• Resources are back! Use the menu in the main navbar. If you own a resource, please check it for formatting, icons, etc.

Failed House Rules

clearstream

Explorer
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.
While trying to get rests cadence right for an open campaign, I switched to rests of one day (no distinction between short and long) but with rolling for recovery of short rest features or points toward recovery of long rest features. Looking back on that, what was I thinking!?

My current PHB RAI and house rules is version 2.3. I started at version 1.0 and ticked up 0.1 with each version... so they have iterated over about a dozen numbered versions (and many more emendations).
 
Last edited:

JeffB

Adventurer
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.
I used Companion characters for the younger ones, and gave them a few extra powers than typical. Even as they grew into College Age kids, they still didn't want the hassle of full blown 4E characters. It worked great.


I wish I had seen this as well at the time- Basic 4E- it breaks the classes down to minimum, and has basic powers , that can be boosted to something the level of an encounter power, and then a daily power. Similar to what you are saying.


Scroll down to the 4E section- its the first one.
 

Ash Mantle

Adventurer
We had a death rule, where instead of dropping to 0 hp on death and then rolling death saves thereafter and being taken out of the fight, we instead rolled a straight up Con mod then and there to see if we would drop to 0.
If we succeeded against the DC, we would instead remain at our current hp and be able to keep on fighting. But even a success would eat into our checks against death, which we had 5 of. A failure at the DC would still enable us to keep on fighting but would eat up two of our checks against death. It made for some thrilling combats!
 
I had a house rule in 5e where players handed each other Inspiration tokens for "roleplaying" (which ended up being for the most ridiculous of reasons like "great way you rolled that 20 there Jim! Here's an Inspiration token!") rather than me giving them out as DM for actual roleplaying. After a few sessions, my players started to really game it and I got rid of that lol.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I had a house rule in 5e where players handed each other Inspiration tokens for "roleplaying" (which ended up being for the most ridiculous of reasons like "great way you rolled that 20 there Jim! Here's an Inspiration token!") rather than me giving them out as DM for actual roleplaying. After a few sessions, my players started to really game it and I got rid of that lol.
Heh, I've been doing that since 3.0 came out (though back then it was for bonus XP for good RP). Players gave them out and never abused it. That's across many campaigns and a good number of player. I was just clear to my group about my expectations and they acted like mature adults.
 

Xenonnonex

Explorer
We had a death rule, where instead of dropping to 0 hp on death and then rolling death saves thereafter and being taken out of the fight, we instead rolled a straight up Con mod then and there to see if we would drop to 0.
If we succeeded against the DC, we would instead remain at our current hp and be able to keep on fighting. But even a success would eat into our checks against death, which we had 5 of. A failure at the DC would still enable us to keep on fighting but would eat up two of our checks against death. It made for some thrilling combats!
Is this really a failed house rule?
 

clearstream

Explorer
Heh, I've been doing that since 3.0 came out (though back then it was for bonus XP for good RP). Players gave them out and never abused it. That's across many campaigns and a good number of player. I was just clear to my group about my expectations and they acted like mature adults.
When I think about that - how a rule can work for one group and not for another - it really helps understand some forum debates about rules. In this case, it could be that your group has some exogenous rule(s) like "don't game mechanical privileges" while another group does not. The existence of such an additional rule creates a context that enables the other.
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
Despite these boons, players still kept forgetting Inspiration was a thing. I've now been ignoring it from the game for about 2 years.
Exactly. We collectively forgot about it so much it eventually just disappeared from our game. Which is too bad, it's a good idea but needs way better implementation.
 

pogre

Adventurer
I had a house rule in 5e where players handed each other Inspiration tokens for "roleplaying" (which ended up being for the most ridiculous of reasons like "great way you rolled that 20 there Jim! Here's an Inspiration token!") rather than me giving them out as DM for actual roleplaying. After a few sessions, my players started to really game it and I got rid of that lol.
I use that rule now. My players game the heck out of it too. I don't care though because I always forget to award inspiration. In my group they typically get award each other for bad puns or even bringing a great snack - could be worse. ;)
 

erachima

Explorer
I wrote a set of rules for "minor enchantments" to improve found magic items that ended up just being a makework program for the party Artificer. Was the sort of customization that's very common in video games, but in a context where you're trying to work with multiple people over time rather than sitting alone experimenting, it turned out to be fiddly, very hard for everyone else to remember, and make magic items more, rather than less, boring.
 

Celebrim

Hero
I wrote a set of rules for "minor enchantments" to improve found magic items that ended up just being a makework program for the party Artificer. Was the sort of customization that's very common in video games, but in a context where you're trying to work with multiple people over time rather than sitting alone experimenting, it turned out to be fiddly, very hard for everyone else to remember, and make magic items more, rather than less, boring.
Sounds very similar to my own experience with customization of magic items.

There are a number of similar things I've found over the years that aren't actually rules per se, but more like fluff, that nevertheless don't really work in a PnP RPG.

Realistic languages - 4000 languages do not help a game
Realistic currencies - Much as it seem more realistic for every nation to produce its own currency having slightly different denominations and values and to have rates of exchange and the like, it does not help a game.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
I find this thread way more interesting than the "what are your house rules" threads. Anybody can make up house rules, but actually taking the time to reevaluate and understand why something doesn't work is way more valuable.

It's also not surprising to see that many of the rules mentioned here are of the over-designed, fiddly variety. More options and/or complex mechanics doesn't always result in fun at the table. It's a delicate balance.

Case in point, I'm a huge fan of hero/action point systems. As a DM and designer, I love having another resource I can design around and that the players have to manage. However, depending on the group, they are usually the first rule or system that gets forgotten once play starts. Or if they aren't forgotten, they just end up being used as a glorified and more complicated Inspiration.

