D&D General DMs - What makes You...


B/X Known World
More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
Because the rule-as-written sucks. If it’s something I can deal with or put up with it’s easier not to fight over it and play it straight. Any house rule will be a fight with some player, so unless I’d rather not play than play with that rule-as-written I’ll leave it.
What makes you craft different lore for your world?
Because I want to. It’s creative and fun. It’s also easier to invent lore than memorize someone else’s lore. And not having infinite time, I cannot be an expert in the lore of a world I didn’t create. Also, no one can correct me on the lore of my world. Less aggravation when you make it up as no one at the table will have spent more time with it than you and you can change details without arguments.
What makes you not allow the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
Because they’re broken, don’t fit the world, or I’m tired of seeing the flavor of the month.
What makes you not allow certain combos?
Power gamers and charop. 5E is already so ridiculously tilted in favor of the PCs just winning all the time that exploits and power gamer builds drain what little fun there is left in the game.
What makes you use certain books and not use others?
Money and who wrote it. I’m not going to buy every book and I don’t allow 3PP stuff in play. The WotC designers have a hard enough time avoiding power creep and most 3PP seem hell bent on broken stuff.

The flip side of these questions can be put to players. Like why optimize in a game that’s already so laughably easy? Why write an epic backstory for a 0 XP, 1st-level character? Why insist on certain races, classes, or backgrounds?
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Hello Dms.

Seeing the lore discussion and about a dozen others on mechanics, races, rules, etc, I can't help but wonder one simple question - why?

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
If its not working or it leads to boring play.

What makes you craft different lore for your world?
Story? Because my world building is collaborative with the players at the table? This feels like a really odd question - without lore for a world you don't really have a world? In this kind of game literally the only way to build a world is to craft lore - without lore you've got nothing.

(Or do you mean take a pre-published world and alter the lore for it? If that's the question then the answer is "story" - though generally I'm doing the opposite.)

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
I don't. My players figure out what they want to play, I work within those constraints.

What makes you not allow certain combos?
See above. I don't. I used to in previous editions of the game where balance mattered more or I believed that balance mattered more, but the games I currently run don't really seem to have those problems. If it does, see question 1 above - we'll just tweak the rules around the concept to make it work.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?
There's stuff in the books that I use that I want to use? I usually use published books to get ideas for a game. Different books have lots of different ideas in them - some things will be right for one campaign and not mesh well with others. Or even they'd be fine but the kind of game we're running doesn't deal with the things in those books. Like if I'm not running a game where horror is a theme, I'm probably not cracking open any Ravenloft books to look for ideas.

Micah Sweet

I feel like each of your questions is extremely deep and the answers required complicated, so I'm going to stop here for now and just answer this first one.

I change rules for a lot of reasons. I think it would be overly simplistic to say that it makes the game more fun, but that's the underlying reason behind all the more specific reasons.

The most common reason to change a rule is probably balance. For example, the rule as written either makes the option too attractive so that everyone is going to be steered to making the same choices or not attractive enough discouraging anyone from making the choice. Balancing rules effectively gives players more freedom and agency while at the same time allowing for more skillful play because there isn't necessarily one hammer you can pound to solve every problem you come up against. Balance also encourages spotlight sharing and team play since no one character has the tool for everything. Ultimately, balancing rules is required of Celebrim's 1st law of RPGs - Thou Shalt Not Be Good at Everything. In D&D specifically, this most often is making spells a little less effective so that they aren't win buttons that make the rest of the party superfluous.

Another very common reason to change a rule is silence of the rules on something that I feel will come up almost immediately in play or which in fact has come up in play. A lot of the time my rules are created directly as a result of finding I don't have a rule for that during play. Rulings are rules. Players all the time make reasonable propositions where the rules don't cover the request or where the rules forbid the request explicitly or by implication even though it is a natural request or where the rules don't deal well with the specific circumstances the proposition is being made in. So a lot of times I'm extending rules to make them more flexible and make clear what the ruling is in circumstances the RAW is silent on.

But this category goes well beyond just having rulings for every situation that comes up. D&D in particular has traditionally lacked whole subsystems for things like evasion and chases, crafting, dominions, etc. What the rules are silent on very often neither the players nor the GM can do, and indeed what the rules are silent on very often the players and the GMs can't do because they never even think about the possibility of doing them. And this category often covers CharGen options which are added in theory by the game makers for the same reason I add homebrewed CharGen options, the silence of the rules on how to create characters of fiction which a player might want but for which the rules provide no options.

Further, this category can include things that I want to be important and specific to my setting, but which the game is silent on because traditionally those things aren't important to the setting. For example, I have explicit rules for divine intervention because unlike most games, in my game divine intervention isn't something that occurs to cover a rare event but something that likely happens a dozen times in a campaign. The gods in my campaign world are very active, and curses and blessings and miracles on behalf of both PC's and NPCs happen frequently enough that they need rules. This category can include monsters that I want in my world but which don't exist in the official rules, or monsters that I conceive differently in my world than in the official rules. And it includes things like naturally sacred ground and holy sites, or the purpose and value of having a roadside shrine.

