D&D 5E House Rule Idea: Exploding Weapon Dice

BookTenTiger

He / Him
I had an idea for a house rule to increase some of the deadliness of combat in 5e. I would love some feedback on what you think the effects of it would be!

The house rule is a simple one:

When making a weapon (or natural weapon or unarmed) attack that deals 1d4 or greater damage, any weapon damage dice that roll a maximum result are rolled again, adding to the total damage. Any rerolls that roll maximum are again rerolled, and so on.

Only weapon damage dice (the dice listed as damage in the Equipment List) are rerolled, never additional dice added to damage, such as through Smite or Sneak Attack.

For example, a fighter attacking with a longsword rolls a natural 10 on their damage die, and so rolls another d10 and adds it to their total damage.

A barbarian attacking with a greatsword rolls 2d6, and gets a 3 and a 6. Because of the 6, they roll another d6, and get a 6. They roll yet another d6 and get a 2. Their total weapon damage is 3 + 6 + 6 + 2 + Strength Modifier.

A rogue attacks with a dagger, rolling 1d4 + 2d6 for Sneak Attack. Their damage dice only explode if they roll a natural 4 on the d4, not if they roll any 6's on their Sneak Attacks.

A monk critically hits with an unarmed strike, dealing 1d6 + 1d6 for the crit. They roll 6 and 6, and so roll two more d6's for exploding dice.

Flavor-wise, I suppose this would be a kind of critical hit unique to weapons (and natural attacks). The exploding dice represent weapons doing what they're made to do: puncturing armor, breaking bones, cleaving meat, etc.

I also think this would make d4 weapons a little more interesting, since they would have a higher chance of exploding. I like the idea that a dagger isn't always effective, but when it strikes deep it really hurts!

Okay, what do you think? Would this make combat a little more deadly? Would it be fun? Are there unpredictable results?
 

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DND_Reborn

Legend
This what we do for critical "damage" instead of rolling a 20 for a critical hit.

FWIW, we apply it to ALL damage dice, spells, weapons, features, whatever.

It works great. We love it, and I encourage people to use it for a rule to determine "critical damage" and remove the natural 20 mechanic, which we think is not as good.

EDIT: in case you are interested in the math, it bumps the average by N/(N-1). So, if your d6 averages 3.5, exploding the die (without limit) increases the average by 6/5, bringing it up to 4.2.
 

Crimson Terrain

Explorer
Publisher
Good rolls are always a point of excitement at the table especially when tied to a bonus effect so I could certainly see it being fun. Would just need to try it out for a bit to see how it effects play.
 



DND_Reborn

Legend
I'm not sure why that's a problem? I feel it fits my goal of making combat a little more deadly.
Frankly, it was a feature for the system, but a bug, when we adopted it. ;)

FWIW, if you allow other dice to explode (spells, smite, sneak attack, etc.) IME the players start getting a stronger edge with the system instead of the DM having it.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
Sounds cool. I'm sure the dagger-wielders will love it, and casters will hate it. I might prefer to tie extra damage to quality-of-hit though: +1 damage on a 16 attack roll, +2 on 17, +3 on 18, etc.
 
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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
So you need to evaluate the dice, then do a separate set of rerolls, possibly more than once?

There is no way whatsoever that a slight increase in the average damage done over a bunch of rolls is worth that extra time in combat, already the most mechanically long type of scene there is. (A half hour combat will have more mechanical interactions than a half hour scene of any other type.) Sure, it's cool when there's a big roll - and we already have a mechanic for that called critical hits.

Sorry, the bar is quite high to slow down combat even more.
 


DND_Reborn

Legend
The nice thing about this system is it never allows a lesser die to become greater than the next die up:

d4: avg. 2.5 => 3.33 (+0.83)
d6: avg. 3.5 => 4.20 (+0.70)
d8: avg. 4.5 => 5.14 (+0.64)
d10: avg. 5.5 => 6.11 (+0.61)
d12: avg. 6.5 => 7.09 (+0.59)

So, while the lower dice benefit from the greatest increases, the exploding average is still less than the next larger die, even without exploding.

