Our Favorite House Rules for D&D

For decades, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) has been a source of joy and excitement for tabletop gamers. While the official rules provide a robust framework, many Dungeon Masters (DMs) and players incorporate house rules to tailor the experience to their group’s preferences. Rules Lawyers may wish to avert their gaze as we discuss several house rules that aim to enhance gameplay, promote creativity, and create unforgettable moments at the gaming table.

hand holding a healing potion

1 Bonus Action Chug

Players may use a bonus action to drink a healing potion. Feeding a potion to another player still requires a full action.

In the heat of battle, every action counts. Allowing players to drink a potion as a bonus action streamlines combat and empowers parties without dedicated healers. This minor tweak keeps the pace lively and encourages strategic thinking. The house rule addresses the common issue of players feeling limited to healing during their turns, promoting a more dynamic flow to encounters.

healing potion sitting in a cavern

2 Full Action, Full Heal

Players who elect to use their action to drink a healing potion use the maximum rollable number to receive the full healing potential of the potion.

For parties lacking a dedicated healer, sacrificing an action to maximize the healing potential of a potion adds a tactical layer. It introduces a risk-reward dynamic that can make encounters more thrilling. This house rule encourages players to make strategic decisions amid combat, emphasizing the importance of resource management.

A barbarian striking a critical hit

3 One Max Die Crits

When players roll a critical success on an attack, they do not roll the hit dice twice. Instead, the player rolls once and adds the maximum rollable number of the second roll. Players then add relevant modifiers following the standard rules.

Critical hits should feel impactful and exciting. Simplifying critical damage using the maximum possible roll eliminates the disappointment of low damage and ensures that significant combat moments genuinely shine. The rule speeds up combat and enhances critical hits’ cinematic and epic nature, making them more memorable for players.

Adventurers in a dark cavern

4 Dark-revision

While some DMs may provide darkvision to all characters, it may make more sense to remove it from the game entirely.

Darkvision rules can be intricate and often misunderstood. And the recent additions of spells, feats, and races that have darkvision can make the ability feel less necessary. Removing it shifts the exploration dynamic, forcing players to rely on light sources or alternative means, creating a more immersive experience. This house rule adds an element of challenge and realism to the game, encouraging players to think creatively and plan their exploration more strategically.

A sleeping woman

5 Sleeping Safe & Sound

Players do not benefit from a long rest without proper protection, like an inn or the shelter of spells like Tiny Hut or Magnificent Mansion. Sleeping in the wilds of the outdoors without adequate shelter only provides the advantage of a short rest.

Linking the benefits of long rests to proper shelter adds realism and challenges players to consider their environment. It reinforces the survival aspect of the game and discourages exploitative behaviors like excessive resting. This house rule injects a sense of realism into gameplay, making the world feel more dynamic and dangerous.

Two monks fighting

6 Limited Stuns

Monks may only use the Stunning Strike ability once per combat round.

The Monks’ Stunning Strike can be overwhelming. Limiting its use to once per turn maintains the Monk’s potency while preventing potential abuse in encounters, ensuring a fair balance. By curbing the stun frequency, this rule prevents combat encounters from becoming one-sided and provides a more balanced experience for all players.

A very strong barbarian

7 1up

Players can reroll 1s when rolling hit dice for HP while leveling up.

Granting players a reroll of 1s when leveling up their hit points adds a touch of generosity. It ensures characters start each level with a respectable amount of health, minimizing the impact of unlucky rolls. This house rule promotes a more forgiving atmosphere, allowing players to enjoy the progression of their characters without the frustration of consistently low hit-point gains.

A table full of spell components

8 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Spellcasters are not required to track non-monetary, inexpensive spell components, and ranged combatants do not need to monitor standard ammunition use.

Removing the need to track minor spell components and ammunition simplifies gameplay, allowing players to focus on the narrative rather than mundane details that can bog down the pacing. This rule assumes your highly trained professional adventurers would have the savvy to supply themselves with the tools necessary for their job, streamlining the game and emphasizing storytelling and character development over bookkeeping.

Two magical warriors fighting

9 Arcane Quick Draw

When a visible hostile creature attempts to leave a player’s melee range, if that player can cast spells, they may cast a second-level or lower spell as a reaction.

Empowering spellcasters to use lower-level spells for opportunity attacks without needing a specific feat offers them tactical versatility and avoids limiting character choices. This house rule enhances the combat capabilities of spellcasters without punishing them for their lack of hand-to-hand skill, making them more dynamic and contributing to a more engaging battlefield.

A wounded paladin fighting a large monster

10 Last Hurrah

Players who fail their final death save may take one last action of their choice with advantage. This player cannot heal themselves and forfeits any resurrection opportunity in the future.

Failing the final death save doesn’t have to be anticlimactic. Allowing a last action with advantage lets characters go out in a blaze of glory, leaving a lasting impact on the story. This house rule turns character deaths into memorable narrative moments, providing a sense of closure and dramatic flair.