Yet another common reason to change the rules is verisimilitude. I consider it really important for the success of the proposition-fortune-resolution cycle, that a player that is forming a potential proposition in their head can without any knowledge of the rules develop a sense for the likely outcomes of a proposition. That is to say players need to be able to interact directly with the game fiction without knowing what the rules are and have some confidence that when the fortune test is made the outcome of the proposition will fit within common sense and will fit within common sense at about the probabilities you'd expect. What you imagine as the fail and success cases for the action ought to be what the fail and success cases actually are in the rules, and the rules ought to produce reasonable chances for success or failure depending on what you are proposing to do. As an extreme example, leaping a small puddle ought to be easier than leaping the Atlantic Ocean. I would argue that this verisimilitude test is probably the real reason we bother to have rules at all, because a game system that didn't care about verisimilitude wouldn't actually need many rules.

One of the most complex reasons for changing a rule is addressing rules bloat. Rules bloat come about when makers of a game system recognize the rules limitations of their own rules and begin patching the rules in a peice meal way, often with no more than the intention to sell more rules.

An example of rules bloat common to D&D would be the proliferation of classes and subclasses to cover increasingly small niches. Probably one of the worst rules bloat situations in all of D&D history is late 3.5 edition where CharGen options were sold in every book for economic reasons rather than game reasons resulting in huge numbers of unnecessary and often overlapping classes, which in turn did all sorts of awful things to the game balance. However, a parallel situation existed in 2e D&D with the proliferation of spells to the point of silliness. One of the things I try to do when revising rules for D&D is offer the same number of options while using less words to do it. Sometimes writing rules decreases the total number of rules at your table by reducing the number of rules supplements actually being used at your table. Yes, I do have a 585 pages house rule document for 3e D&D, but this statement becomes less ridiculous when you realize it is a full rules system that replaces all the chargen options in 3.5 D&D while in my opinion allowing even greater flexibility and better balance (eliminating the most broken aspects of the "lonely fun" CharOp minigame all the 100's of CharGen options in 3.5 created). I actually had less rules than most 3.X tables; I just didn't have them spread over 15+ 300 page rules supplements. All the things that were allowed were in one handy place. No need for players to buy $1000 worth of books and combing through them for optimizations, much as I no that in fact some players enjoy that - arguably more than they enjoy playing D&D.
To be fair, Chargen options are present in every non-adventure (and some adventure) releases for 5e as well. That's not an edition thing, its a money thing.


Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
I enjoy theory-crafting all kinds of house rules because I like armchair game design, but I usually only use very few house rules in any given campaign. Typically what makes me decide to actually implement a house rule is when I have a specific gameplay dynamic I want a campaign to have, and I think the house rule in question will encourage that dynamic.
What makes you craft different lore for your world?
I find the default lore (which is more or less Forgotten Realms) pretty boring.
What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
To emphasize a certain tone in the campaign or the setting.
What makes you not allow certain combos?
I can’t think of any time I’ve ever done this. I suppose this might be more of a thing if I was running 3.Xe or something where unintended interactions between rules from different sources could create broken stuff like Pun-Pun.
What makes you use certain books and not use others?
Usually I don’t use books that are setting-specific if I’m not running a campaign in that setting. Otherwise I’m usually willing to allow options from any books, so long as they aren’t banned for tone reasons as mentioned above.


To be fair, Chargen options are present in every non-adventure (and some adventure) releases for 5e as well. That's not an edition thing, its a money thing.

I get why they do it, but I don't like the approach at all. I've long said that the economic model of D&D needs to depend not on selling rules but on selling intellectual property. And the health of the game of D&D depends not on cultivating players, but cultivating DMs. It's why Matt Mercer has often been doing more to sell the brand than WotC is.

In my head I have an ideal and complete rules set. And it looks nothing like what WotC is printing, which is why I tend to just stick to buying adventure books for the last 20 years. I hate that WotC considers it more important to print power inflation in CharGen and has since 3.5 for "money" reasons than it does to print decent abstract battle system and naval combat rules, decent crafting rules and equipment guides, decent chase/evasion rules, actually useful and modular monster manuals, etc. It's all random crap with usable page counts too small to justify the economic outlay for. Which is why I end up spending more money on third parties than WotC, and end up doing more rulesmithing than rules purchasing.

James Gasik

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?

There can be a few reasons. 1, I don't think it's fun. I can come to this conclusion by just imagining how I would react to it as a player, or just watch my players groan about it.