IMO it makes more sense if you allow the d20 to remain binary (hit or miss, without the critical on 20), and allow the damage die to indicate the critical (maximum damage). Since a lot of tables do maximum damage + a die roll instead of double dice, it gives that result (or better).
 


toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
CONS:
  • Everyone spends more time not doing anything while the DM and other players roll a lot of dice. Since the DM has more monsters to manage, throwing a bunch of foes with 2d4 damage weapons leads to longer turns for the DM, leading to players sitting around. DM begins house-ruling all monsters have d12 attacks to speed up gameplay.
  • Casters get screwed as martial characters have all the fun. The DM relents. Casters stock up on Acid Splash. More dice are rolled, more players waiting longer times for their turns.
  • It screws over the d8/d12 weapons even further in favor of 2d4 and 2d6 weapons, which are already numerically preferred. The market for mauls increases.
PROS:
  • It's something new. It sounds like you want to make combat more unpredictable, though it's being done in an uneven way.
Historically, exploding dice were used with AD&D early medieval firearms. If you used a 2d6 firearm and rolled a d6 on either of the dice, roll another set of damage dice, and keep going. Otherwise, there wasn't much impetus to use a weapon that might explode on you, and had less attacks per round, less range, and the same damage as longbows.

Personally, exploding dice might be a cool feature to incorporate into a unique magical dagger, or house rule daggers in a grapple are more deadly, or something that makes a weapon uncommonly used in combats more commonly used.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
So, you may really want to check out Savage Worlds...

Did this as a house rule in 2e. Its fun. If dice can keep exploding, it leaves open the possibility that any attack can really hurt a mid-level oponent, even if the chances are very small.
 

Count_Zero

Adventurer
Hackmaster 4e and (IIRC) 5e uses a system like this, with the added bit that when the die explodes it, IIRC, steps down with each subsequent explosion, to balance it for weapons like daggers.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Historically, exploding dice were used with AD&D early medieval firearms. If you used a 2d6 firearm and rolled a d6 on either of the dice, roll another set of damage dice, and keep going. Otherwise, there wasn't much impetus to use a weapon that might explode on you, and had less attacks per round, less range, and the same damage as longbows.
Thats where we got it from. I think it was actually in the 2e PHB...and I think it was an FR callout, as Greenwood had done some firearm stuff in Dragon.

Again keeps the idea of killing someone with one shot, even if the chance is small.
 

Eh. interesting and can add excitement, to start with. But as others say, it will get tedious after awhile. If you want combat more deadly, and not to slow things down, just make criticals add max damage to regular damage. So 1d8 becomes 1d8+8 etc. Increases damage, makes combat more deadly, but doesn't slow things down.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
Hackmaster 4e and (IIRC) 5e uses a system like this, with the added bit that when the die explodes it, IIRC, steps down with each subsequent explosion, to balance it for weapons like daggers.
Not quite. Subsequent rolls subtract one from the total--but can still "explode" if you roll the maximum on the die.

So an exploding d4 does an extra 1-3 damage... unless it explodes again.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I'm not sure why that's a problem? I feel it fits my goal of making combat a little more deadly.

You could make combat a little more deadly by just upping monster damage die types up one step, too. That's simpler, and has more predictable results. Why change a game rule when you can reach the goal with a small monster or encounter design change?

To me, there's a game philosophy point that's more important, though. "Make combat more deadly," isn't a great goal for a GM. The GM's raison d'etre is to bring about a play experience. Rules changes should be a means to that end, not the end themselves. So, what about the play experience at your table isn't to your liking? What problem is "make combat more deadly" there to fix?
 

Sorry, the bar is quite high to slow down combat even more.
This was my thought as well. I suppose it depends on the table. If the DM and players know the rules well and are well focused, then I think this can work and be fun but if you have more casual players like our table is then I can see this possibly dragging out combat. This reminds me of a mechanic in the 2E Spelljammer box set. When rolling attacks for smoke powder guns you continued to re-roll on any natural 20, if you rolled a second 20 you rolled again, etc., then rolled damage dice. I'm not 100% exactly sure how damage was resolved though, if they were all max damage or rolled.
 

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