5E "House" Rules
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    "House" Rules

    Hey guys, what's up, these are my house rules. I put "House" in quotes because actually getting to DM at my house as opposed to a noisy FLGS seems to be a ing impossibility. This isn't all of them--there are rules I wrote for metamagic for Wizards that I don't feel comfortable posting because I'm not 100% sure they make sense, and there are also some individual, primarily high-level spells that I increased the power of (9th Level True Polymorph for instance was really not worthy of the name, falling way, way, way short of the 6th (IIRC) Level 3.X Spell Polymorph Any Object) that I'm not bothering to list here.

    A few of these aren't "house rules I came up with" and are just "options in the DMG I'm electing to use" but they form a cohesive whole.


    • All save DCs are 2 points higher across the board. In other words, I changed the constant used to determine Save DCs from 8 to 10. I had a few reasons for this one. One, for the same reason that it's annoying to whiff constantly (a problem 5E did a great job of not having), it is annoying as a player when something saves against one of your spells, and it's also annoying as a DM (in this edition! back when Save or Die was a stridently a thing, it could be terrifying when your PCs DIDN'T make a save) when your party is largely unfazed by a powerful enemy/trap/what-have-you because most or all of them made their saves. With the range of Save DCs where they are, there's usually a 25-50% chance that the naked die roll will beat the save DC, which makes actual saving throw bonuses feel somewhat irrelevant. Another reason is that while "8" as a constant I'm sure wasn't chosen arbitrarily, it FEELS arbitrary as opposed to 10. And finally, 10 is the constant used to perform similar calculations, such as Passive Perception, so using 10 as the constant for save DCs feels more internally consistent. TBC this rule works exactly the same players and monsters exactly the same, so it doesn't make the game easier or harder, it just decreases everyone's chance of making a saving throw by about 10%.
    • Critical Failure. It's a pet peeve of mine how few players and DMs will even ACKNOWLEDGE that treating a Natural 1 any different than a regular failure is a HOUSE RULE they are imposing on the game. It's not in any of the rulebooks anywhere. Correct me if I'm wrong. It may be in the DMG somewhere as an optional rule. I'm 99% sure it's not mentioned ANYWHERE in the Player's Handbook. The DMs that favor crit fails also seem to be the ones who aren't able to grok that the fumble rule makes it WORSE to have MORE ATTACKS because the higher level combatant you are and the more attacks you get, the more 5% chances you have to stab yourself in the foot, or worse. ANYWAY, at my table, a natural 1 for a PC is just a regular failure, whereas a natural 1 for an NPC/monster is a potential disaster/friendly fire accident/fall throat first on your sword/etcetera. When I tell people that they tend to get the impression that I'm a soft touch, but the truth is I'm a fairly ruthless killer DM, I don't pull punches, I don't fudge often, and most importantly, my dice luck is horrifyingly good when DMing (and still abnormally good when PCing). Some people actually like to have a 5% chance of embarrassing and/or harming themselves whenever they attempt an action (it's not even like in 3.5 where you had the roll to confirm a critical failure). Considering that this leads to yakkety sax at best and nonsensical PC death at worst, I cannot understand why the people who like (PC) critical fails like them.
    • Spell Resistance/Magic Resistance. The magic resistance trait gives monsters advantage on saving throws versus spells, but does not in any way protect them from spells that make attack rolls rather than allowing for a save. So I have simply tacked on to that trait "Furthermore, this creature receives +2 to its AC versus spell attacks." A PC with Spell Resistance would receive the same benefit obviously.
    • That Doesn't HAVE A Weakpoint. Rogues in 3.5 were disastrous: nearly half of monster types were immune to sneak attack, which made Rogues virtually worthless in half of combats, or more if you happened to be playing, say, an undead themed campaign. Additionally, fighters types already small in the pants compared to casting classes, were also even less useful in fights against things they couldn't critical. Especially if their character was spec'd around critical hits. So for the most part, 5E's "everything can be critically hit, sneak attack applies to everything" rule suits me just fine. I want to make an exemption for oozes and elementals, however. I can rationalize a rogue's sneak attack finding a weak point or a character scoring a critical on pretty much every other monster type, even constructs, plants, and machines, but it's too much for me to imagine a gelatinous cube taking more damage for getting stabbed in the back, likewise a fire elemental doesn't have any internal organs or other weak points: it is made entirely of FIRE!
    • Identify Isn't Pointless. Definitely using the option on page 136 of the DMG called More Difficult Identification, electing the "requires the identify spell" option. Because honestly, if any schmuck can ID a magic item just by spending an hour with it, identify shouldn't be in the game. Since it is in the game, let's have it matter rather than being completely superfluos.