For example, the bulk of my gaming career, D&D was a game about going into dungeons and finding cool magic items. In earlier editions, magic items were used as a way to give players new abilities, and potentially could be used to adjust balance (though it can go the other way as well...). So I adjusted the rules for attunement. First by making attunement equal to 1+proficiency bonus, then by removing attunement from most items; now, if an item has an attunement, it's not a requirement to use the item at all, but it unlocks an additional power or feature.

2, it might be confusing, or arbitrary, with no real explanation of why it works the way it does.

A good example of this would be something like see invisibility not overcoming the invisible condition. That just confuses people.

3. A player might have made a choice that turns out to be sub-par for no good reason. Like deciding to play a lizardman monk and finding that your natural armor is redundant, or picking a spell that sounds cool, but for whatever reason is weaker than other spells of it's level.

What makes you craft different lore for your world?

I'm a creative person, and sort of a lore junkie, so I like to add older lore to my 5e games, or sometimes put a new twist on an old concept, just to make the game more interesting. I'm the kind of player who loves the thrill of discovering lore about a setting, and this way, there are mysteries that you can't read about in a book, and can only find out by engaging with the world.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?

Either it better reflects the lore I have created for my setting, or it's an attempt to get people to play things they normally wouldn't. I have a friend (hi Andrew!) who only has two real character concepts- he either wants to be a necromancer and have undead minions fight for him, or he wants to be a simple fighter that does the same thing turn after turn. For him, D&D is about turning his brain off (he's actually a fairly bright guy, and an EMT) and having fun. That's great, but you get tired of seeing "Human Champion Fighter #4" after awhile (and his foray into being a Necromancer Wizard didn't turn out to be very much fun for him).

So I'll be like "in this setting, there are no humans", or "this is a curated list of races and subclasses". As for backgrounds, I did once run a game where all the characters were Elven Nobles, scions of great Elven families, who had to travel to distant lands as ambassadors. So there, it fit the story.

What makes you not allow certain combos?

I don't do this often, but the way I see it is, if a particular combination is so good that it makes others seem obsolete, there's a problem. Why would anyone not seek out this combination? Surely NPC's in the campaign would have realized "hey man, if a Sorcerer makes a pact with a Demon and then ever sleeps, he can become all powerful!", and either anyone who can be a Coffeelock became one, or the non-Coffeelocks got together and murdered any Coffeelocks (or the superior Cocainelock) they could find! Not that I've had to ban this combo, but if someone asked, I'd probably put some limits on it.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?

Every D&D campaign is a black hole of creativity, sucking up any good idea that comes it's way. So it's rare that I would disavow an entire book, rather, I'd pick and choose the parts I liked. In 5e, I haven't had to toss any book yet, but in previous editions, it happened from time to time.

In 2e, for example, the Complete Class Handbooks offered Kits, a sort of weak precursor to Subclasses. The first few of these stated, in no uncertain terms, that multiclassed characters couldn't have kits.

Then the Complete Dwarves' Handbook offered multiclass Kits, and I was skeptical, but nothing seemed ridiculous.

Then the Complete Elves' Handbook came out, and not only did it have powerful multiclass Kits (at least, they seemed powerful to me at the time), but you suddenly had the book claiming all these extra racial powers for Elves, like resistance to extreme temperatures, immunity to normal disease (for a race with a penalty to Constitution, no less!), and even a "mystical communion with nature and elvenkind, which replaces sleep, leaving you aware of your surroundings". Oh and Elven subraces with bonuses to Strength and Dexterity, beyond the limits of the races in the PHB.

In 3e, there were some odd subsystems that I didn't understand at first, so I was reluctant to use them initially- Magic of Incarnum, The Tome of Magic, and The Tome of Battle come to mind. Oh and the Expanded Psionics Handbook. When I eventually did allow them, only the Tome of Battle got any use, sadly.

And then there's the Book of Exalted Deeds and the Book of Vile Darkness. Yeah no. I'm not going to go into those abominations here.


Limit Break Dancing
Hello Dms.

Seeing the lore discussion and about a dozen others on mechanics, races, rules, etc, I can't help but wonder one simple question - why?

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
What makes you craft different lore for your world?
What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
What makes you not allow certain combos?
What makes you use certain books and not use others?

I would like to state, that we all understand these are preferences. There is no right or wrong way. I am insanely curious about the why though.

As always, thanks to everyone in advance for participating in the discussion.
What makes me change a rule?
Usually it's a style choice: usually I'm trying to make the game behave in a manner more closely resembling an older edition of the game. Very rarely, I will stumble upon a better way of doing things...the RAW is great and all, but they aren't perfect for my group.

I started playing D&D with the red box rules, and I don't need to tell you how much the game has changed since then. Well, every now and then I'll encounter a rule that departs from the way I used to play, the way I remember playing, or my expectation of how they should work. Gargoyles are forever Constructs in my game, and kobolds are more like dogs than lizards, and gnomes are just dwarves. That is how it will always be at my table, because that's how it will always be in my imagination.

