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Homebrew House Rules and You: A survey

Xeviat

Explorer
Hi everyone. 5E has been out for 19 months now, pretty close to 2 years. Without getting too detailed, I'm curious what things people have house ruled in their games. I'm also curious about your house rule philosophy: how do you choose rule, what do you desire from house rules, and why do you house rule.

For me, I house rule things to make them more fair. Primarily, this is to bring under-powered or under-chosen options up to the level of other options. This goes back all the way to 2001 when I first started playing (and DMing) pen and paper D&D (3E). Before that, I had played the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games, so I was familiar with the rules set in theory (and BG2 came with a 3E character builder, which is how I cut my teeth on the rules themselves). In my first game, one player rolled really well for stats and another rolled poorly; this resulted in some fudging because the player with the character with lower stats wasn't enjoying making their character. We quickly turned to point buy after that. In the same game, one player was playing a Half-Orc Barbarian and another was playing an Elf Ranger. Feats were new to us, and the Elf Ranger's player saw Weapon Finesse and thought it would be cool to do a finessing duel short sword wielding Ranger (that's a mouthful). He started with Str 10 and Dex 16, I believe. It seemed reasonable to us. The Str 16 Half-Orc barbarian outshone him in every fight (and this was in 3E, before the Ranger had more skills than a Barbarian). He ended up turning to Improved Trip and Expertise tanking to find a role in the party, but that was when I became sensitive to abilities not doing what they seemed like they should do (and also focused my attention on TWFing till this day). I went from some minor rules additions to crafting homebrewed races and classes to entirely overhauling the spell system back in 3E.

Here's the things I have or am considering house ruling in 5E.
  • No "basic" humans; all humans use the Variant traits. I also give humans 2 free skills instead of one, to bring them closer to the Half-Elf (after I saw two players in the same game choose half-elf over human).
  • Saving Throws: Strongly considering applying proficiency bonus to all saves and removing "trained saves" or switching to strict +2s like in 4E; save DCs would become 10+proficiency.
  • Starting HP: I grant Con score to starting HP.
  • Barbarian: I really want to buff the Berserker, since my current Barbarian player really disliked it (saying "it's really easy to get bonus action attacks"), but I don't know what to do.
  • Cleric: I offer a "robed cleric" option, giving the Monk's Wis to AC instead of armor and shield proficiencies.
  • Druid: Wildshape has been completely altered, as are the polymorph spells (an ongoing process).
  • Fighter: To buff the Fighter's TWFing, I grant an extra TWFing attack at level 11 along with the fighter's 2nd Extra Attack; at this point, when you take a bonus action to make your TWFing attack, you get two. Every other class is reasonably balanced when it comes to TWFing.
  • Monk: Working on an altered Four Elements monk, siting the Shadow monk and Sun Soul monk's spells as evidence.
  • Ranger: I've tweaked favored enemy (baked hunter's mark into it) and I've tweaked the Beast Master's pet (It's in my signature).
  • Paladin: Really considering limiting smite to once per round; I hate novas.
  • Warlock: I've altered the Pact of the Blade; it now works as a melee Eldritch Blast. Eldritch Blast is a class ability instead of a cantrip, and it scales with Warlock level not character level. Agonizing Blast is baked in, and the blade pact invocations are being swapped out for something else (still working on it).
  • Weapons: Really considering using the 3.5 Weapon table, with some changes. We're finding weapons boring.
  • Armor: May add 3rd tier medium armor pair to help out the medium armor wearers.
  • Attacks: I'm working on some guidelines for adding effects to attacks instead of just trading attacks for effects; I miss 4E's varied attacks and have already grown tired of "I attack, I attack, I attack" from the martial characters.
  • Weapon "styles": Strongly considering giving characters who use a one-handed weapon with nothing in their off-hand (no shield, no second weapon) a +2 bonus to hit; primarily this is to give the rogue a choice over TWFing.
  • Rest and Recovery: I allow for short rests under 1 hour when I need to give the characters a breather; I also have all hit dice recover with a long rest.
  • Ability Checks: I make ample use of 3E skill check DCs (modified) as I like rules more than guidelines.
  • Initiative: I allow for initiative delaying and full actions on readied actions (the former because we're accustomed to it, the latter because readied actions favor spellcasters and rogues over multiattackers).
  • My games allow for buying and selling of magic items. There are no "magic item marts" (magic stores are for spell components and common magic items), but traveling merchants and dealers can acquire items. I'm also open to allowing players to craft items.

