Wednesday, August 20, 2014

House Rules

So, I've been putting together an updated list of my house rules. With the school year starting back up and my friends in town after the summer, I'm looking forward to starting my campaign back up. Feel free to use, modify them, or share these. Just make sure to link back here.

Rollplaying vs. Roleplaying

I have these rules to explicitly state that I encourage player skill and agency, a la and a number of others. Stating upfront my assumptions about play gives me a solid point to negotiate with my players.

Better Battle Tactics

D&D has always had the problem of having a million different tactics and attack types each with their own mini-system for resolution. I condense that system down and make more tactics viable. Most tactical moves in D&D require you to give up most of your attacks and/or damage. Damage is the most important when you are in a race to drop your opponent to 0 HP before they do it to you, and decreasing damage without a significant payoff makes most tactics useless or even detrimental. What got me started thinking on better battle tactics was Courtney Campbell’s revamp of social attacks, which was trying to bring effects like intimidate into the HP damage system. I just took that a step further, having tactical benefits gained by using your normal attacks with only a small loss of accuracy and damage. This also helps solidify the abstraction of HP as the ability to not get hurt, and once your HP is depleted you are open to some serious wounds.

Death and Dismemberment

Mine is a hybrid of their ideas, which are all originally based off of Courtney Campbell’s table. I like death and dismemberment because it keeps players conscious for longer, is counter-intuitively less deadly, and it allows for really fantastic moments and memorable injuries. In my variation, I tried to simplify as much as possible while trying to balance the weight of injuries with players’ desire to not gimp around forever.

Inventory Tracking by Space. ANTI-HAMMERSPACE

This one is almost wholesale grabbed from a few people, with my own twist. My variation ties the number of slots to the STR modifier of the player and makes encumbrance simple. Use one of the ‘encumbrance’ slots and you are encumbered. I just modified their nice PDFs to fit my house rules.

Wear and Tear:

I Got the idea from ten foot polemics house rules document. I like that it offers simple weapon and armor rules, which gives another place for tension to arise, but isn't annoying to track. It also gave me a great deal of ideas in using those mechanics for magic items and spells. It also opens up new avenues for player reward and advancement, comparing your shiny +2 magic sword to your old days of really worrying if your rusty broadsword was going to break.

Simple Camping

I’ve been working on a universal and simple rule set for camping, but camping finally clicked for me after reading these two posts. I got the idea of the level of comfort of campsites influencing how good of a rest the party can take. Simple camping let’s everyone contribute and puts actions like resting, guarding, hunting, cooking, or preparing spells under a single system. This single system is also another place for rewards and magic items to give players a sense of advancement. Remember the days when we had to cook our own food? This monkey-butler is great, I can spend that extra time crocheting a hat!

Simple Travel

Travel is something I was refining based on how my players traveled. Simple travel lets the party explicitly balance their need for speed with other concerns, a la The God’s Will Be Watching. It also makes it very easy to estimate time and gauge how the rest of the world will change while they go adventuring. Are we gonna go the long way around? We could hit a patch of rain and be slowed down while the red countess continues to devour peasants! Mounts and vehicles have an explicit purpose and cost, helping counter the effects of terrain and weather. Magic items, unique items, and skills have a place here in improving the party.
Here is my simple camping and travel tool.


As a nerd for spreadsheets, the numbers for advancement in 5e bothered me because they neither keep to an easy to remember advancement table nor keep to a nice exponential curve. I also wanted to try the house rules I've seen that hearken back to earlier versions where looting was the primary XP driver. I didn't want to totally strip murder out of the EXP equation though. So, I created my own advancement chart which conforms to a nice exponential curve. I decided I want about half the EXP to come from looting and half by murder/other, which brings expected wealth by level onto the same table. This is just ballpark stuff in terms of the ratio of murder to money, of course, but it gives me some guidelines to go by. I will also be reprogramming my DMSCREEN to this new loot amount based on complex treasure hoard algorithms. I expect my players will be spending a good portion of their ill gotten gains on land, resources, tools, information, upkeep, influence, carousing, etc and not all of it on magic equipment. Even spending it on equipment, my other house rules offer many more avenues of advancement and spending than just combat gear.

Language Families

I swear I got this idea somewhere but I cannot for the life of me find it. This house rule is aimed to make languages more fun, interesting, and *gasp* realistic. My simple system can be laid on top of any normal system, as proficiency in languages is gained the same way. What my system adds is decreasing fluency in related languages. I tie these decreasing fluencies to actual player requirements in speaking or hearing those languages. These arbitrary restrictions force players to get creative, which in my mind is the source of fun, and are better in my mind than a binary on/off know it or you don’t. It also makes the world a little more realistically connected, instead of having all these languages that just spring up with little relation to one another (outside of shared alphabets which is difficult to role-play). I have my own chart, but you could easily create your own language connection chart for your world.

Combat Speech

Stolen from ten foot polemic. The idea is to keep combat moving, keep players creative, and remove the long winded tactical discussions that make combat feel slow and boring instead of passionate and crazy.

The Silver Piece Standard

I’m not very original, but I basically got tired of having endless and uselessly large piles of small denomination coins. It also seemed a bit weird that there are so few adventurers when a low level adventure can earn what amounts to decades of skilled laborers work. Adventurers don’t seem crazy or heroic, they seem like entrepreneurs eyeing a somewhat risky ROI. I’m dropping to a silver standard while keep other wages at there current price. This just means shifting prices down one denomination, things valued in GP are now in SP, SP -> CP. This lets small coin denominations stay relevant as treasure for longer and downgrades the ROI on adventuring to make your party seem more like the crazy murder hobos they are.The only things that need revaluing are things that used to be valued in copper pieces, and how long do adventurers really spend buying that stuff? You could even just have prices at that level buy bulk or do like the pirates and literally chop up copper pieces.


I had a few minor things like stating explicitly that damage from spells or attacks damage treasure, to go along with the looting for EXP to ensure that my players know to carefully aim or risk losing out. Spells reacting weirdly when really constrained is a kind of half-way interpretation for fun of a number of posts about fireball volumes. I can’t imagine it being fun to calculate every time, but if constrained to less than 50% of its normal area, I could see this being something for a caster to carefully consider.


  1. Super happy to see my stuff being useful!

    1. Keep making cool stuff and I'll keep using it =D