Most of the changes that I make to the rules aren't even changes, though. Usually I just implement some of the optional rules in the PHB and DMG and call it good. Spell points instead of "Vancian" magic. Feats and multiclassing. Honor. Point buy instead of 4d6. Gritty Realism. Mixing potions, scroll mishaps, wands that don't recharge...it's all in there. I just flip the switches and turn the dials until the game runs the way that I want it to.

About the only true "house rule" I have written is the one where healing potions always heal the maximum amount, but cost 50% more. (So a potion of healing always heals 10 hp, and always costs 75gp.) I did this to make potions more reliable in combat, a purely stylistic choice.

What makes me craft different lore for my world?
Lorecrafting is the best part of D&D, to me. If I wasn't excited about writing my own stories, drawing my own maps, and inventing my own villains, I don't think I would enjoy being a Dungeon Master. I have a deep and abiding love for the classic D&D modules like "Keep on the Borderlands" and "The Isle of Dread," but I don't treat them as holy writ. I regard them more as 'good staring points,' and not really 'the way things should be.'

What makes me not allow or insist on the presence of certain races and backgrounds?
The players. At Session Zero (we call it a "rolling party") everyone rolls up new characters--any character they want, using all of the WotC materials that I own (Xanathar's, Volo's, Tasha's, etc.) Now I have 5 players, so at the end of the night I have up to 5 different races and subraces.

Those five races become the major 5 races in my campaign, and all others can be ignored, or removed completely. I'm not going to write 30 pages of lore for tabaxi if none of my players are interested in the tabaxi, for example. Unless something is going to be a major villain or faction in my game world, I drop them. Sure, there might still be tabaxi in the world, but if there are they're just hanging out in the background more like scenery than anything else.

I've never heard of people not allowing certain backgrounds until I read this thread, though. This is a first for me; I'm not sure how to comment.

What makes me not allow certain combos?
Nothing. (shrug)

I've read lots of stuff online about "game-breaking combos," especially on Reddit, where people will go into great detail about synergy between certain race, class, feat, and multiclassing options...but I've never seen it in real life. The worst I've seen was a "CoffeeLock" inspired warlock that someone put together from a guide they found online. It was fine for 2, maybe 3 gaming sessions, but the player quickly got bored with it and asked to roll up a different character. So I guess these 'combos' aren't really a problem for my group, or at the very most they seem to be self-correcting problems.

What makes you use certain books and not allow others?
The players again. When we're rolling up new characters, I pull out all of my books and add them to the game Compendium (we play over Roll20). The players can pick anything they want to use, from all of the sourcebooks. If nobody chooses anything out of Fizban's, I remove it from the campaign. Unless I need something for a particular NPC or Faction, the players pretty much control what gets added and what gets removed.
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I’ve implemented rules for my most recent campaign that are a mix of official alternate rules, rules from 5E Hardcore Mode, and my own mad creations.

I wanted to run a classic dungeon crawl but felt the rules as written wouldn’t help capture that feeling of dread associates to plundering mouldering tombs and barrows. So I turned down the power levels of the game, made new weapon and armour lists, and implemented gold for xp to encourage going back to the dungeon.

Ultimately I believe I did this just to shake things up as stock D&D 5E was getting a little stale to run.

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
I almost never change rules. But I do ignore a bunch, such as encumbrance, daily upkeep and probably some other bookkeeping exercises that I consider optional extras.

What makes you craft different lore for your world?
I don't change the lore. I just can't be bothered to read all the stuff that is out there. It is less work to draft the bits that I need myself if a quick search doesn't give me the answers I need.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
If I never read the books, then the races/classes/backgrounds will not feature in my game.

What makes you not allow certain combos?
If you mean multiclassing: Everything is allowed, but a PCs 2nd class should be linked to roleplay.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?
Laziness, and/or reluctance to read the huge mountain of material that is out there.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Whew! I was worried what was going to come after the elipses!

Hello Dms.
Seeing the lore discussion and about a dozen others on mechanics, races, rules, etc, I can't help but wonder one simple question - why?

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?

Because I'm a control freak who likes to legislate other people's fun! But beside that...

I generally stick to a system's rules as written, but I will make changes or additions to fit a certain style of play or setting. My first campaign (100% home brew world and adventures) really didn't change much, my campaign "home rules" mainly covered which optional rules in the PHP and DMG we would be using. My second campaign (Curse of Strahd) only changed the leveling/XP to a system for the adventure I found on DTRPG that encouraged a mix of exploration, defeating important foes, and finding important macguffins. My current campaign has the most rule changes. That is because I'm running it as an "old school" inspired mega dungeon that using GP for XP. It is a years long campaign and so I have a mix of third-party and self written additions to better cover strongholds, followers, factions, reputation, etc.