What are your house rules, and a brief why? What do you look for in house rules? If you don't like house rules, I'd like to hear why you don't like house rules, but I don't want this thread to become a fight between house rulers and RAW players.
 
In general, I try to avoid House Rules - the game is already complex enough, and adding a House Rule inevitably adds more complexity even if the HR is "don't use rule X". Still, we do have a few:

- Ability score generation: each player gets to choose point buy, roll, or standard array, but none of those are quite as given in the PHB.
- Fixed hit points per level is mandatory.
- Ignore encumbrance.
- Ignore alignment entirely. If you want your character to have an 'alignment', use a Trait, Bond, Ideal, or Flaw to handle it.
- Don't track mundane ammunition, food, water, or any coinage smaller than 1gp - we'll just assume you have enough.

In the current campaign we're also using a variant on Inspiration that I got from the Angry DM. However, if I ever run another campaign that one will be being dropped, and instead each player will get two Inspiration Points to use at any point during the session. (Which, of course, makes the Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws utterly redundant also, so those will be dropped too. :) )
 

Li Shenron

Adventurer
What are your house rules, and a brief why? What do you look for in house rules?
Since 5e my house rules have been mostly directed to character creation/advancement, some in-game dynamics control or metarules. No more house rules for 'fixing' things after realizing how pointless it is.

My current characters house rules are done mostly to simplify the character creation process and. You have to consider that in my (so far) 3 gaming groups, I have either provided ready-made characters (except non-mechanical descriptions) or semi-made characters with some free choices (e.g. race, background, combat style...). Not all the following house rules were used by all 3 groups:

- fixed ability score array
- fixed HP by level
- no racial abilities (races as mere flavor)
- smaller sets of racial abilities
- simplified multiclassing rules (no ability score requirements + no proficiency restrictions)
- free-form XP tracking and level advancement by the DM
- companions and summoned creatures controlled by the DM

In addition I have 'metarules' carried over from the past:

- no intra-party conflict allowed (at least nothing that has mechanical consequences for the PCs)
- no violence specifically directed against women and children
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
While I don't currently have a 5e game going, the following have all caught my eye and are definitely on the chopping block/edited for when a game happens:

Ability Scores: 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to taste.
HP: Full HP + Con. at first level. Roll HD + Con. mod. added each level (I don't think that really changes from the RAW)
Races: Due to Rules: No Variant Humans. Due to Campaign/Setting Restrictions: No Drow PCs. No Dragonborn. No Tieflings. Elves are High. Gnomes (if used) are Forest.
Classes: Applying AD&D style (not exactly the same numbers, but you get the idea) Ability Score minimums and Alignment restrictions for various classes, as befits the campaign setting.
Alignment: 1) MATTERS! Will be tracked and rewards/consequences will ensue. 2) No Evil PCs.

Not really a "houserule," as they are OPTIONAL/EXCLUDED to begin with, but since that seems unanimously ignored/overlooked: NO [3e-style] MULTICLASSING! NO FEATS!

Rests: Short = 15 minutes to 1 hour. Long = [minimum] 8 hours. Again, pretty sure this is RAW (or RAI), so not really a "houserule".
Healing: No more than 1 (+ Con. mod., if any) HD can be used for HP recovery on a short rest. NO auto-full HP recovery on a "Long rest" of less than 1 week [of REST!].