A spell scroll

11 Spell Scrolls for Everyone

Any player may attempt to use a spell scroll. Noncasting classes use Intelligence or the same spellcasting modifier as those classes with the spell in their list.

Expanding access to spell scrolls opens up magical possibilities for non-casters, fostering creativity and unexpected moments in the heat of battle. This rule encourages collaboration and strategic thinking, as non-casters can contribute uniquely and surprisingly.

A man falling from a cliff

12 Consequential Criticals

Rolling a natural 1 causes unfavorable outcomes like breaking a tool, striking a friend, or knocking themselves prone.

Injecting consequences for natural 1s adds a layer of realism and drama. It turns failures into opportunities for memorable roleplaying moments. This house rule introduces a narrative element to critical failures, making the game more immersive and allowing players to engage with their characters on a deeper level.

Two men surrounding another

13 Better Flanking

Players may receive advantage on attacks when an ally threatens the defending hostile creature on their opposite side. However, the DM determines the viability of this benefit based on qualifying narrative reasoning. For example, a skilled combatant likely received training against multiple, simultaneous adversaries. However, while two enemies may be manageable, three or four may be too much, depending on the warrior’s skill level. DMs may also choose to add flanking condition immunities to particular creatures.

Enhancing the flanking rule by tying it to a narrative context adds depth to combat, making it more than just a mechanical advantage. This rule encourages players to think about the tactical positioning of their characters and reinforces the importance of strategy in combat.

A sand-timer in the desert

14 Timed Turns

Players may have a limited time to complete the turns as determined by the DM. If the player cannot act in time, they forfeit their turn and take the dodge action.

Introducing a timer for player turns instills a sense of urgency, speeds up gameplay, and encourages players to stay engaged. This house rule improves the pacing of combat encounters, preventing them from becoming sluggish and maintaining the excitement of the battle.

Artificer Casting Fabricate

15 Infusion Limits

The dungeon master must approve all artificer infusions.

Requiring DM approval for artificer infusions maintains balance and prevents potential game-breaking creations, ensuring a fair player experience. These approvals should never hinder a player’s creativity or halt the creation of something fun. However, infusions can be game-breaking if left unchecked, and this rule allows the DM to manage the introduction of powerful items, keeping the overall campaign balanced.

A warrior heading into battle

16 Critical Initiative

When rolling for initiative, if a player rolls a critical success, they may choose their place in the order. Consequently, the DM may choose their position if a player rolls a critical failure. These same rules apply to the DM, in reverse.

Giving players agency when rolling a natural 20 for initiative adds excitement, while a natural 1 introduces an element of unpredictability, creating dynamic turn orders. This rule adds a layer of unpredictability to combat, creating more varied and exciting scenarios.

A man with many skills

17 I Got a Guy

Once per campaign, when a player is stuck and needs assistance, they may tell the DM that they “know a guy.” The player must be able to rationalize how and why they know this individual, either relating their experience or referencing their background, and how the individual can help. The DM decides if the reasoning is deserving and roleplays the new NPC.

Giving players a narrative escape by allowing them a “get out of jail free” card encourages creative problem-solving and adds depth to character backgrounds. This house rule empowers players to contribute to storytelling and find innovative solutions to challenges.

A dying man on the battlefield

18 Hidden Death Saves

When a player falls unconscious, their death saving throws are done in private, either away from the other players or by the Dungeon Master.

Conducting death-saving throws privately adds tension and drama, emphasizing the gravity of life-or-death situations. This rule heightens the emotional impact of critical moments, keeping players on the edge of their seats during life-threatening encounters.

Casting Feign Death

19 Stable Healing

Healing a character with zero hit points stabilizes them but does not bring them to consciousness.

Separating stabilization from consciousness reinforces the threat of encounters, highlighting the potential consequences of reaching zero hit points. This house rule adds a layer of complexity to the healing process, making player decisions more impactful in life-or-death situations.

A fighter taking on a large monster

20 Rule of Cool

The ultimate house rule, the Rule of Cool, allows flexibility in bending or breaking the rules to pursue interesting, exciting, or innovative ideas.

It is important to remember that D&D is a game with the greater purpose of having fun. If the player’s suggestion isn’t game-breaking and the DM approves, it’s acceptable to fudge the rules occasionally to create a memorable and entertaining moment. Prioritizing joy over strict adherence to mechanics ensures a positive and enjoyable gaming experience that encourages a collaborative and creative approach to storytelling.

Dungeons & Dragons is a dynamic game that many tailor to fit the preferences of their gaming group. House rules can offer various options to enhance gameplay, add narrative depth, and create unforgettable moments in your D&D adventures. Customization doesn’t always have to stop at character creation. Players and DMs should relish experimenting with ideas and feel empowered to tailor rules to their group’s preferences. One should never let stuffy rules stand in the way of enjoying your next session.

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