What makes you craft different lore for your world?

I would hate to deprive my players of my creative genius!

Mainly, because I enjoy it and I can remember the lore I create myself better than I can published lore.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?

Grognard chauvinism.

Nah. In my first, homebrew, campaign for 5e, I limited races to fit the setting and lore I created. But for the last few years, I don't. The current campaign is anime-level gonzo. One player plays a worg that was "cursed" with fiendish goat hooves that allow for better jumping and then contracted lycanthropy from a were tiger. And this is a setting (third-party publisher) that has copraphagi as a playable race (roach people, who eat...)

What makes you not allow certain combos?

The only Combos allows at my table are the traditional cheddar-cheese filled Combos. Anything else is anathema. But I've been known to make exceptions for peanut-butter filled combos.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?

I like adventure books and settings that are not available on DnD beyond and which my players don't own. Curse of Strahd being the one exception.

I avoid adventures and settings that are based on popular and lore-rich IP. I am not the type of fan and don't have the right mental makeup to keep true to something like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. and players that would be attracted to playing in such settings would be disappointed in how I would run them.

For crunch/rules - I buy the systems I like. If there are things I want to add to support certain playstyles, I'll look for expansions or third-party materials that support it and which are not overly complicated and which my players and I think are fun. Any changes to system RAW are discussed with players first.

I would like to state, that we all understand these are preferences. There is no right or wrong way.

Quite a stretch to write "we all" understand. Are you new to this hobby? ;-)

I am insanely curious about the why though.

Oh no! I should have read ahead. Did I just create a new stalker‽

As always, thanks to everyone in advance for participating in the discussion.

You are welcome. Please don't stalk me.


More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?

I generally try not to do that, but there are times where a specific rule just doesn't work quite as much as I'd like. The biggest one that comes up is that on a critical, we maximize the base damage die. This way, a crit always does at least max base damage. Nothing worse than rolling a crit and then snake eyes on the damage dice and doing like 4 points instead of like 20. Doesn't sound like a critical hit to me!

What makes you craft different lore for your world?

It depends. But generally speaking, I don't want to be beholden to anything I don't feel like being beholden to. I prefer lore that's about offering interesting opportunities for play rather than tracking the ongoing events of an IP.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?

I generally don't do this. I want players who are excited and engaged about playing, and I've found a huge part of that depends on their investment in the game. I've noticed that the more my players are allowed to contribute, the more engaged they tend to be. So I don't limit them in their race and class selection, but instead I tailor things to their choices.

This is my default approach. If I have an idea for a setting that would indicate such requirements.... let's say a historical or quasi-historical setting... then I may apply such restrictions. But I'm gonna clear that with my players before we begin and make sure everyone's on the same page and is cool with such restrictions. If there's a concern of some kind, hopefully we can find a compromise.

Having said that, I think at this point, the only racial restriction I can imagine imposing would be "human only". I can't imagine a circumstance where I'd allow a Dwarf but not a Tiefling, or whatever. Most racial selections just feel more like pre-packaged bonuses and an implied default personality..... but I don't think in most cases that the same can't be accomplished with cultural elements.

What makes you not allow certain combos?

I can't think of any combos I don't allow. I suppose if it came up, it'd likely be a case of an overpowered rules exploitation.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?

I'd ideally like to just play with the core books. But I have friends in my group who like the expansion books, so I don't want to deny them. I think a lot of the options in those books tend to kind of raise the base power level of a PC by just enough to kind of be annoying. I'm currently playing a wizard in a game. There's also a warlock with a genie patron and a divine soul sorcerer, and just the amount of additional minor things those characters can do compared to the wizard is interesting. It's not severe enough to make a big deal out of it, but it's noticeable.

We generally don't allow 3rd party products. If one of my players picked one up and wanted to use it, I'd just want to have a complete and clear version made available to me so I can check it out. I'd most likely not deny it, but some such products are ridiculously over the top.
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Hello Dms.

Seeing the lore discussion and about a dozen others on mechanics, races, rules, etc, I can't help but wonder one simple question - why?

More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
What makes you craft different lore for your world?
What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
What makes you not allow certain combos?
What makes you use certain books and not use others?

I would like to state, that we all understand these are preferences. There is no right or wrong way. I am insanely curious about the why though.

As always, thanks to everyone in advance for participating in the discussion.
1) Changing rules.

Depending on the game it's usually one of two things:

A) The rule is just not fun. I understand how it works, and why it's there, but I don't find it to actually make the game more enjoyable for my group, so I change it.

B) The rule is just bad or dumb. Not a reasonable rule but un-fun, but a bungled or poorly-designed rule. 5E has very few of these, I can't think of any non-optional ones. But a lot of RPGs have plenty of these, especially RPGs from the 1970s through to the mid 2000s (when game design started to get more disciplined). The only immediate example I can think of in 5E, a rule which doesn't even achieve its stated goal, is the entirely optional Sanity rules, which are literally perverse, in that they achieve the opposite of the stated goal.