I'm sure I've read other stuff, that I just can't recall at the moment, that I would make houserules one way or another. But I guess most of that is a "rulings over rules" stuff. There was something, recently, about [what I view as] some unnecessary distinction between Druids and Wizards...don't remember what it was...but I was going to houserule/rewrite it. That kind of thing is sure to come up as we'd progress/get further into the game rules.
 

Fragsie

Villager
My current game is almost completely homebrew, so too much there to cover as 'house rules'. But we do have some for character creation and some to speed up play sessions:

Ability Scores: Roll 4d6 and drop one dice, after 6 ability scores are rolled if 3 or more of them are below 10, you can reroll the full set of 6 ability scores. Then arrange them how you like.

Hit Points: maximum die result + CON at first level. Roll two hit dice and choose the higher result + CON at higher levels.

Encumbrance: No maths here, just common sense in RP.

Initiative: (this is a biggy) Initiative rolls are only really relevant in the first few rounds of combat, once the battle is in full sway, any semblance of order can quickly go out the window, and you take your opportunities when you can. Individual Initiative is adhered to in the surprise round, and first full round of combat. Monsters all act on one initiative with a bonus determined by either the creature in charge of the enemies, or the most common creature when there is no 'leader'.
Once the surprise round and first round are complete, the initiative order changes to simply 'party then monsters'. On each round, the individual characters may act in any order they wish, once they have all taken a turn, play passes to the DM. I've found that this helps focus the player's attention firmly on the game; even with larger groups, as each player is actively watching the tide of battle and thinking about when would be the best time to step in. It also allows for some extra tactical thinking and planning as features and spells that last until the beginning or end of a players next turn become a controllable element of the battle.
 

Jediking

Villager
My 'houserule' is that a lit torch is able to light other flammable or even INflammable objects on fire. Sure, I've have some players complain about this not being a strict reading of the RAW, but I'm a rebel like that
 

bedir than

Registered User
I like the slower healing option with short rests being 8 hours and long rests being a day. I use this because it gives the game the feeling of a book rather than a video game. Six to eight encounters in a week "feels" reasonable.

Random 27-point buy.

Encumbrance will be checked every few sessions, or more if abused.

For setting purposes I am highly restrictive on race, class and magic. I'm trying to tell a particular tale, and my players buy-in or offer to DM once in a while in a different setting.
 

dave2008

Explorer
I'm using bloodied HP (similar to 4e), but the amount is limited by size (d8 for medium size, # of die determined by STR mod, choose highest). The BHP is in addition to HP, so the PCs are slightly hardier at low levels. However, HD healing cannot recover bloodied HP, only rest (1 BHP per week) or magic. Fluff wise you don't take "real" damage until you take BHP damage. Before that is just the 1e definition of HP (luck, skill at avoiding, stamina, etc.)

I am think of allowing my players to use 4e martial powers, but we haven't tried it yet.

I am thinking of using armor as DR, but we haven't tried it yet.
 

bedir than

Registered User
Nifty. My only worry is that odds can skew the stat modifier totals lower ... But that can be corrected with a character's race or their first ASI, so it's not a big deal.
Total bonuses seem to range (I'm lazy and just hit the button a lot) from 3 (due to a negative) to seven. With racial mods there's some interesting directions to take. Plus it makes a player think about doing things differently.
 
Hello, new to the board and greatly interested in almost all of these topics. The homebrew and houserules concepts are GREAT and I'm liking a lot of the streamlining ideas especially on character creation.

I don't know if this is the correct place to post all homebrew ideas, but one of the "flash D&D" sessions we played with some new comers to the world of D&D involved just rolling at least a 14 and describing how you were fighting. We had five guys, half an hour to play, no time to create character sheets and start in a tavern (ha ha ha)... So everyone was a barbarian, fighting an orc hoarde... GO!

It went pretty good, and could have lead to a much more detailed adventure. Kind of like the first five minutes of a movie before the intro credits are rolled. But, it wasn't meant to be and we never had the chance to play again.

