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D&D 5E 1.5 year Campaign Ends - My Houserule Playtest Results


So my latest campaign has just come to a close with a very epic and satisfying finale! I had a number of houserules in this game over the time, and thought it might be worthwhile to tell people how they went in actual play over the 1.5 year span. I'll use a simple rating system to kind of mark my general feeling about it.

A - A popular rules change that I felt had a good and positive impact.
C - Had some decent results but was sometimes forgotten by players. Kind of a take it or leave it scenario.
F - Ultimately a rule I will probably drop in future games. Either didn't have any impact or simply not worth the complexity it added.
? - No scenario occurred in the game for this houserule to be tested, so no feelings one way or another.

General Changes
Charge (B): Classes with the "extra attack" ability can take the Dash action, and still make 1 attack as a bonus action.

I've used this rule in several campaigns and found it successful. It didn't come up a lot in my games, but some of the players appreciated the option and used it from time to time. However, I did find people also would forget this rule periodically, which suggests to me its not the most amazing change for players.

Concentration (A): Starting at 5th level, a character may maintain concentration on two spells at once. If the concentration roll is failed, both spells are lost.

Very very popular with both my players and this DM. My players respect what 5e was trying to do with concentration but see it as extremely limiting, and effectively nullifying large swaths of spells from ever seeing use. The double concentration rule has allowed new fun combos, and so far....I haven't seen anything really broken. The warlock liked to do double summons periodically, and the druid would do a buff + an attack spell here and there....but nothing that broke the bank.

Meanwhile I was happy that my NPC spell casters could start the fight with an extra buff or things like that, so it was helpful on both sides.

Death Rules (A): No death saving throws. When players have 0 or negative HP, they are unconscious. Every round you are unconscious, you lose 1 HP until you are stabilized. When your negative hitpoints = your constitution score (aka your death threshold), you are dead. Healing automatically brings you to 0, and then you heal from there. Only resurrection magic is Revivify, which is now a 9th level spell.

So as a general rule, resurrections don't occur in my games unless its like divine circumstances. That has been a staple and always worked well for me. The Revivify clause was used to showcase that the particular city the party is in is one of the greatest in the multiverse, as revivify + gentle repose could allow a recent person killed to come back and be revived. This was a major plot point at one point and worked well.'

For this game I wanted a deadlier feel, but I've never liked the grim and gritty variants for various reasons. Ultimately this is an oldy and a goody, and it worked perfectly in my game. Feedback from the players was that the combats in general were very challenging but not insurmountable. The negative con score came up several times, we had several characters in the game go down to like 2 HP from death, and it created a lot of solid tension.

Fighting Styles (B): Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting, and Two Weapon Fighting styles are merged into new style: Offense - +2 damage when using melee weapons.

This change was to give fighters more weapon flexibility (they could switch from sword board to TWF to THF and still get the bonus). Its also statistically a buff for GWF and removes extra rolling which I try to limit to keep my games quick. Ultimately my players tend to like Sword/Board and so this didn't really have much impact. Its an easy rule since it only needs to be remembered for character creation, but I could take it or leave it.

Heavy/Versatile Weapons (B): Any weapon with these properties, when wielded in two hands, may take a -2 to attack rolls to gain +4 to damage (note the change to GWM below).

My players tend to like Sword/Board or Archery over THW, so this only came up for the barbarian (who was not a consistent player). While the rule was used, it was also forgotten frequently, I did a rules refresher half way through the campaign and I noticed a lot of people had forgotten this rule existed.

Initiative (A): Use the higher of Dexterity or Intelligence for Initiative checks.

This was a popular rule. I had an artificer that made good use of it, but the real winner was the melee fighter who had wanted to play a tactical Battlemaster fighter. He really enjoyed having a high init and combining the alert feat to go really fast, and it was something that was commented on at the table a lot.

Spell Changes
Bless (A): Bonus is now +2 instead of d4.

This change was mainly to speed up gameplay, and it worked perfectly. Players just added in the bonus, and went to work. It is still considered one of the strongest spells in the game even with the .5 average bonus "nerf".

