Failed House Rules

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Many of us have tweaked the game with house rules to fix issues, fit a setting, make things run more smoothly, or add something lacking. But those don't always work out. I'd love to hear house rules that you have put in place and the goal for adding them, and then why you removed them. Could be they didn't do what expected, or had other repercussions, or just weren't a fan of the players.

Looking to make this a positive thread. Please no shaming about why someone wanted a rule, or how their rule doesn't fit their goals. We're all opening up on things we tried that didn't work, so be respectful when asking for details.

I'll add some of mine in comments - I don't want to focus the thread just on what I said, I'm really interested in lessons learned by others.

Idea for this thread came from @clearstream while discussing his already filtered list of rules for his open campaigns.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
We experimented with Popcorn Initiative in two of our campaigns to see if it would speed up combat and make it more dynamic. Both groups independently felt it was too "gamey" so we dropped it after a few sessions and returned to the standard initiative rules.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
In 4e we did an adventure were we improvised everything (no powers) using the DMG 42. It was a bit to much of a shock for my players, and we went back to powers with the next adventure.
 

Dausuul

Legend
My group tried the "gritty rests" rule from the DMG, where a short rest is 8 hours and a long rest is several days in a safe location. The goal was to bring classes with short-rest resources and classes with long-rest resources into balance (the short-resters were getting... shall we say... shortchanged).

While it did work to accomplish the goal, the players were frustrated by the difficulty of taking a long rest. Everyone had to manage their resources very carefully, and that was not fun for most of the group. We switched to a new rule where a short rest is 5 minutes but you're only allowed two of them per day, and that has worked out much better.
 
This crap actually happened one time and was a rule.

I love cats. If you are a dm that makes it a house rule that game play must stop until the cat decides to walk back off the table of its own accord and characters lose levels when you move the cat instead of waiting or you prevent it from leaping onto the table when it looks like it wants to by shooing it away, i WILL move your cat. If that develops into a serious problem where you throw shade at me because i keep doing it i take any friends i brought with me and we dont play at that house any more.

For a more reasonable rule everyone thought was going to be awesome, we decided to roll for level adjustment allowence at beginning of campaign in another dm's campaign. The allowance you got you could spend however you wanted with only a few exceptional items banned and you would gain xp like you didnt have one (up to the limit of your rolled allowance).

One person managed to roll an 8 (we were rolling a 10 sided die because there are a few ways you can have LA of 0 or even -1. No one was jealous (it was a great group) we were all just excited to see what it would be like playing with all this extra fire power and tricks and skills. No one rolled lower than a 4.

7 or so sessions later. Guess who was still having a fun time but not optimal fun? The guy with 8 free LA. His character was in danger occasionally but it was so hard to get that way that he asked if he could drop one of his templates just so he could have fum feeling what it was like to try hard. Poor guy. We let him. That being said it actually was still pretty fun. I think if i were to ever have a dm try it again i would just have him somehow reduce the range that could be rolled. A range of 10 was just too much.
 

JeffB

Adventurer
In 4e we did an adventure were we improvised everything (no powers) using the DMG 42. It was a bit to much of a shock for my players, and we went back to powers with the next adventure.
I've run improv games as the DM like that in 4e, and it was great, but the players used standard powers. We're your players just uncomfortable with the improv/coming up with ideas?
 
Back in 3.5 my group and I collectively felt that critical hits did not do enough damage. So, with agreement from the whole group we instituted the following house rule: critical hits do X 4 damage and the damage dice 'explode'; that is if you roll the highest number on a damage die you keep that and roll again and repeat if necessary.

First combat where we used that rule, the PC 5th level Dwarven fighter engaged a half Troll who was using a Maul. I don't recall the fighter's hp exactly but it was in the mid 40s. The Half Troll scored a crit on it's very first attack and the damage was... spectacular. The Dwarf went from mid 40s hp to -75 hp in one hit dying a truly gruesome death. After that, we all decided to stop using that houserule as it was a bit... excessive.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I used a house rule once where when you drop to 0 HP, you can stay conscious as long as you maintain Concentration. But you are still dying abs have to make death saves. First session with that house rule, a player dropped to 0, decided to stay conscious, which meant the monsters still saw him as an active threat and attacked him. He got hit, took a death save fail, and immediately said he wanted to drop concentration. No one ever concentrated to stay conscious in that campaign again.

