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D&D 5E What House Rules Can You NOT Live Without?

6ENow!

The Game Is Over
We I first tried 5E, I played without any house rules for the first three months (levels 1-5) and it worked well enough. Since then, I've gone back and forth on house-rules and what I really want and what I can choose to live with. So, curiosity compelled me to ask the forum:

What house-rules do you use in 5E that you really wouldn't want to give up? What house-rules do you feel are essential to 5E to make it the game you want to play?

Note: if you want to include a variant rule already in the core game, please feel free do include it.

EDIT: Please don't include things you've added as homebrew or third-party material. I am truly interested in house-rules that change an existing mechanic or rule. Thanks.
 
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jmartkdr2

Adventurer
The only house rule I've kept and argued for after playing with it is "bonus action to drink a potion." It just makes potions so much more usable since they don't cost, in effect, a whole turn to drink.

Every other houserule I've tried has turned out to not be worth it: the added confusion of the change was greater than any improvement to actual play.

Note: I'm excluding homebrew content from houserules - we use homebrew and UA and third party stuff all the time and it's rarely an issue. I'm also excluding one-off rulings and Rule of Cool. To me, houserules means changing the existing framework - and 5e's framework is pretty darn good most of the time, to the point where long-term changes aren't worth the effort.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
If you consider using a Variant Rule in the books as a "house rule", then the one I will always use when feasible is the "Alternative Ability Score" variant for ability checks. I always want to be able to give the player an appropriate ability check for what they wish to do, and allow them to add their proficiency bonus to the roll if they are proficient in a skill that should apply... regardless of what ability score the base game assigns to the skill.

Besides this one... I also will almost always add and subtract skills from the skill list we use based upon the campaign we are playing.
 

Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
Critical successes and failures on saving throws and ability checks. Spectacularly timed natural ones and twenties make for many of the most memorable moments in the game, and for saving throws they actually help maintain bounded accuracy by keeping there from ever being unsaveable or unfailable effects.
 

NaturalZero

Adventurer
If you consider using a Variant Rule in the books as a "house rule", then the one I will always use when feasible is the "Alternative Ability Score" variant for ability checks. I always want to be able to give the player an appropriate ability check for what they wish to do, and allow them to add their proficiency bonus to the roll if they are proficient in a skill that should apply... regardless of what ability score the base game assigns to the skill.
Yes! I remember the playtest when this was presented as how it might work. I think having all of the skills and tool profs decoupled from ability scores adds a ton of depth to the game.
 



Nothing makes it unplayable, but there are a lot of nice things to fine tune it for our group.

Official Variants
Feats, Variable Skill Attributes, and Grid Diagonals. Feats add so much to the game, and while some are really good and others are garbage, their inclusion overall improves the game. Variable Skill Attributes keeps the DM from being trapped into either not allowing an appropriate skill or forcing an inappropriate ability. Grid Diagonals are because I hate firesquares.

Pure Houserules
Blindness doesn't negate blindness. If you can't see the attacker, and they can't see you, the attack is still at disadvantage, not normal. This means that swinging blindly at each other is really a bunch of wild misses, which is realistic.

All 1d4 Light weapons have a property called Off Hand, which allows them to be used with any other one handed weapon for two weapon fighting. This allows the typical sword & dagger to exist, since if you have the feat you can just use two longswords. It mathematically improves two weapon fighting once you get to the extra attack, preventing it from falling too far off from sword and board & great weapon.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think my only absolute must-have is skills with different ability scores, and specifically I call for ability checks and allow the player to decide if one of their proficiencies is applicable. Everything else I can take or leave, and while I enjoy tinkering with house rules a lot, when it comes down to it I tend not to use that many house rules.
 

aco175

Legend
I added another attunement slot at 8th and 12th level. I think I plan to just end them at the next campaign though. Potions as bonus action would mean that more potions get drank since you can still do your main thing. We also play with flanking which is in a few other threads on the boards. For some reason we never read the part about gaining only half your hit dice on a long rest and always gone with full recovery.
 

I vastly prefer converting proficiency bonus into dice, rather than it being a static bonus.