Counterspell (A): Removed from the game.

I won't speak for the players but me as the DM, I dropped this spell and never looked back. I just do not enjoy the forced tactics that this spell requires for me to bring in enemy casters, and as soon as I dropped the spell I never missed it.

Cure Wounds (A/B): For each level above 1st, gain 1d8+ability modifier in healing (instead of 1d8).

So this rule mimics a bit more of the level scaling of 3e healing spells. The goal was to make in combat healing more attractive to my players. I rank it A in that it was more attractive (people did use it in game), but B in that to my players it still wasn't enough. My players still have a strong belief that 5e combat healing is "way too weak"....mainly because spellcasters have a lot fewer slots in 5e than they do in 3e (Example: A 5th level cleric with 18 wis in 3e has 3 more slots per day than a 5e cleric, one of each level).

So while this was a success, it still didn't change my players perception, so I may consider something else in the next one.

Guidance (A): Duration is now 1 hour (Concentration). Effect: 6 people gain a +1 bonus to all ability checks"

Guidance has been spammed heavily in all of my 5e games, my players cannot get enough of this spell, and I was tired of the constant "can I cast guidance" and "don't forget to roll an extra d4". So I both nerfed the spell in bonus but buffed it in terms of general frequency. Its now fire and forget, and its so much better for my games. In the game if the warlock was not using his concentration for something else, we just assumed guidance was up. Checks are faster, my players still think guidance is one of the most powerful spells in the game, however they still forget that +1 a lot and fellow party members have to remind them:)

Healing Spirit (F): Concentration is removed. Effect is now: As a reaction, heal one creature within 60 feet for 1d6. For each spell level up 2nd, healing increased by 1d6.

So my attempt here was to change healing spirit from a godly healing spell, into one that had some general in combat use without the burden of concentration. Ultimately was a mixed bag. The reaction mechanic confused my players (they kept forgetting they could cast the spell and then immediately use the reaction, they though they had to wait a round, which made it "useless" even as a bonus action. They also though the base version was too weak, although the upscaled 3rd level version got used periodically.

In a new campaign I would probably try some different variation here.

Leomund's Tiny Hut (B): No longer bars people or things through the dome, can no longer be made opaque.

I have seen the power of Tiny Hut in my games, and I don't think that is what the spell is really intended to do. The spell now just helps the party deal with the environment, and it still gets use in my games. That said, I could probably buff it back up for next time.

Pass without Trace (A): Effect is now - Creatures gain advantage on stealth checks, cannot be tracked, and suffer no penalties to stealth from armor or encumbrance.

In the world of bounded accuracy, +10 to any skill is WAY too good imo. In previous campaigns, the druid was the stealthiest person by far, so stealthy I could never find them. In this game, the nerfed spell still saw good use. Our party druid still used it a good amount, and the fighters in the group appreciated not being a stealth burden to the party, as the didn't suffer penalties for their armor and so also got advantage. A change I am overall very happy with.

Prayer of Healing (A): Effect is now: You gain 60 points of healing, that you can distribute as you wish to any people within range. For each level above second, the healing increases by 20.

This spell has routinely been considered weak by my players, but in this game it was used to great effect with the change. We have a big party so the 60 healing is not as big as it might seem (I wouldn't use that value if I had a 4 player party for example). The ability to choose how the healing was used was to the players the real benefit more than the amount, though they used every bit of that healing on many many occasions after a big fight.

Class Changes
Barbarian (A):
  • (A) - A barbarian can stay in rage for 1 minute, unless unconscious or not hostile to any nearby creatures (either voluntarily or through spells like calm emotion).
  • (A) Berserker Subclass: Frenzy no longer generates fatigue.

The rule change here means that a barb can run towards a far away target but stay in rage, something that annoyed me in the core game. Its also just one less thing for the barb to worry about, because to me that's what the barb is about, rushing in and going wild without a thought in the world. The berserker change was in response to the Zealot subclass, as frankly the zealot seems a good bit better overall. These changes have both seemed good in play and not OP.

Cleric (A): Divine Intervention % chance = 2x cleric level.

