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There are many rules in DnD, but some of them don’t make a lot of sense or are structured in such a way that makes playing more tedious than fun. This is where house rules come into play. A good set of custom rules tailored to your group can make your party’s experience so much more enjoyable, so I’m going to share some of the best DnD house rules that I know of. Please remember that this article is my opinion, you are free to take these rules, or leave them.
I suggest mentioning to your group what house rules are in play before you begin your journey to see if they are okay with them. It is important to feel out what your group is comfortable with when implementing house rules. Players may not like some of the house rules you use, so make sure you ask them about these rules after sessions, and modify them as you go.
Any time you want to add new rules to your ongoing campaigns, remember to get feedback from your group on their opinions on it. Remember, DnD is a story told between the players and the DM, don’t force things on them that they don’t enjoy.
1: Nat 20’s Don’t Always Succeed
This one might be controversial, and it only applies to non-combat rolls, but I actually like the idea that you don’t always have a 1/20 chance to succeed at something, regardless of the circumstances. Say, for example, trying to romance Tiamat as a halfling bard to get her to cease her rampage. That shouldn’t even be a possibility that exists, in my opinion. And yet, with the right DM, it is a possibility.
This is why I like the idea that a natural 20 roll does not always mean success, or at the very least, you succeed, but not quite in the way you imagined. Perhaps you successfully romance Tiamat but little did you know that the dragon attempts to eat its mates to show dominance. I don’t know, be creative!
Combat rolls are unchanged under this rule and will continue to see a guaranteed success.
2: Healing Potions Can be Smashed or Poured on an Individual
One of my favorite DND rules involves healing potions. My DM allows us to smash or pour our healing potions on individuals that need healing. So, for example, say a player gets knocked unconscious face down on the ground. Well, we’re in the middle of a fight, so we would save the effort of trying to roll them over to get them to drink it and simply pour it on their open wounds.
There is a drawback of this option, as well as a benefit. The drawback is that it loses some of its potency. As you may know, Healing Potions, by default, heal your hitpoints by 2d4+2; well, if you pour it on a wound rather than have them drink it, it becomes just a 2d4. So we lose the guaranteed healing amount, but in return, the benefit of using the potion in this way now only costs a bonus action instead of a full action.
As for smashing the potions on people, well, we roll a hit die to see if we hit. If it does, It deals 1d4 Piercing damage, THEN heals for 2d4. Of course, we still lose out on the guaranteed healing, and it costs an action rather than a bonus action, but it makes a point. “I don’t like you, but you need to live for now.” Imagine doing something like this to the BBEG so he can stand trial for their crimes, and you might see the appeal.
3: Consuming a Healing Potion Yourself is a Bonus Action
Continuing on the healing potion rules, Drinking a potion yourself only uses a bonus action, while healing others takes an action. This rule is designed to encourage the party to split up the healing potion stash among the group and to give players who don’t really have any bonus action abilities to have something they can do.
4: Initiative Swap Before Combat Begins
This rule allows players to swap initiatives with each other, but I like to put an extra spin on it. You can only change if you have inspiration, though, to keep this from taking up too much time. I think that being able to do this, with that limitation in place, is really helpful without being too powerful. To clarify, only one player needs inspiration, but both players need to agree to it. If The other player denies the request, the inspiration is still consumed.
5: Success At a Cost, or Partial Successes
I covered this in another article in quite a bit of depth, but this is one that I think you should strongly consider adding to your house rules. Success at a Cost means that if your attack roll doesn’t meet the AC of a target by a margin of 2-3 points, it can still succeed at hitting the target but has a drawback that comes with it.
For example, in my post, I made a few D100 tables for possible outcomes of the partial success, and it has two major benefits:
- It speeds up combat
- It makes the players feel less bad when they miss by the tiniest of margins.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that you include the option to take the miss, as some of the potential drawbacks might not be worth the liability that could come of it.
If you want to know more about this mechanic, check out the more in-depth post I made about success at a cost.
6: Forging Your Own Magic Items
There are magic items in the world – Why can’t your players make them themselves? This is the rule that would allow just that, but it wouldn’t be easy to make them.
To make a magic item, according to this rule, you would need the help of a powerful magic user – A sorcerer, wizard, ranger, cleric, etc. They would then channel their magic into the item being created over the span of several days to months, using up spell slots in the process. The item would then begin to take up properties based on the magical source in question:
- Perhaps It deals bonus elemental damage from absorbing a wizards magic
- Maybe it gains power against the undead from a cleric
- What if it grants you the power to bind your target to the ground, or blind them from a ranger’s magic
- A Warlocks magic could make the item cursed, becoming powerful, but now an eldrich horror is slowly etching its way into your mind as you wield it (To balance the whole short rest thing)
- A Sorcerer’s magic would, based on their subclass, vary in effects
- Wild magic could have random effects
- Draconic Bloodline could grant bonus AC
The time invested into making these items could make them balanced, especially since it would drain the spell slots of the one investing their magic into it for multiple days, weeks, or even months.