The house rule I can think of used most recently wasn't covered in the books (or if it was I coudn't find it) is if a wand of lighting could be used underwater. I allowed it, but it had the 'electric eel" effect and did an area damage including the wand holder. Good times, good times. I'm looking forward to trying to catch up on all these amazing topics I've found on this forum. It's like finding a free gold mine and I'm a dwarven prospector with gold lust! :D
 

Gourley

Registered User
One of my house rules involves cleric weapon proficiency: each of the gods in my setting has a favored weapon, which clerics are treated as proficient in, whether they normally would be due to race/class proficiencies or not. Not all clerics will make use of that proficiency necessarily, but it does make them stand out a bit and you can identify at a glance "oh that cleric with the war pick worships the Ebon Judge."

Another is the use of an array (though not the standard one).

Also, I think that the fact that disadvantage can negate a 20 seems lame, so our house rule is that if you roll a 20 with disadvantage, you still get it rather than having it stolen from you just because you rolled a 3 on the other die. That feels awful, and cheapens the excitement of rolling a 20 on something. But it doesn't remove the sting of, say, rolling a 2 and a 19 -- you still just get the 2 and have to deal with that.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Also, I think that the fact that disadvantage can negate a 20 seems lame, so our house rule is that if you roll a 20 with disadvantage, you still get it rather than having it stolen from you just because you rolled a 3 on the other die. That feels awful, and cheapens the excitement of rolling a 20 on something. But it doesn't remove the sting of, say, rolling a 2 and a 19 -- you still just get the 2 and have to deal with that.
I like that.
 

Duan'duliir

Explorer
My groups (although one hasn't gotten to play since implementation or Houseruled crits with the other group) roll 5d4, replace lowest with a 2, roll 7 scores dropping the lowest, and use that, because we all like high-powered characters, don't we?

And also, crits are semi-explosive - on a crit, roll double dice, add single modifer, roll a d20.
If that d20 rolls a number that would hit the target (no modifiers are added to the roll), add a 3rd die of damage, and double the modifier, and if it would be a crit on an attack, then make that 4 dice of damage, and roll another d20.
if that d20 rolls a 20, then a 5th die of damage, and triple, not double, the modifier.

This crit rule was only introduced in the last session I DM'd, and no player has abused it - none of my players are optimisers other than often wanting a race with bonuses to their classes' primary ability
 
[MENTION=57494]Xeviat[/MENTION] By and large, I think 5e works great as intended and I agree with [MENTION=22424]delericho[/MENTION] that it's plenty complicated as is. That said, I realize I've been doing something unconsciously for a while as DM that technically is a house rule. Well, it used to be unconscious. Now it's quite intentional.

I don't bother with inconsequential rolls anymore. There are no meaningless calls for "make a Wisdom (perception) check." Anytime I ask for a roll, I back it it up with some kind of consequence that has narrative impact. Additionally, most ability/skill checks have thresholds of success that roughly map to: fails by 5+, fails by 1-4, succeeds by 0-4, succeeds by 5+. And when a player fails a check, I'll sometimes give them a choice of failure options...usually before they roll the check.

Why do I do this? Several reasons. First, it makes the fewer rolls I call for more suspenseful and interesting (i.e. quality not quantity). Second, the increased transparency lets the players decide more clearly what kind of risks vs. rewards they're willing to face. Third, it forces me to think about the narrative impact rather than responding with the first thing that comes to mind. Fourth, when I do it well it curtails "pile on" knowledge / perception checks.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Quickleaf, that's an interesting idea. I let people take 20, and yet we as a group find ourselves at least rolling the first roll to see if we do something (like forcing open a stuck door or picking a lock) on the first try. In the specific situation in referring to (the party found a vault in a ruined keep), there were no real time constraints. The group even waited an hour for the party wizard to identify magic items. Yet the party lockpicker was still rolling over and over again to pick locks.

It would definitely take some training for both I and my players to stop making inconsequential rolls.


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