    So anyway, those are the house rules I am currently using in 5E. What do you think, sirs?
    Last edited by ParanoydStyle; Tuesday, 26th March, 2019 at 12:16 AM.
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  2. #2
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    Every game I've been in that had critical failure house rules was absolutely boring in all respects, sluggish start to finish, with a lot of "nothing happens" after failed rolls. Social interactions were ponderous and combats were dull. I'm convinced those DMs added the critical failure house rules because it was the only time something potentially funny happened all session. It seems to me if the DM and players work to make the rest of the game engaging, the urge to use critical failure house rules is greatly diminished, especially if they know how it penalizes some characters more than others.

    As for identify, it works fine if time matters in your game. If you're in a dungeon, for example, and the DM is rolling for a wandering monster every 10 minutes, suddenly a ritual to cast identify is a lot better than doing it during a short rest. In my last session, the characters were under time pressure (as usual) and the wizard in the group actually burned a spell slot to cast identify in 1 minute because they knew they couldn't afford to cast it as a ritual and risk any consequences.

    One final thought: If you didn't know a single thing about D&D 3.Xe, do you think you'd be proposing some of these house rules? If not, then that might be worth examining further.

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    The only problem I see is with the first point, because Bounded Accuracy already means that certain saving throws are flat-out impossible for anyone with a slightly-below-average stat. Every single save DC in the game is backed up by proficiency, but corresponding save bonuses include proficiency in less than half of cases. If you increase saving throw DCs by +2, then it would be even easier to force impossible saves.

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    There are some optional rules in the DMG I like to use in some campaigns. Facing when I want to emphasize tactical positioning, Speed Factor Initiative when I want to keep the pace of combat fast (I know thats the opposite of common wisdom regarding Speed Factor Initiative, but for me it is absolutely faster). I use skills with other abilities quite often, and I make more use of Passive checks than I think most DMs do. In my current campaign Im using Bulk from Starfinder instead of standard carry weight. And I slightly altered currency by multiplying the value of every coin above copper by 10 (so effectively any prices listed in gp are now in sp, any prices listed in sp are multiplied by 10 and converted to cp, and any prices listed in cp remain the same.)

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    100% agree on Critical Failures/Fumbles. They are absolutely awful. I hate to admit it but I think less of a DM that uses them. It indicates a lack of understanding of some of the core math of the system.

    I wouldn't tinker with the DCs though. That feels like playing with fire. 5E got a lot of things right, and bounded accuracy is one of the biggies.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ParanoydStyle View Post
    [*]Identify Isn't Pointless. Definitely using the option on page 136 of the DMG called More Difficult Identification, electing the "requires the identify spell" option. Because honestly, if any schmuck can ID a magic item just by spending an hour with it, identify shouldn't be in the game. Since it is in the game, let's have it matter rather than being completely superfluos.[/LIST]
    I do agree that Identify isn't as important in 5E but I like that identifying items is easier. It became so tedious in previous editions and felt like a grind. It's not fun for players and as a DM, I started to get annoyed. It didn't feel like it added anything to the game and now the players were forced to wait to use something cool I gave them.

    I expand the usage of Identify somewhat, and often on a case-by-case basis. Specific items may require an Identify of spell or more involved methods. I might also allow Identify to detect a cursed item, or least that something is amiss.

    I make cards for the magic items the players found. I've found that I get way more enjoyment at the players' excitement when I hand out a card for a magic item than the suspense waiting for them to identify an item.
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    Quote Originally Posted by GlassJaw View Post
    I do agree that Identify isn't as important in 5E but I like that identifying items is easier. It became so tedious in previous editions and felt like a grind. It's not fun for players and as a DM, I started to get annoyed. It didn't feel like it added anything to the game and now the players were forced to wait to use something cool I gave them.

    I expand the usage of Identify somewhat, and often on a case-by-case basis. Specific items may require an Identify of spell or more involved methods. I might also allow Identify to detect a cursed item, or least that something is amiss.
    Agreed. I mean, it's important to examine the actual play experience that arises given more strict rules for identifying magic items: The loot goes in a bag with the PCs' spare socks and underwear and sits there until the "clean-up phase" of the session when loot and XP are divvied up. It tends to become a dull transaction that simply delays the use of the cool stuff the PCs earned, as you say.

    I think it's a good idea to maybe throw in the one-off item that can't be figured out short of an identify spell. Then perhaps you make a whole scene out of it with a quirky NPC sage or loremaster. But most of the time, identify offers an option to learn about a magic item without taking a short rest. If time is important in the adventure - there's a countdown to the Bad Thing happening or there are wandering monster checks - then identify will come up more often than you'd expect in my experience.