I have considered bringing that one back, but ruling that you are still stable while you maintain consciousness.
 

aco175

Explorer
The crit fumble table we had back in 2e did not work as cool as the crit hit table. We eventually dropped both to make things play faster. Same thing for saving throws for items. I remember breaking my staff of power and killing the whole party.

Same thing with our try and rolling initiative each round. It made some fun moments when you get to go twice and the bad guy may have went first one round and now last this round, but ended up being slow to keep track of.

Taxes and upkeep rules for businesses. Now we just handwave saying expenses are the same as income, plus some living expenses mixed in.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Adding hit points to armour, armour resistance, and maintance cost. Ex Plate HP 100, reduce damage by 4, it cost 1 gp to repair 1 hit pt to armour. Remove because too much accounting.
Critical Hit and Miss table from Dragon 54. Remove once because players were not calling out their fumbles. Remove the second time due to too much damage to the party.
Monster Manuals (write up of monsters you could find in game). Remove due to too much tracking on pc sheet and 3E added knowledge checks for monsters.
Wizards getting bonus spell slots due to stat and level. Removed because 5th wizard could single drop monsters by himself.
Tracking spell component cost. Removed because spell casters did not want to be an accountant.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
I've been DMing so long, it's hard to remember all of them. But I am a tinkerer, so I'm sure there are many other examples.

A recent one was fiddling with Inspiration in 5e. I would allow characters to train in a special maneuver and spend Inspiration to use it. Things like Sweeping Attack, spending Hit Dice in combat, making an attack roll an auto crit. Despite these boons, players still kept forgetting Inspiration was a thing. I've now been ignoring it from the game for about 2 years.

I'll post more later as they come to mind.
 
Back in 3.5 my group and I collectively felt that critical hits did not do enough damage. So, with agreement from the whole group we instituted the following house rule: critical hits do X 4 damage and the damage dice 'explode'; that is if you roll the highest number on a damage die you keep that and roll again and repeat if necessary.

First combat where we used that rule, the PC 5th level Dwarven fighter engaged a half Troll who was using a Maul. I don't recall the fighter's hp exactly but it was in the mid 40s. The Half Troll scored a crit on it's very first attack and the damage was... spectacular. The Dwarf went from mid 40s hp to -75 hp in one hit dying a truly gruesome death. After that, we all decided to stop using that houserule as it was a bit... excessive.
I used a house rule once where when you drop to 0 HP, you can stay conscious as long as you maintain Concentration. But you are still dying abs have to make death saves. First session with that house rule, a player dropped to 0, decided to stay conscious, which meant the monsters still saw him as an active threat and attacked him. He got hit, took a death save fail, and immediately said he wanted to drop concentration. No one ever concentrated to stay conscious in that campaign again.

I have considered bringing that one back, but ruling that you are still stable while you maintain consciousness.
I REALLY LIKE BOTH OF THESE! I will definitely be using them and giving credit to the people i got it from.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
I've run improv games as the DM like that in 4e, and it was great, but the players used standard powers. We're your players just uncomfortable with the improv/coming up with ideas?
Yes. It was fine on the DM side, but the players were all new to D&D when 4e came out. I thought it would help them learn to improvise, not so much. I think if I had given them a matrix of damage and effects it might have worked better.
 

Celebrim

Legend
One thing that I always wanted to do away with was the 'sword +1'. I had this idea that part of the reason that magic seems so mundane is that (among other things) magic items had no real character and flavor.

So I came up with a system for ensuring that all magic items would be unique, bizarre, and occasionally down right creepy. Great.