2) Crafting different lore

Different to what? The default? 5E has very vague and Realms-centric default lore, so I think anyone playing outside the FR is going to be "crafting different lore", technically.

As to why, usually because it's more interesting and I'm not trying to do the same things as the default, Realms-centric implied setting.

3) Not includes certain races/classes/backgrounds.

First off, backgrounds being included here shows a very common confusions. Backgrounds don't exist. I mean, they do, but they're all merely examples. You're not supposed to either be limited to them, nor to force your players to choose among them. So backgrounds can be ignored. They should always be stuff that actually exists in the setting. Classes/races, it's usually down to what role they play in the setting and what the tone of the setting is. You don't necessarily want every D&D race in every D&D setting. The same goes for classes - some settings don't fit certain ones - Artificer, Monk and Cleric are particularly likely to "not fit", I'd suggest (though Cleric fits most existing D&D settings). The classes in D&D are specific rather than generic, so them existing at all tells you something about the setting.

Like most DMs, I am obviously flexible on this. If a player has their heart set on playing a specific thing, there's usually a way to work it out.

4) Combos.

I've never had to disallow a "combo" in 4E or 5E. Last I did was in 3E with certain PrCs which were just blatantly better than core classes for virtually no cost.

5) Books.

I've never disallowed "by book" in any edition of D&D.


I watch my mind.

There are my personal favorites – e.g. I could redesign the fighter class for days – that have nothing to do with objectively improving the group's experience. I acknowledge these parts of myself, but they don't creep into my DMing or house ruling.

And then there are things which are more like "modules" that facilitate the type of play the group wants to pursue. For example, a game with "exodus through the desert" being a significant theme needs to take a long hard look at multiple core elements that actively work against that theme (e.g. Leomund's tiny hut, the genie warlock's higher level ability, goodberry, create water, typical encounter distribution vs. resting mechanics, etc). By limiting or changing some of these things – seemingly restricting the players' options – I'd actually be supporting their fun and immersion in that theme far better than adhering to the core rules blindly.

Rather than it being a bunch of house rules I lug around with me to every game, I try to learn with every game and then take those principles and apply them to the specific of each new group and new campaign.


Victoria Rules
More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
Many things:
--- balance; I'm fixing something that's already been proven as broken in play or I feel has the potential to be broken later
--- simplicity; I'm stripping out or streamlining something that's needlessly complex
--- complexity; something in the rules has been over-simplified and needs some additions to be of any use
--- realism; something in the rules doesn't reflect reality very well and can easily be replaced with something better
--- clarification; the existing rule is badly written and needs more clarity, or can be interpreted more than one way and I'm settling on one of those interpretations
--- precedence; I've made an on-the-fly ruling and want to lock it in.

Realism is the big one here for me.
What makes you craft different lore for your world?
I build my settings homebrew from scratch, thus by default I have to also invent the lore.
What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
Several things:
--- setting conceits; some classes/species/backgrounds simply don't exist (yet) in the setting, while others exist but are uncommon or rare
--- personal preference against; some species IMO should simply not be PC-playable, and a few PC-playable species should not be able to be or become a few classes e.g. no Dwarf Wizards
--- personal preference for; a D&D setting without ancient Greeks, Norse, Dwarves, Elves, and Hobbits isn't a setting at all :)
--- playstyle nudging; I want each character to have clear strengths and weaknesses so as to encourage formation of a team to pool strengths and cover weaknesses, thus I set the char-gen system up to fight against one-man-band type characters who can do everything
What makes you not allow certain combos?
See answers to previous question
What makes you use certain books and not use others?
My system is mostly homebrew now, so I pretty much don't use any published books in play. They are merely there as idea sources.


More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule?
The current rule is...
1. unbalanced
2. un-'realistic"
3. too complex
4. too simple
5. trivial (as in I like the idea but it never comes up in play...)

What makes you craft different lore for your world?
I always have. Even when I've used established "settings" it was mostly just for the map. I'll ignore all the lore, NPCs, etc. associated with that world.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?
I only insist on races if it is a "theme", like when we did an all-monk half-animal races (Tortle, Aarakocra, and Tabaxi were chosen), mostly because the group thinks it will be fun.

Now, I omit races all the time. Mostly because to me they are not PC races, but monsters, etc. Also, I like the typical races inspired by AD&D, so I am not a big fan of even the core "monster" races such as Dragonborn and Tieflings. I allow them but not my preference. Many races will encounter animosity, curiosity, and other reactions depending on the area they are in and how the interactions unfold.

The only class I forbid is Artificer. I just think it is silly and frankly OP. I allowed it once and vowed never again. Period.