Overall, I love the concept behind Inspiration but I've always found it lacking, but I've also struggled to put my finger on why. I've tinkered with some variations but the balance between elegant and clunky design is really tricky.
 

erachima

Explorer
Realistic languages - 4000 languages do not help a game
Advice for adjudicating the process of PCs learning the language of the new country they're adventuring in over a month or two of game time, on the other hand, would help the game. As far as I know it's never been included though, so it's just one of those things "everyone knows" you have to make up. Maybe it's hiding in AD&D's Complete Bard or something.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I tried critical failures for a while. But I didn't think it made sense for higher level players to fumble every other turn.

So if you rolled a 1 you got a saving throw based on your level, doubled for martial types. By level 10 if you were a fighter you had to roll 2 1s in a row. Wizards and whatnot still had a 50/50 chance of fumbling after a 1.

So it worked in that there was still a risk, and higher levels weren't overly penalized ... but ultimately it just wasn't worth the extra overhead.
 
I tried critical failures for a while. But I didn't think it made sense for higher level players to fumble every other turn.
My solution to this is: You must be Exhaustion level 3 or higher for nat 1 on ability checks and attack rolls to count as critical fumble. You only fumble when exhaustion has hit you so hard you don't take even basic precautions such as holding your sword in a tight grip.
 

Ath-kethin

Explorer
Does it count as a house rule if it's in a book?

I joined a campaign back in '97 or so, in which every PC had been constructed using the class creation rules in the Skills & Powers book. I took over a kobold thief henchman.

Every single one of the other PCs was useless. The flaws and points worked in such a way that gaining one advantage (say, swinging a greatsword as a wizard) came with big drawbacks (say, never hitting anything as long as you lived).

It was comical, and after a while turned into an actual comedy campaign, but my out-of-the-box kobold with thief abilities stapled on was the best skill monkey and best warrior in the group.
 
I’ve been happily using the “Healer’s Kit Dependency” variant, and the one where you only recover half HD (but no hp) on a long rest, for years now and will keep using them. They help with believability for me. But along with those I also used to house rule Second Wind to provide temporary hp rather than healing, also to help make the believability level a bit more palatable. Eventually I decided to replace it with a rule that you can only benefit from 4 short rests between your long rests. It has the added benefit of eliminating potential warlock spell slot abuses.I don’t think the rule has ever actually come into play (they have taken 3 short rests a few times, and maybe even 4 once, but they’ve never hit the point where they wanted to take a fifth), which is great because it helps my sanity while not impacting the actual play experience. I’m not sure if “the best house rule is one you never have to use” makes any kind of sense, but it somehow works for me. :unsure:
 

Celebrim

Hero
Advice for adjudicating the process of PCs learning the language of the new country they're adventuring in over a month or two of game time, on the other hand, would help the game. As far as I know it's never been included though, so it's just one of those things "everyone knows" you have to make up. Maybe it's hiding in AD&D's Complete Bard or something.
AD&D was particularly bad at dealing with non-combat skills, and I think it just assumed that the PC's starting languages would be supplemented with Comprehend Languages or Tongues eventually.

More seriously, this is a special case of a more general problem with any class based system, which is, "If the player in character is practicing something, how do they get better at it?" Like, you could make the same argument about carpentry - "If a PC has been sawing wood and cutting logs to build a cabin in game for a month or two, when do they add 'Craft (Carpentry)' to their character sheet"?

And the answer in a class based game in general is, "You don't.", because that sort of low granularity improvement isn't something that the game really tracks. In theory, a good RPer will now put ranks (or NWPs) into whatever it is that in game they've been practicing at the next opportunity, but in D&D at least that sort of micro-improvement isn't easily tracked the way it would be in BRP or GURPS.

Now, that isn't to say that non-class based games are better or more advanced than class based games, because there are advantages to class based as well, but you have to be honest about the limitations.

Personally, I've always assumed that NPCs (or PCs) get most of their XP from practicing, and the way I handle this is 'bonus XP'. Practicing a skill like speaking a language gives you bonus XP in say 'Speak Language'. This virtual XP can be traded in for normal XP but with some restrictions - you can only do it when you take a level, you must take a level in a class that has that skill as a class skill (say Bard, Explorer, or Scholar in my game), and you must put at least one rank into that skill when you take the level. This is actually how NPCs level up. But 'bonus XP' from activities like that is acquired at a much slower rate than overcoming life and death challenges, so for PC's unless they are taking years of down time, it's not really a practical manner.
 

Celebrim

Hero
I tried critical failures for a while. But I didn't think it made sense for higher level players to fumble every other turn.

So if you rolled a 1 you got a saving throw based on your level, doubled for martial types. By level 10 if you were a fighter you had to roll 2 1s in a row. Wizards and whatnot still had a 50/50 chance of fumbling after a 1.

So it worked in that there was still a risk, and higher levels weren't overly penalized ... but ultimately it just wasn't worth the extra overhead.
It does involve a lot of overhead, and it's easy to design a bad system. You seem to have hit upon some of the biggest traps that critical failures can fall into and avoided them. My own system I really like and I like that it introduces variety into a combat, but I do sometimes wonder if it is worth the extra overhead.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
I had a critical failure in my game last night. The fighter swung her greataxe (with disadvantage because frightened) and rolled a nat-1 to hit. She was stood right beside an ally who I gave the opportunity to make a dex save to avoid the wildly swinging axe. He rolled a nat-1 too! So then I had the fighter roll damage and she rolled a 1 so in the end only 4 points of damage, but it made for a very memorable moment. :) I have a separate group of high level players, but I don’t see them rolling a lot of nat-1s (yes, the probability says it will happen every 20 rolls, but in reality sometimes the dice roll your way, sometimes they don’t...)
 

Advertisement

Top