Every D&D player has some level of a love-hate relationship with the rules of the game. Rules keep the game fair and balanced for everyone at the table, but there’s a whole lot of cool stuff you can do by bending the rules here and there. By adopting house rules for your DnD game, you can change them in just the right way to better fit your game and make sessions more fun or challenging for your players.
“It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules which is important.”
- Dungeon Master’s Guide (1st Edition, Page 230), Gary Gygax
From the very beginning in 1974, the rules of D&D were made to be changed. We’ve put together a list of rules to consider for your campaign. And were written as 5E house rules (for D&D Fifth Edition), you can apply them to nearly any tabletop RPG system you play. With just the right DnD house rules, you can really make DnD your own, adding a whole new element of novelty and surprise.
1. Team Inspiration
Oftentimes players are rather reserved when it comes to using their inspiration, either on themselves or someone else. To help encourage the use of inspiration, you can treat inspiration as a community pool, with a limited amount of inspiration available for anyone to use. This 5e house rule can allow inspiration to go to the team members who need it most.
2. Build up that Mob
Combat is an important aspect of D&D, but it can get granular and tedious at times. This DnD house rule can be a good way to speed up and streamline it. When you have a crowd of low-level enemies, you can make them into a mob that shares HP and has a number of attacks based on how many creatures are in the mob. For Example, if 5 goblins are up against your party and each has 10 HP, you might combine them into a single character called “Mob of Goblins” that has a total HP of 50 and 5 attacks per round. This new DnD house rule adds even more action to the game.
3. Minions! (No, not the yellow ones)
This is another combat-centric DnD house rule. Like in the Mines of Moria, it’s always a good time when you have a big baddie waiting for you at the end of a campaign. And it can make your players feel like epic heroes when they decimate huge groups of minions before reaching the big baddie. Consider adding large groups of weak minions, with health as low as 1hp, allowing players to easily defeat them. Adding this DnD house rule is a great way to build up morale and excitement before the final battle.
4. Hidden Death Saves
A death save roll happens after a character reaches an HP of 0 and they fall unconscious. On all of their following turns, they must roll a d20 to decide whether they bleed out or stabilize. Traditionally, players know whether or not their characters are safe and how many more rolls they have before they die.
Unless… you roll death saving throws behind the DM screen. Then, it’s anyone’s guess whether a knocked-out player character will survive. That uncertainty created by this DnD house rule makes finishing the fight or tending to their wounds a HUGE priority, adding substantial risk and drama when combat is going poorly.
5. Funny Critical Misses
Critical successes and critical misses each have about a 5% chance, when rolling a natural 1 or 20 on a d20 die. There are tons of ways to liven things up when players make a bad miss. You might read from a table of pre-determined effects, or you may even make your player narrate his own mistake.
One common way to follow up a natural 1 is to roll a second d20 to determine just how bad the critical miss is. If the second result is above a 10, maybe something funny happens. But if the result is low, you might do something harmful at the DM’s discretion like accidentally hitting an ally with your attack. This helps bring the chances of doing unintentional harm on your turn down to 2.5% or lower. This dnd house rule allows for more group participation and engagement and keeps everyone on their toes.
6. Omit Spell Components
Being a wizard is tough stuff, especially at early levels where anything might one-shot you on a crit. Kind DMs will apply this rule to remove the tedium of tracking the items necessary to cast spells. Did you remember to pick up enough bat guano from the last cave in order to cast your Fireball spell? With this 5E house rule, you don’t have to worry about that.
7. Points for Creativity
Despite extensive forethought and planning, a creative plan to deal with a problem might simply not work due to a poor roll of the dice. But if the Dungeon Master deems fit, they could allow a roll with advantage or even an automatic success for the creative aspects of the plan. This dnd house rule could further encourage out-of-the-box thinking with other elements of the gameplay.
There is no wrong or right approach when adding 5E house rules. The important thing is to keep everyone on the same page and remember to have fun!