Any background, and custom backgrounds, are generally encouraged as long as it works into the campaign, which I will do everything I can to ensure that.

I also don't allow anything from Critical Role. It is mostly OP and crazy, silly stuff IMO. I understand it appeals to many people, but not to me at all.

What makes you not allow certain combos?
If the above considerations are met, I don't think I've not allowed anything. Any class/race combination is permitted, any multiclass combo is fine.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?
As newer and newer books come out, I don't allow more and more of them.

For example, I am fine with 100% of Xanathar's, but only about 40% of Tasha's (if that!).

The reason is because newer material typically have power creep and many new things make the original things obsolete because of the power creep.

Generally, I don't allow 3PP material for the same reason, but occasionally I make exceptions of the material is actually well-balanced. As I said above, absolutely NO Critical Role--EVER.


No rule is inviolate
What makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule? It's a core tenet of D&D to make it your own as no two tables are, or should be, alike. I do it because I believe it will make the game more enjoyable for MY gamers. I then research prior editions, other game systems, compare notes with other DMs, and see if I'm missing something, then run it by my table.

What makes you craft different lore for your world? Lore makes a game world come alive. Using real-life inspirations, I've created fairy tales that were told by NPCs over the campfires (foreshadowing high level events), used mythology and stories of wisdom, worked up accents and speech styles for the locals (more than an Irish one for dwarves), and researched tidbits like religious customs that people would see. I then drop these into random descriptions. It's the heart and soul of a campaign, and there's just not enough room in any module for all of it. That's on the DM.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds? Immersion, 100% immersion. It's a collaborate effort with my gamers to better enjoy a particular storyline if options are suspended. For Curse of Strahd, players wanted to limit races to human, half-elf, elf and dwarf to thematically fit a dark, medieval Romanian feel based on real-life artistic inspirations. For all of us, it was easier to get into despair and horror than if we had something goofy running around Barovia like a turtle person. If we're in Spelljammer or Planescape, that's a different day and different discussion.

What makes you not allow certain combos? By combos I assume things that ruin gameplay by somehow trivializing a part of it and upsetting gamers who haven't found a loophole or gimmick. I always ask my gamers to look for cheese and that's worked out great. Sometimes, it was nothing to worry about. I think my list of "bans" is pretty short even after nearly 10 years of D&D 5E.

What makes you use certain books and not use others? I let my players use PHB + 1 usually when it comes to making characters if it's official product because those are usually subjected to extensive playtest. And, I read comments on these forums because we've got some really sharp minds when it comes to game mechanics.

Not to be generic, but wow! You folks are amazing!
Thank you for sharing. It gives me great joy to know what makes a DM tick.

I feel like one common thread for crafting lore is definitely the need to unleash some type of creative process. Although @Agametorememberbooks using it to match his magic style, @Maxperson altering some part of lore, @Baldurs_Underdark time constraints are some exceptions. But overall, it seems the creative juices need to be unleashed, either for logical or abstract reasons. And @Jer and @Ruin Explorer , yes I do mean crafting different lore from the "very vague and Realms-centric default lore" that is D&D. And I feel like @MNblockhead 's answer probably did it for me (sorry, not trying to add to the stalker vibe ;) ) in that when running one's own lore, the memorization process is pretty solid. I find this to be very true. I remember running Skull & Shackles, and knew nothing about PF's Golarion. And while we still had a lot of fun, the amount of spinster thread-weaving I had to do was, even for me, silly. Where, even running D&D's Rime, a world I know pretty darn well, I still had a bunch of holes in the narrative. (At least for me.) Whereas, in my world, I can tell you the best tailor in town. I know him. His name is Wolfie, and he is an extremely hairsuite individual. He pauses before all his sentences, like he is about to speak, then waits. He uses needles made from the sturgeon ribs and has a bit of a hunchback from stooping all the time. When he stands, he is always taller than what everyone expects, even while hunched. He is attracted to one the ladies who works at the Firehole... has been for years... etc. I feel like that type of detail, which can be interlaced in four or five sentences and a five-minute RP paints the world and helps paint the larger lore.

Thanks again for everyone responding. I am going to dig into the answers on rule changes now! :)


  1. More specifically, what makes you, as a DM, sit down and change a rule? - To improve the game and make the game more fun. Some times to fix a vague or bad rule. I see the printed 'rules' as suggestions anyway.
  2. What makes you craft different lore for your world? - I like to create lore. I don't really care what someone was paid to scribble down in a book. I'd much rather create lore on something, then read page 44 in a book and say "oh the book says this".
  3. What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds? -
The annoyance factor is a big one. Kender ruin the game, I don't want the game ruined, so no kender.

4. What makes you not allow certain combos? -
Don't care about combos.

5.What makes you use certain books and not use others? - some books are full of game ruining scribble, so they get banned.


Since you were so flattering and effusive, I'll continue my response moving the focus from rules to lore.