And when then new campaign began I dutifully began populating my dungeons with my new more evocative magic items. And for the first few levels of play, things worked out great.

But once everyone in the party had multiple of these new more flavorful magic items, things started falling apart. You see one of the weaknesses of D&D to begin with is that it can be downright fiddly, with a ton of minor bonuses to keep track of. Well, now, instead of having say 5 different modifiers to track of, the players had say 10 or 15 different modifiers to track, some of which were situational and some of which applied in cases where only I the DM actually knew the trigger. It was already becoming unworkable even with the few weak items that we had in play, because the fiddliness was creeping up on the players and it had already overwhelmed my ability as a DM to keep track of it all.

So the really great flavorful rules system had to go into the trash, because it just wasn't going to be workable in play. I quietly dropped some of the intended complexity from existing items and for the most part stopped using my system going forward, returning more to the world of the 'sword +1'.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Back in 3.5 my group and I collectively felt that critical hits did not do enough damage. So, with agreement from the whole group we instituted the following house rule: critical hits do X 4 damage and the damage dice 'explode'; that is if you roll the highest number on a damage die you keep that and roll again and repeat if necessary.

First combat where we used that rule, the PC 5th level Dwarven fighter engaged a half Troll who was using a Maul. I don't recall the fighter's hp exactly but it was in the mid 40s. The Half Troll scored a crit on it's very first attack and the damage was... spectacular. The Dwarf went from mid 40s hp to -75 hp in one hit dying a truly gruesome death. After that, we all decided to stop using that houserule as it was a bit... excessive.
A really great illustration of how players always will argue for edges until those edges are applied against them.

In point of fact, although almost all players I've ever met love critical hits and love rolling critical hits and we all have those stories about how a lucky critical hit stopped a TPK, and as such critical hits have become something that has entered D&D mechanics probably to stay, all critical hit system heavily favor NPCs and from a purely rational perspective players should be arguing against critical hits or aruging to minimize the amount of damage they inflict.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I used a house rule once where when you drop to 0 HP, you can stay conscious as long as you maintain Concentration. But you are still dying abs have to make death saves. First session with that house rule, a player dropped to 0, decided to stay conscious, which meant the monsters still saw him as an active threat and attacked him. He got hit, took a death save fail, and immediately said he wanted to drop concentration. No one ever concentrated to stay conscious in that campaign again.

I have considered bringing that one back, but ruling that you are still stable while you maintain consciousness.
I play 3.0e but use numerous house rules. The way I handle unconsciousness is inspired from my time running GURPS. If you are reduced to 0 hit points or less, you have to make a Fortitude save to remain conscious. If you succeed, you remain conscious until you take further damage. Of course, in 3.X below 0 hit points you are dying, and so take 1 damage each round until you stabilize, which provokes a new saving throw each round. This phase, which my players have dubbed 'bleeding out', has proven to be one of the most tense and popular parts of the game with my players and is one of my more successful house rules.

I admit adapting this concept to 5e is going to be more difficult, as your players are correct that most of the time 5e punishes you for not being unconscious and safely ignorable. Although I imagine that players would try to maintain consciousness if it meant they could resist being swallowed by something!

One possibility I might utilize is the DC of a death save is reduced if you are still conscious when you make the save.
 

Camillus

Explorer
Two from the current campaign.

The first was an initiative system where the players got to choose who went when in the round. I originally did it to try and get them thinking flexibly and to improve survival at low levels but it proved clunky and slowed down combat. On reflection it wasn't a good rule.

The second was an attempt to bring more of a sense of divine presence to the game. A PC could pray to their god for inspiration anytime they failed a roll and it would turn into a success, or turn a success into a critical. In return though they handed me a fate point that I could use for an NPC or monster at some point. I couldn't use these for attacks but I could use them to pass a save, recharge a power or make a dramatic escape. Not one of the players actually had their PC pray - one even allowed their character to die rather than "hand the DM something that can be used against us." I actually like this one but couldn't get the players to buy in.
 

Advertisement

Top