I also like using alternate ability scores with skills. (I didn't even realize that was an alternative rule.)

I was trying to figure out how to fit a "medium rest" (between short and long) into the game, but it's something I gave up on because it became too cumbersome to get it to work the way I wanted. The rest/recharge cycle of 5E is an area of the game where none of the provided options work how I would like them to.
 

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
A few:

- Resting in harsh environment or below a certain lifestyle requires a CON check at the end of the rest to benefit from the rest.

- Short rest is 10 minutes, max 2 per long rest.

- Regaining HP by resting requires 1 use of Healer Kit.

- You must spend HD on a long rest to regain HP.

- You add + CON to all HP recovery from spells or features.

- HP at first is CON score + 1 roll of HD (or average), but you dont add you CON mod to HP at level up. Taking CON score + level damage from 1 instance inflict 1 level of Exhaustion.

- Death Saves are DC 10 or half the damage that took you to 0 (take the higher). Same with the check to stabilize a dying creature. Success in a Medicine check give 1 successful death save to the creature, same with spare the dying.

- I use Morale checks.

EDIT:
- Dual wield does not requires a bonus action.
 


We made it so that when you are training for a new skill, you have at least some proficiency from the beginning. It just becomes quicker and cheaper as you progress through the 50 days.
 

Dragonsbane777

Explorer
I have tons. TBH I am now playing Cypher Fantasy which is much more narritive, but for 5e here are the main ones:

No level dipping (must advance evenly), no unapproved subclass
Only one circus race per group (everyone else just human/elf/dwarf/halfling/gnome)

Only 1 hp/level after 9th level

Bounded Accuracy enforced - no magical item bonuses above +2, shields and ammo no bonus only powers, nothing stacks unless it says it does

Ability Score Increases happen at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th total levels, not by individual class.

Fighters gain their extra increases and the additional levels listed.

Sharpshooter and GWM nerfed to +3/+6, only one attack per round affected/

Channel Divinity uses are determined by total levels in classes with Channel Divinity, not by individual class.

Alignment is used to a great degree. No evil or CN alignments allowed in standard campaigns.

Players can choose to use their Dexterity modifier or their Intelligence modifier for their Initiative.

Any items that regain charges daily instead have a limited amount of charges when found, such as 1d20+5 for a wand. Some items that regain charges might also be 1/day use items instead.

No magical items that increase ability scores or that give class abilities.

At the end of a Long Rest, a character regains one hit point per character level plus its constitution modifier. The character additionally loses one level of exhaustion if they have any. The character also regains one Hit Die, and a character can spend any hit dice it has as if it had a short rest.

When someone drops to zero hit points, they gain a level of exhaustion, even if they get right back up from healing or assistance right away
Death save failures stay with a character until a long rest.

These work really well to eliminate some of the issues I have found in 5e, my group agrees. One player in my group has been around since the 1980s, another since 2000. Amazing group and amazing RP, great group mindset.
 

akr71

Adventurer
Feeding yourself a Healing Potion is a Bonus Action, feeding it to someone else (that is, an unconscious companion) is an Action.

When leveling up and you choose to roll your HP, re-roll a one. The second roll counts, no matter what.
 

Inchoroi

Adventurer
We I first tried 5E, I played without any house rules for the first three months (levels 1-5) and it worked well enough. Since then, I've gone back and forth on house-rules and what I really want and what I can choose to live with. So, curiosity compelled me to ask the forum:

What house-rules do you use in 5E that you really wouldn't want to give up? What house-rules do you feel are essential to 5E to make it the game you want to play?

Note: if you want to include a variant rule already in the core game, please feel free do include it.

EDIT: Please don't include things you've added as homebrew or third-party material. I am truly interested in house-rules that change an existing mechanic or rule. Thanks.