What makes you craft different lore for your world?

There are probably two reasons. The first is that I'm a creative person and I enjoy lore building and world building. The second is that existing lore is generally incoherent, in that it was created by a bunch of different authors to describe the little niches that they were working on at the time, and for the most part there isn't a really coherent picture of the cosmology of D&D worlds except for the Gygaxian "great wheel" model. That model is fine as far as it goes, but it was never fleshed out by Gygax fully enough to become coherent in published works and the subsequent expansion of it tends to be of the hodge podge multiple author mode that results in no big picture just a lot of little pictures.

There are exceptions. Settings like Planescape, Dark Sun, and Eberron have coherent big pictures that encompass D&D and I admire that. But it turns out that the "big picture" of D&D tends to get very personal for lack of a better word and while the personal spin that Eberron puts on D&D is great and well thought out, it doesn't fit the game I have ran in the past and want to continue to run. This means the burden of lore building is on me.

What makes you not allow/or insist on the presence of certain races, classes, backgrounds?

Part of big picture lore building is asking "Why is everything the way that it is?" or "Where did everything come from?" The meta-answer is that D&D has all sorts of creators who are dumping every idea that they find into the lore of the game resulting in D&D's famous "kitchen sink" feel. It's interesting to me that the D&D cartoons lore building, that the D&D world was a dungeon world where members of many races from around the galaxy or the multi-verse had become imprisoned either intentionally or accidently over the years, resulting in a "Star Wars cantina" "wretched hive of scum and villainy" aesthetic was probably one of the most well thought out explanations for the "kitchen skin" in the game's history. But, I really didn't want a "dungeon world" cosmology with refugees from other worlds and a science fiction theme under the surface (that actually shows up in Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms to some extent). I wanted a more pure fantasy cosmology with a single world, suitable to human archaic lore from ancient Greece to the Renaissance - the very cultural inspirations common to most of D&D.

And that ultimately meant pairing down the number of sentient races from the kitchen sink, or at least redefining them a bit to explain the diversity. The most noticeable part of the paring down for me is the complete removal of orcs from my game because the evolution of orcs ultimately stopped fitting my conceptions. Originally I think goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, and bugbears all refer to names for orc-kind that are dropped in works like the Hobbit, and were conceptually all part of Tolkien's orc-kind which were themselves morgul work minor demons created by and in the service of his Satanic dark lord Morgoth. But take the orcs out of Tolkien's cosmology and you need a new cosmology for them, and for whatever reason D&D ended up with two - one for goblins and one for orcs, which became sworn enemies and not members of the same race, each with their own culture. But this struck me as redundant. Each evil monstrous humanoid was serving the same purpose and taking up cultural space that could be inhabited by the other. Of the two inventions, I found the caste based race the more compelling and so I kept goblin-kind and dropped orcs.

Conversely there are aspects of my imagined cosmology that aren't really a big part of standard D&D and are rarely detailed - divine intervention, curses, blessings, spirits and animism, wizardly research and magical pollution, sacred sites and shrines, and races that I invented over the years like the Orine and Idreth. I have some of this written down and some of this I want to write down, but the point is in play I'm always having to invent stuff to cover the stuff the published rules are silent on. For example, the rules don't tell you what the HD of a sentient garden or sentient house is, or what happens when an old man on his death bed blesses you for fulfilling his dying request or conversely curses you for bringing him to this state.

What makes you not allow certain combos?

I don't forbid combos per se. What I do do is remove most of the redundancies from the system so that it's harder to stack bonuses unless I intend them to stack. If you look at what really breaks the game it tends to be when you have X different ways to do something, and instead of picking one, the player picks them all and takes advantage of frontloading and unintended stacking. By cutting down on the rules until there is only one way to do something and avoiding easy stacking except where intended as progression, it tends to inherently make all combos fair and balanced.

What makes you use certain books and not use others?

I honestly don't use a lot of books. The reason I don't use a lot of books I that when I look at a book I count the number of pages that I feel I'm going to actually use. For most published supplements this turns out to be a number from 0-20 pages. If the book is 300 pages, this means that the book is offering almost no value. Since I often have to rework everything anyway, I usually just steal the 5 pages of ideas from the book that I think are useful to me and write down my version of them. I really only buy a book if a considerable portion of it is actually useful, or if I am adapting so much of the material from the book that I wouldn't have come up with on my own don't consider it fair not to send some money toward the author. That usually happens if there is more than 20 or so pages I actually care about, which is rare these days.


When it comes to changing lore:

Often because a piece of lore comes this close to being just right. I’m making a list of lore edits to put in if I ever run Curse of Strahd, not out of any dislike for what’s already there (aside from one detail), but because it’s good enough that the tweaks I can make to it that will make it even better (subjectively) leap right off the page into my brain.

Dungeon Delver's Guide

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