vote at the end. This is a good way to help players feel valued, as long as the group can be trusted not to argue.
11/15 First-Level Feats Can Open Up Unusual Options
Feats are rare and powerful in D&D 5e. A player can only take them when they get an Ability Score Improvement, and they have to sacrifice that improvement to do so. As such, only the most powerful of feats tend to get taken. There are a range of weaker and more flavorful feats that players don’t take due to limited availability.
This can be mitigated if player characters get a feat at first level. This house rule is actually something that One D&D has made part of its new background rules. Some DMs prefer to limit this rule. Some feats might be off the table, or players might be restricted to the weaker “half-feats.”
10/15 D&D Players Can Lower Their Initiative
Combat in Dungeons & Dragons usually begins in earnest when initiative is rolled. Many players may be thinking up interesting tactics long before the fight starts, however. Often, some of the best plans in D&D involve one character combining their abilities in some way with another character’s. However, this can require specific Initiative rolls to let them go in the correct order
Sometimes initiative rolls are not conducive to the player’s plans. Adding in a house rule that allows players to lower their place in the initiative order can make up for this. Commonly, DMs will make a player do this on the first turn, and also make that Initiative count for the rest of the battle.
9/15 Letting Players Know A Guy Gives Them Agency And Opens Up Plot Twists
NPCs are almost as vital to any D&D campaign as the PCs. They serve as antagonists, allies, quest-givers, and the very life and soul of the world. Often, the DM decides who the NPCs are. If the PCs get any input, it’s as part of their backstory. One house rule changes this, however.
A PC can announce that they know somebody who can help with their current situation. This helps PCs feel like real people with history, rather than fictional characters. In addition, it gives them some narrative control. Furthermore, a DM can have some fun with it. If used sparingly, it can be a great plot twist if this NPC is in trouble, untrustworthy, or malicious.
8/15 Critical Misses Add Humor To The Game
Critical hits and fumbles are often added into D&D by mistake. Under the base rules, a Natural 1 is only an automatic failure on attack rolls and death saving throws. In addition, a Natural 1 doesn’t add any spectacular effects to an attack. Characters just miss. They don’t drop their weapon or hit an ally.
It can add levity to a game to include more spectacular failures on a Natural 1. However, DMs should be careful with this. It punishes some characters disproportionately compared to others. Fighters and characters who make more attacks are much more likely to roll at least Natural 1 in combat. As such, DMs may wish to be cautious with this rule.
7/15 Gestalt Characters Raise The Power Level
Gestalt characters are an old D&D house rule that completely changes the game. However, they’re also very simple. A character gets to choose between two classes, not one. They get all the benefits of both classes. In cases of features overlapping, such as hit dice or Extra Attack, players simply take the best or earliest version of it.
A campaign with gestalt characters is very different from one with regular characters. Every single adventurer is far more powerful and versatile than a base D&D character. They can fight like frontline warriors while having full spellcasting might, or use several different spell lists at once. It makes for a unique, high-power experience.
6/15 Hiding Death Saves Makes Situations Far Tenser
Not every D&D campaign features deadly encounters. Those that do, however, can create a lot of memorable moments with their tension and threat. A character’s life can hang in the balance if they’re unconscious. A single dice roll can mean the difference between life and death
Secret death saving throw rolls can make things even tenser. The rest of the party can have no idea how close a character is to life or death. A DM can have the player roll their own death saving throws and not tell the party the results until they’re stabilized or dead. For even more tension, a DM can roll the saving throws themselves and not even let the player know.
5/15 Making Drinking Potions Take A Bonus Action Makes Them More Useful
Potions are very useful in D&D 5e. However, they suffer from one drawback: they cost an action to drink. Even the Thief rogue can’t manage to drink them quickly. This limits their use in combat. An action is the biggest part of a player’s turn. They struggle to drink a potion and do anything else in that round of combat.
This is a big deal in a system where combat usually lasts three or four turns at its longest. Some tables like to make potions more useful by letting characters drink them as a bonus action. This does make characters stronger. However, many PCs enjoy the wider array of options this opens up.
4/15 Automatic Successes Reward D&D Players For Their Creativity
It can be devastating to come up with a genius plan in D&D, only to see it fail. It can be even more painful if it only fails due to a single bad roll. Failure is an important part of Dungeons & Dragons. The dice exist to add randomness and tension. It’s important for players to get better as they go along, rather than succeeding from the off.
Nonetheless, some plans might be so good that they deserve to succeed. DMs can reward players for clever planning if they give an occasional automatic success in their games. Even the most generous of DMs have to be sparing with this to avoid undermining the game’s randomness. Nonetheless, players may appreciate it once in a while.
3/15 Making Rests Rarer Encourages Players To Improvise
The rules in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition describe a short rest as a period of time at least one hour long during which the character avoids any strenuous activity. A long rest is defined as a period of extended downtime of at least eight hours during which the character sleeps or performs some light activity.
Depending on the structure of the game, players might regain all of their resources between encounters. This can be especially true in travel-heavy or intrigue-focused games. Making rests harder to take and longer-lasting can ensure PCs still have to monitor their resources. This is one of many optional rules suggested in the Dungeon Master’s Guide as “gritty realism.”
2/15 Give Mid-Level Bosses “Legendary” Actions If They Don’t Have Minions
Most dungeons end in some climactic encounter. Sometimes, a DM will want this creature to fight the players by itself. There might not be any suitable minions, or a lone enemy might create the sort of scene a DM wants. However, one creature by itself is at a severe disadvantage against a group of PCs. This is true even at lower levels.
Many high-level enemies already have a mechanic to mitigate this called Legendary Actions. These let them perform a certain number of actions after other creatures’ turns. This can easily be transferred over to a lower-level D&D monster to keep an encounter balanced when the numbers are against them.
1/15 Players Can’t Roll Lower Than Average Health
Leveling up can be one of the most satisfying moments for players in Dungeons & Dragons. They become more powerful and gain new abilities to use in later encounters. However, one aspect in particular can invite disappointment. If players roll for hit points, it can be annoying to roll low on hit points – particularly several levels in a roll
One simple way to mitigate this is to implement a rule that players cannot roll lower than the average hit dice roll when leveling up. This will result in slightly higher than average health for the characters. However, a DM is more than capable of tweaking encounters to account for this.
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