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    I'm kinda indifferent to the save issue. For me, it's about the math. Working from 10 is IMO, simpler than working from 8. Everyone knows what 10+X is, it's X with a 1 in front of it. But I just find working from 8 requires more thought, even for only a second, and that adds up over a 4+hour session.

    I'm not a fan of fumble rules. They're usually over-punishing on melee types while they leave casters completely alone. Rules that punish melee while ignoring casters really need to go the way of the dodo.

    I run spell resistance as dealing half damage. Just like all the other resistances or vulnerabilities. It's odd to me to use the word "resistance" to develop two different things. Attack rolls are the same, save rolls are the same. Effects are halved.

    To echo @GlassJaw my issue with Identify in older editions was that it was tedious. If you had time, a character could basically say "I cast Identify until I identify it!" but they still had to go through the motions, which I mostly ignored. It was also one of those "class taxes" or if we had an arcane caster, a spell tax. I'd rather not tell my players "Hey, you need to have XYZ spell because I'm going to have you sitting around for hours casting it on end to figure out what every magic item does." I like that characters have at least chance to identify an item without Identify, but I do agree it sometimes feels too easy.

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    Say what you want about critical fumbles, but both groups I play in use them and we all love them. One of the groups I DM in. When a player rolls a 1 on an attacks roll, I usually impose a minor nuisance such as the rangers bow string breaking and now he has to spend an action to fix it. In my experience its a nice tool I can use to ratchet up the tension a little more. A good standby is the big hulking Barbarian swinging the oversized axe whiffs hard and ends up on their ass. Its a good way to introduce a little more chaos. As my old pal Murphy is oft to say: What can go wrong, will go wrong.

    The other group Im a humble player. The DM has come up with some really cool critical fumble and critical success tables. Again it makes rolling a 1 or a 20 a big deal and the entire table loves it. Hell Ive even made a drinking game out of crits involving shots of Fireball. To this day me and my players talk about that night and how gnarly it was.

    So think twice about poo pooing on crits. Might I suggest that your experience with critical rolls sucked and the DM (or you if you were the DM) sucked at using them appropriately?

    Now, on to a house rule of mine. Its not an original idea, but an adaptation; I have made a lingering injuries table that involves a hit locator die depending on the injury. My favourite injury is a deadly bleed. As in real life, these are scary and need to be fixed immediately. So the rule is that if you have a deadly bleed you automatically fail death saving throws until someone uses a healers kit or heals you magically. If I roll chest on the hit locator die, you now have a sucking chest wound, which takes an extra use of your healers kit to fix. If I roll stomach, youve been disembowelled, and it takes an extra turn to stablize the downed player (as they have to make sure their buddies guys are put back into the stomach cavity).

    Theres also a broken bone table, festering wound and traumatic experience where the character has to slay 5 dudes to heal it, or every time they take damage they have to roll a DC 15 wisdom save or be frightened by the source of damage.

    In conclusion: Dont hate the critical rolls and humble your players by having their guts spill out of them every once in a while.
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    * I have an injury save on reaching zero HP or any hits that cause an automatic death save and use an Injury Table similar to the one in DMG or XGtE (cant remember which has it) but it has more based on the damage type.
    * You do not fall unconscious at 0 HP but are instead stunned. First failed death save you fall unconscious. If for any reason you remove the stun you're at 1hp. Allows players to still follow the action in combat and briefly talk (like hey heal me er) without metagaming it. also you can do some cool rp. I did have it be a Con save on a failed death save to fall, but it got to be too much.
    * Critical Success on Initiative (advantage on your next action) Critical Failure on Initiative (half movement for the first turn)
    * Dicepool for general inspiration (anyone can use) if used, I make a tower of dice. I add dice if players are taking a long time in game time or taking a short rest, etc. If for any reason the tower falls there is a chance for a random encounter (or escalation of an encounter) based on the number of 1s rolled on the dice.
    * Primitive weapons. Break on a 1 or 20 on the attack roll. If a 20 they do an extra die of damage. regular or magic weapons do not break.
    * No ASI only Feats. Only doing it in one game. It was a game were we rolled random stats and classes. It is working for that game. We added 1 HB feat that is basically an ASI.
    * Holding Breath - uses regular rules when you're just holding your breath. You can hold your breath half the time if you're doing anything else but hold your breath (movement,fighting, etc)
    * Falling damage is less random and slightly more deadly on avg. I use a modifier on the damage instead of more dice per 10 feet.
    * Need Food/water or healing kits to use HD on short rests.
    * Do not gain HD back on long rests unless you're in practical location with a bed or something similar.

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