It came up a few times in game, my players rarely get to the levels where the chance is high, so getting a 20% vs 10% chance made the ability rare but still in the real realm of possibility. Overall the players liked it, and it didn't cause any problems.

  • Remarkable Athlete (Champion - B) - Your con score is increased by 2x your proficiency modifier for the purpose of your death threshold (see my death rules above).
  • Commander's Strike Maneuver (Battlemaster - A) - The ally gains a bonus to their attack equal to your intelligence modifier (minimum 0).
The champion change saw a little bit of use when a player got to play one as an NPC....ultimately Remarkable Athlete remains....unremarkable. The change is fine but doesn't really wow anyone. The commander's strike change was specifically for my player that wanted to play a high int tactical fighter. This change worked well, even though their attack (as they had higher int than strength) was generally weak, the party grew strong from this powerful maneuver.

Monk (F): Monk's KI pool is reduced, gains 1 Ki at the start of each turn. (various other changes not worth mentioning).

At the start of the campaign I was firmly in the "monk's suck" bandwagon. So I tried a rule to allow them to just go ham with their Ki. Ultimately the change was too powerful, and I have softened on my monk opinions over time. While I think they can use a nudge, I don't think they need major changes. So I dropped this one.

Paladin (A): Divine Smite can be used no more than once per round.

Just tones down the Paladin's super novas a tad, but ultimately just means that paladin will smite almost every round, instead of blowing it on a single round. Considering my lower encounter type games, this worked very well, no players really saw it as a nerf.

Sorceror - ?
  • Tides of Chaos (Wild Sorc) - After a 1st level or higher sorc spell is cast, the Sorc can choose to restore the ability.
  • Wild Mage Table (Wild Sorc) - The fireball entry is no longer centered on yourself.
  • Metamagic: Multiple metamagics can be used at once.
  • Distant Spell: A range of self becomes touch. This cannot be combined with Twin Spell.
  • Extend Spell: Dispel checks are at disadvantage against Extended spells.
  • Careful Spell: Targets chosen are immune from the spell effects
I haven't seen a sorc put this to real use yet. Most of my players think Sorcs are pretty garbage, so even with these changes haven't wanted to take the plunge.

Feat Changes
Durable (?) - (Add) Increase your constitution score by 10 for the purpose of your death threshold.

General Training Feat (A): You gain any combination of the following benefits, adding up to 10+Int Modifier points. A single benefit cannot be taken more than 2 times.
  • 5 points: Increase one ability score by 1, to a maximum of 20 or learn a cantrip.
  • 4 points: Gain proficiency in the next class of armor (Light, Medium, Heavy)
  • 3 points: Gain proficiency in shields or the next class of weapons (Simple, Martial)
  • 2 points: Gain proficiency in a skill
  • 1 point: Gain proficiency in a tool or language
A popular feat in my game to round off characters or pursue exotic concepts. It just helps fill in some gaps very nicely, and throws a bone to Int the dump stat.

Great Weapon Master (A) - Remove -5/+10 clause. Removed the bonus action requirement for "cleave". Add +1 strength.

This was probably one of the most successful playtests. My players (the barbarian player especially) was very skeptical of this change, as they didn't really realize what the bonus action removal truly meant. However, once the barbarian player in a fight critted a creature twice (which meant 2 extra attacks against that creature), which killed it....giving him another attack against a nearby enemy....his face lit up like a christmas tree, and was completely on board going forward.

I still consider this a slight nerf to the feat overall, but my players still love it, and I think its far more "dramatic" now than just a boring old bonus.

Keen Mind (B) - Add: Your memory cannot be altered, and you immediately know when attempts are made to do so".

Ultimately this was a plot feat in my game for one of the players, who used it to great extent and really enjoyed it because the plot circled around a villain that was altering memories. I don't think this change mechanically saves the feat, but its a lesson in DM tactics, you can always make something cool if you choose to.

Sharpshooter (?) - Remove -5/+10 clause. Add: "On a crit, roll 3x your weapon damage instead of 2x"

Haven't seen it in play yet. Ultimately may be a bit on the weak side, may want to add in a +1 dex or something.
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