I had a lot when I first started with 5e, but I've paired them down as much as possible; too many Houserules became too cumbersome and confusing:
  1. 1. You don't regain hit points after a long rest; you have to spend hit dice at the beginning of your long rest just as if it were a short rest. This means that dropping down low is actually kind of bad, depending on the available healing. You regain half your current hit dice after you finish a long rest.
  2. Failed death saves don't reset until you take a long rest, but successful ones do.
  3. Bonus feats at 1, 5, 11, and 17.
  4. Alert, Great Weapon Master, Observant, and Sharpshooter have either been removed entirely or changed.
  5. Absent Players still get some XP, but not as much, as long as I have copies of their character sheet.
  6. Lingering Injuries! I use the ones from the DMsGuild pdf Xanathar's Guide to Everything Else, slightly modified so they only trigger if you or an enemy rolls a natural 20 on an attack roll or you or the enemy rolls a natural 1 on a saving throw. If either of those occur, there's a d20 roll, and on an 11 or higher, there's a lingering injury. The players love getting lingering injuries on enemies, and are terrified of them for themselves. None of the players have lost anything important yet, but a boss orc cleric of Orcus lost his right arm to a lucky roll, and I have never seen more cheering in my games before or since.
  7. Underwater Adventuring rules that I wrote for a 3rd party publication that I didn't even get credit for.
  8. Four ways to get Inspiration: DM Fiat, Player Fiat, Session Recap, and End-of-Session Award. Inspiration can be exchanged for a hint (I like mysteries in my games) and Inspiration can be used before or after you roll or one of your allies rolls; can't be used against enemies, however.
  9. The group can take a 5-minute breather to get the benefits of a short rest, but at the cost of a level of exhaustion. They've done it three times so far, and it added so much depth to the dungeon crawling.
  10. Variant Encumbrance from the Player's Handbook.
  11. Slightly modified plot points from the Dungeon Master's Guide. Each player gets one plot point, and they only regen when you've done certain things in the campaign.
  12. PCs get money instead of standard gear during chargen, and its the max value from the table, rather than a random roll.
  13. Drink a potion as a bonus action; giving someone else a potion is still an action.
  14. When leveling up, you can roll the hit dice, but if you roll below average, take average.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
We I first tried 5E, I played without any house rules for the first three months (levels 1-5) and it worked well enough. Since then, I've gone back and forth on house-rules and what I really want and what I can choose to live with. So, curiosity compelled me to ask the forum:

What house-rules do you use in 5E that you really wouldn't want to give up? What house-rules do you feel are essential to 5E to make it the game you want to play?

Note: if you want to include a variant rule already in the core game, please feel free do include it.

EDIT: Please don't include things you've added as homebrew or third-party material. I am truly interested in house-rules that change an existing mechanic or rule. Thanks.
I give Int or Dex bonus to Initiative.

At level 1 PCs get 2x Max hit die + Con.

After every 2 encounters the PCs get the benefits of a short rest. After every 6 they get the benefits of a long rest.

Absent players get full xp.
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I don't have a lot of house rules, not sure any of them are "can't live without".

Drinking a potion is a bonus action.

Bows are finesse, you can use either strength or dex.

Items that modify stats add, they don't replace, but they also increase to a max of +1 of their stated value. Any item that doesn't increase above 20 doesn't require attunement. So those gauntlets of ogre power grant +2 strength up to 20, and they can stack with belts.

I use the alternate rest rules, a short rest is overnight and a long rest is usually a week or more.

Long distance teleportation for the most part doesn't work. You can travel through Alfheim (feywild), Nifleheim (shadowfell) or paths in the ethereal plane to get places faster but it's not necessarily safe. You can only cross over where the veil between worlds is thin.*

Going from one plane to another (unless you're a god) is not as simple as casting a spell. Alfheim, Nifleheim and the ethereal plane are the exceptions to the general rule but even for them it's just easier. You still have to find a gateway/door. There are occasionally rifts/openings/thin spots to other realms as well.

Getting raised from the dead is difficult, resurrection is almost unheard of. To raise dead you have to find the soul in Nifleheim before it moves on to it's final destination. Once a soul is in their final resting place it's nearly impossible to be brought back, even for gods.

*This is similar to something Jim Butcher does, it's shown up in the last few Dresden File books. I'd say great minds think alike but that doesn't explain me.
 

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